Category Archives: geekerie

Doctor New

And there it is.

Like many current events, the reaction to “the backlash” far outweighs the backlash itself: nowadays the revolution will be televised, but nobody will tune in. Revolution is clean out of style. And in this sense, the BBC is way late to the party: they sex-swapped the Doctor’s venerable enemy, the Master, and pretty much nobody cared. And that follows years of other substantial changes to beloved characters the world over, none of which really have done much – either they’ve gone back to the old status quo ante, or else the changes killed the story – and after enough of that, well, the law of diminishing returns sets in. As a means of drumming up some welcome controversy to goose flagging viewership numbers, the Lady Doctor thus fails on two counts: it’s not all that controversial, and it entirely misses the reason why viewers have been falling away. And that reason can really be summed in three words:

STORY IS KING.

So, as for this change? Well, if it serves the story, sure, it could work, and Jodie Whittaker has a fine reputation in her field. But increasingly, it serves merely as the punchline to a joke nobody is telling. I doubt that THIS is the time we’ll all finally laugh. And on those terms alone, this is probably something the BBC should not have done.

But of course, they didn’t do it for story reasons, and that’s another substantial objection…

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Gatekeeping!

So the fur continues to fly over the puppies of the world, sad and otherwise.

The insularity of the TrueFans, the Gatekeepers, is no accident. The thing they truly love is not scifi itself, but the Status of True Fan – and the more-closely held that status is, the smaller the Inner Circle, then the greater is their own self-assigned status among the great unwashed.

Honestly, this almost isn’t even about whose thinks are thought properly or who’s having “wrongfun” (to use Larry Correia’s delightful coinage). It’s all about who gains access to the outer courts, where dwelleth the official adoring masses of the Inner Circle. The criteria used are just a convenience that serves all needs: it’s the natural creed of the SJWs, so they don’t have to stop and think about who qualifies; nebulously-defined so accusations based upon them are impossible to truly refute; full of jargon to flatter their flabby and under-exercised minds. But it could just as easily be about anything, as you can see from all the times when they all dart off in a different direction like a school of fish: “THIS is the true definition of what we believe – do the opposite of what we did last Thursday and never let it be remembered among us (or mentioned to us) that it was ever otherwise.” And of course anyone slow to that change proves they aren’t Inner Circle material, so this habit makes the necessary purges much simpler.

It explains so much. It shows why they are forever accusing others of behaving the way they do – they behave in no other way and can’t even begin to imagine that someone else could ever have a different motive. It’s why splits in the ranks take on the fervor of holy war – schisms in a church are always among the bitterest of quarrels. It serves as a suitable pretext for thinning the ranks when they get too large to properly manage – again, the fuzzy borders of the definition gives them almost the obligation to clarify that when they said DO THAT, it didn’t mean YOU could. It explains why such groups are generally so hostile to other people’s accomplishments, especially through unapproved channels – it robs them of their precious control while simultaneously exposing how they’ve rigged the system to reward flattery of the Gatekeepers, rather than real skill.

NOTE – this is NOT to say that some of the Gatekeepers aren’t skilled themselves; they often are, and use that fact to reject accusations from outsiders that they are merely interested in maintaining the clique – valuing control of the subject rather than the subject itself. But true lovers rejoice to find one who also truly loves; they do not and this gives the game away. They have lost the good in exchange for some illusion of controlling who gets to enjoy that good. Whatever robs them of that illusion becomes the enemy that must be destroyed and banished at all costs.

It doesn’t just hold for scifi, of course. It can happen in churches, in companies, in local homeowners’ associations; it can and has permeated hobbies of all description from gaming to sports; it’s greatly affected what we’re allowed to do in our leisure time and what we see in movies and television; and of course the politics of the land are infested with this kind of lousy behavior.

This is a bell I was ringing last year, and the only thing that’s changed is that this time, the Gatekeepers noticed how many more people were ringing along, and they want to shout down the bells.

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.

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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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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He’s doing comics and he’s still alive

So I wander over to XKCD – just for the kicks, you know – and also because I’ve had this comic of his open for almost a week.  I’m not sure how he’s doing it, but it’s moving, though like the hour hand of a clock you never catch it doing so.  It’s the world’s slowest-moving .gif, I guess, and it’s cool.

And then I hit the “random” button and this comes up.

Time, indeed.

I think I need a moment here.

I like your eyes… I like him too

Godspeed, Mr. Brubeck.

He passed just short of 92, much as my Uncle Guy did about 18 months ago.  I mentioned him then, briefly, among other well-known folks that had enriched my life growing up.  It wasn’t very much of a tribute, but in the end, all the amazing music he wrote and performed, and the legacy of his children, are the greatest tribute.  I offer the following in that spirit.

There is something ineffably wonderful about watching these guys play; they were the heppest cats, but they looked as if they would spill a slide rule and graph paper out of their briefcase if it tipped.  Brubeck himself, in the interview segments, looks both enduringly goofy and impeccably professional.  His business was grooving out, and he was CEO… but he shows an unquenchable love and enthusiasm for music, for taking it in different directions and seeing what’s out there.  His piano was the bridge of the starship taking jazz fans to the final frontier, to boldly play what no one had heard before.

There is more on his own website, davebrubeck.com.  The site will autoplay… but for once I don’t think anyone will actually mind.

The Tech in Black

This little fun tidbit crossed my Twitter Timeline, courtesy of Friend o’ the Hive Sheila O’Malley:

My Help Desk guy’s name is Johnny Cash. I can’t help but say his first/last name. “Johnny Cash, hey, something’s up with my Outlook …”

So of course, fun things encourage playing along…

Well, my boss left the company when I got hired
Gave me a cubicle and then retired
My training was a stack of post-its in a drawer
Now I don’t blame him that he run and hid
But perhaps the meanest thing he did
Was before he left, he hung “IT” on my door

I never knew a thing about computer stuff,
So a lot of folks made it mighty tough
It seems I’ve had to fight the whole day through
Somebody would giggle when the printer jammed
Some fool would crash the network with Porn on Demand
Lemme tell you, life ain’t easy for an IT dude

I learned PCs and I grew a thick skin
You’ll get it fixed when I say when
As I roam from floor to floor to repair the probs
And I made me a vow to the moon and stars
That I’d search the chat rooms, Twitter, and blogs
And kill that man that gave me this awful job

Now you might wonder why I didn’t quit
But times were too hard to spit the bit
So I worked hard to learn all about PCs
And then one night, working overtime
From the corner of my eye, who comes online
But the mangy dog who made me work IT

I knew right away it was my old boss
From the IP address he used, of course,
And his avatar was the same from times gone by
He was crude and loud and a snobbish scold
So I logged in quick, and my blood rUn cold
And I Twittered – “How you be? I work IT! NOW UR GONNA DIE! #revenge”

So I blocked his feed before he could hide
And his email went down, but to my surprise
He come right up with a DoS attack
I rebooted and hacked him live
Crashed through the firewall and into the hard drive
Coding and uploading till both our screens went black

I tell you that I’ve fought tougher hacks
Though I can’t remember that far back –
He phished like a pro and spammed like a Nigerian Prince
I saw him LOL and I saw him WTF
Went for his antivirus, but I booted mine first
And after a minute, I saw “colon-parenthesis”

“Kid,” he texted, “Times are rough
If you want to make it you’ve got to be tough
And I knew a typical degree wouldn’t last you long
So I give you a tech job and said good luck
I knew you’d grow unique skills or bust
And it’s those l33t skilz that’s helped to make you strong!”

“Now I know ur h8in, but why you mad?
It’s not the worst job you’ve ever had
And if you want to you could brick my PC
But you ought to thank me before you do
For your HTML and coding-fu
‘Cause I’m the lousy cuss who put you in IT”

What could I do? I got choked up, shut down my hack
Erased the virus and gave his passwords back
And I come away with a different way to see
And I think about him, here and there,
When I squash some bug or scrub malware
And if I hire a guy, I think I’ll…
SEND HIM TO MARKETING! I STILL HATE THIS JOB!

Any time is a good time for π

But especially March 14th, National Pi Day.*

*In Europe, the convention is day-month-year, so this would be 14/03/12, and there would be no pi, since they have the same twelve months we do and thus no 3/14 anywhere in sight.  They would have to settle for the highly-inaccurate July 22nd, aka “22/7”, which was sometimes used as a quick-and-dirty estimate in the dark days with no calculators permitted on math tests.  And in England, that would be called “maths” because “mathematics,” being a plural, ought to have a plural abbreviation.  But in any country, this is all a pointless digression.

It was a thing over at High Heat Stats to find all the pitchers with π as an earned-run average, a task taken to heart by the redoubtable Joe Posnanski.  He found out some great stuff, too.

Those of us on the hockey side of things have an equivalent in GAA, goals-against average for goalies.  There is, however, one problem – for much of the league’s history, a 3.14 GAA is just not so hot.  As a result, there aren’t that many examples to choose from.*  Nobody gets to be that mediocre for that long to keep a 3.14 GAA. In baseball, 3.14 has ranged from respectable to quite good, and only very rarely has been considered openly bad; there are plenty of guys to chose from.

*Out of the 160 goalies to play 250 or more games in their career, fully 105 have a GAA lower than 3.14.  And one man, Richard Brodeur, met the 250 game standard in both the WHA and NHL.  As you can guess, his career ran exactly in the absolute roughest historical time for goalies, 1972-1988.  His combined GAA for both leagues, 3.76, is 153rd of the 160 – and he finished his career over .500 (296-289-74).

 

On top of that, baseball has an offensive equivalent to π – batting .314 – that does not exist for hockey.  (Though I suppose a team scoring 314 goals in a season would count.)  It’s just much easier to find pi-friendly baseballers than pi-friendly hockey players.  But that also means that it’s easier to give you the few examples after the jump.

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Nightfly: the Special Edition (blu-ray)

Y’all will remember how badly we geeks lost our minds over the terribleness of the Star Wars prequels.

That was a bitty-bit our fault, I suppose.  George Lucas re-released the original three movies in the run up to the 1999 debut of The Phantom Menace*, and these Special Editions featured some nifty spruced-up effects, but mostly they featured the restoration of redundant deleted footage, a bunch of CGI clutter blocking the view of the actual movie, and Greedo shooting first – an egregious affront on a lot of levels, not least of which was the damage done to Han Solo’s character.** Maybe we should have been a little more wary of The Phantom Menace as a… ZOMG NEW STAR WARS squeeeeeee !!1!eleven~!!

*Yeah, it’s been twelve years.

**First off, the guy’s a smuggler and a gangster who may have double-crossed his crime-lord boss. He’s not gonna wait for a pretty-please. Second, he can’t possibly be dumb enough to expect Greedo to miss a shot from four feet. Third, it’s obvious that he banks on Greedo not shooting at him at all, because then Greedo would be out the bounty money; that’s how Han gets the drop on him the first place.  The edit makes no sense on any level.

But we convinced ourselves otherwise.  We seem even to have convinced George, who actually un-tinkered somewhat when the original movies were remastered again.  Not that it stopped him from making all of the same mistakes in the other two prequels: bad characters, inexplicable choices, and endless clutter on the screen.  We just thought that he’d leave well enough alone with what he’d already done.

Well, now it’s obvious.  We only convinced George Lucas of one thing – that we’re all ungrateful peasants, and as a result he’s decided to tinker and tinker to the bitter end.

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