Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Memory hole

Interestingly, Jeremy Slater has removed all his blog archives.

I can only assume that he finally sobered up long enough to realize it was probably really truly mindbogglingly stupid to maintain a blog, under his own name, in which he openly kicks the holy shit out of various TV shows, movies, and the people who work on them, while he's living in Hollywood and trying to get work there.

I kinda wonder who gave him the wake up call.

Rapture of the deeps

On my very first day at my very latest job, people were doing the cubicle shuffle -- you know, that frantic repositioning dance that every cube-farm denizen goes through when new people come into the mix, where any open cubicles get reapportioned in such a way among the people who are already there so as to guarantee that the newbies get all the crappy ones.

It is an invariable law among cube-farms, of course, that newbies have to start in the crappiest cubicles, and only through experience and attrition gradually work their way to the desirable window or corner cubicles, where hardly anyone can see what's on your monitor so you can web surf a lot more than you're supposed to.

Anyway, first day, this woman who sits across from me and one station back noticed how other people were shuffling around to get at the cool cubicles, and apparently, she felt vulnerable, as she was sitting at not only a window cubicle, but a corner window cubicle, and she's a temporary contractor, and temporary contractors are always the lowest of the low in any office pecking order. So she got up on her cracker barrel legs and stared around truculently with her big watery flounder eyes and then announced rather stridently that she HAD to sit by a window, she didn't know WHY, but she just HAD to sit by a window, something about sitting by a window, it just soothed her somehow, she HAD to sit by a window, if she got MOVED away from a window, then we were going to have ONE VERY UNHAPPY PERSON on our hands.

Maybe nobody else would have found that aggravating or exasperating.

Maybe I'm just not patient enough with my co-workers.

Maybe it's just me.

No, I'm sure it is.

So anyway, yesterday is Monday, and I come in, and Flounder Eyes asks me, all solicitous-like, how was my weekend? And I advise that it was, y'know, too short. And she agrees that weekends are always too short, and then she sighs in a rather exaggerated fashion, and allows as to how she is just EXHAUSTED from HER weekend. And I'd like to sit down and ignore her, because, you know, I'm just that kind of guy, plus, if you go around zotzing your co-workers with a taser it causes talk and management takes a dim view of the whole activity, but it's a new office situation and I need to keep this job for a while so I dasn't be notably anti-social right now, I just dasn't.

So, hating myself for doing exactly what Cracker Barrel Legs erroneously thinks she is oh-so-subtly manipulating me into doing, I chirp brightly, "So what were you doing this weekend that was so exhausting?"

Sez her: "Oh well at church I had this total immersion experience in the Holy Spirit. And it was just, like... WHOOOOOA."

And she quavered.

All -- OVER.

It's mean, I know, to ridicule other people for their physicality. And it's not like too many random strangers have come up to me on the street lately and said "OmyGod, Harrison Ford circa 1983, I love your work, can you please sign my RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK souvenir fedora for me? Make it out to Joe. Your Biggest Fan. And please sign it 'love'. Okay?"

So I have little room to be cracking on how other people look, and I know that. I do.

So suffice to say, watching this woman QUAVER all over was not a sublimely pleasurable experience.

In fact, it was just, like... WHOOOOOOA.

And then later on that day she was talking about how her daughter thought everyone at that church was weird because they like, spoke in tongues and rolled on the ground and SHE told her daughter HEY just OBEY THE SPIRIT when the Holy Spirit comes over you you just LET IT TAKE CONTROL and DO GOD'S WILL.

I'm not inclined to worship theoretical supernatural entities I can see no real material evidence as to the existence of; I think, if some critter out there wishes me to conform my behavior towards its expectations, much less adulate it as some kind of spiritual mentor, it can at least offer to cut me a check for said services, and I wouldn't mind a health care plan and a retirement package either, if you got one or two back there somewhere you aren't otherwise using. Having said that, though, even if I were drawn to abase myself before some concept of divinity, I think I would be very wary of any such myth-figure whose WILL and SPIRIT involved me shrieking incomprehensible gibberish while writhing uncontrollably on the ground ANYwhere, much less, in front of a few hundred other people, at least one of whom was, my child.

Also... and here's where you discover very nearly the worst of me... I'm of the opinion that abjuring your young daughter to just OBEY THE SPIRIT just let it TAKE CONTROL and DO GOD'S WILL is, y'know, what's that thing, what do they call it -- oh, yeah -- child abuse.

There should be an island somewhere and all these people should go live on that island and they could babble at each other in made up languages and flail around like a bunch of spazzes on the beach right next to all those big giant stone heads that I'm sure would be on that island with them and then those people would be happy, and they wouldn't stand around outside theaters trying to keep me from going inside to see LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, so I'd be happy too, and their kids should be adopted by, you know, smart people who aren't insane who don't live on that island, so THEY'd be happy.

And then those people on the island could vote for, like, President of the Island, but not for anyone who would make any laws that would have any effect on MY life, and that would be really cool, too.

Or, the Rapture could occur, like, NOW. And as these Chosen Lambs of God ascend heavenwards in a brilliant golden beam of holy grace, I will wave, and laugh, and dance, and shout "Farewell, O Beloved Lambs of God, and please, please, please don't let the door hit you on the ass on your way outta here!"

Because I'm really just that uncool.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The madness of... well... everything

SuperWife put this together for me as a birthday present, but then couldn't force herself to keep it covert for that long.

Dig on it a while:

And that should hopefully be it for this insane frenzy of Saturday blog posting.

If you're lucky.

Resident weevils

A comment I just posted over at DKM's blog, on the subject of the latest RESIDENT EVIL movie:

You have to go into the RE movies expecting blows-up-real-good-high-velocity crap. If you do, you'll really dig on the first and the third. (I can't imagine the mindset necessary to enjoying the second installment; that one went so badly off the rails about halfway through that I have no idea where it ended up, but it wasn't anywhere near good, or even enjoyable).

Being a huge fan of zombie movies helps, too. Unlike the mess that was 28 Days Later, or even the obviously good intentioned but still ultimately malformed remake of Dawn of the Dead, the first and third RE installments recreate the essential core of the zombie genre beautifully. And the latest one tosses in a lot of other sneaky sideways schlock references as well, to everything from The Devil's Rejects to The Road Warrior.

The unbelievable stupidity of this latest RE can be seen simply by reflecting on the obvious fact that, in a hellish future where there is hardly any food, water, gas, shelter, law, or even band-aids, nonetheless, we still obviously have enough haircare products to ride out the next millenium on a wave of Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine. Beyond that, it heartens me to know that apparently years of starvation, assault, and attrition will turn every human survivor into a gorgeous buffed up action figure. Shit, I can't WAIT. ;)

Adding on to that -- SuperWife and I saw the latest Resident Evil thingie a few weeks ago with Nate, and for all its brainbending idiocy, we still had a good time watching it. I'm not sure it's an ownable, but if you're looking for ROAD WARRIOR style action with a lot of zombies in the mix, you could do way worse than toss a few bucks to your local rental franchise for this.

Okay, just a couple more...

The insane blogging frenzy continues!

A couple more things I meant to mention -- no, really! Just a few more and I'll shut up. Honest I will. Just one or two more. Maybe three at most. Certainly no more than four. Four... five, tops. Six more things at the absolute most...

Anyway. On this whole Larry Craig "wide stance" thing -- I mean, seriously, Senator Craig, what the fuck, dude? Since I got this last job I'm spending at least a few minutes most days in a men's room stall at work, and I'm forcibly reminded of what should be an obvious truth here, at least, to any guy who has ever sat down in a stall in a communal crapper to take a crap -- you cannot possibly take a 'wide stance' while doing this, because your pants are around your ankles.

There is simply no way, while you are seated on the throne in a bathroom stall, that you are going to get your foot under a stall wall far enough to brush up against someone else's foot unless you either (a) still have your pants pulled up, or (b) no longer have your pants on. The first... well, if you go into a men's room stall and sit down with your pants pulled up, you ain't there to use the facilities in the conventional manner, and however wide your stance may be when going to the bathroom, it really doesn't matter, because clearly, you weren't there to go to the bathroom.

As to the second possibility, well, if you go into a public men's room, enter a stall, close the door, prop your suitcase against the door so as to block any view under the door from the front, and then take your pants off... well, that would seem to speak for itself as to your intentions.

Now, the police report on the Craig arrest states that Craig was 'seated to the left', which would indicate that he didn't go into the stall just to piss because all the urinals were occupied. That's about the only way anyone in a men's room stall could possibly take a 'wide stance' that might conceivably touch someone else's foot in a neighboring stall. But if you're sitting down, and you're there to 'go to the bathroom', well, I don't care how wide your stance is, the only way you're getting your foot into someone else's stall is if you really, really want to.

So that's that.

Second, on a completely different subject --

I just finished reading Stanley G. Weinbaum's THE BLACK FLAME, something I found in a second hand store a few months back. The stilted prose style, cardboard characterizations and "classic" plotlines indicated pretty strongly that this particular book was written back in the 30s or 40s, but as I got towards the end, one particular passage sent me scrambling for the original publication date:

She gave him a curiously sardonic smile. "I'm not afraid to tell you now... what was in the package I took from the amphimorph. Would you like to know?"

"Of course."

Her voice quivered excitedly. "In that package was an atomic bomb!"

"An atomic bomb?"

"Yes. And do you know where it is now?" The voice rose exultant, fanatically elated. "At the wall behind the Throne of Urbs! Behind the Throne where the Master's sitting this moment!" She laughed at his horrified face.

Now, here's the thing -- the 'wall behind the Throne of Urbs where the Master's sitting this moment' was, like, in the next frickin room. I mean, seriously, what this nutjob was saying was, she planted an atomic bomb forty fucking feet down the hall. And now she's standing there, having a fucking chat with some guy! So I read this and I'm thinking Holy SHIT you crazy crackhead BITCH you've DOOMED EVERYONE, INCLUDING YOURSELF!! WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU????

And then Our Hero, whom she's just spilled all this to, goes tearing towards the room where the atomic bomb is hidden to save the woman he loves, who is naturally inside, and I'm thinking, okay, what the hell, buddy? It's an ATOMIC BOMB, MOTHERFUCKER! What are you going to do, smother it with a couch pillow? Dump it in a barrel of water? Heave it out the window? Holy SHIT!!! YOU'RE ALL GOING TO DIIIIIIE!!!

But, before he can even get there:

A thunderous roar reverberated in the vast hall like the rumbling thunder of a collapsing mountain. A continuous screaming bellow like the clamor in hell rose in an ear-blasting crescendo, and beyond the glass doors rolled billowing clouds of steam, shot through with jagged fires.

And now I'm thinking Jesus H. Christ on a holy pogo stick, what the fuck kind of punk-ass atomic bomb is THIS? So I turn to the front pages of the book, and see --

"The Black Flame" copyright 1938 by Better Publications".

Okay. Well, nice try, Stanley, but you were just a leetle bit off in your hypothesis as to what the blast from an atomic bomb would be like.

"Beyond the glass doors." Riiiiiiiiighttttt...

Friday, October 26, 2007


Randomly --

  • After months of every lead winding up a dead end (or worse), by sheer seeming happenstance I've stumbled into the best paying job I've ever had. In addition to that, it's downtown, which, given that there are no high paying jobs I'm qualified for in my immediate neighborhood, is about the most convenient location I could possibly work in.

    The job has its drawbacks and its petty irritations, but every job does, and as far as that goes, the annoyance ratio is pretty low, especially when one factors in the hourly pay. Given how poorly my last several forays into the world of employability have gone, I'm taking this one day by day, but, still, for the present, I'm making a pretty decent wage and things are looking up.

  • I think I'm more or less out of the comics collecting business... not entirely, as there will always be special editions of stuff I'll want to buy, like the complete collection of Alan Moore's run on WildC.A.T.s I picked up just last weekend... but I think the last six months without a regular current comics fix coming in have let me kick the habit. The Marvel Universe was pretty much dead to me for years anyway, and I find I'm not missing anything at DC all that much... I'm a bit sad I never got to see the resolution of the JLA/JSA/Legion crossover, but the relief at no longer being led around by the nose by DC's unceasing series of Yearly Big Events And Ongoing Weekly Series That CHANGE EVERYTHING is so profound that any vague regret I might have over not seeing Gail Simone's wrap up to her run on BIRDS OF PREY, or whatever new series Geoff Johns may be writing, is pretty much overwhelmed. I'm free! I'm free!

    Related to that, it's become obvious that I'm never going to be able to really play a game of HeroClix again due to my own entirely self imposed limitations in that regard, and having admitted that grim truth to myself, any act in pursuit of further HeroClix is reduced to nothing more than collecting memorabilia. I never wanted to be one of those guys with the head and shoulders bust of all five of the original Avengers on his bookshelf, or the exact lifesize duplicate of Green Lantern's battery sitting on top of his refrigerator -- to me, things need to have a function as well as a pleasing form, or you're just wasting money on them. So the only HeroClix business I will still pursue at this point will be selling off the ones I have... maybe I'll try to figure out how to open an E-bay store, or something.

    It makes me a bit sad that this has happened right before the expansion that finally would have given me a classic set of Lee-Kirby X-Men in the blue and gold costumes... but the relief I feel that I no longer have to jump through every hoop WizKids can possibly contrive in order to get all the pieces I want is pretty overwhelming, too. And if I do start selling my figures off, well, as always, we can really use the money.

  • Football season seems essentially futile this year, as I'm not a fan of either the Patriots or the Colts (in fact, I loathe both teams with a fuming seething passion nearly indescribable in prose, but that's really neither here nor there) and it is inevitable that (a) both those two teams will end up in the AFC Championship Game, after which (b) the winner will go on to utterly destroy whichever NFC franchise is luckless enough to get tossed into the Super Bowl arena with them.

    The only real elements of interest in the season for me are, will the Bucs get to the playoffs? If so, I expect the Glazers (who own the Bucs franchise) will extend Jon Gruden's coaching contract, which I'd prefer, as I like Gruden and think he's a pretty good coach who's been beset with some pretty overwhelming handicaps to overcome the last six years. Let him stick around Tampa another season or two, and let the salary cap work its magic on the goddam Patriots and those motherfucking Colts, and the Bucs (or at least, some NFC team) may emerge as a solid competitor somewhere down the line.

    On the other hand, if the Bucs go into a skid and fail to make the playoffs, Gruden is almost certainly toast in Tampa, and I'm not knowledgeable enough of the overall football scene to even hazard a guess as to who the Glazers might bring in to replace him. Such a switch might very well cause me to reluctantly begin to grudgingly transfer such emotional loyalties as I have to the Chicago Bears (as at least then I could watch a local game from the comfort of my very own recliner, at least occasionally). Or I might just give up on the NFL entirely. In some ways, as with the other stuff above I seem to be stripping away from the gaudy exterior of my life, that would be a relief, as well.

  • It's been very pleasant having my old buddy Nate so near. Since he's moved down here, I actually have someone besides SuperWife and the Super Kids to hang out with, and I've even been able to resurrect my old RPG, the World of Empire. Session scheduling is naturally constrained by such limitations as are imposed by the strictures of parenthood, but, still, we've had a few good sessions and I'm enjoying being an active DM again.

    The kids all really enjoy having Nate around, too. So that's a win-win for us. We all just hope Nate's enjoying being here in River City as much as we're enjoying having him here.

    And, you know, that he gets a job soon, so he can start chipping in for groceries... ::grin::

  • Very occasionally, when we're not too tired, I read to SuperWife for a while before we go to sleep. For the last several months, we've been slowly making our way through my first novel, UNIVERSAL MAINTENANCE, that way.

    I've been pleasantly surprised to find that, reading it this way, it's really a pretty good book. As a general rule, whenever I reread my own prose, I either enjoy it or I loathe it, but whichever way it goes at the time, I figure I'm not capable of passing anything like an objective or meaningful judgment on its quality. Yet reading UM to SuperWife over a protracted period, it's really seemed to me to be a pretty solid piece of work... yeah, there are places I'd like to get in and polish a little more, but, still, it seems to me that it holds up pretty well as a piece of entertainment and a reasonably decent science fiction/fantasy story. If I snagged a beat up paperback copy of UM at a second hand bookstore and read it, I think I'd enjoy it enough to note the name of the author, and go looking for more books by him.

    So that's something.

  • Last and certainly not least on this hit parade, Daniel Keys Moran is alive and well and even working on publishing another Continuing Times novel. As the animated Gambit so couthly puts it, life don' ged much bedda dan dis. If you haven't read DKM's Emerald Eyes or the Continuing Time's two further installments The Long Run and The Last Dancer, you're just straight up missing out on the best Lee-Kirby Silver Age superhero/sf comics books that have ever been done without pictures. I think all three books are out of print now, which pretty much sucks ass, but I'm fairly sure you can find them through second hand shops if your Google Fu skill level is up to the task. (Hey, if I can find old copies of Dave Van Arnem's STAR BARBARIAN and Andrew Sugar's ENFORCER series with a quick tap-tap-tap at the keyboard, I can't imagine it's difficult to find much more recent stuff like DKM's. And, while you're at it, get yourself copies of Robert R. Chase's The Game of Fox and Lion, Shapers, and Crucible, too. Science fiction at its finest, for mere pennies per page. Our civilization may be on the very threshold of apocalyptic meltdown, but God, I love living in decadent times.)

    Daniel Keys Moran is blogging, too. So check that out, also, if you've a mind to.

That's all I got for the moment. As I reach for the light switch on the way out of the template, however, let me note in passing that links to each of my novels, my distinctly unmilitary military memoir, and many of my short stories, are over on the right hand side of the main blog page. If you've got some free time on your hands, well... what the hell, all that stuff is free, too, so it seems like a match made in heaven, don't it? And who knows, if you print any of it out and spend two years reading it to your wife, you might find you enjoy the hell out of it, too. (Say, there's a niche market I can fill...)

Remember when I used to have a blog...?

I do.

A new job where I have no Internet access, combined with near constant activity of one sort or another on the home front when I'm there, have all conspired to keep me out of the Blogger web interface these last several weeks. When I do get a shot at the one computer we have with an Internet connection, I usually expend it getting caught up on the various websites I like to read, and find I have little or no time left over to post. All that, and, you know, the miserably low comment count here, as opposed to the 70 or 80 minimum threadcount responses that the new, comparatively crappy contributors over at Sadly, No! see whenever they post some rambling, forced, unfunny drivel, has all taken its toll.

Still, apparently, if I don't post anything about HEROES, Jeremy Slater will have nothing to say about the show, either, and we can't have that. Thus, so --

Everyone has their own tipping point. Here in this household, we seem to have reached it two episodes ago. For Nate, it was the spectacle of Peter Petrelli getting a tattoo that finally drove him away from the show in disgust. For SuperWife... well, I don't know what it was for SuperWife.

Maybe, like me, there was no one specific moment of mindwrenching stupidity, perhaps it was simply the aggregation of ALL the mindwrenching stupidity the HEROES audience has had thrown at it this season -- Hiro's utterly retarded time travel subplot, the ghastly foreign accents we've had inflicted on our ears by 'actors' who were apparently recruited directly from a high school theater club, the constant, high pitched gay vibe coming off Greg and Mohinder as they squabble over just how best they should raise The Adorable Little Girl Who Can See Everybody, the temple-pounding headache that is every new character introduced to date this season, starting with the Sensational Spics of Life and Death and continuing right up through Claire's apparent new romantic interest, Flying Emo Douche (hat tip to Jeremy Slater for that last coinage), and certainly not failing to include the Dumbass White Samurai In Medieval Japan and all those idiotic "Irish" guys.

Or maybe, like me, what truly turned her away from the TV screen in appalled dismay was not even any or all of these things, but the simple horrified realization that this show, rather than moving forward and building on the intensely flawed yet still interesting or even compelling arc of the first season, was simply going to pointlessly reset itself so that Tim Kring and his stable of captive scripting slaves could essentially recycle all of last season's characterization bits and storylines, with any and all 'new' material being confined to various bits they could blatantly steal from PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, X-FILES, or LOST.

Whatever it may be, the last two Mondays have been HEROES-free here in Castle Anthrax, and honestly, we only ever notice at 10:30 or so, after the Magic games break up, Nate heads out to his own place, and we're getting ready for bed. Then, inevitably, one of us will look at the other one and say "Whoops, we forgot about HEROES again". Then we'll shrug, and turn out the light, and go to sleep.

Now, I have no idea how well HEROES is doing in the ratings this season, and am trying to be careful not to simply assume (as is natural to me) that simply because I (and everyone else I am immediately acquainted with) has abandoned the franchise in disgust, that means that the show's overall ratings have dropped like Britney Spears panties at a Paris Hilton slumber party. For all I know, the show is doing better than ever, and network executives are ecstatic and euphoric with this seasons scripts, and all over the blogosphere, HEROES fans are going into euphoric raptures about the utter brilliance of plotlines in which, you know, Claire and her family are once again hiding the secret of her powers from her mostly high school social context, Greg is once more trying to be a cop while concealing his own special abilities, Peter is trying to learn to use his powers all over again, Hiro is sending messages to the 21st century by hiding scrolls inside secret compartments in the hilt of what must be one of the most carefully examined historical weapons in the history of the world, and Mohinder, dear Mohinder, is still utterly goddam useless.

Heh. You know what this reminds me of? This reminds me of that time I tried to drill a hole through my head...

Still, for those few of us who actually try to think about stuff, any stuff, from one consecutive moment to the next, it seems safe to assume that HEROES is a dead loss. After nearly half a dozen episodes of this horrifying bullshit -- say, have the Spics of Life and Death gone through that "We Somehow Get Separated, Cute Girl Spic Kills A Lot of People With Her X-Files Eyes, and Cute Guy Spic Shows Up Right After And Resurrects Them All" sequence in every single episode this season? Could Tim Kring really be that in-fucking-sanely bad a writer? -- it seems to me to be very nearly safe to say that HEROES is entirely unsalvagable. There is absolutely nothing anyone could do with this wretched reeking mess that would get any sort of sentient, discerning audience back in front of the sets again. (Although there are plenty of non-sentient, undiscerning SF fans out there apparently willing to lap up any drivel anyone throws at them, as can be seen by the rave reviews that the new, dreadful BATTLESTAR GALACTICA series keeps getting throughout the blogosphere.)

But of course, that assumption would be wrong. HEROES could be saved, even for those one in one hundred thousand potential viewers who actually demand intelligence and some sort of quality in their entertainment. How could this even be possible?

Simple. Pull a Matrix.

Here's what I'd do, if a kind and benevolent God dropped creative control of HEROES in my lap -- I'd take whatever horrible, crappy Kring-produced episode had most recently been created, crop off the last crappy, wretched, horribly miswritten fifteen seconds of it, and substitute:

There is a flash of static. Abruptly, we see Hiro's eyes, in close up, opening wide, as if he is waking up in shock from something. We pull back. Hiro is lying on a slab of metal, naked except for a pair of shorts. He has some kind of metal band running around his forehead, and electrodes with wires fastened all over his body.

HIRO: [sitting up, causing several wires to pull free from his body] What in the name of Lucas and Roddenberry...?

HIRO stares around in stunned shock. We pull back away from him, revealing other cast members, also lying on metal slabs, apparently asleep, nearly naked, festooned with wires and wearing metal forehead bands. The walls of the large room seem to be covered with blinking lights and dials and high tech control boards...

HIRO screams...


Probably in a future blog post.

Sure as hell not on TV anywhere.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Everywhere I want to be...

Or everywhere I was, eight months ago, anyway.

Great minds think alike... or something. Which is to say, a week or so after I first start linking to his reviews of HEROES, Jeremy Slater publishes the following review of HEROES, which is a great deal like a review of HEROES I published... well, see the link in my first sentence.

I'm sure it's a coincidence. A big shot Hollywood comedy writer like Slater would never, never, never have to swipe joke ideas from a mere nobody like me... not that a no-talent amateur with a single digit audience like myself would ever post anything worthy of Slater's attention, anyway.

Weirdly, somebody from Fresno, California has been spending a lot of time on my blog in the past two or three days, too. No doubt that's another coincidence.

I generally enjoy Slater's writing (less so when he's heaping abuse and wishing violent death on people because those people have a different lifestyle and set of religious beliefs from his own, but, still... ) and... c'mon now... it's highly unlikely that someone as cool as Jeremy Slater would ever go to someone else's blog to get ideas for his own. Right?


Of course, if there's one thing I know, it's how easy it is to use a search engine or a stat counter (or both) to check up on new links to your work, anywhere on the Internet. It's probably not entirely unreasonable or ridiculous to think that Slater followed my links to his stuff back here. From there it would be pretty easy for him to find my previous rantings about HEROES, and from there, well, why give some obscure asswipe credit for writing some funny stuff, and a link, when instead, you could just rip them off with complete impunity, since no one who reads your work is ever going to read their work anyway?

Isn't that... the Hollywood way?

I guess it's flattering. I thought my "Behind the scenes" entry was pretty funny when I posted it, and it's nice to see that someone else with actual professional screenwriting credit concurs.

Assuming, of course, that all this isn't just a coincidence... which it probably is.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Killing Joke

Jeremy Slater makes what may well be the final, mortal cut to HEROES:

The most depressing thing about this season so far is how they've simply reset all of the characters. Peter is learning about his power, the Bennets are keeping secrets, Parkman is using his powers to cheat his way into law enforcement...it's the equivalent of the Lost characters all getting stranded on a second magical island and then feigning shock the first time they see a polar bear.
I'm more inclined to believe that the most depressing thing about this season of HEROES so far is that Nikki the Psychotic Stripper hasn't had any scenes where she makes out with Claire the Indestructible Ex-Cheerleader yet. And that was the most depressing thing about last season, too. But Slater has very neatly delineated what is undoubtedly the second most depressing thing about this season to date, yeah. All the characters seem to be right back where they were at the start of Season 1; the only real changes that have been made -- Parkman's divorce, for example, or Peter's (infuckingcredibly convenient) amnesia, or Father Bennett's loss of his position in the Secret Conspiracy -- make the characters less interesting than before, not more.

If there's a third most depressing thing about this season to date, it's probably the way so many promising secondary characters from the first season -- like Illusion Girl, and even Sylar himself -- have been jettisoned in apparent favor of these idiotic South American twins and (as Slater calls him) Flying Emo Douche.

Ah, well. Just because it's a superhero show on TV, that doesn't mean it has to be good.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Feelin near as faded as my jeans

NOTE: I normally save all my political musings and social outrage for my poli-blog, A Brown Eyed Handsome Man. And, in fact, this is already posted over there. But I seem to have a slightly larger audience over here these days, and I wouldn't want any of my half dozen or so regular readers here to miss out on just what a mean-spirited, heartless, crazy ass, white racist motherfucker I really am. So --

Dave Niewert is a fabulous writer and an excellent journalist. At his blog Orcinus, he stays right on the cutting edge of his chosen journalistic territory -- racial bias (generally, the bias of whites against non-whites) or what he calls 'hate crimes'.

Niewert's material on America's hidden history of racial hatred is eye opening, thought provoking stuff. Prior to stumbling on his blog back in 2005 (I think) I'd never even heard the phrase 'sundown town', nor was I aware that post Civil War America, from the late 19th and well into the early 20th Century, saw a veritable homicidal frenzy of mass murder by whites directed at the black communities living amongst them.

Neiwert enlightened me on these subjects, and I'm grateful to him, and appreciative of the time, effort, skill, and undeniable talent that he put into this particular series, and, for that matter, into all his writing.

My overall admiration for Neiwert, though, is probably what makes me most exasperated with him when he says dumbass shit like this:

I'll be the first to admit that I, like a lot of other journalists, really fell down on the story of what was going on in Jena, Louisiana. Fortunately, it didn't matter one bit.

Where Nixon pioneered the non-denial denial, Neiwert is swinging his pickaxe hard in the non-apology apology vein. Yes, he allows, he completely fumbled the ball when it comes to reporting on one of the biggest, most inflammatory racial hate stories in the new millenium. But it doesn't matter! Why? Well, because stalwart, principled people like the Reverend Al Sharpton showed up to carry his water for him, that's why:

What could turn out to be one of the largest civil rights demonstrations in years is set to take place here Thursday, when Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III, popular black radio talk show hosts and other celebrities converge in Jena to protest what they regard as unequal treatment of African-Americans in this racially fractured Deep South town...

"Ten years ago this couldn't have happened," said Sharpton, who said he first learned of the Jena case on the Internet. "You didn't have the Internet and you didn't have black blogs and you didn't have national radio shows. Now we can talk to all of black America every day. We've been able to form our own underground railroad of information, and when everybody else looks up, it's already done."

Here's the interesting thing. When an obscure talk radio host named Brian Suits called Oprah Winfrey a Nazi because the only presidential candidate she ever books on her show is Barack Obama, Neiwert went on a screeching tirade about how horribly inaccurate Suits' chosen terminology was:

Good God, where to begin?

First, it has to be pointed out that Nazism is specifically a white-supremacist ideology. Unless Oprah is actually supporting someone who spouts that belief system and openly endorses it herself -- which would mean, roughly, that hell had become an arctic tundra -- it's not even remotely accurate to call her a Nazi.

As someone who reports on and deals with the activities of very real Nazis, this kind of nonsense is extremely aggravating, because as I've been arguing for some time, this kind of rhetorical laziness -- which also is not uncommon on the left, frankly -- not only is patently absurd, it actually distorts, disguises, and downplays the very real harm and social havoc wreaked by these kinds of hate groups. As Sara says, "it also drains the political meaning out of the words we use to analyze and describe fascism, opening the way to a total reversal of their historic meanings."

Real Nazis -- and real racists of all stripes -- do not merely indulge in coy alliances with people of their own race. They also constantly belittle people of other races, constantly depict them as vicious and diseased subhumans, constantly concoct bizarre "conspiracies" in which these "vermin" are engaged to destroy the superior race (namely, theirs).

Let's look at Bryan Suits' Bizarro Universe logic: He's claiming that Winfrey's open support of Obama is de facto evidence of her racism -- even though he will not be able to find a single show, or even a single line of transcript, indicating that she's doing so because he is black. No, according to Suits, we can presume that this is the case simply because Winfrey is black too...

...Well, forget all this nonsense. Here's the truth:

Oprah is neither a racist nor a Nazi, and there's nothing innately racist in her support of Obama, no more than Republicans' support of exclusively white candidates.

And Bryan Suits is a grotesquely irresponsible smear merchant who has no business being on the air.

Neiwert then generously publishes contact information for the station that Suits works for and everyone Suits reports to, urging anyone concerned to contact them and voice their opinions -- with the strong implication that all right thinking, decent folk out there should be outraged by Suits' perfidy and peremptorily demand his instant dismissal.

It's always interesting to me, how people like Neiwert are constantly up in arms about everybody's right to free speech -- except for the people they disagree with, like, in this case, Bryan Suits. The mature response to somebody saying something you don't like or don't agree with is to either stand there and (civilly and lucidly) debate with the person, or, if you feel that's essentially futile, walk away. Yet Neiwert isn't engaging Suits (which would be as simple a matter as calling in to his radio show) nor is he ignoring him (which would be an even simpler matter of twiddling his radio's tuning knob). Instead, as he is often wont to do whenever he hears about someone saying something he doesn't like, he is trying to sanction the person for saying things that he, Neiwert, disapproves of... in this case, as in most, by trying to incite his readers to get the guy fired.

That these are much the same tactics employed by the conservative demagogues Neiwert is most adamantly opposed to would seem to encompass one of the more intriguing ironies in the modern communications media, or, for that matter, the contemporary moral sphere.

What's even more interesting to me than that, though, is that Neiwert quotes extensively from the same Chicago Tribune article as I have drawn my own material from (linked to above) and while he will enthusiastically hurtle into an 800+ word oration about some dim sap's misuse of the word 'Nazi' as applied to Oprah Winfrey, he appears not to have noticed the Reverend Al Sharpton's similarly egregious abuse of the phrase 'underground railroad', wherein Sharpton compares a network of ethnically sensitive, racially concerned Internet bloggers with a group of mostly Caucasian American Abolitionists who risked life, limb, and livelihood to help escaped slaves reach freedom in the 19th Century.

If Oprah Winfrey is not a Nazi -- and I agree, she certainly isn't -- and Bryan Suits is a "grotesquely irresponsible smear merchant" who should immediately be fired from a job where he most likely generates ratings and consequent commercial revenues for his employer, just because his staggering ignorance pisses people like Neiwert off, well, what, then, are we to make of the Revered Al Sharpton, champion of the downtrodden, when he describes a bunch of modem brandishing typists as valiant, enlightened, lynch mob dodging heroes of American history?

I myself can figure out the answer to that question, and it's a darned good thing I'm capable of doing so, because Neiwert sure isn't going to tell me. His elocutory criticisms and retributionary demands for immediate termination are not for such titans as as the Ever Enlightened Sharpton, oh goodness no. Only the goddam honkey oppressor needs tremble before Neiwert's cybernetic wrath. In brightest day, in blackest night, no ofay misstatements or slurs shall escape his sight... yet non-whites need not fear his power, and may vaingloriously butcher the English language for their own blatant self-aggrandizement however they please, apparently.

As with any racism, it's double standards all the way down. What actually happened in Jena, Louisiana? As the already linked to (and extremely sympathetic to the non-white side of the issue) article states:

The trouble in Jena, (pronounced Jee-na) started a year ago with a resonant symbol from the Jim Crow past: After black students asked administrators at the local high school for permission to sit beneath a shade tree traditionally used only by whites, white students hung three nooses from the tree. The incident outraged black students and parents but was dismissed by the superintendent as a youthful prank; he punished the white students with three-day suspensions.

A series of fights between whites and blacks ensued, on and off campus. Whites implicated in the fights were charged with misdemeanors or not at all, while the blacks were charged with felonies.

In November, someone burned down the central wing of the high school -- an arson for which no one has been arrested.

And then in early December, Bell and five other black students at the high school were charged after a white student was jumped and beaten while he lay unconscious.

Although the white student was treated and released at a local hospital, Walters initially charged the six black youths with attempted murder -- charges that he later reduced to aggravated second-degree battery after black bloggers and civil rights leaders from across the country raised complaints.

This is the problem with the modern civil rights movement -- instead of attempting to cultivate an atmosphere of mutual tolerance and respect, it always tries to fight racism with more racism.

In this case, yeah, there do seem to have been some double standards evinced by the white majority in Jena. If, indeed, black participants in racially motivated fights were charged with felonies, while white participants were let off with misdemeanors or not charged at all, that's a big problem, and it should certainly be addressed.

Yet here is something else that troubles me. Everywhere I go on the left side of the blogosphere, every action taken by white people against blacks, from the original hanging of the nooses in the 'white tree' to the alleged fights, on campus and off, with blacks, are referred to as 'hate crimes'.

Yet nobody ever seems to employ this phrase in describing any of the violence committed by blacks against whites, especially the mass assault that culminated in a white youth being beaten unconscious and then continuously assaulted while knocked out.

It's aggravating. When whites attack non-whites in any fashion -- verbally, through gestures, through the written word, or through actual, physical violence -- it's always a 'hate crime'. ALWAYS. Yet when non-whites attack whites, or even other non-whites, the term 'hate crime' never seems to be applied. Non-whites attacking whites are always 'angry'. They are 'furious'. They are 'enraged'. They are always 'retaliating', often for 'generations of oppression' or in response to some locale's 'Jim Crow past'. And history is always mentioned as a mitigating or even exculpatory factor in non-white violence targeted against whites. Yet if anyone anywhere were to write an article attempting to vindicate white violence against non-whites by bringing up past alleged (or even extensively documented) violent, criminal excesses by non-whites, well, that's racist, and off the topic, and hateful, and deliberately demeaning to an entire ethnic segment of the human race. Or something.

This is in no way accidental. Just as the more conservative media outlets never refer to a Republican Senate minority invoking arcane procedurals to hold up disliked legislation as a 'filibuster', and never refers to similar efforts by Senate Democrats as anything but either a 'filibuster' or, worse, 'deliberate obstructionism', so, too, do liberal media outlets consistently label white racism as 'hate based', while non-white racism, just as virulent, is always a product of 'anger' or 'fury'.

It's always a very deliberate tactic, used to vilify one side of this sharp, dangerous divide, while excusing or even justifying the other.

It annoys me, as nearly all blatant demagoguery annoys me, but, worse, it frightens me. This is goddam dangerous stuff. Xenophobia may well be the true root of all evil; it is almost certainly the biggest killer in all of human history. Hating other people simply for being different from what we regard as normal is as natural to any of us as breathing or eating or waking after sleep... and only mutual enlightenment, universal tolerance, and the wisdom to accept the simple truth that all men truly are the same beneath the surface, possessed of the same natural rights, deserving of the same treatment under the law, entitled to the same opportunities for advancement and personal security, is going to lay the poison of ethnic / race / gender / sexual orientation fueled hatred finally to rest.

Equal treatment means using the same words to describe the same actions. It means equal outrage for equally outrageous behavior. It means that if you're going to scream yourself blue in the face about some idiot calling Oprah Winfrey a Nazi, you should at least take mild note, and register some sort of umbrage, when the Reverend Al Sharpton describes a group of passionately motivated Internet journalists, who, nonetheless, do nothing for their cause except sit at home and type into a DSL link, as 'an underground railroad'.

And it also means that if you're going to insist that any time a white person says or does something unpleasant, uncivil, or even unacceptably anti-social about or to a non-white person, it's a 'hate crime', then the same standard must apply to non-whites exhibiting similar behavior towards whites.

Rage doesn't justify violence, nor does past oppression, nor, honestly, does anything other than, well, violence. Which brings me to what seems to me to be the heart of the matter:

As I understand it, this whole thing in Jena boils down to two actions. White kids hung nooses from a tree in an admittedly heinous and reprehensible display of racial hatred, no doubt attempting to mark what they perceived to be 'their turf' in such a way as to frighten those they regarded as interlopers off of it.

Black kids then, apparently, ganged up and assaulted a white kid to the point where the white kid fell down unconscious, after which, they continued to violently assault him.

I know there's more to it than that, and I do not in any way doubt that the local justice system in Jena, Louisiana has an institutional bias for whites and against blacks. And certainly, that's worth protesting, and, more, necessitates immediate redress. Yet here's a fundamental truth underlying all of this that seems little acknowledged by anyone involved --

Vile, despicable, and contemptible though it certainly was, the act of hanging nooses from a tree, however intended and calculated to frighten, demean, and humiliate members of other ethnicities, is not a violent assault. It is speech, and, more than that, by any and every standard we here in America are supposed to cherish, uphold, and defend, it is protected free speech. You may not like it -- I personally find it loathsome and abhorrent -- but, nonetheless, it is not an act of violence. It is speech, and it is protected. The appropriate response to such is either (a) to engage it with more free speech, or, (b) to ignore it contemptuously, which is, honestly, all such goddam asinine ignorance really merits.

Again, you may not like this specific expression of free speech, you may, in fact, find it repulsive and offensive and objectionable, and you may well utterly revile and deplore the dimwitted slack jawed slope browed atavistic xenophobic spittle chinned ignorance and Neanderthalesque territorialism that fueled it. I certainly do. But you cannot respond to it with violence. If you want to live in a free society, you have to tolerate the speech and other non-violent expression of everyone in that society, even those you loathe, just as you expect them to tolerate yours. You may not punch someone simply because they say, write, paint, draw, or otherwise enact sentiments, feelings, thoughts, or viewpoints that you find personally offensive. You can't kick them, or hit them with a two by four, or stab them with a knife, or lynch them from a local yew tree, or tar and feather and ride them out of town on a rail, or shoot them with a gun, and you certainly can't get together with half a dozen of your buddies and beat them unconscious for it, after which, you absolutely cannot continue kicking their helpless bodies.

You have to put up with it... or you're not fit to live in a free society, and not even remotely a responsible citizen of such.

Kicking the shit out of someone you don't like, for whatever reason, but especially simply because you do not like them, is not speech. It is a violent criminal assault, and an intolerably anti-social act, and it cannot be justified by any non-violent provocation that is not an immediate threat to your life or safety. A civil society cannot tolerate this crap, and a civil free society certainly can't, as to tolerate a violent response to any form of speech, however controversial or even contemptible that speech may be, is to enact, uphold, and allow an unacceptably chilling effect on any and all potential speech or expression.

Look, I know we all know this, and I know none of us like it, or want to accept it. Emotionally we are all very much in enthusiastic favor of free speech for everyone else who agrees with us, and we fervently believe that all those who don't should just shut the hell up, or take a pummeling if they won't. But I think on some level all of us are aware that this impulse is both infantile and dangerous; if we truly do believe in freedom of speech, we have to accept that it is a right and a liberty that everyone can avail themselves of... or it isn't freedom of speech.

It's really that simple. When you start making a list of things that no one is allowed to say, or write, or paint, or draw, or sculpt, or make movies about, or otherwise non-violently enact or depict, then free speech is already dead. Criminalizing speech, any speech, is not a way to protect or uphold the freedoms and dignity of certain oppressed people, it is simply a way to oppress the freedoms and dignity of everyone. This becomes far worse when you begin to apply double standards whereby similar or identical behaviors are judged harshly and excoriated when one group exhibits them, and are excused, rationalized, or even exalted when they are displayed by another group.

Worst of all, though, is when one group's speech is deemed criminal, while another group's violent response to such speech is considered justifiable, acceptable, or even appropriate.

A civilized, truly free society must tolerate all forms of speech, and cannot tolerate violent reprisals against such speech.

Otherwise, freedom's truly just another word for nothing left to lose.

By their bootstraps

Last Christmas, I believe, the Always Esteemed Scott Shepherd included, in with a bevy of other much appreciated Christmas gifts to our family, a DVD of a strange little film I had not previously heard a word about: Primer.

SuperWife and I actually sat down and watched it fairly soon after we received it (which, with three kids in the house, would mean, within a few weeks, probably) and I imagine Scott has been scanning my blog for the last ten months or so, wondering when the fuck we were even going to mention the movie. The reason we haven't is, well, we didn't really understand a great deal of the movie.

We liked what we understood, mind you, but still... this is a pretty bewildering, not easily accessible film.

I've recently had a chance to sit down by myself and watch the entire film again in a morning, without interruptions. I gleaned a great deal more of the central plot structure and characterization arcs this time around, than I did the first time. I suspect future repeat viewings will allow me to perceive even more of the intricate multilayering that makes up the plot... but for now, all I can say about the film is that it's probably one of the most intelligently written science fiction films ever made.

Beyond that, Here Lurk Spoilers:

PRIMER is a time travel movie. I'm putting that below the jump, after the spoiler warning, because it's probably something that you're best off not knowing going into it. As the flick initializes, it seems to essentially be about four guys who like to mess around inventing stuff in one of their garages in whatever free time they can find to spare after working tough engineering day jobs for big corporations, and spending evenings and weekends with wives, kids, and/or girlfriends. Eventually, two of them stumble onto something big -- a machine they've been working on in hopes of creating close-to-room-temperature superconductors (I believe) provides some of the results they've been looking for... but with some strange side effects they don't understand.

Once Our Heroes sit down and work the math, they still don't understand how or why these strange side effects are occurring, but they do manage to figure out very specifically exactly what is happening... they think. It would appear that they've discovered a way to create a field that accelerates entropy on anything inside it -- which is to say, you put a test object inside the field, power it up, then let it power down again... and in the couple of seconds that the machine was running, the test object seems to experience something like 22 hours of temporal duration. Which is to say, if you put a digital wrist watch with a calendar function inside the field and power up, a few seconds later when you power down again, the wrist watch will show that 22 hours have gone by.

PRIMER is not easy access; the script does not spoon feed. There is a fuck of a lot of information this movie has to get across, and the writer tries very hard to play fair, using real scientific language and real equations to describe what's going on, instead of simply indulging in the usual Hollywood SF double-talk. Stuff gets mentioned once, usually in a hurry, and then the plot moves right along to the next point. Being as I have about the furthest thing imaginable from a mathematically inclined mind, I could not really tell you just how they jump to the next realization -- that, essentially, what they've invented is a device that will allow a very limited type of time travel. Which is to say, if you start the machine up, then wait 22 hours, you can insert yourself into the field, stay in the field for another several hours while it continues to cycle... and then emerge from the machine at the point where you originally started it up... 22 hours before you actually got into it.

Okay, let me go through that again, step by step:

(a) Start the machine up, say, at 9 AM on Monday, October 1. For reasons that will hopefully become clear, Our Heroes always do this using a timer; they hit a button that will start the machine 15 minutes later, then get the hell out of dodge.

(b) Wait 22 hours. To minimize possible paradoxes, and to try to ensure they never run into their own past selves, Our Heroes go to a motel and stay there, with all access from the outside world turned off, for the entire day. From the motel they can watch TV and use the Internet, but they are passively monitoring the world, taking pains not to interact with it. Why? Because --

(c) After 22 hours, they go back to the machine, at exactly the point in its work cycle that they have already calculated will allow them to enter the already created entropic distortion field. Call this 7 am, Tuesday, October 2. Our Heroes have oxygen tanks with them, as there is no breathable air inside the E/D field. They will lie in the E/D field, trying to sleep, for the next several hours, as the machine's work cycle completes.

(d) The machine's work cycle completes and the machine shuts down. Everything inside the machine finds itself, somehow, emerging from the machine at nearly the exact moment the original work cycle began -- at 9 am on Monday, October 1. Or, rather, at 9:15, which is when the machine actually started up; remember, Our Heroes use a timer. Why? Because they know that, if all goes as planned, seconds after they start the machine, the machine will shut off again, and they themselves will emerge from it -- having traveled back into the past from 22 hours in the future. And they don't want to meet themselves, ever -- they have no idea what would happen if they did, and don't want to find out.

I myself still do not quite follow how the narrative moves from "Hey, 22 hours goes by inside the machine and no time at all goes by outside" to "Say, we can get into the machine 22 hours after we started and stopped it originally and we'll end up getting out of it back when we first started and stopped it". The movie explains it, but it does so pretty quickly, uses a lot of numbers and scientific jargon (that, for all I know, may all be doubletalk, but it sounds impressive) and I haven't managed to grasp it yet. But all you really need to know is what I've told you -- start the machine up, wait 22 hours, get into the machine, lie inside it for several more hours, then get out -- at the point you originally started it, 22 hours before you got inside it.

Once Our Heroes start actually messing with the machine, the movie turns into any sci-fi geek's wet dream of a time travel flick. This movie is the cinematic equivalent of Heinlein's BY HIS BOOTHSTRAPS or Gerrold's THE MAN WHO FOLDED HIMSELF, a very nearly definitive and essential distillation of everything that might or possibly could occur when you start screwing around with your own personal continuity-stream. Our Heroes, naturally, use the machine to play the stock market and get rich, but of course, they can't continue to play it safe for very long, and fairly quickly, they start to detect fall out from what must be extensive meddling with the time stream by one or both of them.

One brilliant example -- the two of them are driving out to the time machine one night when they notice somebody else (a character we've barely seen prior to that point) following them in a car. Now, they know this guy, and in fact, one of Our Heroes is sure he just saw him a few hours before, clean shaven and well dressed. Now, it's the same guy, but he's got a three day growth of beard and his clothes look like he's slept in them. So they chase him down and he collapses (Our Heroes have already discovered that time travel occasionally has negative side effects on your health), going into a coma from which he never awakens. This completely baffles Our Heroes; all they can figure is that one of them must have told this guy about the time machine at some point in the future, and this guy must have used the machine to come into the past to try to change something... but what? And has it been changed? And how would they ever know?

I love shit like this. In a third person textual narrative, of course, the reader is omniscient and would follow the action all the way through the temporal loop -- we would see what actually happened in 'the future' and know exactly what the guy is trying to do, hanging around outside Our Heroes house and following them in his car. But in this film, we are trying to follow the timeline as Our Heroes move through it... so we don't know what happened to cause the stranger to travel back in time, because apparently, his time trip is successful and he prevents whatever it was from happening. So neither of Our Heroes ever tell anyone else about the time machine...

(My hypothesis is this -- one of Our Heroes, say, Aaron, is meddling with the time stream in a way that could potentially turn tragic, or even fatal for him, at any moment. So he prepares a sealed letter and leaves it with this other guy, to be opened only in the event of his sudden, unexpected, violent death. Then things go spectacularly pear shaped and Aaron ends up dead. So the other guy opens the letter, finds instructions on how to use the time machine and what to do to change the immediate past, follows them, and while things do go bad for him, still, it's enough of a warning to Aaron, in the past, that he manages to be more careful and avoid whatever mistake it was that led to his death in 'the future' that has now been completely avoided.)

More important than the actual time travel is the effect it ends up having on Our Heroes, Aaron and Abe. Where they start, and where they end up, and what they go through to get there, may well encompass one of the most fascinating character arcs ever shown in cinema.

All in all, while PRIMER is a largely unintelligible film, at least, on the first viewing, it's one that I believe rewards repeat viewings on DVD, and one that is well worth watching for anyone who thinks it is impossible to make a really intelligent SF movie, especially a time travel SF movie.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


This is by no means a sponsored post.

I'd never had much interest in reading Earth-X when it was coming out, but as with so many comics of that description, I decided to give it a shot when I saw it at the library.

Bleah. Had I known this thing was KINGDOM COME for the Marvel Universe, I probably wouldn't have bothered. As it was, I got maybe three chapters into it and couldn't continue. I'm not sure exactly where amidst the general catastrophe that is this story my revulsion originates. I do know that the point I could not forge my way past was the revelation that Daredevil has become some weird Johnny Blaze stunt rider sort of performer in an even weirder mutant populated circus/sideshow of the future. That whole sequence so revolted me that I just couldn't continue any further... but I was feeling plenty queasy prior to that.

I don't know. Maybe it's just how relentlessly ugly the whole thing is. Certainly, had Alex Ross actually done the art for EARTH-X, instead of simply designing characters, I'd have read every panel with reverent awe. But with John Paul Leon handling the pencils, there's none of the 'gosh wow' impact of Ross' photorealistically painted renderings, and without that, I was just left with how overwhelmingly unattractive everything about Earth-X is... visual-wise, theme-wise, and every conceivable otherwise.

I suppose what it comes down to is that EARTH-X is a world without heroes or villains, a world without good or evil, a world that is an unrelenting study of gray, gray, and yet more goddam gray. Or maybe it's not that; maybe it's just that all of Alex Ross' grand ideas for what my favorite characters might be like in this 'dystopian future' are offensively stupid to me. Black Bolt is an asshole. All the rest of the Inhumans are monstrous looking and Gorgon is now stupid. I just love it when characters I like turn stupid. Captain America is running around in a goddam fucking TOGA. Wyatt Wingfoot has become a new Falcon type character and calls himself Redwing. Heh. Get it? He's an Indian, so he calls himself Redwing. Fucking brilliant concept there. Machine Man is, like, insanely important to this story, I mean, the whole thing opens with like thirty pages of incredibly pretentious, pompous pontifications about Machine Man, and his 'father', and his 'human face', for the love of fuck, except they can't call him Machine Man, they have to call him X-51, because that sounds even more rooty-toot-toot than Machine Man, oh yes. Namor kills the Human Torch and as a result ends up being half on fire forever and it's just as stupid as it sounds, too. Reed Richards becomes Dr. Doom. And then, in the end, it turns out that Galactus is really Franklin Richards.

It... I... um... er... agh...

I don't know. When I read the introduction where Joss Whedon creams in his jeans about this thing, I really should have known better.

Release the robot pigeon

HEROES, so far --

Jeremy Slater is a hilariously funny guy. He also seems to be rather an assclown and something of a bully, judging from his blog. Still, I'm more in agreement with him than otherwise when it comes to the show HEROES. Some excerpts from his latest post on said subject:

I'm endlessly fascinated by the fact that series "creator" Tim Kring is far and away the least talented person on the entire writing staff. His episodes always seem to ooze clunky exposition, thuddingly obvious dramatic beats, and some of the very worst dialog on primetime television. Listen to Flying Emo Douche's stirring "robots and aliens" analogy in tonight's episode and marvel at the way his dialog rolls off the actor's tongue with all the grace of an Emperor Penguin getting kicked down a flight of stairs.

It's hard to imagine how depressing it must be to be a member of that writing staff, knowing that Kring will swoop down like some demented starving vulture to call dibs on the most important episodes of every season, including the premieres and finales. It must be like trying to plan a classy wedding, knowing full in advance that your fuck-up of a groom will get too drunk the night before and fill Aunt Marge's lap with vomit halfway through the ceremony. Why even bother?

Some of the highlights from tonight, in no particular order:

--The fact that new character Conveniently White Samurai is so obviously modeled after Captain Jack Sparrow that they even throw in an obligatory scene where a woman slaps him halfway around and he delivers a wisecrack directly into the camera. This is what Tim Kring calls a homage and the rest of the world calls HOLY SHIT THEFT THEFT THEFT.

--I mentioned the aliens and robots speech, right? It's too bad the writers were forced to cut the following scene, where Super Zac Effron walks across the football field, pumping his fist in the air to the tune of Simple Mind's "Don't You Forget About Me."

--I love the fact that Sulu was apparently killed by a J.C. Penny's fall catalog model. "Each jacket comes custom fitted with comfortable downy lining, a stylish removable hood, and the burning desire to harm aging homosexual icons of science-fiction."

--Between the Snidely Whiplash copy shop manager and the Stock Bitchy Cheerleader Who Always Bullies The New Girl On The First Day of School, it quickly becomes obvious that Kring's only source of insight into the sort of problems that normal (non-Hollywood-writer) Americans face must have been a steady diet of Saved By The Bell reruns.

--Th' foine, foine accents them foreign laddies were sportin' durin' th' foinal scene o' th' episode. Why, ev'ry day's a luverly day wif yoo, Mary Poppins!

--The fact that Matt Parkman aces his police test by SHOOTING A BAD GUY WHO WASN'T EVEN HOLDING A GUN AT THE TIME. I understand that Kring might have limited insights on small town Americana, but seriously, what the fuck? Didn't he used to write a show about a lawyer? Wouldn't that make him at least tangentially aware that this is something you're not supposed to do?

Sigh. It's going to be a long, long season.

The only place I even slightly disagree with Slater is in his condemnation of Tim Kring for his 'homage' to PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN. And it's not that I don't think Slater has a point, it's just that I don't give a shit. POTC is one of those monumentally successful franchises that has almost completely passed me by; people can rip it off all they want, and I won't even notice.

However, the Conveniently White Samurai had me holding my head and stifling groans simply as to the utter wretched crappiness of the whole concept; I mean, seriously, I know that one of the Prime Directives of HEROES is that Only White Guys Can Be Truly Cool, but extending this mandate retroactively into ancient Japanese history to reveal that The Greatest Asian Hero Of All Time was actually, in fact, a White Guy, strikes me as ethnic arrogance taken to a nearly Old Testament extreme. It's almost sadistically racist.

It's also retarded for so many reasons that bad TV drama, and those who love bad TV drama, refuse to think about. For one, I have no idea whether or not the feudal Japanese spoke anything like contemporary Japanese, but I will say with some certainty that a Conveniently White Samurai from 17th Century Britain would not speak any form of English that a temporally displaced contemporary Japanese man (who doesn't even speak modern English all that well) would ever even remotely comprehend.

Moving on past the truly idiotic time travel bullshit, I cannot tell you how much it aggravates me that the Petrelli brothers are still alive. The Completely Unnecessary Heroic Sacrifice in last season's final episode was brain bludgeoningly stupid enough -- how stupid? Let me count the ways --

1. Nathan doesn't have to grab Peter and fly him up into the sky so he can explode safely in the ozone layer. Why? Because Claire has a gun, and she's already been advised that if Peter is going critical and can't shut down, she needs to shoot him in the back of the head. Now, maybe Nathan doesn't want his biological daughter to have to carry the emotional trauma of blowing her uncle's head off for the rest of her life, I can dig that, sure. But that doesn't mean he has to grab Peter and haul him up into the upper atmosphere at supersonic speed where they can both die together in an oh so noble final gesture of redemptive self sacrifice. No, it just means Nathan has to take the gun away from Claire and shoot Peter himself. Which would actually have been in character, and would have provided plenty of angst for both Nathan and Claire, which would have been good characterization, but wouldn't have allowed for cheap TV computer animated explosion effects, so, never mind.

2. Nathan doesn't have to grab Peter and fly him up into the sky etc ad nauseum because Peter can fucking fly too, just as well and just as fast as Nathan. If Claire won't pull the trigger, then Peter can zoom off into the stratosphere his damn self. (Sub-stupidity: it's difficult to imagine anyone who has spent more than three minutes listening to the Most Powerful Superhuman Since The Dawn of Time whining and sniveling about how sucky his life is, hesitating for so much as a nanosecond, were they given the opportunity to bust a cap in Peter's self pitying punk ass.) And, you know, given that he's supposed to be all good and noble and heroic and shit (when he's not turning invisible and taunting junkies and getting his girlfriend fatally shot, I mean), I'd really expect Peter to fly away himself, before he either traumatizes his niece or forces his brother into a self sacrifice play.

3. Nathan probably can't grab Peter and fly him up into the sky, at least, not very far, because supposedly, as Peter builds up to his gigantic nuclear explosion, he'll be giving off massive amounts of heat and light and flame and radiation, which, supposedly, only Super Regenerating Claire could withstand long enough to get close enough to him to shoot him.

4. Nobody has to kill Peter to shut him off. Peter was starting to go critical once before and Obnoxious Invisible Asshole knocked him unconscious (easily), which turned off the chain reaction. I'm sure there are any number of people standing around Peter as he's about to go nova who would be happy to knock the little bitch unconscious, and if there aren't, I would happily volunteer.

(Sub-stupidity the second -- I don't understand why knocking Peter unconscious would shut off his chain reaction; as he seems to be able to at least slow down the chain reaction through effort of will, you'd think knocking him out would cause him to immediately explode, or, at least, accelerate the detonation process, as he can no longer struggle to contain and control it. Still, what the fuck, an excuse to punch Peter Petrelli in the face is always a good thing. Maybe kicking him square in the nuts would shut down his fission reaction, too. I at least urge people to try it. At every opportunity. Safety first, and all that, you know.)

But now, not only do we have this insanely stupid and utterly unnecessary Heroic Sacrifice to deal with, but we find out, it wasn't even a Heroic Sacrifice, because the dumbass miserable whimpering motherfuckers both survived it anyway. Nobody knows how they survived it (I in no way excerpt Tim Kring or the other writers of this show from this statement) but still, somehow, they did. Maybe an alien despot teleported them both into a limbo dimension right before the explosion occurred. Or Professor Warren had secretly cloned them prior to their heroic deaths. Something.

It bothers me terribly that Peter isn't dead, and it isn't just because he's such an appalling little whiner, either. Once the writers decided to turn Peter from X-Mimic (someone who has the superpowers of any other superhuman standing within a certain limited range of them) to The Composite Superman (a guy who absorbs and permanently retains the powers of a vast host of superhumans), it was absolutely necessary from a plot point of view that he either die, or, at the very least, turn evil... and given that this show already has an evil version of Peter in it (Syler), well, he really just should have died. Given the general power level of the remaining characters in this thing, Peter is simply way too massively unbalanced to be allowed to play a starring role; just how shabby and worthless do folks like the telepathic cop, or Nathan himself, look compared to Super Peter? And if Super Peter is always going to be around to save the day in the final episode, what, exactly, do people like The Scary Black Guy Who Walks Through Walls, or Psycho Stripper, have to offer?

Now, had the writers not lost what little remained of their minds and kept Peter at the 'only has the powers of heroes nearby' level, things would work much better. For one thing, Peter would have a reason to hang out with other superhumans, and they would have a reason to actually show up for the big, climactic fights. But since Peter only needs to meet a superhuman once in order to gain their power, well, once he does, as long as he's around, that character has become redundant.

It is, honestly, such a spectacularly bad idea, I'm amazed Peter isn't a member of the All New All Different X-Men.

I haven't even mentioned the monumental assheadedness embodied in the concept of Claire and her family, On The Run From A Secret Conspiracy With Eyes Everywhere, and, you know, nobody has made the slightest effort to disguise themselves even slightly. Claire is still blonde, her father still has that ugly ass haircut and those stupid fucking glasses and he's working in a fucking copy shop for the love of jebus, and they still haven't gotten rid of that stupid fucking dog. How moronic is the Secret Conspiracy hunting them, anyway?

Beyond all this, I'm still waiting for the second season to really get started. I'd hoped that the various characters would move on to the next obvious stage of their development as, well, heroes, which is sto say, organizing themselves into some kind of team or at least mutual protection society, but noooooooooo, despite the fact that many of them are aware that there is a threat worse than Syler out there, Syler himself isn't actually dead, and now, out of nowhere, we have this weird virus killing paranormals off, still, it occurs to exactly none of them that they should get organized, both to protect themselves from these threats, and maybe to protect the rest of the world, too. (And you'd really think this would occur to Claire's father, as getting all these other powerful superhumans together would be the best way imaginable to protect Claire from the Evil Secret Conspiracy.)

And, honestly, WTF is up with Black Eye Goo Chick and her twin brother? If this is the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver of the HEROES franchise, Kring has not improved on the source material. I mean, seriously, EW.

I'm sure there's even more stupid shit I haven't mentioned, but, honestly, how much stupid shit do you need in only two episodes? This show needs to turn itself around fast, or I'm going to start checking out K-VILLE.