Monthly Archives: February 2016

One more bit of politics

I have a new And column out on Trump’s declaration he’ll bring back waterboarding and “worse than waterboarding.”

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Monday morning linkage of a political kind

According to sexist Matt Forney (who also complains confident women make his dick limp), feminists want to be raped, and rape is a left-wing idea. By Forney’s non-logic, rape is just redistributing sex and left-wingers believe in redistribution through taxes and welfare, so … More stupidity at the (non-direct) link.

•Antigovernment activists are shocked and appalled at the government busting Vanilla Isis.

•Christian Science Monitor looks at what Texas’ anti-abortion laws are like on the ground.

•Another CSM article reports on new trials for Guatemalan civil-war crimes, such as sex slavery and rape.

•Donald Trump has been called to testify in a federal case charging Trump University was just a scam. Perhaps it’s not surprising he now wants to change libel law to make it easier to sue reporters who “purposefully” write “negative and horrible and false articles.” Of course, if he can actually prove a story is purposefully false and negative, then he can win under current libel law—I have a strange feeling it’s the “negative” part that he’s concerned with. More details on Trump University here.

•I linked a little while back to an account of a libertarian complaining about Twitter moving against online harassment. Now Megan McArdle ponders why Tweeter seems to be banning more “angry loud conservatives” since obviously it couldn’t be that right-wingers are worse. And in any case, she’s only looking at it as a business question: surely it’s bad to alienate users when your number of users has flatlined (which she says it has)?

•A lawsuit over what defines reporting to work is going before a federal judge.

•Closing the Guantanamo Bay prison is just like Andrew Jackson sending the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears, according to Republican Darrel Issa.

•How much are Trump’s evangelical supporters influenced by the prosperity gospel? And some Christian Trump supporters see him as Cyrus the Great, the secular figure who will restore them to their rightful glory.

•Pennsylvania is investigating whether Verizon is maintaining its landline service adequately.

•Here’s an interesting online campaign: spotlighting guys who complain about women showing too much skin but have no qualms about going shirtless.

•AT&T is fighting in court to make it harder for Google Fiber to enter the Louisville market.

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Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

Two books, one leftover film (#SFWApro)

central aptsHaving walked through a small portion of Central Park on our New York trip last month, I picked up CENTRAL PARK: An American Masterpiece by Sara Cedar Miller from the library. This shows how the city’s desire to have “a central park” took form through the work of Frederick Law Olmsted and his partner Charles Vaux, visualizing it as a place to both rest the soul and elevate the lower classes. This largely survived the inevitable oversight from the city’s power-brokers (one proposal would have imposed a Parisian-style boulevard through the park) though with several modifications Miller argues worked for out for the best, such as the Park’s well-known bridges. Good, though I skipped over a lot of sections on details such as the individual statues—though I did find it interesting to see Americans of every ethnicity have had the urge to put statues to their heroes up in the mark (The photo is mine—as you can see winter wasn’t the best time for a visit).

REJECTED is the collection of multiply rejected stories (seriously, that was the criterion for inclusion) that includes my “And He Bought a Crooked Cat,” (see the story behind the story here) so please don’t assume that all the rejections mean the book sucks. Besides my own work, my favorites were “The Cleaners” (an OCD man battles mean spirited janitors who insist on rearranging his stuff) and “Christmas Shepherd” (a heartwarming Christmas story about a man and his dog that actually works for me).  I’m glad to have this in hard copy.

Now the movie I forgot yesterday— FRANKLYN (2008) follows several seemingly unrelated plotlines involving a suicidal performance artist, a father searching for his crazy son and a masked vigilante hunting down “the Individual,” a crimelord in Meanwhile City. The town’s name convinced me this might be a time or parallel world story, but no—and I guessed almost from the first a key element of the finish. Watchable, but it’s style without substance. “Go, or I’ll kill us both… if you really knew me, you’d get out of here right now.”

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More time travel movies than I expected (#SFWApro)

Part of wrapping up the book will be going through my lists and seeing if I missed anything. For now, here’s a few—

THE MAN WHO COULD WORK MIRACLES (1937) adapts H.G. Wells story to show bored deities giving Roland Young reality-altering powers, only for him to find himself frustrated by free will (“I can’t get into people’s minds.”) and that no matter how he plans to improve the world, the defenders of the status quo see all kinds of problems (making me suggest a double-bill with Alec Guinness’s The Man in the White Suit in which change faces similar resistance), which makes Young all the more determined to shape the world to suit himself (“It’s going to be full of pretty women.”). Qualifies for the appendix based on the ending twist; fun, though Young’s willingness to try hypnotizing women to fall for him is more problematic than it used to be (though I’m not sure it’s worse than some of his other off-hand actions). All rights to poster image with current holder. “I’ve got my weaknesses, but I’d sooner poison a baby than tamper with whiskey!”

The_Man_Who_Could_Work_Miracles_film_poster-1

As PRIMER (2004) has a certain cult following, I decided to rewatch and see if I liked it better than the first time (no) and to see if I’d missed any details in the complicated plot (no again). As when I first saw it, it strikes me as found-footage style without the footage—key scenes and backstory get omitted, lots of mundane, seemingly dull conversations give it a cinema verite quality, but I find it more distracting than entertaining. And there are aspects of the time-jumping I don’t think make much sense—would knowing what someone’s going to say three seconds ahead of them saying it really be such a crucial advantage?  “I can sleep at night if there’s only one more.”

ME MYSELF I (2000) is an Aussie comedy in the Family Man vein whereinsingle professional Rachel Griffiths enters the What If world where she accepted her old boyfriend’s proposal and is now married with three obnoxious kids. While this has the usual single-shaming so many of this sub-subgenre do (unlike Cage, who clearly loves his single life, they assume an unattached woman, however professional, must be miserable), I give it points for showing that the alt.life is flawed even without comparing it to Griffiths own (both partners having cheated, for instance). “My name is Pamela—you are allowed to call me Mum.”

TIME FLIES (1944) is a British farce in which hustler Tommy Henley convinces his friends to invest in Felix Aylmer’s time machine, which inevitably takes an impromptu trip to Elizabethan England where Aylmer winds up in the Tower (“He predicted the queen would die in 1602 and be replaced by a Scotsman!”), Henley borrows a cloak from Sir Walter Raleigh (“I dub you Sir Thomas.”) and a showgirl gets to meet Shakespeare. Nothing memorable. “Another perfect line—wait, that isn’t one of Francis Bacon’s, is it?”

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Time traveling TV children#SFWApro

I watched both one TV version and a film adaptation of TOM’S MIDNIGHT GARDEN (1987 and 1999 respectively), Philippa Pearce’s story about a boy staying with relatives who stumbles through time into the beautiful Victorian garden that existed when the apartment building was a manor house. This is sweet, but too slow-paced to work well on screen (I recall liking the book better); the movie is the superior production simply for having less running time (plus Joan Plowright as the elderly neighbor whose secret is quite obvious). “Hatty will grow up—she hasn’t a choice.”

91WoFklIzML._SL1500_MOONDIAL is another 1980s production, in which a young girl terrified her injured mother won’t recover finds that when the moon strikes a sundial at a nearby manor house, it transports her back in time to help out two kids of the past (one Victorian, one Georgian) with their own troubles. This is shot for maximum eeriness, but the plot is too slight for me (it’s trying for more substance than Tom’s Midnight Garden but doesn’t make it). And why exactly does the evil governess of the 1700s (Jacqueline Pearce) look like the crazy parapsychologist in the present—I kept expecting a reveal that never came. All rights to image with current holder “I am still here—at least the mirror tells me that.”

Moving on to better British kidvid, JOHNNY AND THE BOMB adapts one of Terry Pratchett’s stories about a group of kids who jump back to WW II after mishandling bag lady Zoe Wanamaker’s “bags of time” and discover that because of their time meddling, 19 people died in their neighborhood during the Blitz. Can they fix things? Familiar stuff to me, of course, but well done. “I think you’d call it a race against time—and time just lost.”

TIME SQUAD was a one-joke Cartoon Network series but a good joke: the protagonists have to fix history when it goes off the rails, which means, for example, stopping Eli Whitney from building flesh-eating robots instead of a cotton gin, or getting DaVinci out of his Beatnik phase (“His art isn’t representational, it’s more like post-WW II expressionism!”). Goofy but entertaining. “The wildest, daddio—crazy wild!”

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Filed under Now and Then We Time Travel, TV

Insomnia is not my friend, but it feels like it sometimes (#SFWApro)

Monday night, for instance. For some reason I hardly slept at all, so I put in lots of extra hours and wound up well ahead of my required 40 for the week. And then this morning I got up early and was able to sort through a pile of paperwork (tax stuff, writing receipts, vet and pet insurance paperwork, etc.).

It was a productive week. I finished the latest rewrite of the time-travel book’s text, and the credits. I asked McFarland if I could enlarge the book from 130,000 to 137,000 words and got the okay, with the understanding that closer to 130K is much preferred. And I knocked several more things off the list. I’d hoped to be completely done with the viewing now, but I’m still on track for wrapping up by the end of next month.

Somehow I found the time to bat out a rewrite of The Schloss and the Switchblade. I’d requested a reading slot at this week’s writing-group meeting and I had nothing else, so I figured that would be the strongest thing to go with, especially as I didn’t even have an ending until I read the unfinished version and mulled over the feedback. It was overall a favorable reaction, with several suggestions I can use when I get around to the next draft (probably not until April).

And I submitted a short story, got it back almost immediately. Which is disappointing, but it came with positive comments and a prompt no is always better than waiting three or four months and still getting no.

My day of doggy day-care had to be shifted to Wednesday this week which was good: we had a tornado warning and heavy rain so I couldn’t have done much walking of the pups if they’d been home. But it was bad, because I also couldn’t get out and walk or bike by myself, which I enjoy greatly.

Still, a good week overall. So I guess February’s rocky start wasn’t foreshadowing after all.

And for a bonus, here’s an example of a striking cover image that doesn’t really relate to the story. I think the cover was a big part of what convinced me to by this back in my teens. I don’t know the artist (I have a different copy now) but all rights reside with current holder.

merritt_moonpool_thumb[2]

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Filed under Now and Then We Time Travel, Short Stories, The Dog Ate My Homework, Writing

Trump Cards (and other political links)

A consistent refrain among some right-wing columnists is that somehow Trump is a creation of the left: he’s just like Obama or just like Saunder. Now here’s a new twist: Ben Domenech explains it’s precisely because evangelicals have lost the culture wars that they’ve turned to Trump because he’ll fight political correctness and defend freedom of religion (i.e., he’ll kick Muslim ass, tell chicks their place and adopt a no-homos stance). Because conservative Christians would never support anyone like that otherwise (remember how conservative Christians came out against George W. Bush’s policies of war and torture? Me neither). And young people are flocking to Trump because they hate PC!

Meanwhile, right-bloggers opposed to Trump look at the South Carolina outcomes and freak out (I imagine they’ll be doing even more after Trump’s win in Nevada). In the same vein we have David Brooks conservativesplaining that Rubio is a slam-dunk over those crazies Trump and Cruz, no matter what polls and voters say. Other pundits are desperately insisting everyone but Rubio and Cruz should quit so the party can coalesce around the anti-Trump (forget that Randian self-interest crap! Think of the greater good!).

Of course, Marco Rubio isn’t any saner, whether on economics or promising to shut down mosques and businesses with “ties” to radical Islam. In my experience of the 21st century, the word “ties” can mean almost anything (a radical Muslim visited the mosque, someone who knew a radical Muslim visited the mosque) and in Republican hands probably will. And Rubio (like Ted Cruz) has come out in support of Vanilla Isis and the Malheur wildlife refuge occupation.

And Ted Cruz has come out against the hideous threat of the military offering gluten-free MREs to soldiers. While I’ve heard arguments that gluten-allergy is way, way less common than the number of people avoiding gluten, this has nothing to do with that, it’s some vague attack on (what else?) political correctness. What do the needs of people who do have gluten allergies matter compared to that? Twenty years ago, Cruz would probably have been saying it about vegetarian meals, but vegetarianism’s getting a little too mainstream now.

•While we’re dumping on Republican candidates, here’s John Kasich, right-to-lifer.

•A look at the effect of Scalia’s death on several current court cases. But never fear, one conservative has a solution: count Scalia’s preliminary votes in judicial conferences even though he’s dead.

•The FBI wants a back door through the iPhone’s encryption. Apple says no.

•So a pair of data analysts predict that Chipotle is going downhill because it doesn’t spend as much on data analysis as other chains. I can’t help thinking that in this scenario, data analysts are possibly not unbiased in their analysis.

•”Their anxiety wasn’t about my sex life. Their anxiety was about my existence.” Gay Christian Julie Rodgers recounts how Wheaton College, “the Harvard of Christian schools,” recruited her to work with gays on campus, then fired her when they got criticized for having her on staff.

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Rebooting Wonder Woman, over and over (#SFWApro)

wonderwoman202After reading Diana Prince — Wonder Woman Vols. 1, 2 and 3 I found the local library didn’t have Vol. 4 (as noted at the second link). But that only skips three stories, then I pick up with WW 202 (cover by Dick Giordano, all rights with current holder). In this, I Ching’s daughter Lu Shan has opened a dimensional gateway into Nehwon, the setting for Fritz Leiber’s adventures of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser (and which Leiber’s own stories establish as a parallel world to Earth). Diana, I Ching and Catwoman (working as Lu Shan’s villain-for-hire) stumble through into Nehwon, join forces with Leiber’s heroes (this promoted their own short-lived DC series, Sword of Sorcery) and eventually return home. It was what got me reading WW regularly (if it had two of my favorite print heroes in it, it had to be good, right?). Astonishingly I stayed after the mess of the next issue, written, like 202, by SF great Samuel Delaney.

WW 203, “The Grandee Caper,” amounts to a soft reboot of Diana’s non-powered period. Much as Denny O’Neil showed she’d left military intelligence without actually showing the decision, Delaney’s story mentions in passing that Diana sold her boutique and gave up her apartment, with no explanation why. Then we plunge into one of late-1960s comics’ painful attempts at political relevance, a “special women’s lib issue!”

With nowhere to live and no income, Diana is happy when a local department store owner, Grandee, hires her to be the new face of his fashion line. Big pay, company apartment, lots of clothes, what could go wrong? But as Diana’s friend Cathy explains, Grandee’s a sexist pig who exploits his workers: he buys all his goods from local sweatshops, thereby keeping his operation in-state and exempt from federal minimum wage laws (he takes advantage of this to underpay his female labor force). This is technically legal (I don’t know if it actually would be, but that’s the story’s stance) but they’re able to bust Grandee when it turns out—his store doesn’t meet the fire code!

The topics of labor exploitation and unsafe workplaces are certainly a worthy one (worthier than I realized as a 14-year-old), but it’s not very well suited to an adventure comic. The action we do get feels very forced (one of the feminists sets her trained guard dogs loose to give Grandee a scare), but it’s not as if the story would have worked better as a think-piece. Most of the drama comes from Diana being completely insensitive to the issues—she insists Grandee is pro-feminist, so surely Cathy has no real issue with him. And sure, Diana supports equal wages for women but that doesn’t mean she has to fight for other women, does she? She doesn’t even like other women!

Yes, that’s right. Diana’s the sensible liberal who believes all the right things, but doesn’t understand why people protest and fight for those things. Mr. Delaney, if you’re doing a story where Wonder Woman has to be awakened to the importance of fighting for women’s rights, you’re doing it wrong.

wonderwoman204smI don’t know what was going on behind-the-scenes at DC, but Delaney’s take and the whole no-powers period got wiped out the following issue (cover by Don Heck, all rights to current holder). Robert Kanigher returns for a story in which a crazed Vietnam veteran starts shooting people at random, kills I Ching (who would never be resurrected or returned, except for a small role in Grant Morrison’s Batman run a few years ago [that’s better than Lu Shan who was trapped in Nehwon and apparently never returned]), then the killer and Diana end up falling off a roof when they tussle. The guy dies, Diana wakes up amnesiac, obsessed with returning to Paradise Island (she even steals a jet plane to do it). When she finally arrives, it’s treated as if the island had never left our world, it’s just … there. Wonder Woman gets her powers back (again, there’s no hint she ever lost them) along with her memory, and Kanigher introduces Wonder Woman’s black sister, Nubia. Diana Prince gets a day job as a UN translator with a black and a Chinese roommate, plus a sexist boss who dismisses Di as a “plain Jane.” But as she speaks all known languages (which is canon), the jerk can’t very well pass her up.

In a matter of issues, this would be rebooted again… but I’ll save that for a subsequent post.

 

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Filed under Comics, Reading, Wonder Woman

Whining about culture, and other political links

Roy Edroso has for years mocked right-wingers who grumble about how the liberals control the culture—movies, TV, books, etc.—and conservatives have to take it back (because it’s only that liberal propaganda that keeps America from agreeing with Republicans). Here’s a special example: National Review’s David French not only complaints about the lack of right-wing culture, but how it’s impossible to produce it in a world so totally dominated by the eeevil left.

In addition to Roy’s mockery and that of his commenters, I’ll add a point of my own: Conservative Christians have already produced right-wing culture. The Left Behind series were bestsellers. There are Christian films, TV shows, kids shows (and Veggie Tales is actually fairly decent). Yet somehow the culture as a whole is not swept away. If conservatism doesn’t have a stronger foothold in pop culture, maybe that’s because the market has spoken. Which is usually a Good Thing in conservative circles, but never when it concerns the media (it doesn’t matter if people want to see S-E-X, they shouldn’t get it!).

•It appears male biology students may rank fellow students’ competence based partly on gender.

•Digby looks at voter statistics and finds Trump’s supporters are like American voters 50 years ago—majority white, Christian and married. But Trump strategists are still hoping to win over black voters.

•Beyonce does a production with a Black Lives Matter theme. Ergo, she inspires blacks to shoot cops, according to police spokesmen.

•A petsitter sues a couple who hired her for $6,000 because they criticized her on Yelp.

•Applause for how the government handled the Malheur crisis and Vanilla Isis.

•Wal-Mart is paying third parties to analyze employee spending to assess their health (do they shop at bike stores or donut stores?), which they will use to offer helpful health advice. Of course kindly companies like Wal-Mart would totally never abuse that knowledge to say, weed out workers who aren’t in good shape. And I was struck by the assurance that credit scores can be a reliable measure of healthy living. Maybe but this screams “convenient metric so that I can make snap judgments” to me, or “pay me to get credit information, I can tell you anything about the target individual!”

•Megan McArdle recycles cliches about why judges shouldn’t rule on political issues: it’s an “end run” around the political process, it alienates people and drives them to extremes, and the Supreme Court federalizes issues and applies the same laws everywhere. As various LGM posts have observed in the past (no links, sorry) there’s no evidence that court resolutions make people more extreme on the issues (e.g., Roe vs. Wade didn’t make right-to-lifers more aggressive). And sometimes getting around the political process — Brown vs. Board of Education, the Supreme Court’s gay-marriage decision last year — is a good thing. Plus, McArdle has no problems with getting around the process when it suits her: she cheered the Hobby Lobby win despite the fact the laws requiring their employees receive birth control came right out of the Executive and Legislative federal branches.

•Even with good insurance, an ambulance ride can cost you.

•The FTC charged a data broker with knowingly selling personal data to scammers. The settlement: $4.1 million.

 

 

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Cool art for Monday (#SFWApro)

I love this Gervasio Gallardo painting (not for a book cover as far as I know), “Winter Unicorn.”

e26eb0307825b131c9a5b5dcb4e86d3bThis anthology cover by Carl Lundgren with the dragon and the graffiti covered railroad car always struck me as a neat mix, reality and fantasy combined.

4015741739_bd8c091861Here’s a cover by Kelly Freas:

freasAll rights to images with current holders.

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