Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Little Something For Fans of Beyond Good and Evil

I've just read a story better than any nightcap - something that should excite fans of 2003's Beyond Good and Evil (there are a few of us, despite what the first game's lackluster sales may lead you to think): Kotaku reports that a sequel is in development. That's right - one of my favorite games of the last generation will see new light in this era.

It's nice to play a game where the characters are important and interesting. Most franchises fall flat in this respect while movies millions of copies, while BG&E nailed everything with heart to spare. Buy the original online while you still can - it hit the bargain bins well before its intended time.

[S-s-s-spoilers ahoy!] There's not much else to report, except that it's nice to see Pey'j alive and well. Some of us feared the worst after BG&E's cliffhanger ending. I worried mainly that the entire series would end on such a sour note.[/spoilers]

The teaser trailer does everything right, reiterating the humor of the first game while keeping Jade safely out of sight for future announcements. Huzzah and sweet dreams!

A Very Carnivorous, Very Real YouTube Ad

To my dying day, I swear that I saw the following ad appear on the YouTube sidebar. It's a wonderful ad from a certain perspective, so unprofessional, so downright strange and unexpected that I can't help but wonder what target market they were trying to reach:

Apparently searching for "Barney Dinosaur" (no quotes) on YouTube will trigger this ad more reliably. My experience was completely random. I wish the internet was more surreal like this.


A slightly inappropriate comparison from Orson Scott Card's recent review of Narnia Xtreme: The Allegorical Adventures of Prince Caspian:

How good is Prince Caspian, the second installment in the series of films adapted from C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia?

For the second movie in a series to improve on the first is rare enough, but it's been done before -- Godfather II, for instance. (Emphasis added.)

Though I doubt Narnia 2: Adventures With Aslan is anything but worthy cinema, I must admire the mind of one whose mind is invariably driven toward Coppola's masterwork when considering the flick. Wouldn't something more apt and recent have sufficed - something like Toy Story 2? Maybe that's not even appropriate: at least Toy Story doesn't require you to read the book first just to know what the heck is going on.

Card goes on to list some "bad" sequels: Speed, Rocky, Die Hard and Beverly Hills Cop. At least he got something right. The rest of this post (following the three dashes) is facetious and can probably be skipped without ill consequence. It's a better example of the consequences of night blogging than anything else.


Other potential names for the film:

N2rnia: Funtime Adventures in Mountaintown

Christian or Christina?

Narnia 2: Fully Electric Boogaloo

There is a Scratch-n-Sniff at the End of This Movie

Lion-Worshiping Pagans Indirectly Promote Jesus

Hobbits With Morals

And finally:

The New Adventures of Goofus and Gallant

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Jimmy Stewart Speaks

It's been a couple of days since I posted anything, but I've just come across something that some of you who know me may find interesting.

One of the few things that I'm pretty good at is my Jimmy Stewart impression (really just the Jimmy we know from It's a Wonderful Life). I recently came across some gag files of my recording back from my time in the Philippines. I've always been amused by how much of a monumental jerk George Bailey was in that film and played off of that for the following clips. This is kind of inside-jokey and the camera's voice memo quality isn't the best, but hopefully you'll find these little parodies funny:

Monkeys Will Shoot Out of the Ends of Your Hair. . . [Thanks Seth!]

Angel Gets Its Wings #1

Angel Gets Its Wings #2 (This should have been the last line of the film)

Mary Gets the Book of the Dead

Nuclear Bomb / Rambling Soliloquy


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ice Age Woes

The Ice Age movie series has set a remarkable standard for protagonist longevity - if I recall correctly, the first two flicks saw our heroes survive an oncoming ice age, only to pop out on the other side of the ice, none the worse for wear. This makes them, using a most conservative estimate, several thousand years old. Remarkable longevity, that.

By the standards of the Ice Age series, then, perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that the upcoming 2009 installment of the series is set to pit our perennial whiny mammoth, lithping sloth and blah blah bland saber-toothed tiger against the King Rexes of the animal kingdom. That's right - Ice Age 3 is up to its arse in Allosaurs.

There are dinosaurs in Ice Age 3. So what? Furry, mammalian creatures from the ice age are prepared to coexist with the monsters of the Mesozoic. I understand the rationale: the movie's set in the past? Who cares if they fudge some of the details?

What's next? Ice Age 4: The Kennedy Assassination?

Watching the movie's by-the-numbers teaser trailer does little to convince me that the film will be particularly memorable. I sort of liked the first Ice Age when it came out, though at the time I was sixteen years old and prone to watching shlock like Titan A.E. Honestly, I have no desire to see another cliched treatment of an already cliched genre - the buddy movie.

Besides, is that blasted furry squirrel still supposed to be funny? Watch the Monster Camp trailer instead.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


An amazing, bewitching remix of (mostly) audio from Disney's adaptation of 'Alice in Wonderland'. The masterful work done on this track reminds me of some of Burial's better work, or even of The Avalanches, who know a thing or two about cohesive sampling.

The guy's got this and two other full-quality tracks on his MySpace up for download, and all three tracks are going straight to my iPod. Watch and download these before YouTube and MySpace forget Fair Use and take 'em down. . .

(via BoingBoing and LastFM)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Welcome to Bland County!

Tourism destination of the week: Bland County, Virginia!

Registered at the charming domain name, Bland County, Virginia features rainbows, cows and green-roofed buildings, and that's only the stuff in the brochure!

And on your way back, why not take the long way around to Boring, Oregon?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Mechanical Breakdown

Yesterday my wristwatch experienced what I can only refer to as a concussion. Before lunch my timepiece blanked out and went comatose. The backlight still functioned but the poor thing's LCD screen went on the blink. Pushes of the stopwatch button triggered brief black flashes on the screen, but I was sure the thing was gone.

Around 2:30 everything went back to normal. There's a metaphor in there somewhere.

Friday, May 16, 2008


M. Night Shyamalan is an inarguably-talented director. For some time, the hype was deafening - I recall a Newsweek cover a few years back profiling Shyamalan with the headline "The Next Spielberg?" - high praise for the then-up-and-coming director with only a couple of hits under his belt (the hits were inside his pants or something. I've never understood the expression).

But, in my opinion - and I'm not alone - he hasn't released a great movie since Signs, or a really fantastic movie since Unbreakable. His last couple of movies haven't had the same impact as his earlier successes so I don't have much guilt or disappointment in telling you that the early buzz on The Happening is that it blows chunks. Don't sit in the front row.

How could a film named after a fantastic song by The Pixies fail? I'm being facetious, but you'll have to admit that the movie has a pretty generic title. The Happening. The Happening. The EVENT. The . . . The Occurrence? How about The Incident? Right now it's looking more like A Series of Unfortunate Events, and not in a good way. I've got a million of them - a million too many. Let's move on to the horrible news.

Spoilers are usually to be avoided, but if this movie sucks as bad as the consensus says it does the following tidbits may very well be necessary information. Read this and tell me it doesn't sound like a rollicking good time (from the New York Magazine):

Collider has a review of a rough cut of M. Night Shyamalan's forthcoming The Happening (due on June 13), and, while there may still be a few bugs to work out ("The Happening is a terrible, terrible movie.… I'm saying this with no hyperbole, but Mark Wahlberg might very well give the worst performance I've ever seen in anything"), it appears that Shyamalan has finally outdone himself. The plot follows an estranged couple (Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel) fighting to survive a devastating environmental crisis — a neurotoxin is released in the American northeast that makes everyone spontaneously attempt violent suicide. But who's responsible for the deadly gas? That's the scariest part! See an exclusive photo of The Happening's terrifying villain after the jump! (Warning: spoilers ahead.)

Aaahh! It's trees! Photo: iStockphoto

From the review:
It's plants that are responsible. They've decided to wipe out humanity and release the neurotoxin as their natural weapon... What Shyamalan quickly finds, though, is that it's very, very hard to menacingly cut to an evil-looking tree. That doesn't stop him from trying, though, and he inexplicably adds wind as a way of livening up the scenes. When the leaves of a tree start to blow, evil's afoot. It's really, really hard not to laugh at and there's even a real groaner of a gag-scene wherein Wahlberg timidly apologizes to a houseplant only to find that it's made of rubber. Really.
In M. Night Shyamalan's new movie, the plants of the world become sentient and try to kill the human race with suicide-inducing neurotoxins.


You'll have to excuse me - I think that I'm having a stroke.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Muto - A Trip Worth Taking

The following is recommended by Penny Arcade's Tycho, who sez: "Don't ask what: just click, and be enriched." I'll say a little more: this moving mural is a marvel. Blurby alliterations aside, it never loses your attention for a second and sustains itself for far longer than you'd expect. The fantastic sound effects and neat tricks employed throughout the project hold your attention. This is a fantastic, surreal work - the sort of thing that Gahan Wilson might do, and everybody should see it. So - watch Muto, and be enlightened.

Bonus points if you can figure out the location from the video (it's not too difficult).

Parodying a Parody

I'm going to post this earlier than I had planned, if only to get the poop thing out of the way. I was in a peculiar mood last night.

I think that most of us are aware of the jokes concerning William Shatner's musical ability. His late '70s cuts are derided by music fans and adored by Shatner devotees. I consider myself a member of both groups so it's difficult to gauge just how I should feel about it. His 2004 release Has Been was less questionable - I found it pretty great and fairly emotive to boot. Shatner has a gift for narration and speech rivalled only by his lack of talent at actual singing. Thanks Heaven that he doesn't try that very often.

The following clip is probably his most well-known performance (not counting his spoken-word covers of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" and "Mr. Tambourine Man"). The clip itself is at once a transcendental and unintentionally campy moment of television. More interesting to me is the slew of pop culture parodies that followed. View the clip and check out the related clips if you like.

And the parodies (some might call them homages):

Stewie From "Family Guy" Does Rocketman

Chris Elliot Does Rocketman

JoeBobOneHalf Lip-Synchs to the Shatner Recording (Link removed on account of the huge bong hit he takes halfway through. Seek it out yourself if you want to see it.)


Fear Factor's probably cancelled by now, but if there's still time for a new host the show's producers had better do a thorough psychological evaluation on him,* just to make sure he won't abuse his power.

After the remaining contestants have just been dragged by a horse through broken glass or something, the new host leads them into an empty room, before the camera crew and producers have had a chance to catch up, and suddenly gets extra professional:

"All right, everybody. Third challenge, for the million dollars. Poop your pants."

Uniform looks of disbelief all around. He looks at his watch.

"Ten seconds, for the million dollars. Get pooping. Nine, eight, seven, six . . ."

They might think that he's probably joking, but once you get that far, you're not going to take the chance. They'd probably have to move the real third challenge's shooting back a day, so that everybody has a chance to shower.

*I'm assuming for the purposes of this exercise that the new host would be mail. Any female celebrity's career would be killed by association. Boo, Hollywood sexism!

Dream Theater. . . er, Comic

Every couple of months it seems I'm destined to discover a unique, hilarious comic strip online. I was overdue when Scott Adams recommended Slow Wave, a fantastic dream-based strip from Jesse Reklaw. The author calls it an illustrated "dream diary", but it's nothing short of one of the funniest comic strips that I have ever read. Surreal, arty and always uproarious, this strip nails the specifics of dreams in ways that involve your subconscious far more than in any other strip. Slow Wave might be a hypnotist, but it's a hilarious one.


Are You Minions Yet?

I just got this neat tool for my blog which lets me see visitors' countries of origin. (Don't worry - it doesn't tell me who you are.) I often spend inordinate amounts of time staring at the map and wondering what prompted, say, three people on the east coast of Australia to check in one afternoon.

So - which reader should I please first? - the guy from New Zealand who bumped in for three seconds off of a misleading Google result, or the one who appears to be floating off of the coast of Nigeria, right along the equator?

Back Up Your Knowledge With Numbers as Cold and as Hard as Ice Cubes

Did you know that The Adventures of Pluto Nash had a budget over over $100 million, of which it earned back only 7%?* That Mad Max earned back nearly 500 times its budget, making it one of the greatest movie successes of all time?

Well, you will after reading the dickens out of this list of the budget and gross (both US and worldwide) of nearly every movie ever made. The list isn't quite comprehensive, but it's sorted numerically in descending order by budget, which makes it fun to scroll through. Why not find out the cheapest flick you've ever seen? (Mine is Richard Dutcher's 2000 flick God's Army, with its budget of 300k).

*Serves it right.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mashups Revisited

I knew that there was a point to this Dilbert mashup thing. It gives the online community a chance to out-Dilbert Dilbert. The following strip's final panel comes from a submission and it's funnier than the actual strip:

For reference, here's the original:

Notice how Scott Adams's final panel has nearly no connection to the setup of the first two panels. The strip at the top is far more satisfying and thoughtful, which leads me to think that Scott either suffered severe head trauma in 1999 or he just doesn't care anymore. I hereby motion that Dilbert be henceforth written by committee, like Garfield.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Refacing Government Tender - Dollar Art

Our money is more than legal tender. These presidential portraits have been a part of the popular culture for so long that that they've become a part of the culture in their own right. Bill graffiti has been around for some time, but I have never quite seen it as ornate and outright hilarious as from flickr's own Joe D!. (The exclamation point is part of his name and not an outpouring of excitement on my part, much as I love this link.)

Joe's posted 75 images of bill defacements - often minimalist, occasionally blurry and obscure but always uproarious. Check out his gallery for the complete series.

Refacing Government Tender (flickr via Boingboing)

Dilbert Mashups Bring in the Partial Fun!

Scott Adams has a relatively new tool on his site allowing you to create mashups of daily Dilbert strips. It's slow, unresponsive and exactly what we expect from the new Web (slow, unresponsive, community-oriented; everything that I hate!) Most of the strips are derivative and unfunny, but the site forces you into that box by allowing you access only to the text of the final panel.

But a couple user mashups actually caught my eye, the first earning an internal grin while sneaking in some criticism of recent Dilbert strips (those of you who have problems with itty-bitty text may click on the following images for enlargements) :

Another netizen has discovered the obvious artistic utility of the tool:

Eventually I went to the trouble of registering for the site and created a mashup of my own, without bothering to read the first two panels provided. It worked out all right in the end:

And then I discovered that a surreal approach to the final panels are far more satisfying:

Friday, May 09, 2008

Shark Musings

Image from Ops Luyan (flickr)

I think that we all learned in school that a shark's gills don't "pull in" water like the gills of many other fishes. The downshot of this is that a shark has to keep swimming in order to breathe.

Well, it just occurred to me that about the most lucrative place for a shark to hang out would be one of those underwater coves with its own swirling current system. The underwater cliffs would act just like mountains do on land, creating tides and hopefully allowing you to be a lazy shark and still breathe. I'm aware that sharks eat almost continually to maintain energy needed for their constant movement, but hopefully you'd conserve enough energy with this strategy to simplify your day somewhat.

Just another facetious thing I've had my mind on today.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Images Not Loading

We seem to be having problems with images, for some reason. I've contacted Blogger about this so hopefully we'll be back up to full functionality soon.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Fun Tales of Fascism (Sort Of)

So, apparently my Hannity-related ranting has not yet concluded. For the past few hours I've been posting the following completely true story on the Hannity forums, using one alternate IP and identity after another. I've found it fun but the mods are far too quick and merciless for it to have any staying power:

Four years ago, I was banned from this forum for questioning the ban of one of my close friends, who had in turn been banned for questioning another ban. I'm unclear as to how far back the chain unravelled.

In direct violation of this board's standards which allows "criticism without getting personal," I was banned. I created a new account, posting in the moderator forum to question the ban, in accordance with the site's regulations. This account was immediately banned as well without any explanation.

I left, disillusioned, and finally began posting again a few months ago. Yesterday, once again in clear violation of your forum's standards, I was banned for questioning the ban of another user, who had said something you didn't like, once again something completely allowable according to forum rules. An innocent question led to his ban, then mine.

The Discussion Rules for this forum explicitly prohibit this behavior, but the moderators did it anyway:

"You have been banned for the following reason: No reason was specified.
Date the ban will be lifted: Never."

This isn't a forum - a place to openly discuss ideas. This is fascist 1930s-40s Italy, where your friends and neighbors disappear and mentioning their disappearance is dangerous to your well-being. This is Nazi Germany, where mere mention of certain topics WILL lead to instabans, once again, I repeat, in full violation of this board's guidelines, which should serve as the Moderator's Bible.

Why did they ban me?

Because I said something that they didn't like, and because absolute, unchecked power corrupts. Because Lee Kington and his posse, always fans of secret midnight lynchings, ban all with whom they disagree, tainting WABC, Sean Hannity and the entire conservative movement by their behavior.

The message: Forget the forum rules. Forget free speech, and everything I purport to stand for, for I have become a tyrant, and I have executions to oversee.

Well, Lee, I'm going to play your game. I have followed the rules in the past, unlike you and your bloodthirsty band, but your disregard for the standards of this board have driven me to baser methods. From now until the time that complete board reform occurs (a substantial portion of which will be the removal of Lee Kington and all other abusive and unrepentant moderators from this board), I will propagate this message in the forums.

Twenty seconds from now, somebody will see this post. They'll flag it and your Gestapo will descend upon it like a chocolate-coated Jew, and this post will be removed and my IP banned. But SOMEBODY will read this post before Big Brother has it removed from history. SOMEBODY will find out what has been happening on these forums for far too many years.

I will rotate my IP address, repost this message and let the cycle continue. In an attempt to drive the symbolic imagery home, each time I will appear with the name of a Jew who was killed in a Nazi concentration camp, who disappeared from his/her home or community without a trace, even as you silence opposing voices daily with no means for appeal.

I hope to cause you some tiny portion of the discomfort and frustration that you have given me, and maybe make this tiny section of the web a better place. Now let's have some fun.

So - posting under various Semitic names got my righteous anger flowing, as well as the mods' blood pressure, who promptly banned me as "punk ignorant trash."

After a ten-page conversation wherein the inner circle of mods congratulated themselves on repeatedly blocking my account, the guy who Sean Hannity has chosen to represent him responded in typically-thoughtful fashion:

Seriously - this is a grown man?

I had thought that I was the only one to have problems with this particular mod, but apparently there's a petition online for the guy's removal as a mod, as well as numerous articles from a wide variety of sources criticizing him. I'm going to continue with my project just to tick the guy off, but fighting that sunburned AARP'er is probably a lost cause.

EDIT: I'm starting to enjoy this. His avatar makes it easy to imagine him at his computer, flailing his arms about frantically as steam pours from his ears, cartoon-style:


Another example saved for posterity, which you'll have to click on to enlarge since it's pretty illegible (thanks to Asgardshill for the heads up):

Here Lee pretty much admits that the rules don't apply to him or any other moderator, and that they can ban pretty much anybody they want for any half-cocked reason. (Actually, "admits" is a strong word since he doesn't think that he's doing anything wrong.)

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Solitaire Creator Interviewed

I haven't played Windows Solitaire for quite some time, but you'd be hardpressed to find somebody who hasn't spent more than a little time on the little Card Game Who Could. B3TA's interview of Windows Solitaire creator Wes Cherry reveals him to be quite funny and modest about his creation, that most casual of casual games, arguably the most-played game of all time. I'll leave out the requisite jokes about lost productivity, but there's some neat information in this interview (people hate Vegas Mode? Unthinkable!).

My favorite question is the first:

Are you bitter at not being paid for such a popular and essential utility?

Yeah, especially since you are all probably paid to play it!

Humanize Your Home

Those of you with a desire to turn your home into a bizarre variant of Pee-wee's Playhouse could do worse than to begin with the following two projects, c/o BoingBoing: first up, Max Knight's walking bicycle, with shoes added to the ends of the spokes.

Secondly, and a great deal easier, the baby doll coat rack, which some may see as macabre but which I quite like. This one's a project, with detailed instructions, so you shouldn't have a hard time putting it together. Bonus points for anybody with the mechanical savvy to make the arms shriek and wiggle when somebody walks by.

The Best of April

From now on, I'll be doing "best-ofs" every month featuring some of my favorite links and writing of the past 30/31* days.

Amazing Artist Adie Russell's Historical Lip-synchs

Ziggy Liberated Begins

Mocking Weezer and PhotoShopping Li'l Wayne

My Intellectual Coming Of Age

Wired Magazine: 12 Hacks to Amp Up Your Brainpower

*Not counting the mindfreak that is February.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Cat Couldn't Scratch 'im

(illustration by Tom Gauld)

We just got out of Iron Man, the latest Marvel-adapted Stan Lee superhero origin flick. My excitement level for this film has been exactly zero; as has been with so many superheros, I've never really been a fan of the metal man. Seeing the trailer last week piqued my interest, but the film itself has definitely won me over. Tony Stark (and Robert Downey Jr, for that matter) is a better Man of Steel than Superman has been for decades.

It's pretty dadgum good, if I say so myself, and I do. I don't know about you, but I like watching a superhero flick where the protagonist doesn't whine, and one where he worries about something other than his girlfriend. Naturally, some aspects of the film are unrealistic, but the movie's such a completely solid experience that you should just chalk it up to action movie license and enjoy yourself. The hero's internal dilemma is a great deal more topical and interesting than the tantrums and sputterings of heroes who have worn out their welcome.

Two hundred and forty some-odd posts ago, I let off steam in a rant about some of X-Men 3's and Spider-Man 3's particularly problematic points. I think that the success of Iron Man comes down to it being free of the problems I had with those movies:

Why? Why can't the third films be as subtle, charming and delicious as the others? Why must everything be caffeinated and fed through the filter of the Summer Blockbuster, even where the previous movies have avoided this tendency? Spider-man 3 alone jacked the evil twin concept, undermined the original film by changing story for the sake of concocting character motivation and introduced characters from the rafters to reveal important plot points to the audience when the movie couldn't figure out how to do it on its own. Every character and villain had so many bloody motivations that the movie became a swirling roller-coaster and lost track of its human elements. Three - count 'em, THREE - villains, and not one of them ever seemed to be acting like a human being.

Iron Man, on the other hand, feels natural and mature. It's also nicely directed, from the guy that did Zathura - another blah-sounding but pleasing picture. Iron Man is also the funniest superhero movie since Hellboy. Go see it.

Repagination: View Multiple Pages In One Window

I just downloaded a great Firefox Extension called Repagination, which allows you to get around the obnoxious recent trend of websites which split articles into multiple pages. It's pretty non-obtrusive: just right-click on the page's "Next" button and indicate how many pages you would like to add on to your existing window.

Now, it adds the entire page, meaning that ads and banners will be duplicated, but it's still far better than tabbing a hundred windows with the clickwheel button or waiting for sites to load. I highly recommend this plug-in for webcomics and blogs with long archives. You can even set the browser to cycle through pages automatically. Crash somebody's computer by loading "All" in a Google search window with 1,500,000 views! The utility of the program goes on and on.

Download Repagination

NOTE: It seems that the extension tops out at one hundred pages, meaning that attempting to load the totality of Google onto your friend's computer won't crash the thing. (I searched for the word "the" and it took up about 85MB of RAM before stopping.) Might I suggest a page full of autoplaying video clips instead?

Danged Spider

Earlier while finishing up my nightly post for Ziggy Liberated, I noticed a spider crawling across my ceiling. As I went to get some toilet paper, the spider seemed to regard me from halfway across the room and froze in its fairly rapid walk. I stared at it for a few seconds before leaving and coming back with toilet paper.

The spider had walked a few feet and was now standing over my bed. You know where this is going. I carefully surrounded the little guy on the ceiling and gooshed him. Pulling the paper away, he was nowhere to be found. Semi-OCD that I am, I have now spent 20 minutes searching across my bedroom for a little spider corpse. At least this will remind me to change my sheets tomorrow.

Friday, May 02, 2008

OSC Rants on J.K. Rowling's Copyfight

Orson Scott Card is a practical novelist, whose stories are usually character-driven to the end and bear the marks of a fantastic storyteller. Perhaps it's merely the benefit of being subject to an editor, but Card's books rarely seem slapdash or sloppy.

As a casual writer, Card's maturity varies. He's written some great political analyses, but he's also written columns making snap judgements of those who disagree with him or dismissed films for irrational reasons.

But his comments last week regarding J.K. Rowling's lawsuit against RDR Books, publishers of the upcoming Harry Potter Lexicon, cross the line of all good taste and fairness.

The story so far: The Harry Potter Lexicon has existed in online form for quite some time, as an encyclopedia of sorts to the Harry Potter series. Rowling has remarked on the site's accuracy and detail in the past, even using the site for reference while writing her books. She called the site her "natural home", and it's even possible that much of the timeline for the later books was cribbed from the Lexicon's research.

Recently, the site planned to expand its reach through publisher RDR Books by publishing a book containing most of the information on the site, titled (drumroll please) The Harry Potter Lexicon. Now, this sort of thing is protected under Fair Use and copyright laws protecting the publishing of annotated scholarly works, no different than thousands of other such guides published every year as companions to a wide variety of material. Provided that the books are sourced properly and do not contain large passages of the author's original material, everything's fine and dandy.

But not to J.K. Rowling. She's been gearing to publish an HP Encyclopedia of her own (an awesome prospect for fans of the series, to say the least), and felt oppressed by the release of this new book. Her opinion of the Lexicon changed dramatically until she finally threw a Ron Weasley-sized tantrum, regretting having ever said anything positive about the website. All of this culminated in a lawsuit filed last October, still ongoing. As the copyfight wages on, Rowling feels that her creativity has been "crushed" and wonders if she will have the heart to release her own encyclopedia.

But she's twisting the legal system to get her own way. RDR Books has all the rights to publish their book, and J.K. has the right to release her own encyclopedia. With her additional rights as author, she can even include new material or embellish upon existing material beyond what is included in the books. RDR's "scholarly work" is limited to direct referential information from the series - the extent protected by law.

It's fairly clear that Rowling is acting emotionally and holds the Potter universe close to her heart. But it would be a pity if her encyclopedia never gets released because she doesn't understand copyright law; it's plain that the quality of her book would blow the Lexicon out of the water and the resulting sales would speak for itself. Why bother getting the government involved, especially when you have no legal case?

Back to Orson Scott Card. In a new article posted on his site, he says he feels that that Rowling stole the plot for her novels from Card's own Ender's Game (wherein he merely generalizes the storylines of both series until they appear to match), then brings up past accusations of plagiarism levied against Rowling by other writers. Of course, all of these accusations (including Card's) are merely examples of appropriation of ideas, perfectly fine under copyright law provided that the usage is sufficiently indirect.

It's true, as Card says, that "authors borrow words from each other"; creativity does not exist in a vacuum. And it's true that Rowling is letting her emotions get in the way of the legal rights of a book publisher and some very devoted Harry Potter fans. But Card really steps over the line when he resorts to unhinged personal attacks:

"Talent does not excuse Rowling's ingratitude, her vanity, her greed, her bullying of the little guy, and her pathetic claims of emotional distress."

And, toward the end:

It's like her stupid, self-serving claim that Dumbledore was gay. She wants credit for being very up-to-date and politically correct -- but she didn't have the guts to put that supposed "fact" into the actual novels, knowing that it might hurt sales.

What a pretentious, puffed-up coward. When I have a gay character in my fiction, I say so right in the book. I don't wait until after it has had all its initial sales to mention it.

Rowling has now shown herself to lack a brain, a heart and courage. Clearly, she needs to visit Oz.

This overblown reaction is surprising; Card's been a fan of the series in the past, joining the ranks of authors like Stephen King in celebrating it as far more than mere childrens' fiction. He even wrote a neat, lengthy analysis of the character of Severus Snape prior to the release of the final book. Why the sudden change? Card plainly has a bone to pick with Rowling, and it's up to the rest of us to figure out just what on earth has him so darn angry and sensitive. It can't just be the gay Dumbledore issue. Could it be?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Destroy Oil To End the Holy War

We all know that economics and trade have always been more effective, dangerous weapons than scuds and bombs. Scott Adams noticed the obvious truth - that our nation will never elect a president who proposes a workable energy solution; there's no dollars behind it. What we like is stupid wasteful stuff like ethanol - turning corn into inefficient fuel while our nation faces a food shortage, all because the farmers want it.

Fixing our oil dependency would solve much of our world's environmental, economic and political problems. It would crush cartels and fatten consumer wallets worldwide. And Israel is the only nation with the incentive to do it.

Says Scott:

The oh-my-God moment came when I realized that Israel can destroy all of its local enemies by inventing solar technology that makes oil uneconomical. Such an invention would do more harm than any military attack. And it’s all legal and moral. The politicians and business people in Israel have all the right incentives times a thousand. Their very survival is at risk. Israel is one patent away from crushing every oil producing country in the world.
The obvious problem here is that some of the most unstable nations in the world would lose their principle (and in some countries, almost single) source of income. It's an issue to deal with, but I say full steam ahead.

Israel Defeats the Entire Middle East (The Dilbert Blog)

What's Going On With Jack Thompson?

Does everybody remember vigilante lawyer Jack Thompson, whose anti-gaming crusades have provided fodder for cable news and boiled fanboy britches the world over? This picture, sent by Jack to various gaming sites, has been making the rounds on the web lately, confusing people the world over:

Keep in mind that the veracity of this image is confirmed. GamePolitics sheds a little context on the situation:

The only clue is the subject line of the e-mail, which says, cryptically: "Evidence".

Now, considering that even I am beginning to get disenchanted with the escalating adult themes in this series (GTAIII was, after all, more campy than actually offensive). It's likewise doubtful that Jack's suddenly become a fan of the series; let's all remember our history. Mark my words: it's either a publicity stunt or a precursor to his next lawsuit, Florida Bar permitting.Thompson's been getting funnier and less intense lately, a trend which I hope will continue. He'll be hosting a gameshow before 2010 if the universe has any justice.