Thursday, December 31, 2015

Pitch Perfect Ruins Star Wars

More specifically, The Empire Strikes Back. This is for all of you who are amped up over Star Wars.



Without trying to spoil things, in that movie where the kid sees dead people, I realized what was going on way too soon, so the ending was not a surprise to me. Shrug. 

http://suburbanfantasy.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Twilight Bad Lip Reading

In celebration of the new Star Wars movie, I was going to post a bad lip reading of Episode IV. But it wasn’t funny. So instead, here’s the bad lip reading of Twilight.


“Dude. You slapped a fish.”

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Heat Lamp

So the heat lamp in the overhead fan in one of my bathrooms burnt out. While waiting for a Barnes & Noble to open, I went into a large Fred Meyer’s and found one. Then when the bookstore opened, I bought two books:



Too High & Too Steep is the true account of the reshaping of Seattle’s hills. The hills in Seattle used to be steeper than the hills in San Francisco. Immense hoses were used to wash the earth from the tops of the hills into Elliott Bay. More earth was moved in these efforts than in the digging of the Panama Canal.



Inherit the Stars looked interesting enough to buy in paper form. The themes sound like fantasy, but it’s science fiction. Obviously, I’ll have to read it first to tell you what I think.

On my drive home, I could hear this soft, occasional jingling sound. It was definitely from the right and behind me, and outside the car. Oh no. It wasn’t constant, nor did it seem timed to a set revolution of the wheels. I pulled in to a McDonald’s to investigate.

A short inspection showed nothing unusual on that part of the car. Nothing was loose in the trunk. Then I had the oddest idea.

I tipped the heat lamp on the seat next to me on its side and put a plastic bag with something else inside against the top of it. I took off again.

Sure enough, I could hear the jingling sound again, but now it was muffled. It was the filament inside the bulb. In a heat lamp, the filament is so large, I could hear it making that jingling sound from the car’s motion. The sound must have been reflected off one of the cars windows, so I thought it was coming from outside. 



So I stopped at another McDonald’s and had an ice cream cone to celebrate.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Book Review: Internal Dialogue

Internal Dialogue by Marcy Kennedy is a good primer on its title subject: Internal dialogue. This is not just about how to show it. I suspect most writers understand this. It also shows the basic techniques of when and how to use it.



An added bonus was a section titled “Alternating the Focus of Paragraphs.” This gave invaluable advice on a certain pacing or balancing of the paragraphs. I won’t repeat it here; you’ll have to get Kennedy’s book, as a kind of reward to her for this.

I understood the pacing of words within a sentence, and the pacing of sentences within a paragraph. I also understood the pacing of chapters and overall story structure. Internal Dialogue supplied an essential piece that was missing from the middle. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Jazz Misfits at Crossroads Mall

While I was writing recently at the Crossroads Mall, a group called The Jazz Misfits played on the center stage.



This was a pleasant background to the art of writing. Especially since I was practically killing myself trying to get a short story done for a contest. I thought the deadline was December 15. It turns out the deadline is January 15.


So I’m glad it helped relax me. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Finished Manuscript – Alpha Shift

I have finished my science fiction manuscript Alpha Shift. It is 87,623 words long.



The Panama is a massive spaceship whose Fleet has never gone to war for all these years. So the bridge has been repurposed to do news broadcasts with the captain as the lead anchor. Practical crew remain, like the Marines and the engineering crew, but Captain Chechi thinks of the ship in terms of her show.

Then a hostile force infiltrates the Panama.
__________________________________________

Pearson’s hand gripped her shoulder. She raised her left hand to calm him, but felt something hard press against her side. Then all her bright illusions about how difficult her bridge duty was and how significant these celebrity interviews were collapsed into dust.
That was the muzzle of a gun pressed against her.
Pearson’s face had gone from chummy to a mask of determination.
The sound of a gunshot made her flinch.
Everything happened at once: She looked past Pearson’s head and saw the guard in the hallway go down, evidently the one who was shot. 
Terrence, to her right, whom she had thought was finding an excuse to press against her to counter her attention to Pearson, grabbed her arm.
Pearson forced her to stand. He shouted over her head. “I have the captain. BACK OFF.”
__________________________________________

Will Captain Chechi become a harder, more capable person?

Other excerpts are posted here, here, and here

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Book Review: Virtues of War

Suppose your troops have managed to retreat to a tree line in the dark of night. The automated troops who chased you have found the range of the tree line with their rockets. But they stay outside the range of your grenade launchers, and your troops’ bullets do not harm them.

What do you do?

If you’re Lieutenant Katja Emmes, you charge forward out of the tree line, ordering your troops to do the same.

When she gets twenty meters forward, she targets one of the automated soldiers, and her troops destroy it with grenades. Ditto for the next and the next, while the enemy rockets harmlessly hit the tree line behind them. They send the enemy reeling back, but have to retreat themselves when artillery fire comes down around them.
  
  
Virtues of War is one of the best military science fiction novels I’ve read in a long time. Set far enough in the future for there to be major colonized worlds that can challenge Earth, yet close enough to our time that all the human interactions are familiar, Bennett R. Coles was written what may be an instant classic.

Assigned to the fast attack craft Rapier, Lieutenant Emmes punches her way through brutal fighting, whether on a planet or on board an enemy ship. Although brave to the point of taking on suicidal risks, she is not immune to the emotional baggage of war and the internecine backstabbing that comes with it.

Coles describes with gritty detail the physical shocks that Emmes and a few other main characters endure when going to and from combat, much less from the battles themselves. This is no rah-rah book; he throws in our faces some of the morally ambiguous acts performed during war. And the machinations of an intelligence officer puke can really mess things up.


Overall, Virtues of War features fully-realized characters hurtling into one gritty situation after another. Bennett R. Coles was an officer for fourteen years in the Canadian Navy, and it shows. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Movie Analysis: The Host

The Host was the 2013 movie based on a Stephanie Meyer novel about Melanie, a tenacious young woman whose body has been taken over by an alien named Wanderer, but who will not give up on reuniting with loved ones who are resisting this conquest of our world. 

Just as my analysis of Inception showed its characters were based on familiar ones, so this will show that The Host is essentially:

Teenage kissing meets The Wizard of Oz

Since this is an analysis and not a review, it is composed entirely of SPOILERS.



The Host’s main characters correspond to the ones in The Wizard of Oz (for both, I’m referring to the movie versions), though the stories are very different—Melanie wants to find the remaining members of the human race, especially those she loves, while Dorothy is trying to go home. However, the plots have striking similarities.

The Host begins with Melanie fleeing the alien Seeker. We find out through flashbacks that she was doing this to protect her little brother, Jamie. Melanie has a huge, terrifying fall. This establishes Melanie as a Dorothy figure, with the Seeker as the evil teacher/wicked witch, and Jamie as Toto. It is true that Dorothy is plucked up by a tornado, but then she falls down quite a ways.

A Healer (played by a black actor) coaxes Wanderer into Melanie’s body. Just remember this when we get farther along.

Along the way, Wanderer/Melanie picks up companions. They are in reverse order from The Wizard of Oz, but they correspond just fine. In flashbacks we see Jared, an emotionally impulsive young man. Melanie hits him the face when they meet. This establishes Jared as a Cowardly Lion figure, but a lion who has already found his courage. He will continue to be emotionally impulsive throughout the story.

Next, Wanderer/Melanie meets Jeb, who almost constantly has his rifle on him and uses it to protect Wanderer/Melanie. He is a Tin Man figure who has already found his heart, and he is compassionate towards her from start to finish.

And Wanderer/Melanie meets Ian, a more thoughtful young man. He is obviously a scarecrow figure who has already found his brain. He is able to think things through about the nature of Wanderer.

An interesting plot point is just after Wanderer/Melanie encounters the seemingly impossible wheat field, the Seeker almost spots them from a helicopter. This is kind of like how Dorothy encounters the talking apple trees, and the wicked witch then attacks with fire.

From here on the plots diverge widely, since they really are two different stories. But they converge interestingly enough when Wanderer/Melanie goes to the city and gains a great talisman—a silver pod that the aliens can live in. This corresponds to Dorothy gaining the wicked witch’s broom. And Wanderer/Melanie gets rid of the Seeker in a surprising way—by coaxing the Seeker into the pod, just as Dorothy gets rid of the wicked witch by the surprising use of water.

But Wanderer cannot or will not leave in the same way, just as Dorothy misses out on a balloon ride. The good witch tells Dorothy the secret to going home is in the ruby slippers she gave Dorothy at the start. Even so, Doc (who is played by a black actor—remember the Healer described above) secretly gives Wanderer and Melanie a happy ending by coaxing Wanderer into a different young woman’s body.

Is this analysis overly-speculative? I say no. What clued me in was the scene towards the end of The Host, when Wanderer contemplates dying. She tells Ian, “I’ll miss you the most.” I thought, “What? That guy is a scarecrow figure?” This was the movie giving a wink and a nod to the audience. From there it was a matter of backtracking to see who corresponded to what.

Even if you think I’m stretching things a bit, this is an interesting way to have the bare bones of a story to start, and then filling in from there. What’s needed is an astounding scene in the middle of the story. In The Wizard of Oz, it was the revealing of the great and powerful wizard, with plenty of smoke and fire, and the lion doing a pratfall after that. In The Host, it was Ian and Jared taking turns kissing Wanderer/Melanie, to figure out if Melanie was in there. Reportedly, this was when teenage girls in movie theaters went wild. And Melanie shows shes there by biting Jared on the lip. So find a corresponding scene that will be a big hit with your audience.


Public domain

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Issaquah Salmon Days 2015

Issaquah is a suburb to the east of Seattle, where they celebrate the return of the salmon to spawn in the first weekend of October. Obviously, the salmon are constantly returning this time of year and don’t care about our calendars, but that’s the festive time to go.

Just as I saw in 2011, they’ve made their Issaquah Salmon Days into quite the street fair.



People can get so preoccupied with the craft and food booths, they can forget the hatchery. Salmon swim back from the Pacific Ocean up Issaquah Creek.



The picture above is not exactly of a fish ladder. (I think my shadow at the bottom is third from the left.) This part was purposefully designed to be too steep for the salmon to leap over. After they get tired of trying that route, they discover a side entrance to the hatchery. Much of it has glass windows for public viewing. 



It’s hard to see because of the reflections, but the middle of the picture above shows a large salmon, building up its strength to leap to the next level to the right.

If you live in the area, this is a good outdoor activity. If you have kids, let them see how real the salmon are.

Monday, October 12, 2015

SCA Win!

In Indiana, Karen Dolley woke up to find a male intruder. She punched him several times, then kept him cornered with a Japanese sword until the police came.


photo by Jean
Okay, it didn’t look exactly like this

Read about it here.

This is great, and not just because a forty-three year-old woman crushed the thirty year-old intruder. She’s a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. So if you spend time with this or similar accoutrements, you can point out this article to skeptical relatives to show how practical you are. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Martian—Not a True Story

Some people think the recent movie The Martian is a true story. See the Buzzfeed page.


Matt Damon did not go to Mars

This is like my post on how some people believe there is sound in space because of Star Wars.

Also, look at the poster above. It’s hard to tell that the title of the movie is The Martian. Obviously the marketing people thought that sounded kind of hokey, so they make the subtitle “Bring Him Home” look like the actual title.

This is like how the Tom Cruise movie Edge of Tomorrow was rebranded as “Live. Die. Repeat.” I think I saw it in a rental store under that second title, not the first one. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

NOAA on Mermaids

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued a statement on mermaids. This is your tax dollars at work. Let’s see how they did.


A Mermaid by Waterhouse
public domain

They state that “The ancient Greek epic poet Homer wrote of them in The Odyssey.” No, Odysseus encountered sirens, not mermaids. They were part bird.


Sirens by Hans Thoma  

Then they state, “The belief in mermaids may have arisen at the very dawn of our species. Magical female figures first appear in cave paintings in the late Paleolithic (Stone Age) period.” But those were similar to this rotund, faceless carved image.


 This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust,
a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom.

They give their final statement: “No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found.” So there. I can’t show their picture of a mermaid, since I’m not sure of its copyright status, but you can see it at their website. It doesn’t compare well with any of the above.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Movie Review—Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Thomas and his friends, having escaped from the maze, can now relax and get some rest in a quasi-military atmosphere, sleeping in real bunks instead of on the ground or makeshift beds. They don’t have a care in the world—or do they? And where did Teresa go?

Soon they have to go running into the Scorch—the desolated badlands left after whatever apocalyptic disaster devastated civilization. Besides ruined, deserted buildings, there’s not much out there. How will they survive?


The Scorch Trials is a very different movie from the first one, The Maze Runner. (See my review here.) The Maze Runner spent a good amount of time developing the characters—except for Teresa, who was just the “girl”—and then having a good amount of action. The Scorch Trials takes off a few minutes from where The Maze Runner left off and assumes the viewers already know the characters.

So some critics say this is a lousy movie because of the lack of character development. Although we see Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is the dominant leader, Minho (Ki Hong Lee) is still the strongest and bravest, and Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) is the most able to question Thomas and provide skepticism, we do not really see the personalities of the rest. (Teresa especially is a cipher, but that is on purpose.)

This reminds me of the time that Siskel & Ebert reviewed Rambo III. Ebert said he liked the action but wasn’t sure what to say about the movie overall. With an amused look, Siskel said, “It delivers.” The same is true of The Scorch Trials. Normally I don’t like a movie that is so focused on the action that it doesn’t take a couple minutes to develop the minor characters, but this was a great movie. This was not mindless action where we don’t care about the characters; I cared about whether each character survived, and the action-packed story was interesting.

To kind of state the obvious, I don’t think they could all sprint so fast after being forced to give massive blood samples, or after running out of water while traipsing through a desert. And for the evil organization to be pronounced “Wicked” is kind of childish. But I have to hand it to The Scorch Trials. It delivers. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Alpha Shift—Trapped in an Elevator

Do you like elevators?

In my work in progress, the science fiction novel Alpha Shift, Captain Christina Chechi was introduced in a previous post. She has been brutally attacked, with injuries to her right arm and tailbone. She has made it inside an elevator and is going for help. (The elevators on the ship look much like the elevators we have on Earth, since buttons are more reliable than voice commands when there is damage.)



She slid down the smooth metal wall, then shrieked when her rear end touched the floor. She found the least painful position was on her left side. Dizzy from pain, spots passed before her eyes.

Her head cleared. She tried the voice command for the elevator. Nothing. Of course not.

She looked up at the buttons, so distant. She would have to claw her way up with her left hand and hold herself steady long enough to slap at the button with her right, though that arm was stiffer than ever.

Christina took a huge breath and rolled from her left side onto all fours. She grabbed a railing and pulled.

The pain in her tailbone was excruciating as she stood. Huffing rapidly, she focused on the button panel. She hit the correct button with her right hand.

Nothing but pain in her arm and shoulder.

She hit it again. And again. She stopped and checked her vision. She was obviously hitting the right one.

Weaker now, Christina felt the blood draining down into her legs. She stabbed at the open button. Nothing. She tried again, but her strength failed.


She collapsed, landing on her right side, jarring her arm. Trapped, all Christina could do was roll onto her stomach. Then her mind went dark.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Worldcon 2015, Part II—John Hemry, Kendare Blake, Female Vulcan

As I said in my last post, Today I get to the fun stuff at Worldcon. But first, a couple of weird things.

In the hotel I stayed at, look at what the French call body wash. I get that things get lost in translation, but didn’t any of the English-speaking staff notice?


Is this a joke?

And then there was the one-armed chromium torture device. It dispersed water anywhere from cold to lukewarm.


And it was hard to wash off the gel douche
with lukewarm water

But the convention had numerous workshops, readings by authors, and autograph sessions. In one of the latter I spoke to my favorite author, John Hemry, who sometimes goes by the pen name Jack Campbell.



I had a question about the character of Morgan in his Lost Stars series. She’s the sort of person who can do anything and assassinate anyone. I asked, “Is she based on any one person?” He said with a chuckle, “Not anyone I know.”

A rising star in the fantasy field is Kendare Blake. After she read from one of her stories, I asked for a photo.



She’s known for her Goddess War series. What I like about what I’ve read so far is that she understands how goddesses like Athena were portrayed in Greek mythology, then expands on them from there. Other writers stick in names of characters from mythology into their stories without much of a feel for what the old stories were like.

The Hugo Awards were disappointing. A number of people voted for “no award” in categories like Best Short Story. I don’t know why I would go to the Hugos again.

I didn’t have time to take many costume photos. But here’s one of a female Vulcan.




So that was it. Only one day at Worldcon. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Worldcon 2015, Part I—Smoke, River, Worlds Fair

Worldcon, the largest science fiction/fantasy convention that emphasizes writing, was held in Spokane this year while the wildfires of eastern Washington were mostly out of control. The moment I stepped out of the shuttle to the hotel on Friday night, I smelled smoke. Earlier in the day, people had seen the smoke in the air and gagged on it, using breather masks and handkerchiefs to cover their mouths.

The next day, the convention center had these taped on the insides of the doors.



Things weren’t so bad on Saturday, but I detected a taint of smoke while I did the Riverwalk along the Spokane River. Other than that, it was peaceful and beautiful.



Wooden bridges led to a park on a peninsula in the middle of river.



This was the site of the 1974 World’s Fair. Here’s the skeleton that’s left of the pavilion (it was originally covered with temporary white vinyl).



Of course, I had to find a more unusual angle.




This is a little too peaceful, so my next post will be on the convention itself. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Microsoft Fail

When Microsoft launched their new Windows 10 with a lot of hoopla in area stores, I decided to go to the one in Bellevue Square (Bellevue is a city right next to Redmond, the headquarters of Microsoft.) Why? Because Megan Rapinoe, one of the stars of the American women’s soccer team that won the world championship a few weeks ago would be there. A couple people at work were astonished. I said in a knowing way, “They’re Microsoft. They can get people like that.”

I wondered if I should take something for her to autograph, but reproved myself, since at such events they usually had materials ready. I hoped to get a picture with her, and obviously some employee would be more than willing to hold the camera. I had been to similar events before, and I knew what I was doing.

When I got to the mall, they had kiosks set up to introduce people to Windows 10.



Very impressive. They would snag people walking by and walk them through it. Since I had no intention of loading the new system for the next couple months (to let Microsoft get feedback from millions of customers and make some tweaks) I had no need to go up to them myself. I could afford to observe from a distance.

Since I had arrived at the mall early, I walked by the Apple store.



It’s large, open-air style. With their muted colors, they have achieved a slacker kind of coolness.

In contrast is the Microsoft store.



Same style design, but with their bright colors they have achieved a work hard, play hard kind of feel.

As the time rolled around, I walked up to the line they had set up to meet Megan Rapinoe. An employee who was in charge asked me if I had a Meet and Greet card. Surprised, I said no. Another employee went off to see if there were some left they had reserved for executives. I was quite astonished. They had been advertising this event for several days with a large picture of Rapinoe, and there was some unstated process for getting in?

File photo by Jacqueline Cassell

Their poster advertised the date of her appearance,
but no instructions

While I was waiting, the employee in charge gave strict instructions to several security personnel: No one was to get in line without a card. No one was to loiter around the line area. They were to take all possessions away from people allowed in, since Megan Rapinoe does not do autographs, and they didn’t want people bringing out things for her to autograph.

So I guessed my camera would not be allowed.

The other employee returned, saying they were out of Meet and Greet cards. But she was nice enough to give me a free T-shirt.




So that was my failed evening at Microsoft. I didn’t bother to tell the people at work the next day that I didn’t get to meet her. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

PNWA Conference 2015

I attended the annual Pacific Northwest Writers Conference, just as I did last year. This is a great opportunity to pitch one’s manuscript to agents and editors.

But first, I had to get in. When I pulled up to the parking garage, one car was right ahead of me, and one was at the gate that should go up. Nothing was happening. Finally, a woman in the car ahead of me got out and talked to the driver at the gate. Then she came back, made eye contact with me, said “You need to go back,” and got in her car.

Great. Great communication skills. I hope she’s not a writer.



Those of you who follow this blog might remember my unpleasant experience at this same garage at night back during Norwescon.

As usual, the main events were the pitch sessions. Those of us who signed up would be allowed to pitch our manuscripts to agents and editors, four minutes at a time. It’s best to summarize your novel in just one minute, then let the professional ask you questions for the rest of the time.

Instead of trying to summarize the whole plot, try to point out what’s unique about your character, then describe how that character encounters the first major conflict in the story.

People gather twenty to thirty minutes before a pitch session. This is a time when many desperately go over their pitches. When the doors open, it’s not quite as bad as the start of a rock concert. It’s more like when a Costco opens.



Inside, people fan out and find the editor or agent they want to pitch to first. The first people in line get to stand with their toes on a white line, just like in school. When a bell rings, they can go forward and pitch to that agent or editor. When the bell rings again, they have to leave and let the next person come up. The first person is free to get in line for another agent or editor.



I was first in line for the editor I wanted to pitch to. All I can say is it didn’t go well, and that person was not interested in my vampire parody. But I got in line for another editor. She was somewhat skeptical about my science fiction novel Day 10K, but she said to send her the first ten pages. Then there was time to get in line for an agent. She liked my idea for The War of the Worlds and Fairies, so she said to send her the first chapter.


So, mixed results. But you can’t get these results without trying. These editors and agents who go to these conferences want new clients. And they want to meet with you in person, to see that you’re not some guy living in his mother’s garage. If you’re a wannabe writer, don’t you want to do this same thing? 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Movie Review: Terminator Genisys

Before a few weeks ago, I had never seen a Terminator movie. They obviously featured brutal, gratuitous violence, and the word was the scripts were not exactly intelligent. 

I did see a scene where Kyle Reese revealed a photo of Sarah Connor and confessed he had traveled through time for her. That was a nice moment, and the actor Michael Biehn uttered the lines in just the right way. 


 Outdoor poster
Notice the railing and field lights for scale

Fast forward to nowadays. As I described in a previous post, the audience in a theater I was in laughed out loud when Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared. But when I watched the trailer again on TV, the concept of a reimagined Sarah Connor grew on me. 

So I did see it, and to my surprise I was delighted with it. The time travel aspects were interesting. No spoilers here, other than the trailer below. I'll just describe the actors. 


Arnold Schwarzenegger: Unlike other actors, Arnold doesn't pretend he's not aging. More than once, he grunts out that he's "old," and the science fictional excuse is the flesh encasing his body ages. He still gives an intimidating performance after originating the concept over thirty years ago. And through the magic of CGI, he gets to play two roles. 

Jai Courtney: He seemed an odd choice to play Kyle Reese in the trailer, but his versatility grew on me, so I didn't have to suspend disbelief to to see him as the soldier who travels through time to save the woman he's grown to care for by reputation. They don't meet cute, though. 

Emilia Clarke: She's rather compelling as the hard-then-soft Sarah Connor. Unfortunately, she doesn't look strong enough to pull off the more amazing action scenes. And if you ever saw the Sarah Connor Chronicles, this is a completely different version of her. 

The frustrating tic in this movie is the I-won't-take-five-seconds-to-explain-my-motive thing, which leads to fights and conflicts among them. But overall it was a satisfying story, and the violence is only PG-13. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Warby Parker Glasses

Warby Parker is a class act. You can go to their website, pick out five glasses frames you think you might like, and they will send you a sample of those for you to try on free of charge.



They include a label so you can send them back at their expense.

Warby Parker is very tempting. Alas, I have a big head, so even their largest sizes will not fit me. I will have to go to an eyeglass shop as usual and have them bend the frames around to fit my head.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

New $10 Bill

The news is there will be a woman on the new $10 bill. So Alexander Hamilton will be thrown off the current version. When you look at it, his portrait actually came out nice.


The first woman to appear on our currency was Martha Washington. She was on a $1 bill.

Lady Liberty has appeared on more than one piece of coinage. Here is the Mercury dime—a misnomer, since Lady Liberty was mistaken for the Roman god Mercury, and so the dime is known by a popular but mistaken name.

I actually don’t think it would have to be a woman on the $10 bill. Before you throw brickbats at me, it would have been a worthy goal to have a different shade of man on there—perhaps Frederick Douglass, or put Chief Joseph on the $20 bill. Don’t know who they are? Read a book.

So, who should be on the new $10 bill? Since ships are referred to as “she,” perhaps the Mayflower.

by William Halsall
public domain

Or there’s Captain Kirk’s favorite woman.

photo by Julo


Friday, June 19, 2015

Sprinkler

This is what it looks like when a sprinkler head comes off.



Funny, what one can spot while going somewhere. It’s funny mainly because it’s not happening to us.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Hobbit: Why is the Movie so Different?

Those of you who read The Hobbit and loved it probably became impatient at the immense amount of scenes in the movies that weren’t in the book. And those of you who didn’t read the book probably wonder if the incredible blow-by-blow battle scenes were really described in such detail. Now someone gets to the root of the differences.




Kayleigh Herbertson in her blog post describes in detail the more curious features of the movies. And she gets to the heart of the differences. As someone who has read The Hobbit twelve times, I can testify that she knows what she’s talking about. This is all the more amazing since she never read the book. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Space is a Vacuum

Okay, summer blockbuster season is coming, and for some people the bigger the special effects, the lower the I.Q. they end up with.

What’s with those sound effects in space movies? They give people a distorted view of space. How many times has a movie set in space been nominated for an award for best sound effects?


public domain 

I once mentioned to someone who was attending the University of Washington that space is a vacuum.

He said, “No it’s not.”

I looked at him, thunderstruck.

He said, “I could hear the explosions in Star Wars.”

Dum dum dum.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Alpha Shift—Hacked

It’s time to introduce the main character of my work in progress—Alpha Shift. Forces on board the ship kidnapped Captain Christina Chechi from the bridge. But she’s escaped, and she’s about to find out how badly the ship has been hacked.



A wall monitor gave a nonsensical message from Captain Akajima that didn’t mention her, Captain Chechi.

Arms at her sides, Christina made both hands into fists, hard, as if she were a teenager willing herself to grow taller. She raised one of them and tried calling the bridge.

A smiling picture of herself showed, wearing the wrong red dress. The image was an abomination of perfect hair, makeup, and costume, and it gave a winning smile as it said that all conditions were normal.

Christina hit the wall monitor.


She put her hands over her eyes and told herself to simmer down. Then she considered anew the general quarters alarms. This is not just about me. Even though she was captain, she was just one person, but communications in general had been sabotaged. They’re trying to take the ship. My ship.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Movie Review: Pitch Perfect 2

If you liked Pitch Perfect, you’ll like Pitch Perfect 2. If you didn’t see Pitch Perfect, then get with the program! Watch the original—as my previous post advised at the time—get a feel for the joy a daffy group of girls have as they learn to sing together, then go see the sequel.

Anna Kendrick reprises her role as Beca, the new girl who had led her a cappella group the Barden Bellas to victory in the first movie. She and the returning members of that group are seniors now, and they perform with confidence their elaborate dance and quasi-gymnastic moves that accompany their singing. But because of a wardrobe malfunction by Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), the Bellas may be disbanded unless they win an international competition against a scary German group.



As for the inevitable question—is it as good as the first movie—well, no, that would be just about impossible. The first movie had the Barden Bellas as obvious underdogs, whereas the sequel has them as a senior-dominated group capable of professional productions. And Beca was experiencing first love in the first movie, but in this one she is so established in her relationship, the boyfriend is relegated to a minor character. Keeping that in mind, it’s still good entertainment.

 A number of characters are back: Chloe the talkative redhead, who is the actual leader of the group. Stacie, the tall girl who is preoccupied with sex. Lilly, who can barely be heard, whose best line is, “I sleep upside down, like a bat.” Even the two minor characters who don’t have real speaking parts are back, and the joke this time is that after all these years, Beca still doesn’t know their names. And when Aubrey, the blonde leader from the first movie, makes a surprise return, it’s quite funny.

So overall it’s a good effort by the director, Elizabeth Banks. Yes, she plays the female color commentator who puts up with the misogynist comments by her co-host.


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