Archive for September, 2007

It’s early in the morning. I haven’t brought main power online yet, and the work patrol has yet to start. The coffee activator is only just manufacturing the reactor propellant that will kick-start my weary bones. Oh, crud! Trash day! That sound of machinery on the slow-monster march is the sanitation engineers tractor-beaming the week’s rubbish and conspicuous consumption for donation to the landfills for our future descendants to raid. I manage to do an emergency beam-out, flip flops in place of my shoes of doom, so maneuvers are at half impulse power. With seconds to spare, trash pick-up accomplished. I gather my handful of experience points and get back to business.

I’m closing the front door, when I see a fox casually walk out of the greenery across the street and head right for the place everyone puts their garbage. He sniffs the spot where the garbage was a minute ago, and I realize this scavenger does this as a regular circuit. The fox is just running late today, like me. The fox realizes someone is watching and looks up, spotting me. That fox kicks in the thrusters and walks on to the next waypoint, disappearing into the greenery ahead.

Now, I admit, I’m not exactly living in a concrete jungle here. The neighborhood is edged with trees and growth, so it’s perfectly feasible that animals can migrate from safe zone to safe zone, as long as they can navigate the occasional street crossing and don’t mind moving through the human neutral zone. But still, I’m a little surprised to see there’s a local fox. What else is moving about? Your pets roam at their own risk, sheesh!

So I’m on the couch, reading, with an afternoon view of my back porch. K and I have a number of cacti, moonflowers, cardinal creepers, wild mint, mosses, and ferns growing on the porch. More civilization training, you understand. All of a sudden, I see a hummingbird make a refueling run at what must be like a fully stocked, free gas station of flowers. I barely have time to let K know (she had never seen one before), when another hummingbird joins in the pit stop. Now that’s a first for me now, I’ve never seen more than one hummingbird, so it’s double bonus!

The two hummingbirds helicopter around from flower to flower until they’ve gone through each blossom, and then they head over to the neighbor’s yard. There are only some mundane houseplants without flowers, and I can almost hear them say “Rip-off!” They hit the warp drive and zoom out of sight. I tabulate up some experience points for keeping the hummingbird starbase open with my relentless watering and fertilizer efforts. Yeah, it’s all good.

Nighttime. I’m in the kitchen preparing a snack when I notice that it smells like skunk. Frankie freaks out and rushes up to the window. She meows the red alert and looks down at the bushes under our kitchen window. I stare in confusion for a moment, and then it dawns on me. Well, it must be skunk! I open the front door and whoosh! There’s some serious skunk smell coming from the bushes, and I hear a weird chirping noise. Whoa! Evasive maneuvers babykins! Door slams shut, and Frankie runs around like it’s a full-fledged invasion!

K asks me what that smell is and when I tell her she has to see for herself. Yo ho ho and a bottle of scum! Keep in mind the smell is so strong, you can smell it through a closed window! Must be a crack in the wall or something, phew! K thinks it’s hilarious. Luckily, the smell gradually fades and by morning only a lingering pee-yew smell remains. But every now and then I catch a whiff, so I know that culprit is in the neighborhood. I suppose the little rascal was just welcoming us to the neighborhood!

So I look up my tried and true copy of Medicine Cards, and according to this interpretation of Native American traditions, fox stands for camouflage (learn to observe from hiding), hummingbird stands for joy (embrace beauty and happiness), and skunk stands for reputation (project self-respect). Good lessons to keep in mind in this day and age!

It also occurs to me that the animals are all around us as we speak. The anipals and their daily rounds intersect with ours all the time, and we may not know it! Listen to what the anipals may be telling you. You can never have too many friends, either of the two-legged, four-legged, eight-legged, or winged variety. In the so-called “rational” territories, they need contact with us to stay whole, and we need their guidance to skirt the jackbots. They don’t need domestication (we have pets, special elite corps of human-contact volunteers for that), they need taming, which as you all know, means “to establish ties with”.

I think the “cold” war has been won. The germs are giving up the ghost to the combined pesto-pasta and tomato slice beatdown with a dram of fresh squeezed orange juice. Both K and I appear to be improving rapidly, and are getting main power back. We spent the weekend catching up on life patrol and the maintenance of our Slack pool.

She bought herself some new jeans, as her current selection was getting beyond threadbare and the ability for the astronautics fields via sewing to repair. I spotted for some Halloween goodies, as I think this will be a Celtic New Year where I have the motivation to actually dress up. I’m going to be Bloody Gore Face! Aieee! We also got ourselves a new futon, as the previous one had decided it just didn’t have the will to go on anymore. To recap, clothes, decorations and a good night’s sleep vitaly important to well-being. I see my Sims bars going up now. All about the tyranny of objects drill sergeant!

Long range patrol even brought back some fascinating tidbits from the internets for me to mull over. The uncommonly cool Designated Sidekick is doing a survey on what people want from their comics. I took the survey (it’s a long one), and have to say it was informative just considering the questions. I want sex and violence in my comics, and the mask is a must-have, but I’m more interested in believability and consistency than what superheroes are wearing or that the leaders of a team always have a certain quality. I think it’s ultimately neat that such questions are even being examined now, by someone, rather than relying on the good old staples. The bronze, silver and gold ages of comics are over. Now it’s time to get busy!

Some aliens on other planets are just plain disturbing to my sensibilities, but good grief, bless them for keeping the universe alive! I’d just gotten done talking about Christopher Lee in The Wicker Man, and that movie’s musical oddness. Well my science officer told me over in the Occasional Superheroine galaxy, there was a sensor reading of Christopher Lee sings. From an 80’s movie called The Return of Captain Invincible. Dear, sweet baby yeh-seus, I gained some Insanity points. Oh, can’t wait to see this one in its entirety. Christopher Lee certainly has lived a fascinating life!

Meanwhile, back at the bat-garden, the tomatoes continue to go down. The marinara sauce is on back order now, so it’s smooth sailing. But I don’t think we’ll be getting too many more tomatoes out of the deal. Maybe the last wave in the next two weeks, but then that’s it. The herbs are all going to flower, and it’s gotten harder to harvest them regularly. farming isn’t just growing and harvesting, it’s also preserving and storing them properly. The Jalapeno plant refuses to give up, however, and this brave little plant is putting forth a nice juicy array of peppers that are all turning red now. Wow, love to ya, little plant. You go!

We did the fertilizer thing, did some weeding, though the pesky weeds have free run of the place. Too many orcs for this tag team to take on. We’re going to have to call in the garden weasel or something. A huge wolf spider jumped out of its burrow, deciding that the watering was not to its liking and ran for the storm shelter. Sheesh, talk about what big fangs you have! Which brought me to thinking about how K and I have been battling a lot of spiders lately.

A host of them have been running loose in large numbers on the bottom floor. Even the cats, who do cave cricket patrol, leave them alone. I’ve had to squash these intruders, because I resent having my body turned into an emergency liquid nutrient supply when the lesser insects get overwhelmed. And man, reddish translucent scary spiders (Gnaphosids?), brown nasty hairy biters (Sac Spiders?), and even a few large rapid-moving wolf-like spiders (Wandering Spiders?). What, did I just enter a sequel to The Giant Spider Invasion?

Love that movie. Great late night show for a kid to watch and get scared out of his wits! Special guest stars are Alan Hale Jr., also known as “The Skipper” from Gilligan’s Island, and Leslie Parrish, also known as the inspiration for Richard Bach’s soulmate novel The Bridge Across Forever and the crewmember who decides to go with Khan in the Star Trek episode where Ricardo Monteban tries to kill Kirk with his “genetic super-soldier” army. Both Alan and Leslie are outstanding avatars of cultural development in The Giant Spider Invasion.

I will note that the main female character, a scientist played by Barbara Hale, survives in the movie. I attribute this to her having a pair of pants on at all times. The women who run around without any pants on do not fare so well, as you can see in the trailer. Remember, being a sexy woman in a movie nearly always equals death, injury or unconsciousness! Well, at least there’s a cheesy giant spider wrecking havoc in downtown that looks suspiciously like a modified VW bug. You get your culture points where you can get ’em!

I’ve been revisiting some of my favorite goodies in the Slack menagerie, and I figured I might pass them along to some of you looking for Scooby clues to your own personal mystery. I’m something of an explorer junkie, and I get a thrill out of finding new and exciting things that delight me. I have a certain rarefied taste for the weird, the exotic, the forgotten, and the “snake fingers”. Or at least I tell myself I do!

There’s an artist named Eric Shanower, who is doing a comic book adaptation of the Trojan War, called Age of Bronze. When he completes a story arc, it gets published in a graphic novel (I’m sorry, “trade paperback”) form by Image Comics. Two of the seven volumes, A Thousand Ships and Sacrifice are out now, and the third volume is coming out by the end of this year. I’m getting the shakes just thinking about it.

The writing and the artwork are nothing short of stunning. Eric has studied his subject well, and he manages to make the culture and the historical events come alive in a way I’ve never quite seen before. Every character comes across so you know who they are, and what part they are playing. The clothes, the weapons, the intrigues and customs are so fascinating, I can’t pull away. I highly recommend anyone who loves ancient cultures, epic stories, or human drama pick this up. The realism and the believability are very high. The sex and violence are handled very well, played out as matter-of-fact experiences suitable to the era. There are no cheap thrills here.

Two things really move me about the series. One is the way in which the “gods” are handled. When it comes to the supernatural, dreams become messages from the Gods, centaurs and nymphs are a particular type of people studying a certain kind of craft, and storms become visible manifestations of a deity’s divine disfavor. It’s all in their heads, but the psychic influence is very real. The characters in the story come in all shapes and sizes of “belief”, but they all accept the supernatural as a given explanation for anything beyond their immediate psychological experience. It reminds me of the closeness of aboriginal peoples to the unconscious, and yet these are all characters who are setting down one of the foundations of western culture. It’s fascinating.

The other thing that moves me is the way in which the story makes the Trojan War accessible and interesting. I just haven’t had an interest in reading about the Trojan War, even though it’s something that is set down as a classic of “literature”, simply because nothing hooked me about it. But this stuff is awesome. Eric’s writing manages to juggle dozens of names, kingdoms, and events and keep them down-to-earth and understandable. You want to know about these people, because you become invested in their stories, from the problems of King Agamemnon, to the destiny of Achilles and the hubris of Paris, it’s captivating in a way that makes history (such as we know of it) fun and exciting.

In case you haven’t guessed, I’m a “gamer”. I have a lot of hours of the roleplaying game culture under my belt, some of it productive, some of it not so much. Right now, there’s an independent movement in the roleplaying game community, and it’s producing some of the best gameplay and theory I’ve ever seen. While the big models lose money and produce increasingly meaningless drivel, creator-owned and developed games are hitting the market from left field in a way that is exciting and amazing.

One of the games from this fertile field is Lumpley’s Dogs In The Vineyard. You play the watchdogs of God in a wild west that never was. Essentially, you are traveling witch hunters who deliver the mail, lend a hand in the community, and purge the faithful of their demons and sin. The background is some of the most awesome stuff I’ve ever read in a roleplaying game. The rules are pretty simple; you have a character sheet of “traits” that measure how much narrative control you have over conflicts. When there’s a conflict, everyone rolls dice and describes how they bring their traits into the fray. The dice are used like cards in a series of “raises” and “sees”, until somebody runs out of luck and has to give. The game can be played in four hours and tossed aside, or played for long-term character development.

The gamemaster is a just another “player”, and the group has to collaboratively create the game’s story as it moves along. There’s no “prep”, really. You make up characters, the gamemaster makes up a few proto-NPCs and a basic town structure, and everything gets created as the play moves along. Players are expected to be effective and win, and the gamemaster is not allowed to have an outcome in mind. The challenge is in coming up with conflicts that escalate out of control so that when the players get to decide the outcome, they have to decide if it’s worth the cost.

What I like about this game is how the focus is all about the moral decisions of the players. People do the unexpected, and the story can change at a moment’s notice. At the end of it I’m exhausted and exhilarated. You can play with timing and effects so that the conflicts work out in amazing ways, giving the group a lot of freedom to decide on outcomes that make sense and are cool. You don’t sit there and expect the gamemaster to entertain you, or lead you along a story they’ve already written with a few “yes” and “no” answers along the way. I haven’t felt this hopeful and delighted about gaming since 1987. It’s an explosion of creative energy.

There was a remake of The Wicker Man, starring Nicholas Cage, which probably has to be one of the funniest crummy movies I’ve seen in a while. It made me go back and watch the original starring Christopher Lee (You know, the dude that played Saruman in that horrible Two Towers gorefest) and Britt Ekland (Who played the “Bond girl” Mary Goodnight from The Man With The Golden Gun, which also, maybe not-so-coincidentally starred Christopher Lee). I also cracked out the CD and listened to the music from the film. Crumbs, its all evidence supporting Gore Vidal’s contention that good movies only get made by accident in the “entertainment industry”. Or maybe it was an accident that this movie slipped through the cracks in the mid-seventies and was made at all. The story of how the movie survived is worth reading about.

If you haven’t seen it, an English policeman comes to an isolated island off the coast to investigate the disappearance of a young girl named Rowan Morrison. Lord Summerisle (played by Christopher Lee), the local aristocrat, runs the island. The town’s source of wealth is a yearly harvest of apples. The policeman finds that nobody knows who the girl is, and that everyone practices a form of paganism based on the old traditions of their ancestors. The policeman is a deeply devout Christian, so he soon comes into conflict with the island inhabitants. Despite the uncooperative nature of the townsfolk and Lord Summerisle, the policeman learns that last year’s harvest failed and in a few days the missing girl will be sacrificed to restore the fertility of the apple orchards!

There’s a sinister aspect to the townsfolk, and yet they are all very musically inclined. Many people who watch this horror classic are stunned to encounter the musical numbers of this film, and the context in which they are presented. The musicians who worked on the soundtrack were pure talent, and have crafted some memorable numbers. From “The Landlord’s Daughter” sung by the men in the pub to honor the gifts of Venus, to the tense fear of “Chop Chop” as the townsfolk place their heads one by one in a circle of intertwined swords, hoping the Hobby Horse doesn’t choose their head. You will certainly laugh at the fiddle work of the “Maypole”. The pagan version of sex-education is, well, original I suppose.

The reason to check it out is because there’s nothing else like it. The movie stands on it’s own as a unique work of art never to be repeated. It really is one of the best horror movies ever made, with the theme of personal and group ignorance at the end haunting you in a way that won’t let you sleep at night. The town and it’s inhabitants have to be seen to be believed, and Christopher Lee gives what is probably, and rightly so if it is, the best performance of his entire career as Lord Summerisle. Brrr.

In any musical genre there’s the dross mixed in with the gold. I have a hard time finding a dark ambient artist that tops the spectral atmospheres and cavernous sensations of Lustmord. The entire catalog of this artist is showing up on Soleilmoon, and I’ve been snapping them up as I get the bonus warp power from my engineer.

I came across some scattered MP3s that friends had on their memory sticks and I was like, “whoa”. My tastes are really weird and unpredictable, and part of that combination involves music that I can space out to, relax with, and go into deep imaginations with. So when I heard the landscapes of a couple of tracks off of Stalker and Where the Black Stars Hang, I had to see for myself if the rest was any good.

Well, save for Metavoid, I have yet to be disappointed. The aural landscapes Lustmord paints are dark, threatening, and deep. It’s like going into the depths of Loch Ness and touching the slimy back of something alive, encountering the monolith of 2001: A Space Odessey, or traveling through the secret tunnels of the Great Pyramid and witnessing a rite never seen by outsiders. You can’t help but walk away from these soundscapes and feel stunned. Gotta love it! I’ve still got a few left to snatch up, and am looking forward to further journeys into the unknowable that Lustmord makes possible.

But don’t take my word for it, scare these goodies up in your online search and see what other people have to say. It’s all about the lucky coincidence. These veins of mithril found me, maybe they’ll find you!

Today is K’s birthday. Happy Birthday, K! Yesterday, K’s father and brother came by to pay tribute, and she raked in the goods. One of those goods was Season 2 of Babylon 5, which I ended up watching six episodes of while convalescing on the couch. Garden tomatoes and yummy sweet-basil pesto pasta with grapefruit juice to wash it down. Die cold germs, die!

If you haven’t ever watched the show, in a nutshell Babylon 5 (or B5 for short) is a science fiction show based around a space station, built in “neutral space” as a diplomatic meeting point for the star-faring “races” of the galaxy. The five major military powers, of which the human race is a member, and the numerous minor military powers, known as the “league of non-aligned worlds” (or pawns of the other imperialistic powers in diplomatic-speak) scheme and plot with or against one another in a series of intrigues and, occasionally, settle their differences with violent means. The show has an ensemble cast, made up of the usual assortment of military and governmental main characters, with a host of supporting characters drawn from the civilian side for variety. The main plot revolves around the reappearance of an old military power (called “the shadows”, also known as the generic “bad invaders”) and its attempts to dominate and subjugate everybody else.

Watching the show, I can’t help but analyze its particulars in light of where I’m at these days. K got Season 1 for Christmas, so we watched that right in the midst of the beginning of the year in a different mindset then we are in now. Crumbs, this year’s been pretty intense stuff, what with the move and both our work transformations. I’ll have to go back and watch the season again and see what my brain currents think of it now.

What struck me about Season 2, and the show in general, is what a mixed bag it is for me now. A lot of things still hold up for me, and a lot of the episodes are wonderful escapism. I never get tired of the attempt at a moral center, as ham-fisted as it sometimes. The dialogue moves me despite being obvious exposition-train (choo-choo!) in places. The special effects are at times poor, but I don’t care. They do what they’re supposed to do. There’s a lot the show gets right, and so I don’t mind the flaws so much. It delivers.

But two things bugged me, and I’m musing over how those things fit in with the rest of the show.

The first thing is the diversity meter. At times, the show gives me a variety of points of view and a good mix of characters from different backgrounds. But there are moments where I find myself looking at a disguised version of the all-white power bloc known as “the homo sapiens club”. You have all sorts of exotic and interesting aliens in outer space, but the majority of the action centers around the “human” team and their challenges. That’s when the diversity meter starts making a warbling noise and I go, “Now what’s all this then?”

That “human” team in B5 is the station general crew, and it’s a reasonably diverse bunch of characters. There’s the chief medical officer, Dr. Stephen Franklin, a black “foundationist” (a particular belief system in the B5 world) with a strong will. You have the chief of security, Michael Garibaldi, an ex-catholic and recovering alcoholic from an Italian background. There’s second-in-command Susan Ivanova, a strong female character from a Jewish and Russian background. And the commander of the station, John Sheridan, your generic hero white guy. It’s a reasonable mix of people with different points of view, both with strengths and weaknesses. Totally good to go.

The “human” team doesn’t exclude the aliens by any means, and as the series progresses the cooperation between humans and aliens increases (in response to the outside, overwhelming threat posed by “the shadows”). The aliens have their own impressive story lines and are necessary to the success of the “team”. But I can’t help but feel there’s something to the decision to make the “human” team the core of the series’ point-of-view. At the end, it’s clear that the aliens are all on the decline and it’s the humans who are going to be the dominant decision-makers in the future, now that the “bad” Earth government has been disposed of. The Minbari are going to throw their chips in with the humans, the Narn and Centauri are spent, the uppity Drazi have been foiled, and the Vorlons and “shadows” are out of the picture. That leaves the humans as the dominant military power, I’m sorry, “rangers”, watching over everyone with a blue gemstone brooch instead of a Nightwatch armband.

The second thing is a trait that’s starting to get on my nerves in science fiction shows, what I call the “authority privilege”. That’s where the majority of the important decision-making and story development is reserved for military and governmental characters. Civilians get a supporting role or a guest-star appearance as a plot enabler if they even show up at all. It’s okay, though, because these authorities are “the good people”, or they are “the effective people”. But I have to say, I found the secondary or supporting characters more interesting precisely because they were lower on the totem pole. They were more limited, and thus more “humanized”.

B5 is cool in that there are at least some characters that represent working class, ordinary people with no positions of authority. There’s even an episode devoted exclusively to a pair of maintenance guys and their everyday schedule keeping the station running. The show doesn’t shy away from real issues – the dockworker strike, the Mars independence rebellion, and the ongoing portrayal of the destitute downbelow of the station tackle a lot of things worth thinking about. I may be unfair to single out B5 in this post as a culprit, especially since other shows like the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica are much worse offenders, but it’s where I decided to meditate on the issue as it relates to my enjoyment of shows in general.

I realize it’s hard to have people like plumbers or checkout counter clerks have any kind of influence on a story involving interplanetary wars and imperial intrigue. There’s no way any “average person” is going to be able to command the resources of say, Head of Security, or Narn Ambassador. The fighter pilot Warren Keffer or security guard Zack Allan are probably as low on the scale as you could get and still have a viable connection to the main storyline. The fact that B5 did it at all is a good thing, but I’d like to see more. It can be done, and it should be done more. A true ensemble would have a majority of average people and a minority of power brokers, I think.

What I’d like shows in general, and SF shows in particular, to do is move away from a “the only people who get to matter are the elites and their butlers” syndrome. Yeah, I can easily envision class hierarchy existing way into the future. Even Star Trek was a pyramid system, for all the professions that they had “eliminated aggression, crime and want” (probably by subjugating everyone to “da uniform with a comlink” model of good citizenship). Just like I’m tired of seeing “whitey” get to be the guys who get the best rayguns and make all the cool decisions most of the time, I’m tired of seeing “the master” get to assign seats and make people walk the plank without any visible input or relationship to the people they supposedly are assuming the horrible burden of “real showers and ungrateful complaints” for.

I suppose it had to happen sometime, so I may as well admit to the wah-wah-wahhh now rather than go into denial.  Yup, that blog malaise has settled in, and it looks like I won’t be a-postin’ every weekday as I’d hoped to do for at least a few months.  Fear not, this is merely an adjustment of the psyche rather than a complete reactor meltdown.  I’ve been writing my posts on Sunday and hitting ‘publish’ on the relevant day, but alas I’ve been too crummy even to manage that.  Believe it or not, I’ve been flaking on just logging in to press a button!  Sadness, part Deux.

I guess this means I’m going to go into the “post when I feel like it” mode that most blogs seem to settle into.  Hopefully, the quality of what I do post will slightly improve.  I’m not satisfied with all the variables yet, so expect more mutations down the line.  And I need to “get kraken” on improving this page some more.  As Roseanne Rosanna-Dana said, “it’s always something!”  I had to see what a merciless posting schedule was like, as I wasn’t sure if I understood how the intermittent posting worked conceptually.  With some data in hand, I believe I’m more comfortable now going to that very thing.

Plenty of goodies in the queue, so Guy Caballero at SCTV won’t have to do a “street beat” sketch to get some programming out of me.  I have an idea for a post where I’ll open things up for a discussion, just to see what happens, though that’ll happen when it happens.  Considering what further tidbits about the current book I’ll tease you with in the weeks to come.  I’d like to add more pictures and links, but it seems like everyone but me has the knack for that right now.  I’m just going to have to let that creative cauldron simmer a while until the meat gets tender and the vegetables melt in your mouth.

I’m in my go-cart of a car, by name of Micro-Blue, coming back from the comic book store. I stop at a red light and wait, my mind in the automatic pilot of the daily grind. I happen to look in my rear view mirror at just the right dramatically appropriate moment, and I watch the Batmobile draw up behind me. Not the Batmobile of the recent movies that started with Michael Keaton as Batman. No, I’m talking the Batmobile from the BAM-POW days with Adam West as Batman.

For a split second, it’s one of those surreal moments where you feel like you’ve just switched universes, and I’m actually in an episode of Batman. I’m one of those ordinary people the Dynamic Duo always passes by on the way up a building or through some everyday street. The goofy person who waves or says a few corny lines to them before they carry on. You know, a filler character. They shake their heads. You know how it is being a superhero; everybody wants to stop you for a moment to chat when you’re hot on the trail of the Riddler or the Penguin.

So I turn around, fully expecting to see Batman and Robin and to have my ten seconds of corny dialogue in the alternate universe. Only, the guy behind the wheel of the Batmobile looks like Chuck Norris during the moustache years with mirror shades. I smile and give him the “thumbs up” sign and he waves at me like the peasant I am. I’m disappointed to be back in Droid Land, to be sure, but it’s still the mutha-scratchin’ Batmobile, for goodness sake! The guy turns off at an intersection and I continue on, totally pumped that I got to see live and in person the actual Batmobile that I used to own as a kid, only in smaller size.

Corgi toys made a die cast metal Batmobile back in the seventies (or it was Dinky, but I’m fairly sure it was Corgi), and I had one as a kid. It was pretty cool, with a tiny plastic replica of the batphone in between the two seats, a plastic replica of flames shooting out the back tailpipe, the triple exhaust in the back shot missiles out the back, and you could press a button and a huge buzzsaw would pop out the front. Totally keen! Of course, it never survived the rough years of my wild childhood, and is lost to the ages, except perhaps on the internets as jpegs.

I get home and tell K, and she doesn’t believe me. So we hop in the car to go looking for the Batmobile! We don’t find it, which of course puts me in the position of having seen Batman and Robin, but no one will believe me. No really, I did see the Dynamic Duo! K gives me the eye. She believes me, but its fun mocking me for seeing things. Later on we discover that a diner near where we live holds “classic” car shows. So we’re guessing that was where the Batmobile was headed, and that it may still reside somewhere in the area!

But that’s how close a Carlos Castaneda moment can be. At any time, something can drive up behind you and send you into an alternate universe, or connect you with another reality. It may be that in another parallel dimension, I turn around and it is Batman and Robin behind me. What would I have said? Which episode would it be? Crumbs, it’s weird thinking how close I came to being a cornball one-shot character in the Batman real world show.

Two and a half years ago, after going to my first sheep and wool festival, I decided to have K tutor me in the art of knitting. I had a few extra experience points, and you never know where a Level 1 skill will take you over time. I like to have a broad base of skills on my character sheet. I just wish I had more time to train those experience points up!

I started work on a scarf, doing a very basic knit stitch, and managed to get about eight inches worth before I petered out. Since then, I’ve been working on it on and off for small periods of time. K mocks my snail’s pace. She manufactures things in spurts, but she manages to do a lot of work rapidly while I putt-putt along.

We moved in April of this year, and my sad little knitting project has been sitting around in a box with no prospect of getting any energy put into it. It’s not as if I don’t have enough projects to do after all! What with daily life encounters, honeycomb hideout chores, and my book baking in the creative oven I doubt I can do much more than I’ve been doing.

But, I think I’m ready to put some more training time into it again, and generate the sweet-sweet experience points needed to pump up the jam. I think it’s useful to be able to make your own clothes, so look out robots and mutants of doom; I aim to make the secret weapon!

You see there’s this old World War 2 comic book I remember reading about back in the day. The plot is this soldier gets a big wool scarf from his mom, and all the other guys in the platoon make fun of him because they got chocolates and cigarettes while he got a big goofy scarf. The suggestion is that he’s a wimpy momma’s boy for getting something so crummy. But, as the story progresses, the scarf starts proving useful and pretty powerful.

It keeps him warm while his buddies freeze in their foxholes (the campaign is taking place in winter). It snags on a branch just as a sniper shoots at him, saving his life. When he gets disarmed in a fight, he uses the scarf as a hand-to-hand weapon to kill his opponent. The scarf stretches to make a small camouflage net allowing him to ambush the enemy with his submachine gun. And at the end, he burns the scarf so his buddies can use the smoke to signal the air assault where not to bomb.

What am I making again? That’s right, a scarf. Baby steps to world domination. Doctor Who knew the power of the scarf and so do I. My plans are proceeding along every avenue!

Ten years ago, if you asked me if I liked cats, I’d have said, “all cats must be destroyed”. Now here I am, going to a cat expo with K to check out the scene and look for vendors with cool cat toys. Wow, talk about the times they have a-changed.

Communications officer Jessica picks up a transmission about a cat convergence in the area. I put it on the list of things to make a report to back at starbase with K, when we’re planning the weekend explorations and patrols. I know she’s been jonesin’ to get some fresh cat toy tech, and the cats have been a little in the dumps lately, so I know it’s a cat maintenance power-up coming down the pipe at some point.

I mention it, and all of a sudden a blah Saturday turns into a chance for something exciting. Its like I told K we have emeralds growing in the gas tanks of our cars. Whoo-eee! Water bottle, check. Ducats, check. Printed out copies of the coupons, check. Backpack for the mule (me), check. Ready the thrusters, here we go!

Docking achieved, payment administration taken care of, entry achieved. All I can say is, “Zoinks, Scoob!” The layout of the place is eight judging areas, with all manner of contestants in their orbit allocations more or less around the judging central locus. Around them, you have the vendors selling wares and taking up what are the edges of the warehouse structure. Then there are the expected support structures on the edges. Food court, lavatories, security, etc. You get the drift.

Each contestant has a “space” with a table and chair. They plop their cat carrier on the table, along with all their accouterments, and sit on the chair until its time for them to participate in a judging. The cats seemed to be grouped according to breed, so all the Siamese are in one area, for example. I’m not sure what the system used was, however, as it was a little hard to locate the breeds based on the signs. They didn’t seem to follow a logical order.

What blew me away were the cat carriers the owners brought with them. Each one was different, even though many of the base cages used were the same. You seemed to have plastic tents with air holes and metal bar cages. Inside, I saw probably every variation of litter box, cat bed, cat hammock, cat toy arrangement, and cat dishes known. Almost all the cats looked zoinked out, and I don’t blame them. The overload of smells and noises must have been really stressful for the poor critters. The ratio of women to men was about 3 to 1, believe it or not. There are more of us cat guys out there than you might want to admit! The crowd ranged from the typical “best of show” obsessive compulsives and crazy cat ladies you’d expect, to people who looked innocent enough and were there to share their passion for cats with other like-minded people.

I saw one carrier covered in pink satin and done with taffeta ruffles and pearls. Inside it was pink plush cushions and a pink little litter box, with a number of fine china dishes with various kinds of wet and dry cat food. The owner and their precious were out, so I got a chance to look at the setup. The owner had the equivalent of the Terminator’s arsenal of weapons for keeping the cat looking good, all in specially made carrying cases that holstered on the sides of the carrier for easy access. 45 comb-slide, with laser sighting! Spas-12-gauge clippers! Phased plasma pulse cleaner, in the 40-watt range! It was crazy to see how serious these people came ready to fight to the death!

The judging was kind of cool to watch. Owners put their cat in a numbered cage at the back of the judging center. The judge had a table with a number of toys and ribbons, and a raised stage to place the cat on. There were chairs for everyone to watch the judging take place. K and I watched a Siamese and a Persian judging take place. We missed the Maine Coon judging, which was disappointing, as I wanted to see the judge try and tackle those large twenty-pound cats. The judge took each cat out of the front of the cages, and did a series of tests on their tail, fur, face, playfulness, and so forth.

At the end, the cat goes back in the cage and some ribbons are placed on their cage according to how well they did. The playfulness test was the easiest for the audience to gauge, I think. The judge uses a short, sparkly toy to see if the cat will play with it. If the cat just sits there, it’s wah wah wahhh. One of the Persians was funny, because it was over enthusiastic, and the judge had to calm the cat down. It went nuts trying to get the toy. I’m not sure if that was a loss of points or not. The judge remained calm, and laughed with the audience. I had to give him kudos for keeping his cool.

But we were there for the vendors, and K managed to find some decent stuff for the kitties. She located a cat mat of soft material with pink and purple princess cats on it, with some matching mice toys filled with catnip. For Frankie, we bought a plastic rod with a series of strips of bunny fur on the end. K bought a white feng shui lucky cat for good health, and a lucky cat tea mug for herself. Not a mean haul, so we exited before the insanity took any more of a toll on us.

K loves the burgers from Checkers, and I have to say they are pretty darn good. But it’s not a luxury we get often because the nearest one is a ways away. But the cat expo is already halfway there, so we decide to go for it. The traffic proves minimal, and we make it there to fuel up on the Checkers burger and fries powerup. A bit of a drive home awaits us, but our happy tummies prove strong enough to get us through it, showing once again the power of the cheezburger.

We get home, and the cats each give the mat the seal of approval, and the mice toys soon disappear down the rabbit hole. Frankie goes wild for the new rod-flap toy we got, which is a good thing. Her previous one had been ripped and torn to pieces and was no fun anymore. The cats get their superzapper recharge; we get ours, it’s all good. Another successful mission in the day-to-day adventures of beat-down land.

There’s a white furred Norwegian Forest cat living with us named Michael.  K is his officially adopted human, as he came up to her as a kitten on her birthday and said, “I’m living with you now.  Feed me!”  Oh boy, Minnie the Moocher is an amateur compared to this walking food beggar.  Michael has perfected the Meow-Bomb technology to smart-bomb levels, and can pinpoint your location with the perfect frequency for getting on your nerves.  When he’s hungry, this little monticore snap-dragon powder puff won’t let you rest until his tummy has been filled!  In particular, he has a knack for meow-bombing you when you are right in the middle of things, such as an important phone call, or coming home from work and trying to decompress to a human level again.

His fur is soft and double layered goodness, so there is the pet factor to consider.  But his guard hairs fall out easily, and a lot of time is spent keeping the hair infestation to a somewhat acceptable level.  Michael is especially good at covering dark clothes in his protective layer of shed fur.  Give him a kitty pie to lie in, or a blanket in a corner, and it’ll acquire a soft layer of Michael-fur.  Most disturbing are the egg-cases.  These are white masses of matted fur that become tangled and are pulled off when he rolls around on a surface.  I swear, they look just like moth cocoons.  Did I mention that this cat’s other other other nickname is pig-pen cat?

Michael’s stomach, for such a greedy eater, is remarkably sensitive so he throws up a great deal.  Hairball remedies don’t seem to work, though Gerber’s Baby Food Squash seems the most effective in settling his stomach.  Though, if it fails to do the job, get ready to bring out the ammonia on that carpet stain!  The countless times I’ve had to clean up Michael’s barf, it really doesn’t bear thinking about, really.  When the little monster gets into a puking spell, it’s Charles Dickens misery all around.

But the worst part is, this darn cat is expensive to own.  K got him for free, but we’re still paying for him!  The cat has a million things wrong with him, yet he refuses to give up the ghost.  He has urinary tract issues, so he has to have his food specially bought from the vet, for thirty dollars every month or so.  He eats and drinks often, so he has to go to the bathroom a lot, which means we have to buy a lot of kitty litter.  He has cardio-myopathy, an irreversible swelling heart condition, so he has to have a beta-blocker pill every day.  Man, kitty drugs are expensive!  He has to get yearly sonic scans of his heart to see how he’s doing.  And after all that, we get the welcome worry that one day he’ll keel over and bite the big one anyway!  I stopped counting after a thousand bucks, but Michael’s price tag is easily over three times that by now.

Last April, as we were moving, Michael decides to go on a rampage and puke all the time while having problems going to the bathroom.  Turns out, he has three bladder stones that need to be removed or he dies!  Fourteen hundred dollars, says the vet, and thanks for sending me to the golf course this afternoon.  Despite the chances of croaking under the anesthesia because of his heart, the tough little cat makes it through without a single complication and is more meow-bombingly active than ever!  Aieeee!

When Michael is not demanding food, he is sleeping.  If one of us is not on the couch or other suitable sitting unit, he will chirp and scratch at you until you move to the designated seating position.  He will then begin purring, dig at you with his claws until your limbs are in the right arrangement, and then he will plop his heavy boned frame down on you and purr himself to sleep.  Chances are good that within 5-10 minutes another cat will be attracted to your properly pacified form and add their mass to your immobilization factor.  You’d better hope you put a good DVD in the player, because you aren’t moving.

I keep thinking, what unholy universe spawned this feline?  What brutal, unimaginable world did this viking cat from hell come from?  The creature is an investment now, and he’d better live for a long time.  But how much longer can one’s sanity take such responsibility?  I hear some cats live as much as thirty years, and if Michael is one of those Methuselah cats he’s got many years left on the life clock.  Then I get to thinking about the secret lives of cats.  Is Michael a spoiled brat living on his fortunate choice of human servants?  Could he be a hard rockin’ biker viking cat living la vida loca in a parallel universe?  What monsters is he keeping at bay with a fully charged meow-bomb, bathing us in a fur shield and keeping the peace with nap power?  It might not be as one-sided an arrangement as it appears.

I hate it when main power goes down, and auxiliary power fails shortly after that. I can’t maneuver or shoot torpedoes for very long on emergency power. Shields? Forget it, I’m on reserves and goin’ down! I don’t know how it happened, but the Moavian Waoowl got loose, and every crew member on the ship started busting a move and getting jacked. Either that or the Councillor of Moppaplu snuck aboard and gave everyone some damn MeeGees. Either way, I change into one of my least favorite shtuper-heroes, El Sicko!

Have a linkdump! It all started when I ran into the butt-biting bug video on Boing Boing. Little did I know the Chaos that would ensue. My friend, The Liephus, sends me a countervideo, Human Tetris. Whoa, the sound you just heard was the sound of my synapses getting a charlie horse. Then my other friend, Doofball, sends me a video by the Squirrel Nut Zippers. The associations this has for me, not the best in my growing state of mind-mold. It’s about this time Cthulhu madness has set in, and I dare The Circuit to utube me more cowbell! Just a little softening up of the brainstem for the coup de grace, Miss South Carolina’s amazing escapegoat speech. I’m down for the count, Booji Boy style, and not even the New Mutants can pipe me in their smoke and put me!

In the words of the Riddler, bummmmmmerrrrrrrrr! It took some major hypersleep, followed by some tea and honey to even restore minimum temporary auxiliary power. The fevered dreams I had, whoo doggie, I don’t think I can relate. Cleaning up cat barf in the wrong house while the backwater mutants from Gummo invade your personal space sounds like a pretty exciting scene from a David Lynch movie. I still don’t know what to make of the extremely detailed grand tour of the Tower of Babel, where the representatives of the masters of the universe (not the He-Man kind, the plutocracy kind) were having their meeting. Time to bogue out on the millennium falcon! I sure hope that old man got the tractor beam out of commission or this cloud city’s chocolate sundae made by the damned is going to be one creepy desert.

Luckily, K was there with the proper antidote, a Wendy’s double cheeseburger and fries. Sometimes the way out is in! Warp core breech averted, ready to begin repair and reprogram procedures! Looks like the scene where the Moavian Waoowl is tamed by the Lieutenant of feline ancestry has occurred, and the episode is about over. It’s going to take some Slack points to repair all that engine and structural damage. Yes, I’m the Beavis who made the cheeseburger that saved The Enterprise, huh-huh, uh-huh-huh-huh, that was cool. I think I may understand why the cats want them. Fast food, fast times, fast relief. Chtulhu, you can’t handle the cheeseburger!