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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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
    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

    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

    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

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 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

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

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. 


Buckaroo Banzai in the Lesterverse

Wreck of the S.S. Neglected

My Terrifying, Dry Warrior

Chapter One: Francis Gives Gus the Finger

Chapter Two: Kidding the Buddha

Chapter Three: Crushed Gus

Chapter Four: Dry Ice

Chapter Five: Live and Let Dry



Grunyon (unfinished, rated T for Teen)

The Myth of the Mountain Tree

Vampire in the Mountain Tree

Suburban Lanes (novella)

Trailer of the Temptress

Trapping Beaver (unfinished)


Yet Another Creation Myth

"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.

Pat Benatar Interviews Rainbow Brite

One-Upsmanship Mates!

critiques of my stories:
Trailer of the Temptress


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.


Non-Fiction archive

Furniture Strumpets and Debit Card Toilets

DIY Intelligent Design

Activist Judge

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

a search for subbacultcha

Rage Against The Medicine

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

Awesome South American Writers Whose Names I Can Never Keep Straight

The Eyes of Our Savior

Zaphodista Army of Cybernautic Liberation

movie reviews & interpretations on h2g2

Chick Movies of the Tragic Chinese Variety

Fried Green Tomatoes with Boys On The Side

Lilo & Stitch - the Best Disney Movie for macho guys
[I later reworked this idea into Lysistrata & Stitch for Journal of Cartoon Overanalyzation.]

Movies that capture "The Horror of Childhood"

Subtext Ahoy!

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)


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.

Pat Benatar Interviews Rainbow Bright

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.

A few more stories posted on h2g2

Buckaroo Banzai in the Lesterverse

Wreck of the S.S. Neglected

My Terrifying, Dry Warrior

Chapter One: Francis Gives Gus the Finger

Chapter Two: Kidding the Buddha

Chapter Three: Crushed Gus

Chapter Four: Dry Ice

Chapter Five: Live and Let Dry


SINGLE WICCAN FEMALE (SWF), 22, seeks fangboy, not too ripe (15-25), for nocturnal adventures, trading notes on the occult lifestyle. Other interests include indie film, hiking, making candles. Leila, #1332.
This ad caught my eye cause I was in the right age range, sorta. I asked Tod, "Nocturnal means night-time, right?" He said, "Yeah, lemme see," and took the paper. "This one, nocturnal adventures? Sure that looks good. At the start of the ad she sounds like she might be too much for you, but if she's into movies and hiking and candles, she ain't much to worry bout." "So, um, should I study up on racing movies so she'll think I'm into em too?" "Racing-? No, man, that's independent movies. She likes little arthouse movies and French shit that nobody else goes to see. Naw, don't study up on that shit. If you don't know anything about it, that makes her feel like an expert in her field. Don't worry about any her interest, Dennis. The kinda people that write these ads can't get a date with anybody they work with or people they know, so they take a little time out from their desperate masturbating to write a ad. You could be a young Republican stockbroker that never watches movies, has asthma attacks on hikes and gets hives from candle smoke. She'll still snuggle her ass up to you, as long as you seem like you read vampire books." "Tod, what's a Republican again? That's like Nixon, right?" "Yeah, like Nixon. They're the bad guys. Aw shit, you don't even know who the presidents were the last twenty years. If she talks about anything like that, just say you don't follow politics. Or sports. And you don't watch much TV or movies. "I'm tryin to think of shit she might talk about that would blow your cover. Uh, Clinton, the president right now is Bill Clinton. A lot of people hate him, but he kinda admitted he smoked weed in college, so he's okay." "No shit?" "What else is big, lemme think. . .Russia fell apart. They're alright now, for the most part. Umm, wars -- you need to know about the Gulf War. Irock is this country in the Mid-East. Dude: we tore their shit up. It was like a hundred thousand of them died and only two or three hundred of us." "Wow. Hey, what happened about Nam?" "Oh, they finally just got sick of us getting stomped so they pulled our guys out and the Commies took over." "Wow. What else? I won't be able to remember all these wars! What can I do?" "No, that's about all really. Other than that, it's just invasions like Grenada and Panama, uhh, something around South America, um, the Falkland Islands, that's the one. . ." "Okay, so we had a war in Irock, we surrendered in Nam, and we invaded South America and where else?" "Forget it, forget it. You're fifteen, you don't have to know any of that. She'll think most of that happened while you were in diapers. What we gotta do that's more important is teach you to be a modern day fifteen year old kid." So Tod put the radio on this buzzing shit and he started digging through his guest bedroom closet and pulling stuff out for me. I asked if the speakers on his hi-fi were blown, but he said that's the way the music is these days. He yelled at me to pay attention to it, but the only good ones were Sheryl Crow and Blues Traveller. (Is that what they call "Blues" these days?) After I complained enough, he turned it to a "Classic Rock" station (Ha!) and said I could claim I like that stuff. "Tell her you listen to your parents' old records, Beatles and Hendrix and The Doors and whatever." "Bachman-Turner Overdrive, man!" "No, look, you don't want to sound like too much of an expert when you're only 15. Just mention a couple bands, not too many." Tod tossed a black turtleneck and black slacks on the bed, then thought better of it and put back the turtleneck. "That Goth shtick is about worn out. How's this?" He held a blue-gray shirt that would make me look from a distance like a bare-chested zombie. I put it back in the closet for him and rummaged through on my own. "I just need advice on how to pick up women, Tod, I don't need you to dress me." A lot of the crap in his closet was silly stuff I wouldn't wear: a cop's uniform, dresses, skirts, t-shirts from rock concerts by demonic sounding bands like "Tesla" and "Motorhead" and "Styx." On one side wall of the closet there was even a suit of blue and orange fur. Tod said he lost the bulldog head somewhere along the way, but it had come from a high school football mascot. She had worn leotards under the mascot suit so her movement wouldn't be restricted. The leotard he kept in a more special place. Finally I found a white dress shirt with a strange collar, just straight up like a priest's collar. Kinda like the collar on a Nehru jacket.. It was too big for me, but that just made it baggy around my chest and blousy around the arms. Tod said baggy pants were stylish these days, but he wasn't sure about shirts. "That don't matter. I like it. Now what's next. Will you call her for me?" Tod said, "Don't be fuckin stupid. You want me to kill her for ya too? Don't even gimme that look. It won't happen. Just take her ad and call the number and work off the ad. "Come on, let's get right to it," Tod said, waving me through the kitchen and into his big living room with the vaulted ceiling. He bumped me onto the end of his pillowy brown couch, right next to the phone. "Just look at the ad and tell her shit about yourself that the ad makes you think of."\ I looked over the ad again and said, "Okay, so I'll dial this number and say HI, can I speak to Leila? And-" "It's gonna be a recording. Christ, you're a walking flashback. Listen, man, it's a recording. Everything's a recording these days. You'll call this number and you'll hear a sexy, plastic, secretary voice tell you 'Hello and welcome to the Meridian Greensheet's VoiceBox Dateline.' Then it'll tell you to press a button for men seeking women or a different button for women seeking men or couples seeking swingers or weirdos seeking pets. You type in her number and it'll play you a little message of hers, prob'ly word for word what her written ad said, and then it'll beep and you'll say: . . ." Tod rolled his hands at me like beckoning more words out of me in a game of charades. "Um, okay, I say Hi Leila, um, I saw your ad here, in the Greensheet. Okay, about me, I'm uh 15 and I have curly light brown hair and green eyes-" Tod stopped pacing to say, "We're gonna change your hair, Dennis, so don't tell her that." "No, you're not! My hair is fine like this! Jenny always liked it!" "Fuck, man, Jenny was twenty years ago. You're way outta style. She's gonna be lookin for a young Tom Cruise and you're gonna show up with a lopsided afro like you're tryin to be Peter Frampton!" "Who's Tom Cruise? No, never mind. I'm keepin my hair like this and that's all there is to it." "Fine, whatever." Tod was pacing again. I stared at the ad, repeating, "Hi Leila, saw your ad in the Greensheet. My name's Dennis. I'm five foot six, CURLY LIGHT BROWN HAIR and green eyes, and what else do I say? I don't know what to tell her, Tod." "Look at the ad and talk about it. Say you like candles even when it's not a candle-light dinner, and you like going out late at night. Just follow it down the list of shit she says and think of how they might involve things you like to do. What's the first words on her ad?" "Single wiccan female. What's wiccan?" Tod turned from his east-west pacing route across the living room to drop to his knees in the pillowy brown La-Z-Boy and slam his fist on top of the chair back like a moslem angrily bowing towards Mecca, hollering, "Jesus Henry Christ on a pogo stick! You're hopeless! There's no fuckin way! How can I teach you all this shit to stay in character like a modern 15 year old when you're so fuckin flighty and useless! It's not that you're stupid, man, I know you got some brains clattering around in there. But the only fresh knowledge they seem capable of picking up is fuckin Mario Superkart and what your stinky, old, dead hippy bands created after you settled in for your God damn li'l beauty sleep!" I put my chin on my fists and pouted at that point, but couldn't stay mad when he jumped off his big chair to face me and screamed, "No more Credence! You don't play any more of my fuckin Credence albums for the rest of this year, you got it?! I ain't no Fortunate One havin to listen to you play that fuckin 'Down on the corner! Out in the street!' fuckin over and over! I don't wanna hear some funky Dixieland, pretty mama com and take me by the hand!" He was actually caught up in the song with all his raving, so I jumped up and tried to sing the low part without my voice cracking: "By the hand (hand) take me by the hand (pretty mama!) Dance with your daddy all night long!" Tod wouldn't have it. "No," he told himself, walking across the coffee table and arm chair, "it don't matter. This ain't rocket science, it's just trappin beaver. Even you can handle this. Get down off there! Like I need your damn dirty shoes up on my God damn davenport." "What's a davenport?" Tod shoved me down on the sofa again and explained, "A Wiccan is a person who practices the religion of Wicca. The religion is basically an excuse to say God is a woman. They claim that witches have worshipped nature spirits and the Great Mother Goddess for a million years, so they burn candles and incense and sing and dance and wave wands and enjoy their menses. (Don't fuckin ask me what menses is, boy, go talk to yo mama!) It also fits perfectly with feminism, by coincidence. So anyhow, the ones I've met are either way into feminist politics -- which means they're as friendly as a cold pick axe -- or they're the type that wants to dance nekkid in the woods. That's what your babe here sounds like. "You don't need to know everything about how it works, cuz she'll clue you in and probably want to convert you. Man, really, I can't be there on your date to help you out. So I'm just gonna walk out of the room, let you make the call, and you'll stand or fall on your own merit. Okay?" After five minutes I went into his bedroom to find him trying to read Rolling Stone. He said, "Well?" "Do you think I should say Hi or Hello at the start of the call? Or should I be cute and say Howdy or something?" ... ... EPILOGUE Leila peeked around the corner of her cubicle after Mr. Jeffries settled into his office for the morning. She ducked low so her topknot wouldn't be seen floating over the tops of the cubicle walls, and snuck over to Tina. She couldn't really confide in her middle-aged co-workers about her strange nightlife. But Tina was young and hip and had to take the ring out of her eyebrow before coming to work every morning. "Tina!" she whispered, leaning around the wall. "Yeah, how'd your date go with the teeny bopper?" Tina said, still staring at the document she was entering data from beside her terminal. When Leila said nothing for a moment, Tina turned to face her. Leila was pulling back her black turtleneck and showing a big bruised scab a the place where her neck met her collarbone. "He gives the most righteous hickeys!" END.