Thursday, April 23, 2009

Orson Scott Card: Batshit Crazy?


Disappointing (if not unentirely unexpected) news today...

Orson Scott Card, one of my all-time favorite science fiction writers and author of the incomparable Ender's Game joined the board of directors of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) yesterday, according to the Box Turtle Bulletin.

NOM, you may know, released the more-than-a-little nutty "Gathering Storm" movie last month, warning all good Christians that their heterosexual "traditional" marriages , even their livelihoods and personal liberties, are in jeopardy in the face of growing support for gay marriage. If you haven't seen it, you can find it on YouTube HERE. Sorry, but I won't sully the page by embedding such trash here - I do have some standards. I will however, embed this fun parody ad... you tell 'em George "Mr. Sulu" Takei!

OK, all fun aside... while I have nothing but respect for Mr. Card as a writer, I have to say that it's more than a little disturbing to see a man of his imagination and intelligence supporting this close-minded, ignorant point of view. I get that he's a Mormon, and I also get that the LDS Church is a big, big opponant of equal rights for marriage of gays and lesbians. Issues of faith have always been a big part of Mr. Card's work, and informs it in a way that often makes his books unique and thought provoking.


One of the key themes in Speaker For The Dead, the sequel to Ender's Game, was tolerance and understand of other cultures, especially ones alien and difficult to understand at first blush. The main tragedy of Ender's Game was the death of an entire alien species, as well as the irreparable damage to a young boy's childhood, due to misunderstanding and xenophobia. To see these very same themes so blithely ignored in the name of uncompromising religion is... well disappointing doesn't even come close to covering it.

Unless there's some seething and very well disguised thread of intolerance in Ender's Game and Speaker For The Dead, a thread that I've missed all these years, then it's a real shame to see Mr. Card's characters acting in a way that's more open-hearted and tolerant than the man himself seems to be. I've drifted away from Mr. Card's later work, finding it less and less relevant in my life (I guess now I can see why), but I still love and read his earlier works.

I suppose that, as a writer, I should make allowances. After all, I routinely write about evil characters, ones that do Very Bad Things to people, often with righteous smiles on their faces. This doesn't mean (I hope) that I am evil, or that I like inflicting the kinds of pain on others that my characters sometimes (often) do. It's just... weird... to think that while I'm getting my catharsis writing about blood-sucking necromancers and walking dead, Mr. Card may be exorcising his demons by writing about tolerant people on quests of self-discovery. If that's true, it would be one weird reversal...

In any case, I certainly hope that Mr. Card does not get his wish, and never sees the government overthrown in the name of an intolerant hegemony, nor do I wish to see a world where religious nutcases like the leaders of the Mormon Church get to dictate who a person can love and marry.

Sorry, Orson, but as brilliant a writer as you are, I have to draw the line somewhere.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009



Good news on the job front (hopefully)...

I got a call today from a company referred to me by a mutual acquaintance (see, kids... networking does work!) In a nutshell, they may be interested in interviewing me, despite the "non-traditional way" in which I've managed my professional career development. That's the polite way to say: "You have a fine arts degree and yet you worked for an internet financial services corporation for 12 years? Um... really??"

Yes, I know... it is strange, but life's just like that sometimes.

I don't want to say much about this yet, partly for superstitious reasons (knocks on wood, touches iron, sacrifices a stuffed Ms. Piggy doll on the alter of Jim Henson), but also because it's way too early to start counting unhatched poultry. I will say though that the company in question actually makes a product that helps society, which is something I'd be happy to be associated with - anyone who knows me knows that I'm very much a fan of the "not just for profit" business model, and working for a company that does more than just shovel consumer products at people would be awesome.

Wish me luck!


Monday, April 20, 2009

All hail, Melcor!


Hmmmm.... so Vin Diesel had a half-drow witch hunter? That's just... surreal.

(skip to 2:20 or so for the good stuff...)



Click image for larger version...

Ah... Penny Arcade... how I do love thee.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The REAL "Iron man"...


OK, so this "Iron Man robot suit" seems really cool...

"Interested in having your own HAL? The Post Chronicle reports that the HAL is going into production and will be available soon in Japan for around $4,200 while the Scientific American claims that the HAL exoskeleton is already available but only for rent in Japan for around $1,300 a month. The Cyberdyne cite states that HAL is in fact currently available for Japanese residents, for varying costs depending on region, and that HAL will soon be available to consumers in the European Union."

And I'm all for technology that:

" expected to be applied in various fields such as rehabilitation support and physical training support in medical field, ADL support for disabled people, heavy labour support at factories, and rescue support at disaster sites, as well as in the entertainment field."

All very cool. BUT...

What complete IDIOT over there decided to name their robotics company "Cyberdyne"??? That's sort of like naming a food company "Yummy Intestinal Parasites, LTD" or a car company "Crash-o-Matic Rolling Death Traps, Inc." or something.

Then again, maybe it's just pure laziness... this IS a group that named their company after the robotic entity that wiped out humanity in the Terminator films, their latest product after the homicidal supercomputer from 2001: A Space Oddesy, and their overall product concept on a comic book superhero.

Thanks for proving without a shadow of a doubt that the Japanese are best at ripping off original concepts and are weak as hell with, you know, actually coming up with anything NEW. Sheesh!!


Friday, April 10, 2009

R.I.P. Dave Arneson


Dave Arneson, co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons, died today at the age of 61. D&D's other creator, Gary Gygax, died back in March of 2008.

Thanks, Dave (and Gary, of course), for giving me so many fun-filled hours. I learned basically ALL of the fundamentals I would later use in my writing from role-playing games. Character development, plot fundamentals, pacing, story twists, foreshadowing... the works.

Dave Arneson, R.I.P., April 10, 2009




You'd think they would have at least, oh, I dunno, Googled the term "tea bagging" before they decided to come up with a major protest day. Doing so would have prevented much unintentional hilarity, to wit:

(Warning: video NSFW)

Remember: For the love of Christ, do not imagine that!


According to The Box Turtle Bulletin, The National Organization for Marriage (the same group responsible for those fake Coming Storm "I'm an American being discriminated against because I believe in traditional marriage" ads) just came up with a new meme/slogan:


Um... really?? Seriously, guys... you need to USE GOOGLE NEXT TIME to find out what "M4M" means in the community at large before doing this stuff, OK? That or stop hiring people who get their degrees in Public or Media Relations from non-accredited bible colleges.


The "Base" Metaphor Explained...


Man, I love XKCD, but Lordy, is it nerdy.


(Click image for larger version...)


(( snicker ))....

PS - If you don't get that joke, whatever you do, don't Google "2Girls1Cup". Seriously. You have been warned. As for why *I* know that.... (( whistle ))...

On a related note:


They even do obscure literature references....

"Theft of the Magi..."


More fun HERE.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

What I'm working on (April, 2009)...


So... I know you all are WAY too polite to ask me point-blank what I've been doing with myself in the 10 or so weeks since I was laid off (ugh...), so I figured I'd take stock and give a report.

Besides working on chapters for my Kamp Kommander novel, I've been working hard to develop and grow my short story chops. Writing short stories requires a very different set of skills than long form, and I've worked on novels so long that I neglected building these muscles properly.

The good news, however, is that freeing myself (or, more accuratrly, being freed from) the tyranical chains of my job seems to have opened up a floodgate of ideas, many of which have been completed since February.

Since leaving CheckFree, I've completed the following stories:

  • "Aeternal" - a story set in a distant future, where the undead rule the living through the remnants of the long-forgotten Church.
  • "Blood Bowl" - The saga of a small-town hero who challenges the vampire bowling prince of Henderson, Oklahoma to an epic duel.
  • "Ghost Light" - An aged actor and his son travel to Stratford, Connecticut to visit the theater that made - and will end - his life.
  • "Railriders" - Another tale of the future. A story about freedom and what we must sometimes sacrifice for it.
  • "The Shoe Factory" - A deep-space miner and tug pilot beams his consciousness out into space to save his own life. But who - or what - will pick up the signal?
With any luck, I'll find markets for all these stories very soon, and you'll be seeing them in a magazine or literature web site very soon. If anyone wants to recommend a market, please email me at the address at the top of the right-hand column.

I've also got about 11,000 words done of a novella, titled "Tatterface", a story set in the same world as Blood Magic and Nights of Sin. Kirin, my protagonist from those books (I can't really call her a "hero"), appears as a "guest star" in the story. Hopefully I'll be done with that one soon, but for now, it's proving to be a bit of a problem child.

Hope everyone out there is happy and well, and remember:

Before all else: write!!!


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Limbaugh SLAMMED on-air...


Andrew Sullivan posted a transcript and audio recording of a caller who, somehow, slipped past the call screeners during Rush Limbaugh's radio call-in show. When the caller, who claimed to be a former Marine and US Army veteran, was put on the air, he really ripped Rush a new cake hole over Limbaugh's support for the torture of "enemy combatant" detainees.

Read the transcript, or listen to the audio recording HERE.

This sort of thing is so immensely gratifying to me because of an incident that happened to me in 1989, when I was a student at the Art Institute of Chicago. One of my fellow students, a guy named "Dredd Scott", put a piece in the senior art show titled "What Is The Proper Way To Display A US Flag?". (Sorry in advance if this photo throws off the page formatting - text continues below the image...)


The piece featured a collage under which was set a comment book. On the floor, was an American flag, positioned so that it was basically impossible to read or write in the comment book without stepping on the flag.

Now, anyone who was a Cub Scout knows that even allowing the flag to touch the ground is bad enough, but to actually invite people to step on it is... well, it's "bad form" to say the least. Scott wanted the piece to be confrontational, and confrontation was what he got.

Once the media picked up on the piece, we had massive protests outside the Art Institute. Veterans waving banners at traffic on Michigan Avenue that read: "Honk if you love the US Flag!!!" and such. Guys in camo fatigues and elderly veterans in suits wearing VFW hats - the works.

Walking to school, I was routinely shouted at by passing pickup trucks, usually curses and profanity. Guess they could tell from my long hair and art supplies that I was one of "those Goddamn art school fascists" or something. At one point, a pickup (always a pickup for some reason...) pulled up to the curb outside our main building and a man got out of the truck with a hunting rifle brandished in his hands, then stood and waved it around, screaming, as students dove frantically behind concrete walls for cover. For several eternal seconds, I was sure I was about to be shot.

Fortunately, Chicago's Finest dropped him with a body tackle and disarmed him, and nobody was hurt. "I only wanted to scare them!" he protested as they stuffed him into the back of a police car.

"I only wanted to scare them!"

At the height of the frenzy, a group of US veterans from the local VFW showed up, three guys pushing three other guys in wheelchairs, to see the piece. At this point, the show was still open to the public. Cameras followed them down the usually quiet halls, shining bright lights.

They stopped in front of the Dredd Scott's "American Flag" (not bothering with anything else on display - I still feel sorry for everyone else there who's work was likely overlooked when the gallery was later closed to the public). They stared at the piece with frowning faces. With the cameras rolling, one bent and snatched the flag off the floor, and the group, still on camera, was immediately led from the gallery by our security guards, shouting all the while.

Except for one man...

Unnoticed by all, one of the wheelchair veterans had distanced himself from his fellows in the lead-up to the confrontation. As the rest of them were hurried out in their cocoon of shouting art students and video lights, he sat, near the wall, watching the action with a sad expression on his face. He followed them down the hall when the excitement had waned.

Outside, the veterans, still clutching the flag, gave interviews to CNN. They decried the artist's "disrespect" for the flag, oblivious to the disrespect they had shown for his art. The wheelchair veteran sat at the fringes, watching.

"Excuse me, sir," I said, walking up to him, "but I couldn't help but notice that you're not up there with your friends, and that you didn't join in with them when they yanked the flag off the floor. Can I ask you why?"

He sighed. "Well," he said, "the way I figure it, I lost the use of my legs fighting for that artist's freedom of speech, and if I went and took that away from him, what kind of American would I be? It would make everything I sacrificed in service to my country and what that flag stands for worthless."

I was thunderstruck then, and thinking about it now, twenty years later, I still get a chill. This was easily the best civics lesson I've ever received, and it took 10 minutes and came completely as an accident.

I've never forgotten the lesson that veteran taught me.

Cut to 2009, and this caller on Rush Limbaugh's show, a showcase for the rantings of yet another extremist who "only wants to scare them!". Cut to this veteran upbraiding Rush for supporting torture in the name of freedom.

"We are not supposed to torture people," this veteran, a former Marine and member of the US Army said. "What's the matter with you?"

Excellent question. I'm just glad that he made it through to voice his opinions on the air. Good for you, sir.


I think ths pretty much speaks for itself...


Ray was right - the Japanese ARE ridiculous...


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Oh. My. God. (Why condoms really don't stop STDs)



Wow... I had literally no idea that you were supposed to use a tea strainer as a condom instead of... well... a condom. All these years and I've been doing it so wrong according to Jesus-hair guy here. It's science, here, people!! Watch, all you skeptics! This is scientific!


If this guy's a comedian, tongue firmly in-cheek, then he's a genius. Seriously, Sacha Baron Cohen has nothing on this guy.


I fear he's serious, and that he really believes all this crap.

Here's the good news: he CLAIMS that he's going to wait to do the higgly-piggly until he's married, so hopefully, if you have teenaged daughters (like I do), then he's not sniffing around them, with his scraggly little proto-beard and his watery eyes, like two pools of stagnant pond water and his limp, alterna-tool hair, so desperately in need of a good conditioner (or better, a pair of sheep clippers). Then again... we all know how well (or not) premarital abstinence pledges really work, don't we?

The bad news is that once he get's going, he'll probably want half a dozen little Jesus-haired mouth-breathing curtain climbers around to brainwash... (shakes head).

Here's another gem from "the Professor" sharing more of this tool's wisdom, this time answering that age-old question: "Is it supposed to hurt?"

Only if you're doing it the way God wants, baby: