Archive for July, 2005

Unintentional(?) Symbolism

Saturday, July 23rd, 2005

I just got back from a visit to the Deep South. Upon leaving the airport at Charlotte, North Carolina, I was amused to come across the sign for Billy Graham Parkway… right next to a “One Way” sign pointing to the right.

Ahem.

As the saying goes, “That all I’ve got to say about that.”

They’ll have to come up with a new Warning Label

Thursday, July 14th, 2005

WARNING: Do Not Stick Lit Bottle Rocket Between Ass Cheeks.

(via The Spoons Experience)

Ya Think?

Wednesday, July 13th, 2005

“Police are investigating the possibility that the four men who attacked the double-decker bus and three London subways July 7 were homicide bombers.”

Source: Associated Press via Fox News

This is a golden example of the linguistic contortions common to Political Correctness severely distorting the meaning of what is being said. To put it another way, I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out that, yes, the bombers meant to kill people when they put a big-ass bomb on a bus during rush hour! Thus: “homicide”. Thus: “homicide bomber”.

Perhaps they meant to say police were investigating whether or not the four men were “suicide bombers”. Pardon me if I’m being presumptuous here. Somehow, I think I’m not.

James Bond in Hell

Monday, July 11th, 2005

Confidential sources have leaked the new James Bond script to the fine folks at Ace of Spades blog.

Scary. I’m not sure even Bond can overcome this insidious an enemy.

The Good Doctor

Friday, July 8th, 2005

We interrupt your normal blog to bring you a bit of dialog from Doctor Who:

Our heroes are trapped in a hallway with baddies coming from both sides. A vaguely Buck Rogers-esque character, Jack, whips out what can only be described as a ray gun.

Jack: “Okay, this can function as a sonic blaster, a sonic cannon, and a triple enfolded sonic disruptor. What’ch’you got?”

The Doctor: “I’ve got a sonic… uh… nevermind.”

J: “What?”

D: “It’s sonic. Okay, let’s leave it at that.”

J: “Disruptor, cannon, What???”

D: “It’s sonic. Totally sonic. I am soniced up!”

J: “A SONIC *WHAT*???”

D: “SCREWDRIVER!”
The Doctor Dances — 2005

Growing up, I used to watch the old shows late night on PBS. I was such a fan of Doctor Who, in fact, that I taped each story; and still today have a rather large bunch of tapes, (which upon viewing are in some cases turning out to be sadly deteriorated). Some of the stories were terribly stupid, but most were quite fun, and some were even quite intelligent. Some of the most popular stories were written by Douglas “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” Adams, and that type of humor was not uncommon. Mixed in with such wink-at-the-audience shows were various types of stories, from gothic horror to “rubber monster of the week” to political manuverings on the Doctor’s home planet.

In 1996 an American producer made a TV movie, with the intent of bringing the show back as a series of specials. The show had a strong actor, Paul McGann, playing the lead role (and the return of the previous actor, Sylvester McCoy, just long enough to pass the torch), great special effects, awesome sets, a romantic interest, strong villain, and no coherent plot to speak of. Unfortunately it tanked. It really bothered me at the time, too, because I really wanted to like it, but I just couldn’t. It’s not like the previous show always had strong plotting, so what was it (other than the non-Doctor-Who-like car chase) that make the movie so bad?

It took seeing the new series to realize what the problem was — the TV movie took itself waaaaay too seriously. Even in a serious story, humor is the bread and butter of Doctor Who. Above all the show has to have a sense of fun, or it just doesn’t work. The old series was fun; the TV movie was simultaneously melodramatic and flat.

Our heroes are momentarily out of danger…

J: “Who has a sonic screwdriver???”

D: “I do!”

J: “Who looks at a screwdriver and thinks, ‘Oo-hoo, this could be a little more sonic!’?”

D: “What, you’ve never been bored? Never had a long night? Never had a lot of cabinets to put up?”
The Doctor Dances — 2005

Another strong point of the new series is that the characters all have strong personalities. Being the type of show it is, the shows are obviously very plot driven, but even then many of the stories, while entertaining in themselves, act just as much as a vehicle for character interaction. This is a very good thing. If you’ve watched a lot of science fiction, you’re familiar with shows and movies that are nothing but plot. A perfect example: Think of your favorite quote from Star Wars; now think of a good quote from The Phantom Menace. Which was easier? I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Still later…

D: “Come on, we’re not done yet! Assets! Assets!”

J: “Well I’ve got a banana, and in a pinch you could put up some shelves.”
The Doctor Dances — 2005

I can give the 1996 special credit for one excellent scene, when the Doctor “regenerates” (essentially, he comes back to life in a new body after having died — a process, convenient for bringing a new actor into the role, long established in the original series). He dies this time in a hospital, and regenerates after having been put in the morgue for a few hours. They do an interesting back and forth between the Doctor regenerating and the graveyard shift morgue tech watching the movie Frankenstein on TV. It’s about the only really unique moment in the whole movie, and is well done.

The new series is full of interesting situations, and good characters. As a nice little side benefit, the specially effects are pretty damned good this time around. (In reference to the old show, I do not use the phrase “rubber monster of the week” without cause!) Topping it all off, the Doctor and his primary companion, Rose, have a strong relationship that adds a whole different level that never really materialized in the old series. The new series is an outstanding restoration of what made the old show great, while giving it new levels it never had before. And never do the producers or writers forget that the whole point is to have fun with it.

This show “rawks”*. 🙂

Update — July 10, 2005: Okay, having just watched the third-to-last episode (“Boom Town”) for the first time, I have to add one caveat to the above endorsement: Don’t Watch the “Next Episode” Previews!!! I just watched the one for the second-to-last ep, (“Bad Wolf”), and they completely spilled the beans on a huge twist in the story. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. It’s a cool twist, too, but I would have hugely preferred to actually be, you know, surprised by it.Whatever you do, don’t watch any previews. Just see the episodes. And somebody please go strangle whatever BBC stooge put it together.

Update: “Teacher, Jeff is copying me!”

* At the insistence of my wife, I have changed the spelling of the word “rocks”, (and added the quote marks).

On Comments

Wednesday, July 6th, 2005

Jeff over at The Shape of Days (what, him again???) recently decided to close down commenting on his blog.. Before he made this decision, he posted about it, asking for opinions as to what he should do.

The downside seems to primarily be the policing that is required, such as getting rid of spambots and trolls. (I assume that’s what he meant, as he didn’t actually specify; personally, I get spammers, but no trolls to speak of so far…). He also argues that even though there are good comments… “it seems that the majority of good comments contributed here come from other bloggers! You guys have your own blogs, and frankly youâ??re wasting your time commenting here. Send me a trackback instead and post your opinions on your own blogs. Cross-blog discussion is where all the best debateâ??s been happening lately anyway.”

I read his blog regularly, and used to both comment and link to him fairly regularly as well. Over the past week or so since he shut them down, however, it’s as though the tone of the blog has shifted. The writing hasn’t changed — it’s the same blog — but when I read something that warrants a quick response… oh well. I’ve dropped him a few emails, and generally he drops me back a quick response, but it still feels far more “distanced”. There is none of the cross-talk among readers that can generate a lot of good discussion. None of the spontanaety.

I have to make a distinction between when I used to comment or post here and trackback — basically, if I had something extensive to say, or something that essentially stood on its own independently of the post that inspired me, I would post here, and link back to him. If, however, what I had to say was entirely dependent on the reader having read Jeff’s post, then there is no real point in making a whole post on my blog that basically restates his entire post and adds some one or two-line comment on the end. It’s far more hassle than it’s worth, generally, it doesn’t produce the aforementioned crosstalk that to me is a large part of the enjoyment of comments and blogs in general, and quite frankly most people (as far as I can tell) don’t follow trackbacks anyway — probably because so many of them are reiterations of the linked post with a “me too” tacked on the end.

As an ironic aside that partially defeats my own argument, damn it, it’s not unusual for me to comment and then not go back to check for further responses to my comments. Earlier today I Google’s myself and, wouldn’t you know it, up popped one of Jeff’s old posts that I had commented on. Below my comment were two people either commenting on my own statement or asking me a question — neither received a reply because I never went back to the page. Some blogs have a “subscribe to comments” function that helps with this, but most do not.

Well… I for one am sad to see them go. Better than losing the whole blog (as happened with Steven Den Beste — for whose return to blogging I would trade the ability to comment on any other site, anywhere…) I suppose. Somehow a blog just doesn’t feel like a blog without commenting. The interaction is part of the strength of it all.

Happy Patrioween!*

Sunday, July 3rd, 2005

Just wanted to wish everybody a good holiday — especially all the military folks and families who are out fighting the good fight. To that latter group also, a great big “Thank You” for your efforts and sacrifice. It is truly appreciated.

It is because of you that “the flag is still there”.

* The day before All Patriots’ Day, ‘natch.

Literally Figuratively

Friday, July 1st, 2005

Reading this post reminded me of a conversation I had a long time ago with a friend of mine, (here I’ll call her “Peggy” — not her real name).

I don’t recall what specifically inspired it, but one day Peggy says, in reference to then-President Clinton, “I’d literally like to shoot that man!”

This pretty much nailed one of my particular linguistic pet peeves, and I couldn’t just let it go. “You literally want to shoot Bill Clinton,” I replied.

“Yes I do.”

“So… If Bill Clinton were standing here in front of you, and you had a gun in your hand, you would point the gun at him and you would pull the trigger.”

She huffs and rolls her eyes. “No of course not. Don’t be ridiculous.”

“But that’s what you just said. ‘Literally’ means, specifically, that you’re not speaking figuratively. That you mean precisely the words you are saying.”

“That’s not what I meant, and you know it. You read too much into things — you shouldn’t do that.”

Says I: “Generally I might agree with you, but this word, by its nature, can not be used any other way. You can’t possibly use it figuratively, because it’s very definition is ‘not figurative’.”

“Well, you’re just taking it too literally,” she sniffs.

I grin. Cue sound of crickets chirping.

“Fine,” says Peg.