Thursday, November 30, 2006

Against the Blog: 2-1

There are parts of this section that I don't totally get. I suspect that will continue into the future. But I will do my level best to summarize them. That's part of the value of writing this for me: it may bore YOU to distraction, but it helps me to keep a handle on what's going on in the novel.

Surprisingly, we start right where we left off, with the Chums heading north into the Arctic Circle. Apparently, this area of the world is now playing host to a "Ray-Rush," as people come from all over to make their fortunes (?) by finding rays--light rays, magnetic rays, and rays of many other descriptions. Well okay* then!

The Chums are accosted by their Russian counterparts, lead by their rival/sometime nemesis Igor Padzhitnoff. Igor warns the Chums, in ominous terms, that there is some sort of unnamed, unnameable emergency going on in these parts, and that they might want to steer clear. Then, the Russians fly off.

The Étienne-Louis Malus is sailing northwards also, in search of...well, the crew is unclear on this point. Possibly Iceland Spar. The ship's crew is compared to characters in a Norse saga, sailing off into the unknown, possibly into Ginnungagap's quite striking, if a bit long to quote. On the ship in addition to various scientists is Scarsdale Vibe's son, Fleetwood. Scarsdale is financing the voyage, and his son is here to keep track of expenses and whatnot.

I'm not one hundred percent sure where we are now, but I think it's meant to be a little islet near Iceland itself. We meet an old woman named Constance Penhallow, who...doesn't really do much. She poses for paintings sometimes. I'm not really sure what her purpose here is. Her grandson Hunter--who paints her--decides to join the Étienne's crew.

Next: a section involving complicated math which I don't understand. The scientists on board this ship, dubbed the Transnoctial Discussion Group, are meeting in a hotel, which I think is in Iceland. As best I can tell, they are discussion the possibilities of traveling in more than three dimensions--we've had land, then water, then sky, what about time? This is the subject of heated controversy. Also:

Iceland spar is what hides the Hidden People, makes it possible for them to move through the world that thinks of itself as 'real,' provides that all-important ninety-degree twist to their light, so they can exist alongside our own world but not be seen. (134)

This is clearly what was going on with Lew Basnight.

Then we go back to Hunter Penhallow, bidding farewell to his grandmother. And that is that.

*fucking firefox 2.0 does not think that "okay" is a word. They would, I suppose, prefer "OK." Maybe we should just abandon written language altogether and communicate solely by jumping up and down and hooting, eh mozilla?


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Against the Blog: 1-10

The Chums of Chance are on a mission in the Indian Ocean. They are to be on the opposite side of the Earth from Colorado Springs, thus to observe the effects thereon of Tesla's experiments. We can assume, therefore, that this is around 1899; the Chums more or less seem not to have aged, except that it is mentioned that Darby's voice has changed. Also, at least some of them seem to be at least vaguely sexually aware: "'That Jasper," sniggered, Darby," in reference to Lindsay, 'never pulled out his 'dummy' for nothing but pissing, I bet you!'" (110). There is discord among the ranks. Darby appears to be undergoing a teenage rebellion phase, and is preaching anarchism, to Lindsay's shock. Also, Miles is become increasingly eccentric: the meals that he cooks have become wildly inconsistent, and he periodically speaks in gibberish. You may recall that earlier it was established that he was prone to flashes of some sort of clairvoyance.

The central conflict among the crew concerns what the ship's new figurehead should be: Darby and Chick want a naked woman; Randolph want a "safe and patriotic" (ibid) eagle, and Lindsay, "as if offended by the worldliness of these choices" (ibid!) argues for a platonic polyhedron. They eventually compromise with a non-naked woman. The experiment takes place on the fourth of July. It's not at all clear what is ascertained, but afterwards, they seem to recover from their period of discord and sullenness.

They receive a new mission, to intercept a ship headed to the arctic regions, and stop its commander from doing...whatever it is he's doing. They receive the message through a pearl, developed by cunning Japanese techology to transmit information:

Through a highly technical process, developed in Japan at around the same time dr. Mikimoto was producing his first cultured pearls, portions of the original aragonite--which made up the nacreous layers of the pearl--had, through "induced paramorphism," as it was known to the artful sons of Nippon, been selectively changed here and there to a different form of calcium carbonate--namely, to microscopic crystals of the doubly-refracting calcite known as Iceland spar. Ordinary light, passing through this mineral, was divided into two separate rays, termed "ordinary" and "extraordinary," a property which the Japanese scientists had then exploited to create an additional channel of optical communication wherever in the layered structure of the pearl one of the tiny, cunningly-arranged crystals might occur. (114)

I quote the above passage because the next section, on which we are coming up, ie entitled "Iceland Spar" (this first section, I neglected to mention, is "The Light Over the Ranges").

The crew is to reach this ship (the Etienne-Louis Malus) by travelling through the Earth--yes, we're getting hollow-earth theory here. There's a whole big world underground, with civilizations and whatnot. The Chums encounter a city under siege by gnomes with electric crossbows. Oh yes. They stop to help, and their picaresque adventures inside the planet are, we are told, related in The Chums of Chance in the Bowels of the Earth--"for some reason one of the less appealling of this series" (117). After this interlude, they exit the interior world and continue their search for the Etienne.

Thus endeth part the first.


Orson Scott Card is a crazy person

That's right: crazy. And to think--there was probably a point, in tenth grade or thereabouts, when I would have called him my favorite writer. How embarrassing.

Against the Blog: 1-9

It's the Summer of 1899, and seventeen-year-old Kit Traverse is working on electrical experiments in Colorado Springs for Nikola Tesla. He has become obsessed with electricity, in all its forms. While there, he meets Scarsdale Vibe's assistant, Foley Walker. Vibe seems to be funding Tesla, in spite of his earlier opposition to the man. During the Civil War, when Scarsdale was conscripted, his father paid for Foley to take his son's place. Decades later, Foley come to visit Vibe in his office. Apparently, he took a bullet in the left temple during the war, which left him hearing voices in his head that give him good financial advice. Following this advice, Vibe gets richer still, and takes on Foley as his assistant.

Foley offers Kit a full four-year scholarship at Yale, on the condition that afterwards, he come to work for Vibe. Kit can't help but jump at the prospect. Webb is violently opposed to the idea, surmising, probably correctly, that this is an effort by the capitalist elite to steal his family. Nonetheless, Kit persists. Only his mother comes to see him off.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Against the Blog: 1-8

Webb Traverse works in the mine. In his spare time, he dynamites the mine, and mine-related items. It's the fourth of July, and as the section opens he's planning the detonation of a section of railroad with fellow anarchist and Finnish émigré Veikko Rautavaara. Webb acquired his propensity for fighting capitalism by blowing stuff up when, in a billiards hall in Cripple Creek, a ball somehow exploded, provoking a flurry of gunfire that miraculously left him unharmed. Leaving the saloon, he meets the Reverend Moss Gatlin, who preaches anarchy, and is converted. In Leadville, he meets Mayva Dash dancing on a bar, and marries her. They have three sons, Reef, Frank, and Kit, and a daughter, Lake. Webb wants his children to follow in his footsteps, and teaches them about dynamite, with varying results. Webb, however, is troubled by his calling, and worries about losing his family if he's ever caught. But he resolves to pound his philosophy into their heads, even if it entails totally alienating them.

The attack on the train track goes smoothly, and Webb and Veikko celebrate the fourth of July with vodka.


What the fuck, Duck?

I suppose it was inevitable that he would go with the ol' "the conservatives weren't conservative enough, so the people voted for people who were less conservative" argument," as nonsensical as it is. Give him credit, though: he so rarely strays from his inane sniping at liberal strawmen that it's very difficult to pin him down as ever having been for much of anything, which gives him some ill-deserved wiggle room in repudiating his fellow republicans.

But more important: an elephant prostitute? Seriously, Tinz: huh?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Against the Blog: 1-7

After her departure, Merle Rideout dreams about Erlys. Erlys Mills Snidell, as it turns out. In the news lately is an experiment taking place at the Case Institute in Cleveland, "to see what effect, if any, the motion of the Earth had on the speed of light through the luminiferous Æther" (58). He travels to Cleveland at Vanderjuice's request to check it out, and when he gets there he finds the city fixated on the pursuit of a bandit named Blinky Morgan who allegedly killed a police officer. There are also lots of Æther enthusiasts around, some of whom periodically get locked up at the Northern Ohio Insane Asylum. These enthusiasts include Ed Addle, Roswell Bounce, and O.D. Chandrasekhar. Merle gets it into his head that, in the event that Blinky Morgan is caught, the Michelson-Morley experiment will show that there is in fact no Æther. He theorizes that Professor Edward Morley and Charles "Blinky" Morgan are in fact the same person. There's some sort of science here involving light beams, but I don't really understand it very well. At any rate, Blinky is finally apprehended, and indeed the experiment shows that there is no Æther. "Because Blinky emerged from invisibility, and the moment he reentered the world that contained Michelson and Morley, the experiment was fated to have a negative outcome, the Æther was doomed..." (62) There is some discussion amongst the Æther-enthusiasts as to whether the Æther be God, or at least god-like.

In October, Merle is at the asylum breaking out Roswell Bounce, when a fire breaks out, allowing for easy escape. In gratitude, Roswell teaches Merle about photography. Merle becomes obsessed with the process, gathering up all sorts of chemicals and taking pictures of everything in sight. He begins wandering around the Eastern and Central United States, making money at it. At some point during all this, he meets Erlys. In East Fullmoon, Iowa, she leaves him for the magician Luca Zomboni, who is looking for a new assistant. He is left alone with their daughter, and he seems to be a better father than I had previously imagined.

After the exposition in Chicago, the two of them wander around the country for some years. There are some really gorgeous descriptive passages of their wanderings. Here's one:

Planted rows went turning past like giant spokes one by one as they ranged the roads. The skies were interrupted by dark gray storm clouds with a flow like molten stone, swept and liquid, and light that found its way through them was lost in the dark fields but gathered shining along the pale road, so that sometimes all you could see was the road, and the horizon it ran to. Sometimes she was overwhelmed by the green life passing in such high turbulence, too much to see, all clamoring to have its own way. Leaves sawtooth, spade-shaped, long and thin, blunt-fingered, downy and veined, oiled and dusty with the day--flowers in bells and clusters, purple and white or yellow as butter, star-shaped ferns in the wet and dark places, millions of green veilings before the bridal secrets in the moss and under the deadfalls, went on by the wheels creaking and struck by rocks in the ruts, sparks visible only in what shadow it might pass over, a busy development of small trailside shapes tumbling in what had to be deliberately arranged precision, herbs the wild-crafters knew the names and market prices of and which the silent women up in the foothills, counterparts whom they most often never got even to meet, knew the magic uses for. They lived for different futures, but they were each other's unrecognized halves, and what fascination between them did come to pass was lit up, beyond question, with grace. (70)

Merle takes various freelance work throughout the Midwest. While trying to sell lightning rods, he comes across a piece of sentient ball lightning named Skip, who travels with them awhile until he has to leave to become part of the lightning collective. In Denver, he comes across a magazine spread about Luca Zombini and his wife, Erlys, who live in New York and have bunches of children. This brings Merle to a kind of acceptance of her loss.

He sets up a workshop in a building in a deserted farm in Colorado, and there he meets Webb Traverse. They get into a discussion about alchemy (for which photography is apparently a metaphor) that I don't fully understand. Webb speculates that if the philosopher's stone serves as a metaphor for divine transmigration, there might also be a negative version. Merle calls it the "Anti-Stone," while alleging that "it has another name, but we'd just get into trouble sayin it out loud" (78). He basically doesn't want to talk about it.

Webb tells him about an amalgamator job in a town called Little Hellkite, which Merle takes. No, I don't know what this entails either, except that it presumably involves some sort of alchemy...thing.

And so, "this was how Merle and Dally, after a long spell of drifting from job to job, happened to roll to a stop in San Miguel County for the next couple of years--as it would turn out, some of the worst years in the history of those unhappy mountains" (80). Portentous!


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Against the Blog: 1-6

Lew is assigned to look after the Archduke Ferdinand while he's visiting the exhibition. The Archduke turns out to be kind of a little punk, and also quite violent: "What I am really looking for in Chicago is something new and interesting to kill" (46). He suggests that he might be permitted to shoot some migrant Hungarian workers in the stockyards.

Lew pals around with the Archduke's Austrian security officer, Max Khäutsch, and we get an amusingly anachronistic joke about cops eating doughnuts:

They got into the habit of early-morning coffee at the Austrian pavilion, accompanied by a variety of baked goods. "And this might be of particular interest to you, Mr. Basnight, considering the widely known Kuchenteigs-Verderbtheit or pastry-depravity of the American detective..." (47)

The Archduke visits a black bar called the Boll Weevil Lounge, where he provokes the clientele with various racist comments, and several yo mamma jokes. Lew is barely able to get him out alive.

After the Archduke's departure, Lew is assigned to survey various alleged anarchist groups, which mostly consist of workers' unions. "There was a kind of general assumption around the shop that laboring men and women were all more or less evil, surely misguided, and not quite American, maybe not quite human" (50). Anarchy is a frequent theme of the novel so far, starting with the dog Pugnax reading The Princess Cassamassima and going on from there. We all know what ends up happening to the Archduke Ferdinand, of course.

Lew dutifully observes the groups to which he is assigned, but ends up more or less sympathetic to the workers--they don't tend to fit the anarchist stereotype. But anarchism is apparently booming, and Privett ultimately assigns him to take charge of a newly-minted Denver branch of the operation. When he tells the Chums and Vanderjuice he's leaving, we segue into a discussion of how the West has been corrupted by mechanization and factory farming.

The Chums are getting more and more glum, and we learn that suicide is not unknown among the group. This clashes pretty dramatically with both the genre from which the Chums emerge, and from how they've been portrayed previously. Finally, they are assigned to a new, unknown mission, somewhere to the southeast. It seems that ballooning is being changed and corrupted by mechanization as well.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Against the Blog: 1-5

Ha! This was a fun section. It gets a bit post-moderny, as some question is raised as to whether or not the Chums are, in fact, merely fictional characters. "The great national celebration possessed the exact degree of fictitiousness to permit the boys access and agency" (36), Pynchon writes. They meet up with the detective who's going to be traveling with them, a young man named Lew Basnight. Lindsay is perplexed that Lew is unfamiliar with the group's adventures: "But every boy knows the Chums of Chance...what could you've been reading, as a youth?" (ibid).

Lew obligingly tried to remember. "Wild West, African explorers, the usual adventure stuff. But you boys--you're not storybook characters." He had a thought. "Are you?"

"No more than Wyatt Earp or Nellie Bly," Randolph supposed. "Although the longer a fellow's name has been in the magazines, the harder it is to tell fiction from non-fiction."

The narrative then segues into Lew's personal history. He has evidently committed some sort of great sin that has resulted in his social ostracism, but he can't remember what it is, and nobody will tell him. His wife, Troth, leaves him over the matter, and he's stuck alone in Chicago, an unfamiliar city. Wandering around, he comes across a group of pseudo-mystics, from whom he begs for some chance of atonement for whatever it is he's done. The leader of the group, Drave, agrees to help him, and sends him to a hotel the group is known. After a surreal elevator ride to his room, Lew is asked to bring the bellhop a drink as a tip, which leads into a series of tasks from Drave and company, both usual and strange--the whole episode has a distinctly Edward Gorey-esque feel to it.

He ends up having an epiphany: "He understood that things were exactly what they were. It seemed more than he could bear." (42)

Finally, he is approached in a cigar store by Nate Privett, who, after noting his preternatural powers of observation, takes him on in his firm. It's ambiguous, but the final paragraph seems to suggest that he has gained the ability to sort of slip in and out of the world--"he had learned to step to the side of the day" (44).

And now I think we WERE in 1893. Please excuse the confusion.


Against the Blog: 1-4

Remember the nekkid woman from 1-2? She was actually accompanied by a man, and both he and she put in an appearance at the beginning of this section. He is Merle Rideout, a photographer. She is Chevrolette McAdoo, a burlesque dancer. They meet the Chums and exchange pleasantries. Merle has a four-year-old daughter, Dahlia, whose mother, Erlys, ran off with a magician, Zombini the Mysterious. Merle isn't exactly the best father: he lets his daughter drink alcohol, and he half-jokingly offers to sell her to Chick when she turns sixteen.

The Chums' mentor, Professor Heino Vanderjuice (of Yale University) arrives on an airship piloted by a Ray Ipsow. The professor's laboratory is doing some unspecified work with electricity. He is acquainted with Merle from "the olden days in Connecticut," where he "used to do some tinkering for him now and then" (30). He seems to be preoccupied and worried about something.

He and Ray have a meeting with Scarsdale Vibe, a shady bigshot industrialist. Ray, a socialist, exchanges some heated words about the latter's robber-baron capitalism.

Vibe is concerned about Nicola Tesla's proposed "World-System," which would provide the world with free electricity, thus breaking down a big part of the capitalist system. Vanderjuice has a violently negative reaction to Tesla, who makes him feel "not so much a failure as someone who has taken a wrong turn in the labyrinth of Time and now cannot find his way back to the moment he made it" (33). Vibe wants him to invent a device that would counter-act and nullify Tesla's. Vanderjuice tentatively agrees to this, but feels highly ambivalent about the whole situation.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Don't think we're going to neglect the duckfuckery!

I do like the fact that the duck is being stabbed in the head in the first panel.

Dates that Tinsley did not forget: September 11. Because using a national tragedy as an excuse to attack liberals was important to him. Voting day. Because trying (and failing!) to depress voter turnout was important to him.

Important enough to remember: Really crass demagoguery, undermining democracy.

NOT important enough to remember: TEH TROOPS.

I hope this clears up any confusion.

Against the Blog: 1-3

Correction: apparently, we are in 1892, not 1893. Inchoatia regrets the error.

A short section. Miles and Lindsay wander around the fair and are overwhelmed by various cultural wonders. A carny tries to dazzle them with a three-card monte game, but Miles correctly divines that the card is under his hat. Lindsay expresses surprise, and Miles reveals that he is prone to momentary visions, in which he can see "how everything fits together, connects" (24). Meanwhile, Randolph is visiting an agency called White City Investigations and meeting with a Nate Privett, who is apparently contracting with the chums to allow their airship to be used for surveillance. One of their agents is to go up with them for this purpose.


Against the Blog: 1-2

Although this section has more or less the same tone as the first, the opening section suggests a certain amount of unraveling around the edges. "As they came in low over the Stockyards, the smell found them, the smell and the uproar of flesh learning its mortality" (10)--not what you'd expect of the nominal genre. It goes on like that for a few paragraphs.

After some mechanical difficulties, during which Randolph freaks out a bit, they end up docked at Chicago. It seems they aren't the only nineteenth-century aeronauts--there are lots of other groups' balloons and airships floating around, described in a nicely evocative paragraph (14).

That evening, Chick and Darby are on guard duty, while Miles and Lindsay are granted "ground-leave." The former two have a conversation in which Chick expresses angst over having been abandoned by his father. Then some members of a fellow flying club, the Bindlestiffs of the Blue A.C. show up and hang out with them for a while. The Bindlestiffs (who, we learn, are a highly egalitarian group) are lead by one Penelope Black, on whom Darby "had had a 'case' for as long as he could remember'" (18) They all have an amiable visit, during which we learn that mysterious things have been happening in the sky--strange lights, sounds, voices. "'Somebody out there,' Zip said solemnly. 'Empty space. But inhabited'" (20). There's also this bit of political commentary with no relevance whatsoever to the modern world:

As the [Siege of Paris] went on, it became clear to certain of these much the modern state depended for its survival on maintaining a condition of permanent siege--through the systematic encirclement of populations, the starvation of bodies and spirits, the relentless degradation of civility until citizen turned against citizen, even to the point of committing atrocities like those of the infamous pétroleurs of Paris. (19)

A recurring theme in this section is that of burgeoning sexuality, which seems to me to be a counterbalance to the asexuality of the kind of stories that Pynchon is parodying. Near the beginning, the crew skies a nekkid lady on the ground below, prompting immediate avid interest. "Say, Randolph," Darby remarks, "you look like you're going over to meet a girl!" (16). "I had not been aware that fellow of your years recognized any distinction between the sexes" (ibid), Randolph replies. And, most humorously, a double entendre in the song the Chums sing after dinner: "The Chum of Chance is a plucky soul/Who shall neither whine nor ejac-u-late" (15). I would not be surprised to see this explored in more depth later on.

Word I had to look up: Fata Morgana


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Against the Blog: 1-1

The novel starts off in the form of a kind of Boys' Adventures thing starring "that celebrated aeronautics club known as the Chums of Chance," which travels around in the "hydrogen skyship" Inconvenience. It is 1893, and they are currently headed to Chicago for the World's Fair. The members of this gallant troupe include Randolph St. Cosmo, the leader; Lindsay Noseworth, the stern and pedantic second-in-command; Darby Suckling, the crew's youngest member; Miles Blundell, handyman apprentice; and Chick Counterfly, the newest member who is kind of rude and may not be fitting in. They also have an alluded-to scientific friend, Professor Heino Vanderjuice, and a dog, Pugnax, who, as we first encounter him, is reading The Princess Casamassima. I'm afraid that any detailed James allusions in the novel will go over my head; I'm not a big fan.

A number of the group's previous adventures are mentioned by name, including one in Washington, DC called The Chums of Chance and the Evil Halfwit--notwithstanding the hundred-plus year discrepancy, it seems like that's gotta be a swipe at our current ruler.

The chapter ends with an ambiguous conversation between Randolph and Chick regarding the parallels between "north" and "up," and the notion that, just as if you go to far north you'll be going south, if you go too far up perhaps you'll be heading down? I know not what this signifies, but I'm intrigued.

Words I had to look up: anemometer, absquatulate


Boo. Yah.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Festive Duck-related idiocy


Ya might think the time-travelin' liberal media conspiracy would care more about the decimation of the indigenous people community, but I guess that would be less, uh, hilarious. Anyway, I strongly suspect that all The Tinz knows about Thanksgiving he learned whilst making construction paper pilgrim hats in kindergarten, so let's not be too hard on him.

In summary: Michael Wigglesworth would kick Tinsley's wannabe-puritan ass.


Friday, November 17, 2006

A fine robot

Tragically, this classic ditty does not appear to exist anywhere on the internets. Let's remedy that problem, shall we?

Once I made a fine robot,
Made him from a kitchen pot,
When I finished my robot,
He said "thanks a lot!"

Thanks a lot,
Thanks a lot,
Thank you,
Thank you,
Thanks a lot

Hope you don't think I am rude,
But please bring me something good.
Pots are programmed to hold food,
Bring me all you've got.

Thanks a lot,
Thanks a lot,
Thank you,
Thank you,
Thanks a lot

If you make a fine robot,
Please don't use a kitchen pot,
He'll eat all the food you've got,
And say "thanks a lot!"

Thanks a lot,
Thanks a lot,
Thank you,
Thank you,
Thanks a lot

And now, my half-assed French translation, which Gabrielle can nitpick:

Une fois j'ai fait un robot bien,
Ai lui fait d'une casserole,
Quand j'ai fini mon robot,
Il a dit "merci beaucoup!"

Merci beaucoup,
Merci beaucoup,
Merci beaucoup

Espère que vous ne pensez pas que je sois grossier,
Mais s'il vous plaît apportez-moi quelque chose bon,
Les casseroles sont programmé de contenir des aliments,
Donnez-moi tout que vous avez!

Merci beaucoup,
Merci beaucoup,
Merci beaucoup

Si vous faites un robot bien,
S'il vous plaît n'utilisez pas une casserole,
Il mangera toutes des aliments que vous avez,
Et dira "merci beacoup!"

Merci beaucoup,
Merci beaucoup,
Merci beaucoup

Doesn't quite scan, does it? Ah well--Franglais times!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

And speaking of comics we hate...

Extremely profane desecrations of Cathy comics. It appears to be dormant now, but there's plenty there to amuse and scandalize. A sample:

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I am undone!

Here is a collective that is WAY more obsessed with Mallard Fillmore than I am. I find this one, transposing dialogue from MF and Mary Worth, especially hilarious.

...and Firefox 2.0's spellcheck feature is trying to tell me that "dialogue" should be spelled "dialog." Double-you tee eff, people. Aren't we illiterate enough already?


Sunday, November 12, 2006

More duckish fuckwittery

He's been beating the shit out of this feeble premise since Wednesday. So he not only thought this was actually in some way clever--he thought it was clever enough to merit four days' worth of comics. I know that the comics page is littered with lameass strips that somehow refuse to die, but this is really pushing it. Shoe and The Born Loser may be like death warmed over, but you don't get the impression that they're written by smug, homeschooled fundamentalist twelve-year-olds. The above comic is my favorite out of the series, because it also features another popular MF trope: thinly-veiled racism! 'Cause we all know how those minorities get into good colleges...Ah, Mallard. You are a thing of beauty and a joy forever.

Also: James K. Poult. It ain't no Plover Cleveland, but it ain't too bad either.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Back to the ol' grind

Um...the minority of what? Couples? Adults? The total population? Shouldn't there be an asterisk pointing to a blurry URL that seems to have no relation to the subject? Isn't that part of the Right-Wing Hack Cartoonist's Style Guide that Tinzhorz uses? Maybe we should legalize gay marriage, eh Tinz? That ought to bump the proportion up a bit.

That aside: only minorities that are actually persecuted receive legal protection, you babbling cretin. Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to make fun of dimwitted right-wing cartoonists. Sheesh.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ceeee-lebra-shun time COME ON!

Hey, I know that the Democrats are far from perfect. You don't need to remind me. But this these results are still MAD AWESOME--a massive repudiation of Bushism. We can worry about Democratic specifics later.

What I'm most happy about is that the elections seemingly went off sans deibolding. That might actually be the best thing to come out of this. I don't know why they wouldn't at least make an effort to cheat (I'm preemptively ruling out "princple") here, but it restores a tiny shred of my faith in the system.

Also, now we get to enjoy enraged bellowing from the usual wingnuts. Mallard Fillmore's gonna be a fucking blast, I'm sure of it. Some might call it childish of me to take such pleasure in this. But, dude: this is the first election night in a looooong time that hasn't been horribly traumatic. I think I deserve to enjoy the aftermath to the fullest. We all do.


I was so, so wrong to doubt. Shame about that miserable Lieberman shithead, but that, miraculously, seems to be about the only fly in the ointment. Free orgasms for everyone!



Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Maybe it's cheapening democracy to reduce it to a spectator sport, but DAMN. No sleep tonight, I think.

Way too easy

Seriously, Tinzhors. Man, these days I just feel mean talking smack about Tinsley. It's like tripping a retarded toddler.

Of course, if you're stupid enough to take advice from fascist cartoon waterfowl...


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Crushing gaming disappointments #1

Warning: I totally geek out in this post. Anyone not literate in the subject matter will likely be completely lost.

I know this is old news, but let’s hash it out anyway: New Super Mario Bros. Seriously, man. When the news came down the pipe that we were getting a new 2-D Mario platformer!, there was mass rejoicing. But the final product…man, I know it satisfied a lot of people, but I was deeply underwhelmed. Yes, okay: on the one hand, I am well aware that it’s wasn’t fair to expect it to have the same impact as SMB3 did when I was twelve. Or whatever I was. But I am quite certain that this ain’t just me. NSMB just lacked that creative spark. Sure, it had its moments: hitting that megashroom in the first level was mad neato, and the first time you jumped on a springy mushroom and the camera pulled waaaaay back to show how far up you were going—cool. Granted. But there are all too few moments like that. The worlds, by and large, are simple rehashes of what we’ve seen before, with very little real creative spark. It doesn’t help that the polygonal graphics lack the crispness of the classic sprite-based Mario. None of the new enemies make much of an impression. And the power-ups—man, don’t get me started. The mega and minishrooms are amusing gimmicks. But that’s all they are: gimmicks, designed to show off the scaling capabilities of the system. They’re almost completely irrelevant to the actual gameplay. Which would be fine—except that the designers were apparently so excited about them that they didn’t feel any need to include some that were. So the only other power-up besides the standard mushroom and flower is the blue shell—a decent idea in theory; worse than useless in practice. It primarily serves the function of causing you to accidentally careen into pits. So, you’ll basically be sticking with the flower. Solid, but very, very familiar. A few really cool, useful new power-ups would have done wonders for the game.

Also: difficulty, anyone? Like, could we have some? The game isn’t as braindead as Super Princess Peach, but that ain’t saying much—I don’t know what’s wrong with Parish, but this is not a demanding game. And I say this as someone who’s always been mediocre at best at platformers. Even if you are having trouble, the constant, endless stream of 1-up mushrooms should easily get you through. I don’t demand non-stop, brain-crushing difficulty, but man—I would have liked a bit more than this.

So yeah. Maybe they’ll learn from their mistakes with a sequel, but I’m kinda doubting it, given the near-universal praise it received from gamers, deeply in denial as they are. Not that anyone can blame them for that, but still.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Orin Judd would cream his jeans

There's a fascinating and horrifying article in the November Harper's by Wells Tower called "The Kids Are All Right," about the latest of the annual National Conservative Student Conferences, which took place in August. It's not available online as of right now, but I would highly recommend buying the magazine to read it. At a literature person, I was especially appalled by a passage about a panel entitled "Great Books to Read in College." The first speaker recommends the usual polemics by right-wing types--fine, whatever. Enjoy your little circle-jerk. See what I care (there's also a guy who thinks, no shit, that we should exclusively be reading books about Ronald Reagan--fun times). But then they start pissing all over actual literature, and my hackles are raised.

The speaker here is Elizabeth Kantor, managing editor of the Conservative Book Club. That name rang a bell, and I realized that I had previously seen on amazon, and been duly irritated by, a Regnery book she had written called The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature, which, per the cover, makes various provocative (read: insufferable) claims: "Most great literature was, in fact written by dead white males;" "The greatest English literature is explicitly Christian and celebrates military courage;" "Most great writers have been conservatives if not reactionaries;" and--of course!--"Jane Austen was a fan, not a critic, of 'the patriarchy.'" I'd love to see that last one substantiated. But not enough to make me want to buy the book. Anyway, let's see what Kantor has to say at this here conference:

Elizabeth Kantor, when she gets up to speak, is also bent on promoting books that, on the face of it, are not conservative at all. She likes the classics: Shakespeare, Milton, T.S. Eliot. While arguing the superiority of Western civilization, you're at at a disadvantage, she says, if your readerly horizons end at Dinesh D'Souza and Ann Coulter.

Difficult to argue with that. Do go on...

What's so pleasurable about reading the greats is not only that they're rich with human truths but

Can't you just tell the other shoe's about to drop?

also that they can be mined for conservative values, or dismantled into rhetorical brickbats that make for good hurling in culture war skirmishes

And THAT, my friends, is why people like Elizabeth Kantor have no fucking business saying anything at all about literature: because, all protestations to the contrary, they only care about it insofar as they can use it as a weapon to attack their ideological enemies. This may not be a completely fair judgment, since it's a paraphrase, but "dismantled into rhetorical brickbats" seems to me to be the perfect summation of this attitude. Literary value? Yeah, yeah, that's fine--but look! We can take it apart and make it into a tool to beat people with! Rock on!

Beowulf, for example, instructs us that " a noble pursuit.

The mind reels. While you certainly won't find me arguing against the idea that conservatives today are akin to blood-feud-obsessed Medieval Scandinavian warrior tribes, can Kantor really be unaware of how crazy the idea that we should be modeling ourselves after Old English poetry sounds to a normal person?

Dickens's Hard Times, in Kantor's reading, is a valuable critique of the "dehumanizing effects of the modern science-based education."

RIGHT. Because Dickens is opposed to Gradgrind's obsession with FACTS, that means that, instead, he would favor teaching children outright lies.

Incidentally, would it be unkind of me to note that, her doctorate notwithstanding, all her favorite books appear to be things she read in high school?

First in the Q&A line, Molly Fitzhugh, of the McDonogh School, in Maryland, voices suspicions that her teachers have been trying to pawn off as classics books that actually are not, such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Kantor field's this one: "Well, I haven't read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and I wouldn't recommend that you read it either."

This very nearly beggars belief, but there it is, in black and white: don't read dangerous, unapproved books--you might accidentally be exposed to a dreaded new idea! Horrors! I don't suppose it's ever occurred to Kantor that, if her approved authors had been as idea-averse as she is, they wouldn't have been the writers that they were. SERIOUSLY. Jesus FUCK.

Then a student from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs claims to have had "interesting experiences" reading "non-Western books," specifically Indian literature. "Do you have any recommendations for books that are good but may not originate in Western civilization?"

Kantor gives a slight, apologetic grimace. The answer is no. "There's an awful lot of people reading things just because it's not ours, and who hate what's ours, and I think we should cut that out."

That's right, kids: if you read Rushdie or Murakami it's because you HATE AMERICA. This theory had never occurred to me before, but now I've seen the light. I mean, no other explanation makes sense.

It's actually to her detriment, because I'm sure that, if she were willing to give it a go, she would find that Mishima, e.g., would make an excellent brickbat. Then again, if she tried that, I would have no choice but to track her down and beat her into unconsciousness with a copy of The Riverside Shakespeare (hey, don't blame me--using books as cudgels was her idea). So maybe it's for the best.

A cursory google search reveals that, degree notwithstanding, she doesn't seem to teach anywhere--and for that, I think we can all be deeply grateful. At least she's not inflicting this cretinous bullshit on anyone who doesn't want it inflicted on them. I fondly hope that, at the very least, the kid who asked the question was moved by her answer to question some of his/her beliefs.

Applause erupts for the first time in the "Great Books" talk.

That's right: cultural myopia is the big applause line. These are the kinds of people who prefer to interact with foreign cultures by bombing the shit out of them rather than trying to understand them. And given this pigheaded opposition to understanding, it's no wonder they're such shit at cleaning up after the bombing's over.

The last student in line tilts her head at a coy angle and asks the panelists, perhaps in jest, whether they can "recommend some non-conservative books that are actually worthwhile."

After a long, mirthful pause, the room breaks out in laughter.

God, it's like the end of a fucking Saturday morning cartoon, isn't it? Where the characters have all learned a Valuable Lesson, about peer pressure or what have you, after which the tension is broken by a transcendentally lame joke, everyone bellows with laughter, credits roll.

When the chuckling subsides, Marjory Ross [Regnery's president] inofrms the student, "Books that aren't conservative don't have anywhere near the staying power that the conservative classics have. They tend to fade away."

That's it. I got nothing. 'Night, all. Turn the lights off when you go.

Friday, November 03, 2006

New Chick Tract

Yargh! This isn't the first Masonry tract we've seen, but it does address an important concern that the others don't: forty percent off on lumber! I'm not sure quite how that works (do you have to show a card?), but still: pretty sweet. Eternal salvation is great and all, but I don't know if I'd be able to pass up the cheap wood, man.


A reason to be cheerful

I don't know exactly when this happened, but now there's an actual review of Against the Day on amazon--which forces me to concede that, the book almost certainly actually exists. Wordz to your birdz. Let's hope we're not all dead before it comes out.

Why I haven't been talking about the elections

'Cause it's just too horrifying. I remain deeply pessimistic the outcome. First, I'm not at all convinced that the polls can be trusted. And second, even if they can be, I think that election fraud is gonna negate any advantage the Dems have. Sure, I don't doubt that they'll pick up a few seats, but I don't think it's gonna be enough. And the downward spiral will continue.

I'd love to be pleasantly surprised, of course. But I remember how optimistic I felt in 04, and how awful it felt to have that faint beam of light abruptly snuffed out. So I'm not getting my hopes up.

Randumb ten

This is what I do when I can't think of anything else to post.

01. Bok, Muir, & Trickett, "Julian of Norwich"
I know I'm prone to hyperbole, and thus should probably not be trusted, but I'll say it anyway: this may be the most sublime recording I've ever heard. 10/10

02. 16 Horsepower, "Neck on the New Blade"
A stark, plaintive little number. And how many other Christian bands use the word "fucking?" I haven't done a study, but my guess is: not many. 8/10

03. The The, "Armageddon Days Are Here (again)
Unsubtle, yet justified, religion-baiting from Mr. Johnson. 8/10

04. Yoko Shimamura, "Silent Labyrinth"
Welp--it's a track from Live-A-Live, a game which you should totally play. This song is from...a labyrinth. Presumably. Although not a silent one. Okay, so I can't connect every song with every area. The game has a LOT of 'em. But this is, like, atmospheric and stuff. It doesn't work perfectly on its own, but it does what it does well. 7/10

05. Johnny Dowd, "Just like a Dog"
Nice claustrophobic desperation. Like a needle in a junkie's arm/like a blanket keeping this baby warm. Fun stuff. 8/10

06. Echo & the Bunnymen, "Altamont"
I can't say as much for their other reunion albums, but I'll admit it: Evergreen is pretty good. So is this song. 7/10

07. The Handsome Family, "The Snow White Diner"
Guy sits in a diner while outside a woman has driven her car into a river, drowning herself and her children. The Handsome Family is one of the most literary bands I know. 8/10

08. Dresden Dolls, "672"
Not much of a song. The number in question is repeated a number of times. A cursory google search reveals no definitive meaning for this. It's certainly not MEANT to be a full-fledged song, but,'s not. 5/10

09. Emmylou Harris, "Like Strangers"
This is the kind of thing you'd expect to hear on A Prairie Home Companion. Take that for what you will. 7/10

10. Blondie, "Rip Her to Shreds"
Debbie Harry's vocal stylings are always entertaining, even if this doesn't rank among my favorite Blondie songs. 6/10