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Nov. 29th, 2007


This ain't no "Jingle Bells"

I'm not big on Christmas music. I'm not particluarly big on Christmas anything, really, anymore. My mom used to go absolutely bonkers for the season, and by this time of year our house would have become an explosion of red and green knick-knacks, with Santas and nativity scenes and garlands and lights covering every surface, and all other music being banished from the stereo until New Year's.

I just can't be bothered. Last year, we put up a Christmas tree and some lights, but it was sort of a halfhearted effort, and this year we son't do anything, since we're about to move anyway. And I don't actually own any Christmas music, so that's out.

But I can't help thinking about the box of Christmas records, somewhere in storage in my brother's place in Colorado. I know all those records, having heard them all several hundred times for the first twenty-odd Decembers of my life. She had holiday albums by Burl Ives, the Oak Ridge Boys, the Beach Boys, Pavarotti, John Denver and the Muppets (that one was actually pretty funny), and others I can't recall just now, but I'd know them instantly if I heard them.

And then there was the one she bought because she thoght I would like it...

Christmas in the Stars.

Yep. The Star Wars Christmas album.

Now, note that this album has nothing to do with the (in)famous Star Wars Holiday TV special, which I've never actually seen. This is separate. This is R2D2 and C3PO, with a cast of dozens of other droids, preparing for their Christmas celebration. Apparently droids build toys, not elves. I wasn't aware of that either.

Yes. It's awful. The review I linked to above is mean and heartless, but honest. The record is crap.

But it's charming, oddly comforting crap, at least for someone who grew up with it. I know this crap. Like Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, the Star Wars Christmas Album is just something that I'm stuck with, due to nothing more than long exposure. And like Emmet Otter, it just isn't Christmas without at least one hearing of Christmas in the Stars.

The above link contains a link to the record, so you can hear for yourself, and I encourage you to do so, for no other reason than to understand a tiny bit more of the weird shit that goes on in my head. (I also encourage you to watch Emmet Otter at least once, so that someday when I start a band and name it River Bottom Nightmare Band, you'll get the joke.)

Before you listen, though, here's just a taste of what you're in for, lyrically:
What do you get a Wookiee for Christmas
When he already owns a comb?
What can you get in a hurry
For a furry kind of friend like that to take home?
Cause he'll never need a tie-clip
And he doesn't use shaving foam,
So... what can you get a Wookiee for Christmas
When he already owns a comb?

See? I wasn't kidding. Enjoy.

Nov. 26th, 2007



Too bad I missed out on this. This guy went to the Creation Museum took a bunch of photos, and then had a LOL caption contest for them.

I just found it today, so I'm too late to enter the contest, but I had to do one anyway:

(if you don't get it, you haven't seen Young Frankensten recently...)

Nov. 16th, 2007


Bitchin' Camaro, Part II

I know this will come as a shock to some people, but I'm something of a car guy.

As such, I have different priorities when looking for a vehicle than others. One of those priorities is a List of Cars I Should Own At Some Point. The list is not so much a list of makes and models as it is a list of types of cars I'd like to get my hands on sometime.

It consists of:
- British sports car, preferably a convertible (MGB or similar)
- Italian sports car, Alfa or Fiat preferred
- Mazda RX7 or Miata, either will do
- Jeep, Scout, Bronco, or Blazer (old, no carpet, manual transmission... you know, a real SUV)
- Air-cooled VW (I had a Super Beetle for a summer, but I only put about 800 miles on it, so that really doesn't count)
- Vintage pickup truck (anything older than me is fine)
- Pony/muscle car

And it's that last one on the list that I'll probably go for next.

Which is why I've been pricing out used Camaros.

Save the mullet-and-Metallica-tapes jokes, please. I don't care. It is my firm belief that every car guy should own a Camaro, Firebird, or Mustang sometime in their lives, and I want mine now that I'm past the expensive-insurance phase of my life, but before I get to the age when look ridiculous behind the wheel.

A Firebird would be okay, too, but I don't want one with that big ridculous bird decal on the hood. And I might consider exactly the right Mustang, but that's a very narrow category.

But a Camaro is what I really want. And there are plenty of them around. I would lean towards a V8 with a manual, of course, but an automatic or a six-cylinder would be acceptable. They did come with a four-cylinder briefly in the Eighties, but I think about five people bought one and everyone else has forgotten they ever existed (put it this way: I worked on cars for five years and I saw exacly one four-banger Camaro in all that time).

There seem to be plenty of them for sale up there, too, in about the $1500 range. I like the looks of the older 2nd generation (seventies) style cars better, but I know that the later (eighties) style was a far better car, more reliable, better handling, easier to drive.

Now, yes, obviously, a more practical move would be to buy one of the myriad Honda Accords available for sale for the same price. But I bought a practical car out of necessity here, and I hate it. The Focus is quite possibly the least car-guy car ever made, and I'm tired of it. I can't deny who I am, and I am a car guy whose time to own a Camaro has come.
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Nov. 14th, 2007


Reverend Mark?

Now this is interesting. I've always wanted to do one of those "get ordained out of the back of Rolling Stone magazine" things, but there is always a hangup over the religion. I never wanted to try to pass as something I wasn't, no matter how funny I thought it would be.

But the First Church of Atheism, now that might just be the ticket.

After all, the faith-heads are always braying about how "atheism is just another religion." Well, it's not, and that's still one of the stupidest statements I've ever heard, but if all it takes to have a church is a group of people with common beliefs, then there can be a church of atheism.

And what would be the tenets on which I would found my church?

- The universe is bigger, cooler, weirder, more dangerous, and more beautiful than any dumb old superstition left over from the caveman days, and we've only just seen the tip of the iceberg. It is our right and our duty to learn as much as we can about our place in the universe, and be honest with ourselves about what we discover.

- "I don't know" is an honest, and therefore moral, answer. "I don't know yet" is even better. "I don't know yet, but here's what I'm pretty sure of" is better still.

- Making shit up to fill in the gaps and hide the "I don't knows" is immoral. A sin, if you will. Using your made-up shit to deceive people in order to control them is an unforgivable sin.

- There is no sense fighting over shit you can't prove. Anyone caught doing so will be immediately moved to somewhere they can fight it out without bothering or endangering the rest of us. I suggest Venus.

- In fact, just don't hurt anybody at all if you can help it.

- Anyone found clinging to the trappings of a superstition, whether it be certain articles of clothing, dietary restricitons, effigies of zombies nailed to trees, Radio Shack voltmeters attached to tin cans, or whatever, has opened themselves up to the possibility of public ridicule for their dumb beliefs.

- Mind your own fucking business first, before you worry about anyone else.

So what do you think? Should I do it? It's free, but it costs $15 for the certificate to prove it. But I would be a legally ordained minister.

Nov. 9th, 2007


It's not the only story ever told

Imagine, for a moment, that it's the future.

I'm not sure how far in the future, but far enough that large chunks of the historical record have been lost. Some things can be verified, others can be discredited, but most history exists in a sort of gray area.

Now, imagine I, along with a bunch of other people, discover some old videotapes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The tapes are badly degraded, and incomplete, but we can get most of the gist of the story. We find some random bits of fanfic that fit here and there, and seem to come from about the same time, so we stick them in where we think they ought to go. Then we translate the whole thing into our current modern langauge, and declare it "the greatest story ever told".*

We start living our lives according to the teachings of the Slayer, and those of us who try to instruct others in the Way of Buffy ask ourselves "What would Rupert Giles do?" and thus wear tweed suits and drive old Citroëns** and observe the death of Jenny Calendar as a religious holiday. We're not sure exactly when that was, though, so we tack it on to an existing festival.

And we insist that you observe these rituals, too, because otherwise Angelus will return and eat you, and all your sinful ways are bringing about the coming of the First. And what is sinful? Whatever makes us feel a little squicky, or anything we can't completely control.

For a while, you go along with it, until you start to unearth some more facts about Buffy. "It was just a TV show," you tell us. "It wasn't real."

But the first few thousand people who tell us that get a stake through the heart for blasphemy. We put images of Buffy and Angel and Spike all over everywhere, until people start seeing visions of them in sandwiches and plaster cracks. We tack on "In Xander We Trust" onto all public documents.

A while later, you start to retake the world from the followers of Buffy, restoring some sanity to the world. But the "Watcher's Council" still exists, even though it has been splintered into many different groups, and those groups fight among themselves as to the true nature of Spike's relationship to the Slayer.*** We all agreee that Willow's fall into evil and subsequent redemption is a path all mankind must follow, or suffer the consequences. And we're more than willing to hand out those consequences ourselves.

Wouldn't you get a little sick and tired of hearing the same story repeated as history?

*Buffy isn't the GREATEST story ever told, but it's pretty damned good, if you ignore all that stupid Initiative crap in the middle.

**I think it would actually be kinda cool to drive an old Citroën.

***I'm sure people already do fight over this.

Oct. 25th, 2007


Finally, a comedy to look forward to!

Coming soon to a theater near you: Bill Maher's Religulous.

Look for it around Easter, of course...

Oct. 23rd, 2007


Albus Poufy Nancyboy Ponce Dumbledore

Oh Em Gee, did you hear? Dumbledore is teh GAY!!! Oh no, now we have even more cause to freak out over a children's story! And how dare she ruin those books for us? We'll never be able to read them the same way again!

...And so on, and so on.

Amid all the furor, allow me to make a couple of points:

1. Duh.

2. Doesn't change a thing. He's still the "Obi-Wan" of the series, and as such, what may or may not have happened between him and Grindelwald after the lights went out in Gryffindor Tower really doesn't matter. It simply isn't important to the story...

3. ...which is precisely why she didn't say anything about it in the books. But if you're being honest with yourself as you write, at some point the characters will start telling you all sorts of things about themselves, which you may not have guessed. All of these things are vital to characterization, but not all of them matter in terms of story. Your job as a storyteller is to leave out the things that don't matter and include the things that do. If you must include all the fascinating bits of lore that aren't part of the story, then publish your own Silmarillion after the fact. But don't expect a whole lot of readers.

4. If you think it's easy to write even one novel, let alone a seven-book fantasy epic, and that you could do better, then by all means, start writing.
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Do you know how to...?

Apparently, there are some things every man should know how to do, according to Popular Mechanics. And according to some other guy with a blog, there are some things every self-sufficient person should know how to do.

Here are the lists, with the stuff I can do in bold.

The "manly" list:

1. Patch a radiator hose
2. Protect your computer
3. Rescue a boater who has capsized
4. Frame a wall
5. Retouch digital photos (I don't know how Photoshop is "manly," and my wife is way better at it than I am, but whatever...)
6. Back up a trailer
7. Build a campfire
8. Fix a dead outlet
(I know enough wiring to know what to check, and what not to touch)
9. Navigate with a map and compass
10. Use a torque wrench
11. Sharpen a knife
12. Perform CPR
(I took the course; don't know how much I remember)
13. Fillet a fish
14. Maneuver a car out of a skid
15. Get a car unstuck
16. Back up data
17. Paint a room
18. Mix concrete
(did it once, could probably figure it out again)
19. Clean a bolt-action rifle
20. Change oil and filter
21. Hook up an HDTV (never done it, but I'm sure I could figure it out)
22. Bleed brakes
23. Paddle a canoe
24. Fix a bike flat
25. Extend your wireless network

And the "self-sufficient" list:

1. Know basic nutritional needs & how to plan balanced meals (but please note that knowing how doesn't mean doing...)
2. Hone your sense of direction & navigation so you don’t need step-by-step turns to find a location
3. Understand types of health insurance & terminology such as OOP max & co-insurance percentage (the what of who now?)
4. Maintenance of a personal computer
5. In-depth knowledge of your employment benefits
6. Change a flat tire
7. Wash & iron clothes

8. Balance a checkbook & manage your finances (umm, no. That's not my job in our house, for good reason.)
9. Patch holes in walls
10. Fix a clogged toilet
11. Jump start a car
12. Use public transportation to get around
(a useless skill in L.A.)
13. Write an effective resume cover letter
14. Professional oral & written communication
15. Basic math
(but my brain-calculator is awfully slow)
16. Stay calm in emergencies (more or less)
17. Know when to ask for help
18. Personal hygiene
19. Do your own taxes
20. Use internet search engines strategically
(google friend!)

Huh. Not too shabby. I guess if everything went boom, I'd be fine until the supermarket ran out of canned food... and in the meantime, I'll fix house and car stuff, and leave the checkbook balancing to Erika.

Oct. 19th, 2007


Please Hammer don't hurt 'em

Fed up with crappy customer service?

Get their attention.

Oct. 1st, 2007


Does this mean no more church bake sales?

There's a new diet fad coming soon to a pulpit near you: the Hallelujah Diet. Yes, that's right, eat like Adam and Eve ate, and watch the pounds melt away!

Jeebus Effing Christ. These people will swallow anything, apparently. Except for Twinkies.

Why is it, after all this time, and all these scams, that people will still fall for shit like this? I mean, listen to this guy:

Malkmus said he has never wavered from the strict vegan diet since he took it up at age 42 after being told he had colon cancer: "Within a year, my baseball size tumor had totally disappeared as had all of the other physical problems I was experiencing." Malkmus acknowledges that he never had a biopsy, but insists, "I had a tumor that was self-evident. I was bleeding from the rectum."

Okay, so you self-diagnosed something you really should have gone to the doctor about, and then credited your "miracle diet" with "curing" you. But let me guess: the prayer helped too, right?

Such anecdotal claims are difficult to verify, of course, and Malkmus himself is careful not to promise miracles. "I don't believe the Hallelujah Diet can cure anybody of anything."...Nonetheless, Malkmus does not attempt to dissuade his followers if they believe the diet helps rid them of assorted ailments, including serious diseases.

Yeah, I'll bet he doesn't dissuade them. The question is, when (not if) one of these poor suckers dies on this stupid diet, will the family have the sense to bring him up on charges of reckless endangerment, fraud, or even homicide? Or will they just say "Jeebus called 'em home"?

But this is funny:

The founder of the Hallelujah Diet is just as feisty in defending its biblical foundation. For example, later in Genesis 9:3, the Bible reads, "Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you." Asked if that is God's endorsement of eating meat, Malkmus insists that section of Genesis refers only to the time of the great flood, when those aboard Noah's ark had to eat animal flesh.

So lemme get this straight... Noah was charged with bringing two of every animal onto the ark, and then he ate some of them?!? So that's where the unicorns went...

In other words, Malkmus believes, God gave man a onetime pass to stray from the vegan diet of the Garden of Eden. In fact, Malkmus preaches, according to Genesis, that man lived, on average, for more than 900 years.

So you're basing your "science" on the fact that a storyteller two millennia ago couldn't do math. Good job. Put your hemlet on and get on the short bus; we're going on a field trip.

Fuck me. L. Ron Hubbard was right. This religion shit is the best racket you can get into.

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