Friday, April 27, 2012

Next Time They Should Muzzle Me.

I had this work networking thing last night at the House of Blues--such a cool venue.  I gawk like an idiot every time I'm there.  As the office noob, my coworkers and boss think it's very amusing to get me another drink every time I reach the half-way point of the one I'm working on, despite (or, more likely, because of) my insistence that I can't hold my liquor.  So I spent half the night with two drinks in my hands.

Now, as you may know, I have a habit of making myself look ridiculous on a fairly regular basis.  And that's without social lubrication.  So, of course when a contractor I work with (but had never met in person) approached me and asked about the dual drinks, I blurted out, "They'll all double-fisting me!"

What are the odds that he'll forget I was even there?  Slim?  None?  Super.

Well, that's one way to be memorable.

(True:  This Saturday, April 28, is my last night as Karaoke Jockey at Blueberry Hill in Forest Park, Illinois.  Be there or be square.  Or just far away.)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Clearly I'm Smarter Than You Think.

Because, see?  I got a link-back here from Neil Howe, who is pretty much who I want to grow up to be.  You know that term "Millenials?"  He coined it.  Because he's clever like that.

I haven't commented on his post.  I honestly have no idea what to say that wouldn't make me sound like an excited fangirl.  I'm actually somewhat familiar with his work with William Strauss (I'm only a dabbler), so for him to know I exist is pretty damn exciting.

Pardon me while I hyperventilate under my desk.

(True:  A coworker just told me about this book, by this woman blogger she thought would interest me, and I was like, is it The Bloggess? And Let's Pretend This Never Happened? Because that book is on the top of my list. And then my coworker thought I was a huge nerd. And she was probably right.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Even the Government Thinks I'm Confusing

Of course I waited until almost the last minute to file my taxes.  Filing early comes too close to approximating competent adulthood, which is something I've never claimed.  I e-filed one night and went to bed.


And woke up to find my return had been rejected. The IRS couldn't confirm my identity--i.e., The IRS (yes, I did capitalize the article) forgot about my existence.  (I know, I didn't think that would ever happen, either.)  As it turns out, I was one of the small percentage of people affected by a glitch in their system, causing some people to be missing from their database. 

Ain't I the lucky one?

Actually, I am:  another glitch accused some filers of being deceased.

(True:  This isn't even the first time the good ole US of A has been confused about me.  When I turned 18, I got a letter informing me I was required to sign up for the draft.  Um, Uncle Sam?  I don't have the parts you think I have.)

(Also true:  I'm doing the work of two people at my job...  I may post a little more sporadically, just don't leave me, okay?)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hold Your Horses

And stop asking The Squeeze to bring out the dead.  I'm not.  Dead yet, that is.  Just super-busy at work.  Back soon with a real post!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Read This! ArchEnemy by Frank Beddor


My friend Seven originally introduced me to The Looking Glass Wars several years ago, and I owe him big for that. 

ArchEnemy is the last installment of the epic dark fantasy/political thriller/fairy tale, and it's pretty damn amazing.  Queen Alyss (whom we Earth-dwellers have mistakenly misnamed Alice of Alice in Wonderland fame--way to mess it all up, Lewis Carroll) has put on hold her war with her evil aunt, Queen Redd, because King Arch of the neighboring nomadic kingdom has invaded Wonderland and seized that queendom for himself, endangering not only Wonderland, but the magic of Imagination throughout all the worlds--including ours.  (Been feeling dull lately?  Arch's fault.)

Beddor doesn't waste a lot of time rehashing characters and plots fleshed out in previous books, so I probably wouldn't recommend this one as an introduction to the series.  And if you haven't read the other books, I don't want to give too too many spoilers.

Alyss and her friend/guard/ought-to-be-lover Dodge butt heads some more against their better judgement.  What romance is in this series is both compelling and refreshing.  These people are dealing with some heavy stuff--loved ones have died, battling forces of good and evil, scary guys whose touch can blister you to death, fate of all the worlds...  There are important decisions to be made that will affect pretty much everyone in existence, and it was nice (though not always pretty) to see Alyss and Dodge disagree pretty vehemently about the way some things should be handled.  Sometimes, they even disappoint each other.  (That right there pretty much cements this series as unique.)

If you have read previous books (don't bother looking, I haven't reviewed those--it's been a while since I've read them myself), then you know that Hatter Maddigan--Alice's Mad Hatter turned Alyss's most famous member of the Military Millinery with a bad-ass hat that can slice your head off--has been dealing with some personal stuff.  And for a guy who has always put duty first, having to make the personal stuff a priority is more than a little difficult.  I dare you not to have a bookcrush on Hatter.

Oh, have I not convinced you to read this series yet?  Then how about this?  Queen Redd wears a dress of roses that can eat you.  And the cute kitten from Alice in Wonderland?  Actually an assassin.

Rating:  Kick Ass+

(True:  Chuck Roven, producer of The Dark Knight, has apparently signed on to the movie version of The Looking Glass Wars.  Hurry up and make this film, Hollywood!)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Swiss: No Longer Neutral

Dream blogs are generally uninteresting.  Hell, I think my own dreams are usually dumb, with the exception of zombie apocolypse dreams and that one time I dreamed I was Sarah Michelle Gellar.

But bear with me--I have to share this one.

I was leading a class revolution against an evil queen.  One of our informants snuck to the front to tell me our enemy's greatest weakness:

No matter what kind the recipe called for, we needed to serve the queen only Swiss cheese.

Via  (Viva la revolucion, bitches!)

And, to prove that life is weird even when I'm awake...

A few days ago, I brought a Cadbury Egg left over from Easter to work.  Hey, an egg is an acceptable breakfast food, right?  My first bite cracked the whole thing, and I was in danger of it slopping everywhere.  So, I did what any food-conservationist would do:  I shoved the whole thing in my mouth.

Which of course was the cue for the HR person to approach me for a serious conversation about an interview she wanted me to sit in on. 

I'm pretty sure I dribbled.

(True:  This is my 100th post.  That's 100 posts of meandering drivel and flat-falling jokes, and some of you are still with me.  Ain't life grand?)

Friday, April 13, 2012

This is Not the Post You're Looking For.

Or rather, "This the the not the post for which you are looking."  Grammar, George, grammar.  Jesus, I hate things that end in prepositions.

But I mean it.  Whatever your're looking for, you won't find it in this post.  It's not even about or relating to Star Wars. 

You see, I'm eating fried cheese right now, and that means I have more important things to do this lunch than blog.  Mainly, stuff my face.  Priorities--I have them.

Here, have a consolation link.    Go check out this awesome thing from The Oatmeal.

(True:  It's Friday the Thirteenth.  So don't die, okay?  I can't afford to lose any followers.)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Hops in the Right Direction: A Fresh Start for Allegan County Puppy Mill Dogs


You've probably heard about the horrific hoarding/puppy mill situation that was uncovered this week in Allegan County, Michigan, in which 352 (now nearly 400 after several litters were birthed) dogs were rescued from a couple's small--really small--home.  You can watch a news clip here.  The couple has been arrested on felony charges of animal cruelty.

This is the kind of news story that clenches around you, drowns you in anger and pity.  Or it does me, anyway.

But let's take a step back.

These dogs were rescued.  They are getting the grooming, healthcare, and love they were deprived.  Fortunately, not a single one has had to be euthanized, which means there are 400 dogs that now have the chance to find a family that will love and care for them.  So many people have voluteered to help that the shelter that has taken these dogs has had to turn some away and ask them to come back later.  Requests to adopt these dogs have come from as far away as New York and Florida.  Money, gas cards, and pet care supplies have been pouring in, and professional groomers have closed their shops to help clean the dogs up. 

Legislation has been introduced at the state level to prevent this kind of situation from happening again.

None of these means what happened or how the dogs were treated is okay.  I'm not a generous enough person to forgive anyone who would do this, regardless of the circumstances.  (I'm trying really, really hard not to rant about just how angry this story has made me.)

I do believe, however, that these 400 dogs were very, very lucky.  So many pets will suffer their entire lifetimes in squalor and neglect in hoarding situations or mills.  Because of this high-profile case, how many well-intentioned families will refrain from buying the puppy from the store window and adopt instead?  How many more people will volunteer at shelters--not just those involved in the Allegan County case, but all over the country?

I'm hoping that the outrage this mill has created will fuel so, so much more good.  I hope it will inspire people to get their dogs from reputable breeders.  I hope it will inspire people to consider adopting their next pet.  I hope more people will become educated about puppy mills, and that this will become a culture where we get pets not just for what they can give us (cuddles and unconditional love), but for what we can give them (a long, loved, enriched life where the dog can be a dog, and not a decoration or a "baby").

I'm hoping people will remember that there are two lucky dogs in every person-dog relationship, and one of them is you.

(True:  The Puppy Mill Project in Illinois is dedicated to educating people about puppy mills and what local pet stores are supplied by them.  Even better, they help pet stores transition to being supplied by shelters instead.)

(Also true:  Prada is getting a big hug tonight.)

Shout out to my friend Pamela for bringing this story to my attention.  She tells me they've raised over $10k in 24 hours.  If you want to help, you can get donation info here or here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"No man can worship God or love his neighbor on an empty stomach."
~Woodrow Wilson

Back up nort', I had some interesting neighbors.  They lived right above us (us being my roommate Z and me and my old man dog Hans).  They also had a dog, but being too lazy to bring it outside, they simply laid a tarp on the floor of their patio and let it pee there.  Z and I never sat on our own patio--too high a chance of being dripped on.


They did everything loudly.  Arguments, videogames, movies, music, and sex were all conducted at top volume.

So was cooking.  How can cooking be loud, you ask?  Good question.

Early one summer evening it began.  The incessant pounding from above.  It sounded just like a hammer hitting something only sort-of solid.  After a moment's worry that one of my neighbors was in the process of murdering or dismembering the other, I decided at least that would half the noise and tuned out.  After about an hour, though, other neighbors started getting irritated.  Every so often, I heard someone pounding on the upstairs neighbors' door, asking them to keep it down.  Some of them just shouted it through the walls.  It was a classy joint like that.

After about four ignored pleas for silence, I hear the upstairs neighbor dude shout from his kitchen.

"Shut up!  I'm making fucking smashed potatoes, all right?"

(True:  Some of Mr. Roger's sweaters are at the Smithsonian.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


I'm sorry for the shouting, but seriously.  Just look at this:

And this:

That's Google, my friends.  And screenshots.  Unaltered ones, because I didn't even know how to take a screenshot until yesterday, when I grabbed that first one after very nearly passing out from hyperventilation.  And my image altering skills exist entirely in Microsoft Paint.

So, if I don't blog tomorrow, it's probably because I've died of excitement.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Read This! Pastworld by Ian Beck

I have not gotten the chance to read as much as I'd like to lately.  (Although I could read twelve hours a day and still not think it's enough.)  However, I was on vacation recently.  And do you know what that vacation included?  Plane rides.  And beach-lounging.  Aka, me with my nose in a book.  Several, actually.


Pastworld by Ian Beck is about a young woman, Eve, who has grown up (sort of) believing (absolutely) that the Victorian London she lives in is the truth, and not the colossal theme park it actually is.  And someone, the Fantom, is hunting her.  And tearing up the bodies of the people who get in his way.  Caleb is a visitor to Pastworld and has been falsely accused of a crime for which he could be hanged.  Inspector LeStrade is trying to figure out what the hell is going on.  Bible J is a pickpocket who has a soft spot for people in trouble.

Got it?  Okay.

This is not your usual, straightforward YA novel, with a single character's linear narrative.  We see several characters' points of view, and the writing style varies by those characters' personal styles.  Eve, whose story we get from her journal, writes in a period-appropriate way.  The inspector's style is to-the-point, with lots of details noted, but in a straightforward, definitely not-flowery way.  Bible J likes adventure and a pretty girl.  Caleb is viewing this city of the past as a new-comer from the outside, and his descriptions often compare the two worlds.

So, it's stylistic.  Reader, beware:  you need to keep track of several main characters and keep up with several story-telling styles from two very different time periods.  It does require a bit of mental energy--most of the iffy reviews I've read reference the different POVs as the major drawback. 

That being said, it works.  Each character has a portion of the story to tell, and their unique voices make them memorable, not just one more character on a full stage overseen by an omniscient narrator.  Seeing their stories separately at first, and then more and more intertwined is fascinating.

And the steampunk influence?  Awesome.  Who doesn't appreciate a good mech rat/surveillance system these days?

Add the slight dystopian feel.  While the reader doesn't see the world outside Pastworld (excepting a few brief scenes in a police department that oversees the park), we get the feeling that it is highly mechanical, highly sanitized, and highly bland.  London, on the other hand, is dirty and dangerous, with elements both criminal and morbid.  (Anyone want to see a dead body?  It's just a shilling.)

There's adventure.  There's mystery.  There's romance.  There are circus performers and human dissections.  There is steampunk, history, and the future here. 

To say the least, it's a book that's hard to pin down.  But if you're looking for a fantastic, exciting, frightening story with a hopeful, good end (even if not all the loose ends are tied), pick this one up.  I did--and wasn't able to put it down.

(True:  Blogspot doesn't think "dystopian" is a word.  Sort of sad, really.  Also, "steampunk."  Blogspot is missing out.)

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Hunger Games and Nazi Germany: Visual Metaphor in the Film and Why It Works

If you've seen the film, you probably couldn't help but notice that in District 12, technology and dress seem to be stuck in the past.  It especially noticeable in the reaping scene, along with some other striking imagery.

Compare these:



Take off the hats and the stupid sweaters, and you've got some decent comparisons.


Okay, okay, these aren't perfect examples, because I've only got my lunch hour to complete this post. But you get the idea.  It makes good sense:  the late '30s early '40s were are era of economic hardship in the US and Europe, and District 12 is struggling similarly.  But here is where it gets interesting.

  Take a close look at the flag on the building.  Does it look a little familiar?  It's an eagle, looking over its shoulder, and it's surrounded by a wreath. 

This is, per Wikipedia (I did say I was in a hurry), "The Parteiadler or coat of arms of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP; known in English as the National Socialist German Workers' Party or simply the Nazi Party), which features an eagle looking over its left shoulder, that is, looking to the right from the viewer's point of view."  Here again we have the eagle, and though it is carrying the wreath, there are clear parallels.  Moreover, in some versions of the Parteiadler, the eagle is looking over its other shoulder.  Added on the red field, the Panem flag is pretty damn similar.

But wait, there's more!

There are a couple notable aspects to this shot.  First, of course, is the propaganda video.  Three guesses what rather infamous party was known for its prolific propaganda...  The point of the film in The Hunger Games is to show how the government brought the country of Panem out of a terrible situation.  After World War I, Germany was in dire financial straits.  Hitler had a lot to do with pulling that country out if its very serious depression.  Time named him Man of the Year for 1938.

Second, look at the gathering of people, how they are stand in neat blocks of humanity, facing a stage bare of decoration but for the country's flag...


It's a lot smaller scale, obviously.  But look at enough photos of Nazi gatherings, and you notice a trend.  (And I don't just mean military events.)  And look, a quote! 

"If there has to be a choice between injustice and disorder, said Goethe, the German prefers injustice." - Barbara Tuchman

(She was an author and historian, so I'm going to assume she knew what she was talking about.
So, let's see if I can't come up with a point to all of this, eh?  Something other than "At this point, I've done so many searches for various aspects of Nazi Germany that I'm probably on about twelve government watchlists."

Here you have two societies in which the totalitarian government has tight control over the populace and depends on order and propaganda to be able to perpetuate the atocities they are committing on their denizens.  In District 12, where this control is very tightly held, the visual nods to Nazi Germany are very strong.  In the woods outside the district, there is a sense of taking a deep breath, of lightness (literally--the colors are way more saturated), of freedom, albeit a freedom under constant threat (the used-to-be-electric fence, the airship from which Gale and Katniss hide).  The Capitol has a hard (lots of concrete and glass) edge under the glamor, but the visual comparisons to Nazi Germany are fewer and farther between. 

That worked for me (but not others), because it seemed to show that the government was willfully holding the outlying districts in this state of depression and anachronism, while life in the Capitol itself is not a utopia, either (which is a decent visual setup for what happens later, especially in the third installation of the series). 

What did you think?  Did the film's visual design depend too much on the past, considering it's ostensibly set sometime in the future?  Was the Nazi symbolism too heavy-handed, or an appropriate nod to the totalitarian government that is first and foremost in our cultural awareness?

(True:  I've said it before, and I'll say it again:  I'm a big dweeb.  Ten dollar words are sexy.)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hops in the Right Direction... Sort Of.

I have a confession to make:  I really have nothing interesting to say today.  I'm tired, my sunburn is both sore and itchy, and I am, in short, burned out.  I'll be back tomorrow with something at least mildly intriguing, I promise.  In the meantime, check out these cool links:

Facebook Shuts Down Puppy Mill Ads

9/11 Search Dog Receives Stem Cell Treatment for Arthritis

13 Simple Steps to Get You Through a Rough Day

Toodles till tomorrow!

Monday, April 2, 2012

The State of Florida is None the Worse for Wear

Despite my having been there.  I did get up to plenty of hijinks, most of which I can't tell you.  (I'd have to kill you.  And hunting you down is just too much work.)

Ah, the sunny, sunny heat.  I am a heat monger in the worst way, and 86 and humid is just my style.  So, I spent most of Friday and Saturday slathered in sunscreen and snoozing on the beach.  It was awesome.

What wasn't awesome was the fact that I forgot to slather the SPF on my neck and chest on Friday.  Everywhere else, I developed a nice glow.  There, I fried.  When I woke up and headed inside, it was pink.  Later that night, it turned bright red.  By morning, it had a lovely purple tinge and swear-to-god, had turned crispy.    The best part is that I've got one white spot by my collarbone where I apparently wiped the last of the sunscreen on my fingers.  Knowing me, I meant to get more sunscreen and finish, but then just didn't.  The remainder of the weekend consisted of locals asking, "You aren't from around here, are you?"

Awesome.  I'm that guy.  (The photographer took pictures of most of the guests, but I hear he mistook me for a tomato and moved on.)

"Fried Egg on the Plate Without the Plate" by Salvador Dali.  AKA, "An Accurate Depiction of How I Feel Right Now."

I was travelling with my best friend Seven, as his plus one to the wedding of a friend of ours from high school.  He and I actually make good travelling companions.  I've got a fair bit of experience flying, but he's the one who is organized enough to keep track of things like what gate we're flying out of and where I've left the GodPod.  We like the same kinds of food (which we ate a ton of), and he's a good sport about me geeking out and dragging him to places like the Dali Museum (more on that to come).
Seven and I first became friends when a guy in our algebra II class asked if we were siblings.  We don't look much alike, but we do have that kind of relationship.  As in, we tease each other pretty mercilessly.  (Okay, I'm merciless.  Seven just holds on for the ride.) 

For example, we rented a car.  And by we, I mean Seven, because I'm too disorganized to manage something like that and also I'm a terrible driver.  He asks me which of the several cars we can choose from I prefer, and I tell him I don't have an opinion.  Then, no sooner than he signs the paperwork and we load our crap into the trunk of a white Mazda 6, I say we should have gotten the red one.  Which I proceeded to tell everyone throughout the trip.  Not that I actually cared.  I meant it when I said I didn't have a preference--it's just so fun to see Seven take the bait.  Every.  Single.  Time. 

Cracks me up.

(True:  Just after the wedding, during the official serious professional photography time, a parasailer's kite very nearly took out the bride, guaranteeing that this is one wedding we'll never forget--love you, Kate!)