Archive | October 2019

Evasive geniuses, invisible monsters, and helpful (sassy gay) robots—more of why I love sf/f

Forbidden Planet!

I have written many times about my problematic relationship with scary movies. They give me nightmares, and I’m the kind of person who, while having a nightmare, climbs out of bed, running around waking up everyone I can find, frantically trying to explain the horrific danger we’re facing and how we have to come up with a plan to deal with the threat now. The very first movie that caused that reaction in me is a movie that many people don’t think of as a scary movie: the 1956 science fiction film, Forbidden Planet. Many people think of Forbidden Planet as the ultimate science fiction movie. Nearly every sci fi movie and series since its release has, whether consciously or not, copied its template. Which isn’t a bad thing, in my opinion. And most people don’t think of Forbidden Planet as a horror film, but…

So, in 1971 Forbidden Planet was shown on U.S. network television for the first time. I’ve mentioned many times before that my mom was a sci fi fan from way back. My dad was more of a spy and western fan, but he also liked some science fiction, so he didn’t object when Mom wanted to watch this show. The broadcast was a few months before my 11th birthday. The whole family watched the show together, though I think than my sister, who was 6 years old at the time, fell asleep before it was over.

I really liked the show while we were watching it.

But several hours later, I was standing in the hallway, very confused, because my mom had thrown a glass of water in my face because I had gone to sleep, and then got out of bed and found my parents and started jabbering about the monster that was trying to kill us. This was, as far as my family and I know, the first time I sleepwalked.

So, let’s get back to the movie…

The movie starts on the bridge of a spaceship where Commander John J. Adams is in charge. The movie is careful never to mention any nationality for the military organization in which the crew serves, though at a later point in the film they send a report back to Earth and await further instructions. They’ve been sent to a planet called Altair IV where a scientific expedition was sent many years before, but lost contact.

As Adam’s ship approached the planet, the make radio contact with one of the scientists from the expedition, Dr. Morbius. Morbius warns them not to land, saying he is the only survivor, that the planet is very dangerous, and he can’t guarantee their safety. Adams has his orders, and lands anyway.

They learn that there are two humans on the planet: Morbius and his daughter (named Altaira) who was born after the original expedition landed. Morbius explains that after the discovered the remains of an advanced civilization of aliens called the Krell, members of the original expedition had been killed off mysteriously by some planetary force, until the a small group tried to flee the planet to return to Earth, but the ship was vaporized. Morbius and his daughter have been living alone with their very helpful robot, Robbie, peacefully ever since.

As far as I have been able to tell, Robbie was the first robot in any film to be portrayed with an actual personality, rather than being a walking tin can that mindlessly followed his instructions. One of my favorite scenes with Robbie is when, later, Altaira wants Robbie to make her a dress covered with star sapphires, and Robbie explains that all of those sapphires will take many weeks to synthesize, whereas he could make her a dress covered with diamonds in a few hours.

Back to the main plot: Dr. Morbius is very evasive with the Commander and his crew. He does show them some of the remains of the Krell civilization, including thousands of underground nuclear reactors that are still generating unimaginable amounts of energy for no known purpose, an education machine, and other devices that Morbius still doesn’t understand. But because Morbius’s translation of the Krell records reveal that every last member of the race was destroyed by a mysterious force they couldn’t understand, and Morbius’s shipmates were destroyed by a similarly mysterious force, he keeps urging the commander and his crew to leave. And the first night the ship is on the planet, and invisible monster sneaks into the ship, kills a crewman, and disables the hyperspace communicator, making it impossible for the next several days for the ship to contact Earth.

And let me tell you, the way the showed impact of the invisible monster, who was so heavy his feet bent the metal of the stairway into the ship, was very, very creepy!

The plot continues, with one crewman flirting with (and clearly hoping to take advantage of) the very naive Altaira. The commander intervenes and sends the crewman back to the ship, but he also scolds Altaira for wearing revealing clothing around men. Which confuses her.

When Morbius is no help with explaining the monster, the commander orders his crew to take additional precautions. Each night the ship remains on the planet, the invisible monster attacks again, and each day the ship erects more elaborate defenses, including building a huge blaster. When the monster is trying to get through the force fields and being fired on my many weapons, we get a sort of aura-like outline of the creature, the only time it isn’t invisible. But all of the tech of the starship is unable to defeat the creature.

Eventually, the commander and his closest friend on the crew (who everyone calls “Doc” though it is never clear whether he is the medical officer or if the nickname is because of some other scientific expertise) have become convinced that the monster isn’t some ineffable planetary force. They decide that one of them needs to use the alien “education machine” which Morbius has warned them away from. Morbius has explained that several members of the original expedition has tried to use the machine, and all who had tried died, except Morbius. The commander winds up distracting Morbius while Doc get to the machine.

The machine does kill Doc, but as he is dying, he is able to tell the commander enough to solve the mystery.

There is a dramatic final confrontation, in which it appears that the mysterious force no longer thinks of Altaira, Robbie, or Morbius as beings to protect rather than destroy. And again, the way supposedly impenetrable Krell metal walls were being battered in by the monster was intensely scary! Commander Adams forces Morbius to face the truth. Which results in Morbius’ death. The ship is able to leave the planet, carrying Altaira and Robbie back to Earth, and the entire planet self-destructs after they leave.

Most modern analyses of the movie, if they acknowledge any problematic content at all will note the one and only woman in the cast is less than a full-fledged adult and the only agency she is granted in the plot is whether to remain loyal to her father or switch allegiance to her new romantic interest, Commander Adams. And this is problematic enough. However… all of the men in the story view Altaira as little more than an object that one of them will possess. It is precisely because Morbius perceives that he is “losing” his daughter to the commander that sets the final battle in motion. All of the other characters in the story are vying for the attention of the one and only woman.

I should say, all of the other characters except Robbie the Robot.

I’ve never seen any critic acknowledge that, in some ways, Robbie the Robot is Altaira’s Sassy Gay Friend. He’s clever, he is devoted to Altaira but not interested in her in a romantic way. He cleans the house, prepares meals, and takes care of all the domestic tasks in the Morbius household that would traditionally be fulfilled by a woman in a non-science fiction film of the era, right? One of the roles of the asexual or effeminate man who was the witty friend of the heroine in movies of the 40s and 50s was to have insight into the motives and character of other people that the protagonists did not. So it should be no surprise that in the climactic battle, Cammander Adams uses Robbie’ perceptions of the situation to convince Altaira and Morbius of the true nature of the invisible monster.

It was many, many years later before this queer geeky nerdy child realized that at least part of the reason my favorite character out of this classic sci-fi movie was Robbie the Robot was precisely because he was the only character who wasn’t vying for the attention of a woman. And while many other aspects of the story resonated with me, none of the other characters rose to the level of identification as the robot. So this queer child, who had nightmares because of the main plot, still found models for my possible futures among the supporting cast of this movie.

…and then what happened? And then? And then? — getting the story started and keeping it going

Just start writing.

Several years ago I was on a writing panel at a convention. I don’t remember the exact title of the panel, but it was about what happens when you’re stuck or otherwise can’t seem to get a story moving. I was supposed to have a co-panelist, but they had to cancel at the last minute. The crowd in the room wasn’t really big, so I suggested we do something a bit more interactive. I briefly explained who I was and that most of my writing advice came from (at the time) about 12 years of reading the slush pile for a semi-prozine I was involved with. Then, rather than throw it open for any question, I asked for examples of times they had been stuck, and gave every in the room an opportunity to respond to it if they wanted.

This got a nice back and forth going.

One guy described how he’d had this story he’d been working on for a long time where he kept writing a few sentences or paragraphs about his main character getting the news of a death in the family, which was supposed to kick the plot off where the character would meet another character and they would both get involved in looking into what had happened. His problem he said, was he never knew how to get the main character from getting the news to meeting the other character.

I (rather flippantly) ask, “Why not just hit return and then type, ‘Later that day…’ or ‘A week later…’?”

And he looked stunned. “But don’t I have to explain how he got there?”

“You only have to show the reader things that move the plot forward. You can skip the boring stuff. You can jump past interesting things that happen to the character but aren’t important to the plot. Just jump ahead. Particularly in a first draft. During the second draft if you realize there is something important that you skipped you can add it then. But don’t do stuff like that until you get to the end of your first draft.”

Someone else in the room asked a question about the plot which made it clear that they thought plot was merely a list of everything that happens to the character. So I explained that plot is a problem, mystery, or challenge which confronts the protagonist at the beginning of the story, is resolved at the climax by the protagonist’s own actions, and is the thread the ties everything that you write about between those events together. It isn’t that every single thing the character does is part of the story, right? How many action movies show the characters going to the bathroom, for instance?

What a lot of people call writers’ block is a combination of indecision born out of the fear that what you write isn’t going to be perfect. So the first thing you need to do when you find yourself stuck is to realize that nothing anyone writes is ever perfect. Especially in the first draft. Your favorite book in the whole world was almost certainly a terrible mess in the first draft. It isn’t a great book because the author wrote exactly the perfect opening line, and then wrote every single sentence and scene that followed perfectly.

It’s great because the writer blundered along through the first draft until they had the skeleton of the story laid out before them—but not with all of the bones in exactly the right place. Then, during rewrite, the author got the bones arranged properly, added flesh to the bones, and eventually they had a living, breathing story that was ready to grab some readers and say, “Come one! Let’s have an adventure!”

Don’t let that fear of the imperfect prevent you from plunging in. Just start writing. And then keep writing until you reach the end.

Shakira – Try Everything (From “Zootopia”) [Official Music Video]:

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Time to fire up those word processors! #NaNoWriMo

I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) once more. If you don’t know what that means… well, in the past I have quoted from the NaNoWriMo website to describe what the event is, but during the last year they migrated their old site and forums to a new host (and in the process did a re-design), and there is no nice way to say this: they have really messed up their web site. It took me a very long time poking around the website to find where they have moved the “What is NaNoWriMo” information to… don’t get me wrong, there are links called that in their menus, but if you don’t already have an account set up, those links don’t take you to pages that actually answer the question. The closest I could come to the old information is this:

…each year on November 1, hundreds of thousands of people around the world begin to write, determined to end the month with 50,000 words of a brand-new novel. You may know this mass creative explosion by the name National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo

The basic idea is that thousands of us all over the world will, starting on November 1, attempt to write 50,000 words of either a brand new novel, or to continue one started previously, or to revise one started previously. People who sign up for accounts can join regional forums, set up NaNoWriMo buddies to encourage (or compete with) each other, attend in-person or virtual write-ins, and so forth. It can be a lot of fun, particularly if you jump in with the notion that you’re just trying to get the first draft—no matter who bad it is—down so that you can edit and rewrite later.

Another thing about the migration is that everyone’s Buddies have disappeared. I went through the archive site and sent invitations to people I used to be buddies with to try to re-establish my old network. But a lot of folks haven’t logged in, yet, this year.

Anyway, I have set up my project for this year. If you are doing NaNoWriMo this year and want to add me as a writing buddy, please do so! My username on NaNoWriMo is “fontfolly” just as it is here at my blog and on twitter.

Let’s tell some stories!

Please join me for National Novel Writing Month!

Yelling at clouds, pointless nostalgia, and blind spots

“Kids these days will never know the joys of oil lamps and chamber pots”A lot of people have linked to the comments by people like Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and so forth denigrating the modern superhero movie as not being “real cinema”, not being narrative, having more in common with an amusement park ride than a “proper movie” and so forth. And many other people have posted counter arguments, but most of the counter arguments I was thinking were being a bit too timid in their defense. And then Cora Buhlert weighed in: Old Directors Yell at Clouds – Pardon, Superheroes. And she nailed it:

My initial reaction to Martin Scorsese’s remarks was, “I could say the exact same thing about his films. I tried to watch them, I really tried, and I’ll never get the hours I spent sitting through Taxi Driver or Gangs of New York back. But I’m sorry, I just cannot connect with the kind of white dude arseholes who are the protagonists of Scorsese’s movies.” I may never have been a superhero, but I find Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and the rest of the gang much more relatable than anybody in Taxi Driver or The King of Comedy or Goodfellas or Casino.

I mean, really, it’s quite rich for a guy like Scorsese to accuse any other filmmaker of not being able to create a narrative. I had immediately gone to Gangs of New York myself as the perfect example of the kind of failed storytelling usually defended with “but that’s what happens in real life!” The difference between fiction and real life is that fiction has to make sense. That’s what narrative actually means: making sense out of events by tying them to a thread of meaning. Gangs of New York (and every other Scorsese film I’ve sat through) set up all sorts of narrative threads, places metaphorical guns on mantlepieces, that are simply ignored or forgotten in an ending that can be boiled down to: “Life is unfair and meaningless and you, the audience, are stupid for not realizing it.”

Buhlert makes some other points that I was thinking while reading the various screeds:

Because for all their flaws, today’s superhero movies are a lot more diverse in front and behind the camera, then the highly touted movies of the New Hollywood era, which were made by and for a very narrow slice of people. It’s no accident that directors, actors and characters of those movies are all white and male and either Italian-American or members of some other immigrant group (the characters in The Deer Hunter are all descendants of Russian immigrants). There are a lot of people who never saw themselves reflected in those movies – women, people of colour, LGBTQ people, people who are not American – and who likely never much cared for those movies either, because the big Scorsese or Coppola fanboys are mostly white dudes themselves.

Not all superhero movies are diverse. I mean, I was hardly the first person to point out that several of the franchises featured blond-haired, blue-eyed protagonists who were playing by and white actor named Chris, for goodness sake! But just as one example, the best Captain America comics (And the movie moments) have been the ones created by writers who never forget that inside that supersoldier body, deep down, Steve Rogers is still the not-able-bodied asthmatic kid who understands what it means to be powerless and to be bullied, and who has the empathy and hope necessary to fight for the powerless.

And…

Now I am a comic fan of old and like superhero movies. And so the current golden age of superhero movies is a dream come true for me, where I finally get to see plenty of characters on the big screen that I never expected to see there, in well made movies with excellent actors, great production values and stories that capture what made the comics so compelling. However, I also realise that not everybody likes superhero movies and I know the pain of cinemas being full of some genre of movies you don’t like. After all, I felt the same during the glut of westerns (and anybody who hates superhero movies should remember that the glut of westerns lasted from the silent era into the 1970s, i.e. almost fifty years), the glut of Vietnam war movies in the 1980s (and WWII movies in the 1960s), the glut of gangster movies in the 1970s/80s (and the 1930s) or the glut of romantic comedies in the 1990s. Oddly enough, however, I never hear the usual suspects complaining about too many westerns or war movies or gangster movies, though romantic comedies, Star Wars knock-off space operas and even the mini-trend of YA novel adpatations approx. ten years ago all got dinged. Gee, I wonder why that is.

It’s another example of that phenomenon that I called “applause from the wrong crowd.” Movies that are aimed at that narrow slice of cishet, white, male, able-bodied people are “proper cinema” and anyone in the audience who isn’t a member of that demographic is expected to watch with quiet admiration. We’re not supposed to expect to see our own stories on the screen. We’re not supposed to expect to see our issues addressed in the tales on screen. And if somehow something slips through that does include us, or tell our stories, we’re not supposed to cheer it loudly and enthusiastically.

If I keep going, I’m just going to devolve into ranting on my own. Buhlert makes a lot of other good points about the kinds of stories that superhero comics and films tackle well, the kinds of movies that are being squeezed out by the current focus on blockbusters, and other topics along the way. You should really go read the whole thing.

Weekend Update 10/26/2019: Cold hearts and webs of sin

It is time for another post about news that broke after I posted this week’s Friday Five, or didn’t come to my attention until afterward, or that didn’t quite make the cut, or about a previously linked story which has new developments. As usual I have some opinions that I wish to expound upon regarding this stories.


First: New Poll Finds Voters Strongly Oppose Employer Insurance. This is something I was complaining about during the first couple of Democratic Presidential Candidate Debates: there is a myth perpetrated by conservatives and so-called moderates that the American people absolutely love their employer-provided insurance. And it’s not just the politicians: the moderators at the first couple of debates, for instance, kept framing questions with that assumption as if it were a fact. I was so happy when finally one of the candidates emphatically asserted that almost no voter they have talked to likes their insurance.

What is true is that fear-mongering paid for by the for-profit insurance & pharmaceutical industries (and amplified by the politicians in their pocket) has a lot of people fearing that universal health care will be even worse than what they have now. That’s not the same thing as being happy with their current plans.


Second, this should come as no surprise: New polling suggests that Trump’s evangelical base is totally unified behind the president, no matter what investigations might reveal. I continue to be irritated that people who want to take aqay my legal rights because of some badly translated and cherry-picked parts of the Bible also support a politician whose policies run explicitly counter to every single thing that Jesus is actually quoted as saying in that same holy book. Although it is worthwhile to look closely at the statistics, here. Some people having been crowing about how 99% of evangelical Christians support the president and oppose impeachment. Except that isn’t what these polls show. The 99% is only true of white people who also identify specifically as evangelical AND Republican. When you step out of that demographic and look at other evangelicals, well, the numbers change. And that 99% was from polls taken a few weeks ago. Other polling shows an across-the-board shift in all demographics of more support for impeachment as more information comes out.

I don’t expect the white evangelicals who were chanting “Build the wall” are ever going to abandon Trump, but they’ve also clearly shown that their bigotry drives their decisions more than the actual words in the Bible.

While we’re on the topic of people who quote the Bible but don’t actually follow it: Falwell preparing legal battle against reporter after “smear campaign”. I’ve written so many times about the real estate that he has purchased for the former pool boy who spent a lot of time under questionable conditions hanging out with Falwell and his wife. And about the real estate he ordered Liberty University to essentially give to another former pool boy and personal trainer, one who we know that Falwell was texting pictures of Mrs Falwell in kinky sex gear (we know this because he accidentally group-sent one of the sexts to nearly all of the employees of the non-for-profit ministry of which he is head). And about the blackmailer who had compromising photos of Mrs. Falwell (and perhaps others) who was paid off my Trump’s lawyer conveniently a few weeks before Falwell shocked everyone by endorsing Trump instead of fellow evangelical Ted Cruz. And so on and so on.

So Falwell tried to get the FBI to investigate some of the former employees who spilled the beans about this questionable behavior (which, remember, is being subsidized by tax-payer money because of the tax-exempt status of the ministry and the university and so on). Now he’s trying to scare some reporters and news outlets for reporting on his scandal parts of which may constitute financial crimes. So far, both reporters and the publications say they are standing by their reporting.


Next: Zuck Testified Before the House Financial Services Committee and It Did Not Go Well for Him . Facebook is a force for evil, and I more and more people are recognizing the problems it is enabling: Facebook Slammed for Including Breitbart Among Trusted News Publishers.

And I do think it’s true that part of the problem is that Zuck and his yes-men don’t understand significant parts of the problem Timothy Egan: Facebook’s Zuckerberg still doesn’t get the big picture. But I also think that Zuck and his yes-men are douche-bags who have an almost pathological lack of empathy and an inability to even recognize their own prejudices.


West Virginia shines a spotlight on absurdities of tariff bailout program. “…the real issue is not about farmers, it’s about a government $22 trillion in debt handing out six-figure checks as part of a carrot-and-stick game in which $28 billion in bailouts serve as a political Band-Aid for the injury caused by flawed trade policies.”

China isn’t paying the tariffs, American consumers are. China isn’t really being hurt by the trade war, American farmers and workers are. Paying out billions to try to offset some of the harm to U.S. industries just means that tax-payers are paying for the tariffs twice


Fox News analyst: Republicans are protesting their own impeachment inquiry rules. The republicans set up these rules as part of the Clinton impeachment, and the last time the rules were updated it was when the Republicans had a majority in the House and John Boehner was the Speaker. And here’s the thing: the impeachment inquiry isn’t a trial. The trial happens if the House votes in favor of impeachment, and then that happens in the Senate. So the people screaming about due process either don’t understand the situation or are lying to keep their base hyped up and ready to cause trouble.

While we are on the subject, the Democrats are not conduction impeachment inquiries, the U.S. House of Representatives is. There are Republicans on each of those committees. Those Republicans are at the closed-door sessions as well as the public hearings. Those Republicans get equal time to ask questions and so forth during the committee deliberations.

Both houses of Congress sometimes hold closed-door hearings. When Nixon was under the gun, committees in the House conducted some of their hearings behind closed doors. When Clinton was impeached, committees in the House conducted some of their hearings behind closed doors. One of the reasons you question witnesses behind closed doors during an investigation (which is what this is—it isn’t a trial yet) is so those witnesses can’t get their stories straight. You can catch some of the lies that witnesses tell if they don’t know what the other guys have said.


Samantha Bee Exposes Man Who Invented The Ukraine-Biden Conspiracy Theory:

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Friday Five (starvation killer edition)

Are we really already at the fourth Friday in October?

I believe I’ve figured out what I’m going to work on for NaNoWriMo next month. We’ve had a short break in the very rainy weather, but I’m not sure anything is going to dry out before the rain returns.

Anyway, welcome to the Friday Five. This week I bring you: the top five stories of the week, five stories of interest to queers and our allies, five stories about science fiction, five stores about science, five stories about injustice and justice, and five videos (plus a thing I wrote).

Stories of the Week:

Most people in Seattle are from somewhere else. So what does that say about the ‘Seattle Freeze’?

Ivar’s, Seattle Seafood Restaurant Chain, and the Serial Killer. More than 100 years ago, Washington state was the home of a woman who was eventually dubbed the Starvation Killer…

I Ate Like a Member of the Royal Family for a Week and Here’s What Happened.

The Phone Call Isn’t Dead, It’s Evolving.

Inside the Phone Company Secretly Run By Drug Traffickers.

This Week in News for Queers and Allies:

One of Comcast’s top executives is suing for anti-gay discrimination – He was called slurs, paid less, told he was “too gay and flamboyant,” and the cable company retaliated when he complained.

Conservatives, religious right go to the outer limits of audacity in exploiting case of transgender child.

Drag Queens Are Hosting Story Hours Across the Country to Teach Kids Acceptance & We Say YAS to That.

This health care ruling could endanger untold numbers of LGBTQ Americans.

How ‘It’s a gay bar, Pamela’ became the Twin Cities’ favorite meme.

This Week in Science Fiction:

What Is the Time Signature of the Ominous Electronic Score of The Terminator? – The time signature of the Terminator score is a mystery for the ages.

Ray Bradbury’s Tales of the Bizarre – Series 1 – Available for Streaming from the BBC.

Eminent writers, editors and critics choose some favorite works of fantasy and science fiction. Read it for Chabon’s Bradbury comments…

David Gerrold – I disagree with Scorsese. I disagree with Coppola….

‘Watchmen’ Review: A Dazzling Reinvention of a Landmark Comic.

This Week in Science:

Bam! Scientists Watch Distant Exoplanet Collision.

Remarkable fossils capture mammals’ recovery after the dino-killing asteroid – Survivors grew from the size of a rat to that of a wolf within 700,000 years of the impact.

U.S. Air Quality Was Improving. Now It’s Getting Worse .

After A DNA Surprise: 10 Things No One Wants to Hear.

New tsunami evacuation maps show the fastest way to escape the Big One on foot.

This Week in Crimes and the Fight for Justice:

She was raped 15 years ago. Her rape kit was finally tested and turned up a match.

New bulletproof memorial to Emmett Till replaces vandalized sign in Mississippi.

Tennessee Deputy Sued Twice In The Same Day Over A Roadside Anal Search And A Forced Baptism.

Police Seize High-Ranking Atomwaffen Division Member’s Guns. The stripping happened earlier this month. Kaleb J. Cole, the strippee, is a leader of the Atomwaffen Division’s Washington State cell. The Seattle Police Department filed an “Extreme Risk Protection Order” petition against him late last month.

A Bangladesh court has sentenced 16 people to death for the murder of a student set on fire after accusing her teacher of sexual harassment.

Things I wrote:

Ah, yes, the Lady Mondegreen dancing with the devi.

Videos!

Trump Lashes Out After G7 Controversy, Mulvaney’s Ukraine Confession: A Closer Look:

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Colbert Gets A Surprise Visit From Rudy Giuliani:

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Republicans Storm Impeachment Hearing After Bombshell Testimony: A Closer Look:

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O Great Pumpkin | Robot Chicken | Adult Swim:

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MIKA – Dear Jealousy:

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Ah, yes, the Lady Mondegreen dancing with the devil

Back in 1954 writer Sylvia Wright proposed a new word: mondegreen, meaning a mishearing or misinterpretation of a word or phrase in a poem or a song. Her idea for the name came about because when she was a child her mother frequently read to her from a book of poetry, and one of her favorites was a specific Scottish ballad that referred to the murder of an Earl by his enemies “and they laid him on the green” — in other words, put his body on display as a warning to other enemies. But Wright had always thought the line was “and the Lady Mondegreen.” So she had always thought that two people had been murdered.

One of my oldest friends used to tell how back in the day her Mother had thought that the Bee Gee’s hit from 1977, “More Than a Woman,” was actually “Bald-headed Woman.” And I’ve written before about how I had completely misunderstood a lot of the lyrics of the song Doris Day was most famous for singing.

I listen to music a lot. I have literally thousands of playlists, and I like to have background music when I’m writing, or working, or doing just about anything. Particularly in my writing playlists, some songs appear again and again. There are some songs that I think of as themes for some of my characters, for instance. Others just really go well with certain kinds of subplots. And the song is one that is currently in my draft NaNoWriMo 2019 playlist, which I’ve been fiddling with for a bit over a week.

Sometimes I like a song really well, but there are a few of the lyrics I’m not sure of. You can’t hear some words as clearly as the others for various reasons. For instance, there is a song that has been in a bunch of playlists for two or three years, now, “Dancin’ with the Devil” by Lindsay Perry. And I like the song quite a bit, but there is one line that I’m slightly unsure of. In the chorus there’s this sentence, “Cause there’s nothing much more for me to do, but go dancin’ with the devil in these old soled shoes.” Or at least that’s what it sounds like to me.

Except, I’m not sure what “old soled shoes” means, exactly. I mean, all styles of shoes have soles, and it the soles are old, one presumes the entire shoe is old, right? It’s just a weird phrase. There is a brand of children’s shoes called “Old Soles” but they are children’s shoes (and expensive), so not really in keeping with the rest of the song where the character portrayed in the lyrics is at the end of their rope because they made a deal with the devil that has turned sour as those deals always do.

I kept thinking that I must be misunderstanding her, so I finally decided to see if lyrics to the song were posted anywhere.

They are. But it soon becomes clear that every site hosting them is copying them from a single site where a fan with really bad hearing has made a guess at the lyrics. I say this because there are lines that are quite clear and unmistakeable earlier in the song that this attempt at transcription gets wrong. For instance, the line in the song “It was the devil in disguise with his hazy eyes, I should’ve known better from all his lies.” But the web lyrics render it as “He was the devil in disguise with his eyes of ice. Should I know better from how is last” Which makes absolutely no sense at all.

Plus there are other, worse mondegreens later.

The line I am slightly uncertain of they render as “go dancin’ with the devil in its handsome shoes” which I know is wrong, because, for one, everywhere else in the song the devil is referred to as he/his, not it. And frankly, I can’t imagine how anyone could get handsome out of the phonemes there.

Except…

Well, I’m not completely sure I’m right about that one bit of lyric, so do I really have a right to judge someone else who thinks it’s something that, to me, makes no sense at all?

Maybe you can hear it better than me.

Lindsay Perry on Sonny’s Porch / Dancing With The Devil:

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Friday Five (cockwomble edition)

And now it is the third Friday in October.

It’s been non-stop rain for several days and is expected to continue through the weekend, so I’m happy. Also, it was nice to be reminded this week of the word cockwomble, meaning: “A person, usually male, prone to making outrageously stupid statements and/or inappropriate behaviour while generally having a very high opinion of their own wisdom and importance.”

Anyway, welcome to the Friday Five. This week I bring you: the top five stories of the week, five stories og interest to queers and our allies, five stores about science, five stories about deplorable people, five stories about the Impeachable One, and five videos (plus things I wrote and notable obituaries).

Stories of the Week:

Religion Continues to Decline in America.

Cuomo signs law aimed at weakening Trump’s pardon power, closes ‘double jeopardy’ loophole.

Twitter says it will restrict users from retweeting world leaders who break its rules. Um, well, I guess it’s a start… or maybe just an empty gesture.

Former NASA scientist says they found life on Mars in the 1970s.

Trump tweeted a photo attacking Nancy Pelosi. She made it her Twitter cover photo.

This Week in News for Queers and Allies:

Justin Tranter Was Punished in H.S. for Enduring Anti-LGBTQ Bullyingv- The out songwriter shared a disturbing story of harassment at a Spirit Day concert and fundraiser.

Parents of Matthew Shepard use DOJ speech to criticize Attorney General Barr’s stance on gender identity protections.

The way this trans man’s family expresses solidarity with his dream of having top surgery will make your heart burst.

Porno Pete Blames “Radical Lying Homosexual Activist” JMG For Beto O’Rourke’s Stance On Ex-Gay “Torture” . Right, it’s one gay blogger, and not the many juries, doctors, and medical associations that have all call it unconscionable, traumatic, and harmful.

Black lesbian Ernestine Eckstein was protesting when most gays thought protests were crazy – Closeted gays and even many early gay organizations criticized her for being visible and active.

This Week in Science:

Planetary ‘autopsies’ indicate worlds like Earth common in the cosmos.

480-million-year-old trilobite ‘traffic jams’ may reveal ancient migratory behavior.

Hubble telescope captures the best photo yet of the interstellar comet Borisov as it hurtles through the Milky Way at 110,000 miles per hour.

Space Mysteries: If the universe is 13.8 billion years old, how can a star be more than 14 billion years old?

Paris zoo unveils the blob, an organism with no brain but 720 sexes.

This Week in Deplorable People:

Trump’s Fox News Meltdown Proves He’s “the Snowiest, Flakiest Snowflake,” Says Kimmel.

Jury awards Sandy Hook father $450,000 for defamation by local conspiracy theorist.

Inside The Christian Legal Army Weakening the Church-State Divide.

The Heritage Foundation co-hosted a half day anti-LGBTQ event. Here are the worst comments from panelists.

2 Trump officials said the US should be run as a Christian theocracy.

This Week in Impeach the Mo-Fo Already:

Mulvaney acknowledges Ukraine aid was withheld to boost political probe.

THE ACTUAL LAWS TRUMP HAS BROKEN, JUST WITH THE UKRAINE AND CHINA AFFAIRS, COULD LAND HIM 10 YEARS IN PRISON.

Fox News’ Andrew Napolitano: Trump holding G7 at Doral resort is a ‘profound’ emoluments clause violation.

Karma For Republicans: Clinton Rules Apply To Trump Impeachment – Andrew Napolitano reminds Fox and Friends that all the rules Adam Schiff is following were written by Republicans during the Clinton years. Womp, womp.

Sen. Mitt Romney raises a troubling theory about Trump and Turkey.

In Memoriam:

Stephen Moore – known as the voice of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’s Marvin the Paranoid Android – has died aged 81.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, LGBTQ Rights Champion, Dead at 68.

Elijah Cummings ‘signed subpoenas from his hospital bed’ for Trump impeachment before his death.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, dignified Democratic nemesis of Trump, dies at 68.

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, key figure in Trump impeachment inquiry and longtime Baltimore advocate, dies at 68 .

Things I wrote:

Join us in the light! #NationalComingOutDay.

Celebrate Indigenous People’s Day — and recognize that Columbus was a violent unscrupulous invader.

Tuesday Tidbits 10/15/2019.

Where do they come from? (or, some things remain ineffable).

Videos!

GIULIANI! (Here He Goes Again) – Randy Rainbow Song Parody:

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Rudy Giuliani Associates Arrested as Support for Impeachment Rises: A Closer Look:

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Harry Styles – Lights Up (Official Video):

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Katy Perry – Harleys In Hawaii (Official):

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MIKA – Sanremo:

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Where do they come from? (or, some things remain ineffable)

I woke up Tuesday morning in an extremely dark room with the feeling that something was wrong. I rolled over to squint at the red large print display of the alarm clock to see that it was after 10. I exclaimed a swear word or three and scrambled to get out of bed, since I have a 9:30am meeting every day at work which I was now quite late for.

I wondered why my alarm hadn’t gone off and glanced down at my wrist. I was still wearing my Apple Watch, so I hadn’t remembered to put it on the charger. I could see the hands on the face stopped at about 3am and realized that the battery must have run down. I turned on the light so I could find the charger, and was a little confused because the furniture in the room appeared to have been moved around. And I had no idea where my phone was.

I left the room, having to pass through the small master bathroom with the large whirlpool bath, through the big storage room with all the creepy furniture under dusty sheets, through the cramped kitchen with the weird stove and the red and white cabinets until I reached the living room, where the large dark brown shelves were stuffed with old photos and knick knacks, the coffee table with the book shelves built in sat in front of the turquoise couch, where I finally found my phone, which I needed to use to call my boss.

That was about the point when a corner of my brain that had been pointing out all the incongruities managed to be heard over the total panic I was having to point out that none of the things I just described actually exist in my house…

And I opened my eyes again, finding myself curled up in my recliner (I sleep the first part of most nights in the recliner because of the chronic reflux and the subsequent bleeding ulcer that very nearly killed my 18 years ago). I could read the glowing display of the cable box (right next to the charger with my actual Apple Watch—you know, a device that if the battery was dead you wouldn’t be able to see the hands since they are just pixels on its screen—was charging). It was 6 am, not 10-something.

Since I don’t normally remember more than a few snippets of dreams, I got up and checked around the house, figuring that I had been in the middle of a deep sleep and an unexpected noise had interrupted. But I couldn’t find any obvious problem. My husband had already left for work (as is usual for that time). It was just a weird dream, I guess.

I double-checked that the watch was charging and that the alarms were still set to go off at the usual time, then crawled into bed hoping to get another hour sleep.

And I got thinking about some of those details in the dream, because many of them have appeared in many of my dreams over the years. The crowded master suite bathroom with the whirlpool, for example. The kitchen with the weird stove. The enormous dark creepy store room. And so on.

Some of the details of those rooms I understand. The red large print alarm clock belonged to my first husband, Ray, when we first started dating. I kept it for many years after he died in 1997, even though most of its functions (the actual alarm, the radio, and the battery backup) had stopped working long before. The dark book shelves crammed with knick-knacks and photos used to actually exist in my great-grandmother’s den. The coffee table with bookshelves (holding an encyclopedia set) and the turquoise couch were both in my evil grandmother’s living room. One of the places my nice grandmother lived for a few years when I was in grade school had those red and white cabinets (but not the weird stove). But I have no idea where many of the other details come from. I’ve never lived in nor do I remember visiting a home that had that big whirlpool bath, for instance. Yet it appears in my dreams again and again and has been for decades.

I don’t remember any house with a huge store room full o furniture under dust cloths, though such rooms appear so often in movies—particularly horror movies of a certain era—that we can probably assume it’s just lifted from those movies.

And this is not by any means the first time I have tried to figure out where the weird stove comes from. It sort of looks like it was designed by Escher? It’s so hard to describe. There are burners where you couldn’t possible expect a pan to sit on them, for instance. And it has a bewildering array of levers and control knobs.

The truth is that our subconscious has more than a few ineffable processes. So while we can try to figure out where some of those images and notions come from and what they mean, there is no objective way of verifying the validity of those conjectures.

Which is something I find myself saying in a different way again and again to some friends and acquaintances who bemoan their inability to come up with “good ideas” for writing. There is almost no such thing as a bad idea for a story. I mean, you can build stories on bigoted or hateful premises, and that isn’t exactly a good thing, but generally speaking, any idea, no matter how mundane or surreal, could be turned into an interesting story with enough work.

And rewrite.

The truth is that almost any story that you can name that you think of as great, was almost certainly a mess and barely readable in the first draft.

It’s okay if the idea doesn’t feel great when you start. Get the first draft done, no matter what those voices of doubt say. Set the story aside for a while. Then pick it up and start editing.

Tuesday Tidbits 10/15/2019:

I started to do a Weekend Update post with a couple of the stories below on Saturday, but I needed to get shopping done and be back up and set up somethings before my gaming group logged into the group chat at 1pm. So I didn’t get to it. I also frequently save memes, cartoons, and the like to use as an illustration for a blog post or Friday Five. I always gather a lot more than I can actually use, so every now and then I share some that I didn’t use. And I was struck by the fact that for several of the stories I had been leaning toward putting in the Weekend Update, I have a related graphic.

Without further ado, please enjoy!

Lindsey Graham dishes on Trump in hoax calls with Russians – Graham thought he was speaking with Turkey’s minister of defense. Instead, it was a pair of Russian pranksters.


Rudy keeps admitting to crimes on air and sincerely doesn’t realize he’s doing it! The almost comical corruption of Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani was always a fraud. Just ask the FDNY – As the image of “America’s Mayor” was being rehabbed, 9/11 families saw how his malfeasance killed their loved ones.

John Oliver Thinks Rudy Giuliani Is Totally Screwed: ‘Trump Will Abandon Him’:

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“AA Republicans turn on people like Mitt Romney & US intelligence agents, I'l like to remind everyone that the crook they're stupidly protecting is banned from operating a charity in all of New York state because he and his swindling kids stole form a children's cancer charity.”

“AA Republicans turn on people like Mitt Romney & US intelligence agents, I’l like to remind everyone that the crook they’re stupidly protecting is banned from operating a charity in all of New York state because he and his swindling kids stole form a children’s cancer charity.”

Trump banned from running a charity due to fraud.

BREAKING: Donald Trump is facing multiple fraud charges.

Trump used $258,000 from his charity to settle legal problems.

How Donald Trump Shifted Kids-Cancer Charity Money Into His Business.


“The Republican Party's rapid switch from 'Law and Order' to 'Snitches are bitches' has been amazing.”

“The Republican Party’s rapid switch from ‘Law and Order’ to ‘Snitches are bitches’ has been amazing.”

The effort to demonize House Intelligence Chairman Schiff (D-Calif.), who is leading the impeachment inquiry into the president, and create political fog for the president demonstrates Republicans’ deep reluctance to opine on whether it was appropriate for Trump to commite treason when he asked Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political opponent.

‘A Whistle-Blower Is Not a Snitch’.

“Just to be clear: if someone supports a political candidate who seeks your extermination, they also support yout exterminatiion. It doesn't matter how they treet you interpersonally. They want you dead structurally.”

“Just to be clear: if someone supports a political candidate who seeks your extermination, they also support yout exterminatiion. It doesn’t matter how they treet you interpersonally. They want you dead structurally.”

Gay rights battle against employment discrimination extends beyond the grave, and to the Supreme Court.

The Trump Administration Is Trying to Erase Trans People, but the Law Clearly Protects Them.

The rise of anti-trans “radical” feminists, explained – Known as TERFs, trans-exclusionary radical feminist groups are working with conservatives to push their anti-trans agenda.

Why We Need Pride In 2019: ‘There Are Still Those That Would Rather See Us Back In The Closet – Or Dead’.


…and it was only a year ago he posted a pic of himself online wearing a “Broke Hoe” t-shirt and bragging about being $4million in debt…

Broke Homocon Milo Forced To Sell Website. Wow… a bit over a year ago he was actually bragging about being in debt, then last month he was whining on Telegram (the only social media platform that hasn’t banned him) about the fact that his followers don’t buy his books or donate.

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