Infinite tributes in infinite combinations

UPDATED March 1, 2015: One particular tribute that I missed, as I am not a part of this online community… but that might be the sweetest of all:

Basically, when the news came of Leonard Nimoy’s passing, Star Trek Online players decided, spontaneously and en masse, to go to virtual Vulcan and pay their respects.

It’s seriously dusty around here right now.

ORIGINAL POST: The outpouring of love and heartfelt tributes to Leonard Nimoy have been wonderful to see. And the variety! Quotes, of course. Nearly everyone had some variation of “He lived long, and prospered” when the news first broke. Others have sent out pictures, usually screenshots of Spock, but also of Nimoy in a variety of his guest roles.

The most fun one has been the Twitter hashtag “PutSpockInASong,” which has resulted in a fine paradox: people howling in laughter due to puns about the emotionless paragon of rational thought and dispassion. Yet for all that, I think it is flawlessly logical, and one hopes that he would, at least, quirk a friendly eyebrow at the foibles of humanity.

As my favorite of them (so far) put it:

Some have been touching, some absurdist, some serious, some comic… all have been heartfelt.

One thing I observe is that three men reprised their characters from the original Trek in episodes of The Next Generation – DeForest Kelly, James Doohan, and Leonard Nimoy – and now all three have boldly gone on.

(FUN FACT! Peter Duryea acted with Leonard Nimoy on Star Trek – in the original pilot, The Cage, Duryea played Lt. Jose Tyler opposite Nimoy as Mr. Spock.)

Leonard Nimoy was more than Spock, of course. He sang folk tunes, some of which were original compositions. He was a professional photographer. He wrote and directed as well as acted. He was a veteran of the US Army. He was one of three Star Trek regulars who had been on The Twilight Zone. He acted on Broadway, was the voice of a cartoon robot, and played himself as a head in a jar. (“It’s a life of quiet dignity.”)

All in all, one could do far worse.

Yeah, he was under alien influence, as would happen from time to time. Tough tribbles.

Yeah, he was under alien influence, as would happen from time to time. It still counts, so tough tribbles, nerds.

Who gets to choose, anyway?

I play on a hockey team called the Killer Rabbits. No swooning, please – we’re old people so we play on foot with a ball (dek hockey), and we’re not all that great even on this humble level. But we have fun, and that’s why we do it.

As a result, we have certain teams we enjoy playing who are in it for the fun as well. Sure we like to win, but if not, we still shake hands with those guys and part as friends who share a common love. If we’re not playing against each other we’re usually talking shop about the game. But there are others that take it way too seriously. Hockey isn’t the point anymore, it’s winning at something, or (for a few whose games it is my unpleasant duty to referee*) the freedom to clobber people with sticks without legal consequence. And frequently, it’s those who have lost the good who are the most obsessed with the rulebook – not because they want to actually follow anything therein, but merely as a tool to start pointless debates with us referees, trying to justify their mayhem or blame us for errors, real and imagined.

* I ref the games of teams in the other divisions. Again, let me stress that this is a really low-level rec league, and the normal considerations of conflict of interest don’t apply. Someone’s gotta do it or there’s no league, and besides, in 20 years I’ve played on nearly every long-established team at one time or another, even if just filling in as a goalie. (Nobody carries a backup so if your guy’s hurt, it’s quite common to grab someone coming off the rink or waiting to go on.) The bottom line is: if you’re carrying a grudge against a dek hockey team based on your own games, and can’t ref them fairly as a result, then your temperament is not really suited for the job.

Which gets me to the would-be gatekeepers of true sci-fi fandom. I observe that when these stooges say that others aren’t real fans and therefore are disqualified, they’re lying on two levels: first, about the actual facts (who is a fan, what makes a fan); second, about their motives. They don’t care about who’s really a fan because they don’t care about the genre. They care only about being a gatekeeper, about the power to confer some coveted status that they’ve invented for the occasion. Love of the thing has been lost entirely; a true love would rejoice to find more people to truly share it, but they want to restrict and hoard. They can’t possibly compete with a true love, so they disqualify the lovers on some spurious grounds: not socially-conscious, too cis-whateverist, not really a fan.

And they do it because it so often works. Those who love a real thing dislike having to waste all their time justifying it, or protecting it (and themselves) from such Busybody Bossypants. It’s not worth the trouble to constantly argue about nonsense to get to the fun. The BBs don’t care because the argument is the big thing for them – especially winning it. That’ll show them!

Like the miscreants I send to the box, they lie; like them, they have no point; and like them, the gatekeepers dream that they are in fact referees and not fellow players. They don’t even care enough about the game to learn to play it, much less win, so they try to change the rules – that’s the skillset they’ve mastered and they use it. But soon they inevitably reach the point where nobody will play their game with them any more and they will be alone with the thing they truly love – their superiority – while we are rewarded with what we truly love. For where our treasure lies, there our heart is as well. All get what they desire; not all will enjoy the bargain.

What they never realize until too late is that such groups always tear themselves apart. It’s simple to see why: if all one loves superiority, then one will always wish to be the supreme superior boffin of whatever fiefdom one has invaded: all else are rivals. Excuses will be found to restrict the rewards to an ever-narrower inner circle, and to turn the punishments on an ever-wider general public. The innocent jokes told to friends today will be People’s Glorious Exhibit A in your show trial tomorrow.

The machine must run.

My 15 seconds of fame

So after last night’s Islanders win, I was rattling around on the Twitter, half-noticing the postgame show…

Yup, that was me. Shannon Hogan and Butch Goring briefly poked fun at the idea, and then it was gone.

Over at the Lighthouse Hockey online digs, such japes are par for the course. We kid! We kid, because we love! So I hope that Cal won’t mind it too much. Besides, yours truly wouldn’t rate an emergency call-up with this weak ‘stache game.

Hey guys, good game.  How about a Dr Pepper?

Hey guys, good game. How about a Dr Pepper?

Also, I’m fairly certain the Islanders clubhouse doesn’t have an unmade bed and a reading light.

Getting it wrong

I was offline most of yesterday until late, so I took what I thought would be a quick peek at Twitter over my coffee before work. Heh. I should know better: I saw a tweet go by and felt that old twitch start up, the “shoot off my stupid mouth” twitch.

Alas, I was stupid. And wrong.

Now, it’s been standard practice for Rueters, the AP, et als to get Catholic stuff wrong, often with the classic “accidentally on purpose” method. The earliest example in my adult life was in the early 90s, when the Church was ready to release the latest Catechism. The New York Times went ahead with some pointless verbiage days before the official English translation was even available, and of course it turned out that the Times was talking out its ass.

Further examples are legion. (My well-meaning Aunt emails them regularly.) Therefore I felt no hesitation in scoffing at an AP report (via a Charles Cooke retweet) that Pope Francis had said that violence was understandable regarding Charlie Hebdo’s cartooning.

Mr. Cooke had to put me some blinking knowledge. I had to apologize. I was in error; in fact, it was the same category of mistake as His Holiness made, that of talking off the cuff without thinking. Unlike either of his two predecessors, he seems to make it a lot.

I’m no stranger to shooting off my mouth, but one hopes the actual Pontiff has more restraint than some randomly-chosen Internet-era pontificator.

Still, I am a random Internet-era pontificator. (During our courtship, my wife once offered to buy me an antique wooden soap box, so I could store things in it when I wasn’t up on it.) My measured pontification is that what Pope Francis said was clumsy and inelegant. He ignored the context of what’s been going on in the world for the last several decades.

So, the takeaway from Pope Francis’ interview seems to be that insulting a religion is provocative and you can expect a violent response.

“It’s true, one cannot react violently, but if Dr. Gasbarri, a great friend, says a swear word against my mother, then he is going to get a punch. But it’s normal, it’s normal. One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith … make fun or toy with other people’s religions, these people provoke, and there can happen what would happen to Dr. Gasbarri if he said something against my mother. That is, there is a limit.”

Bitch had it comin’. That’s what you might expect from your garden-variety Islamist, hot to trot for the jihad, but not at all what one wants to hear from the Roman Catholic Bishop of Rome.

This is what I find somewhat frustrating with our current pope: he doesn’t seem to get that he can’t shoot from the lip without having it all taken as the official word of Catholicism. Like it or not, a lot if the world despises Christ and his Church, and they have invested too much of themselves to give the benefit of the doubt. They aren’t going to draw a distinction between a bull session and an official papal encyclical promulgating doctrine. They lie enough to try to damage the faith without being handed a truth to do it with. This is where one should apply the Scripture verse about being both harmless as doves AND as cunning as serpents.

I want to be fair to Pope Francis. I get about 75% of what he’s saying. The word provocative implicitly understands the chance of a violent reply; else we would use a word like annoying. And like he said, it’s a normal human response to respond with force to certain provocations.

I confess that I can’t watch that clip without cheering for Mr. Aldrin. That guy was a jackass, he actively harassed and confronted Mr. Aldrin, and he got chin-checked on merit. More importantly: any society where that kind of a response is permanently out-of-bounds quickly devolves into a society ruled by the rudest and most ruthless among us. Some bullies and cowards will never get the message unless it’s slapped into them; this actually makes society more polite and courteous as a result, because someone with no moral compunction about haranguing an old man in the streets now has a more visceral reason to think twice. This is a well-known paradox, where trying to enforce the “right” choice actually makes the right choice impossible, while permitting the “wrong” choice makes a world where the right choice is much safer and therefore much more common.

That brings us to the other 25%, which is what turned even the reasonable parts of Pope Francis’ statements into nonsense.

Had His Holiness said that he understands the anger because of the slanders that his own faith endures, and then quoted “Be angry, but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26), then we have a teachable moment that reinforces all that he said about forgiveness during his recent visit to Sri Lanka. More importantly, it would put the blame for murder and mayhem squarely on the shoulders of the actual murderers. There’s a huge difference socking some guy who’s mouthing off and won’t shut up, vs. taking lives because you can’t handle a few insults like an adult.

Because whatever else one could say about the Charlie Hebdo staff and their work, the one thing it doesn’t do is chase you across the street, dodge two people politely insisting you stop, ignore the threat of police involvement, and confront you on camera while you try to mind your own business. It’s beyond easy to shrug off Charlie Hebdo; if one must reply, then one could always do it with words and ideas – much like I’m writing this to counter the careless half-baked statements of my own religious leader. That’s the distinction that Francis glossed over; notably it’s also a distinction that the Islamists do not acknowledge at all. So long as they judge the topic to be important enough, then there is a simple binary test – did you respect it or not? And if the answer is “not” then you may be killed for it.

Under Francis’ logic, I could say with all honesty that he had insulted the memory of the dead victims, and under that provocation I could slug him when he stepped off the plane. On those grounds alone, what he said is provably, logically dumb. And if the jihad took it as an insult, then they would blow up the plane before it landed.

Aldrin didn’t seek out this guy to sock him, even though he’s been preaching for years that the moon landings were faked. He reacted when he was sought out and harassed. Had someone taken copies of these cartoons and stuck them under the wiper blades of every car in a mosque parking lot, and then waited until prayer was over to try to stuff them into the hands of the worshippers, I would neither be surprised nor particularly angry if he got his lights punched out. That very notably is NOT what happened here. Far the reverse – Islamists have been carrying out a constant campaign of murder, intimidation, and conflict simply because such things happen to exist. Charlie Hebdo is not a provocation, but a response to a provocation.

The desire to think of civilization’s struggle with Islam as a mere tussle between brands of the same thing, distinct without a real difference, is morally and mentally blinding. It’s a much more visceral fight – a war launched against civilization itself by a centuries-old enemy, wearing a new costume and waving a new flag of supposed grievances. Giving them any sort of intellectual cover for their operations is a small treason against humanity. Likewise, any mental or moral ammunition to bolster our morale is a boon. In a strange way, those cartoons are more on the side of actual decency and respect than any of the weak-kneed refusals to print them or even mention them. A world where those things are tolerated is a safer and saner world, and using actual death and tyranny to silence them is to submit to the cruel and grim logic of barbarity.

And the band played on

The first album I ever owned was the soundtrack to Mary Poppins.

At the time nobody in the family knew what I was getting into. My folks just wanted something age-appropriate for me to listen to, and I thought it was cool that I had “my own record” to play. (My parents, understandably, didn’t want me fooling with their own collection, which has some standouts and rarities.)

It wasn’t all I had. My parents loved music, and I was given some pure kiddie albums too, some of the songs of which I can still hear in my mind nearly four decades later.¹ And my Dad loved superheroes and comics, so I got a series of spoken adventures on 45 featuring Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, and others. I remember those less clearly, but anyone who knows me can tell that they had an influence as well.

But it was the brilliance of Richard and Robert Sherman that wound up helping to hook me on musical scores and soundtracks. I own dozens of every description, from video games to movies and television, foreign and domestic. And this guest post over at Sarah Hoyt’s reminded me of those great times growing up and all the joy I’ve had since then listening to these wonderful compositions.

The Sherman Brothers weren’t the starting point, however. The starting point, as it was so often for folks of my age group, was the great John Williams.

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A counteroffensive

Author Sarah A Hoyt is having a small difficulty writing about friendship.

The difficulty is in the tendency of all too many folks to Werthamize everything. There’s no such thing as text, only subtext, and that subtext needs must be sexual. Oh, but not openly… never openly, because the author is secretly a repressed homophobe of some sort who won’t give the fictional friends their proper due. It’s crypto-closeted.

CS Lewis dealt with this sort of unfalsifiable non-argument with the scorn it deserved in The Four Loves, saying that it was akin to stating, “If an invisible cat was sitting in that chair, it would look empty; it looks empty; therefore an invisible cat is sitting there.” He’s right, but of course the debunkers and scoffers don’t care. The argument HAS to be impossible to prove or disprove. That’s a feature, not a bug.

The Four Loves was published in book form in 1960, and as Ms. Hoyt’s difficulty shows, things haven’t gotten any easier for an author… or, for that matter, a friend. It’s part of the systematic campaign to dehumanize all of us and turn us into insects in a hive: all alike, all interchangeable, and above all, easily controlled and herded. There’s only one queen in a hive, easily overwhelmed by sheer numbers if it came to that. It never does. An ant or a bee that starts to behave erratically and out of concert with the others will be set upon by its fellows and destroyed.

That is the method by which the machine runs. Once social engineering and politic correctness take a deep-enough root, our community gets to the point where any deviation from the common doesn’t have to be dealt with by the leaders or tone setters, but by one’s own neighbors and coworkers. Continue reading

Do not go to the elves for writing advice

(UPDATED with TWO pertinent quotes and a couple of fixed typos.)

For when you ask about fanfic, they will say both No and Yes:

On the one hand, this bothers me as being somehow analogous to a sort of intellectual piracy flying a flag of hommage, but on the other, I’ve never had much difficulty with Sherlockiana, or post-Lovecraftian contributions to the Cthulhu mythos. And I certainly think there’s a difference between giving away a song written in the manner or style of a band and uploading that band’s original work to a free torrent site (a frequent problem for musicians these days). But in that case, where does a cover band, or even more nebulously, a tribute band, fit into such a discussion?

So what does this naughty and neglectful¹ elf say? As you may guess, it’s No and Yes, but there’s an explanation. But first, we need a little background.

A lot of fan fiction, like a lot of everything else, is prone to its own tropes and lazy little shortcuts. The best-known is the dreaded Mary Sue, where the fictional framework really only exists to flatter a thinly-disguised avatar for the author. What would you say if you were forced to read a Star Trek story in which dashing young Leiutenant Flightny saved the whole Federation, with the principals of the show reduced to marveling one to each other how awesome that new guy is, and shouldn’t he be promoted to command that new invincible prototype ship, the USS Millenium TARDIS?

Hopefully you wouldn’t say anything, because no power on Earth could force me to write it for you. But if I did (and may you all hunt me for sport if it happens), it would be out there for you to read if you so desired. This is not always a good thing.

Come back with me, below the jump, to the dark days…

:::doodilly-doop, doodilly-doop, doodilly-doop:::

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