Friday, February 26, 2010

After a hard day of slaughtering zombies...

We all know the biggest advantage of "sustainable" technology is its reliability after the Zombocalypse.

Hand-cranked flashlights and radios trump batteries, because you won't be able to buy or recharge cells once the system goes down. A little plot of vegetables beats stockpiled MREs. A solar powered compound beats the hell out of the grid. Some folks even take this so far as to ditch the power and versatility of guns in favor of medieval technology, because "blades don't need reloading".

But that only covers the minutia of food, lighting, communication, and defense. What do you do for the technologies that're really essential for survival?


From General interwebs

The hand-cranked vibrator.

Finally, our zombie-proof retreat in the mountains of Montana can be fully supplied.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Superman and Green Lantern ain't got nothing on me...

Strange Tales, the new Marvel short story compilation by alternative comics artists (similar to DC's Bizarro Comics) contains two new one-page comics by the Perry Bible Fellowship.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Stiiiiill Smokin'

On an unrelated note, I'd like to apologize to the smokers of the world for every unkind thing I've said about them over the years.

As aggravating as it can be to go into a restaurant and find that the "non smoking section" is a row of tables immediately adjacent to another row full of people smoking away, that aggravation absolutely pales in comparison to bullshit we get when governments step in to "fix" the problem.

Life goals

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there's some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


I think if I don't, at least once before I die, ride a horse through the woods, it will have been a life wasted.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood...

Frank W. James posted about the revival of the ASTRA brand.

And the Wikipedia disambiguation page for "Astra" points to their article on naked-eye planets.

Which is a bloody catastrophe, because I absolutely don't have 45 minutes to spend clicking links and reading about classical cosmology right now.

Must... Resist...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mmm... Kabuli palow...

Reading the Wiki page on Afghan cuisine is not a good way to keep me watching my budget and diet.

I could just about kill for a shawarma right now.

Tim Burton, the Motion Picture

In the course of preparing for the Wonderland burlesque number this weekend, we've been looking at quite a few adaptations. Some are better (or at least more nostalgic) than you'd expect, while some dollar-store versions are virtually unwatchable (if incongruously well cast--that cinematic abortion is a cast of nobodies, plus Michael Crawford, Dudley Moore, and Peter Sellers). We've also been looking at the design and plot of the Tim Burton version that opens in two weeks. Most folks I know are excited for it... But I'm really, really skeptical.

It's just-- It's just too much Tim Burton.

See, as much as we're supposed to hate the commercialization of art, and the compromises that go into making it marketable, I honestly tend to think artists of all stripes do their best work when their passions and voices are in conflict with some other force, be it a collaborator or a market. When an artist has free rein to just do whatever he wants, the work tends to get self indulgent and its quality suffers.

Look at John Lennon. I like some of his post-Beatles work, but it's overwhelmingly "LOOK AT MY ARTNESS", and honestly not all that good. In any case, it can't measure up to the work he produced when he and McCartney were aggravating each other with their barely-compatible voices.

Hell, take Shakespeare. It's an enduring myth that Willie was the kind of genius whose very touch made plays turn to gold, but boy howdy, it ain't so. His greatest plays truly are great, and were all written with an extremely delicate balance of pleasing his inspiring-fucking-muse, pleasing whatever monarch was currently warming the throne, and pleasing his market, which ran an economic range from "tries to kill enough rats for a dinner" to "queen". That's a hell of a lot of compromises to his Pure Artistic Soul, and the result is Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, Richard 3, R&J, The Tempest, Julius Caesar, Othello... So if compromises kill Pure Art, imagine what Bill could've done with a free hand, amiright?

Try reading Love's labour's Lost sometime. I dare ya. It's a play written by an intellectual playwright for an audience of intellectuals who appreciated intellectual playwrights. And today, it's one of Shakespeare's least-performed plays. For good reason, too: the wordplay is nearly impenetrable, and much of it is in dead languages. Hell, there are "jokes" that require you to decline Latin nouns just to get to the pun, all for the sake of a dick joke.

Compare with Tim Burton. Tastes differ, but I have few complaints about Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Batman, Mars Attacks, or Ed Wood, or even Peewee's Big Adventure. They generally had a strong "voice" of dissatisfied freakness, but it was moderated by the need to make a profitable movie. As time's gone on, though, it's like Burton ran out of people willing to tell him "no". I liked Sweeney Todd, but sweet Jesus somebody should've stepped in to insist Johnny Depp get some singing lessons. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory went so over the top it was embarassing, and did anybody who doesn't live in Hot Topic actually see Corpse Bride?

All of his films seem to be turning into Tim Burton, the Motion Picture, and Alice looks like it's gonna be another step down that road. It's an inherent risk of the kind of success that gives you a guaranteed audience.

[Not to say the alternative is better; if the "market forces" control a work completely, that'll probably suck too. Even most people who know their Shakespeare tend not to have seen The Merry Wives of Windsor. That play's market forces boiled down to a queen saying "I want a new Falstaff play by next Saturday".]

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Week that Ain't Yet


Working five ten-and-a-half hour days to make up for last week's snow day.

Several evenings of White Elephant rehearsals and a tech meeting, in preparation for...

Wicked Faire 5: The Final Frontier. Wicked Faire started out as a winter Rennaisance fair, to catch the rennie market on their off season when they had nothing else to do. Since then, it's evolved into a grand "hey, Jersey's an unholy nexus of freak subcultures, so let's have a con for all of 'em" con. So if you think your local science fiction con doesn't have enough anime, rennies, BDSM, neo-Victorians, steampunk, pagans, stage magic, Rocky Horror, or burlesque, WF is exactly the kind of con you're looking for. And the White Elephant Burlesque Society performs there every year. This year, we're doing three shows--one on Friday, one on Saturday, one on Sunday.

Saturday's Wonderland show is our most ambitious yet, and it looks like it'll be great. It's the most plot-driven show we've ever done, and has permanent set pieces for the first time. We've recently picked up some awesome new talent. And there's less last-minute oh-my-god-how-are-we-gonna-pull-this-off-in-four-days stuff than usual. It's gonna be a blast.

But holy hell, I'm gonna sleep well on Monday.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Turns Out I'm Google's #6 hit for oh fishy fishy fishy fish.

ETA: And how the heck am I hit nuber nine for elsie pea?
Adrian Colesberry (author of the best-titled memoir ever*) has some Valentine's Day advice for gay couples who wish they could marry:

Say that you are married.
When I was in corporate management, I promoted quite a few people over the years. In analyzing the pattern of who I promoted and who I didn’t, I noticed that I only promoted people who were already doing the job that I was interviewing them for. If a group leader was already doing most of the work of a supervisor, he or she would get the next supervisor position.

In the same way, you don’t need to interview for the marriage position: Gay men and women all over this country are already doing the job of being in strong committed relationships, raising children, taking care of elderly parents, doing everything that every family in this country does. Unfortunately, most of that family stuff is done out of the public eye. We obviously don’t see it well enough to understand that you deserve the promotion, so we need to hear about it.

This is similar to what I've been saying about the marriage equality movement, though certainly with a different focus. I think gay couples should be living the life they want to legitimize, and prioritizing the legal changes that will shield them from the worst discrimination (civil unions laws, mostly). Live it; let people see your stable, healthy relationship; _then_ fight the hard, divisive battle for full equality. The years of living like normal married couples will have taken almost all the wind out of the sails of equality opponents.

But what I really wanted to point out was this:

I hope it doesn’t seem intolerably flippant for me (a man who is all but rubbing your face in it with the getting married and then divorced and then married again) to propose that you can solve a hurtful social injustice by a mere rhetorical strategy. I know that it’s easy for me to suggest it and a hundred, a thousand times harder for you to carry it off in your real life.

Y'know, in a lot of ways plural-spouse families have even less social and legal recognition than gay families do. So if we're going to judge a suggestion by the victim-cred of the guy making it, I can back Adrian with authority:

My wife and I are planning a party in which we’re declaring our undying devotion to our partner. We’re calling the party a wedding, exchanging rings, and calling our partner our wife.

If we can do it, gay folks certainly can, too.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"Trip, trap! Trip trap!"

There was a time when I read Mikeb302000's blog, engaged on the issues, tried my best to represent the pro-gun side reasonably well, and generally tried to have a grown-up discussion about the issues. (This was pre-blog, and not under the Elmo pseudonym.)

At the same time, I saw some of my fellow gunnies responding to him with plain hostility. At the time, I thought they were being counterproductive and alienating somebody who, while wrong, was open minded enough to host a conversation on the issues, and might be swayed by a careful, honest approach. I told 'em as much at the time.

As time went on, it became increasingly clear that those guys understood what was going on better than I did. While Mike was very good at sounding open minded and conciliatory, he was really just repeating the same arguments over and over, generally ignoring any previous debunking. He'd also settled into an ugly strategy of maintaining, essentially, that no evidence was good enough to debunk his assumptions that privately owned guns increase violent death rates. If a nation banned guns and their crime rates went up, then pro-gunners were "cooking the numbers". If the numbers undeniably came from the very government that did the banning, it still proved nothing; crime rates would obviously have risen even faster if they hadn't gotten their bans. The same went for suicide: show that both a heavily armed European population and a completely disarmed Asian population can both have suicide rates far higher than the US? Meaningless! Obviously the Asian nation's stratospheric rate of self-slaughter would be even higher if they could own guns, and that European nation had better get some common-sense gun bans in place quick to stanch the flowing gore! The assumption makes sense in his head, you see, so all evidence will be made to conform to it.

In the end, I just gave up reading his site. It did bad things to my blood pressure, and frankly, life was beating me up quite enough at the time without my help*. I've never once regretted that decision, but every once in a great while I'll take a look at his front page and see if his approach has grown up at all.

It gets more depressing each time. I dunno if it's just me, but it seems like he's getting less subtle and just going for the outright insults with a "what's your opinion" tacked on. I see him linked to much less by pro-gunners these days, so maybe he's seeing the cred-stream drying up and trying harder to provoke responses.

The most recent illustration? I just followed a link from Sebastian regarding the decreasingly relevant Brady Campaign's somber-toned denunciation of the "Florida loophole". In short, the city of Philadelphia, ever upset that state preemption limits it to more or less reasonable gun laws, takes every opportunity to revoke the carry permits of people who've committed nonviolent offenses like not paying their traffic tickets on time. Those people--quite reasonably--seek alternatives, which they find in Pennsylvania's concealed carry reciprocity: if they can meet Florida's higher requirements (including fingerprinting, background checks, records releases, and safety classes) they can get non-resident FL permits that are honored by PA. (They could go with any of the many states that has reciprocity with PA, but Florida's particularly attractive because it gives access to so many other states.)

Mike's call for open and honest discussion?

What's your opinion? Why do you think the pro-gun crowd are so adept at discovering loopholes in the law? Is it because the laws are bad? Or is it because many of them are border-line criminals to start out with? What else do you call people who find ways to skirt the laws?

Nope. I don't regret giving up his blog one bit.

[* - Let's get the poor-me out of the way: my father passed away last year. In the same month as Ted Kennedy, and from the same kind of cancer. He was far, far too young--as everybody inevitably is--and it came on in a way that felt incredibly fast. Apparently in outstanding health from a lifetime of physical and mental exercise, he collapsed out of nowhere shortly before Christmas, and was gone eight months later.]

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Oh, fishy, fishy, fishy fish...

"Rare deep sea frilled shark dying"?

No, no, no. Incorrect. It's abundantly clear that this shark's already dead. Obviously it's a prehistoric shark-zombie--dead and animated since the miocene--shamble-swimming through the chill waters that preserve its long-necrotic flesh as it searches out the sweet primate-meats that ease some of the horrible pain of existing.

I've said it before; I'll say it again: If I'm ever President, I'll follow a three-part strategy for governing. Shrink government; mind our own business in foreign affairs; nuke the ocean.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Extrah! Extrah! read all abaaaaht it!

Brady Campaign loses its shit over toy guns in a music video.

After using prop pistols during her live stage shows and waving around faux firearms with Beyoncé in the video for their hit single "Video Phone," gun safety [sic] group the Brady Campaign is taking on the pop star.
"I can hear people say, 'Hey, it's just show business,' and that Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne each put on a good show. I understand that," explained Helmke.

"Yet it is difficult to deny the influence that these entertainers have on our popular culture and the young people who absorb it," he continued. "Guns aren't toys, even when they're made with pretty colors or sung about in rap songs, and it is dangerous to treat them that way.

"It is a deadly problem that more of us—including celebrities—should take seriously."

A gun-hating Chicago liberal in the White House. A Democratic majority in the House and until last month a Democratic supermajority in the Senate. And a full year later, the Brady agenda is getting so little traction anywhere that they're reduced to whining about brightly colored toy guns in a music video.


Shooting Sports

Yeah, yeah. You've got your IPSC, your IDPA, your cowboy action shooting... But for my money, the best shooting sport around is NJ/MA Gun Law Bitching. Where some states have football rivalries, our respective governments have been locked in a spirited competition to have the country's most ridiculous gun laws. You want "assault weapons" bans? That was minor-league stuff. Abusive "may issue" policies? Oh, yeah--we gotcha covered (NJ's ahead on points here; some Mass PDs will issue permits, but NJ's centralized the process into a de facto statewide no-issue policy).

But restrictions on scary-looking rifles and concealed carry are only the warmup in this subtle ballet:

"In NJ, I had to wait months for permission to pick up my gun!"
"You got it easy! I can't buy that gun at all because of our ridiculous 'approved handgun' list!"
"PFF! Yeah? Well in three years, the only legal handgun in NJ will be a $10,000 .22!"
"You call that anti-gun paranoia? Massachusetts preemptively banned ray guns!"

Monday, February 1, 2010


We know that gun accidents are rarer now than ever before because of increased knowledge of gun safety. But it'd be a mistake to think that was for lack of trying on the part of past authorities:

"Another source of very many sad and fatal accidents resulting from the most stupid and culpable carelessness is in persons standing before the muzzles of guns and attempting to pull them out of wagons, or to draw them through a fence or brush in the same position. If the cock encounters an obstacle in its passage, it will, of course, be drawn back and fall upon the cap. These accidents are of frequent occurrence, and the cause is well understood by all, yet men continue to disregard it, and their lives pay the penalty of their indiscretion. It is a wise maxim, which applies with especial force in campaigning on the prairies, 'Always look to your gun, but never let your gun look at you.'
"An equally important maxim might be added to this: Never to point your gun at another, whether charged or uncharged, and never allow another to point his gun at you. Young men, before they become accustomed to the use of arms, are very apt to be careless, and a large percentage of gun accidents may be traced to this cause. "

--The Prairie Traveler, Randolph Barnes Marcy, 1859

That covers Rule 2 pretty thoroughly, and has a kind of implicit assumption of Rule 1.