Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thank you for being a friend: Teen Titans Go edition

All right.

In the latest episode of Teen Titans Go, Cyborg comes into possession of a Green Lantern ring, which he uses to create facsimiles of the Golden Girls

Well, of three of the Golden Girls. Where's Sophia?!

This is some Golden Palace level of bullshit right there.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Pray for Paris: An open letter about Syrian Refugees

A person I like and respect shared this post.

I disagree with this post strongly.

To speak more clearly, this post is grotesque. It's abhorrent. It's un-American. It is inhuman.

Let's take it by paragraph.

Katie Jones
November 16 at 8:38pm · Edited · 
Katie Jones: I am seeing lots of posts in favor of allowing the Syrian refugees to enter our country. I commend my friends on their desires to be kind and welcoming to all, but I'd like to pose a couple questions to you: Do you welcome every homeless person you encounter into your home for an unspecified amount of time? Do you stop and pick up every hitchhiker you pass on the highway and bring him/her into your home?

These are loaded questions.  They presuppose a number of things that are simply untrue. You might as well ask me if I’ve stopped beating my wife yet.

The answer, of course is that that the screening progress for refuges is already incredibly long and arduous.

From the Economist: Refugees apply for resettlement at American embassies or through the United Nations. If they pass that first hurdle, they are screened by outposts of the Department of State all over the world. They undergo investigations of their biography and identity; FBI biometric checks of their fingerprints and photographs; in-person interviews by Department of Homeland Security officers; medical screenings as well as investigations by the National Counter-terrorism Centre and by American and international intelligence agencies. The process may take as long as three years, sometimes longer. No other person entering America is subjected to such a level of scrutiny.

I would conclude that other people have already raised this point, because in one of your updates you say “who just want to be protected to the best of our nation's ability from those who wish to harm us. Searching databases for records that do not exist in order to determine whether a person is a threat or not is not the best of our nation's ability.” You dismiss this rather glibly. The rebuttal is that such screens would not have stopped the Paris attackers, either, who had only a history of petty crime prior to their perpetration of the massacre.
Katie Jones:  I am going to go out on a limb and say that you answered both of those questions no. I will guess that your reasoning behind that is because your parents taught you not to. And because you don't know these people, their mental state, or their possible criminal backgrounds. And because it's just not a safe thing to do. This does not make you a bad person. This does not make you xenophobic. This does not make you racist, a bigot or an elitist. This does not mean you are throwing your values and morals aside. It only means that you know there are other ways to help these people while still maintaining your personal safety and the safety of your family. For example, donating to cause specific charities or volunteering at a shelter.
I’ve addressed the first part of the question, that refugees face unparalleled levels of scrutiny compared to anyone else entering the country, so we do have a pretty good idea of who they are. I think most people would take in a guest they know quite well if that person had nowhere to go.

I don’t know you personally, so I can’t say if you’re xenophobic, or a racist or a bigot. I can say after reading what you have written here that what you are advocating makes you sound like a bad person.

What you’re proposing is counterproductive. It is exactly what the real terrorists want. It will make us less safe.They want us weak and afraid. They want their tiny and temporary fiefdom to be seen as a refuge, and when we turn away these displaced women and children, those refugees don’t have a lot of options and may well wind up back where they came from. It shows the victims that they’re helpless, and it’s a recruiting bonanza for the terrorists.
Katie Jones:  Lashing out at individuals who do not support the entrance of Syrian refugees into our country is basically telling us, your countrymen, friends and family, that you value their lives and safety over ours. And that is what I don't understand. Will you only care about us after an attack? Is that what it will take to prove to you that this isn't safe? Do you think it is impossible to help these people without bringing them across our borders?
It doesn't make it impossible to help them if we "pause"the admission process, but it certainly complicates a process that’s already extremely complicated, and it makes life more difficult for those who have already suffered profoundly.

I’m reluctant to make comparisons to the Nazis, because that tends to undermine the seriousness of an argument. But as no less an authority than the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum drew the same parallels, so I feel it apt.

 I learned about a man named Dave Gushee on Fred Clark’s blog. Gushee wrote a dissertation that was later expanded into a book called Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust .  In it, he explored why it was that some people, at great personal risk, helped their Jewish neighbors in Nazi-occupied Europe while the majority did not. Much of the study involves what he calls "boundaries of moral obligation." One such boundary, for many, was the fear of putting one's own family at risk in order to rescue a neighbor or a stranger from certain death. Many of those who remained bystanders did so due to a kind of "pro-family" ethic. They allowed a legitimate priority of moral obligation to become an illegitimate boundary of moral obligation.

This is my daughter. I love her more than anything else in the world, and I would do anything in the world to protect her. Do you see the shirt she’s wearing? She made it herself. It reads “Pray for Paris”, and it has flowers and a dove and a rising sun. We went to a vigil for those killed in the Paris attacks on Saturday, and she was deeply moved and wanted to do something. She wore it to school yesterday. What will be the effect of it? Probably nothing. She’ll feel better. But she’s doing more than you are, because she’s not rationalizing the bigotry, racism or xenophobia of those people who want to turn the refugees away.
Katie Jones:  I'd also like to share that I have not, by any means, been manipulated into my fear of this situation. This is not an imaginary threat created to gain public support of a political agenda. My fear is of terrorists who want nothing more from their life than to kill me and everyone one of you simply because we are Americans. Our blood is their greatest achievement and they will seek out that achievement by any means necessary. For example, posing as an innocent refugee seeking safety, just as one did to gain entrance to France in order to carry out the horrific Paris attacks. I will not allow you to shame me or anyone else who shares this fear and I'm greatly insulted by those who label my fear as anything else.
I absolutely believe that you’re afraid. But I don’t believe your fear is legitimate, and I do believe that you have been manipulated into it. To put it into the parlance of the intelligence community, their desire to kill you is more aspirational than operational, meaning they want to kill you, but the barriers preventing that are insurmountable to them.

Even if your fear were rational, making decisions based on fear, and apparently, nothing else, is a terrible way to live your life, and is monstrous way to go about crafting policy. It is the worst kind of cowardice, the kind that masquerades as conviction.
Katie Jones:  I care about each of you. I don't want to see any of you harmed in any way and I would do whatever I could to prevent that harm from happening. That includes asking and expecting our President to find a way to provide aid to Syrian refugees without exposing us to the evil of these terrorists.
Woah, woah, woah. How did we get from refugee to terrorists inside the same sentence?
Katie Jones:  Anyone who wishes to share this may do so. I'm not normally this politically outspoken, and to be honest, I was scared to voice my opinion tonight. But I encourage everyone to push past that fear and respectfully and kindly share their opinions and thoughts about this - because what's even scarier is what might happen if we don't.

No. I can’t respect the ignorance and cowardice that informed your post. You are wrong about everything you have written here.

Katie Jones:  To those who disagree: I kindly ask you to hold our elected officials to higher standards. We are blessed with the freedom and right to demand that they try harder. What harm can be done by demanding that in light of recent events, they reevaluate their plans and adjust accordingly? There has to be a safer way to help the refugees. I do not claim to know the answer, but then again, it's not my job to know the answer. That's their job. And it's not just their job, it's their duty. I hope you remember that.
I do hold them to higher standards. Higher than this. I will not ask my country to burn the innocent so that they may reach the guilty. If the United States takes the actions you suggest, innocent people are going to die, not so you can be more secure, but so you can feel like you are.
Katie Jones:  UPDATE 11/16 @ 11:39 PM CST: I never imagined this post would spread the way it has. I get a little braver with every like and share, and I hope you do too. Don't be ashamed for valuing our safety. Thank you for all your kind words and support!
UPDATE 11/17 @ 6:21 PM CST: Currently at 1,412 shares! I was floored when a few friends asked if they could share this, so I can't even begin to describe how shocked I am now! I am honored that so many of you have chosen to share my voice and stand with me on this issue. Before posting this, I felt slightly alone in my thoughts on this subject and even began to feel helpless in a way. Those feelings are long gone now thanks to the overwhelming support of each of you. Please remember to be kind and respectful to those with opposing views. I believe they care for us just as we care for them. No good will come from making enemies of each other. United we stand and divided we fall. Finally, I'd like to address the fact that I have been accused of hating Muslims and of being afraid of Islam. I assure you I am neither of these things. My love is for all people, from all nations, of all religions, of all genders and all ages. I do not assume all refugees are terrorists, and I don't believe anyone who shares this post assumes that either. There is a vast difference between wanting to stop an opportunity for terrorists to kill Americans and hating and discriminating against an entire religious following. I hope you begin to see us for what we really are - honest, hardworking, loving Americans who just want to be protected to the best of our nation's ability from those who wish to harm us. Searching databases for records that do not exist in order to determine whether a person is a threat or not is not the best of our nation's ability. 
UPDATE 11/18 @ 2:45 PM CST: I'm SPEECHLESS! I'm not sure why Facebook isn't showing anyone other than myself the total number of times this has been shared, but it shows me that it's currently been shared 9,678 TIMES! Thank you everyone for standing behind me! This is truly a humbling experience!
What do you think the odds are that you’ll be personally impacted by the actions of a terrorist? Keep in mind, almost all terrorism against Americans is domestic, our Timothy McVeighs.

By year, the number of  Americans killed by terrorism is usually in the low double digits. In good years, it falls to single digits. (In 2011, it was eight). You’re more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a terrorist. In the United States, we have a population of about a third of a billion people. The odds of being killed by a terrorist are 0.0000303% .Even in 2001, it was only 0.00140%.

 By comparison, the United Nations estimates more than a quarter million dead,  4 million registered and 1 million unregistered refugees abroad and 7 million internally displaced.

Earlier in the post, I pointed out the difference between a legitimate priority of moral obligation and an illegitimate boundary of moral obligation. You want to protect your loved ones. Of course you do. Everyone does. Calling to reject the refugees will not protect your family. But even if it did, it would not be the right thing to do, because any possible threat to your family represented by these refugees is infinitesimally tiny compared to the real and legitimate threat facing the refugees themselves.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Big Finish Audio Drama Capsule Reviews: Assassin in the Limelight, Criss Cross, Rat Trap

Assassin in the Limelight: I really enjoyed the Robert Knox mini-arc. Knox buys a bootleg TARDIS (a Type 70, compared to the Doctor's Type 40) and tries grifting his way through history.

This was a fun little episode. In the CD extras, the creators and performers are all unaccountably proud of their knowledge of American history, and their American accents. Lincoln's assassination is one of the most influential events in the history of the nation, and, as usual, no one involved with Big Finish can even approximate any kind of convincing American accent. Not that I don't like the story. I quite do. These just seemed to be odd things to be crowing about.

John Wilkes Booth is reading for “Oscar Wilde” (Knox uses the aliases of actual figures of the day) he's to assassinate Lincoln. The Doctor interrupts his rehearsal, Booth complains and the Doctor is like ”Busy day ahead?”

It had great lines like "Lincoln's Lonely hearts club band"

It’s a small thing, but I liked the differences of the CIA’s credo “The story changes, but the ending stays the same” to the fixed points in time of the new series, which always struck me as such a lazy device.

Rating: 4/5

Criss-Cross: Criss-Cross was pretty great too. It introduces Constance Clark. As Clark Kent, Bruce Banner or Peter Parker would tell you, alliterative names are the best. Each Doctor has a companion that brings out their best. For Six it was Evelyn. Maggie Stables is sadly no longer with us, and while Constance Clark fills the same role of an older, confident companion not afraid to speak her mind. She’s not a carbon copy, and frankly I think it would be offensive to Maggie’s memory if she were, but she hits enough of the same notes to evoke her. As I’ve said before, I’m happy with any character who’s not an ingĂ©nue from modern London, (Yes, Flip, I’m looking at you) and a WWII codebreaker is quite distinctive. (Now we just need to introduce her to Elizabeth Klein…)

Miranda Raison can’t do an American accent to save her life, but she’s fine with her natural accent (or something close to it). Also, I like the turn of phrase she used to describe the character “Brave, but without being annoying spiffy-spunky."

Doctor Who’s science is usually garbage, but this one actually had some heft. A plot point hinged on the fact that radio waves don’t travel well under water. It was a solid story in its own right, and a great Launchpad for a new companion.

Rating: 4/5

Rat trap (or Doctor Who and the rats of Nihm): This is a decent 5th Doctor story. He comes off looking decent, even though he doesn’t get a huge amount of time on stage. Hmmm...I see that I've used "decent" twice in a row, but that's the kind of tepid praise it inspires.

I think the big problem with the script is how literal everything is. The rats make human captives run in an oversized hamster wheel. That's a bit too on the nose for me.

Also, the Mara is probably the most interesting thing about Tegan, but man, can they go at least one story without mentioning it?

Rating: 2/5

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sky High: What a way to make a livin'

I don't think I'm unusual in having high hopes for a new campaign. It will be one for the history books, the campaign talked about in local role-playing circles for generations.

It’s going to be big and epic and serious.

And yet, they all turn into this.

We played this one a good month ago, but I didn’t get around to writing this out until just this morning.

To recap, Doctor Mordred was solidifying his control, the heroes still needed two components to repair the crashed Ewok ship and Summer had a big secret that was troubling her.

Asami told Zod and Amy that they would need to go undercover in one of Tony Stark’s factories, as part of a work study program with her company. Unfortunately the uniforms came in the wrong sizes, so Amy would have to disguise herself as a guy and Zod had to disguise himself as a woman.

Zod’s player is something of an Anglophile, so he had no problem with this ruse.

They had a strategy session in Zod’s bedroom with Raven. Zod’s player said the room was more or less decorated like I expected it. It was lit by black lights and had posters of Star Wars (original trilogy only), Mass Effect, the Baroness from GI Joe, Lex Luthor, Lois Lane and a Korra poster autographed by Janet Varney, who played Korra in the film adaptation of her real life adventures. It was signed: To Zod – Rock on in the spirit world. JV)

His pets includes monitor lizards, geckos, bunnies and tarantulas.

The meeting was going fine until Zod’s mother entered the room and saw “that brazen strumpet!” (Raven) leading her son astray. She kicked Raven out of the house and began wailing and wondering where she went wrong. She showed him an afterschool special to illustrate what would happen if he didn't get his life on track.

Amy went home to her aunt " Gertina “Gertie" Girthy, who was gaining weight. Amy suspected that she was returning to underground Sumo Wrestling again. (I'm not sure what Lily was going for there).

Asami sent a limo to drive our heroes to the plant. They had their initial interview. Amy took the role of “Bo Joshlemann” and was a hyperactive pest.

Zod was Olga Helmut, and Tony Stark was instantly smitten with her, and Pepper Potts was just as instantly jealous.

They went out on the floor and devised a plan to get the material they would need to repair the ship. It didn’t hurt that Tony was hopelessly smitten with Olga, and gave her the run of the place. Further aiding the heroes was the fact that Tony liked his giggle juice.

They got the materials out, and Tony was too busy barfing into his Iron Man helmet to notice. It turned out that the AI in the plant supplied the third component, so they were ready to repair the ship.

Then Summer dropped the bombshell. She had learned from her sister that Dr. M planned to release their parents from their exile in another dimension so they might serve as his minions. Winter might be a jerk, but her parents were dyed in the wool, murderous supervillains. Summer wasn’t sure what the right thing was. Complicating things for Amy was the fact that her parents were swept away by the same event, and would probably be set free if the villains were released. We close with Amy wondering what to do.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Day in the Lonesome October-fest, October 31 and Conclusion

The continuing account of reading A Night in the Lonesome October with an nine-year-old, out loud and during the day.

October 31

This was it. Lily was really nervous about Lynette's fate. She didn't really have any commentary until the ritual was already underway, and then she was the audience every author wants, gasping and cheering at all the right times.

Cheer Moment: He seized hold of the girl's left shoulder with his teeth and dragged her down from the altar.  With that rapid backing motion I had seen him employ before, he dragged her quickly before us toward the north, whence he had come, to my right.

Gasp Moment: The report of a gunshot filled the air and Larry staggered, a dark blot appearing and spreading high upon his left shoulder.  The vicar held a smoking revolver, pointed in his direction.

Lily really liked the Count, I think, in part, because she's on a vampire kick. She doesn't otherwise like villain protagonists. 

She was worried when the vicar attacked the Count, though confused about the mechanism.
     "Dirt from one of your own caskets," the vicar replied, "mixed with pieces of my church's altar stone relic, left over from more papish times.  Fingerbone of St. Hilarian, according to the records. 
Lily: What's he talking about?
Me: You'll see. Listen to the end of what he's saying.
 You require your consecrated soil, but overconsecration is like the difference between a therapeutic and a debilitating dose of strychnine.  Do you not agree?"
I do love that line, because it seems so characteristically Zelaznian, but it's certainly confusing to a little kid (though, she's not the intended audience, so it's hard to fault him for that).

Me: Okay, that's probably no clearer. You know how you'll get sick if you take too much medicine? It's like that. 

Cheer Moment: The Count muttered a reply in a foreign language, as the wolf disappeared with Lynette; and I realized that, from all his talks with Larry, plus his knowledge of drugs, and the samples he had obtained, he had succeeded several days ago in developing his own ideal dosage, and I had just witnessed the Great Detective's greatest disguise yet.  I howled a "Well done!" into the night.  Later, a "Good luck!" came back to me.

Another Cheer Moment: "Pret-ty kit-ty," he repeated.  Then he turned and walked away in the direction whence he had come.
     "Put me down!" she cried.  "I can't leave now!"
     He sat down just beyond the firelight and commenced petting her.

I needed to spell out the deal with Carpe baculum, but she dug it once I did.

Not strictly relevant to this specific readthrough, but a friend suggested the top ten best/worst Zelazny puns and Jack had braced himself. Then his arm moved, hand dipping into the satchel and out, emerging quickly, casting the wine bottle of slitherers into the Gateway, to gunk it up. He grinned at me. "Any port in a storm," he observed. certainly belongs there.

She really appreciated the ending, which I do think was the perfect conclusion to the story: 
    I turned and looked back in time to see the experiment man start down the southern slope, carrying the Count.
     "Hi, cat," I said.  "I'll buy you that drink yet."
     "Hi, dog," she said.  "I think I'll let you."
     Jack and Jill went down the hill.  Gray and I ran after.
Great book and great experience reading it. I wouldn't change a thing about either. Thanks for reading along with me.