Friday, January 30, 2015

A Song in My Heart (It Should’ve Stayed There): A Little Traveling Music

Now that my daughter is attending UC Santa Cruz, I have decided that my trips up there are going to be my excuse to visit the great old book and record stores they have up there. Actually, do they even call them record stores anymore? Even CDs are passé these days. Passé or not, I’ve decided I should use the opportunity to buy some CDs of my favorite LPs that I haven’t been able to listen to in a good long while.

On my most recent trip earlier this month, I picked up American Pie by Don McLean, Graceland by Paul Simon, and Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band’s concert album, Nine Tonight. “American Pie” was Don McLean’s biggest hit and, at eight-and-a-half minutes, is one of the longest songs to reach number one. It’s always been one of my favorite songs and I knew all the words by heart by time I was in junior high (or most of them anyway; there was no Internet at the time to give me a definitive ruling on the “Landed foul on the grass” lyric). Understanding the various references to the music of decade or so following the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper (which actually has since become known as “The Day the Music Died”)—the King, the Jester, Lenin (or possibly Lennon) reading a book on Marx, Sergeants playing a marching tune, the Byrds eight miles high and their fallout shelter, Jack Flash sitting on a candlestick, and on and on—came bit by bit over the subsequent years.
"The angels guide my every tread/ My enemies are sick or dead/ But all the victories I've led/ Haven't brought you to my bed"

The album also includes “Vincent,” McLean’s other hit. Sometimes known as “Starry, Starry Night,” it was about Vincent van Gogh. I’d always thought it was a pretty song, but now find myself liking it even more since watching the Doctor Who episode, “Vincent and the Doctor.”
I cried too.

The rest of the album is a collection of 70 male vocalist soft rock ditties, some light (“Winterwood”), some dark (“The Grave”); good, but not great. Except for “Everybody Loves Me, Baby (What’s the matter with you?).” Now that song is made of sheer fun and deserves the title of “Greatest Love Song Sung by a Megalomaniac.” (Jonathan Coulton's “Skullcrusher Mountain” deserves recognition in this category too.)

I used to have Graceland on a cassette, which made it handy for the car. On CD, it is once again handy for the car. The song “Graceland” is such a great road trip song, especially through places like U.S. 101 through the hill-cradled farmlands south Monterey County or, as the song itself cites, the Mississippi Delta. The rhythm and the lyrics just nail the feeling of going somewhere for any number of reasons, but mostly for the sake of just going somewhere.
"These are the days of miracle and wonder"

Paul Simon is a songwriter with a particular knack for lyrics that stick with you like “How we look to a distant constellation that’s dying in a corner of the sky” or
“Along come a young girl, she's pretty as a prayerbook
Sweet as an apple on Christmas day
I said good gracious can this be my luck
If that's my prayerbook Lord let us pray”
Likewise, there are also memorable characters like “Fat Charlie the Archangel” and the “Girl in New York City who calls herself the Human Trampoline.” (And sometimes when I’m falling, flying, or tumbling in turmoil I say, “Whoa, so this is what she means.”)
Nine Tonight is a mashup of two 1980 Bob Seger concerts, one in Detroit and one in Boston. It’s a great album but it struck me as a little strange hearing him tell the audience how great it is to be back in Boston and then singing about northern Michigan summertime a few songs later. In any event, both audiences add a lot of excitement and energy to the record.
"Now sweet sixteen's turned [51] ... Come back baby, rock and roll never forgets!"
 I have for a long time maintained that the very best Bob Seger songs are either about rock and roll (namely, “Old Time Rock & Roll” and “Rock and Roll Never Forgets”) or are about a girl he might have loved but didn’t realize it until it was too late. The latter category includes “Night Moves,” “Roll Me Away,” and “Brave Strangers.” I also include “Hollywood Nights,” which was a bout a girl the guy didn’t realize he shouldn’t love until it was too late. These are songs that may make you think of a particular person from your past and put a smile on your face. It may be a wistful smile or it may be a relieved one, but you’ll smile nonetheless.
“So we walked out, hardly speaking, disappearing in the night
Saw each other a few times after, but we never really got it right
We weren’t lovers, just brave strangers…”
The last four songs on the Nine Tonight CD fall into one of these two categories: “Night Moves,” “Rock and Roll Never Forgets,” “Let It Rock” originally by Chuck Berry and turned up to eleven for the concert audience, and finally a concert version of “Brave Strangers” that I hadn’t even known existed before I read the back of the CD case.
Flying along Route 46 in the afternoon from Paso Robles to Lost Hills, singing as loudly and badly as I feel like; there are times when music is just perfect. I do love me a road trip.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

There Ain’t No Money in Fanfic: Post-Legend of Korra Avatar Pitch

And that’s a wrap. Korrasami is canon. Totally called that (along with about forty bajillion other people) and creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko (Bryke to their fans) have indicated that they’re ready to move on to projects not related to the Avatar universe.
I was onboard with this from season two. Mako was such a jerk to both Korra and Asami. He didn't mean to be and he's become a better person since then, but it was not a thing that was going to happen. Bolin was always just oo much of a goofball and needed someone with more patience than Korra. It had to be Asami.


I guess it’s up to me.
Flash forward eighty-five years in the future. Korra has died peacefully at a ripe old age. At that moment, somewhere in the world, a new Avatar, an Earth Bender, is born. But it’s going to be a long time before she’s ready to take over the job, assuming the White Lotus can even find her and train her. A lot can happen in fifteen years with no one at the helm.
“Built on top of Spirit Vines spreading from Republic City, the Spirit Net allows instantaneous communication around the world. Now powerful interests seek to control the Spirit Net and the world’s commerce, money and information. Once again, the world is in danger of falling out of balance.”
She’s just a nerd girl from the Earth Kingdom starting a summer internship as a silicon bender at her father’s corporation. Sure, she’s an Earth Bender and she had some training in gym class, but she never had much aptitude for all that martial arts stuff. Likewise, she’s not much interested in politics and all these “Occupy Republic City” protesters her father’s always complaining about. She just wants to hang out online with her friends, play online games and fangirl over the latest fantasy-adventure series.
But what’s with these untraceable emails from whitelotus.org? And what’s with these dreams?
And who are the cyber benders and what are they doing in the Spirit Realm?
Let’s pitch this as the Avatar meets The Matrix. So my vision of the next Avatar is someone who’s a little bit Sheska from Fullmetal Alchemist and Marigold Farmer from Questionable Content. Her social skills are fine as long as she’s online; face-to-face, a bit less so. Despite being a natural at earth bending, she’s never had much interest in it. Likewise, her high IQ is just a means to get through her schoolwork faster so she has more time for MMORPGs. The twist no one knows about is that the MMORPGs she plays on the Spirit Net are actually in the Spirit World and she doesn’t even realize she’s entering the Avatar state to play them.
Unlike Korra, who wanted to be the Avatar from the time she was a toddler, this one needs some convincing. She’s able to talk to Korra at some point (the only previous Avatar available now) but they’re coming at their shared destiny from very different perspectives.
 
Sheska is an obsessive reader and has a photographic memory of everything she reads and gets hired to reproduce the entire collection of a burned library.
 
Marigold is more comfortable in her room online until she finally gets a boyfriend.
Quotes: “How m’any times do I have to explain this? I’m not an avatar! I’m the Avatar! Deal with it. They don’t make an app for this!”
“I’m also an Air Bender. That means I control the Cloud!”
If that goes well, let’s jump 114 years into the future from there. This time, the White Lotus has the plan in place for maintaining balance during the downtime between active reincarnations. They find the new Avatar, a Fire Bender, train him up right and give him the people and resources to do his job right.
He’s an older Avatar with several successes behind him and a loyal ensemble of benders and non-benders to help him troubleshoot. This time the trouble is on a neighboring planet where colonies are being established. The planet doesn’t have much going for it other than an atmosphere that smells like a laundry hamper, shallow puddles, algae, and various small mollusks and crustaceans. But something is affecting the benders among the colonists. Could it be that the planet has an Avatar of its own?
I would never pitch this as Avatar meets the Avatar.
And then, if that works out, maybe we can take Avatar: The Next Air Bender out among the stars.
“Weak nuclear forces. Strong nuclear forces. Electromagnetism. Gravity. Only the Cosmic Avatar can master all four…"
Bryke, call me.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

But Enough About Me: State of the Blog

     So, this is the first anniversary of Tales of the Boojum: The Blog, give or take a day. Overall, I’ve kept to my theme of “middle-aged nerd writes about stuff,” though that was a pretty low bar. Posting a couple times a month turned out to be more than I was willing to commit to, but I did manage to hit once a month (though typically on the last day of the month in a finishing-homework-on-the-bus fashion). August’s “Song Title Game” was sort of a cheat, since it was something that had been lying around for a while even if it was something I’d been meaning to share. Likewise, July’s “Stuff I Wish I’d Said” was kind of dashed out at the last minute though it amused me and I am pleased with it. There’s always stuff I wish I’d said.
     Since last year, I added Comics Alliance and The Mary Sue to my list of favorite blogs there on the right and removed Fraggmented and The Mighty Godking, which, while still good, update even less frequently than I do. That’s some pretty weak sauce. I’ve got one or two more in mind that I might add. I’ve also been wanting to add a list of my favorite web comics, but there are so many to choose from.
     Looking back, I have achieved my goal of writing more. (Fortunately, cultivating actual readership was not one of my goals.) I wrote a lot of different stuff from throw-away fiction and comedy bits to reviews to painstakingly researched essays. I feel like I've done some good work, at least good enough that I can still continue to think of myself as a writer. So, yay.
     Coming up, I’d like to do more exploration of tropes, comics, and fanfic (and combinations thereof). The main thing is that I’m enjoying myself, so I should keep doing it.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

There Ain’t No Money in Fanfic: Dumptruk’s Sweet Sixteen

I found myself skimming through Google Groups the other day and discovered that last month marked an anniversary. A couple anniversaries, actually, as the month of September 1998 is when I posted my first two fanfics to the alt.games.diablo Usenet newsgroup. Social media—a term that had yet to be coined—was in some ways very different from what we have today and, in others, very similar. For one thing, Usenet newsgroups were generally text only. “Text only” meaning “text only,” not “I’ll tweet this HD clip of a squirrel doing a cute thing.” Because of the limits of technology at the time, i.e., dial-up modems that could typically handle 28.8 kbps or less, downloading image or—heaven forbid—video or audio files to a discussion group took a long time and was considered bad netiquette. Some folks out there were paying for their connection time by the minute. (If you wanted to share cat pictures or porn, there were dedicated newsgroups for those things for those who had the patience and/or connection speed.)
The way in which it was like today was that it comprised communities of people from around the world bantering, discussing, and joking about a common interest. In this case, the common interest was Blizzard’s computer game Diablo and the community was alt.games.diablo (or AGD to us regulars) whose colorful membership included a woman who it turned out I went to high school with and a guy named Mickey who ended up selling his URL to Disney for a pretty tidy sum (it was the very early days of the Internet).
 
Anyway, it was during a discussion about barbarian characters and whether or not they should use magic that AGD regular Dalai Lama posted his short story, “Belchard’s Philosophy.” I had two reactions to it. The first was “That was a really great story!” The second was “Wait a second. We can write stories?”


Not this guy (at least, as far as I know)

So, on September 2, 1998, I posted “Dumptruk Meets a Soul Burner” to AGD along with an apology for the excessive file size of 12 KB (it was the very early days of the Internet).
Here it is, old enough to get its driver’s license and annotated for your reading pleasure.
“Dumptruk Meets a Soul Burner” [1]
The hot air stank of scorched flesh and ash. It was, at the same time, unbreathably thin and oppressively heavy. The ground crunched underfoot like millions of tiny bones or insects, and was the color of an infected bruise. The walls seemed carved from the bones of some great beast. Given all that, it hadn’t surprised Dumptruk [2] in the least when, after describing the above to Caine [3], Caine had explained that Dumptruk had crossed a dimensional barrier and literally entered Hell.
 
And then there were its denizens. Great sword-wielding serpents who reared-up as tall as the ogres of his homeland. Vicious armored warriors who exploded in black flames when slain. And then there were the succubi. At least, that’s what Caine had called them. Dumptruk accepted the strange new word; he didn’t feel comfortable referring to the evil creatures as “women” despite their obvious female appearance. The kind-hearted Gillian and her ailing grandmother were women. His mother, who had firmly and lovingly raised him and his fourteen brothers, was a woman. Dumptruk would have killed any man who dared put his mother in the same class as these creatures. Likewise, Dumptruk didn’t think it fair to call them witches even though they cast spells. That strange ageless woman across the river was a witch. Visiting her hut always made Dumptruk a little edgy, but she always seemed glad to buy the books, scrolls and staves he found. [4] He had to trust her to deal with him fairly since he had no idea what kind of squiggles made one book or scroll more valuable than another. She was also willing to buy those strange blue potions he sometimes found. [5] Dumptruk had tried one once. It had made him feel itchy and restless as if there were something inside him straining to get out. It also made him a little horny. Caine had explained that many sorcerers literally lived on the blue potion. If true, it only reaffirmed Dumptruk’s life-long philosophy: Never turn your back on a sorcerer. In any event, Dumptruk never felt inclined to try one of those potions again.
Dumptruk was running as fast as he could in the choking air. Ahead of him was a retreating succubus. [6] She and her sisters had ambushed him, blasting away with bursts of red and golden energy. Although the lights were pretty, they stung when they hit. Dumptruk was certain they would do a lot more than sting if they ever caught him without the ridiculous armor he wore.
 
Despite being full plate, the armor was virtually weightless. It was black-and-white, just like a heifer. [7] It also had a giant metal udder that protruded from the stomach and clanged whenever he walked. The man who had given Dumptruk the armor had been dressed as a cow himself. He had given Dumptruk the Bovine Plate in exchange for a moose suit Dumptruk had found. Dumptruk had met stranger individuals on his travels, but not many.
Dumptruk had taken the armor to Caine who told him that the Bovine Plate was forged from pure mananite. After patiently explaining that mananite was a type of metal, not a tribe of farmers who wore black and led simple lives according to their religious beliefs, [8] Caine went on to say that the armor’s strength came from absorbing magical energy—mana—from its surroundings. Over many years it had absorbed enough mana to become indestructible and harder than the shell of an ancient dragon turtle. It would even blunt the power of magical attacks aimed at its wearer. Despite this, the armor had not been well-crafted. Its maker had forgotten to enchant the armor not to absorb mana from the wearer. Caine had gravely informed Dumptruk that he would be unable to cast spells in the armor. Dumptruk had just shrugged.
 
(Actually, Dumptruk did have a magic power. He had acquired it after investigating an ornate shrine [9] in the dungeon. He found he could generate small balls of lightning that would travel along the ground like glowing white drunken spiders. He briefly entertained the idea of assuming a new identity as a warrior-mage, but dropped the idea for two reasons: A) it wasn’t a very effective spell; it was just adequate for cooking small animals for dinner. B) Someone pointed out that the name “Lightning Balls” was unlikely to strike fear into the hearts of his enemies. Dumptruk had finally given up the spell altogether after he nearly set Pepin’s hut on fire trying to race two of the charged bolts across the village square.)
After Caine had finished describing the armor at great length, Dumptruk took it to Griswold. The poor craftsmanship enraged the Master Blacksmith. In fact, Dumptruk hadn’t seen Gris so angry since Wirt had concocted a scam wherein he tried to convince the town that he was really Griswold’s illegitimate son. “Mad Cow Armor!” Griswold had snorted. On general principle, he refused to offer Dumptruk more than 100 gold pieces for the armor, so Dumptruk kept it. [10]
 
Dumptruk was gaining on the succubus. She was the last one. In each corner of the stygian chamber, one of her sisters lay dead. The demonesses were plenty brave shooting at Dumptruk from a distance, but they had little appetite for hand-to-hand combat. He had painstakingly chased each one into a corner and brained her with Gnarled Root while her sisters enjoyed free shots at his back. Even with the Bovine Plate (which, due to another design flaw, glowed like a roaring campfire and made him an easy target), Dumptruk probably could not have survived such a concentrated assault from the succubi if not for another artifact he wore.

The Bovine Plate, Leoric's Crown, and Gnarled Root

Dumptruk was quite fond of Gillian. Not only did she faithfully store the extra treasure, potions and magic items he found, but she was pretty, unconditionally polite and charming to everyone she encountered; and would not have lasted three seconds in a real fight. There was something about her that filled Dumptruk with the need to protect her from stray dogs and strange men. So when she told him about a grave matter in the old crypt, he promised to check it out for her.
What he had found instead was a huge chunk of glowing masonry. Remembering what Gillian had said about leaving an offering, Dumptruk dropped a magic bow on the block. It was, according to Caine, a very powerful weapon, but Dumptruk had never been much of an archer. As soon as Dumptruk let go of the bow, a booming voice began babbling about a year of golden light or some nonsense and nearly scared Dumptruk out of his armor. [11]
 
When Dumptruk returned, after the voice had finally shut up, the bow was gone, and, in its place, was a battered crown forged from a heavy metal.
Caine identified the crown as that of their tragically lost king, Leoric. A curse had fallen upon the crown and, when Dumptruk wore it in battle, he wanted to kill and kill until nothing was left standing. In other words, it wasn’t much different than not wearing it. Interestingly, each time he landed a blow upon an enemy, the crown would make him feel stronger. Dumptruk’s wounds would close as if the crown was somehow causing the life force to drain from his enemies into him. Actually, the bloodlust that the crown inspired in him concerned Dumptruk. He was glad he worked alone, because he could easily imagine the crown’s thirst for blood causing him to turn on an ally before he could stop himself. Likewise, he also worried that it might lead him to charge into an overwhelming situation and get killed. There was nothing to do about that, other than to just try and be careful. The crown’s benefits still outweighed its risks.
 
The succubus had gotten far enough ahead of Dumptruk to stop and fire off a shot. A sun-yellow burst exploded to Dumptruk’s right. Dumptruk knew it was his right because that was the hand he used to wield his weapon. The spiked club hadn’t looked promising at first when Dumptruk killed a giant acid-spitting spider for it, but he quickly changed his mind after Caine had identified and analyzed it for him. Caine had identified it as Gnarled Root and Dumptruk found he could hit three times as hard with it as he could with any other weapon he found. That was hard enough to kill any enemy with a single blow, assuming he got a good hit. Why someone would want to drive a few nails through an old piece of a tree stump and then dip the whole thing in an iron-mananite alloy was beyond Dumptruk, but why argue with success? It probably made more sense than using up a half-million gold pieces worth of mananite to forge a 100 gp suit of Mad Cow Armor.
The succubus—the yellow energy blast told Dumptruk that she was a Soul Burner—had run into a corner. As Dumptruk raised Gnarled Root over his head to strike her down, she turned to face him and Dumptruk hesitated. [12] She was beautiful. Her night-black hair framed an unblemished heart-shaped face that was at once girlish and womanly. Her expression showed both vulnerability and a promise of everything that she was willing to share with him if he spared her. Dumptruk spared a glance at her ample bare breasts. Whether she was out of breath from the chase or whether her breathlessness was part of her offer, Dumptruk couldn’t tell. In either case, it was almost enough to allow him to overlook the tiny horns protruding from her forehead. To sample those charms, he might be able to ignore the furiously beating little wings that grew from her shoulder blades.
 
(Dumptruk often wondered about the wings. They were bat-like, but beat like a hummingbird’s. They were far too small to carry the succubi in flight. Perhaps, he theorized, they permitted the succubi to run across uneven ground in those high-heeled boots they seemed to favor. Or maybe they acted as a counterbalance to their prodigious chests. Or perhaps, in whatever strange and dark dimension the succubi called home, they actually could fly.)
Dumptruk didn’t like killing the succubi anyway. They were too pretty, too human-looking. Not that Dumptruk had any problem killing any man or monster who came at him in battle, but killing these scantily-clad opponents seemed somehow dishonorable. Even knowing their true nature, it still felt like beating up on a bunch of girls. Dumptruk had taken to loudly humming a drinking ditty he knew whenever he battled succubi. The tune masked their screams and the sickening sounds of their skulls caving in or rib cages shattering.
 
Dumptruk started to lower Gnarled Root. Perhaps it would work: Her love for him would ease his loneliness. His love for her would restore her humanity. Then he stopped.
It wasn’t that he noticed the yellow-white energy arcing between her slender fingertips as she charged-up to blast him at point-blank range that stopped him. No, Dumptruk had gotten a good look into her eyes. No lights were on, and no one was home.
 
There was nothing remotely human in those eyes. If there ever had been, it had died cold and alone a long, long time ago. A drunken tryst with an ugly stranger in a filthy alley would be more desirable than coupling with this creature. Even joining with one of the cows in the field would have returned Dumptruk more love and meaning.
Dumptruk raised Gnarled Root again. This time, he didn’t have to hum.
 
[1]       I later retitled it “Dumptruk’s Temptation” because I thought it would be nice for the piece to have a title that didn’t stink.
[2]       Dumptruk was named for a non-player character in a college Dungeons & Dragons campaign who was a hill giant under the thrall of a weretiger/sorceress.
[3]       I misspelled this character’s name. There’s no “e” on the end. Anyway, in the game, Cain was the Exposition Guy and he was voiced by an actor who seemed to be doing a not-terrible impression of Sean Connery.
[4]       Gillian and Adria were two more town NPCs in Diablo. Adria, the witch, bought and sold magic staves, potions, and books and also sent you on a side quest. Gillian, the barmaid, didn’t do much of anything. I used to store my excess inventory near her cottage.
[5]       Mana potions, for restoring one’s magic powers. Assuming you had magic powers to restore. The Barbarian character class, developed but not fully implemented in Sierra’s official expansion to Diablo, Hellfire, had a base magic ability of zero, so mana potions and spell books were not much use to him. (You could activate the Barbarian test character by writing and adding a short text file to the game’s directory.)
[6]       Succubi were monsters encountered in the final third of Diablo. They were scantily clad babes with horns and little bat wings who hunted in packs and fought as snipers, shooting bolts of magic energy. If your character was a hand-to-hand combatant like Dumptruk, it was pretty much like bringing a sword to a gunfight.
[7]       Well, actually, a Holstein. The Bovine Plate and the NPC who provided it figured heavily in a lot of my other Diablo fanfics.
[8]       Boom. Pun.
[9]       It was a thing in Diablo, literally called an “Ornate Shrine.” If you touched it, it granted you the ability to cast a Charged Bolt spell, but it was a weak level-one spell.
[10]     Griswold bought, repaired, and sold weapons and armor. He had a Scottish accent that somebody obviously had fun doing. Wirt was a shady character who would sell you random magic items of dubious quality, but it cost 50 gold pieces to even see his inventory. He was the NPC everyone loved to hate.
[11]     This was a tool for swapping items between characters in the Hellfire add-on. That way, if you were playing as a Sorcerer and you found a really cool sword or something, you could drop it off at the “Cornerstone of the World” where it would be available for your Warrior to pick up next time you played as that character.
[12]     This was the in-game genesis of this story. I was playing, much as described in the story, when my Barbarian came face-to-face with a Soul Burner. They stood there like that for a moment and I wondered what passed between them.


 
"So... Come here often?"
 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I Love Web Comics: The Ensign Sue Trilogy

I’ve cited Interrobang Studio’s Sue Trilogy (written by Clare Moseley and art by Kevin Bolk) a few times in my discussions of the Mary Sue tropes, so now, as the story is winding to its conclusion, I thought I’d post a review. Billed as a “Trek-tastic Parody,” this is a web comic that is full of things that I love. It’s got Star Trek, it’s got Doctor Who, and it’s full of nerdy references and inside jokes that I can appreciate even when I don’t get them. I love playing with tropes and this comic certainly does that.
Kevin Bolk’s caricatures of the nu-Trek crew, all the incarnations of the Doctor, Sherlock Holmes, and a vast array of other fan favorites are cute, clean, simple, instantly recognizable (including both Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy as Spock), and impressively expressive. Clare Moseley’s dialog is funny and pitch-perfect; you can hear the actors’ voices in every speech bubble including McCoy’s wisecracks and or Tom Baker’s Doctor in conversation with Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock; even when Kirk calls Spock a jerk.
Book 1, Ensign Sue Must Die! Takes place shortly after the end of 2009’s Star Trek movie with the arrival on the Enterprise of the ship’s new medical officer Ensign Mary Amethyst Star Enoby Aiko Archer Picard Janeway Sue (what? No Sisko?). Ensign Sue has flowing blonde hair with an exotic streak of color and a beauty mark on her cheek that seems to change from panel to panel. Ditto with her eye color. She also favors fishnet stockings. It’s not just that Ensign Sue lives in her own little world, she believes everyone else lives in it too and no one on the crew seems to be able to get rid of her. Even beaming her through an ion storm only results in an encounter with Ensign Sue’s evil but equally self-absorbed counterpart from the “Mirror Mirror” universe. Spock Prime (played in the movies by Leonard Nimoy) finally provides the solution to the nu-Trek crew by pointing them to a Star Trek trope that’s even bigger than Mary Sue.
Book 2, Ensign Two: The Wrath of Sue, opens with the arrival of the Doctor (Number 10, played by David Tennant) aboard the Enterprise. The Doctor grimly informs Kirk and Spock that in ridding themselves of Ensign Sue, they’ve only managed to unleash her on the rest of the multiverse. He solicits the Enterprise crew to help him track down and capture the various Sue incarnations across different dimensions. What follows is a romp through the worlds of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Marvel Universe, the DC Universe, Harry Potter, and others where each time another Sue incarnation has disrupted the fabric of reality. The Doctor and the Enterprise crew capture the Sues, including the original Ensign Sue, never realizing until it’s too late that they’re being manipulated by the sinister power behind the Sues. Book 2 ends on a cliffhanger with the tables turned, most of the crew captured, and Kirk floored by an unsettling piece of news.
Then in Book 3, Ensign3 Crisis of Infinite Sues, things really start to get nuts. As of this writing, the story is still ongoing with the last page scheduled to be posted on the web site sometime in December. However, you can order all three books in full-color dead-tree format from Interrobang’s store like I did and read all the way to the end ahead of time. While $30 for all three books is pretty pricey for the raw materials you get back, the real value is in the story. I’ve already reread them a few times and will probably continue to do so as long as they’re sitting out. So, yeah. Worth it.
Tragically, the books do not include this sublime poster.

There’s a lot to love about this series. There are enough nerdy Easter eggs and cameos to appeal to fans of just about everything. The comments accompanying each page are also always a good read. Genuine laugh-out-loud funny moments are reliably frequent, but then Moseley and Bolk and turn around and hit you right in the feels. (I’m sure it was just a little dusty in the room when I got to the end of Book 3.) The shout outs to Paula Smith, who coined the term “Mary Sue,” were also very cool. Finally, like any good satire, the Sue trilogy makes you think; in this case, about what makes a character a Mary Sue or how even the shallowest character can grow to have interesting depths.
The Sue Trilogy begins here with Ensign Sue Must Die! and updates Fridays. I choose to believe that the events chronicled here actually happened between Star Trek and Star Trek into Darkness.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Song in My Heart (It Should've Stayed There): The Song Title Game


Here’s a little game I’ve been playing with my brain. I got the idea from this page of Between Failures where some of the characters play the same game using movie titles.
 

Objective:
Link as many song titles together as possible, matching the last word of the song title with the first word of the next song title.
Rules:
  1. You need song title and you must identify an artist.
  2. Songs must be songs that you know and/or part of your personal music collection. No Googling all songs that end with “love” and all songs that begin with “love.” You’re on the honor system. (If challenged or unsure of a title or artist, you may look it up, but it has to be a song you thought of on your own.)
  3. You may link a singular word with a plural, compound word, or longer word that contains the word in question. For example:
     
    a.   “Dust in the Wind” to “Winds of Change”
     
    b.   “Love the One You’re With” to “Within You Without You.”
     
    c.   Technically, “Blue Bayou” to “Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher” would be legal, but come on. Really?
     
    On the other hand, I just went from “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” to “Funeral for a Friend,” so, whatever.
  4. More than one word is okay too, e.g., “Play the Game” to “The Game of Love.”
  5. Variations or covers of the same song do not count as separate songs.
  6. Different songs with the same title are legal; however, you may not list them consecutively (e.g., “Crazy,” “Crazy,” and “Crazy” by Patsy Cline, Seal, and Aerosmith doesn’t give you three in a row).
Here's the list I've come up with so far:
  1. And You and I                                                                       Yes 
  2. I Wouldn’t Want to be Like You                                            Alan Parsons Project 
  3. You Don’t Know What It’s Like                                            The Bee Gees 
  4. Like a Rolling Stone                                                               Bob Dylan 
  5. Stone Cold Crazy                                                                   Queen 
  6. Crazy                                                                                     Patsy Cline 
  7. Crazy Little Thing Called Love                                              Queen 
  8. Love the One You’re With                                                     Stephen Stills 
  9. With or Without You                                                             U2 
  10. You Never Give Me Your Money                                          The Beatles 
  11. Money                                                                                   Pink Floyd 
  12. Money for Nothing                                                                Dire Straits 
  13. Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now                                              Starship 
  14. Now I’m Here                                                                        Queen 
  15. Here I Am                                                                              Air Supply 
  16. I am a Rock                                                                           Simon and Garfunkel 
  17. Rock and Roll Over You                                                       Moody Blues 
  18. You and I                                                                               Queen 
  19. I Love Rock and Roll                                                             Joan Jett 
  20. Roll to Me                                                                              Del Amitri 
  21. Me, Myself and I                                                                   Scandal’Us 
  22. I Do I Do I Do                                                                       ABBA 
  23. Do You Love Me                                                                   The Contours 
  24. Me, Myself and I                                                                   Beyoncé 
  25. I Want It All                                                                           Queen 
  26. All You Need is Love                                                            The Beatles 
  27. Love Me Like a Rock                                                            Paul Simon 
  28. Rock and Roll Music                                                             Chuck Berry 
  29. Music was My First Love                                                       John Miles 
  30. Love to Love You Baby                                                        Donna Summer 
  31. Baby Love                                                                             The Supremes 
  32. Love Me Do                                                                           The Beatles 
  33. Do You Know Where You’re Going To                                Diana Ross 
  34. To Sir With Love                                                                   Lulu 
  35. Love Child                                                                             Diana Ross 
  36. Child in Time                                                                         Deep Purple 
  37. Time                                                                                      Alan Parsons Project 
  38. Time After Time                                                                    Cyndi Lauper 
  39. Time                                                                                      Pink Floyd 
  40. Time of the Season                                                                The Zombies 
  41. Seasons in the Sun                                                                 Terry Jacks 
  42. Sun King                                                                                The Beatles 
  43. King of the Road                                                                   Roger Miller 
  44. Roadhouse Blues                                                                   The Doors 
  45. Blues Brothers Theme                                                            The Blues Brothers 
  46. Theme from Gilligan’s Island                                                Bowling for Soup 
  47. Island Girl                                                                              Elton John 
  48. Girl                                                                                        The Beatles 
  49. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun                                                    Cyndi Lauper 
  50. Fun, Fun, Fun                                                                        The Beach Boys 
  51. Fun It                                                                                     Queen 
  52. It Takes Two                                                                          Marvin Gaye/Kim Weston 
  53. 2 Become 1                                                                            Spice Girls 
  54. One                                                                                        Three Dog Night 
  55. One Fine Day                                                                         Chiffons 
  56. Day at the Beach                                                                    Joe Satriani 
  57. Beach Baby                                                                           The First Class 
  58. Baby Got Back                                                                      Sir Mix-a-lot 
  59. Back in Black                                                                        AC/DC 
  60. Black is Black                                                                        Los Bravos 
  61. Black Magic Woman                                                              Carlos Santana 
  62. Woman                                                                                  John Lennon 
  63. Woman in Love                                                                     Barbara Streisand 
  64. Love of My Life                                                                    Queen 
  65. Life’s Been Good                                                                  Joe Walsh 
  66. Good Lovin’                                                                          The Young Rascals 
  67. Lovin’ You                                                                            Minnie Riperton 
  68. (You Drive Me) Crazy                                                           Brittney Spears 
  69. Crazy                                                                                     Seal 
  70. Crazy for You                                                                        Madonna 
  71. You Never Can Tell                                                               Chuck Berry 
  72. Tell Her No                                                                            The Zombies 
  73. No Sugar Tonight                                                                   The Guess Who 
  74. Tonight, Tonight, Tonight                                                      Genesis 
  75. Tonight’s the Night                                                                Rod Stewart 
  76. The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia                             Vicki Lawrence 
  77. Georgia on My Mind                                                              Ray Charles 
  78. Mind Games                                                                          John Lennon 
  79. Games People Play                                                                Joe South 
  80. Play the Game                                                                        Queen 
  81. Games People Play                                                                Alan Parsons Project 
  82. Play that Funky Music                                                           Wild Cherry 
  83. Music of the Night                                                                 Andrew Lloyd Webber 
  84. The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down                                  The Band 
  85. Downtown                                                                             Petulia Clarke