Various And Sundry

If you think showing the rubes your complete birth certificate will shut them up Obama, you better think again. They won’t be satisfied until you show them a piece of paper certifying that you’re white.

Also, this.

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George R.R. Martin has officially finished the manuscript for Book 5 of the Song of Ice and Fire. I’m just wrapping up book 1, and eagerly anticipating seeing the scenes I’ve just read acted out every week on A Game of Thrones. This is some high grade epic fantasy, with great characters, real solid story telling and genuine twists. He’s managed to do something no other author has done in a long time and that is surprise me. I’m a fairly savvy reader and an usually see a plot turn coming but martin managed to sneak one up on me. That’s rare and special. And I can’t wait to read the rest of this series.

And if you aren’t watching Game of Thrones, you are missing out. It’s worth it just for Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister. This is a role for the ages.

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The producer of the failed Atlas Shrugged Movie is undaunted in his demented vision to bring this rancid piece of shit to the silver screen. Good on him, I guess? I’m always on the side of the guy willing to tell the world to fuck off and plowing a head to make his art. But I’m also glad I don’t live in the universe where this movie became a Hollywood blockbuster.

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And for your reading pleasure: an essay on Gorillas in comics. Don’t listen to what anyone else says. Wikipedia is awesome.

THe Next Berlin Wall Will Be Invisible

This is straight up, Jim Crow/Birther horseshit:

The U.S. Department of State is proposing a new Biographical Questionnaire for some passport applicants: The proposed new Form DS-5513 asks for all addresses since birth; lifetime employment history including employers’ and supervisors names, addresses, and telephone numbers; personal details of all siblings; mother’s address one year prior to your birth; any “religious ceremony” around the time of birth; and a variety of other information. According to the proposed form, “failure to provide the information requested may result in … the denial of your U.S. passport application.”

This is a citizenship test. You answer any foreign sounding names of places where your parents lived before you were born or any non-christian sounding religious ceremonies, you get flagged. They’re not saying as much but why else would you want that info in a DoS database? It only serves a purpose if it’s a sorting criteria. Meaning someone wants to know how many foreign, non-christian nationals are claiming citizenship and where they are going.

You know how we all jokes during the Bush years about running away to Canada if things got too bad? They were listening. Can’t have your debt-slaves and indentured credit holders running off to other lands. That might hurt the economy. Besides, it’d be unAmerican of you not to stay here and spend money you don’t have to ensure Freedoms you can only imagine.

The First Rule About Publishing Is…

Over at Making Light, Jim Macdonald lays out the basics of Yog’s Law in clear, simple prose, so even dummies like me can understand.

Yog’s Law is very simple: Money flows toward the author.

The corollary is: The only place a writer signs a check is on the back.

For commercial publishing, this is absolutely true, and, I hope, intuitively obvious. Once you’ve moved away from it, you’re out of the realm of commercial publishing.

It seems like such a simple, obvious thing but sometimes those simple, obvious things need to be stated clearly, loudly and often, just so they sink in.

As an experiment, I self published a book, doing all the work myself. It shows, mostly in the typos. But I learned Yog’s law in a very real sense by doing this experiment. But I’m hard headed and learn by doing, so now Yog’s law is a visceral part of my writing toolbox.

That’s why I’ll be shopping the next book around to publishers.

A Thor of a Different Color

Apparently there’s some hullabaloo over the fact that an black actor is playing a Norse god in the Thor movie:

The casting of Elba has nothing to do with the cultural authenticity of 8th century Scandinavian seafarers, but instead hails from a mid-20th century American cinematic tradition. A few years before the sit-ins and freedom rides or the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the Viking movies produced with American stars and financing had started the march toward integration with the casting of Trinidad-born Calypso singer Edric Connor as Sandpiper in the 1958 Kirk Douglas epic “The Vikings.” However, Connor’s role in “The Vikings” is closer to a slave narrative than a berserker’s saga as he and Tony Curtis escape their Norse bondage by stealing a ship and sailing it for England. This one sequence of “The Vikings” has an alarming parallel to “The Defiant Ones,” Curtis’ other major film of 1958 where he and Sydney Poitier are chained together as they make their getaway from a brutal Southern chain gang.

During the same year that Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, Sydney Poitier’s Moorish king in “The Long Ships” (1964) was an antagonistic equal to Richard Widmark’s Viking treasure hunter. Poitier and Widmark had already faced off from opposite sides of the color line in the tense racial drama “No Way Out” (1950), which was also Poitier’s first film. “The Long Ships” would see the two replaying this conflict only with more sword play and Viking panty raids on Portier’s harem. Although the conflict between Moor and Viking is unlikely to upset even the most bigoted “Thor” boycotter, “The Long Ships” shows a reticence on the part of producers to place Vikings in a mono-ethnic setting.

While a nice overview of racially integrated viking movies and Hollywood hiring practices, it’s immaterial.

The Mythology of Marvel’s universe is embellished, to say the least, bearing only a cursory resemblance to Norse mythology or anything else, even. Thor is a clean shaven blond, rather than a ginger with a bushy beard. He fights robots and dragons and aliens as often as he fights frost giants and trickster gods. In fact, the gods of Valhalla aren’t really gods, but sufficiently advanced aliens form another dimension, celestial beings who are thousands of years old and wield advanced weapons that just happen to look like magic hammers.

Thor hangs out with a bunch of toughs nicknamed the Warriors Three, one of which is named Hogun the Grim and is a mogul. In the current miniseries, “Fear Itself” the wielder of Skadi’s hammer is Sin, the daughter of the Red Skull, a Nazi mad scientist. So yeah. Thor is part of a wildly diverse and racially mixed universe, bearing only glancing similarity to the Norse Mythology. A revelation I know disappoints the Racists like the Concerned Citizens Clatch mightily. But tough shit. If going to see a movie will disappoint racists, looks like I have even more incentive to see Thor. And here I was going for Kenneth Branaugh and Natalie Portman.

The Sound of One Atlas Shrugging

So, Atlas Shrugged (Part 1 of what is sure to be the most interminable trilogy, ever) has a 6% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. As the faithful Randites tell it though, this is just the slander of parasites, who do not recognize the film’s greater qualities. Or it may have something to do with the fact that it’s a poorly made movie, adapted from one of the most notoriously wooden and badly written novels of the 20th century. Or it could be the fact that this movie just demands too much of a mass audience. It’s designated heroes are corrupt Corporate CEOs whining about how no one recognizes their geniuses while the designated villains are everyone else, including the nameless masses, derided as parasites who are fit for nothing but being squashed by the giant brains of capitalist enterprise. And all of the drama is wrapped up in CEO speak about trains and metallurgy. Exciting.

While it is possible to make dry subject matter exciting, this isn’t the way to do it. David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin made lawyers and code geeks fucking riveting stuff in The Social Network. But then, they’re David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin. And while the hero of The Social Network may have been saddled with near-aspergers level of social awkwardness, no one tried to portray this crippling flaw as a heroic virtue. Ultimately, that’s the flaw of Atlas Shrugged. The book and the movie it’s based on is an attempt to  wrap a sociopathic philosophy in a thin melodrama starring protagonists who are petulant rich douche bags in the mold of the same class of people who are currently trying to end Western Civilization with their abhorrent greed and narcissism. A thousand Aaron Sorkins and a million David Finchers couldn’t make that movie fly and the producers of Atlas Shrugged didn’t even try, instead settling for the production values of a cash strapped after school special.

With any luck, the producers will be so incensed by the dismissal of their genius by us parasites, they’ll go Galt and spare us the rest of the trilogy.

Show Us Your Junk

This is why it’s so hard to write satire these days:

The Arizona Senate formally passed the “Birther Bill” today, but not in its original version.

Apparently, requiring presidential candidates to provide a long-form birth certificate before allowing their names on the ballot in Arizona — despite it already being a federal requirement to run for president — was a bit too much for a few GOP lawmakers. So they made some amendments: if you can’t find your birth certificate, and you have a penis, a document describing your lack of foreskin will suffice.

I don’t know how the Daily Show writers do it. Booze?

A Brief History of Manned Space Flight

Cyrano De Bergerac was the first man to visit the moon. When he arrived, he found a young Chinese woman named Chang’e who was witty, intelligent and fond of wine. They had a brief but passionate affair. Cyrano eventually tired of life on the Moon and one morning, climbed back into his hot air balloon and put the thing into reverse. He left a note pinned to Chang’e’s pillow but there is no record of what he wrote. It was beautiful and passionate and utterly cold, no doubt. Several months layer, Chang’e gave birth to a rabbit. Things work differently in Outer Space.

The rabbit, while the first animal in space, was not the last. The United States and the Soviet Union both spent inordinate amounts of rocket fuel placing dogs, mice, rats, chinchillas, iguanas, turantulas, several colonies of ants and assorted birds (mostly parrots) into orbit at a rate that you just wouldn’t believe. On at least one occasion, the United States launched a capsule stuffed with three thousand eight hundred and fifty two speckled guinea pigs, just to see if they could. Then there were the primates. For whatever reason, all the Chimpanzees sent into space returned with their intelligence greatly augmented and full of a desire to conquer mankind. This fact was kept secret form the general public until 2000, when, due to clerical error, one of these maniacal super chimps was accidentally elected president of the United States.

Yuri Gagarin
, the first man to orbit planet Earth (who was not entirely fictional) was reportedly to have said from his space capsule,”Well, here I am in heaven and I don’t see any God.” This anecdote was made up by Khrushchev and attributed to Gagarin, who was far more popular than the Russian Premiere. Unfortunately, Gagarin died just a few years later when his jet encounter foul weather and crashed.

There is no weather, foul or fair in heaven. No God either. Just stars and infinity. Enough room for everyone. Planets and comets. Fountains of methane. Hurricanes bigger than the planet Earth. Black Holes. Giant clouds of sparkling light that give birth to stars. Wonders greater than can be conceived of here, at the bottom of our little well. We look up through our narrow opening and dream of the moon, of Chinese girls and rabbits, lovers who fly to heaven in hot air balloons and heroes who ride smoking rockets into a sky that never ends.

Tonight is Yuri’s Night.

Raise a glass in honor of the the first man in space.

And pour a little on the ground for Laika.

The War on Planet Earth

If, like me, you’re wondering what’s up with Republicans these days. We’re used to them being sour, belligerent, classist and even a wee bit racist. It’s well documented that the GOP just doesn’t care much for people of color, women, gays, or the poor or people with different or even no religious affiliation. In the past they’ve at least pretended that this was not the case. They gave lip service to American standards of morality and the social contract. But we hedonistic socialists have just kept pushing them, taking more freedoms and liberties that just aren’t ours. Now, the Republicans are fighting back. And they’ve taken off the kid gloves, people!

They’ve started by attempting to demonize Muslims, homosexuals and women and have moved on to actively trying to starve the poor and deny medical care to children and the elderly. In Texas, always a laboratory for Republican ideas, state Republicans are trying to rewrite history books, excising anything that smells like liberal progress, up to and including mentions of the labor movement, the fact that Texas once belonged to Mexico (because brown people live there) and downplaying the role of Thomas Jefferson in creating the nation, because you know, fuck that guy, right? What did he ever do for this country? damn pinko didn’t really even believe in God! But that’s just stage one in the fight for the future of this country and this world.

No longer content with fighting those pernicious “scientific” theories of evolution, gravity and electromagnetism, the GOP has declared all out war on the Earth itself. Not just the people of the Earth (they’ve hated us for freakin’ ever) but the biosphere. It’s gotten so bad that most people don’t even realize how far down the road to totalitarian socialism the planet has led us. Mammals and reptiles are allowed to just walk around with no clothes on like some Hippie love in, without a concern for common Christian decency or good manners. I mean, you’re sitting there right now, breathing air — for free — and no one is saying a thing. Hell, on some parts of the planet, food literally grows on trees!

Well at least we have the Republican party to try and stem this horrible tide of free air and sunshine and dangerously unclothed animals. Rest assured, the GOP will not stop until they have rid the planet of breathable air, visible light, socialist vegetation and if at all possible, life as we know it. And it’s about time, because I don’t know if our precious free market economy can take much more of this unfettered access to the things that make life possible.