Thursday, July 29, 2010



Beth pointed at the browser window. “I don’t know how he got there.” She shook her head, teeth mangling her bottom lip. She wasn’t sure what she wanted Dave to do about it but it felt good to tell someone, even if it was just the guy from down the hall.

“You must have added him,” said Dave. “People can’t just add themselves to your friends.” He had knocked on the door to ask if she’d spare some milk. One look at her stainedred eyes and he’d asked what was wrong, why was she crying, what could he do to help. In desperation, she showed him the Facebook page.

“Yeah, I guess I must have.” She didn’t look convinced. “Maybe I wasn’t paying attention. I sure didn’t notice when he got added to my friends.”

“What did you notice?” His eyes were full of sympathy.

Beth got up and paced the room.

“His status updates. Originally it was something ineffectual, “Darren is going out,” or something like that. But it was at 2 AM, I was just looking at Facebook before bed. And I thought, who do I know who goes out at two in the morning? That’s when I saw his name.”

Dave’s eyes followed her. “You could have removed him at that point.”

“Could I? Is that even possible?” Beth shrugged. “I don’t know. Anyway, I didn’t even try. I thought, hey, Darren Miller probably isn’t that rare a name, right? So it’s coincidence.”

She stopped at the desk and fingered the faded piece of newspaper, as if trying to rub out the headline.

“I mean, it just seemed so paranoid. It couldn’t possibly be THAT Miller, right?” She resumed her pacing.

Dave stood up and walked over to the cabinet. “Do you mind?” he said, not bothering to wait for a response before getting out a bottle of brandy. He poured them both a measure of the amber liquid and then sat back down at the computer. “So how do you know it is him? You’ve never seen this guy, right?”

“No, just the descriptions from the paper. They never showed his face because there was never a case, everything was circumstantial.” She took a sip of the brandy and then gulped the rest. “And he doesn’t use a photo on the site anyway, just some black and white cartoon face. But his status updates were all about my sister. They were sort of vague at first, Darren is thinking about Susan, that sort of thing. I wrote it off as coincidence.”

Dave nodded. “There are lots of Susans in the world.”

“Well, yeah. But then they got more specific. Darren is dreaming about Susan’s auburn hair. Darren is looking at his photographs of Susan. Darren is remembering how Susan used to look straight through him. And then it got really freaky: Darren can still hear her screams.

Dave got up and refilled her glass. “But you still didn’t say anything.” It wasn’t a question.

“Like what? Beth thinks the psychopath who murdered her sister is on Facebook? I couldn’t really think of what to say. But I started watching his profile page and he was adding links to news story about the case. I couldn’t really call it coincidence anymore. And then, today, that’s when he mentioned me.

“Are you sure it was you?”

“I don’t know.” She took a deep breath to repress the whine. “Here, let me show you, see what you think.”

She strode over to the computer and clicked at the Facebook page. “Oh, wait, it’s changed again.”

Her face went pale as she read the words.

Darren is going over to Beth’s to ask for some milk.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The History Channel


As I mentioned in my last entry, I've been watching Babylon 5 lately. It's not a perfect show, but it has one big advantage: it's consistent and believable.

Contrast this with Doctor Who. Doctor Who is fun to watch, but if you think about it for more than two seconds you notice it's full of plot holes and contradictions. Things that cause time travel paradoxes that threaten to destroy the universe one episode go without a hitch the next. And the TARDIS, the sonic screwdriver, and the Doctor's biology gain completely different powers no one's ever alluded to depending on the situation. The aliens are hysterically unlikely, often without motives or believable science, the characters will do any old insane thing when it makes the plot slightly more interesting, and everything has either a self-destruct button or an easily findable secret weakness that it takes no efforts to defend against.

But I guess I'm not complaining. If the show was believable, the Doctor would have gotten killed the first time he decided to take on a massive superadvanced alien invasion force by walking right up to them openly with no weapons and no plan. And then they would have had to cancel the show, and then I would lose my chance to look at the pretty actress who plays Amy Pond.

So Doctor Who is not a complete loss. But then there are some shows that go completely beyond the pale of enjoyability, until they become nothing more than overwritten collections of tropes impossible to watch without groaning.

I think the worst offender here is the History Channel and all their programs on the so-called "World War II".

Let's start with the bad guys. Battalions of stormtroopers dressed in all black, check. Secret police, check. Determination to brutally kill everyone who doesn't look like them, check. Leader with a tiny villain mustache and a tendency to go into apopleptic rage when he doesn't get his way, check. All this from a country that was ordinary, believable, and dare I say it sometimes even sympathetic in previous seasons.

I wouldn't even mind the lack of originality if they weren't so heavy-handed about it. Apparently we're supposed to believe that in the middle of the war the Germans attacked their allies the Russians, starting an unwinnable conflict on two fronts, just to show how sneaky and untrustworthy they could be? And that they diverted all their resources to use in making ever bigger and scarier death camps, even in the middle of a huge war? Real people just aren't that evil. And that's not even counting the part where as soon as the plot requires it, they instantly forget about all the racism nonsense and become best buddies with the definitely non-Aryan Japanese.

Not that the good guys are much better. Their leader, Churchill, appeared in a grand total of one episode before, where he was a bumbling general who suffered an embarrassing defeat to the Ottomans of all people in the Battle of Gallipoli. Now, all of a sudden, he's not only Prime Minister, he's not only a brilliant military commander, he's not only the greatest orator of the twentieth century who can convince the British to keep going against all odds, he's also a natural wit who is able to pull out hilarious one-liners practically on demand. I know he's supposed to be the hero, but it's not realistic unless you keep the guy at least vaguely human.

So it's pretty standard "shining amazing good guys who can do no wrong" versus "evil legions of darkness bent on torture and genocide" stuff, totally ignoring the nuances and realities of politics. The actual strategy of the war is barely any better. Just to give one example, in the Battle of the Bulge, a vastly larger force of Germans surround a small Allied battalion and demand they surrender or be killed. The Allied general sends back a single-word reply: "Nuts!". The Germans attack, and, miraculously, the tiny Allied force holds them off long enough for reinforcements to arrive and turn the tide of battle. Whoever wrote this episode obviously had never been within a thousand miles of an actual military.

Probably the worst part was the ending. The British/German story arc gets boring, so they tie it up quickly, have the villain kill himself (on Walpurgisnacht of all days, not exactly subtle) and then totally switch gears to a battle between the Americans and the Japanese in the Pacific. Pretty much the same dichotomy - the Japanese kill, torture, perform medical experiments on prisoners, and frickin' play football with the heads of murdered children, and the Americans are led by a kindly old man in a wheelchair.

Anyway, they spend the whole season building up how the Japanese home islands are a fortress, and the Japanese will never surrender, and there's no way to take the Japanese home islands because they're invincible...and then they realize they totally can't have the Americans take the Japanese home islands so they have no way to wrap up the season.

So they invent a completely implausible superweapon that they've never mentioned until now. Apparently the Americans got some scientists together to invent it, only we never heard anything about it because it was "classified". In two years, the scientists manage to invent a weapon a thousand times more powerful than anything anyone's ever seen before - drawing from, of course, ancient mystical texts. Then they use the superweapon, blow up several Japanese cities easily, and the Japanese surrender. Convenient, isn't it?

...and then, in the entire rest of the show, over five or six different big wars, they never use the superweapon again. Seriously. They have this whole thing about a war in Vietnam that lasts decades and kills tens of thousands of people, and they never wonder if maybe they should consider using the frickin' unstoppable mystical superweapon that they won the last war with. At this point, you're starting to wonder if any of the show's writers have even watched the episodes the other writers made.

I'm not even going to get into the whole subplot about breaking a secret code (cleverly named "Enigma", because the writers couldn't spend more than two seconds thinking up a name for an enigmatic code), the giant superintelligent computer called Colossus (despite this being years before the transistor was even invented), the Soviet strongman whose name means "Man of Steel" in Russian (seriously, between calling the strongman "Man of Steel" and the Frenchman "de Gaulle", whoever came up with the names for this thing ought to be shot).

So yeah. Stay away from the History Channel. Unlike most of the other networks, they don't even try to make their stuff believable.

This is too cute. And a little creepy. But mostly cute.

Adele Enderson imagines what her infant daughter, Mila, is dreaming about and then creates a scene around said hypothetical dream as Mila naps. More at:

Monday, July 26, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Life in a Day

“Life in a Day” is a cinematic experiment produced by Ridley Scott and directed by Kevin Macdonald, together with the youtube community.

They are asking anybody and everybody to chronicle their life on july 24 2010. You can then upload your video on the project’s website, and the most compelling and distinctive videos will be edited into the final feature film. The film will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2011 – and if your video is used, you’ll be credited as a co-director and have a shot at being one of 20 people who gets to go to sundance to celebrate with Kevin Macdonald.

Whoever cast Isaiah Mustafa is so very, very proud of themselves.

And, if case these weren't enough, there are a billion of these here.

I love you

I love you, dear internet.

Monday, July 12, 2010