athelind: (hoard potato)
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Unbreakable.

One: It was early enough in M. Night Shyamalan's career that his name wasn't yet synonymous with "twist ending".

Two: The best twist endings recast everything you've just seen in a different light, and ideally, it should make even more sense in the light of the twist. Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense did that, but Unbreakable did it even better -- when it hits, both viewer and protagonist are overwhelmed by the horrific implications of the revelation.

Three: The twist -- and I won't spoil it here, on the off chance that a reader of my journal hasn't seen it -- relies heavily on the tropes of the comic-book superhero genre. I am intimately familiar with those tropes; superhero comics are My Thing. Despite that, I did not see it coming. I was utterly gobsmacked.


athelind: (no help whatsoever)
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Fugu.


athelind: (Default)
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Oh, to heck with them. They can get their own damned journals.

Some of'em have, actually, but I hardly ever read them. We're not on speaking terms.

And, jeez, the persona with the day job has a Facebook page. I don't even ... It's like I don't even know me, man.


athelind: (Ommm)
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I am a fan of many authors and songwriters who are famous for their brevity and wit, for their pithy epigrams, for their quotability. Franklin, Twain, Heinlein, Sagan; I pepper my speech with references to all of them.

My favorite quote, however, is not a nice, tidy little soundbite. It's not an epigram. It's not pithy. I can't randomly drop make an oblique reference to it in casual conversation.

I first discovered it in a book my grandmother left me: The Ascent of Man, by Jacob Bronowski, based on his PBS series of the same name. More than any other passage, it spoke to me.



It is said that science will dehumanise people and turn them into numbers. This is false, tragically false. Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashed of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.

Science is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known, we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error, and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible. In the end the words were said by Oliver Cromwell: 'I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.'

I owe it as a scientist to my friend Leo Szilard, I owe it as a human being to the many members of my family who died at Auschwitz, to stand here by the pond as a survivor and a witness. We have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power. We have to close the distance between the push-button order and the human act. We have to touch people.



athelind: (facepalm)
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Wait, what??

What are you trying to say, here?


athelind: (ouroboros)
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What do you love about the wintertime?

Some people talk about weather in terms of whether it's cold enough to need a sweater, a jacket, or a gigantic wool overcoat. Some will, in fact, assert that California "never gets cold enough" to justify the last item on the list.

I wait all year for it to get just cool enough to let me pull out my peacoat, and bundle up in layers.

I love winter clothing. It's cozy, it's comfortable, and it's a whole lot easer to approximate "dapper" (or at least "presentable") when you can mix and match a few layers of apparel and not have to strip down to a minimum of lightweight garments to stay comfortable. When it's cold, I can always put something more on; when it's hot, there's only so much you can take off before you have to pull out the flensing knives.

All my favorite clothes are warm clothes. I don't have any real "favorites" in summerwear; it's just a matter of "this will minimize my suffering".


athelind: (defiance)
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If someone wrote a book about your life, what would it be called?

Crawling from the Wreckage.

What? It's a lot more optimistic than Pinned Under the Wreckage.


athelind: (no help whatsoever)
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I can't answer that! There's so much time that hasn't happened yet, and hundreds of thousands of years of music that never got recorded!

And that's just limiting things to Earth!

athelind: (coyote durp durp durp)
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Do you pick truth or dare? Tell us why?


No.


athelind: (Default)
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What’s that one song that always reminds you of the one that got away?






And I'd give up forever to touch you ... )

If I hadn't been so afraid of losing her
Perhaps I might not have lost her.

athelind: (hoard potato)
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What's Harry going to do now that the series is over?

After an ugly scandal involving accusations of identity theft from one Mr. Timothy Hunter, Harry will expatriate to Chicago and change his last name to "Dresden".


athelind: (hoard potato)
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What’s your favorite Tom Hanks movie or character, and why?

That poor guy. His career's been all downhill since he played Kip Wilson.



You know, I was joking when I started this post, but watching the opening credits reminded me just how much I liked that show, and what a great cast they had. And yes, a big part of its consistently-entertaining quality was the guy who would go on to become one of the big stars of the next three decade. His good humor, his improv chemistry with Scolari, and his ability, shared with Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant, to maintain some level of gravitas in the most humbling, embarrassing situations all served him well both in this series and in his later career.

And I never thought of myself as a big Tom Hanks fan. I just enjoy his stuff -- but I enjoy it, I realize, pretty darned consistently, and have since the days when he and Peter Scholari answered every knock on the door with that distinctive falsetto "Who is it?"
athelind: (Sci Fi)
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If you could have any vehicle (a helicopter, sports car, space ship, yacht, etc.) and a free place to park it, what would you choose, and why?

Do I just not get these questions, or something? Because I can't for the life of me think of a reason why anyone wouldn't instantly answer "space ship", since that's right there in the question, or "starship", if one feels that there's a distinction.

It just turns into a question of what kind of starship. A big ship like Enterprise or Galactica has a lot of advantages: absurd amounts of room to live aboard, and a whole lotta guest rooms. A classic tramp space freighter like the Millennium Falcon or Serenity is a bit cozier, and doesn't need a small army to operate.

This in turn does suggest reasons to pick a more modest or mundane kind of transport: the question as asked only hands you the vehicle and pays for parking. Maintenance, crew expenses, registration fees, and fuel are all out of pocket—and if you think gas prices are bad these days, check out what anti-matter's running these days.

Of course, a lot of those considerations apply to mundane-but-immodest choices such as, say, a yacht, or a submarine, or the Queen Mary ... .

Still ... if we're sticking to single-planet transport, and the parking is free ... I've always wanted a dirigible.


athelind: (far call)
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If you won a free trip to the moon, would you go? Why or why not?

Yes.

Why?

So many reasons, but let's go with the one in today's xkcd:


The universe is probably littered with the one-planet graves of cultures which made the sensible economic decision that there's no good reason to go into space--each discovered, studied, and remembered by the ones who made the irrational decision.



athelind: (Ommm)
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What name would you give to your car or bicycle, and why?

My 2001 Saturn station wagon is named "Serenity", because she's gray and a little battered, and needs lots of attention, but she's also amazingly sturdy and soldiered on for months needing repairs that would have crippled a less resilient vehicle.

Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don't care, I'm still free
You can't take the sky from me
Take me out to the black
Tell them I ain't comin' back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can't take the sky from me
There's no place I can be
Since I found Serenity
But you can't take the sky from me...


(The whole "superficially pleasant and spiritual name that actually refers to a horrific, soul-scarring battle that destroyed the captain's faith and left him a bitter, surly, sarcastic bastard" aspect has nothing to do with anything. Nothing, I say.)


athelind: (no help whatsoever)
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If you had to give up swimming, skiing, hiking, or biking for the rest of your life, which would you choose, and why?

Skiing.

Totally skiing.

Without hesitation.

In fact, I hereby give up skiing for the rest of my life.


athelind: (grognard)
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Pong.


athelind: (ufo)
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Would you live in the perfect house or apartment rent-free if you found out a brutal murder had taken place there and it was rumored to be haunted? Why or why not?

Maybe, maybe not. Depends on the house, really—and not just the quality of the physical structure.

You see, I've done "haunted" before—at least twice.

One place was still one of the best places I've ever lived, even with the plainly-visible phantom who regularly walked through the front door and down the hall in the evenings.

No, seriously. My wife and I would both see the Walk-In at the same time; the living room sofa that faced the TV also had a clear view of the entrance hall. We were seeing the same thing, too; she caught clearer glimpses of him than I did, but we both saw Plaid Shirt.

I don't think the Plaid Man had any connection to the body that was found just down the road about six months after we moved in. That was a fairly recent occurrence, and the Plaid Man felt like he'd been Walking Through for a very long time. that whole area had something of a haunted air: former military family housing turned student housing, smack in the middle of a creepy oak forest full of gnarled, twisted trees. I don't know if any of our neighbors had similar experiences ... and it doesn't really matter: I'd move back into that apartment, or any of the near-identical ones in that neighborhood, in a snap.


On the other claw, I've also lived in a place that definitely wanted us Out Of There. I don't know what the previous tenants were up to before they got evicted, but it took four or five coats of paint to cover up the cryptic symbols and arcane writing on the walls of one room, and even after that, the house did everything short but whisper "GET OUT".

In fact, as we were packing up the moving truck, I made one last sweep through the house to make sure we didn't forget anything ... and on the way out the door, I said, "... and good [bleep]ing riddance."

And it definitely responded in kind. The low-level Bad Vibes that always plagued the place immediately cranked up to eleven. I moved very quickly out the door, jumped in the truck, and said, "Go. Now."

Really, I've watched enough movies to know better than that.

... damnation, now I get to to to sleep with this stuff fresh in my mind.

And so do you.


athelind: (hoard potato)
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If you had to choose, what couple from TV, cinema, or literature, would you choose as your parents?

Benton Quest and Race Bannon.


athelind: (Default)
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Who is your favorite mythical creature/character, and why?

That would be ... well ... me.


athelind: (facepalm)
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If you could either have the powers of Spider-man or the Green Lantern, which would you choose, and why?

... somebody's not really trying.

The answers I could read seem to fall into two categories: "Green Lantern, obviously", and "Spider-Man, because I don't know anything about Green Lantern."

Let's assume that "the powers" don't include the quirks of the particular secret identity: if I get Spidey's powers, I don't get Peter Parker's constant parade of personal catastrophes. If a little blue guy hands me a green ring, I don't suddenly become prone to recurrent head injuries or finding loved ones stuffed into household appliances.

It's still no contest.

On the one hand, we have The Proportional Strength of a Spider.

On the other, we have The Most Powerful Weapon Tool In the Universe.

It's a starship on your finger, complete with tractor beams and replicators.

No. Contest.

Addendum:

Yes, since the '90s, the writers keep calling the ring "the most powerful weapon in the universe", but to me, the question isn't "how many asses can I kick with these abilities?"

It's "how many lives will these abilities let me save?"


athelind: (Default)
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Which song makes you happy every time you hear it, and why?

"(Don't Fear) the Reaper".

Buck Dharma insists that the song is about eternal love. You really have to listen to the lyrics hard to really hear what it's trying to say, though:

Love transcends physical death.
Don't let the fear of losing your lover destroy your love.
You'll see each other again.

"Forty thousand men and women every day ... Redefine Happiness."


I wish I'd listened harder.

What you don't have to filter is the amazing music. If you've got a good stereo copy of the song, you'll note that they make very good use of the left and right channels. That distinctive opening guitar riff just swirls around you, and whenever I hear it, I smile.

It's a Rock Anthem: when it plays, you have to pull your car over, place your hand over your heart, and listen.

Singing along is optional.


athelind: (cronkite)
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Should websites like Wikileaks be defended for sharing confidential corporate and government information with the public, and why?

Secrecy is the keystone of all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy ... censorship. When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, "This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know," the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything—you can't conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.
—Robert A. Heinlein, If This Goes On— (Emphasis mine.)


Since the Internet first became available to the general public, I've heard people who defend the government prying into one's online activities on the basis that "if you're not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to hide."

These same people are the ones who argue, in turn, that Wikileaks is revealing things that should best be kept secret, that the internal workings of business and government are best left under lock and key "for our own good".

This is exactly backwards.

Yes, we should know these things. We must know these things. We are not disinterested parties. What the banks and megacorps do, they do to us, their customers, their employees. What the government does, it does in our name.

There are things that I would not have done in my name.

If those I have elected to serve the machinery of government seek to tell me that I am forbidden to know of them, I would name them tyrant, and would remind them with whose consent they govern.

Wikileaks is performing a function vital and necessary to democracy and to the governance of free human beings. The wealthy and powerful must be called to account, they must know that their actions run the risk of being brought to light.

Once upon a time, this function was called journalism, and it was practiced by such diverse outlets as the Washington Post that backed Woodward and Bernstein, and CBS News under the auspices of Walter Cronkite, who earned and deserved the title of "The Most Trusted Man in America". Investigative journalism is a thing of the past, though, smothered in favor of gossip and Official Press Releases by budget-slashing corporate masters who see no profit in baring secrets to the rank and file.

Wikileaks has picked up the fallen torch of the Fourth Estate, and shoved it square in the face of the banksters and the Shadow Cabinet. Do they "deserve" protection? By the laws of the United States of America, they have it. They are entitled to the same legal precedents that have protected journalists and their sources for most of the 20th century ... and if those protections do not extend into the One-and-Twenty, then we have abdicated any claims we might have had to freedom.


athelind: (Default)
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If you were a country, what would be your national anthem?

... amazing timing. I was going to post this today anyway.

The amusing revelation about my recent posts is that all of the things I'd been "doing wrong" with my life—bouncing from job to job, having a resume full of scattershot experiences, even letting myself get distracted by my leisure time pursuits—are the things that opened up this new opportunity.

Mr. Steinman, it seems, had a point: sometimes, a "wasted" youth may just be better than falling lockstep into the ill-fitting social role of "Grown-Up" (a concept distinct and entirely different from becoming an adult).

Here, then, is the National Anthem of the Sovereign Principality of Athelind:






A wasted youth is better by far / Than a wise and productive old age ... )

The runner-up, for the record, was Rush's "Freewill".

athelind: (loop)
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... was that today?


November 2016

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