Category: Geekery

27

Love Is Kind Of Crazy With A Spooky Little Movie Like You

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Our friends at Quarter to Three, one of the best gaming sites on the web (and one not involved in #Gamergate!) are compiling a list, with detailed reviews, of great horror movies from the past two decades. 31 movies in 31 days. You know all about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Night of the Living Dead, but have you seen Audition? Did you know that "The Call of Cthulhu" has been filmed, and that someone, somehow, actually made a decent film based on H. P. Lovecraft?

Great-cthulhu
One of my rituals, every October, is to watch a mix of classic and newer horror movies. The people behind this series know what's good, and I'm looking forward to watching their recommendations. But if you're squeamish, don't click!

Kaiju Dreaming

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The road that lead to the next Godzilla movie (release: imminent) was an unlikely one, but not altogether unexpected. 1998’s debacle notwithstanding, Toho is not inherently against being offered what I assume is large amounts of money for licensing. Director Gareth Edwards has never helmed a project whose budget surpassed 500k. But the work he did on that project, Monsters, was extremely promising. He wrote a character drama with a giant monster backdrop. Most importantly, Monsters suggests that Gareth Edwards gets Kaiju. That’s important. It’s tremendously important. To 8 year old me, staring across a summer in a new place hundreds of miles from where I was born and had grown up, it was one of the few things that mattered. I had two passions: video games and monster movies. I had an Atari 2600 and I loved it, but there was nothing quite like an arcade. Arcades sent me into a sort of trance. The world just faded away as I moved from one cabinet to the next, mesmerized. Monster movies were one of the few things that came close.

I don’t know how I developed a taste for either horror or monster movies. I was pretty afraid of the dark as a kid. But I did love dinosaurs, and movie monsters are a natural transition for a kid who is obsessed with dinosaurs. Movies like The Land that Time Forgot, The Last Dinosaur, and Dinosaurus! provided easy transitions into the broader realm of monster movies, and monster movies themselves are just an offshoot (or are offshoots, really) of horror. I can clearly remember my first: The Giant Gila Monster. I was in complete awe after ignoring significant portions of the build up. Effects didn’t matter back then. Here was something like a dinosaur, something impossible, but something that could have been menacing my block. I was impossibly hooked. At that age – 7 or possibly even 6 – I think what I really craved was stimulus for my imagination. Looking back, I think my father had an acute understanding of that. He had found me watching it and sat down to watch with me.  We talked through parts of the movie (I being absolutely terrified, watching parts through my hands).  After it ended, I remember asking him if such things could be real.  I mean, I knew there were no more dinosaurs, I had seen fossils and read many books.  But this was something else.   I can see his expression, sober and somber “It’s a big planet, and I don’t think we know everything there is to about it”. The perfect answer.   Like Star Wars, and Indiana Jones (and later, Dr Who), Monster movies became something we shared.  A secret language we had that nobody else understood.   How could I not have given over my heart, mind, and soul at this point?  I was hooked.

I was an active kid who loved to play outside, with friends. Monster movies became a drug for me, though, even if they didn't quite rival Arcades. We were fortunate to have a nearby metropolitan area (such as it was) which had a station dedicated to this stuff. I had a couple of summers of monster movie heaven. Viewings snatched and stolen on Saturday mornings and late Saturday afternoons, and occasionally on week days, in between play time spent outside doing whatever (roaming, exploring, playing Star Wars, going hours and hours without every seeing an adult). I watched every one I could get my eyes on. Them!, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, King Kong, Mighty Joe Young, Tarantula, Beginning of the End, The Monolith Monsters, Creature from the Black Lagoon. . . no monster movie was above viewing. But few of them managed to get under my skin like the king of all of them: Godzilla. I watched all of the Showa series but one movie, as many times as I could. Even my friends – friends who loved video games, arcades, Star Wars, Tron, Indiana Jones, and Superfriends – thought me odd for this.

And then it was all gone. My father was transferred, and I found myself staring down a summer in a strange, new, location with no means to get a fix in sight. I was shattered. I would get each week’s new cable guide frantically scanning for signs of. . . well life. Civilization. Surely some person in this godforsaken place understood what I needed? VCRs appeared not long after this and there was once a time (the authors of this blog understand it well) where families would rent a VCR for the weekend, and a handful of movies to go with it. I couldn't ever get anyone interested in renting monster movies, though. Eventually proper monster movies and even Godzilla himself, found their way to my TV in this strange land. But there were lean years, before they did. I don't remember when the dreams started. I had been in my new home for longer than a season, though, possibly two. Long enough to make new friends, but recognize that I was very decidedly on the outside of most of the social groups I was around. I don't know what kicked it all off. I had always been prone to vivid dreams and nightmares. But these dreams. . . I wonder if they were inevitable. I wonder if that dry spell did something deep inside the recesses of my mind.  Pulled something loose, as it were.

The first sort was in some ways the worst; I dreamt about scanning the cable guide for monster movies; typically fruitlessly. The banality of these dreams hung in the air even after waking, casting a pall over the day. Sometimes in these dreams I found something, something that was coming on that I would be able to watch. The disappointment on waking up and realizing not merely that there was no new Godzilla fair to watch is surely trumped by the fleeting promise that there was. But these dreams occasionally took strange turns, where I not only found monster movies, but the titles were unrecognizable. What coded Lovecraftian things did I witness back then? Would that the titles had stayed with me on waking, just once (or perhaps it's for the best that they did not). I always *knew* this was some as yet unseen monster movie. And I always knew when they were Godzilla movies (in my dreams, they were never titled “Godzilla vs X”). In truth it was after that sort of dream started that the feeling they left me with turned. Disappointment at these things not existing (and my not even having poor substitutes to turn to) gave way to wonder. The dream of these movies was powerful. The dreams eventually (and only very occasionally, at that) changed. I started to catch glimpses of movies that did not exist, showing Godzilla battling familiar foes in unfamiliar settings, or sometimes even strange new creatures. Years later when I finally discovered Lovecraft, I wondered if perhaps he could have explained all of this to me. I did not have many of these dreams, but they were good dreams.

The dreams again grew stranger and more vivid still, often intense to the point of forcing me awake. There was no middle man this time; I was *there*. Some of them were absurd (twice as a famous actor shooting a monster movie, the monster in question threw a tantrum on set and I suddenly found myself living a part I was supposed to be playing, scrambling to escape impossible doom). Some of them were the genuine article – I can recall frantically trying to convince a general not to go ahead with some absurd plan to try to kill Godzilla. No one else could perceive some threat that I could, and only Godzilla would be able to deal with it. I remember manning another where I manned a sort of watch station on Monster Island, carefully studying the activities of creatures less they become active again. The last dreams, though. . . these I think Lovecraft would have understood all too well I found myself in hilly (if I was lucky, such as it was) or flat but otherwise featureless terrain, in the middle of who-knows-where. *Something* lurked nearby (as much as nearby counts for creatures hundreds of feet tall). I would scramble about looking for any place to shelter but never find it. Tension would mount as the feeling of being exposed would begin to smother me. Sometimes, *something* would shake me to the core (a roar? A thunderous footstep? Glimpses of a monstrous form off in the distance as the moon appears between clouds?) and I would wake with a start. Alone and irrelevant, entirely unsure of my place in any world. These were terrifying dreams. But I sometimes welcomed them.

The dreams stopped coming after a couple of years; after I had finally found monster movies again (if less frequently than I used to). I've never stopped having nightmares, though I don't have them as much as I used to. Some of them have travelled down stranger tides than monster movies. None of them has quite captured that feeling of wandering on a plain, alone, waiting for a titan to come and render me entirely irrelevant and lost, not even knowing myself. I think Lovecraft understood that. I think Guillermo Del Toro understands it. Monsters suggests to me that maybe Gareth Edwards does too. Sometimes I wonder if the dreams stopped because I lost something important. Sometimes I wondered if they stopped because my brain figured out a way to provide me a little cover. I miss them, terribly.

I'll see Godzilla in the next few days. Will the king return to reclaim his throne? I'll go because I have to know. I'll go because I hope to catch a glimpse of that feeling those most terrifying dreams left me with, writ impossibly large. I've been waiting to see Godzilla for months. For true, years. Since almost as far back as I can remember.

Taffer Style

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This is a relatively self-indulgent post, but hey– blog!

This is fundamentally a gaming site, founded and sustained by gamers, and I was once, and remain, a rabid fan of the gaming franchise that began with Thief: The Dark Project, continued with Thief II: The Metal Age and Thief: Deadly Shadows, and will soon resume with 2014's Thief. These are the high water mark in first-person, hybrid, potentially non-violent, stealth-based, story-rich games.

A recent discussion of satire, parody, and pastiche in the comment section of another thread here reminded me that I wrote a handful of Thief-themed pastiches back in the early aughties. To share them with others who might like them, to store them in our database, and to revisit them with wistful nostalgia, I reproduce them below. Each is set to the theme of a pop song. Note well: these are only meaningful if you've played the games, and they're best read with the corresponding tunes playing in the background. :) The songs are Barbie Girl, All Star, Mickey, We Didn't Start The Fire, Uptown Girl, Cheers, and U Can't Touch This.

In one sense, the message of this post in a nutshell is "Ain't I a clever chap!" But if you, too, love the Thief games, then in joining the nostalgia perhaps you'll revisit some fond memories of your own.

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Clark's Science Fiction Review Policy

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@Dan Hill comments about some novels he's too shy to link to:

I've written a couple of post apocalyptic novels, probably too obscure for mention in this hallowed place…

I love post apocalyptic novels.

@G. Filotto writes in the comments:

Can I send you autographed copies of my two SF books? A review would be amazing since I am a solo guy writing without funding and a 13 hour a day job. And I think you would enjoy the politics and sociology. You can get an idea by googling "Overlords of Mars" . And if interested at all, just PM me an address and I'll send you copies. Thanks.

I think that one of the most exciting trends in the last few years is the disintermediation of the big publishing oligarchy and the rise of self publishing. I follow with fascination several blogs by established and new authors who are grappling with this new world. I think it is an unalloyed advance in human freedom.

That said, I also think that Big Paper served an actual function: it took the bell curve of the slush pile, chopped off the left 95%, and ensured that the vast majority of what actually hit Barnes & Noble shelves was at least competent. There were many false negatives: books that were good enough to read, but did not get published. But there were even more true negatives: the vast majority of submitted manuscripts that were not published were not published for a reason.

Today that barrier is no longer in place. Which is wonderful. The snobby elite New York money is no longer stopping the consumer from buying the dinosaur erotica it demands.

Which brings me around to my point: the Clark science fiction review policy, such as it is.

Note that the following list sounds pretty dickish (and the graphic above is consistent with the tone). I may not actually be that dickish in practice, but this is the social contract we're agreeing to. I set the bar low for my own responsibilities so that I can meet or exceed my promises.

  • I will review as often as I care to. This probably won't be very often.
  • I will review what I want to review. Most of it will be big publisher books, but I am open to reviewing self-published / "indie" novels.
  • You can email a .mobi file to clark at THE SAME DOMAIN NAME AS THIS BLOG dot com. Repeat: .mobi only. PDFs, Microsoft whatever files, and anything else that does not load easily into my small-screen Kindle in a single mouse drag and display nicely thereafter will be deleted unread and without a response. I apologize for that harshness, but you certainly aren't going to be bitten by it, because you're more professional than that, so it's not really a problem, right?
  • If you email me a file do not expect email acknowledgement (I check the email account once per month – if that), do not expect a review, and do not expect a review on any particular schedule.
  • I do not grade on a curve.

Let me unpack that last one, because it's really important.

I've read lots of self-published stuff. Most of it is terrible. I've read e-books written by friends-of-friends that have hundreds of five star reviews…and I've found them unreadable.

I've been told that writing a novel is hard. I respect that. I've watched friends and FOAFs labor over draft after draft. I've watched them fly to distant cities to take workshops. I've seen them spend weeks at Clarion. I've seen them print up business cards and self-promote like nobody's business.

It's exhausting work, and I have nothing but respect for someone who puts "write a novel" on their bucket list, and then actually accomplishes it.

However, Clark reviews are not your therapist, your support group, or your best friend. All novels will be measured on a scale calibrated to books published by actual publishers (Mieville / Banks: A. Scalzi: B-. That 'Fifty Shades' lady: F). Weak plots, absurd premises, bad dialogue – it will all be called out. Your bravery and hard work will count for little, because I intend to do book reviews, not "brave and plucky author" reviews.

I promise, though, fairness. This has two parts:

1) I will not grade down – or up – on ideology. Well-done lesbian environmental thriller? Yeah, actually, I really liked "Slow River" despite the fact that my political sympathies and cultural norms lie in the opposite direction. Right-wing/libertarian by-the-numbers military fiction that's got nothing new to say, despite the fact that my political and cultural norms lie in that direction? I will trash it.

2) I will attempt to base criticism in fact: I will not say that your plot is bad if your plot is good, even if you once spilled your beer on me and insulted my mom's memory at her funeral.

Finally, I am an actual human being. Any review is inherently subjective and de gustibus non est disputandum, so I may criticize a book as being provably chocolate, and I may hate it because I prefer French vanilla. That will upset chocolate partisans.

If, after all of that, you want me to maybe take a look at your post apocalyptic and/or science fiction novel, you know where to send it.

History Must Be Curved

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I'm about to quote almost 700 words from a blog post, which normally would be considered long…but it's from an almost book-length series of posts, so as a proportion of the whole, it's actually quite short.

http://tofspot.blogspot.com

HISTORY MUST BE CURVED, for there is a horizon in the affairs of mankind. Beyond this horizon, events pass out of historical consciousness and into myth. Accounts are shortened, complexities sloughed off, analogous figures fused, traditions “abraded into anecdotes.” Real people become culture heroes: archetypical beings performing iconic deeds. (Vansina 1985)

In oral societies this horizon lies typically at eighty years; but historical consciousness endures longer in literate societies, and the horizon may fall as far back as three centuries. Arthur, a late 5th cent. war leader, had become by the time of Charlemagne the subject of an elaborate story cycle. Three centuries later, troubadours had done the same to Charlemagne himself. History had slipped over the horizon and become the stuff of legend. In AD 778, a Basque war party ambushed the Carolingian rear guard (Annales regni francorum). Forty years later, Einhard, a minister of Charlemagne, mentioned “Roland, prefect of the Breton Marches” among those killed (“Hruodlandus Brittannici limitis praefectus,” Vita karoli magni). But by 1098, Roland had become a “paladin” and the central character, the Basques had become Saracens, and a magic horn and tale of treachery had been added (La chanson de Roland). Compare the parallel fate of a Hopi narrative regarding a Navajo ambush (Vansina, pp. 19-20). This suggests that 17th century history has for the bulk of the population already become myth. Jamestown is reduced to “Pocahontas,” and Massachusetts boils down to “the First Thanksgiving.” And the story of how heliocentrism replaced geocentrism has become a Genesis Myth, in which a culture-hero performs iconic deeds that affirm the rightness of Our Modern World-view.

Conclusion: Our ancestors were not fools.

In three centuries, the long complex story of how the mobile Earth replaced the stationary Earth dipped below the horizon from History into Legend. Like all good legends, the story of heliocentrism and the culture-hero Galileo is simple and general and geared toward supporting the Rightness of the Modern worldview. But history is always detailed and particular.

The reasons for the stationary Earth were rooted in empirical experience and successful modeling. The dual motion of the Earth is not sensibly evident and was difficult to establish on empirical grounds. Heliocentrism triumphed first of all because Neoplatonic number mysticism had become au courant during the Renaissance, and Platonists equated mathematical elegance with physical evidence.

Resistance to heliocentrism was rooted in the science of the day and religion entered the picture mainly because the Church Fathers had interpreted Scripture in the light of that science. They weren’t about to change until there was solid evidence that the science (and hence the interpretation) was wrong; not in the middle of no honkin' Reformation they weren’t. Thomas Huxley said after investigating the affair that “the Church had the better case.” But Pierre Duhem put it differently. The Copernicans were “right for the wrong reasons.” The Ptolemaics were “wrong for the right reasons.”

Science doesn’t follow a mythic positivist ideal but the plural scientific methods described by Feyerabend: a mixture of empiricism, flights of fancy, intuition, aesthetics, doggedness, and jealousy. Scientific theories are underdetermined. Any finite set of facts can support multiple theories, and for a long time the available facts were equally explained by geostationary or geomobile models.

In the Legend, the conflict was between Science and Religion. But in the History, the conflict was between two groups of scientists, with churchmen lined up on all sides. Copernicanism was supported by humanist literati and opposed by Aristotelian physicists; so it was a mixed bag all around. Science does not take place in a bubble. International and domestic politics and individual personalities roil the pot as well. The mystery is not why Galileo failed to triumph – he didn’t have good evidence, made enemies of his friends, and stepped into a political minefield. The real mystery is why Kepler, who actually had the correct solution, constantly flew under the radar. A deviant Lutheran working in a Catholic monarchy, he pushed Copernicanism as strongly as Galileo; but no one hassled him over it. Too bad he couldn’t write his way out of a paper bag.

This is from the conclusion of Michael Flynn's masterful nine part essay on "The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown".

I can not recommend it highly enough.

  1. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown
  2. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Down for the Count
  3. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown:
    The Great Galileo-Scheiner Flame War of 1611-13
  4. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown:
    The Down 'n Dirty Mud Wrassle
  5. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Here's Mud in Yer Eye
  6. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Comet Chameleon
  7. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Time and Tides Wait Not
  8. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: Trial and Error
  9. The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown: From Plausible to Proven

If you find the idea in the first quoted paragraph above ("Beyond this horizon, events pass out of historical consciousness and into myth. Accounts are shortened, complexities sloughed off, analogous figures fused, traditions 'abraded into anecdotes.'") somewhere between tantalizing and fascinating, then you could do worse than to check out his Spiral Arm series of novels:

  1. January Dancer
  2. Up Jim River
  3. On the Razor's Edge
  4. In the Lion's Mouth

I loved the books.

Wikipedia has this to say about them:

Wikipedia

This is a far future science fiction novel set in a universe populated with only humans and "pre-human" artifacts. It is told as a narrative presented with variations on English, Chinese, Indian, and Celtic words. The literary style has been described as extremely difficult to read due to the inclusion of non-English terms and historical accounts that are not common knowledge to most SF readers[1][2]. The characters in the story belong to 2 major factions of humanity: The United League of the Periphery, and the Confederacy of Central Worlds. The Confederacy is the remnant of Earth and its original colonies while the League is composed of the planets far out on the spiral arm of the galaxy. These 2 factions are in a galactic "cold war" and both have secretive pseudo-military agencies that feature prominently in the book. The story centers around the Confederacy and League agents seeking the answer to a mystery of the disappearance of ships in the rift between the spiral arm and the central worlds. The story's title comes from a "pre-human" artifact called the Dancer which is discovered early in the book. It exerts a subtle but very profound effect on various characters throughout the story. It is eventually revealed to be part of an ancient race of silicon based lifeforms called "The Folk of Sand and Iron" that have played a very significant but almost unknown role in human history. The story has 2 sequels and a third planned[3]. The January Dancer was a finalist for the 2009 Prometheus Award.

ObDisclosure about this review:

  1. I've never met Michael Flynn, and have no personal or economic stake in his success.
  2. I do, however, have a memetic stake. He thinks Deep Thoughts that I agree with. I wouldn't mind him getting funded so that he can keep writing.
  3. The links to his books above use the Amazon Popehat affiliate code. Read about how that money gets spent here.
  4. Depending on the reaction to this post, I may end up writing reviews of science fiction novels that I find worthy of note. Whether or not people like this one, I'm pretty likely to write one of my big-honkin' pieces on the topic of left/right/centrist post-apocalyptic novels.

UPDATE: Thanks for dropping by, Hacker News readers. If you liked this you might want to subscribe to the RSS feed. Popehat is a group blog. Ken is the most prolific blogger and covers civil rights law. I'm the second most prolific blogger (this week, at least) and talk about science, politics, and – upcoming – intended to dive deep into Urbit and will soon start writing reviews of science fiction novels. The other co-bloggers are also fascinating nerds and write about stuff that the typical news.yc reader would enjoy. Stick around!

Journal of the Great Shutdown, Day Seven

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My trip to Maryland over the weekend was bad.

Really bad.

Houses boarded up. Shirtless men sitting on sidewalks, listless and defeated. Graffiti. Fist fights. Broken glass on cracked pavement.

At one point I even saw a gang of street children dressed in black leathers, playing a game of football with the skull of a dog. I tapped my second cousin on the shoulder, pointed, and whispered "The Shutdown".

She shook her head and said "No – Baltimore's always like that."

My cousin is nice, but she clearly doesn't know what she's talking about. I've reviewed the amount of money that the government normally sends Baltimore and there's no way that the place could possibly look like this normally.

Anyway, my mind was on the family emergency (thankfully resolved) and before I quite knew it I was being dropped off.

…at the Amtrak station.

Wait! Wait!!

As the car drove away suddenly I realized the danger I was in. I looked around nervously. The Amtrak station behind me was closed because of the shutdown, the neighborhood ahead of me was blasted, burned and covered with garbage for the same reason.

I needed to get out of there, and ASAP.

Without much hope I pulled on the door of the Amtrak station – and it opened!

Inside the air conditioning was blasting, the lights were bright, the marble gleamed, four agents sat behind their desks.

Amtrak was up and running? The shutdown was over?

For the first time in a week I felt hopeful, thinking that our country might yet survive.

I smiled and bought a ticket. Twenty minutes later I boarded the train and made my way to the dining car where I bought a cold sandwich on stale bread for $9.50 and a Sierra Mist for $2. As I bit into the cardboard-like food I smiled. The thing libertarians will never understand is that we can't just go it alone. The sand-which is the perfect example. I know, it might seem like a small thing, but if I and other yuppies were forced to pay Amtrak's actual $20 cost to deliver this food to me, we'd have chaos. People need to understand that government is just a word for things that we all do together, like subsidize food for yuppies traveling by train to the tune of $833 million.

Anyway, the sandwich is done and I'm going to take a nap. And I know I'm going to sleep well, because America is safe. It looked bad for a few days, but we came through it. Together.

UPDATE: Just woke up and overheard two people talking. The shutdown is still going on!?!? Not quite sure how that can be given the amount of government subsidies that Amtrak needs to operate, but I'll worry about that later. Right now I need to get home to Mrs. Clark to make sure that she, the salted beef, and the gasoline are safe.

More tomorrow.

UPDATE #2: Between setting up a defensive perimeter around the condo and trying to find generator parts on Craigslist, I'm not sure how much time I'm going to have to blog. Follow me on twitter: @ClarkHat

Blockquote tags

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People! Lend me your ears!

One of my favorite parts of the Popehat blog is interacting with people in the comments.

…but I spend less time than I would like reading comments and more time than I would like fixing them.

If you want to quote someone, here's how you do it. You write this:

<blockquote>
this text is quoted.
</blockquote>

and the end result is this:

this text is quoted.

Here is your four part checklist:

1) do exactly what I said above.
2) make sure that there's a slash before the 'b' in closing blockquote tag. That makes all the difference.
3) nesting is legal, but COUNT. Make sure that there are exactly as many opening blockquote tags as there are closing blockquote tags.
4) there is no step four.

Size Matters

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Qióng: Shīfu Shíjú! Shīfu Shíjú!

Shīfu Shíjú: Qióng, what do you want?

Qióng: Please, tell me why size matters?

Shīfu Shíjú: Idiot! Go finish your chores.

Qióng: I have done them, Shīfu! I am ready to know!

Shīfu Shíjú: Very well. Sit down. Now, first I will show you the way of integers. What is the next digit in this series? 12345…

Qióng: The next digit is '1', Shīfu!

Shīfu Shíjú: How can you say the next digit is '1'? Have you never brought Shīfu a six-pack?

Qióng: The next digit is '1' if the series is 1 through 5 repeating: 1234512345123–

Shīfu Shíjú: Idiot! If you introduce complexities such as grouping and blocks you will never understand! To follow the way of integers, you must not think in cliques and tribes; you must ask yourself what one, all on his own, can contribute.

Qióng: Thank you, Shīfu. Now I will go and rake the yard.

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Listen, Don't Mention The Malshandir. I Mentioned It Once, But I Think I Got Away With It All Right.

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Gentle readers, I write with important legal, ethical, and spiritual advice: don't say "Malshandir".

Really the core of my advice is not to name anyone or anything "Malshandir". Don't name your baby "Malshandir"; name it, I don't know, George or something. Don't name your dog "Malshandir". Don't name your macaw who rides on your shoulder as you ride your second-hand bike to the ironic t-shirt store "Malshandir." And for the love of the all-merciful God, whatever you do, don't name your pretend Elf, the non-existent avatar you use in an online game, "Malshandir", even if — and I want to make this very clear — you believe he deserves special recognition for having completed the "Fetid Slug Imbalance" quest successfully.

Fetid Slug Imbalance was dropped from the DSM-V, probably for political reasons.

Fetid Slug Imbalance was dropped from the DSM-V, probably for political reasons.

But it's not just about naming things "Malshandir." It's really not even safe to say "Malshandir." You shouldn't say "that piece of halibut was good enough for Malshandir," or "I've been having trouble with that stuff that builds up in the crevices of my groin, where I sweat a lot — what's it called? Malshandir?"

You shouldn't do these things because a guy named Thomas Freyer may sue you or have you arrested using European courts, which apparently are magic and render decisions in two hours. This, apparently, is Thomas Freyer:

THIS IS THE FACE OF YOUR DESTRUCTION, IMPUDENT WORM.

THIS IS THE FACE OF YOUR DESTRUCTION, IMPUDENT WORM.

We know these things because Thomas Freyer has been engaged in a furious dialogue with a web site devoted to the online fantasy game Everquest 2. That site had a profile of an EQ2 character, an Elf named "Malshandir." Mr. Freyer maintains this is VERBOTEN, because even if his domain name malshandir.com has expired, and even if he has not registered an American trademark for "Malshandir", and even if his English company "Malshandir" closed in 2010, and even if the "Malshandir" character was created on EQ2 in 2008, he has a European trademark on "Malshandir," which prevents you from calling anything "Malshandir", even a pretend Elf. Using the name "Malshandir" can have grave consequences, including but not limited to being forced to "delist your site from nameservers within the EU and reject all requests from servers and clients from the EU," a "decision from a court within 2 hours," and exposure to worrisome paradoxes, such as "BTW: I talk with a trademark lawyer. trademark attorneys doesn’t exist."

Read more about Mr. Freyer's legal acumen, and why you should fear his wrath, here.

Mr. Freyer apparently believes based on legal advice — which may or may not come from attorneys that you or I could see or hear — that if he trademarks a name for commercial purposes in Europe, then you or I may not use that name for completely unrelated non-commercial purposes in America, for instance to denote a pretend Elf. This would mean, for instance, that if someone trademarked "Buster" to sell marital aids in Oslo, you could not name your World of Warcraft Orc Buster, even if Buster is not in the actual or pretend trade of manufacturing or selling marital aids. [Note to self: develop pitch for new profession in World of Warcraft. Assign associate with lowest billable hours and least inclination to sue.]

I could explain why that is silly, but I think my head might explode. I am concerned that my head exploding could made some sound that resembles some word Mr. Freyer has trademarked in Europe, which could lead to further litigation against my estate.

So: be sensible, be prudent, and don't say "Malshandir." And whatever you do, don't engage in any sort of contest to see which of you could photoshop the most creative use of "Malshandir" for commercial or artistic use, and especially what you do don't start with templates like this.

Edited to add: Dammit, people! I explicitly told you not to do things like this, from Aaron in the comments!

COME AT US BRO

COME AT US BRO

Updates: All right, who did this? That's very mean to Malshandir!

Meanwhile, Mr. Freyer seems to be very angry and threatening, and thinks that an EQ2 blog can take down posts from Popehat.

I've Decided To Give Orson Scott Card The Benefit of the Doubt!

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I'm strongly considering giving Orson Scott Card the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he doesn't want me to be killed, and therefore I might go see Ender's Game, the movie they've made out of one of his books.

Now, I'm not certain that Orson Scott Card doesn't want me killed.1 I mean, after all, I think same-sex American couples should be able to get married. I've voted and advocated for that position when I've had the opportunity. I strongly supported the decriminalization of "sodomy,"2 and generally oppose the use of government power to enforce personal and religious opposition to homosexuality. Orson Scott Card thinks that any government that agrees with me and fails to prevent gay marriage should be overthrown by any means "possible or necessary":

Because when government is the enemy of marriage, then the people who are actually creating successful marriages have no choice but to change governments, by whatever means is made possible or necessary.

. . .

How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.

Biological imperatives trump laws. American government cannot fight against marriage and hope to endure. If the Constitution is defined in such a way as to destroy the privileged position of marriage, it is that insane Constitution, not marriage, that will die.

Orson Scott Card has also called for private sexual contact between consenting adults to remain criminalized, though to be fair as far as I know he has not specifically advocated violent overthrow of any government that fails to imprison sexually active gays. Nuance alert!

Card has called, in short, for the government to be the tool of his personal religious preferences, and for it to be overthrown by (implicitly) force if it fails to satisfy those preferences. In addition to being an opponent of criminalization of sodomy and a supporter of gay marriage I am a vocal opponent of the use of government to promote individual religious dogma, which further puts me at odds with Mr. Card.

Now, Mr. Card only speaks of bringing down by any means necessary the government if it fails to ban gay marriage to satisfy his religious views. He doesn't specifically threaten supporters and fellow-travelers and thus and such. However, violent revolutions often result in violence towards those who have supported the ancien régime. Mr. Card rails against the term "homophobia," against decreasing acceptance of his views, and against social mores with which he disagrees; it is certainly not outside the realm of possibility that he will consider me, a promoter of that which he hates and a supporter of government policies he views as destructive of his family, to be bloodworthy.

But I've decided to give Orson Scott Card the benefit of the doubt and assume he doesn't want me dead!

I was moved to this assumption by his moving plea for tolerance in the wake of calls for a boycott of his movie:

Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.

With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.

Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.

Orson Scott Card

Here Orson Scott Card has shamed me.

First he's shamed me by correcting my ignorant and mistaken impression that the equality and humanity of gays was a political issue prior to 1984. Next he shamed my meager grasp of the law, which had led me to believe that the impact of the Windsor decision striking down DOMA on states that currently ban gay marriage is unsettled and will likely require years of litigation to sort out. I'm sure that when gay couples married in, say, California seek legal recognition in his state of North Carolina, Mr. Card will file an amicus brief asserting that the matter is now settled and that North Carolina must recognize the marriage. I believe in Orson Scott Card's consistency and good faith!

Most of all Card has shamed me in my grievous misunderstanding of tolerance. I had assumed that tolerance meant that it was a good thing for a free people to let consenting adults engage in private sexual conduct without government interference, or allowing loving consenting adult couples to marry even if some religious traditions oppose it. I assumed that tolerance meant that unpopular views — at one time the view that homosexuals should not be jailed, and now the view that they should be — ought to be addressed by the marketplace of ideas rather than by government force. But I was wrong! Tolerance means that people must be able to revile gays and gay marriage without any social consequence. Tolerance means that I should go see a movie by someone who makes me want to vomit — who wants to overthrow the government by force for doing something I agree with, who might or might not think I deserve to die so that his social policies can trump mine — because botcotting his works would be oppressive to him. Tolerance means that if he calls me a barbarian, and suggests that my friends have dark desires to seduce his children into homosexuality through the machinery of the state, then I should smile and go see his movie, because otherwise his speech might be chilled and he won't be as free to call me a barbarian and my friends child-craving tyrants.

I've already learned so much from Orson Scott Card just from this brief plea. Imagine how much I can learn from a whole movie based on his book! I just can't wait. I thought that I held Card in contempt and that I would express that contempt like a civilized man, by eschewing his society, directly or indirectly, in an exercise of my freedom of expression and association responding to his. But it all right, everything was all right, my struggle is finished. Mr. Card has helped me win a victory over my intolerant self.

prog rock

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There's an old joke about prog rock: "it's the only musical genre where 23:17 could be either the time signature or the track length".

Anyway, I'm a fan of prog rock. A big fan.

In other news, I'm also white, middle aged, male, and have a bigger waist line than I should. All of which should have been pretty well predicted by your priors before beginning this paragraph.

What's not utterly predicted by my demographics is that I'm also a fan of rap and of mashups. So, yes, I'm all over
Girl Talk (Go download the free "All Day" right now, if you haven't already).

So, anyway, when I stumbled into a rap / prog mashup this morning I just had to listen to it a dozen times.

Now it's your turn.

A Hot Tip on Cue from the Swabbie Hobby Lobby

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An update about the True Authorship of the Pirate Resignation Letter– now with 100% more Angus scrotum:

Back in April, in the comment thread of a post about our recondite plans for global dominion, a Popehat visitor using the nick "Will Nobilis" seemed to claim authorship of the well-known Pirate Resignation Letter. In one comment, Will Nobilis wrote,

"…a random web search led me to find out Ken and Patrick (and someone named Mike) wrote about my pirate resignation letter…."

This claim surprised me, so I poked around for other posts by Will Nobilis, and, behold!, appended to Ken's variant of "The Nymph's Reply" there was the following humblebrag from 2011:

"I am glad to see it has made it to a site I frequently enjoy reading and I hope it brought you as much amusement as it did for me to write it and send it to my bosses back then."

In Will's claim I detected a whiff of Alvarez. So I asked him to clarify. I haven't bothered to grep the logs for a visit from him to that page since then, but we haven't noticed his nick or IP since. Whatevs….

This little episode is what prompted my recent post on The Origin of the Pirate Resignation Letter. A few years ago, by the usual means, I had traced the PRL back as far as the early aughties–specifically, to the third of May 18082001–and had come up with a tentative attribution: "As far as I've been able to tell through clever googling in my favorite search engine, the renowned and much beloved Pirate Resignation Letter was written by Chris Castle…." This Castle chap had posted in a forum, now defunct, under the nick "The Bartender" and had stated that

"In the interest of disclosure I should note …[that t]he entirety of the letter was not drafted by solely myself[.] I prefer to think of myself as the 'Producer' of the document".

As if summoned by low-tier conjuration, a Popehat commenter named "The Bartender" bearing email and IP affinity to Castle turned up to comment on the thread (without disclaiming credit): "Thank you for finding this!…" In neither case did the drinkslinger cited a source.

Anyhow, I don't mean to get exercised, but the pilates thickens: there's new evidence that may set the record straight. For comes now a future reader of Popehat, the humble, scoundrel-hatin' Rob G——-, who intimates that all the preceding claimants, real or imagined, are right bastards, and who adduces credible evidence to support his own authorship. He confirms that he was not posting as "Will Nobilis" and that he ain't "The Bartender". By email, RG explains:

A friend of mine sent me a link to a recent post you guys made about the supposed "original" author of the pirate resignation letter.  (To wit: http://www.popehat.com/2013/04/24/origin-of-the-pirate-resignation-letter/)  She suggested I send you a note and square the issue – because I indeed wrote the pirate resignation letter in the winter of 2000.

I've been gratified for over a decade that it's been re-posted and reused more than a few times, but I don't believe I've ever before seen someone attempt to claim authorship, until now.  As such, I direct your attention to the following link on the Internet Wayback Machine:

As a bit of background, I was a miserable IT guy at Merrill Lynch back in the 1990's, and during the waning moments of my career I took to writing resignation letters as a bit of a hobby.  Two of the ones I wrote I later forwarded on to i-resign.com, and the pirate letter was the one I actually did use as my resignation letter from Merrill in December of 2000.  The "Chris" mentioned in the letter was my boss at the time, a guy named Chris O——-, and the word "porcine" was actually "bovine" in the original letter.  (When you work for a company with a large, scrotum-displaying bull as its logo, it's obvious to see the reasons for my use of the term.)  The eventual recipient of my actual resignation letter was a gentleman named John F——-, who had, at time of receipt, long been convinced of my eccentric incompatibility with Merrill.

Someone sent me a link years ago to a reply I suppose you guys did – it was droll and appreciated.  I don't really want any notoriety or "credit," but I wanted to set the record straight – I don't like liars.

Best,

Rob G——-
(I have truncated names to protect the privateeracy of the parties embroiled.)
Thanks to Mr. G——- for providing this info and a link to what seems to be the earliest extant occurrence of the PRL. If anyone can show just cause why this resignation letter and this author cannot lawfully be joined together, let him parley now or forever walk the plank.

Mayday, Mayday…we are under attack

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This is Free Trader Beowulf, calling anyone…Mayday, Mayday…we are under attack…main drive is gone…turret number one not responding…Mayday…losing cabin pressure fast…calling anyone…please help…This is Free Trader Beowulf…Mayday….

Got home late tonight and found a package on the front porch.

AWW YEAH!

footnotes:

1, 2, 3

#old_school

Battlefoam Learns Why Legal Threats Can Be Dangerous

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The Streisand Effect is one possible bad consequence of a legal threat designed to remove content from the internet.

But it's not the only possible bad consequence.

Battlefoam makes storage containers for miniatures used in wargaming. If you don't know what that means already you'll just be irritated if you try to find out, so don't bother. Battlefoam's exec Romeo Filip was angry at some things someone wrote at a site called The Blood of Kittens Network. That site is "devoted to spreading a heritical understanding of the Warhammer 40k universe to neophytes and devotees alike." Again, if you don't know what that means, you very likely don't want to know. Just nod your head and move along.

Anyway, Battlefoam and Filip got some Arizona lawyers to write a very blustery cease and desist letter. It's not the worst cease-and-desist I've ever seen — it does some things to avoid the Streisand Effect, like specifying particular statements that Battlefoam thinks are false — but its language and demands are extravagant. It also offers a short drop-dead date for capitulation.

Lawyers offer short deadlines hoping to convey seriousness and determination. Sometimes it works. Other times, it conveys "there's no point in negotiating with these people."

As followers of The Oatmeal saga will recall, a subject of blustering legal threats need not stay on the defensive; there are offensive options as well. That's exactly the approach Blood of Kittens and its owner, Nicolas Hayden, took. They siezed the initiative and filed a strong declaratory relief action in Northern California, seeking a court determination that the posts about Battlefoam and Filip are protected by the First Amendment. They are being represented pro bono by First Amendment badass Marc Randazza and his colleague Gil Sperlein, also a notable First Amendment practitioner.

Now, unless Battlefoam can get the action dismissed or moved, Blood of Kittens has chosen the forum, the time, and the framework of the litigation, and is represented by two exceptional First Amendment practitioners.

Had Battlefoam's lawyers written a less blustery, less demanding letter, this might not have happened. They could have written a polite but firm letter saying they wanted to discuss resolution of concerns about false statements. They could have avoided purple prose and demands for things they could never get in court. Then Hayden might not have been able to attract two of the nation's best defamation defense attorneys to work for him for free. He might not have attracted anyone to file a declaratory relief suit, and indeed the grounds for such a suit (the clearly presented immediate controversy) might have been unclear.

But Battlefoam's lawyers decided to please their client with a take that type of letter.

Hey guys. Was it worth it?

Edited to add: Thanks to a commenter, I see that Romeo Filip did a podcast yesterday. At about the 60 minute mark he talks at length about the litigation, demonstrating that he doesn't understand declaratory relief, attorney fees, or the law. Plus, in a case in which he says it is defamatory to say he physically assaults critics, he shrewdly jokes (Kind of — I think) about punching critics in the face. Genius. Sheer genius. I presume his attorneys didn't know he was making their job so much more difficult. If he has meritorious claims — if Blood of Kittens posted false statements of fact with the requisite intent — he just significantly reduced his chance of winning. Clients.