Saturday, July 04, 2015

Scooby Doo: A Primer

This morning, as I got Mr F out of the car after our first calm-him-down ride of the day, this thought popped into my head:

Was his real name Scooby Doo, or Scooby Dooby Doo?

This was kind of a weird thing to be thinking about insofar as I never really cared all that much for Scooby Doo, and insofar as by "never really cared all that much" I mean never cared at all. But that is how my brain works, and I therefore had to immediately go read about Scooby Doo on Wikipedia, where I learned a lot about Scooby Doo, like how he is destroying America, and also a lot about monkeys and things.

Here's what you'll need to keep up with water-cooler talk about Scooby Doo:

-- Shaggy's full name is Norville "Shaggy" Rogers.

-- Originally, Scooby was a dog named "Too Much" who played the bongos.  Sometimes he was a sheepdog. Other times he was not.  The name changed between the first time the show was pitched, a bid that failed, and the second time.

-- Scooby's name comes from Frank Sinatra's song Strangers In The Night, where he sings doo-be-doo-be-doo. I would put a video of that song in here but I don't really care for that song, and besides you know how it goes, and also I'd rather put in this video for this song that I really like and have been listening to all week:

-- Scooby's character is based on the roles Bob Hope played in horror comedies.

-- Scooby, unlike other dogs (?) has opposable thumbs and a fully prehensile tail.

-- Animals with prehensile tails are predominantly Western hemisphere animals, with most of them in South America.  Some scientists think this is because the jungles of South America are more dense than elsewhere.

-- Porcupines and opossums have prehensile tails.  I thought the scariest possible thing I could imagine now was the idea of a porcupine dropping down on me from a tree while walking in the woods at night, but then I read that in other jungles where animals with prehensile tails are less prevalent, there are flying snakes.

-- Flying snakes can climb trees, and when they get to where they want, they push off with their tail and reshape their rib cage to form a pseudo-wing which helps it fly the same way frisbees fly, and I really can't read any more of that without starting to think things like "Seriously WTF God?"  But it is amazing, and terrifying, stuff:

-- Scooby, perhaps presciently predicting what would happen to 'traditional values' (i.e. they would go to Hell) once gay marriage became the law of the land, once fell in love with a  "large blue reptilian creature with a beak-like mouth," but he can be forgiven for that because the creature, an alien, was disguised the whole time as a golden retriever wearing a red bandanna.

I'm going to maybe alienate some people here when I say that if you put a bandanna around your dog's neck I judge you (and not in a good way, the way judges might judge "Obamacare," which is now the law of the land and which means we won't actually get a fix to our healthcare system, ever, because Republicans hate fixing things and Democrats think health care is fixed. It is not. People still cannot afford health care and now they cannot afford health insurance, and most insurance plans range from "crappy" to "really very bad it's not even 'insurance' at all." Judges, or at least the ones that count for now, think this is okay, because Congress intended this to be okay. Which is how the legislative-and-judicial-review process works, but in this case it worked really, really badly, and the key hallmark of Obama's tenure is not a very good one.)

The kind of people who put bandanna's around dog's necks are the kinds of people who will stand, knee deep in the water at the beach, drinking their 'hard cider' and wearing baseball caps that don't look quite right and play a game involving a frisbee and knocking beer cans off into the water, and I will have to keep Mr F away from them because he will want to see what they are knocking over, and really can't you leave that stuff at the frat house?

 (Note: that was based on a true story yesterday at the lake.  Also true: there were tadpoles in the lake and when people went by in their stupid boats and on their stupid jetskis, the resultant waves would toss the tadpoles up onto the beach, where a bunch of little kids noticed them and began what can only be described as a massive and heroic effort to save these tadpoles, pouring water around them and picking up clumps of sand with the tadpoles on them to carry them back to the water.  These kids did this for 30 minutes or so, and Mr Bunches even joined in:

-- That was not Scooby's only assault on 'traditional family values.' Scooby Doo attacks traditional values the way jetski-owning jerks attack tadpoles: often, and for no reason.  This one time, Scooby-Doo competed with one of his cousins, Scooby-Dum, for the "affection" of Scooby-Dee "who is also their cousin."

-- This other time, Scooby got Sandy Duncan to fall in love with him.  That Sandy Duncan, who once pretended to be a boy who abducted several young kids from their homes.

-- Antonin Scalia predicted exactly that kind of behavior and never has one man been proven so right so quickly.  Jiggery-pokery indeed!

Oh, and his name is neither. It's "Scoobert Doo."

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

You're never as original as you think you I'm sure someone else has said.

A while back I read an article that talked about what a trope it is to put a close-up of an eyeball on your horror book cover. Which is exactly what I did on the cover for my collection of horror stories, "The Scariest Things, You CAN'T Imagine." 

I'd tried to put out of my mind how UNoriginal I was when it comes to cover design, because I still thought myself something of an artiste, like, say, when it comes to photographs.  Such as photos like the one on the right, a picture of an American flag I took outside of what used to be Mr F's kindergarten.

I love that picture; it's one of my favorites.  I was proud of the way I'd gotten it just right with the sun and the way the flag looks tattered and it's kind of see-through, etc. etc.

This morning I went to read Gawker and noticed that the picture on the top of the story about Greece missing an IMF payment blah blah blah Europe was this picture:

And I thought oh man someone totally copied me.  (In this case, the someone is the AP.)  But before I dashed off an angry email to Gawker, the AP and Greece (Dear Greece, Please do not place your flag in front of the sun anymore, I have a copyright on that) I thought about that eyeball-cover thing and googled images of flags in front of the sun and realized I'm not the only one who thought of that.

It's actually not that new of a thing, to realize I'm not the only person who thinks something is picture-worthy, but it happened twice in the last 12 hours, so I'm reeling a bit here.  We were at the library last night, and as we sat in the teen section (better, comfier seats and there's hardly ever teens at the library plus the teens who do go to the library are generally not the kind that scare me) I noticed pictures on the wall for a photography/art contest.  And in that series of pictures by teens were pictures of boats lined up outside the UW down on Lake Mendota, a couple sitting on a pier at sunset, and a bridge in the nature preserve taken from a low angle.

Those are all pictures I have taken, too.

It all reminded me, too, of the kerfuffle over the iceberg picture.  Maybe you already heard about this: a woman was accused of plagiarism after her photo of an iceberg:

won a contest, and another woman noticed that contest-winning photo and accused the winner of plagiarism and photo theft.

But it wasn't. Instead, the accusing woman had taken this picture:

Turns out they were on the same cruise at the same time and took the same photo from slightly different angles on the ship.  No plagiarism, a weird coincidence.

Also at the library, I walked past a book about a person who died and is now stuck in her afterlife until a guy comes along and offers a way to get her out of there.  The details are different but it's sort of the same them as my book the After.

And all this is going on while I have to keep hearing about The Martian, which is a book about an astronaut alone in space, and which is being made into a movie, unlike my own Eclipse, which continues to not be made into a movie despite obviously being perfect for making me rich.

Finally, there's this: I recently (as you may have heard) wrote this book about how a corporation has been cloning people and the clones are roving among society many of them without knowing they are clones, and there's a group of people trying to stop the cloning practice.  Maybe I mentioned it before?

Well, I heard about this series Orphan Black and thought boy a lot of people are talking about that, maybe I should hate it before I ever see it? So I checked it out on Wikipedia, and read this:

The series begins with Sarah Manning, a con artist by trade, witnessing the suicide of a woman, Beth Childs, who appears to be her doppelgänger. Sarah takes on Beth's identity and occupation as a police detective after Beth's death. During the first season, Sarah discovers that she is a clone, that she has many 'sister' clones spread throughout North America and Europe, and that someone is plotting to kill them and her. Alongside her foster brother, Felix Dawkins, and two of her fellow clones, Alison Hendrix and Cosima Niehaus, Sarah discovers the origin of the clones: a scientific movement called Neolution. The movement believes that human beings can use scientific knowledge to direct their evolution as a species. The movement has an institutional base in the large, influential, and wealthy biotech corporation, the Dyad Institute. The Dyad Institute conducts basic research, lobbies political institutions, and promotes its eugenics program, aided by the clone Rachel Duncan. But it also seeks to profit from the technology the clones embody. It has thus placed "monitors" into the clones' personal lives, allegedly to study them scientifically but also to keep them under surveillance

Anyway, I'm not complaining even though every single idea I've ever had was also had by someone else and all those people are making millions of dollars and living luxurious lifestyles in tropical islands.  HA HA I AM NOT BITTER AT ALL. *looks at desk held together by duct tape* NOT AT ALL.

Monday, June 29, 2015

10 Minutes About "It" by Stephen King

I've been listening to "It" on audiobook off and on this spring & summer.  "Off and on" because I borrow it from the library on audio and you only get it for fourteen days, tops. If someone else has requested it during that time you have to wait until your turn comes around again.  So the last time I listened to the book was at the end of April during my trips to and from my trial up north.  I got about 1/3 of the way through and continued this latest time, when I got through another 1/3 before my time expired.

I'm enjoying the book pretty well; I like Stephen King, and King has become sort of the de facto horror guy for me, to the point where I don't think much about other horror authors at all.  I like King's stuff so much that many horror books suffer by comparsion -- even those of his son, Joe Hill.  (I like Hill's collection of short stories, 20th Century Ghosts much more than I liked his novel Heart Shaped Box, which I found to be pedestrian in concept and execution.)  King tends to go for the gross-out too much (his "shit weasels" almost made me give up on Dreamcatcher) and when he's bad he's really bad (Dreamcatcher, again) but when he's good he's worth all the bad stuff.

Bad stuff like the current, interminable, part of It that I was slogging through when my turn expired for the book.  And bad stuff like the 'flashback nature' of the story.

First the slog: I'm at the part of the book where one of the main characters is recounting a story his dad told him back when he was fifteen (so it's the guy telling the story telling a story about how someone else told a story, which is never a good way to tell a story. You've heard show don't tell? If you're three removes from the action, it's always boring.)  But this story goes on FOREVER. And EVER AND EVER AND EVER. Seriously, I was on it for about three days of audiobook time (audiobook time is when I go for my occasional exercise walks, or driving).  And the point of the story apparently was to get to the part [SPOILER ALERT!] where the guy's dad saw the same "it" monster the guy did, only 60 years ago or something.

YAWN.  The whole point of the story has been that this thing is making the entire town evil, etc., so to say oh yeah it was around sixty years ago too? We get it.  If this part of the story is going somewhere, I can't see it.

PLUS, the other part of this flashback to a flashback that really stuck me -- jarred me right out of the story-- was that the kid listening to his dad had, about 4 years before, encountered the monster himself.  Then he's listening to his dad tell this story, and when dad gets to the I saw a monster part, the kid says how he had totally forgotten that he'd seen a monster until then.

Now, I am willing to suspend my disbelief to read a story and believe that there will be a monster haunting Derry, New Hampshire.  But 'suspension of disbelief' doesn't extend to "believe any old stupid thing thrown in for narrative purposes."  Am I supposed to think an 11-year-old has a run in with a giant monster that tries to kill him and he narrowly escapes and he forgot it entirely within four years?

Back when I was 18, I had a car accident in which I had a near-miss with a tree: a guy cut me off and I swerved and I skidded on ice and I nearly hit a tree off the road and came this close to dying.  I remember it vividly, 28 years later ... and there were no giant monsters there to help keep things fresh in my brain.

I'm assuming King was going for something there, with the Oh yeah I forgot until my dad mentioned a monster that I'd seen one too, but whatever it was, I don't get it and it was annoying enough that I can't believe it survived into the final version of the novel.

PLUS, another [SPOILER ALERT!]: the kid was sent to the place where he saw the monster by his dad.  So when dad spills the beans about having seen the monster earlier, the kid thinks oh yeah hey I saw a monster too, I forgot that! but not HEY WAIT DAD YOU KNEW THERE WAS A MONSTER AND SENT ME THERE?

That's 10 minutes, but I don't want to risk forgetting about the other part of the story that bugs me: the telling it in flashback part.  This has been bothering me all year, since I read The Last Summer Of The Camperdowns, which otherwise was a very good book, and now when I read It, and both of the stories do the same thing: they present a story in which the main character faces mortal danger, but the story is being told by that character in a flashback.

In Camperdowns, the main character is an adult and remembers when she was 11 and various terrible things happened, including a guy trying to murder her.  A kid goes missing in their neighborhood and she suspects the guy and the guy is harassing her and tormenting her and we are seemingly to believe that he means her no good, but the fact that she is an adult looking back removes every bit of suspense from the story.  And I thought well maybe suspense wasn't really the point except I'm pretty sure it was.

Then there's It, where I am sure suspense is the point.  The story is told in flashbacks back-and-forth: present day (i.e. 1985) Derry, and 1957 Derry, when the main characters first became aware there is a monster.  Each kid in 1957 is introduced also as an adult, and then we flash back to 1957 where they all ran into the monster, and there are plenty of scenes where the monster is after them, scenes which could be very suspenseful and terrifying except that we already know each of these kids survives their own particular brush with the monster in 1957, and now have to come back to fight the monster in 1985.

I keep thinking, as I listen to it, how much better the book would be if I didn't know the kids survive.  I mean, it's bad enough when you're reading a horror story or watching a movie and you know, intellectually, that the main character will survive, because they are the main character, but at least your face isn't rubbed in it by telling the story in flashback.

Anyway, this all makes it sound like the book is no good, and in fact it's really very good. I'm enjoying it a lot.  That's kind of a testament to how great King is when he's on, because a book with those kind of significant flaws has to be really awesome to make it over those hurdles.  Still, how much better would it be if I didn't have to work so hard to get to the parts of the book that don't suck?

That's 10 21 minutes.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

I thought Mr F would like the one where they said he had to spread out like a starfish, but it turns out he'd rather not spread out like a starfish. Who knew?

Today we took the boys to yoga class.  It was Sweetie's idea, the yoga class, but (as we agreed on the way over there) it would be hard for her choice of outing to be less fun than two other loser trips I'd picked out this year, Festge Park and the trolley.

Festge Park was supposed to be a lot of fun.  Scenic overlook, playground, nature trail, the guide said, and also I'd driven by the park, which sits up on this bluff-type area, many many times over the last 17 years since I became a lawyer, and in particular a lawyer who had to drive periodically to Richland County, which is due west of us and which passes by the bluff where Festge Park is.  That trip -- to Richland County -- also used to include driving over my favorite bridge ever, only now the route has been moved to a new bridge, which is not my favorite.  You can still see my favorite, from the new bridge as you drive over it, but that is dangerous to do in that if you are driving over a bridge while trying to peer up the river at the other bridge, you're likely to drive into the Wisconsin River, which is one of the deadliest rivers around.  In all seriousness: people die in that river almost on a weekly basis.

Anyway, the real fun was in driving over the bridge, not in driving past it from miles away.

Festge Park actually had all three of those things. But the 'scenic overlook' was being monopolized by two teenagers who were making out, and that was hard to overlook.  (Get it?) while the playground was mostly under construction, except for an amazingly old set of horse-glider swings and a Merry-Go-Round, which you don't see much at playgrounds anymore, probably because of lawyers.  The nature trail, meanwhile, dead-ended in a cornfield and after that you had to walk back a half-mile along a road which led by a house that appeared to be all boarded up but which housed one of those dogs that emits bloodcurdling barks the entire time you walk by the house.  The kind of bark that sounds like the dog wants to kill you but has the last victim's femur bone stuck in its throat.

Not a great choice.

Yoga went better.  For Sweetie and Mr Bunches, anyway. It was yoga for special needs kids, and I was teamed up with Mr F despite Sweetie bragging that Mr F tends to listen to her more than to me.  It's true.  But she got Mr Bunches, so she got to do bridges and tree pose and "dragon," which is a real pose, while I got to try to wrestle Mr F into the roof pose and then chase him back when he wanted to go get his breathing ball again.

I am pretty sure you're not supposed to sweat as much as I did at yoga. You're probably also not supposed to wear plaid shorts, but we all have to make choices in life and I have made the choice to lead the kind of life where I only own one pair of athletic shorts, and those were still wet from swimming in Lake Mendota yesterday with Mr F and Mr Bunches when we walked out on Picnic Point, on a nature walk that was blessedly short of killer dogs, teens making out, and merry-go-rounds. It did have a beach labeled DANGER DO NOT SWIM, but that was okay because we found another beach and there were no warnings there, so SWIM AWAY.

Mr Bunches liked yoga, a lot.  He was not terribly good at 'tree pose,' where you have to hold your hands up in a "V" while balancing on one foot and tucking the other against your ankle, but he was able to do lots of them, and the rest of the group seemed to like Mr Bunches' sheer enthusiam, calling out the names of each pose and getting all excited.  Mr Bunches loves everything.  Even yoga.

We decided we'd go to the next one.  I can always use the workout, eventually Mr F might calm down and let our team do more than three poses in a row, and Mr Bunches liked it so much that we'd have signed him up for classes, if you had to sign up for them.