Friday, August 05, 2022

Not-so-dumb Dodd This blog is supposed to be about international politics; I hope my imaginary readers will forgive this brief detour into US politics. Dan Drezner is hosting an interesting discussion about Chris Dodd's recent praise of fellow senator Robert Byrd. Specifically, Dodd said: It has often been said that the man and the moment come together. I do not think it is an exaggeration at all to say to my friend from West Virginia that he would have been a great Senator at any moment. Some were right for the time. ROBERT C. BYRD, in my view, would have been right at any time. He would have been right at the founding of this country. He would have been in the leadership crafting this Constitution. He would have been right during the great conflict of civil war in this Nation. He would have been right at the great moments of international threat we faced in the 20th century. I cannot think of a single moment in this Nation's 220-plus year history where he would not have been a valuable asset to this country." Many bloggers have a problem with saying that Byrd would have been "right" during the Civil War, since he belonged to the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s and later opposed civil rights legislation like the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Dodd's comment seems to them similar to Sen. Trent Lott's 2002 praise of Sen. Strom Thurmond: "I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had of followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either." Facing pressure from all sides, Lott resigned from his leadership post in the Senate. To many Republicans, it seems only fair that Dodd should likewise be censured for making similar remarks. I disagree. For the record: * I am not a supporter of either Chris Dodd or Robert Byrd. For that matter, I am not a supporter of Trent Lott or Strom Thurmond. * I am a conservative Republican who has donated to Bush's 2004 campaign. I am a critic of the media, which I believe in general has a liberal bias. * I oppose racism and I think Republicans should do more to let minorities know that both we and our party are their friends and not their adversaries. * I was in favor of Trent Lott stepping down because of his remarks and wrote the White House to encourage them to publicly repudiate him. Obviously there are similarities between Dodd's remarks and Lott's. Both men were "just trying to say something nice to old men with despicable pasts." But as we can read in the quotes from the two senators, Dodd only said something nice about the old man, and Lott said something nice about the man's despicable past. That's a huge difference. Lott said America would have been better off if Strom had won the presidency in 1948. I think that's wrong. Some would say, as was said about the Confederacy, that Strom's run was all about state's rights and other constitutional matters, but I think reading through the States Rights Democratic Party platform makes it pretty obvious that the point of the party was to preserve segregation in particular and Southern institutional racism in general. If the platform doesn't convince you, then listen to what Strom Thurmond said in his speech accepting the party's nomination. Following what one of my professors called the philosopher's rule of charity, let us try to think of the best way to read Lott's statement. Perhaps he approved of Thurmond's stand for states rights and strict constitutionalism and etc., and was not talking about the racism inherent in Thurmond's segregationist ideas. That's the most charitable reading I can come up with and I still think it deserves condemnation. To say that America would have been better if the Dixiecrats won, except for the whole segregation thing is like saying that it would have been better if the Communists won except for the whole no-private-ownership-of-property thing. The racism was the point, not a footnote. Frankly I am puzzled by those who claim to be unable to see what is offensive about praising the Dixiecrats without even considering, you know, the whole "keep the black folks down" angle. Trent Lott was one of those, and it was right to show him the door. Okay, so let's look at what Dodd said, again following the philosopher's rule of charity. Dodd said Byrd would have been a good man to have around during any period of American history. Why would Byrd be a good man to have around? The least charitable way to read Dodd's answer is: Because Byrd is a racist. The most charitable way to read Dodd's answer is: Because Byrd is an EX-racist. Perhaps Dodd approves NOT of Byrd's past racism, but of Byrd's abandonment of the KKK specifically and racism more generally. So maybe he means that Byrd would be a good man in any time period because it's always good to have someone around who's not afraid to question their own beliefs and repudiate those beliefs after concluding that they are morally wrong. Dodd said, "I cannot think of a single moment in this Nation's 220-plus year history where he [Byrd] would not have been a valuable asset to this country." He did not say, "I cannot think of a single moment in this Senator's 87-year history where he was not a valuable asset to this country." Dodd's speech commends the man, not his deplorable past behavior. Imagine the apostle Peter giving a similar speech about Paul, who persecuted Christians before he converted and became a Christian himself. Peter might say, "I cannot think of a single moment in Christianity's history where Paul would not have been a valuable asset to this religious community." Of course Peter wept for all the Christians who suffered and died because of Paul's persecution, but he also recognized what a great man Paul was after he saw the error of his ways. Would Klansman Byrd from 1946 have been the right man during the Civil War? Absolutely not. Would Senator Byrd from 2004 have been the right man during the Civil War? Chris Dodd would say yes. (As a brief historical aside, it is interesting to note that Robert Byrd's home state of West Virginia won statehood for renouncing the Confederacy during the Civil War. The time-traveling Senator Byrd of Dodd's speech could have been one of those who made the choice to turn their back on the South and embracing the Union. "Come with me if you want statehood.") Me, I don't have such a high opinion of Byrd, but the comment is clearly typical of the kind of congratulatory flattery that senators say to each other all the time. This is not a scandal. --JOHANNES CLERK

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Well, that was fun!

The #Micronomicon Kickstarter campaign concluded last night with more than $7,000 raised and at least 16 microsettings funded. 

And of course our awesome deck of MicronomiCards, complete with rules for several brand new card games.

We're preparing our BackerKit, and will have preorder options coming soon. 

Thank you, everyone!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


Good morning, my friends.

I have just launched the Kickstarter campaign for the MICRONOMICON: A Compendium of Magic for Tiny Dungeon 2e and other games. It's a fun book full of great ideas and options for your tabletop roleplaying, with a bunch of amazing art and a big list of stretch goals. I'd be much obliged if you would give it a look.

And everybody who signs up as a backer on day 1 gets a free PDF adventure called Deep Dive. Because I'm a giver.

More on all this later. Right now I need to shower before the baby wakes up. ^_^

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

July 2017 newsletter

Howdy, ya’all! Welcome to the July newsletter, perhaps the last ever to be sent from Texas. So I’m fixin’ to include a bunch of Texas-isms.  In fact, I like to might could–

No. No, I quit. This travesty demeans us all.

Moving on . . . Here’s what’s in this month’s newsletter: 1. Bedtime stories. 2. Purple Unicorn. 3. Mini movies. 4. Organ watching. 5. More words. 6. Butler Pancakes.

Sounds great, right? Let’s jump in!

1. DECIDERS vote / Patronapalooza news : The purpose of last week’s poll was to determine what we should do for the upcoming Paronapalooza. For the benefit of the uninitiated, Patronapalooza is a week-long festival commemorating the gruesome life and hilarious death of Patronapaloozus, patron saint of patrons. The celebration will begin next Monday, July 31st. And in accordance with the wishes of the DECIDERS (and the wishes of my Facebook friends, who broke the tie), to honor our revered martyr next week I will . . .

Illustrate and post a bedtime story for every night. (At least one original drawing each.)
You may all celebrate in whatever fashion you desire– merriment, romance, feats of derring-do– or in whatever fashion is traditionally mandatory among your people. Good Patronapalooza to us all!
2. Story of the Month teaser : Two weeks from today (8/7), I get to share one of my favorite stories with you. It’s called “Best of All Possible Worlds,” and it was first published in an anthology of purple unicorn stories. (Not kidding.)

When a bizarre graffiti tag shows up on the wall of his run-down bus stop, awkward grad student Lem Daoud seizes the chance to finally chat up the hipster girl he’s been crushing on for months. But will she ever agree to go out with him after he accidentally stumbles onto the key to her deepest secret?
It’s a very fun and geeky little romantic comedy piece which has both lots of what I love about Boston and also some very cool fantastic elements. I love it.In fact, I love this story so much I just couldn’t leave it alone. So now I’m working on finishing the novel-length sequel. (Hopefully coming out next year.) This is one of the big projects that your patronage is supporting. So I hope you all enjoy this little taste of good things to come.

3. Movie (trailer) reviews : We didn’t make it to a theater this month, so instead I held a film festival right here on the family room couch. By which I mean I watched a bunch of trailers on my laptop, which I am now going to review. (Hey, this newsletter is free.)

Blade Runner 2049(trailer 4): Poor Harrison Ford. Doesn’t he get to be in anything besides sequels and remakes these days? What’s next? Son of the Fugitive? Air Force Two? What Lies Even Beneather? I did like the synthesizer in this at first-- a great nod to the original Vangelis masterpiece-- but after a while it just felt completely out of place amid the explodey action and jump cuts. PASS. But I am going to pick up the old soundtrack.

Justice League(trailer 2) : Good reminder to buy the Wonder Woman soundtrack, since she was by far the best part of this trailer. Next best: no Superman. (I’m not counting the super obvious hinting at the end.) Third best: Cyborg’s CGI didn’t look so ridiculous and cheap, mostly due to lack of footage. Absolute worst: Making me almost tolerate Bat Affleck as Benman. Also Worst: Not sure who the bad guys are, but they look a bit like a dark and gritty reimagining of either the hovering elephant ethnic stereotype from Phantom Menace or the winged monkeys from Wizard of Oz. HARD PASS. But it does make me want to watch Wonder Woman again.

The Inhumans: Love the giant pug. Big red wig looks silly. Promises lots of betrayal and drama and gossipy backstabbing. But will it be fun to watch? PASS.

Ready Player One: How much did it cost them to get the rights to all these IPs? I can’t even imagine. But this trailer makes me think it might be worth it– a glorious mishmash of a thousand pop culture touchstones, like a less-silly LEGO Movie. WATCH.

9/11: An R-rated September 11th disaster movie “based on actual events” starring Charlie “Bi-Winning” Sheen? Is this... Am I alive? Is this real? Am I dreaming? Can there be a person who thought this was a good idea? And did they really intersperse real video footage from the very day of terror itself? Taking ticket money to show people actual images of Americans being murdered on live TV, mixed in with quips from Mr. Tiger Blood? PASS. THEN SHOWER, REPENT SINS, PRAY FOR HUMANITY.

4. Life updates : This has been a really busy month at Chez Douleur. So busy I didn’t even get my newsletter done on time. (Also, this thing got crazy long somehow.) But I’m not going to point any fingers or give you any excuses, because it’s not fair to the baby. And also the buck stops here.Speaking of our little SeaBee, she’s been sleeping through the night most nights lately. What a good girl! What a great present to mommy and daddy. We had just about forgot what it was like to get six hours of sleep right in a row. (So sweet. Like fresh mangoes.) In honor of this wondrous miracle, here is a grateful haiku:

What is the sound of
Two parents napping? A snore?
Who knows– we were gone.
Earlier this month, we took a trip out to New Mexico and found ourselves a place, or at least a place to get started. My favorite thing about it is the view of the Organ Mountains, visible in all their glory from a great big window in my new office.

Not pictured: New office window.
I was so excited, I forgot to take pictures. So this one is from Wikipedia. But never fear, I’ll be taking plenty of my own. We may also have succeeded in selling our home here in Houston. (You never really know for sure until after the sale closes.) For now at least I am giving thanks that we no longer have to keep the house show-room ready all day, every day. Every single minute. Man, that was brutal. But it taught me two things. First, keeping our house really clean all the time is possible. It just takes discipline. Second, I hate discipline.I may have found a way to make it enjoyable, though. There’s a program / website / app / whatever called Habitica that I’ve been playing with for the last little while. It’s like a gamified personal organizer, where a pixelated little version of you levels up and gets treasure as you work your way through your chores. It’s definitely the most fun I’ve ever had with a to-do list. Plus, now I have a White Lion as a pet. Very cool. So let me know if you join up– we can start a guild!
5. Accountability : As the people who are supporting me as a writer, I think you’re entitled to know how I am doing. So last month I started tracking three things: new words written, new works completed, and new submissions to fiction markets. Comparing this month to last, I did better, the same, and worse, respectively. Not exactly flying colors, but I’ll take it.

  • Words: I got over 8,000 new words on the page this month, which is a little better than last month’s almost 7k. Now, I had wanted to double my productivity, but this is actually not a bad start considering all the time lost to moving and house-selling stuff. Plus, I had only four weeks in this reporting period instead of five. (I count from newsletter day to newsletter day.) So it’s actually a pretty substantial per-day improvement. (Up to 330-ish from 230-ish.) All in all, very happy with this improvement, and hope for even better next month.
  • Works completed: Despite putting lots of new words on the page, I only completed one new work– a new chapter of The Mundanes. Most of my fiction writing this month was actually expanding and revising Soul Invictus, the novel prologue / short story I thought was done last month. Ridiculous. And I am pretty sure I’m not done with it yet. But it just keeps getting better and better, so I guess I can’t complain too much. Next month will be better, but I’m happy this month not to be backsliding.
  • Submissions: This is where I let things slide. Last month I got 7 submissions out the door, and I wanted to improve on that. Instead, my count went down to 3. But if I’m lucky and get a little time this afternoon, I might could get that up a little higher by the end of the day. If so, I’ll put a little note in the comments.
  • FYI, I got three form rejections back this month, all of them from last month’s subs. My most recent ones are all still in the running. Fingers crossed. ^_^

  • 6. An invitation : Tonight (7/25) I am hosting a get-together from7-9 at Lola’s café for anyone interested in writing. It’s called BFD-Con, because in addition to talking shop about writing, we’re going to be eating Breakfast For Dinner. Nobody teaches, everybody learns, everybody buys their own pancakes. So it’s the same basic model as Utah’s IHOP-Con, pioneered by author and editor David J. Butler– who will be joining us tonight. If you’re in the area, please come on by. Everybody else, feel free to join us in spirit by eating breakfast foods and sharing some thoughts in the comment section here.
    Muchas gracias! As always, I want to finish this newsletter by thanking you all for the support (of all kinds) you so generously give. A month like this one could very well have swallowed up all my fiction writing time. I would have just written it off as an understandable loss, and wouldn’t have given it a second thought. But because of your patronage, I found the time to punch out 33 new pages in the last four weeks. Pages that might not exist without you.Much obliged, ya'all.–JDP
    PS - The answer to today's PhotoPuzzler (TM) is: Upstairs in his room, having a nap.

    Monday, June 26, 2017

    June newsletter

    [Cross-posted at Patreon.]
    June newsletter
    Jun 26 at 10:58am
    Hello, friends and patrons!  Welcome to the newsletter for June 2017.  This one was intended to be a little shorter than the May one, but . . . You're welcome? 
    Anyway, if the prospect of reading farther than two paragraphs is daunting, here's the TL; DR version.  1) Arrivederci barbarossa! 2) Long pig! 3) Patronapalooza yay! 4) Wonder Woman! 5) Cookies yum! 6) JDP writes!
    Also, this computer has UNLIMITED EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!
    Let's go already!

    DECIDERS vote : The poll last week was to decide what I should do with my facial hair for the next six months. My precious face, the plaything of your aggregate wills.  Who else gives you that kind of power? 
    Anyway, the results are in.  I'm going to play both sides of the TV talking head contrarian duo and say both that the vote was a close one (Decided by one vote!) and a blowout (33% margin of victory).  You guys can argue about which of me is right in the comments.  In any event, the verdict is: 
    And so, obedient to your commands, I shall wear no facial hair until at least Christmas.  And as I accept my sentence, I realize that it is a far, far better thing that I do with my face than I have ever done.  
    Also: Some things should not be left to the hive mind.

    Upcoming Story of the Month : For July, I've picked out a really special story-- the very first story I actually got paid for.  "Long Pig" is a little slice of dungeon-crawling life, and it was first published in
    Bards and Sages Quarterlyin 2013.  And (in keeping with the zeitgeist) it features a powerful warrior woman who has been the heroine of several of my stories.
    Elke is a tomb-raiding mercenary, trapped by a cave-in.  She and her treacherous business associates know they're running out of candles, but they don't know that they're also running out of time.  When everything goes dark, who will survive long enough to dig their way back into the light? 
    Read the tale right here on Patreon, July 10.

    Report on the inaugural Patronapalooza :  Last month we held the very first Patronapalooza.  It may make me sound vain, but I must confess that I was hoping that this brand new holiday  I created completely ex nihilo would go viral-- and it did!  
    In fact, it was so successful that it emitted a festive burst of tachyon particles which traveled back in time and caused people to begin celebrating even before I invented it completely by myself and very originally!  So, well done, patrons.  You partied so hard you broke the space-time continuum.  Excellent. 
    As part of the festivities, I made audio recordings of the first few chapters my work-in-progress novel The Mundanes and put them up on YouTube.  They're gone now, but like Brigadoon they'll be back in a hundred years.  Or in the last week of July, when we'll be celebrating our second Patronapalooza.  Hooray!
    (Details to follow in next month's newsletter.) 

    Movie review : Thanks once again to the best in-laws in the world, my very own warrior queen and I got away to watch Wonder Woman. And despite popcorn which had been sitting under the warming lights since the days when Lynda Carter wore the tiara, we had a blast!
    Gal Gadot completely inhabited the role, thanks in part to the best costume for Diana ever.  She perfectly walked the balance between sunny (perhaps even naive) idealism and fiery determination.  (Why can't we have a Superman like this?)  
    And she was funny!  Not a quality I usually associate with WW, but I loved it.  Her hilariously, adorably awkward scenes  with Chris Pine were absolutely my favorite parts of the film.  (Plus, I loved pretending he was Captain James T. Kirk on a secret mission to help save Earth's past.) Forget a movie sequel.  I want a weekly Lois & Clark style TV show so we can really spend some time with these two.  
    (Yes, I know he got blowed up.  Which, spoiler alert on that, I guess.  But it's a comic book movie.  And he died off screen.  And we didn't see the body.  Totally still alive.)
    My only nit to pick is that, as a war nerd, I really wanted this to work as a World War I movie.  And on the strategic level, it does not.  At all.  One single trench between Allied forces and German High Command?  In 1918?  And breaching that lonely trench line to liberate an occupied town results in ZERO reinforcements arriving--either from the Central Powers or the Allies?  
    I know this is a cartoon movie about superfriends, but I couldn't suspend my disbelief enough to get past the utter ridiculousness of the war scenes.  Which is a shame, because there were some moments that really captured the brutal, desperate pointlessness of the Great War-- plus lots of great Amazon butt-kicking!  (Pow! Take that, bell tower!)
    Rated 4/5 wonders, with a half-wonder subtracted for the extreme telegraphed obviousness of Remus Lupin's supposed-to-be-surprising face-heel turn.  Come on, now.  The man is a werewolf.  Of course he's a bad guy.

    Life updates : The best part about moving so far is cookies.  See, we need to clean out our cabinets, and clearly that means using up all that excess sugar and flour we have lying around.  Also chocolate chips.  
    Plus, baking cookies makes the house smell like someone just baked cookies.  It's a subtle way to get prospective buyers to subconsciously associate this homely house with comfort,  warmth, family, and adult-onset diabetes.  That's your perfect storm of happiness right there.
    In other news, our little Seabee is starting to make the most adorable human-like sounds.  Here's a picture of that.
    Above: The sound of cuteness. Also pictured, the smell of cookies.  
    Oh!  And the image at the top of this newsletter is the new and improved logo for my writing business, now in glorious Extra Color!  Many thanks to the lovely and talented Matt Malo, whose art is amazing and everybody should hire him.  

    Accountability : Speaking of money being exchanged for goods and services, let's talk about what your patronage is buying-- besides Matt's awesome art.
    Frankly, I probably should have done this from the very start, with the first newsletter, but that's why pencils have erasers.  So, starting this month, the newsletter will include a very brief report on the writing your patronage has been supporting.  There are at least three objective-ish ways to measure this, viz.: 
    1. New words: In terms of raw productivity, I've pounded out roughly 7,000 words in the last month or so.  That translates to about 28 pages, or a little less than a page a day.  
    2. Works completed: "Soul Invictus," a short story to follow my novel The Crown and the Dragon.  I plan to submit it to an upcoming anthology, and also to use it as the prologue to C&D's sequel, which I'd like to write next year. 
    3. Submissions:  I had a plan to submit something every single working day in June, or to try until every story I have in my stable was out somewhere. I didn't make that goal, but as Dean Wesley Smith says, I failed to success by aiming for the stars and still hitting a pretty high mark.  My totals: 7 submissions of short stories for publication, 3 form rejections, 2 personal rejections, and 0 acceptances.  Not too shabby, actually.  (My typical acceptance rate is something like five percent; it's a numbers game.)
    All in all, I'd like to be able to report greater productivity and success, but considering everything we have going on right now, I'll take it. 
    Which is probably as good a note as any to end on. 
    So, for your encouragement and support as I develop my skills,  thank you, my friends. 
    Stay thirsty.

    Monday, May 22, 2017


    Greetings, imaginary readers!

    Even though you are pretend, I feel you must have noticed that there has not been a lot of blogging here as of late. Well, we've been in kind of a busy season for the last many seasons.  And to be honest, I'm not sure that this blog is ever going to climb up to the top of my priorities list again-- especially given that I also have an author blog and now a Patreon page up and running.

    But since my Patrons are owed a newsletter, I thought I might post it here as well.  So... welcome to the news update for the month of May!

    What's new?  The first bit of news is that I have a new Patreon page.  Which, I don't think I've talked about here.  But if you know me, you've probably seen me yammering about it on Facebook.

    If you haven't checked it out yet, do yourself a favor and head over there.  Lots of good stuff-- writing, art, behind-the-scenes extras-- some of which is available only to patrons.  For example, patrons who pledge two dollars a month get a new short story every month, plus access to the vault of previous Patreon stories.

    But the newsletter is always going to be both free and public. This means if you want to keep up with what's happening with me and my writing, you don't have to be a patron. You don't even have to give me your email address for a mailing list-- you can find it on Patreon (or here, maybe).  If, however, you would like the newsletter to be emailed to you every month automatically, just go to my Patreon page click on the button that says FOLLOW at the top left of the page.  (It's free.)

    From now on, there are a few things you should expect to see in news updates like this one.  There will be some stuff about the Patreon page.  For instance, I'll always look back to the previous week and reveal the result of the monthly Deciders vote. Likewise, I'll look forward by announcing which story is going to be posted here the first week of next month. And if there's an upcoming Patronapalooza, I'll also talk about that.

    If I have a book or story coming out, the newsletter will announce it and provide links to order or preorder. I'll also talk about what's going on in my life, whether big stuff (we had a baby!) or small (we saw a movie!). And I'll always throw in some pictures.

    So, are we ready? Great! Here we go!

    Deciders vote PLUS Patronapalooza :Last week, patrons at the Decider level and up voted on what we should do for Patronapalooza. (It's a week long special event we'll have every month with 5 Mondays.) There were lots of good options (which you may see again in July) but the final vote was unanimous.

    So, next week I will give "every patron access to an audio recording (1-2 hours) of the first three or four chapters of a current work in progress."  And what is that work?  It's a novel, tentatively titled The Mundanes:
    A sinister alien entity threatens humanity.  Earth's mightiest heroes are our only hope.  And unless Nikki Nelson can file their taxes before the 15th, there will be penalties not to exceed 25% of the total unpaid taxes.  Biff!  Pow!  Doom!
    It's a superhero book where ordinary people save the day-- and it's been so much FUN to write.  Man, I can't wait to share this with all of you.  I've already started doing some recording, and it's coming out really well (especially considering that I have no special recording studio, etc.).

    But don't sleep on this.  When Patronapalooza is over, the audio files will shortly vanish into the mist like Darkmoon Island.  So if you're curious about what I've been writing, go pledge a dollar and listen to the first few chapters.

    Upcoming story of the month : On Monday, June 5th, a new short story will be posted over on Patreon for all supporters at the Reader level ($2/month) and up.  This month, I've chosen a story called "Lullaby," which was published last year in Dragon Writers: An Anthology.

    It's about a mommy and daddy dragon who are trying to get their hungry babies to quiet down and go to sleep.  I wrote it on nights when I was rocking my own noisy and rambunctious little one, so it's got a lot of my heart and soul in it.  Plus: ravenous, rampaging dragons.  Raaaaarrrrr!!!

    Life and such : This reminds me that we’ve actually got a lot of change on the horizon for Casa de Payne. And some change that’s already here, and pooping.

    A baby. We had a baby. (See how cute?)

    Also, last week I turned in the grades for my final semester of teaching at the university. After a lifetime spent on one side of the desk or another, I am leaving academia.

    I will miss teaching in a university setting, but my new career of dad/writer has been awesome on the balance. In my first week, I've had twice as many awesome writing days (4) as days I had to change my clothes and shower because of baby barf (2). Frankly, I can't believe how lucky I am to be joining the stay-at-home dad club. (See above picture.)

    This change should also give me a lot more time to write. I've got two novels in the works, and if I can keep my pace up I will finish both by the end of the year. Hooray!

    Our final change is that we are moving to New Mexico, where my darling wife will be starting a new job. We have loved Texas and we're worry to leave it, but fortunately we'll be just an hour or so across the border. So any time we want our stars at night to be big and bright, we'll be in easy driving distance.

    As we prepare for a big move and lots of other big changes, we're grateful to live in a time when it's so easy to keep in touch with friends and family across the world.  Thank you all for your support and well-wishing.  And please keep an eye out for next month's update on my Patreon page.


    Wednesday, May 10, 2017

    Movie review: World's best in-laws edition

    As a birthday present to me, my awesome in-laws watched the kiddos so the Queen of Eternia and I could go out and see Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. (Thank you, J+L!) Following both the scientific method and my heart, I have arrived at a rating of 4/5 Galaxies. A delightful romp full of explosions and lasers and funny lines.  Loved it!

    Two disappointments keep this from reaching the lofty heights of the first installment. First, the incomparable Kurt Russell, though wonderful in his early scenes, was boring after the face/heel turn. Not a memorable villainous moment or line, just a super dumb Saturday morning cartoon cliche. Boo.

    Second, one of the great surprises of the first was that it made me care about a CGI raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper. This one gave him a stupid tacked-on Hollywood phony character arc that left me literally yawning with rage. Damn you, Gunn brothers, for giving me such a gift and then taking it away from me. Double boo.

    That said, everybody else was just as lovably amoral as in the first one except Yondu and Drax were even better. And I loved the new addition of the gross bug-lady, who I hope we will see more of in future films which will also star a surly teenage Groot. (But not Sylvester Stallone, who was bleah.)


    Saturday, December 31, 2016

    Movie Reviews : Presidential Apocalypse Edition

    Greetings, imaginary readers.  Long time no et cetera.  Shall we?

    So I'm pretty sure Adora and I only saw one movie in 2016.  I think that's the lowest count since... ever.  And who do I blame?  Society.  Also: Donald Trump.  [Deep breath.] TRUUUUUUMMMP!!!!

    Moving on...

    The one movie we did see in theaters this year was a good one.  So let's talk about it.

    Rogue One : * * * *

    I also gave The Force Awakens four stars, which in retrospect feels a little generous.  I'm not going full South Park on this or anything, but most of what I really loved about that movie was that I was basically watching Star Wars again.  Rogue One, despite the fact that it is essentially a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead-style behind-the-scenes story that runs parallel to the original Star Wars, is vastly more original.

    This is not to say that Rogue One doesn't lean heavily on  the source material.  As astute critics have pointed out, RO completely depends on you having seen SW-- it never attempts to explain things like the Force, and the ending would be deeply unsatisfying if you didn't already know that this is not the end.

    But, whatever, I have seen Star Wars, so I do know that the Rebels succeed in blowing up the Death Star. (Oops!  Spoilers!)  So to me this was a wonderful companion piece that took nothing away from the original and filled in some holes-- even some that I never really thought about before.  (Like: Why isn't there a big old Rebel fleet at Yavin 4 when the death star shows up at the end of Star Wars?)

    There is definitely some of the usual Hollywood baloney in that the film often makes the choice to show a big cool explosion instead of having people (on either side) do something smart.  But this is the nature of the medium-- movies are more explodier and less smartier than books.  I had a great time, as did HRH.


    5. Finding good ways to use previously unused footage of Red Leader and Gold Leader from the original trilogy.  Very cool.  This is the kind of recycling I can really get behind.

    4. Warwick Davis playing a little alien dude with a BFG.  I wanted more of this guy.

    3. The sarcastic killbot and the we're-not-jedi monks.  Make this a TV show, in the vein of Kung Fu or Scooby-doo.  Throw in Warwick Davis.  To hell with continuity.

    2. Darth Effing Vader striding down a dark and smoky corridor, cutting down rebel after rebel.

    1. Five year old in the movie theater behind me asking aloud, "Are they dead?" during the final scene when our heroine and hero are nuked into radioactive vapor.  Hilarious.


    5. Zombie Leia.  Her lines were good, but I just couldn't stop wondering if she was a cartoon or a Cylon skinjob or what.

    4. No Bothans.  And, yes, the internet did remind me that the Bothans died to get the plans for the second death star-- not the first one.  And, no, I do not care.  This movie should have killed a Bothan every three minutes.  Two, maybe.

    3. Zombie Tarkin. Shudder!  Seriously uncannied my valley. Definitely knocked off a half star for this.  Maybe a whole star.

    2. Forrest Whittaker dying for absolutely no reason at all, other than he didn't want to jog down to the spaceship. Lame.  I mean, I would definitely die in that scene for the same reason, but I go to the movies for an escape.

    1. Tarkin and Leia.  So terrible.  I can't stress this enough.

    Anyway, thanks, J.J. Abrams for a great Star Wars movie.  It was tons of fun.  And I look forward to handing over my money to see the next standalone Star Wars flick: OLYMPUS MON: THE MOTHMA STORY (coming in 2018).


    Saturday, January 23, 2016

    Movie reviews: 2015, the year in review edition

    Okay, so it hasn't been quite a year since the last movie reviews post, but I'm going to go ahead and jump in anyway.

    Why? Because my lady is at the grocery store and the boys are asleep. And I don't have anything else to do. Apparently.

    Ant-Man : * * * * 1/2

    Soooooo fun. The science is completely inconsistent and silly even for a comic book movie, but I enjoyed the heck out of this flick. The Thomas the Tank Engine sequence perfectly encapsulates everything that makes this movie tick: thrilling action, light-hearted comedy, believable characters, and a blithe disregard for the immutable laws of physics.

    For the first ten minutes of the movie, I wasn't sure about Paul Rudd. He reminded me of Ryan Reynolds in Green Lantern in all the wrong ways. But I ended liking his Scott Lang almost as much as his Brian Fantana or Bobby Newport. The real scene stealer, though, was Michael Peña as Luis. Hilarious!  Every line he delivered was pure gold.

    Bottom line: Even though both the last episode of Lost and the last 200 hours or so of The Hobbit greatly depleted my reservoir of like for Evangeline Lilly, I still can't wait to see Ant-Man and the Wasp.

    The Martian : * * * 1/2

    Not nearly as good as the book, but still very good. And Matt Damon was much better than I expected. I completely believed him (and liked him) as an astronaut. Not so much Jessica Chastain. Removing her from this movie entirely would bump it up at least a half star. Maybe a whole star. The same for the execrable two minute epilogue at the end. Blecch.

    Hey and Michael Peña again! And he was great! Boy am I ready to see everything else that guy is in. Hollywood, take note.

    Star Wars: The Force Awakens : * * * *

    Yeah, this is pretty much a remake of the original in lots of ways, but who cares. It's a pastiche, an homage, and it comes from a place of love (and fanboi squee).  So yay Han and Chewie flying the Millenium Falcon!  Yay tough old Grandma Princess Leia! Yay emo Kylo Ren!  Yay Finn and Rey and BB-8!  Yay stormtrooper Daniel Craig! Yay Star Wars!

    But just to prove I am not just enraptured to be reliving my childhood, booooo pretty much all the CGI aliens. Especially that refugee from the Hobbit heptalogy Maz Kanata. Booooo. In addition to looking awful, Yoda she is not. And booooooooo Supreme Leader Snoke. Seriously, that is the worst villain name in the history of the universe.

    Anyway, that's all for now. Until next time, my imaginary readers, feel free to form your own opinions about movies.

    I will correct you later if you are wrong.


    Friday, March 27, 2015

    Movie Reviews: Babysitters are expensive edition

    We have not seen a lot of movies lately. Not sure what the problem is. Maybe time, or maybe the cost of getting a special snowflake to come watch our little perpetual motion machine. Either way, the arrival of our second little bundle of boy will not make things easier.

    So I'm going to make sure these reviews are extra good, by including a special BONUS PRO TIP with each one-- absolutely free! You're welcome, Hollywood.

    * * * The Hobbit 3 : Five armies is pretty good, but couldn't they have made it six? This movie just didn't feel like it had enough going on. The plot structure was too coherent and the movie itself was far too short. But the good news is that they can fix all this when they make the Silmarillion-- preferably as a series of 10 movies, each 10 hours long.

    BONUS PRO TIP: PJ, you spent the whole last movie building up the dragon, and then killed it ten minutes into this one. Next time you chop a single children's book into three mega-movies, have the scary monster's death be the awesome climax of film 2 instead of the rushed and meaningless opening scene of film 3.

    * * * * Cinderella : Utterly charming! Great costumes, picturesque scenery, and they even managed to make Cinderella's choices sensible within the context of the story. We could all do a lot worse than to make "Have courage and be kind" our motto.

    BONUS PRO TIP: If you're going to remake a classic, don't miss the opportunity to showcase the dark horse scene-stealing star. Here I speak, of course, of Gus-Gus. How is it, in this age of shameless and unoriginal exploitation, that we do not have a Gus-Gus movie yet?

    That's all for now. Sorry, imaginary readers. But if you want more movie reviews, you could always come watch the kids.