Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The 20 Best Pop Culture Workouts, 1:

So over on Thinking The Lions, in between the usual pointless drivel about toast and grasshopper fables, I've been doing something I call "Project CXC," which is Project 190 for those of you who are Roman Numeral Impaired and therefore never know what Super Bowl we are on, and Project CXC is about how I'm trying to lose 63 pounds and get down to 190.

It's been going fitfully, at best.

But while I was swimming this morning, I got tired and needed to keep pushing myself and for no reason whatsoever other than the fact that I have twin almost-6-year-olds and so 99.7% of my life revolves around "Toys R Us" stores and Pixar movies, Dory from Finding Nemo popped into my head and I found myself thinking Just keep swimming just keep swimming over and over until I went insane.

That is, until I finished my swim.

Which, of course, got me thinking, as I swam, too, about other people (?) in pop culture and entertainment who might serve as suitable inspirations for those of us who find the "real" (?) world a bit uninspiring, what with all the sports heroes either pleading no contest to doping charges or being all smirky and unlikeable for other reasons, and so I decided to try another Minibest -- no, don't ask me to clearly delineate the categories on this blog, even I can't keep track of them anymore-- and this one will be a listing of Pop Culture Workouts -- those fictional exercises from movies, books, songs, whatever else pop culture is made up of (Youtube cat videos and Instagram photos of rich kids, I think) that could both keep me, and maybe you, working out and getting in shape -- or serve as a model for a brand new exercise workout and ohmygodthat'swhatIshould'vedone: I should've put this together as a book, THE POP CULTURE WORKOUT, and gotten rich.

Anyway, here's number one: they're not in any particular order, they're just in the order I thought of them and then listed them, so here's the first Best Pop Culture Workout, which you'd have to guess would come from Star Wars:

Yoda Jogging.

In the movies, Yoda rides on Luke's back as Luke swings and jogs through the swamps of Dagobah, exhorting Luke to jog while also telling him that a Jedi's strength "flows from The Force", which makes it seem kind of dumb to do push-ups and hand-stands if all you have to do is use The Force to shape your muscles. 

I'm sure it wouldn't hurt a Jedi to be in shape, and most of them seemed to be doing pretty well in that department, from what I remember of the movies, except that as Yoda points out, he's pretty small, and so it doesn't seem to especially help a Jedi to be in shape, or large, either. 

Maybe it's got something to do with training the mind? Physical fitness equals mental fitness?  In any event, Yoda's training methods are far superior to, say, Obi Wan's.  You never saw Ewan MacGregor climb onto Anakin's back, and that's probably why he became Darth Vader.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"Looking like a badass bounty hunter is pretty cool." (Star Wars References)

This is Mr F:

After he got home from the hospital, where he had surgery after a bad fall. And, as pointed out by awesome author Andrew Leon (whose book, The House On The Corner, you should definitely read), in that picture, Mr F looks like Dengar, the bounty hunter from The Empire Strikes Back:

Which has now given me an idea.  Remember Muppet Babies?  Back in the 1980s, babyizing everything was the way to go.  And I think it's time to bring that back and update it, so I'm going to go write a spec script for Bounty Hunter Babies.

While you wait for that, go read Andrew Leon's blog and learn about his upcoming story Shadow Spinner.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mortals United (Sundays With The Classics)

I got through part III, or book III, of The Odyssey, and honestly, I can't believe this thing ever got published.  So far, very very little has happened.  If I sum up Books I-III, it is this:

1. Telemachus gets mad at the people mooching off his mom.

2.  Athena helps Telemachus sail to some other guy's house, where that guy entirely glosses over the story of the guy that served parts of his relatives for soup in favor of confessing that he doesn't know what happened to Ulysses.

About that cannibalism:  In telling how they came home from the Trojan War, Telemachus' host, whose name I can't remember and I'm too tired to go look it up, mentions another guy and one of the beauties of reading on a Kindle is that whenever I don't recognize a name, which is often when dealing with Greek "history," I can click on the name and get the story on that person, which is what I did when I got to Atreus, who is mentioned in the recap of the return from the Trojan war but Homer doesn't mention that Atreus cooked up his nephews and served them as stew to his brother as some sort of revenge.

THREE books and that story escapes Homer.

But more to the point, as I read today, I couldn't help but wonder about the Gods, again. Telemachus and Pallas/Athena (disguised as Mentor) are dining with their host and when they are done -- when Athena tells the host to "cut out the tongues," which is done at the end of the feast, as the sacrifices have their tongues cut out and burnt in an offering to the Gods --


If I were a God, I would insist that sacrifices be worth something, not a bunch of burnt tongues.

-- and then Telemachus is going to go back to his ship, but the host says something to the effect of "Hey, don't go sleep on that ship, I've got plenty of fine fleece here and I'd be a terrible host if I didn't insist that you use some and sleep on my couch," at which point Pallas/Athena, still in disguise says she can't take the host up on the offer because she has to go back to the ship and take care of her crew because they need a wise old man to guide them... and then turns into Athena and flies away.

So.  Um.  What?

I mean, if you are going to pretend you're an old man, and that's why you can't take up the host on his offer to let you crash on his couch, you can't even see the pretense through the point where you're out of his sight?

Host:  Stay here tonight.  I've got an Xbox, there's some frozen pizzas.  It'll be cool.

Athena:  *thinks: Mustn't reveal I'm a God.*  Can't.  I'm an old old man.  I need to get back to my ship because they need me to do old man stuff, like hoist the jib.

Host:  Well...
Athena:  Old, old man.  Just going back to the ship.  Nothing to see here, move along.  Old man, a comin' through. 

Host:  Okay, then.

The other thing that struck me is this:  The next day, the old man, who now knows that Athena is helping Telemachus, has another feast and decides to slaughter an ox as a sacrifice to Athena, which is at least better than burnt tongue, but he goes all Romney on the ox, ordering that his gold be brought to him and that the ox's horns be gilt in real gold before it's killed, to superimpress Athena who, like most women, wants you to put a ring on it if you like it

Which made me think that back then, as now, the gods obviously favored the rich.  If you had to sacrifice something to the gods to get them to not cast you down to Hades and turn you into a cricket or whatever, and if the better your sacrifice, the more the gods listened, and if you could cover your sacrifice in gold and get the gods to listen to you, well, then, being rich meant that you could keep the gods on your side all the more, all of which makes me wonder if there was a move, in the Greek Senate, to cap God Sacrifices.

Senator One:  We need to cap sacrifices, or start a system of public financing of sacrifices, because otherwise people are simply buying the gods off and our theocracy will be owned by the rich.

Senator Two:  How about if we simply let people create DeityPACs and they can't coordinate with the rich on how they sacrifice?

Senator One:  Works for me.  When they write this down, I hope I get a cool Greek name like Theonyclus.

(Editor's Note:  When he wrote about that, Plato called Senator One "Dorkither.")

Beyond that, this is one slow-moving story.  When I left off, Telemachus had been given a chariot to go over land, helped by two sons of his host, and had visited a city that Homer just sort of glossed over with a quick "Oh, yeah, he stopped there and that guy was pretty important" and I am really starting to wonder when we get to the part where Ulysses has all these adventures.  It's like if J.R.R. Tolkien had started The Lord Of The Rings with 200 pages of talk about whatever happened to Bilbo.  Which is kind of what he did.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

THIS is a THING?!?: Instagram?!?

This morning, I thought something profound to myself.  What I thought is this:

What the heck is Instagram?

That's what I thought, and maybe it's not as profound as something Shakespeare would have written, but who cares about what Shakespeare wrote?  It's nearly incomprehensible.  Aside from inventing the knock knock joke, Shakespeare's contribution to Western Society has been to create a bunch of plays nobody wants to read.

Shakespeare really did create the Knock-Knock joke, at least according to some guy I heard on a podcast and Wikipedia, both of those being equally reliable sources for facts like "Shakespeare really did create the Knock-Knock joke."

Here's what Wikipedia says about that fact:

In Shakespeare's play Macbeth a comic relief character delivers a 20 line monologue and satire that makes reference to events of that time. It follows the pattern of "knock knock who's there?" but it is done entirely by the character and knocks from off stage. The character is a hung over porter (in most performances drunk, but in the original he was hung over) who pretends he is the porter to the gates of hell welcoming sinners of different professions: 

Knock, knock, knock! Who's there, i' th' name of Beelzebub? Here's a farmer that hanged himself on the expectation of plenty. Come in time, have napkins enough about you, here you'll sweat for 't. 

 That, Wikipedia says, is "a joke referring to a price drop in crops, as well as a joke about the heat in hell."

HA! O', the ribald int'rplay of words we wreak/when first we hear the porter speak.

(Anyone can write Shakespeareanish.)

There are other knock-knock jokes told by that same witty (?) porter, including:

Knock, knock! Who's there, in th' other devil's name? Faith, here's an equivocator that could swear in both the scales against either scale, who committed treason enough for God's sake, yet could not equivocate to heaven. O, come in, equivocator. 
 Which, Wikipedia says, "is believed to be a reference to a trial of the Jesuits who were charged with equivocation speaking unclearly or speaking with double meaning."


 Knock, knock, knock! Who's there? Faith, here's an English tailor come hither for stealing out of a French hose. Come in, tailor. Here you may roast your goose. 

 Which is a joke in which "the tailor is accused of stealing cloth while making breeches," and thus "is a joke about a fashion trend in Shakespearian times, [and] also a pun for roasting the tailor's iron with the heat of hell."

So I've made my point, in that none of those are funny.  ON TO TODAY'S THING:

What THIS THING is, in a nutshell: The reason I was asking myself that high-minded philosophical question is that all I hear about these days is Instagram, and I have ...

...oh, man, I just realized that I started THIS THING without the usual introduction by January Jones, so let me remedy that:

January Jones being the (un)official hostess of THIS is a THING?!?.

Anyway, I was going to check my email this morning, and I noticed, on Yahoo!, that one of the cover stories was "Rich Kids of Instagram', which is apparently a story of rich kids who are on Instagram, and left me befuddled, because while I know what rich kids are (the kids I hated in high school/now the people I hate in real life), I don't know what Instagram is.

I've heard a lot about Instagram, in the past... period of time? I want to say months, but maybe it's been only weeks?  I don't know.  All I know is one day, I didn't even know Instagram was a word, and now every sentence I read has the word instagram in it.

So I have therefore set out on a fact-finding mission, and to do that, I do what everyone does when they want to know something, including scientists:  I googled it.

And got to a site that seemed helpful, called

That site said about Instagram that:

It’s a fast, beautiful and fun way to share your photos with friends and family. Snap a picture, choose a filter to transform its look and feel, then post to Instagram. Share to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr too – it's as easy as pie. It's photo sharing, reinvented. Oh yeah, did we mention it’s free? 
 After reading that, I thought:

Wait, what?

It's photo sharing, reinvented?

I'm confused.

Let me go back to basics.

I have a cell phone.

It has a camera.

Using that cell phone, I can take pictures and with a few clicks, I can message those pictures to anyone whose cell number I know. I can email them.  I can post them to Twitter.  I can post them to any blog I want.  I can... what's the word I'm looking for?  Oh, yeah:

I can share them.

So I don't get it.

But perhaps I am missing the point.  Perhaps I am missing out on the reinvented part: maybe I'm photo sharing the way the dinosaurs photo-shared, and I could be, I don't know, instantly beaming my photos into the minds of everyone within a 5-mile radius, or something.

So I investigated-er, by googling what makes instagram so great.  Which brings us to

When did THIS THING start?

  Officially, apparently, Instagram started in October, 2010, getting $500,000 in funding from a venture capitalist, and it was... a photo-sharing site that soon hit on the revolutionary idea of using hashtags to tag photos, but not just any old hashtags:  Instagram wanted you to be specific

#don'ttellSweetieaboutthispost, please
 With that, in this country of ours that can't possibly provide any funding for food stamps, the floodgates opened and investors poured $7,000,000 into the company, which by Wall Street Math made the company worth $25,000,000.

This past April -- just four months ago, as I write this, Instagram jumped on the Android platform and its app was downloaded 1,000,000 times in one day, causing venture capitalists...

... I want you to remember that right now our two major political parties are fielding two candidates who are competing to see who can cut the most funding from our social safety net when I say this...

...causing venture capitalists to give Instagram $50,000,000

REALITY CHECK TIME:  This app lets you take photos, and digitally alter them.


Wall Street Mathematicians, noting that Instagram was giving away its product for free and that doing so caused people to give Instagram $50,000,000 instantly valued the company at $500,000,000.

THAT, in turn caused Facebook, which was at the time was preparing to bilk the general public out of billions in its own IPO, to decide that simply burning money was too inefficient and in a Brewster's Billions turn of events, Facebook tried to buy Instagram for the not-at-all real price of $1,000,000,000.

I couldn't find one with the exact number,
but you get the point.

The real price being $300,000,000 plus 23,000,000 shares of stock in Facebook. 

(The value of those latter shares of stock has dropped by nearly 1/3, to only $487,000,000, prompting Facebook to try to issue stock using a stock loophole under California law.)(Something Facebook has to do because it wants to avoid scrutiny of its own IPO, but which will have the side effect of saving Facebook "hundreds of thousands of dollars" of SEC fees to register the stock.)

(Facebook hasn't completed the sale yet; the reason the sale is being held up is because the federal government wants to ensure that the purchase doesn't hurt competition in social networking.)

(There is competition in social networking? Do you know anyone who uses Google+?  I'm not on Facebook because I don't have any strong desire to stalk girls from my high school, have an affair, or play that Sheep Poke game, those being the only things Facebook is good for, but I am aware that everyone else in the world is on Facebook, having affairs, etc., and that they are on no other social networks.)

(Imagine Facebook as a person.  Imagine MySpace as a person.  Imagine them meeting in a bar themselves, 10 years from now, both commiserating about how they usedtabe someone.)

When Did THIS THING officially pass into pop culture?

Apparently, almost immediately, judging by that history, but I would say the official entry into pop culture came either when 1,000,000 people downloaded it in a day (some say 12 hours) or when Facebook tried to buy it -- which is about the same time, so it's not really worth parsing out.

The real question is why did it pass into pop culture, and so quickly? 

I mean, you get why people notice SOME things, right?

To determine why Instagram burst onto the scene, I did some more research, and came across this:

and realized that my Google search knows me better than I know myself.  I also came across an article from the New York Times titled "The Naked Appeal Of Instagram," which congratulated Facebook on acquiring the company, and noted, without any apparent sense of irony, that:

Twitter is driven by 140-character-long bursts and Instagram principally relies on a single image. Both companies are white-hot and neither has a meaningful business model in part because they don’t have to — who needs revenues when you can attract these kinds of valuations? But the other reason? It’s really, really hard to come up with a way to make money. Apps are utilities built for the consumer with very little accommodation for advertisers.
Congratulations, Facebook!  Just before going public, you blew a billion dollars on a company that has no potential revenue stream.

At all.

But I wasn't done researching:

For example, I am currently researching the question "What is this all about?"
 and so I read "3 Things That Make Instagram So Cool."

Those three things being:
1. It is easy to share and socially integrate your photos using Instagram,
2.  All the pictures are square, which makes it easy to use. (REALLY! THAT IS REALLY WHAT THE ARTICLE SAID!) and
3.  "Instagram is for those who want to feel like they’re professional photographers for fun."

 By which I take it that prior to Instagram, people were constantly confused by the wildly varying shapes their photos came in, and that confusion made it impossible to share photos, and so nobody could pretend to be a professional photographer.

Is This Thing Still Going On?  Judging by the Yahoo! article that caused me to finally try to figure out what Instagram was all about, yes, and rich kids are doing it.  But if you google Is Instagram still a thing you will find a Lifehacker article titled "Don't Bother With Instagram, Here Are Five Better Alternatives For Android."

That Times article that I quoted before noted that young people change media platforms, on average, nearly every 2 minutes.  If you watch TV with your smartphone or Kindle or Ipad handy and check Twitter during the commercials, you're doing what the young folks do.

The Times also noted that the average number of times a photo is looked at online is between zero and one.  So everyone's taking photos and nobody's looking:

We have reached the point in the world where we are all artists and the art museums are empty. 

But we allowed Facebook to spend $1,000,000,000 hypthetical dollars to point that out to us.

Can you sum up Instagram for people who skimmed this post and just want a quick takeaway?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Hot Extras: That Girl Who Heckled Louis CK.

Although I guess she's not really an extra anymore, or maybe she is?   I went looking for "that girl from that episode of Louie who heckles Louie in that one scene" and found

Megan Hilty,

who is, indeed, that girl from etc etc and who apparently is on Smash.

Has anyone watched Smash? 

I bet more people have seen her as the voice of Aunt Tiana in "Phineas & Ferb" in 2010 ("Just Passing Through/Candace's Big Day") than have seen her in Smash, which I don't think anyone watches.

I don't watch, it, anyway, and that's how I count things.

I also noted that Megan Hilty is going to be the voice of China Princess in "Dorothy of Oz," an upcoming animated film.  Megan Hilty does a lot of voice-over work, which just proves that Hollywood is stupid:


But really this is all just a way for me to point out that Dorothy of Oz is the second upcoming Oz feature in the next year or two, which just goes to show how influential I am, as 2 1/2 years ago I wrote about The Best Sequels That Haven't Been Made Yet, and number three on the list was an Oz sequel:

Oz! the movie picks up just after Dorothy left -- leaving the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man with the task of deciding what to do now that the Wizard is gone. They try to set up a democracy, electing representatives of each of the areas of Oz, but their efforts are halted when Ozma, the claimed heir to the throne, demands that all democratic efforts be stopped and that people accept her rule. Ozma's background is cloudy, though, and it's soon revealed that Ozma was actually born a girl, but then was transformed into a boy and raised as such, only to be transformed back later on. [Note: This actually happened in the books.] Now, with her fearsome associate, Jack Pumpkinhead, Ozma is determined to take over Oz on behalf of her true leaders - the fairies, as it turns out Ozma is one of those, too. [Note: That's actually in the books, also.] Eventually, Dorothy must return to Oz and use an enchanted belt to help free Ozma from the various people demanding her allegiance so that Ozma can choose her own path. [Note: That kind of happened in the books, too!]

The plot of "Dorothy of Oz?":

Back in Kansas, Dorothy Gale decides to return to Oz in order to help her friends. 

 So more or less exactly the same thing.

(Also in that post: I suggested Apocalypse Then!, a movie that would feature actual US Special Forces.  In 2012, Hollywood released this.)

Genius.  Me.  Those two things are the same thing.

Here's  Megan Hilty for you again:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

And now I'm typing this headline, and then going to play "Hot Wheels" (Sundays With The Classics)

I'll be honest. Today I was supposed to read Ulysses and I didn't really feel like it.  Here is a list of all the things I did in order:

1.  Blogged.

2.  Blogged some more

3.  Ate breakfast.

4. Read the Sunday comics.

5.  Read a Grantland article about which Olympic athletes might be attainable.

6.  Charged my iPod and deleted some songs off of it that Oldest Daughter had on there.

7.  Went jogging.

8.  Blogged some more.

9.  Read 2 1/2 paragraphs of Ulysses, trying to remember where I left off two weeks ago. 

10.  Played Plants vs. Zombies.

11.  Played Plants vs. Zombies some more.

12.  Took Mr F and Mr Bunches to see Brave with Sweetie and The Boy.

13.  Left the theater showing Brave just after the previews ended, because Mr F got bored and Mr Bunches got scared.

14.  Played a game of pinball in the movie theater game room with Mr Bunches.

15.  Played two more games of pinball in the theater with Mr Bunches.

16.  Played a racing game with Mr F.

17.  Played a game that lets you pick up candy with a crane with Mr Bunches.

18.  Tried a Jujube from that game.

19.  Spit out the Jujube.

20.  Took Mr F and Mr Bunches back into the theater where Brave was showing.

21.  Watched 2 minutes of Brave until they got to the part where everyone started fighting and Mr Bunches got scared again.

22.  Went to Toys "R" Us instead while Sweetie and The Boy finished watching Brave.

23.  Went home.

24.  Assembled the amazingly expensive Hot Wheels racer set that Mr Bunches talked me into after we couldn't find the Creepy Crawlies toy he was looking for.

25.  Ate some pizza with Sweetie.

26.  Cleaned the boys' room.

27.  Sat down to read some more of Ulysses.

28.  Typed this instead.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Songs That Existed, 1: "I Want A Yacht," Dweezil Zappa.

Mull this thought:

I owned Dweezil Zappa's entire album.

Or at least one of them.  The song I Want A Yacht came out in 1986, according to Wikipedia, and contained 9 songs:

  1. "Havin' a Bad Day" (Zappa, Scott Thunes) 4:09
  2. "Blonde Hair, Brown Nose" (Zappa, Thunes) 3:45
  3. "You Can't Ruin Me" 5:25
  4. "The Pirate Song" 3:51
  5. "You Can't Imagine" 3:14
  6. "Let's Talk About It" 4:05
  7. "Electric Hoedown" 3:24
  8. "I Want a Yacht" (Zappa, Thunes, Gail Zappa) 3:40
  9. "I Feel Like I Wanna Cry" 4:28

I don't remember why I bought the album, although it probably had something to do with the song I Want A Yacht, because I have never

not in 26 years

forgotten the song I Want A Yacht.

At odd times, when I am driving, or sometimes when I am sitting quietly at night, or perhaps other times when maybe I am eating a hamburger, I will remember the couplet:

I want a yacht, bought by you/
nothing less could ever do.
"I Want A Yacht" never hit the billboard charts.  It is not a one-hit wonder or an oddity like that Brand New Key song that for some reason briefly captivated people. 

But it existed, and the fact that this song existed seems to me to say something about society. Or me.  Or Dweezil Zappa.

Or maybe it's that I need the existence of this song -- for once a song exists, it exists forever -- to say something about something, because if I Want A Yacht's existence isn't a commentary on some aspect of life, then it came into existence for no reason whatsoever, and has no meaning at all, and that seems wrong, somehow.

It seems as though we should not live in a world where the song I Want A Yacht could be spontaneously created but have no impact on anything at all, that the song I Want A Yacht could be less meaningful, really, than the life of a single ant, or a drop of rainfall, or one pine needle.  Each of those things serves a purpose, however small.  Can this song be less than that?

It is a song that is less than the sum of its parts, really: A fine guitarist by most standards, and the son of an avant-garde musician, Dweezil Zappa's contributions to writing and playing and singing (?) on this song alone should have merited it some place on a billboard chart.  The addition of then-notable comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, at the time when people were still tolerating his comedy, should have pushed this song into a Pop-Up video or something similar. 

There is a chorus, in the background, of people who shout sometimes.  That seems worth something.

Maybe the song, and its prospects for listeners, and its hopes to have had an impact on the world, to mean something -- something profound or at least danceable-- were dragged down by the vacuum of its lyrics: not just the inanity of the song itself, but the regressive spiral of the meaning of the sparse lyrics.

The singer wants a yacht, bought by the object of... what? His affections?

Is the singer channeling Bobcat Goldthwait?  The beginning phone call suggests that the singer is Bobcat Goldthwait and he is singing to Dweezil Zappa.

But there is that interjecting, vaguely Russian voice that escalates the demands: a yacht, your house, "What else you got?" 

So while the basic lyrics circle around and around and mean nothing, the song is threatening and suggests a man beset by rude-voiced strangers who go from demanding a yacht to demanding everything else.

But all possible conceptions of whatever it is that is going on in this song end up falling to pieces: every imaginary construct ("Maybe it's two people..") disintegrates under the burden that somehow is this song, which in the end is an earworm that will no doubt continue to plague me for decades.

When I am 75, 80, 100 years old, I will rock to myself on the front porch of a house, a chill in the air that sinks into my bones and does not leave.

I want a yacht, bought by you, I shall be remembering, to myself.

Sweetie will touch my arm, and say "What's wrong?"

And I will just shake my head, and not answer, and wonder "Why Alaska?"

Sunday, August 05, 2012

At the end of this post, I pull out an old school D&D reference. (Sundays With The Classics)

Didn't you kind of always think The Odyssey was about Ulysses and his journey home from the Trojan War?  Because I swear that's what I was told it was about or perhaps learned it being about back in school.

But it's not, not so far.  So far, it's all about Telemachus, Ulysses' son, and his troubles dealing with all the people who have come to pester his mom to marry them since Ulysses never came back, and I'm having a bit of trouble understanding that.

There's this scene in the beginning of The Odyssey where Telemachus gets together a whole general assembly of Greeks to complain to them and tell them his plan. He makes a big speech to all the men who are trying to get his mom to marry them, and tells them off for wasting his patrimony and says they should go somewhere else and mooch of someone else.  It's an incredible scene because imagine a kid getting together everyone in the neighborhood, all the rich folk and then the regular people, and saying "Hey, rich people: quit mooching off me!"  It was like Occupy The Odyssey.

Only what happens next is even more amazing, only I won't get to that yet because here's what's confusing me:  Telemachus' mom is apparently able to be courted, because everyone thinks Ulysses is dead [SPOILER ALERT! COURTESY OF ATHENA WHO AT VARIOUS TIMES IS ALSO CALLED MINERVA AND PALLAS AND THAT MAKES IT VERY CONFUSING: He's not!] and so all these rich guys want to marry her because that would (I think) make them the king of whatever island Ulysses is/was living on.

But if Ulysses is dead, that would presumably make Telemachus his heir, and Telemachus would own all the stuff, which is where I'm confused: apparently Telemachus can't run the show because Ulysses isn't officially dead but that doesn't stop the rich guys from all insisting on Penelope (Telemachus' mom) marrying them.

Greece was weird.

But here's the amazing part of the scene:  Telemachus gets all the moochers together, and tells them off.  "Quit mooching from me, you're wasting my estate," he tells them, and what do the rich guys do?

They blame his mom.

Honestly: One of the rich guys gets up and makes a speech about how it's all Penelope's fault because she won't come out and marry one of them, and talks about how she's supposedly been making a funeral shroud but she unravels it each night and they know about that and so they can't help it they have to stay there.

And then they refuse to help him fit out a ship to go find his dad, and instead, having blamed his mom for their actions, go have another party in Telemachus' house.

It was like Jersey Shore only with names that are slightly less silly.

But Telemachus has Pallas Athena on his side, and she goes around the city in the guise of Telemachus, asking for help, and pretty soon everyone pitches in anyway, even though they just refused to help Telemachus, so I'm supposing that the Athena Minerva used some godly magic on them, and when I left off, Telemachus had snuck some wine out of his own house and sailed off to Pylus, where he's having a feast of ox entrails in a celebration of Neptune, and Minerva is at his side but I'm pretty sure she's disguised, although I kind of think that Telemachus kind of knows it's Athena.

Which is where I left off thinking: If you were to go on a journey and realize that one of the people helping you was a god, would that make you feel cool, or nervous, or both?  

I was going to go with cool but then you realize that the gods are capricious, and you've got to watch your step, and also you realize that the gods could have simply given you what you're after-- Athena could, presumably, have just gotten Neptune to let Ulysses come home -- but they're counting on you to do the thing.

In terms of power, though, so far Athena's about Gandalf's level of power: supposedly a god, all she's really done is disguise herself and get other people to make a ship for Telemachus.  That's slightly more useful than ventriloquizing trolls.  Slightly.  So while Telemachus seems pretty accepting and not very nervous about having one of those mercurial Greek gods hanging around him, that's not so remarkable when you realize that her godlike abilities amount to a +5 in bartering.


It's that time of the week when I post one post from one blog on all my blogs.  Today's is the first installment of The Dysprosians, a new story I'm starting up on Afterdark.

"I mean, really, Fish Man?" Tom frowned at his fingernails, which needed to be cut.

"Look, Tom..." but at a warning glance, Chet corrected himself. Above all, Higgs had warned him, Tom likes the rules of The Dysprosians.  Especially...and Higgs had paused for dramatic effect... the one about using only code names in the Skylab.

"Look, Whatever's Handyman, I gave a lot of thought to a bunch of different names. Aqua, I thought, and liked that but it's too close to that comic book guy"


interrupted a blaring voice that echoed around them.  Tom stopped inspecting his fingernails and leaned forward, tapping the touchscreen.

"Soul Destroyer leaves the volume way too loud," he muttered.

"And I thought about Aquarius because that also would fit but it's too hippyish, and I considered a couple others but..."

The silence hung between them in the hot, still air of the Skylab.  Tom leaned forward and turned a knob a little, feeling the vents blow cool air on him.

Outside, the tree branches skriiittched on the roof of the satellite as a squirrel ran along them.

"But what?" Tom sighed.

"But then Anthony looked at my costume and said Fish Man and, well, I don't like to disappoint him, so I decided to go with that."

Tom looked appraisingly at the costume in question.

"It does have fins," he said.

"And scales," he added after a second, still looking.  Then he considered, and asked "Why scales?"

"They're bulletproof," Chet said proudly, and he figured that the interest Tom was showing would keep building.  Just keep him hooked.  "I found this..." Chet paused and kind of chuckled to himself.  Keep him hookedGot to remember that.  "I found this place on line, out of Syria, they sell bulletproof metal stuff, and you can buy little plates for it, and so I got it and we cut it into scales and managed to sew each one onto the suit itself."

He struck a pose, a fighting stance somewhere between Muhammad Ali coming out of the corner and Bruce Lee coming out of retirement, and tried to suck in his stomach a little.  "I've been working out," he said.  "At the Y.  I take the Zumba classes and some yoga, and I got this DVD of Tae Bo."

Tom listened to the scales tinkle and clink, and shrugged.

"It's not really up to me."

He tapped a box on the touch screen and it lit up with options.  "Voice control," he said.

**VOICE CONTROL ACTIVATED** came the voice again.

"Computeratrons, Fish Man wants in.  Calculate."

There were no lights flashing, no whirring sounds, no panels of blinking bulbs or anything.  This was 2012.  The touch screen he carried with him linked in wirelessly to the Computeratrons, which were simply two small servers at the back of the only air-conditioned room in the Skylab.

The screen lit up.

"Says here," Tom leaned over so Chet could see, "That your powers provide a compliment to us, and that in at least three recent adventures your presence would have added at 5-10% improvement in the odds of a successful outcome."

"So I'm in?" Chet couldn't believe it -- Anthony would be so happy!

"When Higgs Boson wanted to join, the Computeratrons calculated that he would improve the odds of success by 90-98%, even with the uncontrollable nature of his power.  Neon was 70%.  Soul Destroyer, 100%."

The Skylab grew quiet, and Chet slumped over.  I'm not telling Anthony I didn't make it in.

 "Even Smiley added 20% to our odds of success." Tom said quietly.

Chet put his hands over his face.

"I've got nothing, T... Whatever's Handyman.  Nothing.  I go to work, every day, and I come home every day.  Poor Anthony, he mostly just sits around the house, with our neighbor watching him since Lorrie..."

Tom filled in the words Chet couldn't bring himself to say:  "Tried to reverse the fusion reaction that powers the sun using ordinary household chemicals she had rearranged on an elemental level and then launched using a rocket she unwittingly got your sun to create as part of his Scouts' project, all because she thought you were having an affair with your secretary."

"I don't even have a secretary," Chet added.  Tears filled his eyes.  "And now she's serving 300,000 consecutive life sentences in that Belarussian prison and Anthony misses her.  He doesn't even know what she did.  Every day, I come home and he says where's Mom? and every day I say she's working and we'll go visit her soon and then we eat dinner and we watch some of the movies he likes and he goes to bed and I sit up, drinking and watching Conan O' Brien, of all things, and that's how it was for weeks and weeks and months and months until I realized that there could be more to it than that."

Tom tried not to meet Chet's eye.  Everyone these days tried not to meet Chet's eye.  Granted, Lorrie's plan had not worked but it had come awfully close and while most people in the world didn't hold that against Chet, it also made meeting him awkward.  Tom couldn't imagine how Chet's food cart even stayed in business,  let alone earned enough money to support him and Anthony.

He wondered if Lorrie gave them money.

"The thing is, too, um... Fish Man, how would it look if we let a guy who is still married to one of the world's most notorious criminal masterminds join The Dysprosians?"

"I have to stay married to her.   She's got the health insurance.  And Anthony..."

There was a flicker.

Tom knew the flicker.

Chet did not.

Tom looked down at the touch-screen.

"So he was listening," he whispered.

"Who?" Chet asked.

Tom watched as the touchscreen numbers changed and glanced up at Chet.

"Do you feel different?"

Chet flexed his muscles a little, looked at his hands, rubbed his head where his mask would ordinarily sit. "Maybe a little."

Tom held up the touchscreen, which now was filled with numbers.  Chet couldn't make heads or tails of it.

"It says that you would improve our odds of success by 80% on our most recent three adventures."

"How...?" Chet asked.

"He did it."

"Who?"  Chet looked around.

"I can't tell you yet.  We've got to get you sworn in," Tom said.  He pulled his own mask up over his head, and tapped the touch screen again.  "We'll have to get you your own one of these, too."  Tap-tap-tap, and a bunch of little windows opened, each showing rooms where webcams were looking at people at computers, or empty rooms, or in the case of one window, a television tuned to Jersey Shore.

"Everyone: We've got a swearing-in to do."

A little alert-box popped up on the touchscreen.


it read, and below that:


"And we've got to hurry," Tom said.  He frowned at Fish Man.  "Hope your neighbor can stay late.  You're going to see some action, fast."