tablesaw: A stick-figure person walking in a carefree manner. The caption reads, 'Haters gonna make some good points' (Haters)
Being kept awake tonight by the fear of economic collapse destroying the veneer of middle class lifestyle I'm currently enjoying.
tablesaw: Run Away (to the ocean, to the country, to the mountains . . .) (Runaway)
There's a minor furor in the Google Plus RPG circle on which I wander around the periphery over a series of posts about a ceremonial burning of Dungeons & Dragons, Fourth Edition, in preparation for the new fifth edition. (You may not be familiar with D&D "edition wars," but I'm sure you can extraploate to a similar situation where fans of a particular thing that goes through multiple iterations argue loudly and fervently about which iteration is good or bad or perfect or heretical, etc.)

And then this happened on twitter:It's probably not a coincidence that Hoarders was on in the background earlier and now I'm reexamining my relationship toward books. I'm not a hoarder, but the fear on the faces of people trying to pick which things to get rid of reminded me of the same mindlock I felt when I attempted culling my books last time I moved. It was too hard, and there wasn't enough time for me to work my way through it, and I panicked, and all the books went into boxes.

There were consequences to not doing so. Those books took up space and they carried an extra weight; as appropriate for books, they did so literally. The physical books that I do not need took a toll on my back, and on the bodies of my friends who helped to move them. (And I haven't yet taken the time to do a proper culling.)

And beyond that, I have books that I do not believe are worth the trouble for anyone. I have a mass-market book with no original research that is still substantially large and heavy, because it was designed as a coffee-table book, despite a lifeless presentation. It's not just that I don't need this book; I don't think anyone needs this book. And I suspect that anyone who thinks they want this book is wrong, because for a very long time, I was that person who deeply believed that they should just hold onto it for a little longer. I think that to inflict this mess of ink and wood pulp that tangentially contains some incomplete summaries of Irish genealogical information would be irresponsible. I don't want to shift the responsibility of dispatching it onto a nonprofit organization that could instead be shelving a book of even some slim use.

But I just can't toss it into the trash. Because it's still a book.

I still have my first book. My copy of Where the Wild Things Are is as old, and as soiled, and as marked as you would expect. And while I feel that there's a novelty in having that artifact, I often question why I hold onto it. The vast majority of my personal artifacts have already been worn down or given away. I don't know how that copy would be of interest to anyone, even my own children. Now it mostly represents how hard I cling to books as other things fall away.

And there are books, too, that I think others would find value in, but that I do not feel comfortable giving. I have books that once brought me joy, but that, now, having grown older or learned terrible things about the creators, I hate to look at. I know that others would want them and read them, but I still feel responsible for my custody of them. I want to undo what I did in buying and keeping them.

Book burning, as a single phrase, is more than the burning of books. It's burning books at someone. But burning something, anything, can be powerfully personal. I have a hard time letting go of books, and I proposed this as a group camping activity because my sense is that, among the geeky people at that campfire, I would not be alone. Sometimes there are books we need to let go, and we have nowhere else to put them.

Throw them on the fire.
tablesaw: A stick-figure person walking in a carefree manner. The caption reads, 'Haters gonna make some good points' (Haters)
I'm not even done with this article and I already want to blog about it. Well, mostly I just want to blog. Well, mostly I want to put something on my DW. (And a little bit I want to play Spelunky.)

I've been thinking about blogging vs. Twitter for a little bit. I've been aware that there are lots of aspects of Twitter that make me quieter on it. Obviously, there's the length restrictions, which I react to pretty strongly. I find it hard to make statements that comprise more than one tweet. But there's also the speed of tweet/retweet/response (Tumblr has a similar cycle), which I just have a hard time keeping up with. But there's an also an issue of time and speed. I also know that it will add to my blog's accruing history (which I see is going to become important in the part of the article I am still getting to).

As I said, I'm still working my way through Vance's article, but the portion about form and content as regards Twitter polarized me on that matter, highlighting the exploitative structure of its form. One of those things is the way that Twitter is obsessively focused on the "now".
Consider all the reasons why our intrepid capitalists of yesteryear replaced the (almost) timeless Holy Bible with a newspaper whose time is always the present; consider the political redefinition of 'content' to mean consumable rather than everlasting. A Tweet™ spends no more than a day or two in public view before vanishing into a database somewhere. Once our Tweet™ has been consumed and forgotten we make another and another, never Tweeting™ the same thing twice without dedicating 5 characters to an apologetic "ICYMI" (in case you missed it). The 'form' of Twitter, like that of the newspaper, demands a constant stream of new things to bury all the old ones.
On Twitter (and Tumblr), I do feel that pressure of having to put forward quantity a quantity of "content" that's more than I can really sustain in order to have a "presence." And as a result, existing on those sites makes me feel like a ghost, passive. Writing on a blog—my blog—give me a sense of place, and also lets me slow things down to my own speed.

There's also the fact that Dreamwidth remains a noncommercial open-source system, which I can depend on to stay relatively true to its mission statement (though there are, of course, ways that the structure still affects how I write). It just feels like a more comfortable place to be right now, even if I don't think anybody's going to be around to read it. (He says, knowing that once he posts this, links to it will be posted on Twitter, Tumblr, Livejournal, etc.)

Big Day

Jun. 14th, 2014 11:36 am
tablesaw: A tablesaw in action. The blade disappears when it comes in contact with a hot dog. (Default)
Not sure who's checking this anymore, since I have been having scattered posting issues, but:

I'm going to propose to [personal profile] temptingcuriosity tonight.

Posting in the only place I can reliably limit access.

We already have talked this out. She designed the ring with a jeweler, and we've already got a deposit on a wedding venue (3/14/15).

But tonight's when I "officially" ask.

Going to go to the Griffith Park Observatory around sunset.

(Public now. She said yes.)
tablesaw: The Mexican Murder Rock from <cite>Warehouse 13</cite> (Mexican Murder Rock!)

I'm trying to write a thing about stereotypes, but it's hard because I haven't been writing for a while. While procrastiresearching, I started asking my (non-Latina) girlfriend whether she thought "Mexicans love Morrissey" was a stereotype. She had never heard anything like that. She wanted to know, in response, whether "Mexicans love Mariachi music" was a stereotype.

What I'm trying to get at (in the other piece, the one I'm still not writing) is the way in which stereotypes aren't generalizations, but ideological statements that justify the hierarchical positions of different social groups. "Mexicans are lazy" and "Mexicans are hard-working" are contradictory, but each works to justify Latin@s being stuck in labor-intensive jobs without promotional paths in the United States. But "Mexicans love Mariachi music" doesn't quite get at that directly.

What I wanted to say didn't quite crystallize until I saw Bankuei's post/tweets:

Marginalized folks are punished for their cultural markers, appropriators are rewarded for using other folk’s cultural markers.

It really doesn’t even matter WHAT the thing is being appropriated, it’s really about appropriating as a means of reinforcing the power structure about WHO is allowed to take and WHO is expected to be taken from.

"Cultural marker" was precisely the concept I was looking for. It's not just that Mariachi is a form of music from Mexico, it's that it's one of the cultural markers used in the United States to stand in for "Mexican/Latin@/Spanish-Speaking Brown Person", along with "cactus," "sombrero," "poncho," "tequila," "mustache," and "Cinco de Mayo." In fact, if you're looking for the cultural markers for Latin@, just go to a "Cinco de Mayo" "celebration" by white people, and you'll see "Mexican" neatly packaged. Identifying any of those trite markers is a reminder of how Mexican culture is marginalized by its differences, and various other Latino cultures are erased through homogenization. "Mexicans love Morrissey" doesn't fit anywhere on that ideological map of the dominant group.

But "Mexicans love Morrissey" still feels kind of stereotypy to me; why would that be? Well, looking at my own definition, it must have an ideological grounding that resonates with me. Perhaps that's because I'm also a Mexican-American who also likes Morrissey and listened to him in high school.(It also clearly resonates with others, like Rio Yañez, whose graphic is at the top of this post, and has used Morrissey as a muse several times.) And it is ideological, it runs counter to (or at least parallel to) the status quo.

I don't know that there's quite a word for that kind of non-dominant stereotype. They're around, but they don't get reproduced by the dominant culture in the same way, and you're not going to hear about them unless you're part of a group, or at least have actual positive interaction with that group. "Black don't crack" strikes me as one as well (with revolutionary messages of both beauty and resilience).

I don't have an ending, so here's a clip of Matt Smith comparing a Japanese fighter to Eeyore and Morrissey.

Rio Yañez draws Matt Smith imagining Eeyore and Morrissey with a sword.
tablesaw: Ration Hornblower, from the cast of Smile Time, peeks his horn nose out at you. (Ratio Hornblower)
This is my Dear Author letter for Invisible Ficathon. It's also my first Dear Author letter, so bear with me. I'm going to copy the "Details" information (which were written "IC"), and fill it out with some extra information, including source information.

I am not really a fic reader; even in fandoms I'm deep into, I prefer reading meta. The fic I read is rare, usually highly recced out of things like Yuletide, and has kind of meta qualities. I like crossovers and other things that highlight form and literary quirks of the source, rather than having an engagement with the characters themselves. Similarly, I read gen almost exclusively. However, as you will see below, I'm not ruling out romance or porn in some circumstances where I suspect it would be interesting and/or hilarious.

Gigamesh
My favorite part of every Gigamesh fic is the Hannahanian commentary that by necessity accompanies it. I know that fandom has generally decided the commentary should be about twice the wordcount of the accompanying fic (as in the 33/67 Drabble exchanges), but I prefer the ratio to be much more skewed to the commentary side. I'd hope for at least a triple-sized commentary, but if you feel comfortable making it even bigger, go for it!

Also, while I generally read only gen fic, I do also enjoy Gigamesh fic that is half-and-half. I go both ways: romantic/sexual fic with gen commentary is OK, as is gen fic with romantic/sexual commentary. But doubling up on the pairings is right out.
Source: A Perfect Vacuum by Stanislaw Lem.

A Perfect Vacuum is a collection of reviews of fictional books. There are preview pages available on Google Books that can give you an idea of what the book is like. It is modeled after James Joyce's Ulysses (using the mythology of Gilgamesh and Enkidu), and more especially, the very intricate and often suspect textual analysis of the same. "Our task is made easier in that Hannahan—unlike Joyce!—provided his book with a commentary, which is twice the size of the novel itself (to be exact, Gigamesh runs 395 pages, the Commentary 847)."

Blasto (fictional film series)
I also really love the dialogue of Blasto (and Bubin) and love reading crossovers with other fandoms (or vice versa). Gen only. I'm not trying to be a prude, but I'm not interested in reading about Hanar procreative activities. no, not even with Asari.
Source: Mass Effect series.

The Mass Effect wiki has a good summary, but I strongly recommend listening to the entire audio of Blasto 6: Partners in Crime, as taken from the Mass Effect 3; it's about ten minutes. You will understand why I love the dialogue. There's apparently a comic book too, but I haven't read it.

Escape from Zyzzlvaria
I'd love to see Captain Blastoid in a crossover with other fandoms like Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, The Matrix, The Producers, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego and others that have no apparent connection to each other. Gen only, please.
Source: D2: The Mighty Duck Konundrum, MIT Mystery Hunt 2009, MIT Mystery Hunt 2010, Round 2009 (from a different timeline, and so not necessarily canon).

I'm not specifically asking for there to a be a puzzle in the fic, but, if you really want . . .

Tulola-Gobu
I'd really like to see more about what happened between Nasta-se and Dullo-ge before the start of the novel that led to the murder. If at all possible, please write in Chaosian, or, if you can't, be sure to capture as much of the color of the language as you can.
Source: Son of the Realm of Unspeakable Chaos (Translation)

Another puzzle-based source, but I really wanted to include this one because I felt like conlangs deserved a place in the Invisible Ficathon. The known Chaosian dictionary is limited and is mostly dedicated to describing flags, hence my reference to "the color of the language."

See You Next Wednesday
I don't even know how to give guidance. It seems like everyone who writes fic for this has seen a completely different film. If your fic can provide insight into some of those discrepancies, that'd be great, but if not, go wild.
Source: The films of John Landis (Wikipedia page).

This title has referred to lots of different films within films, so I really don't want to limit interpretations, but I'd love to see something that tries to merge two or more. Also, given that one of the most notable See You Next Wednesdays is advertised "A Non-Stop Orgy" (though the parts of the film we see does seem to have lots of orgy interruptions), I totally accept that this one may get porny.

Dixon Hill (series)
I love Haircut Lapinski fic, and I have yet to see anyone address his obsession with fractions with appropriate detail.
Source: Star Trek: The Next Generation (Memory Alpha)

The noir detective novels that Picard uses for holographic recreation. One of the characters gives the line: "I'm as jumpy as Haircut Lapinski trying to land on a fraction." That is the best line. THE BEST. And it has been plaguing TNG fans for a while, based on websearches. It is time for the truth to be known.

Mur Murs

Nov. 21st, 2013 07:09 pm
tablesaw: An indigenous American crucified on a cross crowned by a bald eagle. In the background stands a Mesoamerican temple. (América Tropical)
I saw Mur Murs at the Aero last week, and had mixed feelings about it. It's a documentary by Agnès Varda about the murals of Los Angeles at the beginning of the '80s. Varda films murals of around Los Angeles talks with many of the artists. I came mostly looking for the aspects of Los Angeles history—and it was great to see some of the murals that have since been destroyed or covered up—but the film overall had a syrupy "artsiness" that left a bad taste in my mouth.

I grew up in Los Angeles in the '80s (though I was only a toddler when this movie was filmed), ams there were so many twinges of memory while watching the movie. I don't know how much I've internalized the way film looked at the time as an indicator of what live looked at the time, but everything looked like something out of my vague memory. And judging by the occasional murmuring of the mostly boomer audience, others who were older at the time felt the same.

Because Varda always seems to have at least one mural in every shot, it leaves you feeling like Los Angeles is a is a city where very wall is filled with color, an art gallery on every street. It's not that way, and it wasn't then, and I was craving the chance to leave the frame to see the mundane spaces that I was more familiar with. But seeing those sometimes out-of-the way places knit into a dream geography is wonderful.

Some of the best moments of the movie involved the members of ASCO, an influental Chicano performance-art group. Members like Willie Herrón and Gronk talk about their early murals, which leads into their discussion of current work, culminating in the filming of an Asco happening that is part mural, part theater, and, ultimately, part film. It's this kind of artistic synthesis that Varda seems to be chasing throughout the film, though in many place's it feel terribly flat.

Where I was looking for the art to speak for itself, Varda seemed to wasn't too comment on the art herself. She stages shots in painfully precious ways. A line of people practice Tai Chi in front of Two Blue Whales. People are provided with props to match the images of the murals the walk past. And most egregiously, while showing the entirety of the Farmer John Packing Plant mural, someone (presumably Varda) makes derisive pig sounds for as few minutes before the narrator (definitely Varda) chastises Farmer John for not showing the artists of the mural the appropriate respect. (Though, to her credit, Varda does make it a point to announce the artist credits whenever their work appears on screen.)

Maybe it's a generational thing; the older audience seemed to be eating those segments up. During the Q&A with Varda, even terrible pounds were treated with absurd reverence. But the movie was made for a different audience and a different time. Asco, who tagged LACMA in protest of Chicano exclusion from the at world, had a retrospective in LACMA recently. I can see how a film like this would be an argument for the art establishment to respect murals, but then I don't care much for that establishment anyway, then or now.
tablesaw: "Tablesaw Techniques" (Techniques)
As you would expect, zombie stories show up fairly regularly on Pseudopod. Two that stood out pretty clearly for me are "The Skull-Faced Boy" and "Association." I'm not a big fun of zombie stories (or movies or TV shows), but these two are some of my favorites, and were the first ones I wanted to tell people about when I started thinking about recommendations.

"The Skull-Faced Boy" aired in 2008 and I still remember it pretty clearly. A story of the risen dead who still retain a great deal of humanity, for better or for worse. It's a pretty wide-ranging story, with a cinematic feel to it: a nice variety of well-drawn characters and a slowly building plot. It was my favorite zombie story for a while.

It was supplanted in the top spot by "Association," which has a similar idea, but is definitely more to my taste. "Association" has the narrator tell the story of watching a zombie virus take over his body, watching himself die even though his mind remains lucid and alive. It's very disturbing, inspired by the author seeing people fail to communicate during the last moments of their life.

Pseudopod is one of my favorite podcasts, and it's currently going through some difficult financial times (it pays all of its authors for the stories it produces). If you enjoy these stories, please consider donating through the links on the website.

The Horror

Oct. 20th, 2013 03:03 pm
tablesaw: Futurama's Robot Devil, El Diablo Robotico (El Diablo Robotico)
I'm kind of a horror fan now. And though I'm pretty sure I know how, I'm not sure I know why.

The how is because of Pseudopod. I started listening to Pseudopod about 5 years ago after listening to Escape Pod and then Podcastle. After a while, Pseudopod became my favorite of the three. The stories were more reliably interesting, even when I didn't much care for them.

[personal profile] yeloson pointed out a quote that in a horror story, as opposed to a fantasy story, the rules and logic aren't consistent in terms of the story. Things don't happen because of reasons, they just happen, and the characters have to decide what they do about them. And those choices don't always have clear moral weights to attached to them. I've always liked sci-fi and fantasy for their ability to change reality to fit a story; horror focuses that much more closely, changing reality to point completely at the characters.

Through the same time, I started getting more interested in horror films. I've never much cared for "scary movies" because they usually didn't scare me much. I don't get much of a thrill out of gore or jumpscares. But I started to appreciate that, in trying to reach something specific in "horror," artists reveal something about themselves: what they fear and how they fear it.

And today, I'm excited about my second year of an all-night Halloween horror-movie marathon, last night, I went to see the Carrie remake on its opening night, and I'm going to be posting a bunch of recommendations for Pseudopod.

Apparently, Escape Artists, the group that produces Escapepod, Podcastle, and Pseudopod has been gaining many more listeners than subscribers, and is running something of an emergency fund drive. I've subscribed, and hopefully, I can get a few people interested in the show as well.
tablesaw: Benito Juarez holds up a neon sign that says "GET OUTTA MY COUNTRY ARCHDICK" (Archdick)
I remember the 1995-96 shutdown fairly clearly because I was dealing with college admissions, and the offer I would eventually accept was from GW in DC. The shutdown corresponded with massive snowfall in the capital, which prevented many people from returning to work, even after the agreement was finally reached (and also prevented the admissions officers from returning to the office and answering voicemail messages about thick envelopes).

I've been trying to come up with a way of thinking about the current shutdown, but I've become a bit too goal-oriented to think about the morality of actions independent of the reasons for them. Would liberals/Democrats be willing to shut down the federal government over an issue of abortion/women's rights? (I mean, would they be willing to today, because the Democrats did it in the '70s, even though they controlled the White House and both houses of Congress at the time).

I think the problem with the current shutdown is this: The Republican House has already tipped its hand about what it wants, which is to stop the Affordable Care Act from being implemented, but they don't have the political clout to make that happen. All they have is enough clout to do is wreck the place up a bit. But ultimately, nobody's going to negotiate with them based on the size of the damage they can do. Everyone can still count the votes, and the votes say that they've exceeded their grasp.

I was listening to commentary on the way in that said that Obama and the Senate are going to let the House twist in the wind for a bit because they don't have a strategy. And it really looks like that's the case. It's wasn't one of several negotiating ploys, it was a ploy to maybe have negotiation happen, and ultimately a gamble on where the public disapproval would fall. Enough representatives have staked so much on undoing the ACA that for them the risk of not getting a concession is equal to or greater than the risk of being responsible for the shutdown. But if we have to wait for an already divided party to come up with a strategy even before any sort of compromise can be worked toward, it's going to be a long time coming.
tablesaw: One machete is raised, a host more rise to meet it. (From the "Machete" trailer in "Grindhouse".) (Brown Power)

STEPHEN GREENBLATT: When I was writing the glosses for the Norton Shakespeare, I remember doing the glosses for Much Ado About Nothing and I came to the line in which Claudio says, I would marry her "were she an Ethiope." So I had to explain what "were she an Ethiope" meant, and I said in the marginal gloss, "Ethiope, i.e., black and therefore, according to the racist Elizabethan stereotype, ugly."

Now, someone criticized me for being too politically correct by saying "racist stereotype." But if you're actually faced with the practical question of how you're going to gloss the thing, you have to say "Ethiope, i.e., Ethiopian, i.e., black," that is clear. But if you're saying I'd marry her "were she an Ethiope," you have to explain what that means, and you could say "i.e., black and therefore ugly," but what does that mean if you're writing a book for a contemporary audience? You have to acknowledge that the values have drastically shifted.

You could also point out, if you were doing a fuller account, that Claudio was actually a very unpleasant character and that happens to therefore qualify this, but it isn't the whole story. The whole story definitely involves a broader, not just the defects of Claudio's character, but a certain set of broader Elizabethan understandings that Shakespeare routinely draws upon, often to make paradoxical effects. He loves this black mistress, the dark lady, and he makes much of the fact that he loves her despite the fact that she's dark and therefore violates the canons of beauty. But you can't begin to understand this if you don't understand something about the values of Shakespeare's time and also recognize that they're not necessarily our values.

Stephen Greenblatt, Cogan University Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University

Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing comes out tonight, and I wanted to quote this passage because this very racist line is included in the film. It didn't have to be, filming or staging Shakespeare means cutting a lot of dialogue (unless you're Kenneth Branagh and want a movie with an intermission). What's more,an anti-semitic line in the film was pointed cut (Benedick saying, of Beatrice, "If I do not love her, then I am a Jew").

In the film, this line is framed very pointedly. As Claudio speaks it, a black woman is framed in the background, making it particularly clear who is being slurred. This deliberate shot is abrupt and unsettling, which contributes to it becoming a laugh line for most audiences. (The audience I saw this with was mostly white; I don't know the makeup of other preview audiences that have reported laughter.) In defending this shot, Whedon has compared this to something that might happen in The Office (interview)

But while it might seem similar on the surface (close enough to encourage laughter by recognizing the form) there are some very important differences. The Office features several characters of different races, all of whom are characterized as having complex lives that overturn the tokenism that American corporate bureaucracy (as embodied by Michael Scott) wants to reduce them to. In contrast, all of the speaking roles and a wide majority of the extras in Much Ado are white. The black woman in this shot isn't seen before or after, and isn't particularly in focus while Claudio speaks either. She exists only to be slurred by one of the leads.

Whedon is also struggling against the narrative of Shakespeare's original source, which wants to unite its opposing forces into honor and harmony. Whedon does a good job of showing Claudio's turn to the dark side, but by the time the slur comes around, Claudio has done his penance and is being redeemed. That's not a narrative that The Office generally worries about (outside of the Pam & Jim's story, which is a more traditional romantic comedy plot).

It creates a very pointed hierarchy. Shaming a white woman at a public wedding is a grievous sin that must be redeemed, but shaming a black woman at a public wedding, eh we'll just let that slide because she's not the bride (never the bride) and we're running out of time.

One reviewer argued that the message of The Office is “Yes, racism still exists, but you are not alone.” But what we see in that moment of Much Ado About Nothing is that the black woman is completely alone; she is isolated, out of focus, denied a voice, in that shot, and in the rest of the movie as well. But for the cast of white characters, well, it's a bit awkward, but hey, you know, Claudio's a good guy. He was really sad at that funeral. Besides, do you even know who that woman is? I mean, are you sure she was invited, because I haven't talked to her.

I don't know what other people think when they see that shot. I suspect that many feel, without even thinking about it, that with the tension of the moment, and the similarity to other, better, comedies about race, laughter was necessary and appropriate. But I know that what I was thinking was that woman probably spent a long time getting ready, choosing her dress, getting her hair made up, feeling really pretty, and then suddenly everyone was looking at her while the groom said black women are ugly and terrible.

I didn't laugh.

Crossposted on Tumblr)

tablesaw: A redshirt says, "I'm just here to pay off my Academy loans anyway." (Academy Loans)
I spent this weekend at the Egyptian for the Cape Town Film Festival, run by Entertainment Weekly and the American Cinematheque. I became a Cinematheque member last year, and really enjoyed it, but I was on the fence about renewing. But shortly thereafter, I heard about this festival and, more importantly, got an income stream again, so I reupped and grabbed a bunch of tickets.

The screenings were lots of fun. It was exciting to see the Egyptian so busy, with the courtyard filled to brimming for each show. It was also a show of force for the volunteers, most of whom I'd seen at other screenings at other times, all of whom were friendly and excited.

The courtyard of the Egyptian Theater filled with people before the 6 p.m. screening of Return of the Jedi.

Earth Rises

This was, probably, the most important film in the entire festival. Some of my favorite moments of the festival happened when I was watching it. With hundreds of geeks in attendance over the course of the week, it was a binding force, something we could share and laugh about.

I am speaking, of course, of the trailer for Season 3 of Falling Skies.



TNT was a sponsor of the festival, specifically promoting the new series of Falling Skies. If you can't or don't want to watch ad, it's a series of dark and dramatic scenes from this show about an alien invasion of the United States (and probably other parts of the world, who even knows). Early on, Will Patton yells Take cover!, and an artificial echo is added to his voice (Cover! Cover! Cover!). For the next few seconds, short snippets of dialogue are punctuated with more Cover!s, growing into a massive crescendo of music, explosions, Cover!, chaos, Cover!, warfare, Cover!, Cover!, Cover!, then silence.

With six hundred nerds in a room at the same time, a good number of them are going to use that silence to yell Cover!

Especially when this ad is run before every film in the festival, with several people, like myself, seeing it several times. It became a bit of a thing.
Falling Skies

As an extra "bonus" the season premiere of Falling Skies was screened before Escape from New York on Friday, which I was attending. It was, exactly the way I remembered it two years ago when I stopped watching the first season because it was too boring. I felt little bad about it. It has a cast full of people I really like, and a lot of the sci-fi elements in this new season seem to be much more interesting than what had been present before. But I just couldn't keep my focus on it. It has the same "a bunch of stuff happens to a bunch of people and then it ends" pacing that I don't like about Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, but without even the occasional character moments that make those later shows somewhat compelling.

I don't really know why they wanted to show it before Escape from New York. I guess there's kind of a similar apocalyptic-action vibe between the two, but they really didn't mesh well, and the Russell/Carpenter crowd was not too pleased with the delay.

The episode was followed by a terrible Q&A. The interviews with actors and filmmakers was of extremely high quality when I was there, but the interviewer in this case was a overexcited puppy asking questions that sounded like a parody of celebrity magazines. The actors had a hard time responding to them as well; Moon Bloodgood had a minor meltdown when she had to field a spoiler-angled question despite having no coaching about what kind of spoilers she was or wasn't allowed to reveal.

The whole event was a dissonance in an otherwise incredibly smooth event. But what else should we expect from the sponsors? It's certainly not the worst commercial break I could imagine for an event like this. And TNT gave us free soda, popcorn, and (for some reason) bandanas. So there's that.
Escape from New York

Okay, here come the actual movies. It's been a while since I watched the movie (I skimmed it for a puzzle a few years back, but didn't have time to sit down and watch it), and so it was mostly hazy TV memories on this one. What I was struck with the most was how much it reminded me of videogames. The Metal Gear Solid references were the most direct, but there was just something about the way Carpenter filmed a lot of the action that feels very much like a videogame today.

Kurt Russell came out after the movie for a Q&A that was very entertaining and touched on lots of his early career. It also sped into some bizarre tangents, such as when the name "Anderson" inspired him to spend a minute or two talking about how good Hugo Weaving was in The Matrix. As for New York, he talked about being terrified of Ox Baker because of his history of hitting people so hard they died after wrestling matches (the actual causes of death are mostly unrelated, but enough to make a young and pretty actor cautious).

Speaking of Kurt Russell being pretty, Kurt Russell looks really pretty in this movie. Russell talked a bit about who might play Snake in a remake of Escape; I'd look toward Ryan Gosling.

(More soon)

Downtime

Mar. 5th, 2013 07:26 pm
tablesaw: Charlie Crews, in a dark suit, rests his head on his left hand (That's Life)
I was planning on writing things. I haven't.

My last temp job ended last week, and I'm still looking for something new.

It's clear to me that I'm on that borderline of depression. I'm going to need some more structure to what I'm doing to get a handle on things.

Just letting you all know, help keep an eye on me, suggest things to write about, etc.
tablesaw: A man comes home frome work, his hat reads "Crossword Makers Inc" (Crossword Makers Inc)
The MIT Mystery Hunt was this weekend. I solved from home with IIF, and had a great time. The hunt ran super long, though, which means that not only is there lots to say, there's also a lot to still recover from.

I'm going to collect my thoughts (probably after the puzzles are back online), but in the meantime I really hope that this comment isn't going to set the tone for responses from this year's creators, Manic Sages.
On the other hand, walking around and seeing different teams and contrasting their approaches to the Hunt was quite interesting. Even other top teams like Death From Above (in the lead through most of the Hunt) and the eventual winners John Galt (second up till Sunday before establishing a convincing lead) were all smiles and obviously enjoying themselves when I visited. Then I got to Luck, and some of you (not all) seemed to be locked into a grim death march, desperate to get to the end.

I know Luck really wants to win, and we probably made it impossible for a mid-sized team this year. But keeping morale up should help your odds of being the victor in future years... :)
I'm too punchy (as in, wanting to punch that commenter) to adequately explain why, so I'm just leaving it here, because it's my blog.

I think IIF had a fantastic showing this year (waiting to see more when stats come out), and I hope that next year I can finally make it back to Boston (and complain about how cold it is).
tablesaw: Paul, who is a ghost, declares this to be "Booooring!" (Booooring)
At my birthday bar thing/dinner I was tipped off to the fact that there's a reasonably close movie theater in North Hollywood that shows second-run movies for three dollars, or a buck fifty on Sundays. So [personal profile] temptingcuriosity and I took a trip on Sunday to see Wreck-It Ralph. It was fun, and I'm glad I saw it because everyone else I know has seen it already. And I don't know if you've heard, but it's about videogames.

I wanted to review it here, because I'm committed to doing more reviewing of things, but I can barely bring myself to care enough to think of something to say. I enjoyed myself enough when I was watching it, but by the time I was home my enjoyment had all drained away.

There's no problem that can't be solved in the scope of a two-hour movie, as [profile] joshroby once pointed out, but that doesn't mean that all stories can be told in that scope. In the undoubtedly worked and reworked and re-reworked plot of Wreck-It Ralph, there isn't much room for the stories of characters outside of a precoded series of checkpoints, an inevitable grind until leveling up (but not changing classes).

Perhaps there's something to say here about Wreck-It Ralph's ultimate message that it's better to be happy with your crappy job than to fight the system: the heroes are rewarded for maintaining or restoring the status quo. But, hey, it's a Disney movie with Bowser and Q-Bert in it. It's too big to fail, right?

I did really like Alan Tudyk's amazing performance as King Candy, though. I'd say it was an ok use of two hours and $1.50.
tablesaw: An indigenous American crucified on a cross crowned by a bald eagle. In the background stands a Mesoamerican temple. (América Tropical)
Saturday: I went with [personal profile] temptingcuriosity to LACMA for the Drawing Surrealism exhibit. The raw imagination on display reminded me very strongly of the underground indie aesthetic championed by Anna Anthropy in "Rise of the Videogame Zinesters." There's a lot of interesting connections to be made there, with the Dadaists and surrealists using games to promote automatism in creation, the use of collage (reusing sprites), and even a possible connection to the Futurist obsession with machine art.

Sunday: Virtually attended the planning meeting for the MIT Mystery Hunt next weekend. It's always good to see everyone, even the camera was mostly on [personal profile] tahnan doing his one-knee-on-a-chair pose.

Monday: I said goodbye to the Xmas tree immediately after the Epiphany. That almost never happens.

Tuesday: Made it out to a boardgaming night for the first time in a while. Played Chaos in the Old World to completion for the first time, and actually eked out a win. I've had a hard time with this game before, because the extremely asymmetrical roles can make it hard to figure out how to do things, but I finally pushed through. Still not entirely my game, but I won't be so quick to avoid it, either. I also got to dazzle everyone with word knowledge when playing and generally refereeing Bananagrams.

Wednesday: My main glasses broke a little while ago, and my backups are threatening to quit too, so I scheduled a new eye exam. I also made a quick jump into Sherman Oaks to pick up last year's prescription, just in case I need to make an emergency run to Lens Crafters for a cheap replacement. Having two hours to kill, I went to one of my favorite restaurants, Toshi Sushi. It was a great evening, as I was joined at the sushi bar by three lovely women who over-ordered and were pleased to hear of my birthday so that they had an excuse to foist some of the food onto me.

A cameraphone picture of a plate of sushi, all slightly different, with an assortment of fish, rice, sauces and toppings. They all taste delicious.

Heading to bed now. More birthday stuff later.
tablesaw: A sketch of me talking and smiling. (Personable)
I avoid doing anything on Facebook, which includes letting people post on my wall, which has made some people angry at me on my birthday, when they want to leave birthday wishes. Consider this my birthday wall, or send a note on my Twitter [twitter.com profile] sawofthetable.
tablesaw: Two yellow roses against a bright blue sky. (Family Roses)
This past weekend was a lazy one, like the New Year weekend before. (The Xmas weekend was stressful, with most of my Christmas Day trivia written on Christmas Eve.) [personal profile] temptingcuriosity and I went to LACMA on Saturday, avoiding the bigger events (Kubrick and Caravaggio) and indulging our own personal preferences (Surrealist Drawings and Maya artifacts). On Sunday we stayed in, made bacon pancakes, and lounged around because it was cold outside.

I asked her what she was looking for from the new year, but I already knew what her year looked like, when I thought about it. Really, I wanted her to ask me the question. I know I want to get hired permanently at this new job, but past that I wasn't sure. Talking about it, I realized that I wanted to create more in 2013. Not a particular thing, or a big thing, just lots of things.

Recently, I say a lot that I'm too much in my head. I talk to folks a bit more on Twitter, and I'm talking to people in person, but I'm not getting things out in non-conversational settings anymore. As a true geek, I worry about the narrow bandwidth of talking to people one-on-one; I just don't have enough time to tell things to everyone I would like to. Blog posts allow you, my friends and readers, to time-shift the Tablesaw experience to fit your schedule (something I know I appreciate).

But while blog posts are always things I need to do more often, to get into the habit of writing long things (or just short things that aren't twitter), what I want to do is just create more things that I can share. And saying it the other day made me excited and happy. A good sign, I think.

This year I don't just want to do things I love, I want to make new things to send out into the world with them, so that my experiences can travel beyond the horizon of my personal bubble. I want to write about at least one thing a week, TV, movie, game, what have you. I want to make some more puzzles, definitely at least one thing I can bring to the NPL convention in Austin. I want to finally hide a geocache in LA. I want to make some games, eventually, somewhere. There's a pre-Companions DW/AW game knocking around in my head that mostly needs a lot of research (that TemptingCuriosity is eager to help with).

My birthday is on Thursday, and I turn 35, a number that is a multiple of the amount of fingers on one hand, which means that I'll probably freak out sometime this year, though I'm successfully blocking it out for now. It's a good time to have a plan, and it's a good time to have a plan that focuses so much on simple joys. Last year was not a good one, this one will be better.
tablesaw: Two women put the star on a Christmas tree. (Apocalyptic Christmas)
Once again, my gift list remains much the same as the years before:
  • Booze. Last year my cousin and his wife got me a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black which kept me company throughout the year. In fact, I depleted all of my scotches (Famous Grouse and Yamazaki) this year, and I'm almost out of my good bourbon. I would love some good replacements, along with other interesting liqueurs.
  • Wardrobe. My wardrobe still contains the following things:
    • Jeans worn casually
    • Chinos worn casually or at work
    • collared shirts worn at work or over
    • Nice T-shirts
    • and occasionally a casual sport jacket.
    New additions to any of those categories are welcome. For T-shirts, think along the lines of Threadless or sites like Threadless. I'm probably most in need of jeans, actually. Sizes can vary, but pants are usually 38/34, fitted shirts are 17.5x34/35, T shirts are XL.
  • Music. I still, still don't get enough of it on my own. Things from my high-school years (early alternative) are what I usually look for when I hit Amoeba. I prefer used CDs as a medium, over downloads.
  • Stuff to do. Movie passes, theatre tickets, nice restaurants. Things to go out and do. (I've already got an American Cinematheque subscription, but an extension beyond April might be nice.)
  • Techno Stuff
    • My old DVD player gave up the ghost recently, and I'd like to replace it with a BluRay player that can play DVDs, BluRay, and stream video.
    • On the other hand, I could also go with a barebones BluRay/DVD player and a separate Roku unit for Netflix and streaming.
    • My iPod nano is dying. Right now I'm using my new tablet to substitute, but I'd like something else that I can keep music on. I'm abandoning Apple, so any small little MP3 player is fine.
    • Speaking of my new tablet (a Nexus 7), I need a case for it so I can protect the screen and not be so tender with it always and forever.
  • Tea. I'm actually running low on tea, so it would be a good time for gifts of that. I usually drink at work, so I don't want anything too fancy. But I do like all types of loose-leaf tea. I usually buy in person from Bird Pick (Cloud and Fog is one of my favorites), but I'd be curious about the fanciful blends from Adagio Teas. I'm also interested in The Boston Tea Campaign.
  • Miscellaneous T[hings]
    • My old reliable Ikea floor lamp in the living room snapped in half, and I've been resting it on its side on a chair in the living room. This has been going on for quite a while now, and I haven't done anything about it. I probably should, at some point.
    • I could use a new dice bag. Don't know when I lost me old one, but right now I have them in a bowl at home, and a ziploc when traveling. Not so cool.
    As always, strongly avoid books (graphic novel TPBs are OK), videogames, and DVDs, which I already have too many of and not enough time for.
tablesaw: A man comes home frome work, his hat reads "Crossword Makers Inc" (Crossword Makers Inc)
It's day thirteen of Learned League Season 55. With 12 matches behind me, twelve before me, and one currently pending, I thought I'd take a look at what's been going on.

Learned League is an online trivia contest that features head-to-head competition: everybody gets the same questions on a given day, but you are matched up with a single player, and your success is measured solely against theirs. To make it more interesting, you decide on what points your opponent will receive for correct answers (and vice versa), so even if you answer fewer questions, you might still win on points, if the ones you got right were the ones your opponent thought were the hardest.

(More info: Learned League FAQ)

Normally, players are grouped into "rundles" based on performance in previous seasons, so you can expect that the folks you are facing are at about your same level of triviality. Rookies, however, get lumped together in a big groups, resulting in battles of widely different levels. And this year, I'm a rookie.

Numbers Racket


Here are the stats for my rundle (and here are my stats, registration required). I'm currently in 11th place of 30 with a record of 7 wins, 4 losses, and 1 tie; but at my height a few days ago, I was in 4th. In the two matches since then, I've been really unlucky (on Friday, I could only get one answer right, and received zero points for it), but it looks like I'll be up against softer opponents for a little bit, so I should be able to make up more ground.

One thing that's been bugging me is that I've got a slightly-harder-than-average draw, especially in this first half. There are 25 matches, but 30 players in my rundle, leaving five people I won't face. And all five of those are currently ranked in the bottom half. And I've mostly been facing harder opponents thus far. (I am currently tied at #1 for "Correct Answers Allowed" which is a general indicator of how strong one's opponents have been.) You may notice I've been entranced by statistics, particular. Every day, I import the updated stats into an Excel sheet, so I can see my past and future matches color-coded against the median.

Similarly Erratic Results


After two days of competition, I tweeted:
My first [twitter.com profile] LearnedLeague 6 pack comes after a painful loss on day 1. I expect similarly erratic results from now on.
It's turned out to be a good prediction. A 6-pack is, of course, getting all the questions correct on a given day, a relatively rare occurrence in all but the higher echelons of the league. But beyond that, well, see above.

A lot of my success comes from managing to craft good guesses based on the context of clues, rather than being certain of particular knowledge. It can be frustrating, especially when a guess (or two! (or three!!)) goes slightly off. When I first played a live version of this game, it was against a group of pretty serious folks (the NPL), and I left feeling like nothing was in my control, which put me off of the league for a while. But the prospect of settling into a nice matched group is pretty appealing, so I'm eager to finish this season.

Play Along at Home


The LL website has been slowly developing, and now it's really well designed for playing along even if you're not registered. After the day's match is over, the website is updated with the questions and how well all the players did, with the answers concealed by a script. Here are the first day's questions (you can reach other days by using the "Match Day 2" arrow near the top of the page, or by choosing from the calendar on the main page). Individual questions have their own pages with detailed breakdowns of accuracy, the most common wrong answers, and the "best wrong answers." For example, here is Question 3 of Day 9:
The work of what 19th c. English engineer and mathematician on what he called a Difference Engine and Analytical Engine, which are considered today among the first mechanical computers, has earned him the moniker "Father of the Computer"?
Forty-eight percent of players answered correctly; the most common wrong answer was "Charles Turing" at 11%, and the best wrong answers were Charles Widmore, Dr. Emmett Brown, Sir William Computer, and Sir Nigel Speakandspell.

So far, some of my favorite questions have been:
Hey girl, who is the only former MMC (Mickey Mouse Club) Mouseketeer to be nominated for an Academy Award for acting? (Match Day 2, Question 6)

Identify this musical group. [Image] (Match Day 10, Question 2; be sure to look at the best wrong answers)

In the mid to late 1960s, author Arthur Hailey published two simply named novels, which each explored the operation and politics of a single specific location/establishment (different in each novel), and both of which inspired film adaptations (and one a television series). Name both novels. (Match Day 12, Question 6)
Previous seasons are available for review, too, though as you go back further, the display interface gets rougher. There are also themed "minileagues" and one-day competitions that go on between main seasons. One of the things that really excited me about joining the League was kibitzing on [livejournal.com profile] thedan's hilarious collection of Before & After trivia, where each question contains two parts that merge together. (Ex: "Name the 1960s comedian who was famously convicted for obscenity based on live performances in which he demonstrated his original martial art, Jeet Kune Do." Answer: "Lenny Bruce Lee.") And if you know the answer to this question, you are officially an awesome person:
Name the fictional game show on which the host (played by Bill Murray) asked contestants to determine which of Lorenzo Lamas and Ricardo Montalban is more like WNYX station owner Jimmy James (as portrayed in his poorly translated autobiography).

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tablesaw: A tablesaw in action. The blade disappears when it comes in contact with a hot dog. (Default)
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