Chicken, Fries, and VICIOUS LIES!

Sure, it might look good, but it's made with hate. Possibly pepper, too.

Sure, it might look good, but it's made with hate. Possibly pepper, too.

July 27, 2012

It’s no secret that Chick-Fil-A recently got into a lot of hot water both from people who think the LGBT community is made up of human beings whom deserve the rights and dignity of every human being and people who like the Muppets.

That’s a big demographic to upset.

Chick-Fil-A’s president went on the record to state that he and his company stand for Biblical family, for traditional marriage, and oppose gay rights. That is his opinion to make. He has every right to believe that. Everyone can believe this if he or she wishes it.

Just like, you know, I and actual compassionate human beings have the right to not buy his product in order to send more money to anti-gay groups. It’s as simple as that. It’s called a boycott, and it’s a very simple, effective way to show your disapproval of a company. It helped get Glenn Beck off the air, for example.

However, over at The Atlantic, it seems that boycotting Chick-Fil-A is the first step towards… something. Something sinister that may (gasp) hurt businesses and is therefore and attack on capitalism and babies will explode and the sky will BURN.

Maybe the article doesn’t go into those depths, but it’s close.


Equal Rights by ~xXAnniesaysRaawrXx on deviantART

Should [customers] swear off the legendary chicken sandwiches to support gay rights? Or could they eat one of the filets anyway, knowing their dollars would be but a drop in the bucket for a chain that has more than $4 billion in annual sales and donated a pittance to groups they may disagree with?

One person is not going won’t change anything, the author says. Yes, he’s right. One person doesn’t change a company’s policy… but thousands or millions certainly do change things. Even if the company donated just 1% of that $4 billion to anti-gay groups, that’s still forty million dollars.

On another note, the fact that these sandwiches are “legendary” and are therefore more important than gay rights is a bit offensive. No chicken sandwich… no SANDWICH, is worth more than basic human dignity and freedom.

I’d argue the latter — and this has nothing to do with my views on gay marriage. It’s because Chick-fil-A is a laudable organization on balance, and because I refuse to contribute to the ineffective boycott culture that’s springing up across America.

Uhm, okay? So you’re boycotting boycotts?

Mind blown!

I actually like how smugly he justifies his contempt for the boycott. Chick-Fil-A is a business with a great business model and is therefore shielded from your petty worries. Everyone knows that being great at business means you’re morally beyond reproach.

Kneel before Zod!


imagine equality by *taylorjaymes on deviantART

First of all, Chick-fil-A is not a hate group. In a statement released yesterday, company leaders made their commitment to equal service clear, “The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”

So the company admits that it will sell to anyone, at any time, and treat them well? That’s not an argument for them being nice people so much as it is an argument for them being savvy businesspeople. In such a multicultural world, you can’t afford to alienate anyone. Plus, money talks. Every person is a potential customer.

The company may not be in the same league as the Klan or other heinous organizations, but it’s campaigning against people in an effort to deny them rights. That makes them morally reprehensible to a lot of people.

Additionally, the organization gives millions of dollars each year to charitable causes — and not just to “pro-family” groups. It funds a large foster care program, several schools of a higher learning, and a children’s camp. It has provided thousands of scholarships for Chick-fil-A employees to attend college and grow past the service sector where they got their workplace start. (On Friday, the company provided free meals for Aurora, Colo., policemen.)

Foster care and children’s camps are not some liberal cause. Neither is providing food to law enforcement. Scholarships to employees? That’s just having awesome benefits. Somehow, the fact that the company donates to charities that EVERYONE can like is somehow supposed to make up for the money that goes to groups that want to keep several of my friends from marrying their partners.

Rush Limbaugh donates to charities, too. He’s still a pompous dingbat with a massive disconnect from reality and an ego with its own gravitational pull. Helping one person doesn’t excuse treating another like crap.


Gay Rights by ~Kirry on deviantART

In a nation that’s as divided as ours is, do we really want our commercial lives and our political lives to be so wholly intermeshed? And is this really the kind of culture we want to create? Culture war boycotts cut both ways and are much more likely to meet with success when prosecuted by large groups of people, such as Christian activists, who are more numerous than gays and lesbians and their more activist supporters.

Actually, there’s a wonderful article right here on why Christians SHOULDN’T boycott. It’s anti-Christian. It’s coercion. It’s a sinful use of power.

Now go ahead, Christian Right. Boycott. Because nothing draws in the heathen crowd like seeing a bunch of fundamentalists picketing. It’s like chum for the heathens and hedonists out there. It must mean fun is trying to be suppressed.

Gay and lesbian groups were famously rankled when pro-family activists reacted against Kraft for posting a photo of an Oreo cookie with rainbow-hued filling last month in honor of Gay Pride Month, and also when similar groups protested JCPenney for announcing lesbian talk show host Ellen DeGeneres would be its next spokesperson.

So should the 45 percent of Americans who oppose gay marriage opt for Chips Ahoy! instead of Oreos? Should they begin shopping at Belk instead of JC Penny? If they did, it wouldn’t make any more sense than the endless failed calls for liberal consumers to boycott Urban Outfitters, because its owner is a conservative and Rick Santorum donor, or to not order from Domino’s Pizza, because it was founded by a Catholic conservative who helped fund anti-abortion causes.

Actually, yes, they can boycott. They’re making their voices heard. If I believe someone is going to use my money to fund causes I am against, I’m certainly not going to give them money.

In one breath, the author states boycotts don’t work, and in the next, he threatens a boycott that he insists would work. It’s an amazing feat of logical gymnastics that would get a high score in the BS Olympics.


:GAY is more than OK: by *Roux-S on deviantART

On both sides of our latest culture war divide, we must learn to have level-headed disagreements without resorting to accusations of hate speech and boycotts. As Josh Ozersky argued on TIME Thursday, “businesses should be judged by their products and their practices, not by their politics.”

That’s not how life works! If the pizza shop down the street makes the best pizza in Chicago and New York combined but the money goes to fund Glenn Beck, you bet your life I’m not going to go. When I give someone money, I’m doing it with the expectation that the money is going to pay wages, materials, administrative costs… etc. If someone who works at a great bar makes the best drinks in town but is an avowed racist, you bet I’m not going back until that person is fired. That’s one great thing about capitalism. You don’t have to write a letter to get someone’s attention. You can just do NOTHING and get a result. The company’s job is to make money. Making statements like this and donating to groups that are fighting against a segment of the population will be detrimental to business one way or another.

As far as I can tell, the author seems to think corporations and businesses are somehow different from the people who run them. Chick-Fil-A is a company, after all, and the company didn’t say these things. It was one man!

I don’t care how my dry cleaner votes. I just want to know if he/she can press my Oxfords without burning my sleeves. I find no compelling reason to treat sandwiches differently than shirts.

This is really just like saying, “I don’t have any convictions or opinions of my own and wish to be deaf to the funding for causes that may affect me in the future.”

Basically, the author is advocating social laziness.


It’s Okay to be Gay by ~LadyCorrupted on deviantART

From a business standpoint, some might say Cathy’s comments were imprudent if not downright dumb. But in a society that desperately needs healthy public dialogue, we must resist creating a culture where consumers sort through all their purchases (fast food and otherwise) for an underlying politics not even expressed in the nature of the product itself.

If white meat’s not your thing, try the Golden Arches. But if you want a perfectly fried chicken sandwich, Chick-fil-A, will be happy to serve you — gay or straight. In this case, those who boycott are the ones missing out.

And there it is. How dare we deny ourselves a perfect chicken sandwich? It’s so much work to look through our purchases or pay attention when someone makes a very public declaration that they use consumer money to further ideological agendas. Why can’t we all just give in and throw our money at the corporations so it can eventually trickle down to us?

Long live the corporation!

Okay, so maybe I stretched it out, but my point stands: this is social laziness. Boycotting is not always successful, but companies are not entitled to our money. We buy a product because we like the product, but if the company supports causes. If I have a choice between a Neo-Nazi burger joint that uses 100% angus beef and home-made condiments and a McDonald’s-like crap burger, I’m going with the crap-burger.

Not every Chick-Fil-A employee is homophobic, but the money’s going to homophobic causes. I won’t support that. Neither should you.

And now, to cleanse the palette, let us laugh at dumb people hurting themselves.

Learning How to Spell 9: Damn Hard Work

This right here is what some days feel like.

December 16, 2011

I love my job. I complain when things hit a snag, but overall, I love what I do. I love writing, talking about writing, and having the freedom to impart that knowledge, as well as seemingly random tidbits of arcane lore, on others and actually get a paycheck for it.

Said paycheck, though, is not as large as I wish.

Anyone interested in pursuing art as a job should be prepared to make cuts, make sacrifices, and basically do everything possible to balance the lack of income with a desire to make something unique in the world. I think I’ve done that… to appoint.

I knew going into this that I would probably not be able to afford fancy vacations (fancy in this case meaning anything out of the county), and I would most likely enjoy the solitude of books, paper and pen, and not much in the way of big expenses. In short, I was back in college. It’s not bad, really, but there are days I really question myself.

This freelance work I’ve been doing for an academy that helps teens get through drug addiction and abuse has been a life-saver, but the research and work really bother me on a few levels. Reading about so much pain and suffering, then turning it into a pitch for parents, feels a bit like profiting from tragedy. On another level, I believe drug prohibition should be done away with. It’s done nothing but empower the cartels and cost thousands of lives. It’s turned Mexico into a war zone and, as I write this, my grandmother and sister have had to go south and take care of some legal business and I can’t help but worry for them, even as they visit the once-beautiful city I was born and grew up in.

And therein lies the problem. It’s a nice paycheck, but I’m conflicted about the writing subjects. I’m pretty sure it’s what’s been causing my upset stomach and lack of sleep.

Freelancing is damn hard work. If you find a job, you go for that job full speed. If you can’t find work on a week-to-week or even month-to-month basis…

You’re screwed.

And this is why when people tell me writing is easy, I suppress the urge to punch them in the throat.

See you Monday for the next vlog! In the meantime, please enjoy a very Krampus Christmas by Anthony Bourdain

Divine by Zero: Muppets and the Fox Terrorist Mentality

December 13, 2011

Fox went after the Muppets. As you know from previous posts on the site, I have a soft spot in my heart for Jim Henson’s creations. The segments in question, though, told us more about the conservative mentality than they did about the Muppets themselves. Let’s rip Fox a new one and figure out the network’s thought process.

Rick Perry Really Hates Gay Sex

I approve this message.

December 9, 2011

I hate Rick Perry, but he can always be counted on to follow in Dubya’s footsteps and say something utterly stupid.

Behold.

Even though Fox recently declared victory on the War on Christmas, they’re not letting up. After all, not everyone is saying “Merry Christmas” and schools are getting rid of Christmas parties during school. People keep insisting on calling Christmas Trees “holiday trees.” Next thing you know, Obama will order NORAD to track Santa and shoot the fat bastard out of the sky when he flies over restricted airspace.

However, Perry is about as honest as he is pro-gay.

Students are not being banned from celebrating Christmas. Schools are moving celebrations to afterschool activities so as not to cut into precious classroom time. Trust me. Every minute counts when you have to teach kids. It’s a matter of priorities. What is more important for children? Getting to sing Christmas carols during school or actually getting an education and having the party AFTER school?


Happy Holidays by ~TheCass on deviantART

Kids are NOT being banned from celebrating Christmas. The school has no authority over what religion they practice outside of the classroom, but the school DOES have a responsibility to teach children. And guess what? You CAN pray in school. Oh yes. If a school ever banned someone from praying, it would get in trouble with the ACLU and the whole alphabet soup. The thing conservatives are mad about is the ban on school SPONSORED prayer.

A school can’t make children pray or participate in religious-themed activities any more Congress can make its members start the day with prayer.

Oh wait, they do that already.

And it’s illegal. So are religious tests for public office, but that hasn’t stopped some states, including my own, from having them.

The War on Christmas should be renamed the “War for Christmas.” Conservatives want to make sure everyone follows their own brand of Christianity because if other faiths are allowed, that means NO one will want to be Christian, right? It’s kind of how making abortion legal made every woman want to get an abortion. Or how making same-sex marriage legal suddenly turned everyone gay in a couple of states.

Oh, right, that didn’t happen either.


Christmas Night. Magic scene with flying Santa by ~AlexandraF on deviantART

Just remember this. Whenever a conservative wines about a war on religion or a war on Christmas or Halloween or anything like that, it’s because conservatives have a very weird mind-set. If something is legal, then it must be mandatory. It’s why they’re so scared of gay marriage. Rick Perry seems to think gay sex will be mandatory and he won’t be able to put up a Christmas tree if the liberals get their way.

Hey, Perry? We’re okay with you celebrating Christmas. And you don’t have to have gay sex. Just, for the love of all things good and decent, shut the fuck up.

PS: Your own staff thought this was a terrible idea. Asshole.

Let’s enjoy a puppy fighting with an ice cube just to wash all that out of our heads, shall we?

Gingrich Can Kiss My Work Ethic

Exposure to Net Gingrich may cause child endangerment and loss of progressive ideals.

December 7, 2011

Newt Gingrich has the kind of idealism and drive we really need to take us into the 19th century, doesn’t he?

In the last few days, he’s pretty much gone and said that the problem with America, the thing holding down the economy, is the lack of children working. Seriously. He’d like to fire all union janitors (you know, people with jobs) and replace them with children. Not only that, but those pesky child-labor laws prevent low-income children from working and helping their parents in a dire situation. For the cherry on the Sunday, his latest claim is that poor teens don’t have a work ethic. Poor people, in general, have no work ethic either, which is why they’re poor.

If you found yourself agreeing with anything Da Newt said, please leave right now. I may make you explode with my liberal rage.

Let me speak as someone who is at the bottom of the economic ladder.


Hundred percent,99Percent by ~M3ran on deviantART

I have a part-time job. It’s the only work I can find. We are expected to do full-time work on a part-time schedule and everyone I work with is over-worked and underpaid. But we do our job and we do it WELL. On occasion, when the work is available, I teach college courses and run workshops for students. I do freelance work when I can find it, but it’s nowhere near a steady income. I get up at six, sometimes five in the morning, to work on said freelance work. I get maybe $25 per article, and I write three to five articles a week. I also maintain this blog, another three to five articles a week there, work on my own writing in the hopes of getting published, and try to read as much as I can to better my skills.

I work a full day. I have a work ethic. Others in my economic bracket have a work ethic. Speaking on behalf of the Hispanic population at least, we have a damned good work ethic. The problem, and this is key, is that there ARE NO JOBS. Even though the private sector’s been getting better the last two years, the economy still has a long way to go.

This is kind of like blaming famine victims for dying because they just don’t have proper table manners. If only they knew how to properly sear a tuna steak and garnish a salad!


Famine by ~cloudminedesign on deviantART

If you are conservative, you should be appalled that this man is leading the running for the Republican Party. The GOP thinks that people who make a million dollars don’t have enough money, but people who make $20,000 a year and get by on government assistance have it TOO easy.

I’ll admit that we’ve gotten lazy as a country in many ways. Television, for the most part, sucks. We don’t read nearly as much as other people around the world. Fast food is preferred to actually cooking. If we can’t Google it, we probably won’t even bothering looking for a book to get it.

But we like money. We like having enough to survive and a little extra to go shopping, catch a movie, or save up for a big trip. When I worked in DC, I had to get up at 5:30 AM so I could be in the office by 7:30 AM. We clocked out at 6 PM most days, but if there was important legislation going through or other urgent matters came up, we stayed an extra hour or two, sometimes three. This was NORMAL even when Congress was NOT in session. And we weren’t paid much. In fact, we were paid peanuts compared to private sector jobs. I actually make more per hour working as a part-time tutor than I did working as a Congressional assistant.


Work ethic by ~ScottFalco on deviantART

Don’t tell me poor people don’t have a work ethic.

I have a damn good work ethic. Nearly everyone I know in my situation has a good work ethic. Five back-to-back tutoring sessions, a presentation, and on-the-job training? All in five hours? Sure thing.

It’s just that pricks like Gingrich and the rest of the GOP seem to think having money must mean you worked for every dollar. Did Gingrich somehow work a thousand times harder than I did last year? No?

Will all respect to Burt Gummer, is his head up his own ass for the warmth?

Let’s watch something less scary than the thought of Gingrich as President, shall we?

Comrade Picard: Star Trek’s Unfortunate Communist Message

December 2, 2011

This is an edited version of something i wrote for a class back in college. It got me an A, too. As you can see, while I enjoy Star Trek in all its forms, I still have serious reservations about one little aspect of its mythology…

In the Star Trek Universe, there is no greater commandment for Starfleet personnel than the Prime Directive, otherwise known as General Order #1 (“The Drumhead” TNG 095). It dictates that Starfleet personnel must not interfere with the development of less technologically advanced worlds. This includes, but is not limited to, sharing advanced technology, “helping” a world develop, or even revealing that there are other intelligent beings in the universe.

At first glance, the Prime Directive seems both benign and logical. If a pre-warp1 civilization is exposed to the truth about life in the universe, or is given technology too quickly, they might self-destruct.  Our own history shows that when two societies with a large technological gap between them meet, the results can be disastrous. The Prime Directive serves to both protect alien cultures and the Starfleet personnel who study them.

However, the Prime Directive also prevents humanitarian action and places all other priorities, even sentient life, on the back burner. It is an absolute law. In effect, it prevents Starfleet captains from taking action that could save lives, even in instances where such help would go unnoticed by other civilizations. In the two hundred years since it was created, the Prime Directive has become a plague upon the Federation.  In fact, despite Starfleet’s protests, a captain’s test of morality should be judged on whether he or she had actually broken the Prime Directive, not whether they upheld it.


Star Trek ENT All Crew by ~KadouCreations on deviantART

The United Federation of Planets was founded in 2161 (“The Outcast” TNG 117). Ten years before, the various species in our section of the galaxy existed with each other through loose alliances and treaties. Humans had barely left the Solar system and lagged behind several other species, notably the Vulcans.  In an effort to prove themselves, Humans entered the world of galactic politics with a small fleet of ships capable of nothing faster than warp 52 (“Broken Bow” ENT 001).

The first ship sent to explore the galaxy, the Enterprise NX-01 commanded by Captain Jonathan Archer, faced hostile alien species and caused shifts in the political field.  For example, Archer and his crew exposed Vulcan spying equipment on the Vulcan monastery of P’Jem, increasing tensions between the Vulcans and their neighbors, the Andorians, in the summer of 2151 (“The Andorian Incident” 007).  By mid-fall, both sides were on the verge of war, and the Vulcan consulate on Earth placed the blame on Archer’s meddling (“Shadows of P’Jem” 014).

Throughout Enterprise’s mission, the Vulcans, who exercised a control over Starfleet3 that many Humans did not appreciate, shepherded Earth. Captain Archer, for example, often blamed the Vulcans for stifling human technological development. It took Humans nearly ninety years after inventing warp drive to even hope to become a truly interstellar civilization. The Vulcans, however, insisted they did not interfere because Humans were irrational and driven by impulse.

In the Vulcans’ eyes, they never interfered and only offered their services where needed (every episode after “Broken Bow”). In reality, the Vulcan High Command unofficially controlled Starfleet for many years. They could say what ships could launch, where they could go, and even what Humans could and could not do once in space. In early 2151, they tried unsuccessfully to delay the launch of Enterprise, citing threats to planetary security from the newly encountered Klingon Empire. In some cases, the Vulcan ambassadors asked Starfleet to divert Enterprise so the crew could help with Vulcan internal affairs (“The Seventh” ENT 033).

Meanwhile, Vulcans condemned Humanity’s intrusion into alien affairs since they felt Humans could cause more harm than good. This fear would later be echoed by the Federation towards its own captains, and the Prime Directive would be written in such a manner that it bound Starfleet from acting on emotion.


Vulcans 2.0 by *Blackwidina on deviantART

Even in pre-Federation times, however, the Vulcans had something akin to what would later be called the Prime Directive. As early as 1957, when a Vulcan survey ship crashed on Earth, the survivors knew they could not interfere with human development4 (“Carbon Creek” 027).  Starfleet adopted a similar, unwritten system nearly two hundred years later.

When the crew of Enterprise explored new worlds, they tried their best to not interfere, although there would be no legal repercussions if they did. The Prime Directive was not made into law until sometime after 2168 (“A Piece of the Action” TOS 049). The early Starfleet (pre-Federation) is shown trying to prevent cultural contamination in “Civilization” ENT 009 and “The Communicator” 034. In both instances, the crew disguised themselves in order to blend into the culture they were studying.

In “The Communicator,” though, Archer is faced with the choice of either sacrificing himself or telling the people on the planet his real identity5. In this instance, only the crew’s quick thinking saved him. He was willing to sacrifice himself to protect a culture bent on killing him. Even before the concept of the Prime Directive was made law, Captain Archer knew the importance of preventing cultural contamination. However, had Archer actually shown the aliens who he really was, there would have been little legal repercussions from Earth, though the Vulcans would undoubtedly have put pressure on Starfleet to either court marshal or reprimand him.


Boldly going by ~Damon1984 on deviantART

There may actually be a reason why the concept of the Prime Directive was not made into a written law with pre-Federation Starfleet. Humans were in the lower end of the technological spectrum in relation to their neighbors. They lacked shields, advanced weapons, and even transporters were fairly new to them. There would have been little for them to interfere with in the way of technological development. They only encountered a small handful of species that lagged centuries behind humanity. Therefore, early captains had leeway with its application.

The unbending nature of the Prime Directive, however, may also have come about because of the nature of space travel.

Starfleet ships employ a mode of faster-than-light travel known as warp drive. Though the early warp drives required weeks or months to travel from one star system to another, the warp drives of the 24th century (TNG, DS9, VOY) still required many hours or days to travel from place to place. Points along the Federation frontier often require travel times as high as several months (“The Neutral Zone” TNG 026, “The Icarus Factor” 040, “Second Chances” 150, etc).


Star Trek – TNG era by ~davemetlesits on deviantART

Even though ships also use faster-than-light communications known as subspace radio, it still takes time to receive orders when a ship is far from the core Federation worlds (“Heart of Glory” TNG 040, “Ensigns of Command” TNG 049, “Night Terrors” TNG 091, etc). Since direct contact with Starfleet Command is impossible in many cases, the lawmakers who originally created the Prime Directive as an unbending rule may simply have been trying to automatically destroy any possibility for cultural contamination. If the law leaves no room for interpretation, it is unlikely a starship captain would attempt to find some way of breaking it. However, in the 22nd and 23rd centuries, the Directive was not enforced with an iron fist. Human ships never wandered too far from contact with Starfleet command, so orders could be received in real-time. Violations of the Prime Directive were analyzed on an individual basis, as was shown in the hundred years after the Federation was founded.

By the mid-23rd century, the Federation had spread to include several species and encompassed at least a thousand planets (“Metamorphosis” TOS 031). Humans and Vulcans remained the most influential species, and Starfleet worked to protect the Federation and study the galaxy. By this time, the Prime Directive was a much more powerful force and every starship captain was willing to uphold it to the fullest extent. Blatant violations could be prosecuted.


Star Trek The Crew by ~KadouCreations on deviantART

However, one captain saw that the Prime Directive was too unbending to adapt to the challenges of exploration.  Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the starship Enterprise NCC-1701 (the second starship to bear this name) was notorious for his utter disrespect for regulations when he felt the greater good was at stake. During his historic five-year mission onboard the Enterprise (2264-2269), Kirk amassed a record of seventeen time travel violations, a record even into the mid-24th century (“Trials and Tribble-Attions” DS9 503). His disregard for the Prime Directive was also infamous.  During his mission, however, he influenced only those cultures he felt needed help.

For example, in late 2266, the Enterprise accidentally became embroiled in a war between Eminar VII and the planet Vendikar. Since neither planet was a Federation member, Starfleet had no right to intrude. The inhabitants of both planets, though spacefaring for five hundred years, lagged behind the Federation technologically, making them candidates for non-interference. However, when the Enterprise visited the planet and was declared a casualty in an electronic war, the crew was required to report to disintegration chambers so the kills could be confirmed. Instead of sacrificing his crew, Kirk worked to end the computerized war, ending the conflict and saving his crew (“A Taste of Armageddon” TOS 023). Though his interference was a blatant disregard for the Prime Directive, Kirk was never prosecuted for it. In fact, Kirk felt he was justified in breaking the Prime Directive. He placed sentient life and the welfare of his crew above regulations. In his mind, the countless lives lost to the war outweighed any cultural contamination.

A few months later, in early 2267, the Enterprise encountered a pre-warp civilization in the Gamma Trianguli system. Upon closer inspection, the crew found that the inhabitants had lived in cultural stagnation for ten thousand years. At that time, they created a machine named Vaal who fed them and protected the planet, extended their lives, but also prevented them from growing culturally. Eventually, they reverted to a technological stage similar to the North American natives at the time of Columbus’ discovery. Kirk saw this and concluded Vaal had to be destroyed in order to free the people from its grasp (“The Apple” 038). In this case, however, the security of the ship was also threatened.  Vaal concluded that the Enterprise could disrupt the balance of power, so it tried to destroy the ship. Even before the crew was placed in danger, however, Kirk already contemplated freeing the people fromVaal’s influence. Ship’s doctor Leonard McCoy also supported Kirk’s decision, citing it is every culture’s right to change and grow.


Kirk Study by ~hoganvibe on deviantART

This pattern of interference repeated throughout Kirk’s five-year mission. If he felt something threatened freedom or life, he acted. His interference into other cultures also included the inhabitants of Betta III (“The Return of the Archons” TOS 022), the Terran Empire of the mirror universe (“Mirror, Mirror” 039), and the miners of Ardana (“The Cloud Miners” 074). In each instance, Kirk placed the Prime Directive below the lives of sentient beings. No legal retribution was ever brought down on him, and he became a legend to other Starfleet officers for over a hundred years after his missions (“Trials and Tribble-Attions” DS9 503).  This should come as no surprise since, in modern times, legendary heroes are the people who defied authority and helped change history: Thomas Jefferson, Doctor Martin Luther King Jr., Abigail Adams, etc.  Kirk understood a law is not just simply because it is a law. Laws exist in order to preserve the common good, but if the law prevents a greater good from occurring, then that law must be broken.

By the mid-24th century, however, both the Federation and Starfleet underwent several changes in policy. The United Federation of Planets changed from a capitalist society to neo-Marxist system6, and Starfleet hid its intentions behind a mask of exploration. Though some spirit from the vast expansion of the 23rd century remained, the 24th century was marked by armed conflicts and massive political changes.

This might be linked to something called the Tomed Incident, which occurred in 2311 and created a fifty-year-long isolation between the Federation and the Romulan Star Empire (“The Neutral Zone” TNG 126). Thousands of Federation lives were lost (The Defector TNG 158), and the Federation agreed to never develop or use cloaking technology onboard their starships7 (“The Pegasus” 264).  In this new era of political and military conflict, the Prime Directive changed in order to protect the Federation more than it protected others.


Star Trek TNG by ~KadouCreations on deviantART

For example, the Prime Directive forbade Starfleet officers from interfering in the affairs of any government, regardless of its technological status.  It even forbade humanitarian aid towards other worlds, even if it could be kept from less civilized species. This was not the case in Kirk’s time. Violations of the Prime Directive for humanitarian aid were not explicit, but since Kirk never received punishment, it is likely Starfleet Command thought his actions were justified. By the 2360’s, however, any interference in the affairs of another world was seen as worse than death for the inhabitants of that world.

In late 2365, the crew Enterprise NCC-1701-D discovered that the fourth planet in the Drema system would destroy itself through a geological anomaly and kill the native population, a pre-warp culture. Captain Jean-Luc Picard could not prevent the catastrophe, even though the Enterprise-D had the technology and time to do it. In the end, Picard violated the Prime Directive and restored the planet’s geologic stability (“Pen Pals” TNG 141).


Picard Funny by ~dalehawkster on deviantART

Picard actually needing to figure out whether or not to help means that the Directive was engrained so deeply into Starfleet behavior that even basic humanitarian instincts were called into question.  A similar situation occurred in mid-2370 when the Enterprise-D received a distress call from a Federation observation post on Boraal II.  The planet’s atmosphere underwent violent electrical disruptions, and, by the time theEnterprisearrived, most of the planet was uninhabitable.  Though Picard could have saved a single village of the native population without their knowledge, even taken them to a new planet without contaminating them, he chose to sit by and watch the planet destroy itself (“Homeward” 165). The difference between the motivation in the first and second cases is not clear. Except for the fact Picard heard broadcast pleas from someone on Drema II, the situation remained the same. He could have helped Boraal II without cultural contamination. Instead, he adhered to the rigid Prime Directive and allowed countless people to die.

Picard is not the only member of Starfleet to display this isolationist and non-interference policy.  For almost forty years, the entire Federation stood by while the Cardassians tortured, enslaved, drove the Bajorans from their home world, and left for many more for dead after the Cardassian Occupation finally ended. In those forty years, the Cardassians killed roughly ten million Bajorans (“Cardassians” DS9 425). Since the early 24th century, the Cardassians occupied Bajor and left only after decades of terrorist activities (“Ensign Ro” TNG 103, “The Emissary” DS9 401), but not before they poisoned much of the planet’s farmland (“Shakaar” DS9 470). Throughout the Occupation, Starfleet cited the Prime Directive as their reason for non-interference. As Captain Picard would later lament, it occurred in someone else’s territory, so it was not the Federation’s place to intervene.

Keeve, a Bajoran resistance fighter, replied to Picard:

…You were innocent bystanders for decades as the Cardassians took our homes…  as they violated and tortured our people in the most hideous ways imaginable…  as we were forced to flee […].  How convenient it must be for you. To turn a deaf ear to those who suffer behind a line on a map. (“Ensign Ro” TNG 103)

In the 20th century,America turned a blind eye to the plight of the Jews during Hitler’s reign, then later as he stormedEurope.America only became involved in both World Wars because we were attacked directly. Politicians feared that the situation inEurope was an internal affair, therefore something we had no business in.


No War by ~Urday on deviantART

In both instances, Star Trek and real life, a major superpower with the means to end suffering and destruction failed to live up to its own principles. Both theUnited States and the Federation claim to value life and freedom. In both cases, each failed miserably. The Prime Directive makes it worse because it makes it illegal to assist someone, whereas in the real world, it was simply a matter of politics. The Federation therefore condones the most hideous acts, like the Cardassian Occupation, under the guise of neutral bystanders. However, there are no neutral bystanders. As soon as someone learns of a preventable catastrophe, they become participants. An unwillingness to help when one has the means is tangible to negligence and apathy.

The isolationist policy of the Prime Directive also has a secondary effect: since Starfleet cannot provide aid unless a world is a member of the Federation, less advanced worlds that achieve warp capabilities must vie for membership.

In effect, the Federation lures other worlds into becoming full-fledged members by promising to protect them and give technology (“The Price” TNG 156, “The Hunted” 159).  Since many hostile species roam space, it is a bargain many less advanced worlds cannot afford to pass up.


Starfleet Logo by ~firebox on deviantART

It is a weighed bargain, however. New worlds must conform to the ideals of the Federation or they may not join.  Bajor faced this problem when their ancient caste system was reestablished for a time. The Federation does not tolerate caste systems (“Accession” DS9 489). Member worlds are therefore assimilated into the Federation, leaving them well-protected and economically secure, but without some traces of their former culture. The Prime Directive is used as a political tool. Instead of exploring new life, the Federation exploits it.

It should be evident by now that the Prime Directive, despite its idealistic beginnings, has been turned into a political safety net by the 24th century. Over two hundred years of implementation, it is apparent a captain needs room to make choices that can affect millions. Starfleet often finds itself in situations it never encountered before since it usually charts areas of space unknown to others.

An unbending law like the Directive can cost millions of lives, and cultural contamination is placed even above the preservation of life.  On at least two occasions, Captain Picard was willing to let millions die simply to preserve their culture (even though said cultures would become extinct). In the Federation (at least in Starfleet), such an act is proof of high morality. In the real world, it is a perfect example of the consequences of isolationism. It was not seen as a problem in the 22nd and 23rd centuries.  By the 24th, however, the Directive’s goals made it incompatible with the government’s policy. Therefore, captains of this era are certainly justified in breaking it when the situation demands it.


NO BLOCKADE ON HUMAN RIGHTS by ~ademmm on deviantART

If we discovered a technologically inferior society in some remote corner of the world, untouched by modern civilization, we would undoubtedly try to study them.  If we then discovered that they would be killed within a week by some natural disaster (hurricane, lava flow, or maybe some disease we have a cure for), would we sit by and watch them perish? If we assisted them, even if they knew where the help came from and they saw our technology, would it really damage them more than death? Picard and the rest of the Federation seem to think so. They place themselves on a high pedestal and watch the rest of the galaxy as wars and injustices occur all around them. The Federation may claim to be enlightened, but they ignore basic ethics, like the sanctity of life, and the edict that with great power comes great responsibility. Instead, the Federation is content as long as it is safe and Starfleet stays out of trouble. Preventing cultural contamination is a lofty goal, but it is not the only ethical Starfleet should vow to uphold.

If modern-day Earth followed the Federation’s example, President Roosevelt would have followed his political advisors when they declared the Nazi invasions as an internal European matter, something the United States had no concern with. Powerful nations would turn a blind eye whenever an earthquake devastated a section of a third-world country.


Your Siblings Logo by ~sdknex on deviantART

Might would make right, and the people with the most power, hence the most responsibility, would be content to let death and destruction ravage the Earth. The Federation is a powerful organization. It commands resources that dwarf modern-day standards (fusion power, massive engineering projects, etc), and it holds the technology to wipe out hunger and disease across entire planets. Instead of helping where they can or when humanitarian issues are at stake, the Prime Directive steps in and the resources remain unused. Starfleet then claims to be a neutral bystander.

The Prime Directive started as nothing more than something to consider when exploring new worlds. It was intended by the Vulcans to prevent Humans from letting their emotions get the best of them. In the first hundred years, it evolved into a law designed to protect less-developed worlds and help them find their own way. By the 24th century, however, the Prime Directive was a shell of its former ideology. The Federation used it to boost its membership, and countless lives were lost elsewhere as isolationist policies took hold. Captains and Starfleet officers who break the Prime Directive should not be court-marshaled. If anything, they should be given commendations. Each time a Starfleet officer breaks the Directive in order to help someone, or to fight for basic freedoms the Federation cherishes, he or she sees beyond the law. Laws can never be absolute, or justice will be stifled.


star trek group shot by *nightwing1975 on deviantART

And now, before we get to the end notes and the references and all that jazz, let’s enjoy a little fun with Trek, shall we? I love the shows and movies (for the most part, but as you can see, I’m willing to have some fun with it. See you Monday, and keep sharing links and telling people about the site!

 

End Notes

1The term pre-warp refers to a civilization without faster-than-light capabilities.  In essence, it is any society that is confined to its home solar system.  “First Contact” TNG 089 establishes that the Federation makes official contact with a world once it develops warp drive, but even then only after extensive study and even surface reconnaissance by trained operatives.  Captain Picard called First Contact missions the most dangerous mission any starship could be sent into.

2Starfleet started out as an Earth-based program.  It was apparently assimilated by the Federation after the Constitution was ratified, probably because it had proven its merit in the Romulan Wars of the late 2150’s.

3The Vulcans had ships capable of warp 7, and speeds beyond that were rumored for other species but never confirmed.  Though no actual speeds for warp factors were ever given, “Broken Bow” (ENT 001) suggests than the Enterprise NX-01 is capable of at least 100c, and as high as 125c at warp 5 (the official policy is that warp factors for TOS and ENT-era ships are cubed in order to get their respective speeds.  Warp 2 would therefore be 8c and warp 5 would be 125c, which is consistent with the shows).

4During the months the Vulcan crew stayed on Earth, though, they affected Earth’s development in several ways.  T’Mir, the leader of the expedition, sold a piece of Vulcan technology to allow a friend of hers to attend college, a young boy named Jack.  The technology she sold was an adhesive substance called “Velcro”.

5Archer and Lieutenant Reed were captured while trying to retrieve a piece of advanced technology they accidentally left behind on a pre-warp world.  The government that captured them mistook their physical differences to mean that their enemies had engineered super-soldiers.  As a result, Reed and Archer would be put to death and dissected.

6The reasons behind this assumption would require a report onto themselves, so I refer you to Mike Wong’s excellent essay on the subject, “The Economics of Star Trek”, at http://www.stardestroyer.net/Empire/index.html.  In short, there is no money, the government controls nearly all means of productions, there are never any references to private business beyond something small like a restaurant, and military work is the best chance to advance in society.

7In early 2371, however, the Federation reached an agreement with the Romulans.  The Empire agreed to lend Starfleet a single cloaking device for use onboard the Defiant NX-74205 when the Dominion threatened our section of the Galaxy.

 

Works Cited

“Ensign Ro”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Michael Piller.  Directed by Les Landau.  Produced by David Livingston.  NBC,20 October 1991.

 

Works Consulted

The Original Series

“Balance of Terror”.  Star Trek.  Written by Paul Shneider.  Directed by Vincent McEveety.  Produced by Gene Roddenberry.  NBC,15 December 1966.

“The Return of the Archons”.  Star Trek.  Written by Boris Sobelman.  Directed by Joseph Pevney.  Produced by Gene Roddenberry.  NBC,9 February 1967

“A Taste of Armageddon”.  Star Trek.  Written by Written by Robert Hamner and Gene L. Coon.  Directed by Joseph Pevney.  Produced by Roddenberry.  NBC,23 February 1967.

“Mirror, Mirror”.  Star Trek.  Written by Jerome Bixby.  Directed by Marc Daniels.  Produced by Roddenberry.  NBC,6 October 1967.

“The Apple”.  Star Trek.  Written by Max Ehrlich.  Directed by Joseph Pevney.  Produced by Roddenberry.  NBC,31 October 1967.

“Metamorphosis”.  Star Trek.  Written by Gene L. Coon.  Directed by Ralph Senensky.  Produced by Roddenberry.  NBC,10 November 1967.

“A Piece of the Action”.  Star Trek.  Written by David P. Harmon and Gene L. Coon.  Directed by James Komack.  Produced by Roddenberry.  NBC,12 January 1968.

“The Cloud Miners”.  Star Trek.  Written by Margaret Armen.  Directed by Jud Taylor.  Produced by Roddenberry.  NBC,28 February 1969

The Next Generation

“Heart of Glory”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Maurice Hurley.  Directed by Rob Bowman.  Produced by Gene Roddenberry.  NBC,3 April 1988.

“The Neutral Zone”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Maurice Hurley.  Directed by James L. Conway.  Produced by Gene Roddenberry.  NBC, 29 May 1988.

“The Icarus Factor”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by David Assael and Robert L. McCullough.  Directed by Robert Iscove.  Produced by Robert L. McCullough.  NBC, 7 May 1989.

“Pen Pals”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Melinda M. Snodgrass.  Directed by Winrich Kolbe.  Produced by Robert L. McCullough.  NBC, 14 May 1989.

“Ensigns of Command”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Melinda M. Snodgrass.  Directed by Cliff Bole.  Produced by Gene Roddenberry.  NBC,15 October 1989.

“The Price”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Hannah Louise Shearer.  Directed by Robert Sheer.  Produced by Gene Roddenberry.  NBC,26 November 1989.

“The Hunted”.  Star Trek:  The Next Generation.  Written by Robin Bernheim.  Directed by Cliff Bole.  Produced by Ira Steven Behr.  NBC,21 January 1990

“First Contact”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Dennis Russell Bailey & David Bischoff and Joe Menosky & Ronald D. Moore and Michael Piller.  Directed by Cliff Bole.  Produced by David Livingston.  NBC,3 March 1991.

“The Drumhead”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Jeri Taylor.  Directed by Jonathan Frakes.  Produced by David Livingston.  NBC,29 March 1991.

“Night Terrors”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Pamela Douglas and Jeri Taylor.  Directed by Les Landau.  Produced by Gene Roddenberry and Rick Berman.  NBC ,31 March 1991.

“Ensign Ro”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Michael Piller.  Directed by Les Landau.  Produced by David Livingston.  NBC,20 October 1991.

“The Outcast”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Jeri Taylor.  Directed by Robert Sheerer.  Produced by David Livingston and Herbert J. Wright.  NBC,29 March 1992.

“Second Chances”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by René Echevarria.  Directed by LeVar Burton.  Produced by Peter Lauritson.  NBC,6 June 1993.

“The Pegasus”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Ronald D. Moore.  Directed by LeVar Burton.  Produced by Ronald D. Moore.  NBC,23 January 1994.

“Homeward”.  Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Written by Naren Shankar.  Directed by Alexander Singer.  Produced by Peter Lauritson.  NBC,30 January 1994.

Deep Space 9

“The Emissary”.  Star Trek:  Deep Space 9.  Written by Michael Piller.  Directed by David Carson.  Produced by Rick Berman and Michael Piller.  NBC,3 January 1993

“Cardassians”.  Star Trek: Deep Space 9.  Written by James Crocker.  Directed by Cliff Bole.  Produced by Peter Allan Fields and Peter Lauritson.  NBC,24 November, 1993

“Shakaar”.  Star Trek:  Deep Space 9.  Written by Gordon Dawson.  Directed by Jonathan West.  Produced by René Echevarria.  NBC, 22 May 1995.

“Accession”.  Star Trek:  Deep Space 9.  Written by Jane Espenson.  Directed by Les Landau.  Produced by Hans Beimler and Steve Oster.  NBC,26 January 1996.

“Trials and Tribble-Attions”.  Star Trek:  Deep Space 9.  Written by Ronald D. Moore and René Echevarria.  Directed by Jonathan West.  Produced by Robert Hewitt Wolfe, Steve Oster, and René Echevarria.  NBC,4 November 1996.

Enterprise

 “Broken Bow”.  Enterprise.  Written by Brannon Bragga and Rick Berman.  Directed by James L. Conway.  Produced by J. P. Farrell and Dawn Velazquez.  UPN,26 September 2001.

“The Andorian Incident”. Enterprise.  Written by Rick Berman, Brannon Bragga, and Fred Dekker.  Directed by Roxann Dawson.  Produced by J. P. Farrell and Dawn Velazquez.  UPN,31 October 2001.

“Civilization”. Enterprise.  Written by Phyliss Strong and Michael Sussman.  Directed by Mike Vejar.  Produced by J. P. Farrell and Dawn Velazquez.  UPN,14 November 2001.

“Shadows of P’Jem”. Enterprise.  Written by Mike Sussman and Phyllis Strong.  Directed by Mike Vejar.  Produced by J. P. Farrell and Dawn Velazquez.  UPN,6 February 2002.

“Carbon Creek”.  Enterprise.  Written by Chris Black.  Directed by James Contner.  Produced by J. P. Farrell and Dawn Velazquez.  UPN,25 September 2002.

“The Seventh”. Enterprise.  Written by Rick Berman and Brannon Braga.  Directed by Davig Livingston.  Produced by J. P. Farrell and Dawn Velazquez.  UPN,6 November 2002.

“The Communicator”.  Enterprise. Written by Andre Bormanis.  Directed by James Contner.  Produced by J. P. Farrell and Dawn Velazquez.  UPN,13 November 2002.

 

 

Guns, Elves, and Fireballs

Who needs a gun when you can summon a demon from the Abyss to crush your enemies?

November 30, 2011

It’s no secret that I like me some fantasy. I started out and still love science fiction, though, and you’ll find most fans have a nice overlap in their tastes like this. Sword and sorcery is awesome, especially if I can make it part of an Saturday RPG session. However, one thing that’s always bothered me is the lack of guns in fantasy.

Please note that I am not advocating gun use or gun control or anything like that. I’ve always just wondered why fantasy in general, even in stories set within a medieval time period where gunpowder could exist, shy away from firearms. Science fiction isn’t shy about including “magic” like the Force, so why is fantasy afraid of technology?

Historically, firearms have existed in one way or another for hundreds of years. Everything from single-shot hand-cannons to rocket-powered arrows made a bang on the battlefield, even if they weren’t primary weapons. Most of us probably know early firearms as the slow-loading muskets and flintlocks from old Revolutionary War movies and Three Musketeers. For most fantasy stories, a bow or a crossbow will do.


Dragon’s Breath Crossbow by ~orcbruto on deviantART

There’s something elegant about an archer with a bow, so I can see why a black powdered-fueled firearm seems clunky and overtly modern. Even a crossbow looks too much like a gun. Some writers and players want that feel of agelessness that bows and a gun-free world evoke. Imagine the elves in Lord of the Rings wielding muskets or shotguns instead of bows and arrows. It might look awesome, but it would also be noisy and time-consuming to shoot and reload.

There are valid reasons for not using firearms in fantasy, though. Some people believe they led to the death of the knight and all those wonderful medieval combat clichés we’ve all come to know and love (they didn’t, but contributed). Say goodbye to shining armor and clanging swords. Who needs those when you can shoot a .70 caliber ball of lead at your enemy from fifty yards away? There goes the one-on-one duel. Likewise, firearms are more closely tied in with modern times. Even though gunpowder and gunpowder-based weapons have been around since the 14th century, we still mostly associate them modern war. Of course, all this is moot if, in your fantasy world, magic has advanced to the point where wands and spellcasters can rain eldritch homicide on their enemies. Firearms maybe accessible… but why use them?


Vampire Hunter-Gun by ~Maury73 on deviantART

But that doesn’t have to be the case. Plenty of fantasy uses firearms. Urban fantasy justifies it by usually being set in a modern world. The Harry Dresden series, for example, has the titular wizard carry a gun to deal with threats magic can’t handle or if he tires himself out. Likewise, Final Fantasy hasn’t shied away from guns, either. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower has the main character be a gunslinger who would be right at home in an old Western (except for the whole End of the World and different realities thing).

It just depends on flavor. For example, in my own Dungeons and Dragons game, I’ve always been interested in introducing firearms, but making them one-shot weapons that have to be reloaded more slowly than a bow and arrow. I don’t want to get rid of the sword, shield, and bow and arrow, but I want to show a world in transition. Eventually, I’d like to actually have something like the Old West… but not yet.


Fantasy Pistol 01 by ~TypoCity on deviantART

Besides, it’s FANTASY. If you want to have samurai swords and revolvers next to each other, why not? If in your world, dwarves use shotguns heavy enough to double as warhammers, what’s going to stop you? Me? I’m thinking of actually writing up rules for firearms in 4E in maybe selling that pdf at some point. Don’t hold your breath, though…

In the meantime, let’s enjoy a trailer for a movie that takes this kind of genre-bending to heart, shall we?

Learning How to Spell: It’s Just Hocus Pocus

Shown here? Sociopathic child murderers. No, really.

November 21, 2011

If you’re a regular reader, you know I love a bad movie. Give me cheese. Give me ham. Serve it with some well-fermented low budget and you’ve got a winner!

Every so often, though, I come across a movie that isn’t bad, but it has so many things that could easily qualify it as Rifftrax material. However, a weird alchemy of performance, writing, and just the right amount of cheese make it into a wonderful movie that actually gets better with age.

One such movie is Hocus Pocus.

Wait, I know what you’re thinking.

“The Disney movie with Bette Midler?”

Yeah, that’s the one. Mary and I actually sat down to watch it this weekend out of pure nostalgia, and the more we watched it, the more we realized how smart and genuinely funny it was. Yes, there was a drink or two involved, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a movie you should watch if you want to learn a few things about writing.

Yes, writing.


Just a Bunch of Hocus Pocus by ~MirrorCradle on deviantART

Take Refuge in Audacity

The Sanderson Sisters are so completely over the top and fit so many of the standard “witch” stereotypes that they probably seem like a minstrel show for Wiccans. The movie is historically inaccurate to the point of being a Fox News documentary.

And I’m fine with that.

Winifred (played by Bette Midler) is so hammy that it works. If you’re going to have a villain be over-the-top, go all the way. Nothing kills the mood more than a half-assed attempt at villainy that ends up coming off weak because it was supposed to be taken seriously. Unless a character is supposed to be goofy, at least make him or her aware of the insane amounts of scenery they’re chewing. Winifred is as stereotypically villainous as it gets, but she’s very much aware of her image and plays it off every chance she gets.

Not to mention the fact that she’s genuinely dangerous and one of the first things we see her do is drain a child of life and sentence her brother to an eternity as a cat.

If you’re going to have ham, might as well have the whole pig.


.:Hocus Pocus by ~IsaiahKS on deviantART

Aim at Kids, Hit the Adults

I first saw this movie when it came out in 1993, then again a few years later, but it really wasn’t until I saw it this weekend that I realized just how adult a lot of the humor was. Seriously, the entire premise starts with our lead character getting made fun of for being a virgin, then lighting the candle that brings the Sanderson Sisters back.

After this, everyone from the talking cat to his little sister (played by a VERY young Thora Birch) points out he’s a virgin every chance they get. What are the odds her character even knew what a virgin was?

Then, you have Sarah, the ditzy witch who is about as sharp as a turkey sandwich. She easily comes off as child-like and whimsical… until she starts making cracks about hanging kids on hooks and playing with them. Throw in the fact that she’ll apparently mount anything with a Y-chromosome, and you get someone who may appear harmless to the little kids watching her while appearing to embody every aspect of lust and the cruelty of childhood.


I Put A Spell On You by *TraditionalDanimatio on deviantART

Your Readers are Smart

Nothing kills the mood more like the reader calling out things your characters should have done. The Sanderson Sisters are bumbling Disney villains most of the time. The heroes are two high-schoolers, one 10-year-old, and a talking cat from Colonial America.

But they do a lot of things that make sense. The kids are smart enough to recognize they have a few advantages over the witches, such as their knowledge of modern technology. Max takes early advantage of this by using a lighter to set off a fire-suppression system and pretend it was a spell to the newly-arrived witches. He later uses a car’s headlights to simulate sunlight and make them think they’re about to die. Plus, they actually try to warn the police and the adults about the situation.

Of course, running around and saying you just resurrected 300-year-old witches that are part of local lore does you make sound like you’ve been licking frogs.

The Sanderson Sisters also have their moments. After they realize everyone is really in costumes and they get made at a grand party, they play it off as though they too are in costumes and sing a song that’s really a component to a spell that enchants a good chunk of the adults in town.


A Bunch of Hocus Pocus by ~Anamated on deviantART

There are moments of stupidity on all sides, of course, but the rest of the movie really is put together very well and does so many things that redeem its flaws. Remember to not be afraid to make things over the top. If you have to dial it down later, so be it, but better to have more than you need than to have to try and make things more dramatic or funny later.

Hocus Pocus should have been on my Halloween movies list. It’s one of those movies that really just goes with the premise and plays with it. It’s got stuff for adults, for kids, and it’s just fun.

Let’s enjoy Bette Midler one more time, shall we?

War on Christmas 2011

November 18, 2011

This is a very quick post, no pics, no nothing, but I need to say something…

It’s not even Thanksgiving and the War on Christmas is in full swing. Heathens, pagans, atheists, and dirty liberals, rally to me! We’re going to make sure Santa gets shot down by NATO, the Nativity gets replaced with heavy metal cut-outs, and all Christmas carols are replaced with Cthulhu songs.

If you asked the good folks at Fox and the Drudge Report, that’s pretty much what’s happening. Ladies and gentlemen, the War on Christmas 2011 is in full swing!

This is the time of year when conservatives like to bitch and moan that liberals are destroying the sanctity of their commercialized pseudo-pagan holiday celebrating the birth of their savor that was actually born in spring. They get all huffy that other faiths have the audacity to celebrate holidays in December. They insist everyone should say Merry Christmas and ignore anyone else least you show yourself to be an American-hating Nazi.

So what was the first salvo this year?

Obama is taxing Christmas trees because he’s an Ay-rab Muslim!

Here’s what happened. The industry is creating a self-imposed tax (note how this has nothing to do with the president) and the new regulations are going into effect. Please note how it is the INDUSTRY that wants the tax in order to help their business.

What did the Right hear?

“OBAMA IS TAXING CHRISTMAS TREES!”

There is no War on Christmas. It’s really gotten to the point where any action a liberal takes that does not involve singing carols or wrapping presents is part of some attack. I did plenty of stories on this last year, and I was hoping to have a few more weeks to prepare, but let me just lay it out for you guys.

There is no War on Christmas. There are just insecure conservatives who simply must have everything be the same or else they begin to question their faith.

Now that we got that out of the way… bring on Christmas salvoes!

And to get everyone ready for the weekend, here is a video of our future god empress. See you Monday!

Why Plagiarism is Good 2: The Return

If you squint, you can almost see the public domain rights.

November 16, 2011

As I work on the next Charcoal Streets story and edit the manuscript, I can’t help but wonder at the morality of borrowing characters, ideas, even entire storylines. Every writer’s done it. House? It’s Sherlock Holmes in a hospital. Lion King? It’s pretty much Hamlet with animals. Even my beloved Batman is a copy of Zorro, another childhood hero of mine.

Speaking of which, where did the Spanish and Mexican superheroes go?

Anyway, back to the subject at hand…

Borrowing ideas is not a necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’re just starting out. They can be the launch pad for another, better idea. When I first started writing fiction, it was mostly science fiction and I shamelessly borrowed ideas and plots from Star Trek, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and anything and everything I could find in the genre. Looking back on those old stories will no doubt show shameless plagiarism, but it was a way to learn the ropes, how to structure a story, characters, etc.


Plagiarism by ~FatesDarkHand on deviantART

One assignment I received in college was to try and imitate a poet’s style. I can’t for the life of me remember who I picked, but I remember thinking that imitation was the last thing you wanted to do at that level. I wanted to find my own voice. However, we found that trying to imitate the style made us aware of our own style, for better or worse. We saw the words we used over and over again and even the type of diction we were more comfortable with.

Such an exercise is good for any writer, or any artist for that matter. If you’re a photographer, try to imitate a style or even a photograph you really like. You may find a new angle or even location filled with opportunity. Painters and other visual artists can do the same thing with famous works of art.

There is, however, a flipside to this exercise. You can easily become enamored with someone else’s style and forget to develop your own. For example, a lot of young artists start by drawing anime-style. It’s a simple, well-known set of designs that people can use to learn things like proportion and movement. Fine. I get that.


Anime by ~AmaraKaiba on deviantART

I don’t, however, get why many people continue to use that same style for everything they draw. I can’t tell the difference between one person’s chibi and another’s manga. This is also the problem with action and horror movies. It’s one thing to try and imitate John Woo or Alfred Hitchcock, but some people never get past the imitation. Musicians can also easily fall into this as they religiously hold on to certain styles. It takes skill to get past that initial exercise and make something unique.

Take the Ravenloft campaign for Dungeons and Dragons, for example. The original setting and adventure are shameless copies of everything from Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. Strahd stands in for the Count just like Adam stands in the Frankenstein’s creature. Over the last several years, though, the setting has been fleshed out. The Vistani, who originally stood in for the gypsies in Stoker’s novel, are now a full-fledged culture in the game with their own rituals, history, and the like. The land of Barovia is superficially Transylvania and any other European country that can’t pronounce its w’s, but now it is part of an elaborate prison for dark forces and offers a lot more than just Gothic locales.


Barovia by ~coyotemax on deviantART

Indiana Jones was a throwback of old pulp stories and tropes. Now, it’s a standard in action-adventure. Battlestar Galactica was a blatant rip-off of Star Wars, but it evolved into one of the most acclaimed SF series in a long time.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It was can also be a wonderful exercise into your own limitations or an experiment to try new techniques. It should not, however, become the end.

Now go out there and do some plagiarism.

Uhm, I mean research.

And if you need a short break, here are a group of guys who took eighteen different genres and turned them into something new and awesome.