awkwardly

Sunday

Jonny Quest Body Count


I watched 13 hours of cartoons and wrote all these notes, and you just want the number, don't you? Fine. My estimate is that 145 people were killed in the original series that aired from 1964-1965. Don't leave yet. You still want to hear about Team Quest's search for better hallucinogens? Their brush with the war in Indochina? Dr. Zin's fickle grooming habits? The delight that Jonny and Hadji and two grown-ass men take in Bandit's constant injuries? Read on.

*Spoilers* for a cartoon that first aired fifty years ago.

Methodology: We see a lot of bad guys taken out of the picture without being tied up or brought to jail afterwards. For instance, they crash cars or get buried in an avalanche, and that's the last we see of them. You could assume there's some Scooby-Doo moment after the end of the episode where Race hands the bad guys over to cops or Hadji gives the wounded minions CPR, but we don't see it onscreen very much. In a few cases, our heroes clearly comment on the deaths of bad guys. Race warns, "Don't look, Jonny," as screaming bad guys are overtaken by crocodiles. Or Jonny says, "That's the last mistake he'll ever make."

If bad guys or bystanders seem to be badly harmed but are not explicitly shown walking away later, I assume they died. If you don't share that assumption, the body count should be lower. I'm also taking a guess at how many bad guys it takes to operate a submarine (at least ten?), or to staff a smuggling base in an underwater cavern (25?), or a secret factory manufacturing nerve gas (20?). I think these are conservative estimates. Realistically a sub might have required thirty or fifty sailors, and a smuggling operation slightly less ambitious than a Bond villain's might have required fifty guards and stevedores.

While making notes about the number of people killed in each episode, I expanded to include the number of animals killed, then tracking these other common threads throughout the series:
  • Jonny and the gang have adventures at sea or on water in 58% of episodes, in boats or ships or canoes. 
  • Six of the 26 episodes are partly set underwater. In all but one of those episodes, the bad guys have some kind of submarine. 
  • Bandit gets comically injured in 42% of episodes.
  • The writers of the show might have tried to minimize the carnage our heroes inflicted by having the bad guys often foiled or injured by their own weapons or actions. Whatever the motivation, their grenades or lasers or attacks end up bouncing back on bad guys in 38% of episodes.
Below are details of how many people I thought died in each episode.


0. Credits
Opening credits: Mummy and bad guy killed in cave-in. Ship full of bad guys destroyed by reflected laser (10?). See notes in episode one below.
Closing credits: Race jumps speedboat and lands on two frogmen.
Total body count: 14 if you count the mummy.

R.I.P. - Two unnamed "lizardmen" crushed in the end credits of every episode.


1. Mystery of the Lizard Men
One ship destroyed (5 crew?) and one fisherman killed by bad guys' laser.
Race jumps speedboat and lands on two frogmen.
Ship full of bad guys destroyed by reflected laser. Since the decrepit ship disguises the exit of an enemy sub and Team Quest never has to chase the sub after this explosion, I'm estimating at least ten crewmen required to operate the sub were killed.
Total body count: 18

Bandit comically injured: as a judo demonstration for Jonny, Race uses one finger to flip Bandit on his back.

On water? yes
Under water? yes
Bad guys have sub? yes
Ricochet? yes


2. Arctic Splashdown
One frogman victim of his own bomb.
Missile explodes with three bad guys trying to steal missile parts.
Total body count: 4

Bandit comically injured: skis down stairs and crashes into ship's captain.

On water? Yes
Under water? Yes
Bad guys have sub? Yes
Ricochet? Yes


3. Curse of Anubis
One guard pulled offscreen by bad guys.
One scorpion whipped to pieces by Race.
Two bad guys fall off bridge during chase.
Mummy and bad guy killed in cave-in.
Total body count: 5 humans (counting the mummy), 1 scorpion

Ricochet effect: bad guy boss killed by the mummy he was responsible for unleashing.


4. Pursuit of the Po-Ho
Zero fatalities, although it looks like 3 indigenous people can't swim when their canoe sinks.

Bandit comically injured: crab pinches his nose. Bandit smacks into porch while riding armadillo.

On water? Yes


5. Riddle of the Gold
Maharajah assassinated.
Assassin mauled by tiger.
Bad guy mauled by leopard.
Total body count: 3

Bandit comically injured: when Bandit plays snake-charming flute to a coil of rope, the end of rope rises like a cobra and whips him. Nose bitten by parrot. Burns his butt by sitting on bomb fuse to put it out.


6. Treasure of the Temple
Four bad guys eaten by crocodiles.
Total body count: 4

On water? Yes


7. Calcutta Adventure
One fighter pilot crashes into trees.
Three bad guys dowsed by hot chemicals.
Three bad guys buried in avalanche.
How many bad guys does it take to keep a secret nerve gas lab operational? 20 inside when it explodes?
Total body count: 27

Injury to Bandit's nose: caught in lid of mongoose's basket.


8. The Robot Spy
Zero fatalities.

Dr. Zin grows a mustache between the fifth and eighth episodes.


9. Double Danger
Bad guy killed by his own bomb.
Total body count: 1

Bandit comically injured: tripped by monkey, falls on face and skids.

Ricochet? Yes

Fun fact: This episode aired 13 November 1964 and was set in Thailand. Given Dr. Quest's work for the US government, his team probably landed at one of the bases from which the US Air Force was already launching bombing missions into Laos and Vietnam.

Race: It's hard to believe that this vine grows only in Thailand.
Dr. Quest: It's true. From that vine comes the answer to one of the problems facing future space expeditions.
Race: You mean the threat of mental deterioration.
Dr. Quest: Right. However, with this formula... Picture the crew of this spaceship, locked in their metal prison, surrounded by billions of miles of nothing for as long as 16 years at a stretch. . . The human mind is not prepared for such a test of solitude. 
Race: So what you're after is a sort of giant tranquilizer?
Dr. Quest: Exactly. We know now that man has always found ways to alter his emotions by consuming various plants. It's called "hallucinogenics." . . . By synthesizing this plant into pills, a crew could keep mentally alert for as long as 20 years. ... 

And you thought Scooby Doo was all about dope.


10. Shadow of the Condor
One owl killed by a condor.
Bad guy crashes biplane into condor, then mountain.
Total body count: 1


11. Skull and Double Crossbones
British Coast Guard blows up ship with four bad guys. They announce that they'll search for survivors, but no survivors are shown or discussed later.
Total body count: 4

On water? Yes
Under water? Yes


12. The Dreadful Doll
In a hijacked sub, Race blows up tunnel that leads to secret base in underwater cavern. No mention of what happened to the dozens of workers in the base when their only exit was permanently sealed.
Total body count: 25

Bandit comically injured: bound and gagged by bad guy.

On water? Yes
Under water? Yes
Bad guys have sub? Yes


13. A Small Matter of Pygmies
Zero fatalities, although indigenous people are again depicted as bad swimmers or great at holding their breath underwater for a long time.

Squeamish bonus: After shooting a panther from a distance, Race warns Jonny not to go near it because it could still be alive. Race puts his rifle close to the panther's head. Cut to Jonny grimacing as we hear Race deliver the coup de grâce.

On water? Yes


14. Dragons of Ashida
Race kills two dragons. Bad henchman feeds Dr. Ashida to his dragons.
Total body count: 1 human, 2 dragons.

On water? Yes
Ricochet? Yes


15. Turu the Terrible
Pteranodon and his trainer fall into tar pit.
Total body count: 1 human, 1 pteranodon.

Bandit comically injured: fish bites Bandit's tail after Jonny warns him to keep away.

On water? Yes


16. The Fraudulent Volcano
Hadji smashes tarantula in pitcher.
Six bad guys in flying platforms crash into mountainside.
Total body count: 6


17. Werewolf of the Timberland
Zero fatalities.

Bandit comically injured: sprayed by skunk.


18. Pirates from Below
Three bad guys blown up by their own mine.
Dr. Quest uses robot arm pinchers on undersea tank to capture two enemy mini-subs and snip them in half. Bad guys might have escaped.
Total body count: 3

On water? Yes
Under water? Yes
Bad guys have sub: Yes
Ricochet? Yes


19. Attack of the Tree People
No fatalities.

On water? Yes


20. The Invisible Monster
Two killed by monster.
Dr. Quest dissolves the monster.
Total body count: 2


21. The Devil's Tower
Nazi killed by his own grenade.
Total body count: 1

Ricochet? Yes

Bandit comically injured: hit in face with stones & fruit thrown by primate.


22. The Quetong Missile Mystery
Two local government investigators killed by remotely detonated mines as they approach bad guys' missile area.
Although they have knock-out darts to incapacitate a few sentries, Race sneaks up and puts one bad guy in sleeper hold, then drops his unconscious body in water. I'm ruling that a fatality.
General Fong shoots ones of his guards as punishment. The guard falls on detonator and sets off mine under Fong's boat, killing two.
Total body count: 6

On water: Yes
Ricochet? Yes


23. The House of Seven Gargoyles
One bad guy shot and killed another after quarreling.
Three bad guys killed by falling glacier, triggered by their own gunshots.
Total body count: 4

On water? Yes
Under water? Yes
Bad guys have sub? Yes
Ricochet? Yes


24. Terror Island
Giant crab picks up guard and carries him off screen (presumably killed).
Race shoots leg of water tower which falls on four bad guys (presumably killing them). He banks a few shots off the blade of a bulldozer to kill a bad guy, then kills four more with a grenade.
Jonny drives bulldozer through wall, killing giant spider.
Four bad guys killed by giant lizard. Giant lizard electrocuted.
Giant crab is apparently still out there.
Total body count: 14 humans, 2 giant monsters.

Bandit comically injured: frightened by firecrackers exploding all around him.

On water? Yes


25. Monster in the Monastery
Yeti throws man off cliff.
Yeti leader slips on oil spilled by Jonny, falls off mountain.
Another yeti crushed by his own boulder when it bounces back.
Hadji kicks yeti off castle ledge, apparently to his death.
Dude in yeti suit nabbed by actual yeti.
When Dr. Quest and Race arrive to survey the scene, they see nine dudes in yeti suits sprawled around the castle courtyard. Dr. Quest says, "Looks like they've all been wiped out by some tremendous force." I'm generously assuming the handful of bad guys that Jonny and Hadji knocked out with vases or crates survived and were not among the nine in the courtyard.
Total body count: 14

Ricochet? Yes


26. The Sea Haunt
According to the ship's log, the creature killed second mate and tossed three sailors overboard. I assume the crew was able to rescue the three sailors. The captain ends his log entry in the middle of a sentence, but he may have escaped on a lifeboat. By the end of the episode, we never hear if the lifeboats made it, so the entire crew might have been picked off by the creature as they tried to flee.
Total body count: one confirmed

On water? Yes



FINAL BODY COUNT: 145

Creatures killed: Owl, condor, scorpion, mummy, panther, 2 dragons, pteranodon, tarantula, invisible electrical monster, giant lizard, giant spider.

Monsters who got away: yeti, giant crab, sea haunt creature.

Percent of episodes on water (involving sail boats, ships or canoes): 57%
Percent of episodes under water: 23%
Percent of episodes in which bad guys have sub: 19%
Percent of episodes in which bad guys hide in underwater cavern: 8% (2 episodes)
Percent of episodes in which Bandit is comically injured: 42%
Percent of episodes with at least one fatality: 81%
Ricochet effect (percent of episodes in which bad guys were killed by their own weapons): 38%

Click on table above for larger view.



Songlian Smith-Northrup, 2004-2016

Another cat passed away on December 15, 2016. We picked up Songlian in Houston in June 2005, along with her tiny son Zatoichi. I was afraid the kitten wouldn't survive a hot, three day road trip from Houston back to Michigan, but he made it, and he's huge now.

Songlian had tumors removed twice in the past, but the latest batch was inoperable, already growing between or through her organs when we discovered they had come back. We had to keep her swaddled with an ace bandage to prevent her from licking wounds open on her chest, but she looked awesome in a series of infant shirts and dresses. They're not tailored for cats. I imagine she preferred those to the cone of shame.

When naming our cats, I started a tradition of brainstorming several names, settling on one as the first name, and keeping all the rejected ones as middle names. By that convention, her full name was Songlian Kikujiro Sonatine Anh Mrs. Cheng the Pirate Queen Tampopo Florida Darth Mama Smith-Northrup (formerly Snow Angel Princess, aka Baby Cat).

A few years ago, we started a Twitter account for Melinda's puns and stories about the cats and other anthropomorphic critters @SongliansCafe. In the storyline, Zatoichi inherited the cafe after Songlian passed on. We'll continue posting there.

Friday

Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) Body Count

*SPOILERS*
Seven hippos killed by Jane & her dad's ivory-hunting crew.
Three porters killed by crocodiles.
Porters whipped by overseer.
Two lions killed by Tarzan.
One cheetah killed by Tarzan.
One ape shot by ivory hunter.
Two porters killed by Tarzan.
"Dwarves" in blackface.
Four porters thrown to killer gorilla in pit.
One gorilla killed by Tarzan.
One elephant killed by "dwarves."
One "dwarf" trampled by elephant.
Jane's father dies of heart attack or stroke?

Total Body Count: 23
Animals killed: 13
Humans killed: 10

Saturday

Aslan: More Messy Than Messiah

Okay, he has some power, Narnians look up to him, he sometimes goes away without explaining why, doesn't always show up when people call him, and he sacrifices himself for the good of others. That sounds familiar.

Narnians don't directly call Aslan a god, so he comes off as just a powerful, magical figure like Gandalf. People can ask him for help. He may or may not give it to them. But they don't bill him as creator of the universe. He's playing along with certain rules that he has to work with, not like he's the Maker of all rules and laws of physics.

Like when he sacrifices his life, knowing that he'll come back a few days later. Actually this is a lot like that other guy who comes back after three days. If he's really confident that it'll happen, then why is it a big deal?



In Prince Caspian, Lucy asks Aslan one of those questions skeptics ask in our world: "Why didn't you come to save us like last time?" If you're a good guy and you have the power to help people, why do you go away sometimes?* Why do you only appear to some people? Why did we have to wait for half the army of good guys to get killed in battle before you'd come out of hiding and use your powers to help? You only do good if a little girl rides through the woods a long way and asks you to come out? You won't show yourself unless she has the sincerest pumpkin patch?

Aslan's response to Lucy is, "Things never happen the same way twice." Not a very satisfying answer. It sounds like he's saying that he doesn't make the rules. He does the best that he can within his limitations. That makes some sense if he's a magical creature in a world created by someone else, but not if he's the one God who created everything and who can do anything.

At least we don't have to hear Aslan talking down to us like, "You humans couldn't understand how the universe works, so you won't be able to understand why I do the things I do. I know things that you don't and I can't explain it to you. You have to take my word for it that I'm good." That wouldn't fly in a fairy tale like this. I'm not using "fairy tale" as an insult, but it's how Lewis classified the story.

C.S. Lewis used the fairy tale genre as an attempt to simplify and explain Christianity in a way that kids and some adults would be able to follow. If it all comes down to secret knowledge of the universe that Aslan/Christ can't explain to humans, then it's trying to explain the unexplainable.



I suppose "Things never happen the same way twice" is intended as some kind of explanation. It just doesn't work very well.

There's at least one other way that the stories about Aslan are a bad analogy for Christ. The child heroes meet Aslan in person only a few days after first hearing about him. They see him, touch him, hear him, maybe smell him. He works magic and they see the results for themselves. This is not like believing in Aslan's magic based only on reading a book of 1500-2000 year old stories, or based on the testimony and peer pressure of people who say they believe in him or felt his presence. Narnian believers have a naturalistic world view. They rely on their senses. If there are stories about other magical creatures or gods in Narnia, they might exercise a healthy skepticism until they have personal experience or some evidence that the stories are true. That's not how Christians generally ask us to form our beliefs about the Bible.

It's the same kind of failure when Horton Hears a Who is supposed to convince us to have faith in unlikely things, but in the end, it shows everyone directly experiencing the unbelievable events. None of the characters rely on faith. They're skeptical, materialist, naturalist, secular Whovians or secular Narnianists.



[I haven't read the books yet, just watched the first three films. So this critique only applies to the movies. Maybe the books are better. But I've read some C.S. Lewis including The Great Divorce, and I doubt the Narnia books explain how a good creator would let bad things happen.]

* Same question applies to Superman ReturnsThe Dark Knight Rises, and Luke in The Force Awakens. But those are fallible humans, not perfect gods.

Tuesday

Lucky Smith-Northrup, 1996-2015

Our first cat, Lucky, passed away on July 5, 2015. She was born around Summer 1997, which made her 18 years old.

A Ballad of Ice and Fire

(sung to the tune of "Ballad of Serenity,"
the theme song to "Firefly")

Take my wolf, take my dad
Take the family that I had
I don't care, I'm still hungry
You can't take Hot Pie from me.

Take me North to wear the Black
Tell them I ain't comin' back
Scorch the land and churn the sea
You can't take Hot Pie from me.

Iron coin, bowl of brown,
I don't trust a god that's drowned.
No king or queen will let us be
And you can't take Hot Pie from me.

Before I freeze upon the Wall
A crow will feast on my eyeball.
Incest, rape, controversy,
You can't take Hot Pie from me.

Saturday

Event Horizon is unofficial Hellraiser 5 (or Hellraiser in Space 2)

People keep mutilating themselves. A body is suspended by hooks in its skin. The main antagonist of Event Horizon starts off somewhat sympathetically, but displays his wounds and self-mutilation proudly after he becomes thoroughly evil. The "Gravity Drive" is the Lament Configuration, the puzzle which opens the doorway to a dimension of "chaos" and suffering. When he tries to bring everyone else to Hell, the bad guy has a network of injuries crossing his face and hairless head. Where have we seen that before? 

And it all happens in space! So that would be a nice twist on things if it didn't come out a year after Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), the fourth official installment of the series, part of which deals with a space station that is a puzzle box.

I wrote a review of Event Horizon way back in 1998, explaining some of the storytelling lessons you could learn from its failures. One of the failures I overlooked is repeated in Prometheus. You show all the gritty details of space travel, views of the ship from outside and inside, show our heroes waking up from suspended animation. Then you gather them in a room and reveal what their mission is. 

How many people are willing to go on a mission without first hearing what it entails? From the mission-planning side of things, why would you pick a bunch of people and spend all the money to get them way out near the site of their mission without knowing that they're capable and willing to carry out the mission? No matter how secret the mission is, it would make more sense to pick people you feel you can trust and explain the mission while they're on Earth (or whatever stable colony or ship they call home). But it's a little inconvenient to have a boring briefing scene, then all the gritty space travel bits, then have them move into their mission. They manage to make it work for Bond, sometimes.

A Catalog of Idiocies in Prometheus

I thought I would be inoculated against the dumbth after seeing it once in the theater, but it still hurts on this second viewing.

1. Is the Engineer at the start committing suicide, or intentionally releasing some bio-weapon into the wild by drinking that stuff, or was the result unexpected? Was he marooned by the ship that's leaving, or did he intentionally stay behind? What is this scene supposed to establish or add to the rest of the movie?

2. Why would you hire people, spend quintillions of dollars to send them 2 x 10^14 km away from Earth, then brief them on their mission when they near their destination, instead of briefing them on Earth? Given a future where space travel is not quite as novel as it is now, how desperate would you have to be to sign up for a job that puts you in stasis for a few years without knowing the full final mission?

3. In the briefing, Holloway explains that this grouping of stars from a handful of different separate cultures on Earth lines up with some galaxy that's too far away for any of those earthbound human cultures to view it. Sounds impressive but it's not. You could take any cluster of random points, spit on a piece of paper for example, and compare that shape with a detailed star map. If you're willing to look far enough out at more and more stars, it becomes more and more likely that you'll find some matching constellation, because there are so many stars available to try matching it to.

If you made a Rorschach blot and walked along a beach, you could eventually see a shape in the sand that matches the blot, because there are so many different shapes available in the sand. A reasonable person wouldn't conclude the creator of the ink blot had a psychic vision of the sand, or that cave paintings with eight or ten dots from 35000 BC had accurately transcribed a distant constellation.

4. The android shows us Shaw's dream or memory of her father explaining that he "chooses to believe" Heaven is nice. She repeats the phrase later. Are we supposed to follow her as a brilliant example, because most of the movie revolves around her POV and that's how Hollywood works, or an example of someone steered wrong by wishful thinking?

5. Parallels with the plot of Aliens:
   - Helmet cams being tracked from remote headquarters, making the audience feel that much further removed from events.
   - "Game over, man!" Dude with the most attitude is the first one to punk out when things get slightly scary. Yells at our hero so the audience can appreciate how scary the situation is supposed to be, and by contrast how heroic the hero is for pushing forward. See also Scooby Doo and Shaggy.

Somehow those seem more interesting than the parallels with Alien: Careless corporate operatives vs. heroic humanist. Ragtag crew of space laborers. Android programmed for evil. Several minutes of the camera exploring empty halls of the ship before the crew is brought out of stasis, although in this iteration we follow the android on his day-to-day activities.

6. "Miss Vickers, is there an agenda that you're not telling us about?" Shaw and Holloway interact with corporate overseer Vickers as if they don't understand how corporations or capitalism work.

7. From what Holloway says, part of their plan before launching Prometheus involved David the android spending some time en route researching ancient human languages in order to extrapolate the language of the Engineers. Why not figure that out on some computers before you leave Earth, and have it done and ready? Why assume this prototype android will be able to figure it out during the two and a half years it takes to travel there?

8. Holloway gets depressed and goes on a bender because he hadn't prepared himself for the possibility that aliens might not still be alive on this planet, tens of thousands of years after leaving their marks on Earth.

9. Why does the android dose Holloway with black goop? I suppose any experiments with the alien tech and bio-materials and alien knowledge need to be performed quickly if one of his goals is to prolong Weyland's life.

10. The revelation that Vickers is daughter of old man Weyland adds little to the story.

11. I assumed that the briefing showed the entire crew of Prometheus. Weyland comes out of hiding, buy later it seems like there are more lab techs and guards around. Are there 20 or 50 or 100 people on board? That might help us understand the stakes. When five people die, is that a quarter of the crew or one twentieth?

12. Captain Janek reaches the conclusion that the structure they've explored was a military site, that it held a stockpile of biological weapons, and that the black goop in vases was a bio-weapon. Neither the captain nor the audience has enough information to reach those conclusions at this point. Maybe some scenes that would have made it clear were deleted?

13. Shaw takes about thirty seconds to convince the Captain and two pilots that an alien will attack Earth and wipe out humanity if they don't stop it. They're persuaded to ram the alien ship kamikaze-style and sacrifice their lives. And again, her wobbly conclusion relies on cryptic comments from an android that she should have stopped trusting long before.

14. The only purpose of the lighting in those bubble helmets is to make their faces clear to viewers. Lights shining in their faces would make it harder for them to see, but easier to be seen by cameras.

15. Does it make more sense if you read Alien: Engineers, the first draft script by John Spaihts? I'll get back to you on that.

Thursday

Dramatis Personae for Melinda's Stories


Freida the Fairy Munchkin: originally described and pictured in issues of Melinda's zine, The Basketcase. Usually lives in our apartment or house.

Waltraud: Human. Lived in our garage for a while.

Bosun Chubris: Fairy Munchkin, husband of Freida*. Wrote one or two pieces for The Basketcase zine.

Dolores: Hamquatch.

Lodores: Hamquatch, daughter of Dolores. Born July 26, 2014.

Flicka the Ladybug*: Owns a KFC in the ladybug city in our back yard. Does laundry and scoops kitty litter for us. Heavy lifting accomplished with Hamquatch devices.

Jethro the underemployed marmoset*: Jethro and Flicka? They got a thi-i-ing . . . goin on.

Jamyang the Hamyet*: Works a variety of jobs, seemingly a new one every week.

Anita the aphid

Eniko: another aphid

Arika: another aphid

Patrick: Ladybug with black-spotted blue shell and long, wispy blue beard.


Our cats


Lucky: Tan and brown tiger-striped female short hair. Found in Houston around Dec 1997, when she was maybe six months old. [Born in Houston, TX, Summer 1997. Died of lung cancer in Jackson, MI, July 5, 2015. Our original princess.]

Lozie: Tortoiseshell female short hair, mostly black, some orange, brown and tan. Had a uterine infection around 2006 that required hysterectomy. Sensitive about her weight.

Songlian: Calico female short hair, mostly white with black and tiger-striped orange patches. Songlian has worked as a psychiatrist in a rodent prison. She currently runs a cafe. Follow her Twitter updates @SongliansCafe. Deliveries to Songlian's Cafe are made by hamquatches with help from Ghost of Bobby.

Zatoichi: White and gray long-hair. Son of Songlian. Zatoichi attends kindergarten, college, middle school, works hundreds of jobs, and is constantly applying to new jobs.

Bobby: Name given to every male bob-tailed cat owned by the Collinsville Smiths for the last half-century.

Sissy: Name given to every female cat owned by the Collinsville Smiths for the last half-century. Sometimes bob-tailed, sometimes mother of Bobbies.


Glossary / Background


Fairy Munchkin: Six inch tall, winged fairies with stocky build.

Hamquatch: Three to four inch tall critters genetically engineered by gray aliens using DNA of hamsters and sasquatches. Formerly known as "baby sasquatches" based on their size, this confusing term has fallen into disuse. Hamquatches have incredible technology from the gray aliens, including spaceships that appear to be VW Bugs and other mundane human vehicles. Teleportation and energy-matter conversion seem to be among the other technologies they have mastered. They may have also shared their technology with a variety of other rodents and insects on Earth. Cuz the Prime Directive is bullcrap, yo.

Hamyet: Hamster/yeti. White-furred version of a Hamquatch.*

Gray aliens: Evil empire from outer space, with some factions of good members.

* indicates characters or species named by Rob, but usually developed by Melinda.

Sunday

A Canticle For Leibowitz

Ignorance is king. Many would not profit by his abdication. Many enrich themselves by means of his dark monarchy. They are his Court, and in his name they defraud and govern, enrich themselves and perpetuate their power. Even literacy they fear, for the written word is another channel of communication that might cause their enemies to become united. Their weapons are keen-honed and they use them with skill. They will press the battle upon the world when their interests are threatened, and the violence which follows will last until the structure of society as it now exists is leveled to rubble, and a new society emerges...

-- A Canticle for Leibowitz, Chapter 20 by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

When I first read that passage, I thought it was a good prediction of fundamentalists and conservatives and reactionaries in America, but it describes fundamentalists of any faith, anywhere in the world.

Which warrior?

A burned-out warrior rides into a small town and stays with a peasant family. The little boy asks to be trained by the warrior. Their training session is stopped by parents. Sexual tension is obvious between the mother and the warrior, but she stays committed to her husband. Bad guys try to intimidate the peasant family, breaking their equipment and eventually burning down a house. The boy watches his hero in a bar fight with thugs. Later the bad guys hire a skilled rival warrior to kill the hero and chase off the peasants. The warriors know each other. Their final confrontation takes place in a bar. As the hero leaves, the little boy runs after him shouting his name.

That description fits the 1953 Western Shane and the 2013 martial arts movie Once Upon A Time in Vietnam.






Lockout. You'll wish you had been.

I'm trying to remember all the major flubs in Lockout without having to pull it out of my "RESELL THESE DVDS" box and watch it again. There will be spoilers.

The premise is nice. Future hero has to rescue somebody from a prison in orbit above Earth. Not only does he have to break in, avoid getting killed by hundreds of loose prisoners, and get back to Earth with the hostage, but he has to do it before the prison space station falls out of the sky. I thought it might be like Outland. Instead we get Escape From New York in space, heavy on the banter, light on the logic.

My first disappointment was when the warden explained that prisoners are kept in stasis.What kind of punishment is that? Okay, your family and friends grow old or die while you sleep for 30 years. That's a bummer if you have anyone you care about. You'd have some culture shock when you get thawed out 30 years in your future, but if you were asleep for the whole thing, it would seem to pass in an instant. It would feel like time travel. Some people would pay millions for that experience. Or maybe you stay awake for the whole sentence, in which case you would be absolutely psychotic when you come out. Look at what solitary confinement already does to people with a normal, waking life. Tell me that paralyzed, motionless, solitary confinement, locked in your own brain for 30 years could be any less traumatic.

Plus it only makes sense for criminals with a limited sentence. What would a life sentence mean to a person in unconscious stasis? To the criminal, it would seem like they went to sleep and never woke up. Unless you plan to wake them up again, it would mean an execution of consciousness, but keeping the body alive. And how long do you keep these corpsicles in stasis? Hundreds of years? As long as possible? For what purpose, if you never plan to wake them up?

So the President's daughter goes up to tour this prison, planning to grill the warden about whether the stasis process is humane. A prisoner gets loose, releases all 500 other prisoners, starts killing guards. They don't have ships to get off the prison station (why not?) so they have to take hostages and negotiate with people on the ground to get off the station.

So far, so good. Government officials communicate with the leader of the prisoners with the usual cliches. The prisoner keeps issuing ultimatums and then cutting off communication, then coming back a while later.

A ship docks with the station and some guy representing the govt is allowed on board to negotiate further.

Why would the prisoners allow that? Why wouldn't they negotiate everything via radio and only allow the ship to dock when they're ready to be transported to Earth? Because the writers need a diversion while our snarky, reluctant hero Guy Pearce in a space suit sneaks off the bottom of the ship and tries to enter the prison station from some other port.

Eventually they raise the stakes. A ground control guy explains to the President that the prison station is falling out of orbit. It will land somewhere on the Eastern seaboard in six hours. While our hero and the damsel get in space suits and jump down to Earth, a dozen starfighters try to drop a bomb down the Death Star's exhaust port or whatever. They know the station has wicked, computer-guided defensive weapons that will fire at them. For some reason they have to get in close and fly a big circle around the ship to the vulnerable spot, instead of flying directly to the spot where they want to drop their bomb. At least Star Wars had a half-assed reason for that, but no explanation here. Thankfully it's kept to only a minute or two of fighter pilots yelling pointless warnings to each other like "Unit six taking fire! I'm taking fire! Ahhhhh!" or "Weapons at six o'clock!" By the time you could say "six o'clock," your warning to the pilot behind you would be too late. And they're all going too fast to cover for each other.

Luke targets the wamp-rat hole and the prison station explodes. Our hero and his rescued lady somehow manage to not burn up and parachute to the ground. Yay.


What they forget to show are pieces of this massive space station raining down on New York City or Washington or other cities along the East coast six hours later. The prison space station was in a decaying orbit. They blew up the station, but they didn't disintegrate it. Those pieces have to come down somewhere. Maybe the explosion was forceful enough to blast pieces further out into orbit, but some would be blasted down toward the Earth, and others would be blasted to the sides or in directions that wouldn't go into orbit again. They changed it from a slug to a shotgun blast coming down on the East coast.

If they wanted to prevent that, they should have sent a team to board the station, kill or subdue the prisoners, and pilot the station back into orbit. Or maybe build a remote control in your giant prison space station so people on the ground can pilot it or put it on lockdown?

Friday

Up From the Shadow Out of Time: A Grand Unified Theory of the Lovecraft-Hendrix Axis

The Shadow Out of Time was published in the June 1936 issue of Astounding Stories.
If you haven’t already done so, read “The Shadow Out of Time” by H.P. Lovecraft, then listen to “Up From the Skies” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Next, read "At the Mountains of Madness" and "The Call of Cthulhu," and preferably the complete fiction of Lovecraft. Then listen to the rest of Axis: Bold As Love, and everything else by Hendrix.

As you should be able to deduce, Hendrix’s body was briefly inhabited by a Yithian. “Up From the Skies” is a sincere appeal from a non-human wanting to learn about the 1960s for possible mass mind migration. The song uses slang terms which the Yithian thought would be more clear to humans of that era. You dig?

Jimi probably acted funny for a few months, but not funny enough for friends or handlers or hangers-on to notice. They would have thought he was being a moody rock star, or tripping, or drunk. Not far out of character.


 
I just want to talk to you. I won't do you no harm.
I just want to know about your different lives
On this is here people farm.
I heard some of you got your families
Living in cages tall and cold
And some just stay there and dust away
Past the age of old.
Is this true?
Please let me talk to you.

I just wanna know about
The rooms behind your minds.

Do I see a vacuum there
Or am I going blind?
Or is it just remains of vibrations
And echoes long ago?

Things like "Love the world" and
"Let your fancy flow."
Is this true?
Please let me talk to you.
Let me talk to you.

I have lived here before
The days of ice
And of course this is why
I'm so concerned.
And I come back to find
The stars misplaced
And the smell of a world
That has burned.

Yeah well, maybe, hmm...
Maybe it's just a... change of climate
Hmm, hmm...
Well I can dig it
I can dig it baby
I just want to see.

So where do I purchase my ticket ?
I'd just like to have a ringside seat
I want to know about the new Mother Earth
I want to hear and see everything
I want to hear and see everything
I want to hear and see everything.

The Yithian obviously abandoned Jimi after only a few months, finding the 1960s too freaky. Meanwhile, Jimi's mind was transported into the body of a Yithian 250 million years ago, where he talked with other captive humans from different periods, including an alcoholic with a rocky marriage from 1938, a young Native American, a disabled woman from the future. These stories became vignettes in “Castles Made of Sand.”
Jimi wrote “Little Wing” about an Elder Thing he met (see “At the Mountains of Madness”) who was also captive of the Yithians. An early draft of the lyrics mentions “butterflies and penguins and moonbeams.”
Some of Jimi’s experiences from that period are mentioned in his other songs, especially visions of mountains falling to the sea (“If 6 Was 9”) and the rise of R’lyeh from under the sea. ("Voodoo Child" – “Well I stand up next to a mountain. I chop it down with the edge of my hand. Pick up all the pieces and build you an island, I might even raise a little sand.”)
The Yithians were able to screen the future film Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind while Jimi was there, which explains the battlegrounds and insect-riding in “Spanish Castle Magic.” The line about "Just float your little mind" is about the way Yithians can transfer their consciousness between bodies.
“Bold As Love” is just trippy, Dylanesque imagery written before Jimi’s abduction. No connection.

Wednesday

about me

Critiques of Trailer of the Temptress by Zoetrope workshop members

Zoetrope online writers workshop is a defunct site that was run by Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope All-Story.

    Greg T. --  i liked the story, but i believe there are some aspects of
    it you could change to make it more affective. dialogue was
    the main problem. you need more dialogue between you and
    the first two characters. without it, they weren`t
    believable. you observed a lot about them (physical traits,
    enviroment, etc.), but i found it hard believing they were
    real people. put life into them. that`s your job as a
    writer. it could be my opinion, but descriptions don`t make
    characters affective. actions do. 
    i enjoyed the incorporataton of fairy tales into the
    encounters with the characters. it put a refreshing twist
    on the story. sometimes i felt it was a little vague.
    incorporation, like the kind you did in your story, is
    hard. to make it affective, is twice as hard. my suggestion
    to you would be to work on clarity and fluidity. 
    your puncuation was pretty good overall, but watch how you
    use those commas. one problem i saw was with placement in
    between adjectives describing a noun. if the adjective
    describes the noun separately use a comma. if it doesn`t
    there`s no need. spelling was also a problem in a few
    places too. i have the same problem. work on it. 
    the best advice i can give you is read, read, read! great
    books are never hard to find. learn from the masters. good
    luck! 
    p.s. don`t take what i say too seriously. i don`t. 


    Victor Z -- Very interesting and
    entertaining story. I specially enjoyed how you mingled the
    magical characters in our more mundane world. 
    Just a couple of observations. There are a few sentences
    that you begin with "and", cardinal sin. There is also once
    sentence that I`ve reprinted below that needs to be
    reworked. You`ve linked to many things together with too
    many "ands". 

    And the shelves were covered with German cuckoo clocks and
    kissing Dutch tots and glass kittens cleaning themselves
    and ceramic figurines of anorexic faeries holding flowers
    and golden angels blowing trumpets and purple plastic Happy
    Meal gorillas and three issues of Popular Mechanics and a
    broken remote control for a TV that`s been gone 15 years
    and more ceramic figurines and glass hearts and fake orange
    flowers and wooden clothespins. 

    You`ve got an imaginative and entertaining style, good luck
    with your story. 


    Betty A -- I like it! However, I do
    find many "ly" ending words and suggest they be removed or
    find a method to use vivid verbs to replace them. Also, I
    noticed many tense shifts as "pull" should have been
    pulled. 

    Overall a delightful story. 


    David E -- Rob, the writing is
    definitely of professional standard. The idea is terrific. 

    But the criterion that matters in any fantasy is the reader
    is able to suspend disbelief during the course of the
    story. 

    Too much weirdness, too quickly, spoils the taste. Somebody
    clever once told authors that they should be content with
    "one big lie" in each story. 

    I was sucked in totally by the troll, but had lost the plot
    by the time I got to the temptress. 

    I genuinely think you`re on to a terrific idea. But I also
    think that any one of your favourite weirdos would make a
    better story than the whole lot put together. 

    Incidentally, I think your last line is very, very good. 


    Michael F -- I enjoyed this story
    because of its satisfactory blending of the mundane and the
    fantastic (meals on wheels being delivered to goblins,
    etc.). I often find the everyday world feels fantastic and
    supernatural when you really look at it in a certain way,
    so there was something pleasing about the way the author
    mixed the two. I also appreciated the author`s basic prose
    skills. Northrup is obviously a very experienced writer or
    a very talented beginner, because the prose flowed smoothly
    and never felt over or under-written. There were no
    howlers, groaners or reaching for effect. It takes either a
    lot of practice or a tremendous amout of raw talent to
    write prose that seems so effortless. What I found wanting
    in the story was -- to put it simply -- a story. Once the
    author set the scene I waited for something to happen that
    would engage me or make me care what was going to happen
    next. I know that many writers are mood or language
    oriented and disdain plot, but I find that the best mood
    pieces have some kind of dramatic tension underpinning
    them, and I felt the lack of that here. Despite the good
    writing and engaging, imaginative locale described, I found
    my mind wandering about 3/4 of the way through, because
    there was no realy story to engage me. However, I do
    appreciate the talent and skill that went into this work,
    and the piece worked for me 75% even without a story, which
    is saying something. 


    Larry S -- 

    Things of note: 
    >this wide flowering shrub 
    A mention of type of shrub perhaps ... this seems kind of
    flat (I do it often myself). 

    >And the shelves were covered ... 
    This is one whopper of a sentence. I could have read it
    better had it been broken up a bit. 

    >Strong girl if you carry goats for me 
    I guess I hadn`t guessed the narrator was a girl 
    up to now. Was that intentional? 

    >The trailers near the front of Sunshine Court 
    This paragraph contained what I thought was well 
    done description. 

    General Impression: 
    You have some passages that give very good description. 
    I think you help engage sparks of imagination in all of us.

    I believe the story may have began better if the troll`s 
    existence was dropped on the reader almost immediately. 
    He/she would then have known right away that this story 
    held something unusual. 

    I didn`t see enough dialog to comment much. The 
    characters could have been described more. I was 
    well into the story before I had any vision of the 
    main character, and only received scant details of 
    most other characters. 

    Thanks for the excursion into the land of imagination. 


    gina F B -- I thought this was a
    great story. Very imaginative with the right abmount of
    reality mixed in to make it totally believable. I thought
    the voice of the narrator was great, the language used was
    perfect. I really liked all the imagery and dialogue. The
    part where you used the run-on sentance to describe the
    trolls nik-naks was perfect, really gave the impression of
    a crowded junk shop. In my opinion the section with the 150
    year old woman and the troll were the best. For some reason
    I didn`t think the middle shut-in was as developed as it
    could have been. I liked your ending, thought it fit really
    well.  

Criticism of "godfella"

Jason S. -- Wow, maybe wowsers... This was a really great story, the man took a joke and worked it out to over 3,000 words, and it kept the punchline going throughout, keeping it funny instead of suicidally depressing. I thought the ending was pretty interesting, almost a pick me up, you`re left thinking maybe this fellows life could pick up a little after standing up to this grubby jerk who ransacks his apartment. I look forward to seeing any of this guys future works, in fact, Rob, let me know where you get published so I can pick up some of your stuff. In other words, good job guy.

Colin R. -- This is disgusting blasphemy, and I hope you burn in Hell for daring to put it on the page! 
Naaah! But I bet you'd get a few of those if this was published in the open. I have.

Great opening Rob, really caught me and got me laughing. There were lots of funny lines - particularly those which seemed to portray Paul as suffering, rather than being in awe of, the presence of his god - but a few of them passed me by. "Bruno"; why? To get a laugh, it should have some significance, and I couldn`t see it. I`d have got him to explain it more himself.

There are some clever observations hidden away in there, too. "Those who say they came out even are lying ..." etc, being one.

Criticism? Shame about the on-screen formatting, of course, but apart from that, there was nothing seriously wrong with the writing. The section with Kelly Terliss was quite powerfully written, but it felt too out of place in the middle of this comedy.

I dunno how much of a joke and how much of a piss-take the ending was supposed to be, but it made me laugh all the same. It fitted, in a bizarre sort of way, and god knows how else you could have ended it. Maybe with Paul not giving a shit, but Kelly dying in the bath then - bring the whole thing down with a nasty bump.

Weird, but it made me smile.


Dennis L. -- Decent writing, but the last few sentences changed the tone of the whole story, which is what I`m sure you intended. It`s too bad because you had an interesting story here, but maybe you didn`t know how to end it? The concept of God and religion is a touchy subject for many people, and I`m sure this will insult some readers. But you can`t please everyone. I liked the underlying humor and the flow. I would give it an ending, though, because I was beat up by everyone in grade school and want to know how I should take myself out.


Todd S. -- You kind of ran outta gas there, huh? At the end I mean. It reminds me of me, actually. I`m a great premise or set up man, but plot comes a little more difficult. I like your God here. He`s suitably bizarre. This is the second "weird god" story I`ve read on this site in two days ( the other is in a story called "a funny thing happened on the way to evolution" or something like that.) Well, you need some more conflict. I say, your God here is a betting kind of fellow. How about having the narrator make some sort of bet with god to make his life better? Some sort of Murphy`s Oil soap guzzling contest or something. Or arm wrestling. Something pretty childish. God can end up getting his ass handed to him. Or maybe the narrator can ask God how many times *he* got beat up in grade school. I`m betting a lot. Who wants to be friends with stupid god boy. Yeah, I`d cheat off his test paper, but it`d be wedgie city for the almighty.


Diane B. -- Well, Rob, you definitely gave it to us in the end, but I hope this isn`t your usual way of ending stories..lol. You won`t get many followers of your stories in the future.

Your dialogue was good. It was realistic. Your characterization was strong and vivid. I could visualize the events as they were taking place--sometimes too well..lol.

I was a little queasy over the old olives and the Murphy`s Oil Soap. Being a Southern Baptist, I felt like I was being sacreligious the whole time I was reading the story...lol.

I think if you really worked on the end and made a real point to the story, it could be a good one. I don`t think all ends should be tied up in a story, but you need to have it go somewhere, have a direction, or make a point, and ending this one as you did, didn`t do that.

You have talent and the basic skills to write great stories with solid characters and a plot that flows. Good luck with it. 

Stories

Buckaroo Banzai in the Lesterverse
http://h2g2.com/entry/A5781323

Wreck of the S.S. Neglected
http://h2g2.com/entry/A8319963

My Terrifying, Dry Warrior

Chapter One: Francis Gives Gus the Finger
http://h2g2.com/entry/A34569156

Chapter Two: Kidding the Buddha
http://h2g2.com/entry/A34570271

Chapter Three: Crushed Gus
http://h2g2.com/entry/A34570424

Chapter Four: Dry Ice
http://h2g2.com/entry/A34570668

Chapter Five: Live and Let Dry
http://h2g2.com/entry/A34570839

fangboy

godfella

Grunyon (unfinished, rated T for Teen)

The Myth of the Mountain Tree
http://h2g2.com/entry/A421354

Vampire in the Mountain Tree
http://h2g2.com/entry/A421417


Suburban Lanes (novella)

Trailer of the Temptress
http://h2g2.com/entry/A398748

Trapping Beaver (unfinished)

Truckin
http://evilbobdayjob.blogspot.com/2014/03/truckin.html

Yet Another Creation Myth
http://evilbobdayjob.blogspot.com/2014/03/yet-another-creation-myth-as-told-to.html

"Dismal bookstore event under Livonia"
Story I posted on Amazon author blog which I can't find a copy of.


radio plays:
Brazen Hearts, Fresh, On Sticks
bloody goblin love story podcast

The Radcliffe Project by Robert Levi
Audio commentary to second Harry Potter movie, in which the narrator describes the hidden messages planted by Chris Columbus, J.K. Rowling and Time Warner to prevent Mr. Levi from marrying the star of the film, Daniel Radcliffe. 2005.
http://www.radio4all.net/index.php/program/15238


Pat Benatar Interviews Rainbow Brite
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZrLb3kzS4Q

One-Upsmanship Mates!
[lost]

critiques of my stories:
godfella
Trailer of the Temptress

Saturday

Reasons why you should get it on with Marvin Gaye, in order from his weakest argument to strongest

1. My body wants it. My body wants it.
2. I ain't gonna worry.
3. Come on, come on, come on, come on, come on.
4. Since we've got to be, let's live. [And by "live," I mean get it on.]
5. I won't push you, baby.
6. We're all sensitive people with so much to give.
7. There's nothing wrong with me loving you.
8. Nothing wrong with love.
9. You are hearing this request in the form of a serenade from Marvin Gaye, a very good looking guy.

Sunday

Non-Fiction archive

Furniture Strumpets and Debit Card Toilets

DIY Intelligent Design

Activist Judge

FUCK TEXAS
or try the original grainy pamphlet version of fuck texas!


How To Write A Bad Movie
Event Horizon
John Carpenter's Vampires
Meet Joe Black
John Hughes' Underdogs Only Win If They're Bitches

Ken Burns' Jazz Ain't That Bad

Peanuts Grow Underground
Questioning and celebrating the darker side Of Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts Mythos

Porn Pundit
Essay written in character of a fairy munchkin named Bosun Chubris, probably not safe for work

punkasfudge
a search for subbacultcha

Rage Against The Medicine

RYSABL!
anti-lawncare activism

Subj: FWD: Instructions For Life -- Tantra Luck
with rebuttal

What Would Linus Do?
2000 voter's guide to Peanuts & Scooby-Doo

h2g2 (Hitchhiker's Guide entries)

Jackson, Michigan, USA

The Ann Arbor Hash Bash, Michigan, USA

Waffle House Restaurants

The Secret To Winning Friends Discovered Through Mercenary Bell-Ringing

Kucinich, rhymes with spinach
http://h2g2.com/entry/A2274428

Awesome South American Writers Whose Names I Can Never Keep Straight
http://h2g2.com/entry/A778520

The Eyes of Our Savior
http://h2g2.com/entry/A601192

Zaphodista Army of Cybernautic Liberation
http://h2g2.com/entry/A520769

movie reviews & interpretations on h2g2

Chick Movies of the Tragic Chinese Variety
http://h2g2.com/entry/A811081

Fried Green Tomatoes with Boys On The Side
http://h2g2.com/entry/A1018306

Lilo & Stitch - the Best Disney Movie for macho guys
http://h2g2.com/entry/A954470
[I later reworked this idea into Lysistrata & Stitch for Journal of Cartoon Overanalyzation.]

Movies that capture "The Horror of Childhood"
http://h2g2.com/entry/A720721

Subtext Ahoy!
http://h2g2.com/entry/A585786

Selling Points - movies mentioned in blog
Snake People (1968) (15 JUL 2004)
Death Ride To Osaka (1983) (2 JUL 2004)
The Hulk (5 JAN 2004)

Audio/Video

Brazen Hearts, Fresh, On Sticks
Chick Lit takes a Critical Hit in the bloody goblin love story podcast. Josie is a typical young goblin, selling freshly grilled human hearts outside the mall, trying to survive her ruthless family, and pining after that dreamy hobgoblin who just stomped into town. In each chapter, she describes part of her story to you, another human whose heart she will soon be selling on a stick.

Dungeons and Dayjobs podcast
Me and whoever I can rope into it, reading fantasy and sci-fi stories from the collection pictured below. Started Jan 2007.

The Radcliffe Project
Audio commentary to second Harry Potter movie, in which the narrator describes the hidden messages planted by Chris Columbus, J.K. Rowling and Time Warner to prevent Mr. Levi from marrying the star of the film, Daniel Radcliffe. 2005.
http://www.radio4all.net/index.php/program/15238

Pat Benatar Interviews Rainbow Bright
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZrLb3kzS4Q


video
Deidzoeb on YouTube
That's me. Lots of mashups, a few songs, a few crochet demonstrations, some vlogs.

Melsbasketcase on YouTube
Cats and baby sasquatches and grey aliens and mental health and politics and vlogging by Melinda.