09 December 2009

Hel(vetica) is (not) other fonts




I woke up this morning with this joke in my head. I do know what inspired it; I don’t know why I was inspired at that precise moment.

Anyway, I think the typography-minded existentialists of the world might get a kick out of this.

Click here if you’d like to buy a shirt to help fund my secret base in a dormant volcano.

03 December 2009

You can't have a gut the size of mine and then go ignoring its warnings...

I interviewed a guy about 10 months back who we've since hired. Having now worked with him on a project, I realize I should have listened to that little voice. Here's the email I sent to my architect after finishing the interview:

Interview went pretty well. He’s a nice guy and I think he’d fit in with the team really well. That said, I’ve got a reservation or two.

He wrote *the single strangest* factorial I’ve ever seen anyone write. Other than a couple of small bugs with it which I helped him see and work through, he had this...well, let me see if I can reproduce it:

public int factorial(int x) {
  int[] arr = new int[x];
  for (int y = x; y > 0; --y) {
    arr[y-1] = y;
  }

  int value = 1;
  for (int x; x > 0; --x) {
    value *= arr[x - 1];
  }

  return value;
}

I think that’s it, after we fixed his bugs. It took a while for me to get him to figure out he didn’t need that array. Afterward, we were talking and he said he tends to think of solutions to problems with loops and arrays and that’s just where his mind naturally gravitates. That is one big hammer he carries around and it concerns me.

He was open and listened clearly and didn’t *ever* get defensive about what he’d written, but it still gave me pause. He knows what he knows, wants to keep learning more, and would fit in great on a team. But...
Yeah. I should have paid more heed to that little voice.

19 November 2009



Very cool animation. Short and sweet.

Via

08 September 2009

When he says, "Study and you could be a doctor," is that "in-doctor-ating?"

We've been rewatching The West Wing because it's summer and there's not much on. This weekend, we watched episode 2.09 - "Galileo". In this episode, the President is preparing for a national classroom to discuss science and math in honor of the landing of the Mars probe Galileo. And even though the probe fails, Bartlett decides to go on with the electronic classroom anyway because we - and our children - can learn as much out of failure as success.

Being a smart writer - with some notable faults - Aaron Sorkin tried very hard to avoid painting Republicans and the right wing as villains. He also worked very hard not to write straw men. So this episode has no crazy wingers screaming and crying that the President is trying to indoctrinate their children. No one pressuring school boards to cancel the broadcast. No one pulling their children out of school to protect them from the President's message of hard work and education.

Because Sorkin wouldn't have wanted to be accused of creating outlandish, unrealistic, crazy characters just to make the right wing look insane. You know?

07 September 2009

Too Many Cooks, Week 5

Hey everyone, it’s Anaïs, bringing you the week 5 wrapup, and we’re getting close to the end of this cycle. How will our stories end? You’ll have to check in and see what the original authors of each story come up with.

  • Finkle, Out of Sorts I explored Finkle’s growing tensions at work as well as the antagonistic relationship with his mother, who appears to him in an especially insidious form. 
  • The Last Time I Saw Richard Matt learns about the ancient uses of perfumes and meets Richard’s lady Mary as he tries to figure out what has happened to his friend. 
  • The Letters of Rose Constance This week’s letter from Rose has a heartfelt plea for her beloved James to return home as soon as possible. Will he? The wrapup will tell us how it ends. 
  • Night Vision Gregory and Zoie finally make it to the hospital, growing closer as Zoie tries to hang on for medical attention. Will Zoie be okay? 
  • Limbs Akimbo Charlie’s story is going to take a major turn for the better. His parents set up his car so he can drive it again, with hand controls. Of course it won’t solve his issues or cure his PTSD or mend his broken heart, but it will be a start.

Too Many Cooks, Week 4

This is Maria, bringing you this week’s wrapup in which we are now closer to the end than the beginning. Of the story cycle, that is.

Finkle, Out of Sorts.  I explored our hero’s nightmare, which may or may not have included an appearance by Ursula the sea witch. And then there was a dramatic reversal in the fate of the crew of the Imperial Star Navy. Or was there? It’s in Anaïs’s hands now.

The Last Time I Saw Richard.  Anaïs got Richard talking and introduced a sinister and controlling new character. Will the narrator ever get the real story from Richard? And how will they extricate themselves from Roswell? Coyotesqrl will tell the tale.

The Letters of Rose Constance
.  Coyotesqrl’s letter took a fascinating turn. He explored Rose’s tragedy of sickness and loss, and fleshed out the character of Mrs. Dandry, who is more powerful and pivotal than first seemed. He close with a happy, warm memory. What will summer bring? Will James ever return? Only Oledoc knows.

Night Vision. Oledoc continued the story I started with a hilarious phone call, some Boy Scout antics and a comfortably silent ride to the hospital. He also treated us to several sweet moments between the young Zoie and Gregory. I can’t wait to see where Paulos takes the narrative next.

Limbs Akimbo
. Paulos painted a scene that was simultaneously beautiful and haunting, in which Charlie, helpless and detached, observes himself as if watching a play. Will he ever be able to release his pain and guilt? Can he shake off his impotence and reclaim some power, ease the brutal images in his mind and start down the road to forgiving himself? I’m not quite sure yet, but I’ll have it sorted out by Friday.

Week 5 promises to be fascinating, gut-wrenching, paranoid, delirious, hopeful and sweet. You won’t want to miss it.

22 August 2009

Too Many Cooks, Week 3

  • Finkle, Out of Sorts.  Last week I had to get someone out of an apartment.  This week I get someone inside one.  I briefly introduced a new character to provide a counterpoint to Alan’s depression.  I look forward to seeing where Maria takes this next week.
  • The Last Time I Saw Richard.  Maria develops the relationship between Richard and our narrator and sets the scene for what will no doubt prove to be an interesting conversation.  Is it just me or does anyone else think “just because you’re paranoid it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you?”  We shall see what Anaïs thinks.
  • The Letters of Rose Constance.  Anaïs - er - Snarkface continues this story of loss as we learn a little of Rose’s husband and of her sad past.  The tone fits well with what I had in mind when I began this story.  I wonder how it will end.
  • Night Vision.  Coyotesqrl brings us a lovely interplay between Gregory and Zoie, and ends with an “ooof” and an “ouch”!  The story will continue next week in Oledoc’s more than capable hands.
  • Limbs Akimbo.  Another great chapter: mother and son, flashbacks, tears.  How I’m expected to keep following up from Oldedoc is beyond me!  I shall do my best.
Tune in next week for more depresssion and mind-wandering, paranoia and friendship, sorrow and loss, broken bones and running, tears and blood.

15 August 2009

Too Many Cooks, Week 2

In keeping with our rotating writers theme, this wrapup was written by Jay, who is currently following me. Poor guy has to try to make sense of the insane scribblings I leave behind on each story!



And now it’s gotten interesting. The rotation has started, each author tackling the story of the person who posted before them, and trying to maintain a balance between continuing the original narrative and trying to bring something of one’s own to it. The results:
  • Finkle, Out Of Sorts: I (hopefully) gave us a slightly deeper look into our Mr. Finkle’s life, and added a little conflict to the story to boot. What will happen next? Paulos will have to tell us.
  • The Last Time I Saw Richard: Paulos did a great job of taking my story to the next stage, getting Richard and our nameless narrator out the door and to a very interesting place to have a drink. What happens next is up to Maria.
  • The Letters of Rose Constance: Maria’s follow-up deepened story and character, taking our most open-ended story and pointing it towards all sorts of interesting possibilities. Whose soldiers have come to the door? What happened to the children? Will Rose ever play the piano again? Anaïs has an interesting road ahead.
  • Night Vision: Anaïs’ nipple-hardening follow-up to Maria’s first chapter was a joy to read, and left us all wanting more. And she’s right: there is no kiss better than a kiss at 19. Coyotesqrl will have an interesting time following that kiss up next Thursday.
  • Limbs Akimbo: Coyotesqrl’s character work was great here, and built admirably on what Anaïs began, ending with a lovely moment between Charlie and his mother. I’m looking forward to seeing where this sparks my imagination over the coming week.
So we made it through week 2, and now week 3 lies ahead. Where will the stories go next? Is Roswell’s just another trendy New York night spot, or does it hold a deeper secret? What—if anything—lies beyond Alan Finkle’s front door? What secrets are Charlie and Rose hiding? Where will Zoie and Gregory’s running feet take them next? The answers lie in wait … but what they are, only the authors know …

09 August 2009

Um, buy my shirt?

I rehabilitated a snowclone a couple of weeks back. What? English. Can you speak English?

Sorry. I took an extremely cliché joke template and used it in a way that is fresh, doesn't appear to have ever been used before, and I believe is pretty damn funny. I liked this joke so much, I decided I wanted a t-shirt with the joke on it so I drew a (not very good) picture to go with it and designed a shirt at Zazzle.

Then I wondered, "Why should I be the only one sporting this fine design and joke? I shouldn't right?" Y'all are definitely going to want one, or maybe a coffee mug. Yeah. Anyway, take a look.

This most likely won't be the last thing I design to sell at Zazzle; it's just so damn easy and I amuse myself, if no one else.

Too Many Cooks

I've got *another* group writing blog going. This one's quite different from Sketch War and I would really appreciate it if y'all came on by and gave it a look. We've got five people writing and five stories going concurrently. This past week we started, each of us posting the first chapter - between 500 and 1000 words or so - of a story. One story for each weekday. This coming week, each of us rotates and writes chapter two of a different story. After five weeks, each of us will have written a chapter to five different short stories.

I expect we'll see a mix of ugly, awkward pieces that don't stitch together well and stories that become much better than the originator could have hoped. Regardless, I think it'll be interesting to watch. Either you see a trainwreck or a good story coming together, one chapter at a time. Here's the wrap up from the past week:

Five days and five stories started. I’m pretty pleased it all worked out, especially since we had to make some last minute schedule changes. But it will really start to get interesting this week coming up when we all switch to another person’s story.

  • “Finkle, Out of Sorts” came from me, and starts off the story of a Walter Mittyesque character. I particularly like the short scene I set in the restaurant. Oledoc will be following up this Monday.
  • “The Last Time I Saw Richard” was Oledoc’s entry on Tuesday. Paulos will be taking on the next chapter about an old friend who has fallen victim to extreme paranoid delusions. Or are they delusions?
  • “The Letters of Rose Constance” from Paulos looks to be an epistolary short story about a woman whose lover has left her. Maria will be following up this Wednesday and maybe we’ll see why he left.
  • “Night Vision” came from Maria and was our most popular story start. I think she did a great job of showing us Zoie’s personality through her actions and behavior; after the first three paragraphs, I had a very clear picture of her. Anaïs has some interesting choices to make for her followup on Thursday.
  • “Limbs Akimbo” was our final chapter on Friday. Anaïs’s story about a vet with a dark secret gives me a lot of exciting avenues to explore when I write chapter two for this coming Friday.
Will Maria’s fans come back to see how Anaïs follows up? Will Paulos delve into Richard’s psychosis or show us a massive conspiracy involving cologne? Will we hate or love where our writing partners take our stories? Yup. This is when it starts to get interesting.

500 Days of Summer review

Finally saw 500 Days of Summer today. Plenty of others have had their say - both good and bad - since the film opened but I have a few thoughts I'd like to share.

First off, let me establish up front that like any sentient straight man, I've got a crush on Zooey Deschanel. It's not even just her eyes. She's got an edge to her few ingenues possess. She'd mess you up in a bar fight if you weren't careful. The cynicism and frankness in her Summer are terrifically appealing qualities too rarely found in women. She doesn't want a relationship, doesn't believe in love, and doesn't believe in games. It's as though the tough female sidekick from a teen romcom grew up to be the star of a love story. Or, as is the case here, the traditional male and female personas were switched in a romcom.

Let me continue by saying I'm a huge JGL fan. In this role he's given room to breathe (a bit; it does tend to the emo end of the spectrum) and gives a nuanced and subtle performance. Contrasting Deschanel's manga-eyes, his are narrowed to slits throughout; nonetheless, he expresses a variety of emotions solely with his eyes. Oddly enough, I'm reminded of Clint Eastwood and the way he lets so much of his inner life show through infinitesimal variations in his squint.

In many of the two-shots, the camera subtly favors JGL over Deschanel, drawing the eye to him. (Or, I've got a secret man-crush of which I'm unaware.) This, more than the film's POV, makes the audience attempt to relate to him. Which is good, because in every other way the film's structure forces the audience to be less emotionally engaged in the story.

The too-clever third-person narration serves to separate the audience from Tom quite a bit and the time-jumping structure - with the end a given - pushes the audience even further back. I found myself watching with a far more critical and clinical eye than I normally would for a first viewing: breaking down the movie, each scene, noting editing choices, and paying close attention to the use of music (more on that in a moment.) I actually found myself bridging my fingers during most of the screening, so intellectually engaged was I. I suspect that wasn't the desire or intent of the filmmakers and isn't the reaction positive reviewers seem to have had.

I liked the movie but didn't love it. I found the willingness of the filmmakers to throw a lot of different ideas on the screen refreshing, a bit like watching a grown up version of a Savage Steve Holland movie.1 The time jumps allow for some good jokes and juxtapositions but also hide a fairly conventional story. And while they make some poignant moments really pop - the pair of Ikea scenes and the two views of the record store scene both come to mind - they mostly served to keep me at arms' length. I saw the movie as a puzzle to be put together more than a love story; that engaged my logical faculties far more than my emotional ones.

Mostly I found joy in the smaller things like the tiny shout-out to Ferris Bueller's Day Off in the musical number and the split screen party and the performances by all parties. Geoffrey Arend - clearly the manliest, most awesome man alive2 - and Matthew Gray Gubler were particularly good as Tom's best friends, providing perspectives that were more traditionally male without veering into caricature. Even Minka Kelly was good, something I've never said before. She had so few lines, it seemed their only purpose was to show how full her lips are.3

And now, the reason this movie is striking a chord with so many people: the soundtrack. Not the choice of songs, certainly. I'm frankly tired of hipster kids who are alleged to listen to the music of my youth. No, the star of this film is the score. I didn't try timing it, but it seemed the majority of music in the film was diegetic. There was an extremely spare score but - and this is the key - it was silent during all the significant moments. Instead of the constant stream of music cues we're inundated with in most features and TV shows, here nothing got between the actors and us.

That silence is powerful because it is so unusual in film yet common in life. More than anything else, the silence of the score highlights the reality of Tom's situation. Those few moments that break from reality - the dance sequence, the French film, the erasing of the world around Tom - are all scored, as are lighter moments in the film and most of the scene cuts. But when we're in the moment, almost nothing takes us out of it. This is where the film shines.

As a whole it is so-so. In each of those moments it is universal and profound.



1. Yes, you have. Better Off Dead, One Crazy Summer, and How I Got Into College. My love for SSH is deep and profound and while I love that he gave us Eek! The Cat after he stopped making movies, the Disney Channel portion of his career hurts me.
2. Those who know who his fianceé is already know this.
3. And to deliver a silly joke.
4. I'm a prick.

23 July 2009

AP Really doesn't understand copyright

Where’s your fucking "software" tracking my use now, bitch? And please notice I didn’t copy a single word or image from your site. I took a fucking picture of my own computer. Suck my cock.

Oh, but just because I’m a sweetheart who respects copyright - unlike you fuckers - I included a link to the original article.

11 July 2009

My Malaise

I haven't been writing much lately but that's of a piece with my general mien. I've been unmotivated and unproductive since December or January and going through the motions.

I wake, exhausted and drained, and drag my ass out of bed. Despite the CPAP I still feel worn down by sleep. (Or maybe it's because I usually stay up until two or three and get up at six.) I'd traditionally go to the gym when I get up at this hour but that would put me into the office around nine, keeping me there until long past my breaking point. I rush to the office so I can leave it sooner.

What's odd is that I don't hate my job. I don't like it, not one bit, but I don't hate it. This is my second go around working for this company and it's incredibly relaxed this time with precious little stress or drama. I don't interact with other business units much, have no crappy secondary responsibilities beyond backing up the build manager, and am not even mentoring anyone right now.[1] I work, take ample mental health breaks during the day for Twitter and Tumblr, go to lunch,[2] go home. Easy peasy.

Why do I hate it so?

Beyond doing work I don't enjoy - writing software is neither emotionally rewarding nor mentally stimulating - for a company I don't particularly like,[3] I realized a few weeks back I don't like anyone at work. I don't actively dislike anyone which is nice, but there is not one person on my team, in the rest of the department, or anywhere in the company I want to talk to or spend one minute more than necessary with. In 25 years in the work force, over 15 in software, I've never worked somewhere and not struck up at least one friendly relationship.

Most of those friendships are fleeting, blinking out of existence when the ties of a common job are severed. A few have lasted years. And of course there's TheWife, whom I met when we worked on opposite ends of the country for the same company.[4] But I don't have that now. I don't have a single connection, close or casual, at work and it's very draining.[5]

Then again, I don't really have any friends here in AZ that I see with any regularity. There are maybe a half-dozen people in the area I genuinely like and enjoy spending time with but very rarely see any of them. Which, beyond the obvious social isolation, means no tennis, no basketball, and no volleyball. So I haven't worked out regularly in months and haven't played any sports in something like three years. Do the math. It's not pretty. I'm out of shape and out of practice and haven't had the beneficial boost of exercise's neurochemical cocktail in months. And of course I've not had the bonding benefits of team play and competition in far longer.

Did I mention I don't like AZ at all?

Yeah there's that, too. We're stuck here for the foreseeable future in a house I can't find the energy or interest to maintain properly[6] in a place I just don't enjoy. For the first two years we had Suns season tickets, giving me a little local rooting interest, but the greed of R. Sarver and the incompetence of S. Kerr killed that for us.

Hell, I haven't eaten sushi in almost four years.[7]

On top of all this, I've almost given up on my dream job. I didn't realize it last fall, but my Pushing Daisies spec failing to crack even the semis of ABC-Disney[8] was like a J. Frazier left hook to the liver. Which body blow didn't put me on the canvas immediately but took the fight right out of me. I know the road is long and twisty and cratered but starting late as I am, I don't imagine having much success with the traditional route. Who wants a 41-year-old assistant getting them coffee and copying scripts? Also: with responsibilities and debts, how could this 41-year old even take a job like that if offered? No, the way in for me needs to be non-traditional and the Fellowship was one of my best hopes.

In December I stretched an old sketch out into a script for a short and submitted it to a few competitions. I continued writing reviews and sketches after that, but haven't taken any idea longer than a sketch beyond rough outline through the first half of 2009. I skipped ABC-Disney this year, rationalizing to myself that focusing on the YA novel I've been noodling these past few months instead of cranking out more specs might more effectively open a backdoor into a staff job. Eminently logical...if only I were actively working on the novel.

The ultimate sign that my malaise is worsening? I skipped Sketch War last week. Hell, if I don't manage to crank out a sketch tomorrow I'll have skipped two weeks running. A consistent, unbroken run that lasted for a year and a half, shot to hell because right now I'd rather stay up till all hours playing with my new drawing tablet than writing. And I love to write, especially the short stuff. Longer pieces can get wearing after the fourth or fifth draft, leaving just the joy of "having written," but sketches? That's like candy to me. And right now I can't find the drive and motivation to spend two short hours writing one.

I'm fucked.

Notes:

  1. They could use a great deal of mentoring; I'm thankfully hip deep in a long and critical project at the moment. I imagine I'll take one or two under my wing in a month or two.
  2. The hour a day I spend basking in the AZ sun - the only good thing about this godforsaken state - reading, and leisurely eating are my solace. I drag us out of the house for dinner far too often in a doomed attempt to recreate that state of bliss of a good lunch hour.
  3. If you know me well, you'll know where I work, what they do, and some or all the reasons I don't like them. There's nothing immoral or unethical about the business or its management; I simply don't care for them.
  4. She was just so funny and caustic and cute on the phone. I was a goner from go.
  5. I'm pretty sure this is why I've backed off my personal blog in favor of Tumblr. I've never been one to belong to online communities despite having made my share of friends online through the years. But now, the only people I feel a connection with while I'm at work are the ones I know online and some of the small circle I know on Tumblr.
  6. A year and a half after having a beautiful stained concrete floor installed through most of the house and I still haven't finished the baseboards. I'm lazy. I'm not that lazy.
  7. Yeah yeah. RA this and Hiro that. I tried sushi in AZ a few times and every time I got sick after. Why? Well, it could be because this is a mother-fucking land-locked state! Seriously, you don't eat raw fish that traveled six hours by truck through the desert. That's right up there with Harry Anderson's rules about eating at a place called Mom's or playing cards with a guy named Pops.
  8. Should it have? I certainly thought so; still do, obviously. Judge for yourselves.

05 July 2009

July 5, 1939

"Lou? You awake?"

Lou opened his eyes and squinted against the late afternoon sun, Eleanor's silhouette ebon against the azure sky.

"Yeah. Just enjoying the sun on my face."

"We should pack up, don't you think?"

"Let's lie here a bit longer."

"Okay."

Eleanor looked at Lou's face in repose. There were more laugh lines than she remembered, but he still looked so young. It wasn't fair.

"Hey Ellie? What I said yesterday? I was wrong." He squeezed her hand; his grip felt strong as ever. "Today. Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth."

20 June 2009

Taking to the Streets

I posted this originally on Tumblr in response to another poster who was excited to see the young people of Iran fighting to take their country back from 30 years of oppression and fundamentalism. I see that possibility too, but I can't really help but see that with three levels of observational bias in play. Besides, being a misanthrope and cynic means I don't buy into the hype of hope. Ever.
===
I agree that we’re seeing a lot of young people expressing their anger and resentment and desire for change. These brave souls - and I think they are nothing if not brave and a also little righteous - are risking life for the pursuit of liberty and happiness. I sit here, comfortable in my western lifestyle and struggling to remember how long it’s been since I felt the hot passion for justice burn so hot I needed to do something. Needed to march, scream, protest, fight. It’s been a long time.

But we’ve got a double dose of observational bias - actually a triple dose - acting here. First off, we’ve got our own prejudices coloring what we see. Then we’ve got the media choosing what to show us, framing their narratives in ways that are compelling and speak to their audience. Finally and most significantly, we only see the young people who are expressing their anger and resentment.

We don’t see any of the young people who think things have been hunky-dory under the mullahs, who think the regime is swell. Are they a small minority? Or are they, to repurpose a hideous moniker, a silent majority? We don’t know and really can’t know. We can’t know because Iran isn’t open. Which, depending on the answer, might be very ironic. If the protesters represent a relatively small and vocal minority, it would be in Iran’s best interests to show us that. But that would require them to be an open and free society. And who’d be protesting then?

15 June 2009

Sketch War: Pirates Wrapup

I’ve been lax the last few weeks in wrapping up the battles. But this week I was Shanghaied and conscripted to service aboard the ‘Bountiful Booty’. It’s write this wrapup or scrape the barnacles off Captain Jack’s peg leg.

I also recommend heading back through the archives and seeing the battles you may have missed since my last wrapup. Think about the great sketches you didn't see on the state of healthcare, liar liar, pants on fire, or my favorite: twisted children's shows.


If you thought pirates were interesting, wait until you see what the sketch warriors do with their kissing cousins: hippies.

If you think you’ve got the comedy chops to do battle with our scarred and bitter warriors, if you dare step into the hailstorm of seltzer and cream pies, if you think you’re MAN ENOUGH or WOMAN ENOUGH to make us laugh, write a sketch and contact us at submissions(nospam)@sketchwar.org.

14 June 2009

Reading is Funda--

13 June 2009

Mr. Anthrope

11 June 2009

Art History My Way

I've been lax around these parts lately, doing most of my small posts on Tumblr instead of here. It's a simpler, cleaner, quicker interface for short-form posts and other than sketches and TV reviews, that's mostly what I've been cranking out lately. Really short pieces, barely longer than what I might Tweet. If y'all aren't already following me over there, you should - either through Tumblr's follow mechanism if you've got an account or through the RSS feed.

But anyway...

I've been doing this series of pieces that I think are worth reposting here, so below are the first three. Hope you enjoy.


 
In September 1938, Mondrian left Paris in the face of advancing fascism and moved to London. After the Netherlands were invaded and Paris fell in 1940, he left London for New York City, where he would remain until 1970 when his agent, Ruben Kincaid, suggested he and his five children could find some success taking their painting act on the road.

Mondrian was the most accomplished artist of the group, but the contributions of his children should not be overlooked. His youngest daughter Tracy for example, while possessing none of the skills of her father or older siblings, was quite adept at stretching canvases and skins, even pioneering a technique for stretching animal skins across a ring-shaped frame called a tambourine. The eldest child, Keith Mondrian, eventually became a bigger draw than his famous father as young women flocked to see him paint in tight pants.

The Mondrians toured successfully for four years thanks to the shrewd decisions of Kincaid and middle child, Danny. Danny Mondrian’s later problems due to his violent temper and sexual proclivities have been attributed by many to his atypical teen-aged years, but no one can question the quality of art he produced during that period.

—Laurence Funderkirk, The Modern Dutch Masters (Weehawken: Bergen County Community College Press, 1997), 212.

 
The breakup of Ernst and Guggenheim sent shockwaves through the New York art world that would have repercussions for years to come. All throughout 1946, the question on everyone’s lips at cocktail parties and gallery shows was, “Are you Peggy or are you Max?” The factions that formed that spring and summer stood aligned against one another until decades past Ernst’s death at the hands of Czech Neo-Expressionists.
The tempestuous heiress brooked no quarter, destroying the futures of dozens of promising artists for no more than expressing sympathy for Ernst. However, for confidants such as Miró, Guggenheim showed even less mercy.

Blacklisted, the Spaniard was unable to find work through the 1940s and ’50s. Not until the mid ’60s did he finally secure a position working on background cels for Hanna-Barbera. While he worked under a pseudonym, astute observers on Guggenheim’s payroll did eventually spot his signature on a single frame and brought it to her attention in the autumn of 1971.

—Emily Rothschild-Messerschmitt, The Story of Miró (Batemans Bay, NSW: Eurobodalla Adult Education Centre Press, 1983), 669.

 
Recent scholarship by renowned art historian Al Jaffee has shed new light on Hieronymous Bosch’s masterpiece, The Garden of Earthly Delights. Focusing on the grisaille on the back of the panels, Jaffee has concluded that the famed triptych was conceived of as a pentaptych.

The Garden was recently on loan to the William Maxwell Gaines Gallery in midtown where Jaffee is employed as the chief archivist. He examined the panels under the gallery’s electron microscope and discovered evidence that a message was cleverly hidden, only visible when folded shut in the appropriate configuration.

“Without the missing panels, I couldn’t say what Bosch’s message was,” Jaffee said. “It’s enough to drive me mad.”

Even if Jaffee can deduce the missing message on the back of the panels, the larger question remains as to what graced their fronts.

“Knowing those panels are out there means we might be able to find them someday,” Jaffee mused over lukewarm coffee in his office. “I hope whatever’s to the right of hell is really raunchy.”

—A. E. Neuman, “Five Wooden Panels,” New York Times, May 7, 2009, Arts section.

21 May 2009

Greenbacks, white faces, old dead dudes.

Did you know I'm on Tumblr, too? It fills that niche between micro-blogging I get on Twitter and the full-fledged blogging I do here, or on one of my specialty sites. But sometimes, like with my weekly recaps of Sketch War, I feel a need to post in more than one place. Like this piece...


Indefensible is right. We’ve got slave owners on our currency. Sucks. But not all of the old dead white dudes were slave owners. So for those of you abroad, or those who went to school in California, Mississippi, or - well, most anywhere in America, unfortunately - here’s a primer on the dudes wot be pictured on our moolah.

Coins

  • 1¢ Freed the motherfuckin’ slaves.
  • 5¢ Screwed the motherfuckin’ slaves. Literally, I mean.
  • 10¢ Beat the shit outta Hitler.
  • 25¢ Owned slaves, but freed them on his death, so he’s got that goin’ for him.
  • 50¢ Screwed motherfuckin’ Marilyn Monroe.
  • $1 I have no idea who’s on the dollar coin right now. I don’t go to enough Indian casinos for it to matter.
Paper Currency
  • $1 Lost almost every single battle he commanded as a general. I mean, this guy’s record in futility is like the Cubs or Wile E. Coyote. Seriously. I’m not kidding. He was a bad field commander.
  • $2 Seriously? What are we two-years old and we’re getting these in a card from nana? More of the slave-fucker.
  • $5 Did I mention he freed the motherfuckin’ slaves? He also beat the shit out of the slave owners in the process.
  • $10 Bastard immigrant probably shouldn’t have deloped on the Heights of Weehawken.
  • $20 You see, there was this big block of cheese
  • $50 Right. That fellow up above who beat the shit out of the slave owners? This guy did the killin’. Beat those fuckers right back into the stone-age, or as we Yankees call it, “Georgia”.
  • $100 Flew a motherfuckin’ kite. Also, fought a bitter battle to abolish slavery at the founding of the union.

20 May 2009

Mr. Wizard on Knees

Emily asks...

What would chairs look like if our knees bent the other way?

Also

Do penguins have knees?
The latter question is the easier of the patella-oriented queries, so let me answer it with the following diagram:

Now while it may not be clear in this picture, there is in fact a femur on the upper half of the lower limb. This should come as no shock as we share a common ancestor with penguins (though we'd have to go back a *really* long way to find that common ancestor.)

So yes, Emily, there is a knee. It is the joint between the femur and tibiotarsus/fibular pair.

Now as to your second question, that one's a bit of a puzzler. It's difficult to imagine a successful biped with a knee that bent in the other direction, as locomotion would be difficult at best, making it easy prey for animals with unhindered knees. However, if we assume all animals shared that odd joint, there would be no relative disadvantage to an organism with that structure. So let's assume that's the case, and somehow locomotion works with lower limbs that rotate in the same direction at both the first and second joints.

In that case, it seems that some variation of a Swedish kneeling chair would work best.

Just as the kneeling chair directs most of the downward force of the body along the length of the femur, our hypothetical reverse-kneed people would sit in a similar fashion, but the lower halves of their legs would extend out and up with a slight bend.

Ask Mr. Wizard Wednesday

There is NO question I can't answer.

Of course, not all my answers are serious or useful, but that's a risk you run with a wizard.

Questions about me, advice for the lovelorn, software questions, writing questions, questions about the annual cinnamon harvest in Sumatra...ask 'em and I'll answer 'em. I make no guarantees of the quality, veracity, or utility of the answers, but you'll get *something* either useful or funny.

Ask your questions in comments and I'll be posting your answers through the following days. This will keep you coming back and keep me more actively engaged over here. See? We *all* win.

15 May 2009

Interviews That Never Aired Wrapup

With cable, satellite, and millions of websites streaming content, 24/7/52/7/71 straight into our brains2 you’d think we’d be hard-pressed to find any interviews that hadn’t filled up *someone’s* empty airtime. I mean, have you *seen* the crap on FOX and CNN?

But succeed we did, three times over. These interviews have been in the vaults, in one case for millenia, and unseen by the public until this week. Aren’t you lucky!

We’ve got friends, Romans, and quarterbacks this week. Take a look and don’t forget to send your friends on by. We’re always open.

Next week’s cue promises to be explosive. Be sure to come back around when the sketch warriors take on, The State of Healthcare.

If you think you’ve got the comedy chops to do battle with our scarred and bitter warriors, if you dare step into the hailstorm of seltzer and cream pies, if you think you’re MAN ENOUGH or WOMAN ENOUGH to make us laugh, write a sketch and contact us at submissions(nospam)@sketchwar.org.


  1. That’s 24 hours in a day, by seven days in a week, by 52 weeks in a year, by seven years between sabbaticals, by seven sabbatical cycles in a jubilee. I mean, we’ve got a LOT of content. []
  2. The aluminum foil hat doesn’t go with my shoes. []

12 May 2009

If JJ can do it with Star Trek...

Owing to the runaway success of the Star Trek reboot, I'm going to start on my script for a reboot of Star Wars. Someday, George'll finally be dead and gone and we can sully his reputation for him, instead of him doing it himself. I thought I'd give you a little taste of my reboot right here, though.

===

Everything goes sideways when a traveler from the future replaces the Emperor's coffee with Folger's Crystals. Turns out the Sith *can* tell the difference. So Palpatine puts on his cranky pants one morning thanks to this time traveler and rips Vader a new one. He tells Vader he'd better step up the work on the Death Star or else.

So Vader cracks the whip, the Death Star gets finished six weeks ahead of schedule, and that causes ripples in the time stream.

Suffice it to say, with Han dead (he shot first, but his blaster malfunctioned) and Luke too busy raking in the credits through water profiteering, it's going to be tough to get the old gang back together again. But we will!

09 May 2009

Sketchwar Mother's Day Wrapup

With a topic as rich and pregnant with possibilities as this, I’d hoped the warriors would have come from far and wide to toss their humor grenades into the ring. Then I remembered not *every* comedy writer has a Jewish mother. While being chosen isn’t a requirement for being funny1 and is certainly no predictor for comic ability,2 it does give us an edge in writing funny stuff about mothers.
I mean, with my goyim friends, what can they do? Make fun of sandwiches made with mayonnaise and white bread? Mock index funds? Mine comedy out of minivans?
So we had a short week, but three excellent entries:

Blow up sex dolls, truffle canapés, killer robots and disappointed mothers vie for your affection this week. Won’t you be a good boy or girl and just come by and say a little hello to your dear old sketch about mom? And would it kill you to tell your friends? Maybe while you get a haircut; you look a little shaggy.
Next week our sketch warriors will battle on the cue: Interviews That Never Aired.
If you think you’ve got the comedy chops to do battle with our scarred and bitter warriors, if you dare step into the hailstorm of seltzer and cream pies, if you think you’re MAN ENOUGH or WOMAN ENOUGH to make us laugh, write a sketch and contact us at submissions(nospam)@sketchwar.org.

  1. Richard Pryor: non-Jew. []
  2. Howie Mandel: Jew. []

28 April 2009

Radio Serials Wrapup

Oops! Very late, sorry. I’ve had my nose buried in “Anathem” for the past few days, every moment I’m not working or sleeping, so I kinda let this slip. A bit. Again, sorry.

Anyway…

This week’s battle (normally I’d say next week there, you notice?) is Odd Sporting Events.

If you think you’ve got the comedy chops to do battle with our scarred and bitter warriors, if you dare step into the hailstorm of seltzer and cream pies, if you think you’re MAN ENOUGH or WOMAN ENOUGH to make us laugh, write a sketch and contact us at submissions(nospam)@sketchwar.org.

22 April 2009

Why I don't watch CHUCK

  • Watched the pilot and wasn’t taken by it. I thought it was okay, but nothing special. I’ve heard it’s better now, but my first impression stuck.
  • More significantly, the great geek love for Yvonne Strahovski? I don’t get it. She’s pretty enough, whatever. Seemed to be able to read her lines without crossing her eyes and with only a trace of weirdness to her accent. Meh.
  • I’ve already got TV on Monday nights and didn’t want to add more. Could I have recorded Chuck and watched later? Sure. But I have other things to do as well and see my points above.
  • Whereas I was indifferent to the pilot, TheWife actively disliked it. We really try to minimize the number of shows only one of us watches as it leads to scheduling conflicts. We’re each willing to watch a show about which we’re indifferent (or, let it be white noise as we surf the web) if the other enjoys it; not so much with the active dislike.
I’m sure the show is better than its pilot. Most shows are. But…I didn’t like the pilot and all the critics who insist the show is better now did. So…better enough? For me? Possibly, but I don’t care enough to find out.

Maybe when it’s run is complete I’ll get the DVDs from Netflix and realize what I missed. Or I’ll watch a rerun of How I Met Your Mother instead.

21 April 2009

Angel or Demon?

"This war has gone on far too long."

Kai-ying nodded. "What can I get for you?"

"Angel, please."

Who was the first person to eat an oyster? Was it on a dare?

"You'd think someone would at least pick up the corpses. Getting so you can't walk down the street without tripping over a broken wing or cracked halo."

"At least they don't smell bad."

"Yeah. Kinda like cinnamon. Heh. Should juice 'em. Sell 'em like lattes."

"Yeah, Ben. You let me know how that works."

Kai-ying smiled as she took the woman's money in exchange for the frothing cup.

17 April 2009

Sketch War: The Taxman Cometh

It looks like a few of our warriors got caught up having tea or standing in line at the Post Office this week. Either way, only three of us entered the ring. Fortunately (or un-, depending on your opinion) I stretched my entry into a four-part runner when I decided I hadn’t ended the first part strongly enough. So from three battlers: six sketches.

I wish we’d seen a few more takes on the topic, but maybe talking about taxes the same week they were due was too much to bear. Next week we’ll be closing our eyes and increasing our consumption of Ovaltine as we roll out sketches on the theme of Old-Time Radio Serials. As a side note, we could use some more sketch topics, so if you’ve got something you’d like to see us tackle, leave it in a comment.

If you think you’ve got the comedy chops to do battle with our scarred and bitter warriors, if you dare step into the hailstorm of seltzer and cream pies, if you think you’re MAN ENOUGH or WOMAN ENOUGH to make us laugh, write a sketch and contact us at submissions(nospam)@sketchwar.org.

15 April 2009

Ask Mr. Wizard Wednesday

While the kids are crumpin' and humpin', we all be up in here askin' and answerin'. Tha's right, boyee...it's Wizard Wednesday.

Questions about me, advice for the lovelorn, software questions, writing questions, questions about the annual cinnamon harvest in Sumatra...ask 'em and I'll answer 'em. I make no guarantees of the quality, veracity, or utility of the answers, but you'll get *something* either useful or funny.

Ask your questions in comments and I'll be posting your answers through the following days. This will keep you coming back and keep me more actively engaged over here. See? We *all* win.

13 April 2009

I don't like improv

There. I’ve said it. Feels good to get that off my chest after all these years. All these years of pretending to be a fan, of making excuses for why I can’t make someone’s improv show, of feigning interest in watching people exercise.

Look, I’ve done my share of improv. It’s important to any actor honing his craft to learn to be agile and quick-witted on stage. You never know when someone’s going to go off book. Hell, it might be you, losing your place and forgetting your lines. Though I haven’t trod boards for years, I’m still blasted awake by the actor’s nightmare once or twice a year: it’s my cue to go on and I have not idea what play we’re doing or what my lines are.

Improv can save you. Once, my fellow actors and I - *six* of us - all simultaneously forgot our place in a party scene. I have no idea how or why, but we knew our characters and were able to vamp our way back to solid ground. And it can do much more. It can teach you how to quickly establish character and setting to an audience. To the non-Method amongst us, that can be important.

So if improv is useful to learn, important to practice, and can save your ass on stage, why don’t I like it?

Well, doing squats is essential to a point guard but I’m not going to pay money to watch Steve Nash do a lower body workout for two hours. Improv’s the same to me: a series of exercises that improve one’s ability to perform. They’re part of the road, not the destination.

So, no. Unless I’m thinking about casting you in something, we’re very close, or I owe you, I’m not going to your improv show.

Sketch War: Silent Scene Wrapup

Sorry. That’s all I’ve got to say about this past week’s topic. We tried, I swear.

Really, we’re all sorry. But the next battle…that should be…oh hell. It’ll be better than silent even if it’s not good. I promise that. This week: The Taxman Cometh.

If you think you’ve got the comedy chops to do battle with our scarred and bitter warriors, if you dare step into the hailstorm of seltzer and cream pies, if you think you’re MAN ENOUGH or WOMAN ENOUGH to make us laugh, write a sketch and contact us at submissions(nospam)@sketchwar.org.

Since we haven’t been getting many votes on the polls (and since this battle was so painful,) I’m not putting up a poll this week. Let me know in comments if I should bother to bring that back next week and if y’all plan on voting. What’s truly sad is we weren’t even getting a vote from every *competitor*. That’s not a good sign.

Mr. Wizard on Falling for Assholes

Longtime friend of the blog Angela asks...

Okay Mr. Wizard...why do I keep falling for assholes? It's a terrible pattern and I don't seem to learn from my mistakes. Should I see a shrink?
Short answer: yes. Long answer: you probably don't need to spend your time on a therapist's couch, especially as it might lead to *time on a therapist's couch* if you pick as poorly there as you have on the personal front of late.

I think the first and most important thing to do is commit yourself to trusting the input and judgment of your friends. If you know you're making the same sorts of mistakes over and over and falling for men who exhibit similar traits, you need - as you're full aware - to stop doing that. The problem - of which you're also full aware - is that the rush of neurotransmitters at the start of the pas de deux are blinding you. With cool head and cynical heart you could easily judge these men for the assholes they are, but with their twinkling eyes, wry grins, and manly musk you turn to mush.

Right?

So you need to hand some of your relationship authority to someone else. Like hiring an investment advisor to help us make cool, rational decisions with our money,* you need a relationship advisor. Someone in whom you have trust and confidence. Someone who can better judge whether the new guy's an asshole.

But you have to *listen*.


* I know this analogy isn't what it used to be. Just try to think about investors who aren't looking to loot you and your grandmama, too.

08 April 2009

Ask Mr. Wizard Wednesday

What's that the kids across the land are yelling? That's right...it's Time for Mr. Wizard!

Questions about me, advice for the lovelorn, software questions, writing questions, questions about the annual cinnamon harvest in Sumatra...ask 'em and I'll answer 'em. I make no guarantees of the quality, veracity, or utility of the answers, but you'll get *something* either useful or funny.

Ask your questions in comments and I'll be posting your answers through the following days. This will keep you coming back and keep me more actively engaged over here. See? We *all* win.

05 April 2009

Nickelback's Biggest Fans

I'm such a prick sometimes.* Monday's prompt at 100 Word Stories was a lyric from a Nickelback song. So...

Pink shirts. Popped collars. Faux hawks. Chad, Rick, and Other Chad looked like page 63 of the Abercrombie catalog strutting through the door. Other Chad surveyed the room over the top of his Revos.

Sidling to the bar, Rick barked, "Three Johnny Walker Blues."

The bartender opened his mouth, then reconsidered. He poured three from the bottom shelf. "That'll be ninety."

Rick floated a hundy to the bar. "Keep it."

Hours later, his brahs collapsed in pools of their own vomit, Other Chad swayed to Nickelback, one hand on the jukebox for balance. The bartender wiped down and muttered, "Douchebags."


* For very large values of "sometimes".

04 April 2009

CSI: Anywhere Wrapup

Damn Horatio Caine and his concern about cataracts!

Depending on how you want to count Ken’s brilliant four-part runner, this was either a banner week for us with eight sketches, or an average week with five. I think for voting and wrapup purposes we’ll call it five.
So what did the sketch warriors bring to this weeks topic?

Next week’s topic should provide an interesting challenge to our loquacious band of warriors: Silent Scenes.

If you think you’ve got the comedy chops to do battle with our scarred and bitter warriors, if you dare step into the hailstorm of seltzer and cream pies, if you think you’re MAN ENOUGH or WOMAN ENOUGH to make us laugh, write a sketch and contact us at submissions(nospam)@sketchwar.org.

01 April 2009

Ask Mr. Wizard Wednesday

The Internet's favorite way to while a Wednesday is here. One quick guarantee: my answers might be snarky, but they won't be altered by the fact today is April Fool's. I have grown to loathe April 1st. Probably only a short trip to eating the blue plate special, but it's a fact.

Anyway...

Questions about me, advice for the lovelorn, software questions, writing questions, questions about the annual cinnamon harvest in Sumatra...ask 'em and I'll answer 'em. I make no guarantees of the quality, veracity, or utility of the answers, but you'll get *something* either useful or funny.

Ask your questions in comments and I'll be posting your answers through the following days. This will keep you coming back and keep me more actively engaged over here. See? We *all* win.

28 March 2009

Sketch War: March Madness

Whoops! Not only did this week’s topic bring us our fewest sketches in several weeks, but…um…this was not our best week. And that’s, o-kay. There were a few chuckles though, so let’s get to them.

Next week’s topic is CSI: Anywhere. Expect a lot of sunglasses and oneliners. And don’t forget to vote on your favorite sketch from this week.

27 March 2009

Frozen by Memory

Jacob stepped onto the platform into the wall of stifling air and commuters. He knifed through the crush, using his shoulders like wedges, and ran through his mental checklist. Seven months and no nibbles; a lot was resting on this interview. He focused on the exit. Then, as if yanked by a string, Jacob's head spun left.

Mental checklists, rent, medical bills: they all flew from his head, replaced by Erica.

Erica. Months after the breakup, he still clutched her pillow to his face, breathing ghost traces of her perfume as he drifted to sleep. He wouldn't be interviewing today.

24 March 2009

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

"Whoa, whoa! Where you headed, partner?"

Felix froze on the spot and slowly turned to face the voice. His combover flopped wrongways, grazing his left shoulder instead of covering his shiny, sweaty pate. He was out of breath and out of time, a hundred yards from the gate and freedom.

Black shirt, black jeans, black boots, and mirrored sunglasses towered over him. He could hear the fabric straining to contain the bulging muscles on the guard. His voice boomed like dynamite in the hills.

"Mitzi played; now you gotta pay. There ain't no bonin' and boltin' at the Bunny Ranch."

23 March 2009

Why do you wear that mask?

The girl practically skipped inside, her basket cutting huge arcs through the air. "Grandmama? Where are you?"

"Back here, dear."

Grandmama had been sick awhile and the girl made a sort of frowny-smirky face. Then she remembered what her mama had said and put on a big smile and walked to the bedroom.

"Come closer, so I can see you better."

"What's that over your mouth?"

"A mask."

The girl had seen sick people wear masks like that before. She knew it must be bad. She leaned in to kiss her grandmother.

"The better to hide my teeth, my dear!"

22 March 2009

BSG Finale thoughts

I had a few things - 3000 words or so - to say about the BSG finale over at DreamLoom. If you care, you should take a look.

But for me what BSG meant is something different. I felt when watching, particularly when watching the long goodbyes, absorbed in a sweeping epic. Characters I cared about and had traveled with for half a decade fought, drank, screwed, cursed, fraked up, lived, and died. As the final hour was unwinding, especially the last 30 minutes, I wanted it to last longer.

Against all rules of narrative, I wanted to know I could come back next week and watch BSG: Little House on the Prairie, where Baltar and Caprica build themselves a log cabin. I wanted to know I could watch BSG: The Highlander, where Galen Tyrol started speaking with a French accent, wearing a kilt, and running around saying, “there can be only one.” I wanted to watch Hera grow up, learning to hunt and farm and build a house from her human daddy and Cylon mommy. I wanted to watch Michael Hogan and his amazing acting eye as Saul Tigh taught the protohumans all about fermentation and distillation. Each week a new delicious alcoholic beverage could be discovered.

Damn it, I wanted Kara and Lee to have a happy ending.
Read the whole thing here.

21 March 2009

SNL Character Wrapup

I hope you all enjoyed following along this week as much as we enjoyed bringing these characters to life. In some ways, this was a really tough prompt, but I think everyone managed to bring their A game this week.
Nine sketches (thanks to a double bonus from Ken whose initial trepidation hid a torrent of creativity) and not a single Hans und Franz amongst them. Thank god.

We hit most of the eras of SNL: the classic ’70s, the Billy Crystal years, the Phil Hartman years, and even today. I’m very impressed by the breadth brought to bear this week.

And please be sure to vote for your favorite sketches here.

17 March 2009

Maybe this will work...


Last Words
The El Camino sputtered out in the driveway. Jethro and Tyrone hightailed it to the door.

"You sure ain't nobody home?"

"I'm tellin' you, they left for Disney World Friday and ain't comin' back till weekend."

Tyrone found the Hide-a-Key in a fake rock. "No alarm?" asked Jethro.

"Nope."

Tyrone reached for a switch; Jethro batted his hand away. "Can't risk a neighbor gettin' nosy."

"What's stinks? Rotten eggs?"

"Gas?"

Jethro rolled his eyes. "Gas don't smell. Don't you know nothin'?"

"Well, I don't wanna step in whatever's makin' that reek."

Tyrone pulled out his lighter.

"Maybe this will work..."

16 March 2009

Time Travel Wrapup

Oy. I’m getting worse, not better! This time, four sketches have been posted before I got around to the wrapup for last week. I think I need to be a bit more proactive about these!

Seven sketches and one not-a-sketch from Dave rounded out last week’s battle.
Next week our brave sketch warriors will be back writing sketches for SNL Characters. (Of course when I say “next week”, I mean right now. Check them out. There’s some good opening salvos.)
And remember, if you think you’ve got the comedy chops to do battle with our scarred and bitter warriors, if you dare step into the hailstorm of seltzer and cream pies, if you think you’re MAN ENOUGH or WOMAN ENOUGH to make us laugh, write a sketch and contact us at submissions(nospam)@sketchwar.org.

Emerald, Leprechaun, Lucky

Julie Gray ran another of her periodic short scene competitions this past week and the three finalists are up now for voting. Mine didn't make the cut, again. It's been months since my sole victory and feels like it'll be a long time coming before I even make the cut again. Oh well.

I don't like to waste anything I write, so here ya go.

INT. STUDIO APARTMENT - NIGHT

WALTER stews on the ratty couch. A bitter leprechaun on the wrong side of 40, all ginger and freckles, pores oozing cheap beer. His dingy T-shirt of a piece with the squalid room.

WALTER

Your brother came by the garage.

EILEEN (O.S.)

What did he want?

WALTER

What does he ever want? Money.

An off-screen FLUSH.

WALTER (CONT’D)

Gave him a twenty and an alcohol wipe. Told him to say hi to the Wizard when he got to the Emerald City.

EILEEN enters. In bra and panties, her body belies her age. Rapidly approaching 40, her stomach bears no stretch marks.

EILEEN

You’re a prick.

WALTER

You think this time was different?

Eileen closes the single, grimy window.

EILEEN

It’s cold in here.

WALTER

Maybe if you didn’t parade around like a whore all the--

Eileen flies at Walter and cracks him across the face.

EILEEN

Maybe if you could get it up like a real man I wouldn’t dress this way.

Walter clomps to the door and slinks into a leather jacket.

WALTER

I’m going drinking. Don’t wait up.

He slams the door. Eileen collapses, sobbing.

14 March 2009

Obama Misunderstands Definition of "Transparent"

I voted for the guy knowing what to expect: a typical Chicago machine pol. I'm pissed about this, but not surprised. Business as usual in DC.

The White House this week declared (.pdf) the text of the proposed treaty a "properly classified" national security secret, in rejecting a Freedom of Information Act request by Knowledge Ecology International.
But people shouldn't get too upset over it. I mean, the Clydesdales at Budweiser get to take a shit on the document to grant it their approval.

I would feel worse for the Obamamaniacs who put their life on hold and worked on his campaign. But sadly, I think they've already drunk so much of the Kool-Aid they'll be able to spin this in their sleep. I mean after all, if Obama *says* it's for national security, it *must* be for national security. He's so smart and super-cute, he'll protect us.

11 March 2009

100 Word Stories

A Twitter friend writes for a site, 100 Word Stories, where each contributor crafts a 100-word story on daily prompts. Y'all know I like *short*, so here are some pieces I've written in reaction to the prompts from the past two days:

What makes this garden unique?
The roses glisten with morning dew. The old woman tends them diligently, rising each day with the sun to unkink and unbend and fight rigor nocturnis.

Franny watches from her bus stop. Despite her mother's warnings, she is drawn to the roses that throb red and orange and lavender.

The old woman has prepared the rich brown earth, soil spilling gently into the fresh hole. All that waits is the blade, sharp and slender, to cut the beating heart from Franny's chest.

The roses glisten with morning dew. Today a new bush grows, flowers pink like a young girl's lips.

* * *
If I only had a...
Gale opened her eyes and watched the room spin. Since the apocalypse she'd gotten better at mixing pharma and this was her best mashup yet.

Mr. T was jittery. The Akita's muscles bunched as he paced. Gale's aunt still slept, unaware of her technicolor trip.

Strong winds rocked the house on its foundations, threatening to pull it free. The door flew open and a ragged man-shaped creature stumbled in.

"If I only had a BRAIN!"

Gale's gun blazed; the zombie's head splattered.

"Goddamn it, Gale! Lay off the junk before you get us both killed."

Guess Auntie Em was awake.

Mr. Wizard on Watchmen

Very old friend Michele asks...

What did you think of Watchmen? You had so much about it beforehand yet nada about your opinion. So unlike you not to voice an opinion. *grin*
Well, I contributed to its box office take on Sunday, with two tickets I bought for me and TheWife. But did I mention the various flus, sinus infections, and bouts of food poisoning running through Casa Wizard? No? Aha. You see, tickets were NOT used; Mr. Wizard has NOT seen Watchmen.

I'd feel really bad about this, but...
  • Malin Akerman is hot, but from trailers seems to be an even worse actress than Eliza Dushku
  • Matthew Goode is, um, nothing like Robert Redford, on whom Ozymandias was modeled. He looks like the sort of boy/man who is appealing to pre-teen girls and heroin addicts. Plus that constant smirk on his face? Like he ripped a fart and got away with it?
  • I accidentally downloaded some Smurf porn last week, so I've had my fill of Blue Penis for the nonce.
I will get around to seeing it, either in its run on an IMax screen or when it comes out on DVD. As much as I waited and watched and hoped, my expectations shrank asymptotically as we approached opening day.

10 March 2009

Ask Mr. Wizard Wednesday

Mr. Wizard was feeling a little poorly last week and stayed in bed. But now it's a new week, his intestines are intesting, and he's ready to go. So...

Questions about me, advice for the lovelorn, software questions, writing questions, questions about the annual cinnamon harvest in Sumatra...ask 'em and I'll answer 'em. I make no guarantees of the quality, veracity, or utility of the answers, but you'll get *something* either useful or funny.

Ask your questions in comments and I'll be posting your answers through the following days. This will keep you coming back and keep me more actively engaged over here. See? We *all* win.

08 March 2009

Sketch War: Game Show

How slow am I? Peter got his analysis commentary up before I got my wrapup done. Oh well. At least I beat the first sketch this week.

SEVEN sketches this week on the topic at hand. Some very good stuff.

Next week our brave sketch warriors will be back on the prompt of time travel.

And remember, if you think you’ve got the comedy chops to do battle with our scarred and bitter warriors, if you dare step into the hailstorm of seltzer and cream pies, if you think you’re MAN ENOUGH or WOMAN ENOUGH to make us laugh, write a sketch and contact us at submissions(nospam)@sketchwar.org.

02 March 2009

All Grown Up

Via...

01 March 2009

Sketch War: Social Networking

Six men Five men and one ¡woman! entered the battle last week and delivered some very funny and unique takes on social networking. Let’s have a look.

Next week our brave sketch warriors will be back (DNW has already posted, letting you know how late this is) on the prompt game show.

And remember, if you think you’ve got the comedy chops to do battle with our scarred and bitter warriors, if you dare step into the hailstorm of seltzer and cream pies, if you think you’re MAN ENOUGH or WOMAN ENOUGH to make us laugh, write a sketch and contact us at submissions(nospam)@sketchwar.org.

27 February 2009

Mr. Wizard on Movers and Shakers

Steve Gimbel asks...

Who wins: the movers or the shakers?

At first blush it seems the movers should win. They're big and strong from hauling furniture in their big rigs. They can hurl and swat like Casey.

But the shakers have a secret weapon. From their years of making this...


They certainly have no problem making this...
 
By a score of 3-1, the shakers win in the bottom of the ninth.

Mr. Wizard on Hibernating

sme asks...

For some reason my computer won't go into sleep mode unless Internet Explorer is open. Any ideas why? Is this weird? Why does my computer favor the crappy web browser? I use Windows XP. However, my boyfriend has installed a shitload of programs that he uses for poker and I feel like one of them may be the culprit. He's put in Poker Tracker and something called Team Viewer and then there's Skype. He uses the last two so other people can watch him play. I don't know anything about it, but I think it was after he started using them that the computer wouldn't go to sleep.
I'm not familiar with the poker tracking software you have installed (and I don't want to go too deeply into it because I suspect it might violate the ToS for whichever online poker sites you frequent) but I don't think that's your problem. I think Team Viewer is hanging you up. Before trying to put your computer to sleep, make sure you've disabled or turned off Team Viewer. I'm going to guess that'll resolve it.

Richard Hatch's BSG Trailer


There's video above, FeedReader, HT Galactica Sitrep.

I was always curious what this trailer looked like. Back about a decade ago, Richard Hatch spent his own money trying to bring back BSG and produced this trailer. It got shown at a few cons, as I recall. Interestingly enough, I think it's about halfway between the camp of the original and the dark tragedy we have now.

24 February 2009

Ask Mr. Wizard Wednesday

Everyone's favorite day of the week (other than Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and payday) is here: Wizard Wednesday.

Questions about me, advice for the lovelorn, software questions, writing questions, questions about the annual cinnamon harvest in Sumatra...ask 'em and I'll answer 'em. I make no guarantees of the quality, veracity, or utility of the answers, but you'll get *something* either useful or funny.

Ask your questions in comments and I'll be posting your answers through the following days. This will keep you coming back and keep me more actively engaged over here. See? We *all* win.

22 February 2009

Three Faces of Steve

For your regular fix of humor, don't forget to check in at Sketch War. But for my regular readers, here's something newish. A short I wrote last fall. Enjoy. Three Faces of Steve

21 February 2009

The True Purpose of the Internet

I used to think it was porn. Don't get me wrong, porn is awesome, but that's not why the Internet came into being. Nope. Not porn. Not online shopping. Not even the sites dedicated to the ranking of various women's body parts or the posting of photos of ridiculously drunk women making out.

Nope.

Here it is.

There's video below, FeedReader.

20 February 2009

Sketch War: Fry and Spiner

Another good week for us here. Six men entered and brought forth six great sketches designed to star Stephen Fry and Brent Spiner. Why? Because the thespians had Twitter all aflurry last week as they discussed the possibility of working together. We thought we’d toss our ideas out for the fun of it.

Oh, and we launched at our new home! Let us know what you think.

Next week your six brave warriors will be back with sketches on the prompt social networking. And there are rumors we might have some a couple new warriors of a more Amazonian nature. So be sure to bookmark, subscribe, and tell all your friends.

And remember, if you think you’ve got the comedy chops to do battle with our scarred and bitter warriors, if you dare step into the hailstorm of seltzer and cream pies, if you think you’re MAN ENOUGH or WOMAN ENOUGH to make us laugh, write a sketch and contact us at sketchwar(nospam)@sketchwar.org.

18 February 2009

Mr. Wizard on wholegrain

2old4this asks...

It's generally known that refined carbs, such as flour, are big no-no's for people on a high protien diet. Heck, it's generally known that they're just bad period!

But just how much processing results in a "refined" product? For example, oatmeal is just sliced oats as far as I can tell, so would that be OK since it's whole grain? Or is just the slicing enough processing to make it "refined?"

What about stuff like Ezekiel bread? It's even more "processed" but still called "whole grain."

Where's the line that separates just enough processing and too much processing?
If y'all have seen Mr. Wizard, you know he *knows* food. Intimately and often. So he truly appreciates these food questions. Keep 'em coming, and if you'd like, send along some cupcakes too.

When it comes to grain products, the key is the bran. The more refined the grain, the less remains of the coarse outer shell of the grain. Take a look at this cross section of a wheat kernel (click to embiggen:)

Refining takes away the outer layers of the kernel. That big white section that just *looks* like it's going to make you fat? The endosperm? If you refine your wheat all the way down to white flour, that's what you'll get. The rest will remain behind in the grist mill. The starch and protein - gluten, primarily - make great breads, cakes, and pastries - but they provide little in the way of fiber.

Leaving some of the bran coat leads to a coarser flour that leads to a larger and drier crumb in breads, but it is certainly healthier.

Your gut is right when it comes to oatmeal (if you can take the time to cook steelcut oats instead of rolled ones you'll appreciate the texture and taste quite a bit more.) Oatmeal is basically the whole grain. Oat flour can be processed from it, but it has limited use as it doesn't form as complex a crystalline structure when worked because it lacks gluten.

The biggest problem with having too many refined grains in your diet is that you get your calories too cheaply. The second big problem is that without enough soluble fiber you run the risk of GI problems.

And here comes the boilerplate advice: The Wizard recommends a balanced diet where the larger proportion of your complex carbohydrates come from whole grains; however, he also says it's a-ok to have that canoli once in awhile.