Posts by: "Lucy Steigerwald"
  • images (1)I didn’t do a Christmas Truce piece this year (I know, I know) but mine from last year is really pretty good, I think.
  • I now have a billion podcasts with Sheldon Richman (lucky me!) and here is a list of them in audio form, if that catches your eye. They are also scattered about Youtube if you wish to see our beautiful faces.
  • “When Lemmy Took on the War on Drugs” — RIP, God.
  • I’ve only ever listened to a Motorhead album once, but it was good. “Ace of Spades” is undeniable. It gave me hope that I could perhaps someday like some metal (this is a rare feeling, and usually only “War Pigs” or something provokes it). Most importantly, about 11 years ago I was at a party and was for some reason talking about Lemmy to a group of people. One B.E. had been sleeping in a chair, woke up suddenly, explained how Lemmy got his nickname, and then fell back into dreamland. B.E. had no memory of saying this the next day.
  • Amen, Patton.
  • This British woman is recapping all of The X-Files, and she has the right feelings on the greatness of Scully and the frustrating, absurd, lovable loser that is Fox Mulder. I think I love the Cigarette Smoking Man more than she does, though. I love his weird, non-villainous/Canadian accent.
  • Sort-of-proto-Reason.com Suck.com is now available for easier archive reading. Not that Gen-Xers really rejoice about anything. I’ve seen Reality Bites, man. And it was terrible.
  • Sorry, Carrie Fisher, this is America, and in America a surprising amount of people believe that “how my boner feels in response to this” is an acceptable type of comment to make in a public forum. Or, you know, to the actual person in question sometimes.
  • Suderman is right about The Force Awakens, and he’s one of the few.
  • A worthy defense of George Lucas and the weirdly almost underrated A New Hope.
  • I’m not sure if I’d love Harley Quinn outside of her origin cartoon, but I totally get it there. The amount of pathos, humor, and charm portrayed in an abused, criminal cartoon character is rather astounding to watch. I would say it’s incredible that a children’s cartoon pulled that off, but why insult cartoons or children? (God, I love that gun moll voice, though.) Yet, it’s still impressive that they make her funny, but they don’t make the Joker’s abusive of her a joke. Her whole character strikes this I suspect almost impossibly deft balance.
  • My general dislike of The Force Awakens inspired me to go look up actual fanfiction. I was pleased to discover a nearly flawless, book-length diary of the arch nemesis of one Emily Byrd Starr — L.M. Montgomery’s lesser known heroine, who I think is better than Anne of Green Gables — and some amusingly angsty Fallout 3 pairings. Fanfiction is like poetry, there is a staggering amount of godawful stuff, but now and then there is something special. And hell, practicing writing in the voice of a character you didn’t invent can only help you if you want to write for TV or other serialized mediums. But seriously, the Evelyn Blake diaries one manages to make Emily Starr look bad, yet doesn’t ruin my fond impressions of her. It just confirms that mostly decent people do horribly misread each other often, which is a very useful lesson for life indeed.

And today’s video is not a hot tune, but an interview:

I adore Martha Gellhorn, the late, great war reporter. I had never seen her speak before, however, and this interview from the early ’80s was a hell of a start. She was no libertarian, and she had an unfortunate somewhat knee-jerk defense of Israel (but most people who do didn’t see Dachau, so….). However, her words on wars and on governments in this video are stunning. She scorns the media, she scorns leaders, she waxes poetic on the Spanish Civil War, and she describes in excruciating detail what Dachau concentration camp looked like the day after liberation. Give a watch, and read her work. I recommend Travels With Myself and Another, but she’s got a bunch of works I haven’t gotten to yet. Which is how I prefer it when a wonderful author has passed. I’m glad I got so slow with my Oliver Sacks reading during the last few years….

On a side note, that Dachau description is fascinating and sickening. Someone like me who has read countless books about the Holocaust, and learned nothing from the Museum in DC simply because I knew it already tends to not forget exactly, but forget what it would mean for the knowledge of this crime to have been a shock. Not something we all know as the internet-joke high water mark of human evil, but something entirely new and impossibly evil. Old Ed Murrow’s radio piece after he saw Buchenwald gets this point across. More than anything, he sounds pissed. And his final lines display that need to know thing.

I don’t think I am jaded about the crimes of the Nazis by any means, but at the same time, this kind of thing is good to remember. Especially if you’ve just started playing Wolfenstein: New Order, and feel vaguely awkward about it.

Me, except I was a girl with better hair.

Me, except I was a girl with better hair.

Spoilers for the game Fallout 3, ahoy:

The internet suggests that a lot of people knew they were hooked on Fallout 3 the moment the tutorial is over, and you leave Vault 101 to see the (irradiated) sun for the first time. For me, the opening credits in which “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire” by the Ink Spots* plays, and then the camera (as it were) pulls back to show a world of desolation and ruin confirmed that Rogert Ebert, may he rest in peace, was wrong about video games not being art.

I have happy memories of Sonic, Super Mario (or rather, watching my brother and cousins play them much of the time) and of playing Mariokart 64 and Super Smash Brothers (and failing atrociously at Goldeneye) after homeschool group was over on Fridays.

I would never have insulted video games as a medium. But for more than a decade, I was stuck firmly in the N64 and the Sega Genesis era of games. I have been amused in passing by the violence of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, but only enough to steal a few cars, then drive off a cliff with the cops on my tail. Not enough to really want to get anywhere in the game.

And though I don’t dislike fantasy, it rarely really gets me, so video games never grabbed me as much from that angle. I’ve beaten Shining Force 1, but I have never played Final Fantasy, Warcraft, or Elder Scrolls or anything like that.

My video game knowledge completely stalled out. Games were a bit base with me. They were about a ticcy sort of entertainment, or an itch to scratch when you want to do something with your hands. They were not about simply wanting to see what happened next.

And then I saw Boyfriend play Fallout: New Vegas and said “oooh, pretty backgrounds” and then I got very interested in the nuclear side of the apocalypse via On The Beach, and a few months ago I said, hell, Boyfriend, hook up that Xbox 360, and let’s play Fallout 3.

I was confused for weeks about basic movement, and I missed a few choice things like captions for months. It took me more than six months to play for about 130 hours. Hell, this game is seven years old already. But this game taught me (rather dangerously) that there is a whole ‘nother medium that I could fall into. It was like pretending and like watching a movie that never ended — like an emotionally effective Choose Your Own Adventure book. It was a revelation.

Everything I would gush about in respect to this game would sound obvious to people who play them. And to people who don’t (like my mother, who sticks with Myst and The Neverhood-style puzzle games without violence) it’s hard to describe the mixture of violence, frustration, curiosity, amusement and joy, within this post-apocalyptic Washington, DC.

I never played a game with emotion before, not really. I took joy in the claymation in the aforementioned Neverhood. I know the frustration and the satisfaction red shells can bring in Mario Kart. I even enjoyed the semi-tedious RPG fantasy of Shining Force. But it didn’t fully click until Fallout 3.

Basically, nuclear war happened 200 years before (which is weird, because the terrain makes it feel more recent). You were raised in Vault 101, and your dad (Liam Neeson!) raised you up, and then one day mysteriously left the vault. All else — as in, you and a thousand side quests  before you find him again– follows. The outside is a Mad Max-ian wasteland, except there are ghouls, supermutants, and warring human factions. It’s a first-person shooter, except that it’s also a sprinkle of RPG, and also you can gather objects, and wander around, and talk to characters, and read things, and basically choose a great many things including the order in which you do almost everything.

Oh, and it’s DC. It’s familiar enough DC to give me the creeps (though not as much of the creeps as when you go to Pittsburgh in the expansion!). The metros are the grimmest part. They’re depressing, dank, and easy to get lost in. This was a world in which their reality and ours diverged somewhere after WWII, and it’s a parody of the ’50s (or the World Of Tomorrow ’50s) turned into dust and radiation. (Though the old world lingers, albeit sometimes in chunks of rubble, garbage, and dead people form. And in clouds.)

Since my thoughts are not easy to organize, let me just offer a few scattered impressions of the most memorable bits, starting with the myriad sad ones:

-Night and day. I have never played a game where there is night before. The fact that a video game can actually provoke that feeling of being stuck somewhere where you should not be, with no ride, when it’s getting dark and you’re in trouble, amazes me. Night brings about fear, even if daylight is also dangerous in these times.

-The violence. The extent of my experience with even slightly realistic violence in games is Grand Theft Auto, where I mostly just ran over a few people while fleeing, and Wolfenstein 3D, which is so old I played it in MS dos. Fallout 3 gives you head-exploding bloodshed often. It’s cartoony in its way, but can be unsettlingly graphic when you are the one causing it to happen.

But the moral questions are there, even if they are inconsistently applied. I feel no regret killing the soulless human raiders. But the feral ghouls who were once humans give me the creeps. In the game, you pick belongings off of bodies for loot, and the ghouls seem to invariably be carrying a pitiful collection of a few caps (currency) and maybe a single fork, or worst of all, something like a teddy bear.

Even supermutants, who are entirely unsympathetic until you meet a sane one, can creep you out to kill sometimes. After slaying ten of them one evening, I started to feel all too I Am Legend about the whole thing.

I always feel a pang of regret in killing robots as well. Hostile robots were programmed that way. Raiders and such have made their choice!

-Truly horrible easter eggs abound. Fallout’s mascot is the in-game mascot of the Vault-tec corporation known as Vault Boy. He’s a smiling cartoon fellow who represents the game’s one foot in pure retro-future, ’50s kitsch, in which smiling housewives tout their brand new robots. The other foot is a grim future that (obviously) cannot realistically portray nuclear war, but is intending to disturb you all the same.

Somewhere in Georgetown is a house in which the robot will read a poem if you ask him to. It’s a nod to “There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury, in which the dogged automatic house keeps functioning long after everyone is dead. The Fallout 3 house contains what is obviously intended to be a child’s room, with a child’s skeleton on the bed. This kind of thing leads to coping habits. I collected a few useless items in-game, such as teddy bears. I did not take them from that house, or from what appeared to be a child’s grave in another area. I have standards.

There are lots of bits of data you can pick up along the way that also add to the picture of this destroyed world. There are diaries by a nurse trying to help people right after the bombs fall. There’s a log from a scientist slowly going mad in a vault after his child dies (yep). There are so many touches that make the world feel too big to even get to. I know I missed important characters, and whole quests, because there was just too much to do.

-Ghouls and their rights. The game more or less gives you the option of if you want to be prejudiced against ghouls, some of whom are perfectly normal non-player characters (NPCs) with which you can speak. One of them in the ghoul town is named Carol. Since ghouls are old, she remembers the day the bombs fell. She can tell you about it if you ask, and it’s as eerie as any cold war sci-fi classic.

When you get to a place called Tenpenny Tower, you find a snobby population of humans warring with a cranky ghoul named Roy Phillips and his followers who want to be able to move in. One of the many skills you can hone in the game is speech, and you can choose to try to resolve the situation peacefully. You can speak to some of the bigots (and they aren’t all bigots) in the tower and convince them to let the ghouls move in.

You feel good and righteous when you do that successfully. Until you come back a few game days later and find that the ghouls have killed everyone, including the endearing NPC Herbert “Daring” Dashwood. The choice to commit horrible revenge upon the killers is yours to make, and it seems to be a popular one. (Myself, I killed Phillips and let the others live.) I was furious with that ending when I found out about it, but I appreciate the gut-punch it delivers all the same.

-Dad and other companions. No game that gives your dad the voice of Liam Neeson, and gives him a habit of calling you “sweetheart” is going to let things be okay in the end. Of course still I thought things would be okay in the end.

The game gives me such an irrational attachment to NPCs. You can pick up followers, including a dog called Dogmeat, a supermutant called Fawkes, and various other short-term followers you must protect on one quest or another. You have so many choices in Fallout 3 — including ones to be downright evil, such as when you can NUKE THE ENTIRE TOWN OF MEGATON — but I mostly stuck with playing myself, with a later character drinking problem. That meant I was not leaving any computer people behind, and I was constantly afraid my stupid dog would get himself killed while attacking a giant radscorpion or something.

But, oh. I had a moment with the dad character that killed me. You are supposed to escort your father and some other unhelpfully helpless scientists characters across the wasteland. A supermutant attacked, and I — forgetting that there are essential characters who cannot die — was worried about my father and his mere pistol. I lost track of him in the heat of battle, and then he appeared with some kind of laser gun he had taken off of a supermutant. It was a Hollywood moment of “fuck yeah, dad!” and a game full of uncanny valley-faced pixel dudes delivered it.

And then dad had to sacrifice himself. And it was upsetting. Like a story.  So I added to the story, and I  I went to the expansion pack area of the creepy swamp, and I killed bizarrely-strong hillbillies and drank game alcohol until I felt I could go on with the business of living in the wastes.

-This game starts with you losing your home in Vault 101, you find and you lose friends and safety over the course of the game. It took me a while, but I began decorating my house in Megaton with teddy bears, with souvenirs I couldn’t bare to sell, and with memories of dear old dad. It felt like home. You start to relish safety and downtime on some days, and the next you wander recklessly, itching for a fight.

-After losing Liam Neeson-dad, and after being depressed and frustrated during a 100 trips into the DC metro-horrors; after the no-winning at Tenpenny Tower, there is a final charge on the water filter project that dad was working on, and which has been taken over by the evil Enclave (the US government, for serious).

You are allied with the Brotherhood of Steel, who have some fascistic, racist leanings, but you kind of win their respect over the game. You have power armor, and though I kind of prefer my earlier, scrappy, Mad Max/gasmask-faced, shotgun-toting look, the armor is the classic Fallout look (seriously, it’s on every game cover). The Brotherhood has power armor. I was followed by Dogmeat and the friendly supermutant Fawkes, who you can rescue in a scary vault if you like, and then he later appears to help you out as you flee the Enclave (in another “fuck, yeah!” moment with a less flipping-you-off end result).

And then the Brotherhood mentions they finally got their giant robot working again. The one that was supposed to have been fighting the Chinese communists who took over Alaska right before the bombs fell. The one whose name is Liberty Prime, and who drops mini nukes and who speaks in robotic catch phrases about communism being a lie.

You follow the robot as you charge the water filter, taking out Enclave troops, and it makes every God damned depressing, confusing thing worthwhile during the last 130 hours. The game is such a sandbox, that I forgot I was going to be given some kind of ending. I had no idea the ending would make me giggle happily.

All of this is an incrediblye roundabout way of saying, video games; holy shit, video games. I am used to television, movies, music, and books telling me stories. To feel invested in a character who dwells in a wide-open, free format where you don’t just get to play as a wanderer, but you get to choose which way to go next is to feel like they just now invented a whole new way of telling stories.

You guys were doing this the whole time? God damn it, you should have told me about video games.**

*Way back in 1986, The Singing Detective demonstrated that The Ink Spots could be used to sinister effect. I very much appreciate that the makers of Fallout did their homework.

Also, you can listen to the radio station which reports on YOU a lot, but also plays the same eight old timey songs while you play. I usually played at night, so I couldn’t do this, but wandering in the dark while listening to a solid version of “Anything Goes” was pretty tremendous. However, too much music plus killing feels a little Apocalypse Now dissociative. I mostly keep the music at home in Megaton.

** On the other hand, video games feel a little more disconcerting than even a great movie in a dark theater. I shake it off within the half hour, but they are still weird in that they make me feel not just that I was in another world, but that in this one I have to click on “a” in order to pick something up.

In the second season premiere of Politics for People Who Hate Politics, I had a terrible connection, and we all had technical difficulties, but then — wonder of wonders — things went really well. And that is very surprising when you consider that we were not discussing paranoia or aliens or fun stuff like that, but politics.

My panel was me (hi), Joe (he’s terse, I can be terse — once in flightschool I was laconic), Franklin Harris (assistant metro editor for the Decatur Daily News), Todd Seavey (website! book!), and Liberty.me king Jeff Tucker (also he’s at FEE now!). We covered the debates, what hope libertarians can have in politics, how much Rand Paul sucks or doesn’t, how dangerous Donald Trump is or isn’t, how Jeb Bush could possibly seem less awful than, well, anyone, and why libertarians always pick one dumb side or another. Our Better Than Politics segment was about Halloween! Spoiler alert: Jeff Tucker is a very dapper fast food item. (To be fair, that’s sort of every day, isn’t?)

Give it a watch. It was one of those fun discussion that I therefore hope is fun to watch.

In honor of the fact that Sheldon and I are doing another podcast tomorrow, here is the most recent one we did on guns and the absurdity of suggesting bans. Charles C.W. Cooke was praised, liberals and conservatives hated upon, rants were had. Check it out. And then tune in tomorrow at 8 PM because for some reason we’re talking about Benghazi? But maybe there will be tangents. Hopefully.

vivianVivian Versus the Apocalypse (2012) by Katie Coyle:

In my apocalypse fiction travels, I haven’t done a lot of slow crumbles. This YA novel written by a MFA-gettin’ author whom my one friend knew is about a declining America thanks to environmental  shenanigans, violence, and an aggressive new cult called the Church of America. Our heroine is Vivian Apple, whose parents have converted to the Church and vanished on what was supposed to be Rapture Day.

There are YA novel and coming of age tale tropes: Apple is a goody-goody with a wilder friend and a dreamy boy with dreamy eyes who also has a — dun dun dun — secret. There’s a whisper of over liberalism, based mostly on the fact that the Church of America is hardcore mocking American Christian conservatism (not that that’s not frequently deserved). Even the existence of decent religious people doesn’t fully wash away the suggestion that this is all a metaphor for fleeing flyover country. But hell, that’s okay. Vivian the character herself seems to be a 16-year-old liberal. Sometimes you have to get to the promised land of California. Everything is okay except for the Walking Dead-esque “no, I won’t use a gun!” moment of stupid. (Nothing in the world is as stupid as a woman objecting to her sheriff husband teaching their 11-year-old son to use a gun in the middle of zombie apocalypse, because it’s not safe. Nothing. I haven’t watched that show in a while.)

Fundamentally, all of these pieces work together much better than they should because Coyle is a solid, serious writer. And Vivian Apple is a sophisticated, but not overly adult character who has to deal with learning that her parents were real, perhaps not good people and that the world is not chock full of answers. That world which may also end in a few months. See, this new Church of Frick (Pittsburgh Homestead Strike shoutout? Probably! The books begins in Pittsburgh!) has a holy book. That book mentions two raptures. This is a great detail, because it sends those Believers left behind into a pious frenzy. They don’t want to be left behind again. That makes some of them very mean, and very against fornicating and homosexuality and such.

I’m still not sure how I feel about the revelations with the would-be villain at the end of the book. Plus, every YA novel and comic book movie now has to end not in an awesome open-ended way, but in a “YEP, A SEQUEL’S A-COMIN'” way.  This bugs me, but I’ll be reading the sequel without question.

This is the kind of book that gives YA fiction a good name. There’s nothing unserious about it, even if it’s not perfect.

Long_Loud_Silence_The_-_Tucker_Wilson_-_1952-_Dell_-SF_-_G_-10_1024x1024The Long, Loud Silence (1952) by Wilson A. Tucker:

My copy of this early nuclear doom novel has the most gorgeous pulp cover. It’s a cheap paperback from the mid ’50s, but it looks amazing. I had meant to read it months before, but I would have bought it just for the cover (as I did a few other books I may or may not read).

Unfortunately, the cover is the best thing about this book. It’s not all bad. It has a stoic vibe that works well enough to hold interest for the 180-some pages. Basically, the US was attacked by nukes, regular bombs, and disease bombs. Unfortunately this happened right as our hero Russell Gary is on a major bender. He wakes up to a bad hangover of a dead hotel, a dead city, and oops, soldiers are preventing him from going back across the Mississippi river. This we have our class system. (I guess the West IS better. No, it is.)

Gary is a mildly interesting sort. He is a practical, unpleasant, manly man who smacks a girl, and keeps denying that she’s 19, because she looks young (spoiler alert: seducing him convinces him of her age). Wilson manages to write the first female character we meet as a ditz who clings to Gary, and who is wasting post-apocalyptic time collecting jewels.

There’s other awkwardness: Some years after the event, Gary implies at one point that he’s going to go back to a farmhouse of people in order to groom their child to be into him later. Unless I read that way wrong, and I rather hope I did.

For all the dramatic setting, this is kind of a character study of a man who was never very pleasant or kind, who becomes colder and crueler over the years, but never actually becomes a full monster. There’s some nuance in this picture. He saves a child from cannibals, then uses that fact to get a farmhouse and a place to stay and work for the winter. He never murders or steals without cause. But he’s a bit of an asshole (maybe he always was. There’s interesting hints about what war did to him that aren’t really mentioned after the beginning). And the part where he finally succeeds at his years-long goal of getting across the river is…odd. It’s the only part that doesn’t feel quite real in the book. I suppose it had to happen.

The ending is supposed to be cute, I think. I suppose it is a fair capper to all that has happened. Maybe ditzes have good survival skills after all.

mad maxMad Max: Fury Road (2015), directed by George Miller, starring myriad hotties and/or people in awkward masks

Somehow — somehow I accidentally saw the Fast and the Furious Seven (I forget its actual title, therefore I don’t know what to italicize!) in theaters, not having seen a single one of the previous six movies. (It’s because I was supposed to see American Sniper, and then I didn’t get to see that either, and everything was stupid.) I regret that all the more when I realize I saw “sure, cars can fly, and let’s film this action sequel in the dark because Paul Walker is unfortunately dead” in theaters instead of Fury Road. I watched this on the biggest available TV, but I curse myself for not seeing it theaters, the way I curse the six-year-old me who saw Free Willy while my brother and cousin trembled in exhilaration and fear at the T-Rex in Jurassic Park.

This is an action movie with strong characterization and world building, that doesn’t spoonfeed context to you. This is a manly action movie that is chock full of bad-ass women. This is a post-apocalyptic movie whose world defies logic and has way too much pageantry and nobody cares, because it’s awesome. This is a movie in which gorgeous women at one point spray each other with a hose, and the camera never leers. (Seriously, seriously picture that scene as shot by Michael Bay or a thousand other assholes).

It’s an ugly, bizarre world in Fury Road, but once you accept that this is is a freaky, car-based cult in control of almost all the resources around — yes, even resources for flaming guitar trucks —  it’s difficult not to be hooked. And for me, that’s saying something. The aesthetic in this film is is exactly the type I dislike because it feels bullshit and embarrassingly cheesy. It feels like people playing dress-up in fake gladiator garb. It feels awkward and inherently low budget. Somehow this movie completely kills that awkwardness through the power of serious, quality acting, and strange amounts of heart.

And with really scary, unexplained shit like those hunched over stilt people. I never want to know what that was about. I never want to know exactly “who killed the world” or how and why Immortan Joe’s cult came to be so quickly and effectively. I know this is mostly action movie that is about a million serious things, the way Attack the Block! is about a lot more than neon aliens. Yet it’s also just a good action movie.

I know a libertarian who hated this film. But once you see “we are not property” (libertarian tears) written on the walls of the wives’ cell, you should be getting hopeful. And once Max and Furiosa fight for the first time, you should be fully absorbed into George Miller’s brain. Do not resist. This movie is so gorgeous that occasional action movie cliches like Furiosa dropping to her knees in the sand in anguish, or the slightly intrusive non-diegetic music feel more frustrating than they would be in an inferior movie.

signsSigns (2002), directed by M. Night Shyamalan, starring Mel Gibson’s sanity, Joaquin Phoenix, a Culkin, wee Abigail Breslin

Honestly, this film, plus Fury Road, plus Miracle Mile are on my short list of “I do not give a shit if it doesn’t make sense.” And they all involve at least the threat of world ending. Fury Road works becomes of pure audacity and seriousness in the face of absurdity. Miracle Mile is a nightmare, in logic and in pacing, and in ever-growing surrealism. But to me, Signs has always been too scary to mock. It may not be your nightmare, but it is one of mine.

I was 15 when I saw it in the theater with a group of friends. It was quite simply one of those great theater-going moments, where the place buzzes with energy but without distraction or loud noises getting in the way of the enjoyment of the movie (or enhancing the enjoyment, like when the most Canadian man in the world yelled “GET ‘ER PHOONE NUMBER!” at the screen when Mark Wahlberg kissed Helena Bonham Apewoman in Planet of the Apes). Well, quiet except for that moment when Joaquin Phoenix’s character is watching the footage from the children’s birthday party in which something very scary happens. Phoenix’s character shrieks, I shrieked out loud in the crowded theater. Now, I couldn’t sleep for three days after seeing this movie (shut up, my parents live near a cornfield in Pennsylvania), but it was worth it in the end.

It’s a claustrophobic alien movie that’s funny, terrifying, and slow-building. The acting is fantastic from every single person (remember when Mel Gibson was awesome? I do). Maybe there was fluoride in the water, or some weird mineral. Maybe it’s the pipes! Maybe it’s all a metaphor. Maybe the aliens are demons. It doesn’t matter. The movie justifies its own logical evasions by being awesome and scary. If two or three things came together to save the day, it would be Hollywood bullshit. But in the narrative, the obviousness of the puzzle piece is on purpose. This is a world in which everything came together so that Mel Gibson’s character could save his son. Maybe that’s not our world. That’s okay.

(Honestly, the least credible thing to me is the happy ending. Those children would need MASSIVE therapy. Massive. The adults, too.)

  • everestI wrote a review of Everest for The Federalist. You should read it, because that’s almost a slant rhyme.
  • And I wrote some stuff at Antiwar.com. Don’t I always?
  • I read Felicia Day’s book, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost). It was a very easy, but enjoyable read about her trials and tribulations. The strangely relatable bits for me — not having ever been on Buffy — were the part where she was homeschooled for secular reasons, and then had anxiety and a thyroid problem! (Sorry to put your thyroid problem with enthusiastic punctuation, Ms. Day, but I was excited.) The best bit really was where she writes that if she hadn’t been homeschooled (and she seems slightly less positive about it than I am, but still mixed in a real world sort of) she would not have this fearless weirdness. She might actually be better at maintaining friendships and being a normal human, but on that first day of school her desire to love whatever she loved would have been drained out of her thanks to what she calls the girls with bows in their hair. I get this. I am inclined to agree about myself. There are trade-offs in being weird and not having the obvious reference point of school. One of the perks (which in itself has trade-offs) is that it helps you become your own person (especially if your parents aren’t rigid.) Oh, and I think I am searching for my own version of The Guild. Unfortunately, my interests are not entirely unique (yes, the internet taught me that) but they are a bit more obscure than Warcraft.
  • This is a pessimistic look at libertarianism and libertarian movements that doesn’t feel like a hit piece or a (total) misreading of the philosophy. 
  • Austin Bragg of ReasonTV kind of already made a video that includes my gun control argument. Sigh.
  • It is not offensive to say that gun control is a boon for totalitarian societies. And in particular, Nazi Germany has a few examples of Jews with guns surviving and even fighting back. The Belarusian Bielski partisans are a great example of how firearms can help you survive, without even the confrontation of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (which…didn’t go that well, but it was also more of a suicide mission), much less the strawman of going up against the entire Germany Army. But Dr. Keith Ablow(hard) has written what can only be described as a victim blaming piece about the Jews under the Nazis. Additionally, he basically is letting the world that let six million Jews die off the hook because they didn’t fight back in an inspirational enough fashion.
  • First female photojournalist in Japan is 101, still kicking ass.  Hat tip to photographer friend Emily.
  • Cool piece on forgotten female journalist who broke the whole invasion of Poland news. Unfortunately, said piece refers to Martha Gellhorn and Clare Booth Luce in reference to their husbands. Ahem.
  • Started listening to Gilmore Guys podcast a little. It feels like it’s annoying, and then it’s entrancing.
  • Good Wired piece on the state of fandom, and how its pure enthusiasm (maybe) beat irony. I’ve never really been to a good, nerdy con, which is a sad thing.
  • BBC behind the scenes look at the latest “Doctor Who” and the cool, deaf actress they found for the part. I just wish the plot had been a little less…something. As a watcher of Switched at Birth, I tried to see a difference between British Sign and American, but I clearly can’t. I can sign my name, “baby”, and “thank you” in ASL, though, so I am a champ.
  • Oh, and via Ms. Julia, attorney at law, I found the podcast Criminal. I listened to one about a guy sent to a minimum security prison that also had a leper colony. No, really. Also it was the 1990s. 
  • Kitty Genovese: still much more complicated than just a metaphor for urban indifference and the bystander effect.
  • Townes Van Zandt was great. Here are some of his words on songwriting.  And here’s a whole bunch of people covering “White Freightliner Blues” on Austin City Limits in what can be argued is a way to upbeat manner. Still good times, if only because I cannot resist saloon pianer. Yet still an argument for diminishing returns.

If you’re ready — and only if you’re ready — you can watch Townes himself making an old man cry by singing “Waitin’ Around to Die”: