Howard Taylor’s Schlock Mercenary is one of a handful of webcomics that I still read fairly regularly, and I’ve come to respect his opinions on movies, so I always check the blog post to see if there’s a movie I should see or avoid. I’m glad I’ve gotten into this habit, because it gave me the chance to read this short non-fiction piece about mental health. Do yourself a favor and check that out.
Something that occurred to me though was that the title, “No. I’m fine.” is something I’m likely to say if someone asks me if I’m okay. Regardless of whether or not I’m okay, I’ve been more or less trained to answer that question with “I’m fine”, “Yes, nothing to worry about”, or “I’m always okay”, and usually I don’t even spare a thought to consider whether or not I am, in fact, okay. (Does it still count as a lie if you don’t actually know & just answer automatically?) Read the rest of this entry
I visited the San Francisco Dungeon on Fisherman’s Wharf the other day. I was a little disappointed by the lack of spanking, but it turns out it’s not that sort of dungeon.
In fact, “dungeon” isn’t really a good name for it, except there doesn’t seem to be a better one for this sort of attraction. The only other appropriate term that comes to mind is “haunt” which suffers from the same shortfalls as “dungeon” does.
Whatever it is, it’s pretty fun. The basic premise is that you go through creepy rooms inspired by San Francisco history, starting with a mine circa 1849, and moving through such attractions as mid-19th century gang hideouts, a frighteningly overworked & corrupt court system, a shanghai saloon, plague-infested late 19th century chinatown, up to a climactic encounter in early 20th century Alcatraz.
Strangely, there’s also a mirror maze. It was presented as a metaphorical representation of a deep mine nobody has escaped from, but it still felt out of place. I’m not going to complain about that too much, though, because it was probably the most fun part for me. I’ve always been slightly annoyed by these attractions that just herd you from one scene to the next, I want to explore on my own. Just one more reason why I wish so badly that The Night Circus were real, I suppose.
The acting was mostly delightfully over-the-top, except for a few brief instances where it was chillingly understated. There were the sort of cheap jokes you expect at a tourist attraction, several fun moments of singling out audience members to embarrass, and some very, very clever sets. There’s a lot of creativity in there, it’s clear that a lot of work has gone into it and that the cast care about their performances.
On the downside, the scene in Alcatraz is seriously too loud, I mean painfully loud. If they aren’t providing earplugs for the cast they’re going to get sued over that, and rightly so. The show also suffers from marketing hype, the promotional images set expectations far above what it delivers, although in that I suppose it’s no worse than any amusement park I’ve ever been to.
(Seriously, I can still remember the first time I went to Disneyland in the fourth grade and I thought it didn’t live up to the hype. Especially Tom Sawyer’s cave; it was just a tunnel with a column dividing it near the middle! Did they even read that book? Anyway, back to the dungeon.)
October is coming up, and with it a flurry of haunts to keep a fear-lover busy. I’m curious if the SF Dungeon will see a drop in attendance due to competition, or a rise in it because it’ll be the season for such things and on people’s minds. Perhaps the two will even out?
Overall, it’s not a bad way to kill an hour. This show isn’t really my type of entertainment, but I still had a good time and even managed to sit through the entire scene in Miss Piggot’s Saloon without making a single “Kermit The Frog” joke, which I feel deserves recognition. If you’re the sort who enjoys this kind of haunted house show it’s definitely the best I’ve ever seen and probably the best you’re going to find in the Bay Area. At $22 ($16 for children) the tickets are a little pricey for an hour’s entertainment, but I’ve seen worse.
Don’t forget to visit the restroom on your way in, you’ll thank me for that.
Arturo Galster was a legend in the San Francisco drag community. He passed away on Sunday the 24th of August, apparently from a head injury. SFGate and SFist have obituaries of sorts, and I’m not going to try to write anything like that. I want to talk about the image I built of him, through the people he’s left an imprint on. I won’t give any names or repeat any specific stories, partly because it would feel like publishing a page out of someone else’s diary, and also because I was a bit drunk and don’t really trust my memory. This is about feelings, not facts.
There was an informal memorial held deep in the night between Saturday and Sunday, and I was privileged to attend it, even though I never met Arturo. It was an eclectic affair even by this city’s standards; a motley collection of performers, fans, hangers on, and random passersby laughing and crying and talking beneath a tree while the city glittered around us.
Some of the people there were staying up late to be present, others had just finished working. The clothes ranged from jeans & a hoodie to five-inch stiletto heals with LEDs that blinked every step combined with a slinky black dress, fishnet top and more LEDs in the chest. As the night wore on, the wind picked up and cold began to seep into the mourners, punctuated by the almost comical attempts to keep a candle lit. A bottle of Arturo’s preferred whiskey was passed around, and stories were told and memories shared. And I began to build a picture of this person I’ll never be able to meet, assembled from the words of those who loved him.
Arturo was kind without necessarily being nice. He noticed people working with him and made a point of greeting them, even if they were the lowliest ticket collector. His philosophy was that you should not ask for what you need, but demand it, and he taught that to young performers he worked with as well as living it for himself. Arturo was willing to advocate for the new kids to get their chance to shine. He also traveled extensively, and I’m looking forward to hearing some of those stories from his traveling companions over a drink sometime.
I know there was more to him, more than I could ever learn even if I decided to spend the rest of my life as his biographer. People are complicated, and no matter how well you think you know someone they always have hidden depths, they’re always capable of surprising you. It can be easy to simplify your impression of somebody, just as it can also be easy to fall into comfortable routines, letting habit decide your actions. I get the impression that Arturo was also a believer in working outside your comfort zone.
I did not speak when everyone was standing in a big circle telling their stories, but I knew what I would have said, so I’ll say it now.
I never met Arturo, and I never will. Listening to the stories from those who knew him I feel robbed of that chance. He wasn’t killed by age or disease, his death was entirely avoidable. To me knowing that, and hearing people speak of him, powerfully underscores our responsibility to take care of each other, and to cherish each other.
That is all I have to say, for now. Please take care of yourselves, and take care of each other.
I’ve actually been meaning to write here a lot lately, but there’s been this problem where I can only think of things to write when I’m unable to write them. If I manage to remember that I can scribble myself a note about whatever idea I’ve had, I forget it by the time I find the tools to do that. This has been happening to me pretty much my entire life, but it’s been really bad lately!
So I’m not going to write about any of the deep ideas that wander through my mind in the shower or while I’m drifting off to sleep, instead I’m just going to write out a stream of consciousness for a bit, so that I can at least get some writing done. Maybe I won’t produce anything worthwhile, but at least I can try to keep in practice.
Of course, because I’m me, I’ve managed to start a list of subjects while writing this out. Yeah, I don’t understand my mind either. Maybe I’ll write about one of those right after this, but first I’m going to share the search term that led someone to my blog recently, “false tarvi”.
Which makes me wonder, do I have an impostor? Or, from someone else’s point of view, am I the impostor? How disturbing!
I also had an interesting dream when I dozed off this afternoon, but all I can remember now is driving a sports car with annoyingly cramped cockpit conditions, and doing parkour after abandoning the car. Huh.
Anyway, now I’m going to make a drink and see if I can’t write something more substantial.
By now I hope everyone has heard at least a little about Ferguson, Missouri. I figured I’d share some thoughts on it, since I felt like writing this evening.
There is no situation where a police officer can shoot an unarmed man six times in the back and be morally or legally justified. Ever.
Michael Brown was, and is, legally an innocent man because this is the United States of America were all suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. It does not matter what video you have, it does not matter what evidence you have, it does not matter whether or not he did commit that crime, or any crime. Police do not have the power to execute anyone. The only time a police office is justified in shooting someone is if they are a clear and immediate danger, and even then I expect a serious investigation, not because things should be difficult for cops, but because shooting a human being is not something to be treated lightly under any fucking circumstances.
To crack down on fully justified anger for what appears to be an outright murder does not help the situation, because it ignores the real problem. The real problem isn’t that lots of people are angry about what appears to be an outright murder, or that some people are using that anger as an excuse for theft or violence, the real problem is that apparently a cop felt completely comfortable with outright murdering one of the citizens he was sworn to protect, and apparently has good reason to think he’ll get away with it.
And, for some completely inexplicable reason, an awful lot of people, especially those in power, seem to be closing ranks to defend this apparent murderer. Because that’s what always happens when a cop shoots an unarmed black man. (That’s five separate links spanning the last four years. They all came from the first page of a Google search.)
There is a pretty clear message here that black people can be murdered with impunity. To scold a 70% black community for being angry about this as though they were, (to paraphrase John Oliver), an unruly class in a high school assembly is not only refusing to recognize their situation or take them seriously, but to treat them as though they are the ones in the wrong for having the audacity to publicly voice the situation.
I seriously do not understand why this country consistently treats exposing and denouncing injustice as a worse crime than the injustice itself.
Worse, to wave away or minimize the very real situation that cops kill black people with impunity fairly routinely is nothing short of saying that it is okay for them to do so. If you’ve attempted to justify Brown being shot in the back by saying he allegedly robbed a store earlier you need to accept that you are saying it is okay for a cop to execute suspects without a trial, and I want you to seriously consider what that means.
There is no way this is going to get any better until cops start going to jail for shootings like this. I feel confident in saying this because I remember how stupid I was at age eighteen, and realize that if I were a young black man I’d be thinking very hard about how to protect myself from the cops right now. Until the police start facing justice, I can only see this escalating. And frankly, if peaceful protests are met with violence and military hardware, maybe it needs to.
I’ve heard that the National Guard has been deployed. I can only hope it is there to protect the people of Ferguson from their police.
I’ve been in San Francisco for one year now. I feel like I should write an introspective essay about what’s changed and what hasn’t, and how I feel about it, but I really don’t have time today.
So I’ll just take a moment to say that I still love this city. Yesterday I took a walk and discovered beautiful places that I never knew were there. I stood in what could easily be mistaken at a glance for an old-growth forest, surrounded by mist with water dripping from the trees, and then minutes later walked into an urban garden, with signs illustrating plants that grow well in this climate and teaching cultivation techniques.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I think I could happily spend most of it near San Francisco Bay.
As promised, here are “Some Questions Atheist Cannot Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer!” along with my answers. Here is the source link, which I’ll be reading from instead of the Pharyngula post so that I won’t have to wonder if I would have said that before I read PZ’s answer. Hopefully writing the last post will have moved my mind in different directions enough to help with that for the questions I already read. Since the list is hosted on Today Christian, I will assume the context that the questions are being asked by some variety of Christian.
Looking over Pharyngula this morning I found that Professor Myers was answering another list of proclaimed questions atheists cannot answer. I was halfway thru when I decided that I wanted to blog my own answers, since I haven’t been writing much lately and apparently miss it. I decided this gradually as I read the list, there was no clear instant where I made up my mind, but I found myself comparing the first answer to pop into my head with the good professor’s, and finding substantial overlap. Enough that I started thinking I would have trouble keeping them from mixing in my head before I got them written down.
I stopped reading around question #4 and starting writing this instead. As so often happens, my mind wandered someplace interesting that I didn’t expect while considering the fairly mundane problem of eliminating bias from my writing.
My opinions may well have been colored by reading some of PZ’s responses before I wrote my own out, but while I was thinking about that it occurred to me that my responses have definitely been colored by his influence over the last five years or so, since I’ve started reading his blog.
PZ has been accused by several people of having a cult-like control over his regular readers, which may make him an unfortunate impetus for this line of thought. On the other hand, clearly his alleged mind-control isn’t too binding, since this is exactly the kind of thinking a proper cult leader would want to discourage! Read the rest of this entry
So, I honestly meant to start posting again once or twice a week, but, well, I suddenly got a wonderful new apartment. So I’ve been very, very busy with moving and decorating and working as much as I can to pay for everything.
It’s been a busy month for me, and not likely to let up just yet.
I will try to post more now that I’m somewhat settled in, but since I don’t have internet right now I have to either post from my phone or set my phone up as a Wi-Fi hotspot and post through it. Neither is very conductive to my usual method of writing. So posts will probably be few & far between for a while yet.
There are still book reviews I want to write, and many things in the news and life in general that I feel like discussing, so there will be more eventually.
In the meantime, I love my new home!
Once upon a time, there was a webcomic called Casey and Andy. Mad science, zany characters and lots of geekery, it was one of my favorites. I was sad, but satisfied, when it ended.
Then about a month ago Howard Taylor mentioned a hard sci-fi novel called The Martian, and that it was written by the same Andy Weir who once gave us Casey and Andy. I bought the book before I finished reading Howard’s post about it.
And it’s good.
This has had me in a funk since I learned about it this morning. Three of a friend’s cats have been attacked by someone with a pellet gun. Two of those cats used to hang out with me.
Veterinarians are expensive and time-consuming, so here’s a link to a page raising money to help.
I don’t have anything more to say, except to wish my love to the family.
I picked up Hull Damage for Kindle free on Amazon. The current rating there is 3 & a half stars, and that feels about right to me. It has a lot going on, both for and against it.
The setting is sci-fi, it feels like a cross between Heavy Metal’s dystopian space settings and Firefly’s wild lawlessness, with a healthy dose of Star Wars. The book follows the career of a space pirate and his crew, an episodic story of the ups and downs they face trying to make a name for themselves. Read the rest of this entry
So yesterday I picked up an app called “iDeas for writing”, (that’s how they capitalize it) and I’ve been playing with it from time to time all weekend. The concept is simple, it has several random generators for characters and story prompts, and then some exercises to stretch yourself with these tools.
I spent some time with it and a tablet of paper, and wrote a page inspired by a “first sentence” the app provided. Because I’m me, this short bit of creative writing required a nap to recover from.
So, here’s what I wrote.
The pirate thought about her again. She had been on his mind more than usual lately, singing in his dreams the way she used to sing in the kitchen.
He couldn’t really remember any of the songs she used to sing, but he could still hear her voice as clearly as his own.
He knew she would not be proud of the decisions he had made. But neither would she condemn him for them. He was sure about that.
The pirate shivered and tried to clear his head. She always came to mind right before a raid, since the very first one, but her memory haunted him more lately. He thought he knew why, too.
In the beginning there was little choice for him, trapped as he was between crime and starvation. He had done what was needed to survive. But things had changed since then.
His ill-gotten gains had built up to a tidy sum. It wasn’t the vast fortunes hoarded by pirates of legend, but it was enough. It was time.
Time for one last heist.
Time to retire.
That’s it. More a teaser than a story, but it was fun to make. I like the ambiguity of it, we know so little yet it still tells a story.
So there’s my ultra-short fiction for today. Maybe I’ll have more next weekend, who knows.
Next up, book reviews!
Let me just blow the dust off, here.
If you’re wondering where I’ve been the past three months, I’ve been working 55 to 60 hour weeks. When you have as much trouble writing as I do, that doesn’t leave much time for blogging. But things have calmed down a bit now, so I should hopefully be able to post again from time to time.
If nothing else, there’s a lot of books I want to write about.
Speaking of books, here’s a cool thing! StoryBundle offers collections of books in epub format that you pay what you like for. The current offering is the “Epic Fantasy Bundle”, and it lasts for another ten days.
It really is epic, too! If you pay over $12 you get three bonus books. I paid $20, because I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my hard-earned overtime pay and frankly I often undertip.
The one I’m reading now is The Camelot Papers, which should win a prize for misleading cover art. I thought I’d be reading a farcical comedy, and while there are moments of dark humor, this really isn’t one. It is compelling, though, and so far I’ve enjoyed it. I’ll try to write up a proper review once I’m done with it.
Speaking of cool things, Evolution Expo is happening in Oakland this summer! It’s billed as “putting the science back into science fiction”, which is something I can get behind! I fully intend to attend, and you should too!
So, I’m back to writing again. No where near as often as 2012, but hopefully more than 2013. Coming soon, book reports and ultra-short fiction!