Saturday, May 31, 2008

Braw Wee Babbies

Keep an eye on John in the lower right within the first 15 seconds or so in this one:

And, for oft-forgot Caturday, I give you Georgette, Isabel Johnson's cat, who turned up with her brother around 99 or 2000. Sadly, George the cat is no longer with us, having been diagnosed shortly thereafter with feline leukemia. They were named after Curious George, back before he got politicized.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Tao of Doctor Who


This week: The Poison Sky.

Spoilers start after these beauties:

Words of wisdom from Isabel:

"There's a word for people who try to double-cross the Sontarans: That word is squish."

So the Sontarans are gassing the Earth with devices attached to everyone's cars. It's a sort of catalytic converter attached to a GPS system that nevertheless can lock your doors and drive you straight into the river to drown if the Sontarans so will it.

Kind of an odd strategy for a proud warrior race. The Doctor thinks it's because they're losing the war with the Rutans. When have they ever been on the winning side? I guess they don't come knocking unless they've suffered some reverses.

So anyway we have achieved Maximum Separation. Donna and the TARDIS are on the Sontaran ship in orbit above the Earth, and the Doctor is stuck with UNIT: The Next Generation in London. And Martha is stuck in the basement of the factory UNIT raided in the last episode, being kept unconscious with a silver collander strapped to her head so that Not-Martha can wander around the place and spike UNIT's wheels.

So UNIT mooks are dying like mooks, even the one guy whose name we got told: Ross. They can't fire back because the Sontarans have some sort of device that makes the copper bullet casing expand and jam in the gun. So why isn't there still a bang?!

Lethbridge-Stewart is a knight, apparently, and he's stuck in Peru. The colonel in charge of this circus called him Sir Alistair and praised him.

Now Donna's creeping around the Sontaran ship in orbit while Not-Martha is keeping the Earth from launching its nukes and staying close enough to the Doctor to shiv him in the ribs if her Sontaran masters deem it wise.

UNIT switched over to steel-cased bullets and is owning the Sontarans. The Colonel just shot his Sontaran counterpart, someone-starting-with-S the Bloodletter. Meanwhile, the SHIELD, er, sorry, the UNIT Helicarrier is keeping the gas away from the factory with the downdraft from its ducted fans.

And the Doctor just found Martha trapped in the bowels of the building. He wakes her up and Not-Martha falls over, but not before holding him at gunpoint. The Doctor's not impressed. Martha gets a few minutes to talk to Not-Martha, so the author can emphasize what a great life Martha has on Earth, all the people she loves, and underline why she left the Doctor at the end of the last season. Ow, those are my tears, stop pulling!

The Sontarans' local helper, some spoiled 17-year-old super-genius, just lost his supposed army of super-geniuses who were going to colonize another planet (they all walked out to look for their folks in the smog), found out that the Sontarans were just going to shoot them all anyway, and is now throwing a tantrum and acting like the spoiled 17-year-old he is. Bet he's going to be integral to the resolution.

Turns out the gas the Sontarans were making the cars pump out is clone food. They plan to choke all the humans to death and spawn billions of footsoldiers so they can go another round or two with the Rutans. Bastards.

Oh, dear. That can't be good for the ozone layer. The Doc has just kludged together an atmospheric converter from the equipment the super-genius had prepared to go settle that planet at the end of his garden path, and it's ignited the upper atmosphere in a thin sheet just at the level of the top of the Chrysler building in NY -- they showed a shot -- and it's sucked up all the gas that was choking everyone down on ground level.

So now the Sontarans are going to invade with sheer manpower and kill everyone. Oh, actually they're just going to shoot everyone from orbit. I don't see how this is any more glorious than their Plan A.

And the super-genius still isn't squished. He pointed a pistol at the Doctor, who just took it out of his hands en passant and threw it away. So now the Doc's got his atmospheric converter and he's going to teleport up to the Sontaran ship and blow them up if they won't leave. That means he's going to be right there with it. Tear jerk! Tear jerk!

Ha, so, the super-genius-whiny-ass-titty-baby has managed to swap himself for the Doctor using the teleport, and he's blown up the Sontarans and himself. I can't tell if that's Redemption Equals Death or Heroic Sacrifice. Jesus, I hate writers who set up these sorts of endings.

Okay. Boom! More boom! The shock wave destroys some smaller ships that are trying to escape! You know how this goes!

And zzzip! here's the Doctor, safe and sound. That's right, Donna, he deserves a smack. I think you're the first Companion ever to give him one, though.

Oh, Martha, if you think you're getting out of the TARDIS on Earth this time, you've got another one coming. Yep! Something's pulling the TARDIS off Earth and it's credits time!

Next Week, on Doctor Who: 'Allo, Dad!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Waltzing Matilda

If you click on the small YouTube logo in the lower right, it should take you to the movie's page.

Otherwise, this is the hyperlink.

Be sure to check out some of the related videos over on the right, or after the movie stops playing.

Memorial Day

I don't suppose I can cheerily wish anyone a happy Memorial Day while mindful of the purpose of Memorial Day. Nevertheless, think happy thoughts about your lost ones on this day, or you'll never get out of bed.

I haven't lost anyone in any wars of the 20th Century whom I'd ever known. I believe there's a Marsh on that big stone plaque by the Paris Courthouse memorializing our Great War dead. My Grandfather Williams was a clerk in the army, and went to Europe, although he was too old to serve in the foxholes or with the artillery; he was a clerk. My Grandfather Chandler moved over to Norfolk, Virginia at some point to help build sheds and housing for the Naval base there. He was home before my mother came along in early 45, before the war ended, and my father is technically a Boomer, although my grandparents Williams had been married a fur piece before the war started.

My great-uncle James was a conscientious objector during the war, but they took him anyway and made him a stretcher-bearer and all-round medic in the Pacific. He never talked about what he'd seen there, after he came back from the war. He was a reticent and taciturn man who'd show up of a Sunday and sit in one chair, and not talk (although he was probably pretty deaf by that point), but I don't know what his personality was like before the war, so I can't say how it changed him.

My grandmother Chandler tried to make ends meet on the family farm, in the little house she still lives in at 91, with three small children in tow. My grandmother Williams had a job at the Avon army depot in Kentucky, repairing busted electronics for the army.

Isabel's grandfather Johnson was in the Navy, and taught sailors to read radar screens and other electronica at the University of Chicago. Her grandmother Johnson was a nurse; they got married near the end of the war, and Isabel's mom was the first of three children, born in 48.

Isabel's grandparents Pelech moved from the Ukraine to Germany in the 30's, escaping from the Soviets' purge of priests. Then her grandfather was involved in some unclear way in some resistance movement, and may have blown up a railroad. Her grandmother kept her head down, and somehow they came through the war, only to move to Peron's Argentina. They moved to the United States when Isabel's dad was little.

I have a toast here, for them all.

Friday, May 23, 2008

For My Next Unbirthday

I have a new favorite website full of shameless merch.

It's called Retropolis Transit Authority, and it is made of win.

As a fan of Girl Genius and someone who owns GURPS Steampunk, I find myself browsing these shirts and coveting each one.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I've Just Seen Prince Caspian

And they totally took out Silenus and all the maenads and stuff. I guess Walden Media didn't understand the book.

But Trumpkin is even more surly and snarkful than in the books. When it comes out that Lucy has taken to referring to him as the DLF, or Dear Little Friend, he says "Well, that isn't patronizing at all, is it?" But he's eventually forced to acknowledge that Aslan exists, at which point the big lovable cat (having just given Reepicheep his tail back) bellows at the skeptic, thus sealing his humiliation before everyone who counts. Whee.

No more, for at least two weeks, or I'm afraid I may spoil it for people.

To wrap up, I'm not sorry I've seen it, it was a fun two hours and twenty minutes, but I don't think it has much rewrite value.


George Takei is getting married!

Woooooo Hoooooo!!

Via Shakespeare's Sister.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bath Time!

front row seats to my killing rampage ..just for you

And this one is just awful:

Shakespere Cat  lacks proseable thumbs

see more crazy cat pics


Just read on Pharyngula* about the giant squid eye. The squid and we share a common ancestor about 600 million years ago, back when the state-of-the-art eye was a patch of photoreceptive cells.

So, the fascinating thing about the differences in the ways our respective eyes work is that, put very simply and paraphrasing Dr. Myer's excellent summing-up, our photoreceptors are excited by an absence of light, while the cephalopods' eyes are excited by the presence of light.

So every time we close our eyes, our photoreceptors start partying like it's 1999.

I have no idea why that should be, but it obviously doesn't bother us when we sleep.

*Warning! Science content!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Forget Politics

At YouTube.

Funny video, but we think whoever's messing with the speed is an asshole of the first water.

If It Is Tuesday, This Must Be Nazi Germany

WARNING: Long and bitter. Click here if you'd rather not read.

Over at Sadly, No!, Jillian has returned from a long absence with "some secret footage that someone managed to smuggle out of Clinton’s campaign headquarters."

It's a YouTube from some movie or other featuring Hitler, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, heaping verbal abuse upon his underlings.

I have not watched this video. I wanted to see what the comments said, so I read them first. They confirmed my suspicion that Jillian's post is nothing but nasty.

I have not watched this video. I will not propagate it around the Internet, and it sounds like Sadly, No! is not the first stop for it. I will similarly not link to Sadly, No! in this post. Many people have delinked each other in this primary fight, but I will not remove Sadly, No! from my sidebar because the crew has done sterling work debunking and mocking the punditry of the right. This video is merely a blot upon their copybook.

It defies all reason to call Hillary Clinton Hitler. Why is racism imputed into our motivations when we support her? Their argument boils down to If you're not voting for the black dude, you're a racist on par with the axe crazy person who had 6 million people killed. Really, it's that simple: Vote for the black dude or you're a racist. They don't provide any argument why we should vote for Obama; when pressed for three reasons, one commenter over there stated "He's not John McCain" three times, which is equally true of Clinton and really not a reason for Obama but against McCain.

Skin color trumps policy positions and experience and everything else.

At least we'll have lots of practice calling McCain names in the general.

I mean, seriously, do these guys know what real racists are like? Every third pickup truck here in Oak Ridge -- Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the blue dot -- has a Confederate flag bumper sticker, window decal, or front license plate. I am living among people who have martyr complexes because my great-great-grandparents beat their great-great-grandparents in a war, not to mention that they are proud of what the Confederacy stood for: Exploitation, rape, beatings, and murder.

They are willing to impute all of those things onto me simply because I want to preserve Social Security, support our aging parents and grandparents, and obtain universal healthcare. Obama has been positioning himself in this primary against all three of those things, while Clinton has been running on promises to uphold them. I like Hillary's policy positions on many things. I disagree with the gas tax holiday. I disagreed with the war in Iraq. But those are definite policy positions, and I have seen nothing but vague promises and glory from Obama's campaign.

Barack Obama: Sexy. Hopeful. Changing. Vote for Sexy Hope and Change!

For Your Consideration

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Saucer Day

The Day the Saucers Came

That day, the saucers landed. Hundreds of them, golden,
Silent, coming down from the sky like great snowflakes,
And the people of Earth stood and stared as they descended,
Waiting, dry-mouthed to find what waited inside for us
And none of us knowing if we would be here tomorrow
But you didn't notice it because

That day, the day the saucers came, by some coincidence,
Was the day that the graves gave up their dead
And the zombies pushed up through soft earth
or erupted, shambling and dull-eyed, unstoppable,
Came towards us, the living, and we screamed and ran,
But you did not notice this because

On the saucer day, which was the zombie day, it was
Ragnarok also, and the television screens showed us
A ship built of dead-man's nails, a serpent, a wolf,
All bigger than the mind could hold, and the cameraman could
Not get far enough away, and then the Gods came out
But you did not see them coming because

On the saucer-zombie-battling gods day the floodgates broke
And each of us was engulfed by genies and sprites
Offering us wishes and wonders and eternities
And charm and cleverness and true brave hearts and pots of gold
While giants feefofummed across the land, and killer bees,
But you had no idea of any of this because

That day, the saucer day the zombie day
The Ragnarok and fairies day, the day the great winds came
And snows, and the cities turned to crystal, the day
All plants died, plastics dissolved, the day the
Computers turned, the screens telling us we would obey, the day
Angels, drunk and muddled, stumbled from the bars,
And all the bells of London were sounded, the day
Animals spoke to us in Assyrian, the Yeti day,
The fluttering capes and arrival of the Time Machine day,
You didn't notice any of this because
you were sitting in your room, not doing anything
not even reading, not really, just
looking at your telephone,
wondering if I was going to call.

Neil Gaiman


From a Village Voice article on the Republican push for Obama, a quote from Rush Limbaugh:

Declaring that he knows the Clintons "like every square inch of my glorious naked body,"


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Second Coming of the Disco Ball

At YouTube.

25 And I looked, and beheld a wondrous sight, and I fell upon my knees, 26 That in Its glory and Its grace, It had returned to us 27 Bringing upon the world and all the realms therein 28 A new reign of Awesome and Rocktacular 29 And I was blessed.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


View at YouTube.

As Pandagon notes, the makers of Expelled! are arguing that they put a 15-second clip of the above song into their movie because they wanted to refute its premises.

Huh. I thought Expelled! was about religion and science, not religion and art.

Amanda wanted to know why they still hold a grudge over a song that's pushing 40 years old (great, I just made my folks feel ancient), but some of these folks haven't gotten over Chappaquiddick.

So, as I said over at Pandagon (but Blogsome probably ate my comment), they're just jealous:

"Hey! Where's my Asian bride? Why can't I have a rock album with naked pictures of me and that Asian bride on the cover? Why don't teenage girls swoon in my presence!!!"

So there. Expelled! is an eminently silly movie made by eminently silly men, the foremost among them that publicity hound Ben Stein. Maybe he should have won more of his own money.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Have You Seen This?

The Lincoln-Douglass debates.

Ladies and gentlemen, Fox News, "The most popular news channel in America."

Via Crooks & Liars.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Black and White

Bill Cosby is pursuing a career as a motivational speaker. What he has to say disturbs me for several reasons and in several ways. I'll try to run down them over the next few days, but here's my first impressions.

First off, he idealizes the history of African Americans, and Africans before them. His recent book, Come On People, has this to say about history:

“no group of people has had the impact on the culture of the whole world that African Americans have had, and much of that impact has been for the good”

Quite a bit of pride there, wot? Anyway, his point is that African Americans have backslid from that position of respect and power, that their culture is degrading, and it's largely the fault of the hip-hop kids with their pants and their cars.

Indeed, it's not just that blacks have backslid since the height of the African empires; it's that they have backslid since the 1950s:

“For all the woes of segregation, there were some good things to come out of it,” Cosby and Poussaint write. “One was that it forced us to take care of ourselves. When restaurants, laundries, hotels, theaters, groceries, and clothing stores were segregated, black people opened and ran their own. Black life insurance companies and banks thrived, as well as black funeral homes … Such successes provided jobs and strength to black economic well-being. They also gave black people that gratifying sense of an interdependent community.”

What they seem to be saying, then, is that "race mixing" is causing all sorts of problems, from unwed mothers to crack dens. The blacks in America are worse off now than they were when they had to use the back door to American life because mixing with us white folk has degraded their moral character.

It doesn't help that Cosby is touring the country, and everywhere that he goes, he speaks to men. Great rooms full of men, standing room only in most cases. He tells them that they have to step up and work to fix the problems with their culture and communities. So where are the women? It's up to Cliff and Theo Huxtable to fix the problems (if you'll allow me a metaphor). Their message has no space for Clair or Vanessa or Rudy. Cosby says it's such a shame that women get pregnant out of wedlock and aren't instantly shuffled off to the country, where decent folk don't have to look at them (but that's a rant for another day), and he isn't calling on the women to do anything about it.

I have read the article in The Atlantic, and I have digested what parts of Cosby's message are presented there, and I have this little list:

Bill Cosby speaks to large groups of men, about how they need to be men and fix their culture.
He speaks of a golden age and a fall from, well, grace really, caused by integration with the majority population; of the supremacy of the black group and the degeneracy brought about by mingling with others.
He has little to no words for women, and how they can help.
He seems to spurn any overtures of assistance and help from outside the black group.

Does any of this seem familiar? To me, it has chilling overtones that are shared by one other group: White supremacists.

Now, before you jump on the comments and light up your flamethrowers, I will say this: I do not see Bill Cosby advocating eliminationism, which is one of the troubling things about white supremacy groups. I do see him preaching separatism, the scorning of the out group, and the need for purity of the in group. These ideas trouble me when they are spoken at Hitler's birthday party, and they bother me when they are spoken in black churches in Philadelphia.

This is a large and wiggly can of worms I'm opening here, I understand that, but I'm determined that it needs to be opened. You say we need a national dialogue on race? I think this is part of that dialogue: Why do groups in America wish to crawl out of the melting pot? In what ways does it help, and in what ways does it hurt, to define the world as In and Out, Us and Them? I don't have these answers, but perhaps we can start to grasp some vague notion of something approaching an answery thing.

I'm not editing comments, so if you've got something to say, click on Comments and let me have that ring of fire.

The Great Controversy

The missionary came back again today. And again, I had no money. What a shame. I could have purchased a large-format paperback book (we're talking 8 1/2 by 11 inches) entitled The Great Controversy, which traces the conflict of good vs. evil from the beginning of time to the modern era and has a spiffy cover illo of the Statue of Liberty in front of a wavy American flag.

Since she left without leaving me a copy of the book, I can't get into it very much. I don't think this is the same one*. But she opened it up and flipped through a bit explaining what it was about. The "beginning of history" seemed to be described in the chapter on the French Reformation, and the thirty-second tour ended up on a full-page illustration of Liberty Enlightening the World with a ghostly Jesus standing by.

So, how could I possibly refuse?

*I like the first couple sentences in the first review of that book. "Remember when you were 8 years old and you found out Santa Claus didn't exist? Well don't worry, this book isn't about Santa Claus!" Wow. Now that's exciting. A whole book that isn't about Kris Kringle! I must ... no, I will possess it!