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What Brave New World Is This…


We live in a world in which I can get a message on my telephone telling me that angry birds want to use my current location. It’s like having a Hitchcock movie in my pants.

“For Hate’s Sake” — Angry Birds Fanfic

If you haven’t played the Angry Birds game, you’re missing out. It’s very fun, and rather addictive. That said, it strikes me as the Moby Dick of the modern generation; a tale of an obsession with vengeance so deep that it no longer considers the cost.

From hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.

“We die.”

Red Breast and I watched as Yellow Wing was flung toward the fortifications; the horror that we had once felt now replaced by a dull, shell-shocked emotional aching.

The canaries had proven during the conflict to be the bravest of us all, or at least the most dedicated. Not content with the momentum imparted by the terrible catapult, Yellow Wing mustered the last of his strength, driving himself with all the velocity he could find faster and harder into the walls protecting the pigs. There was a crashing, a shattering, of wood and glass and stone — and bone — and with that, Yellow Wing was gone. His life had been exchanged for that of the mother pig, helmeted and protected deep in the protective structure with her baby before our attack had begun. Earlier sortees had claimed the life of her husband and torn down the walls that were to keep them safe.

And now, it was but Red Breast and I, and the piglet that remained alive in the shattered ruins, protected now not by the walls that had been erected to keep him safe, but by the debris that had fallen during the attack, landing in such a way not to crush him but to shelter him.

The two of us, and a baby pig. Our leaders would say that it was only fair; the life of their young in exchange for ours, the eggs that they had stolen from us that had launched this conflict. But the truth was, it had long since stopped being about the eggs, we had paid a far higher price in our own eggs than they ever had taken from us. My own beloved had dropped three of our eggs, three of our unborn children, on the pigs, using them to knock down walls, to kill our porcine foes, before she finally sacrificed herself bringing down a fort. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

The general said that she chose to give her life because she thought it was the only way to take down the wall. I suspect she could no longer go own killing her own children for the sake of this war; a war she, like so many of us, fought not out of belief in the cause but purely out of loyalty.

This was no longer a war.

This was genocide.

The pigs’ initial attack had been repaid in their blood and our own a hundred times over, and yet still we persisted. The pigs had stopped fighting back, and had turned purely to defense, and yet still we persisted. We killed, and continued to kill, and died in the process. Our generals sent teams that were poorly equipped for the tasks they were given; blue birds died en masse bringing down walls that would have been simple for one blackbird to take down. But the generals didn’t care; they were far more interested in haste, in fighting a war on a hundred fronts than they were in our lives. If they could have shed enough of our own blood to drown our enemies in it, they would have, and gleefully. They would not be content until either all of the pigs were dead, or until we were.

“We die,” Red Breast repeated in empty monotone, as he climbed into the dreadful catapult himself. He launched himself toward the rubble, and toward the piglet hidden inside.

I heard the sick thud and snap of his neck breaking as he hit the wall, splintering it with the force of impact.

As the dust settled, I surveyed the results. The piglet was still alive. Red Breast was dead.

But with his death, he had shattered the last of the debris that protected the baby pig, leaving him exposed.

A child. An orphan. An innocent. A child, not unlike the eggs that had been stolen to start this conflict.

My squadron was eliminated. It was only me. I could leave. Go home. I’d lost my beloved, our children, but I could go home with my life. And in doing so, refuse to take the life of the innocent child before me.

I loaded myself into the catapult.

“Aye, we die.

“But we take pigs with us.”

Forward Rebels!

Me at last year's Ole Miss/UAB game

Football season is upon us.

That glorious time of year when I find myself making a special effort to pay attention to the sports section of the Sunday paper so I don’t look like an idiot when I go through the security gate at work.

See, on the front of my car, I have an Ole Miss license plate. I have this because I am an alumnus of the University of Mississippi. I spent four years there, and earned my degree there. I thus have some degree of fondness and loyalty for the university, from which I graduated.

As you probably know, the university from which I graduated, like many universities, has a football team. Granted, this is true more some years than others, but even so. However, the tag on the front of my car is there because of my connection with the academic institution from which I graduated, not for the athletic department thereof.

Thus far, I haven’t had the heart to explain this to this one guard who sometimes works at the security checkpoint at the gate I normally use to go to work. He is not an Ole Miss graduate or even fan, but is a fan of one of this state’s college football teams, and of SEC football in general. And thus has used my tag as the foundation for morning conversation when he catches me on my way to work. He occasionally ambushes me with questions during the off-season, but I do try to be prepared during the fall. Despite the fact that he has no particular connection to or interest in Ole Miss, he generally knows more about how we’re doing than I do.

I don’t follow sports in general, and Ole Miss football is pretty much the one exception to that. That said, “follow” is relative. I keep up with whether we win or lose, and that’s about it. In any given year, I might, possibly, maybe, be able to name as many as two players. When I had cable, I tried to watch as many of the televised games as I could. When I lived in Mississippi, I tried to listen to as many of the radio broadcasts as I could. I haven’t had cable in two years, and haven’t lived in Mississippi in eight.

I’ve attended games very sporadically, many years not making it to any at all. Last year I went to two games in the same season, which was possibly a record for me. One was planned well ahead of time; the other was a spur-of-the-moment thing when I was in Oxford with a friend on game day.

I will say, however, that I am a true Ole Miss fan in the sense that I am loyal through thick and thin. Many people became fans of the team during the most recent golden years with Eli Manning, and have been surprised and disappointed in years that didn’t live up to that standard. I became a fan during lean times, and over the years have learned that when it comes to Ole Miss football, the only constant is inconsistency. Even in consecutive weeks we can lose to Vanderbilt and beat Florida, and look just like ourselves doing either. Being a true Ole Miss fan is a great lesson in what it means to love unconditionally. (In a variety of different ways, even — like the current mascot selection process.)

This year, I’ll be attending at least, and probably only, one game. I find it horribly offensive that you can buy tickets online to a football game at my alma mater for five or six bucks, but I’m certainly not above buying at that price.

In the meantime, my iPhone is configured to send me push notifications when points are scored in Ole Miss games this season, and I’ll be reading the newspaper so I can talk about how we did.

Football season is upon us … Are. You. READY!?

Expendable Pilgrim

I was interested in watching both Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and The Expendables.

I had to pick one to watch first, knowing it meant I might not get around to the other. Scott Pilgrim won, which in retrospect was the right choice. But when I watched Scott Pilgrim, I wanted to write about it. And based on what I wanted to say about it, I wanted to watch The Expendables, too, and review them both together.

That was the weekend before last. This past weekend, I watched The Expendables. And I watched Scott Pilgrim again.

I rather liked Scott Pilgrim, in case you didn’t get that.

Scott Pilgrim, you see, was a lot of fun. It had a good story, and that went a long way, but it was made well, in a way that was enjoyably whimsical. It was made in a very particular vernacular, to the point where, if you’re unfamiliar with that vernacular, you might as well be watching a foreign film. But if you are, it provides the comfortable intimacy of a story told by someone who knows you.

And that was why I wanted to go ahead and watch The Expendables, as well. My theory was that it, also, would involve its own vernacular, and might resonate in the same way in its world.

I should note, here, that while both movies are rooted deeply in the culture of the ’80s and ’90s, and while I’m very much a child of the eras they’re rooted in, I myself am much more a part of the Scott Pilgrim culture than The Expendables culture. To be honest, I’ve never even watched a Rambo movie all the way through.

Scott Pilgrim is rooted heavily in pop geek culture of that period — in video games and sitcoms and comic books and indie bands. There’s hardly a frame of the film, to use an archaic colloquialism, that isn’t fan service for citizens of that world. The Expendables is written in exactly the vernacular you would expect of a movie that includes Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Steve Austin. (And doesn’t feature a baby in a key role; that’s an entirely separate genre.)

I would say it’s a credit to The Expendables that it’s not quite as slavishly devoted to its vernacular. The scene with “The Big Three” is handled with just as big a wink as you would expect, but then, later in the film, there’s a point where I thought, “They should totally have had Rocky fight that guy instead.” The problem, however, is that the entire point of The Expendables is that vernacular; it exists pretty much solely as a super-potent distillation of the ’80s over-the-top (no pun intended) action genre. Arguably, it would be hard for the film to have gone too far in that direction, since that’s pretty much its entire raison d’etre. It’s a movie, written in a particular vernacular, about that vernacular. It’s fun and entertaining, but very WYSIWYG.

Scott Pilgrim, on the other hand, uses its vernacular as a medium for telling a larger story. It’s a story about relationships, and uses its very contrived world to tell a very real story. I identified with the movie in two ways — both the ambient references to a culture I was very familiar with, but, even more so, its musings on love and relationships. I lived more than a bit of both the context and the content. It was a film with heart, and not just the little eight-bit ones that show how much life you have left.

The Expendables was a couple of hours of fun viewing, Scott Pilgrim will earn a place on my Blu-Ray shelf.

Lego Hacking: What’s Wrong With The World

Federation starship built from Star Wars Legos

Image by Lego Hacker. Click to visit site.

In my news reader feed this weekend was an article on a kid who builds Star Trek vehicles from Star Wars Lego sets, from which the following excerpts are taken:

One twelve-year-old boy, known online as “Legohacker” has figured out the trick of turning official Star Wars Lego sets into Star Trek ships.

Some four-year-olds will create art with Play-Doh or use crayons to create artistic masterpieces, but Legohacker was a bit different than his age-contemporaries, according to his father, Jon Ippolito. “When I had kids I was eager to see what kind of creativity they would spill on a page full of crayon drawings or a lump of Play Dough or, in this case, a bunch of Legos,” he said. “I was pretty astonished to see how sophisticated the kind of thinking outside the box they did was.”

The son, who is now twelve, is still a fan of Legos. Legohacker uses the official sets, turning them into something else using only the pieces that were included in the box (hacking the set). His latest Lego hacking includes turning Star Wars sets into Star Trek ships.

There’s a term for building something with Legos other than the picture shown on the front of the box? “Hacking the set”?

See, when I was that age, the term we used for using official Lego sets to build your own custom creations was “playing with Legos.” Heck, when I was four, they didn’t even have official designs for you to build something other than. You bought a box, it had a bunch of bricks. You built whatever you wanted from it.

It’s annoyed me for years that Lego sets have become more and more specialized in their pieces, which it seemed to me was reaching the point that they essentially became model kits. I was thinking about it from a perspective of the specialization limiting options, though. It never occurred to me that people would be treating the set instructions so religiously that building something else would be considered “hacking.”

We live in a world that is become gradually more and more open-source, and yet we raise children with increasingly closed entertainment. As children’s entertainment gets “better,” it leaves less and less room for imagination.

Children are born thinking outside of the box.

It wouldn’t be that exciting to see them continue to do so at four or at 12 if we didn’t feel the need to construct some elaborate boxes to put them in in the first place.

Here Be Dragons 2

The other day, I wrote a blog post too boring to publish.

A new video game, Dragon Quest IX, came out, and I wrote a post about the existential crisis it caused for me.

See, I really don’t play video games or computer games these days. But I have a long history with the Dragon Quest series. So I had to decide which of these two traits would win out. Long story short, I bought the game.

And that’s very very very long story short. The second sentence of that last paragraph went on and on and on. I explained my entire history with the series, starting with when the first game came out and what was going on in my life when I played it, on through when the fifth and sixth games didn’t come out, all the way through the eighth game, with meanderings about replaying games and the ancillary games and the like.

But it ended up being this embarrassingly long love letter from me, who cares nothing about video games, to this video games series I spent half my life playing. Even if no one would ever want to read it, it was fun to write.

What about you? What are your lingering affections from your younger days that persist despite being something that wouldn’t interest you today?

(Have I mentioned that I am SO looking forward to Tron: Legacy in December?)

Washa Neeba Zow

(Lyrics & story)

Fantasy Film League

The first week’s results are back in the Fantasy Film League, and my blockbuster-in-the-making “Bible Song” raked in $1.5 million at the box office. Not a great weekly take, but I’m counting on word of mouth to help it pick up.

If you’re already in the FFL, how did your film do this week? If not, join now! You’re only $1.5 million behind.

Ides Rambling

Titled with a nod to my friend Joe Gurner and to Julius Caesar, whom I can’t say that I’ve ever mentioned in the same sentence on my blog before.

— I’m amused that, according to my blog stats, the big traffic driver to this blog lately is my Lori McKenna blogging. Makes me think I should do more, and wish that I’d not posted lyrics to lyric sites instead of here previously. Even more amusing is the fact that, when I researched that statement, I discovered that my top posts of all times include stuff I’ve written about Taylor Swift, rainbows and Twilight. I’m not sure what that says about me, and I’m not sure I want to know.

— Two phrases were used in conversations about me on Friday that I really like — “from breakfast to infinity” and “better than thinking!” When I steal a page from Lain’s book and write my multi-volume autobiography, those two should surely be among the titles.

— Speaking of my friend Lain, this weekend, he took my sex and made it sexier. If that ever happens outside a game of Scrabble, I’ll be worried. (And, technically, it happened in the online “Words With Friends” game, which is on the iPhone and maybe Facebook and who knows where else. If you play, feel free to challenge me to a game.

— Came across the best tweet ever recently, by @BFree63: “Just had a terrible thought: What if Skylab is *still* falling? watch the skies…” I have NO clue what it’s supposed to mean, but I love it anyway.

— Saw this at the end of an e-mail, and love it: “Have a nice day, unless you already have other plans.”

— The snarkiness annoys me, but I have to agree.