Freedom from ads!

I’ve been running this blog for five years or so now, using WordPress. In exchange for giving me a free page, they’d run ads everywhere.cache

But they never showed me the ads. I’d just get a message saying, “Some of your readers may see an ad here.”

I recently looked at this page on my phone and then again from a computer where I was not logged into WordPress automatically and was surprised at how often these ads popped up.

So I finally gave in and paid the extra yearly fee so you won’t have to see any ads.

You can thank me by maybe buying one of my books — they make good holiday presents, too.

Wait, was that an ad?

Real people complaining about fictional people

The new Doctor Who has been announced, and it’s a woman. So of course, some fanboys (and some fangirls) are complaining. “But the Doctor is a man!”

No, the Doctor is fictional.

The biggest complainers are the ones who get an idea in their heads and decide that X version of a fictional character is the only one possible, and any variation is blasphemy. “Superman can’t be black!” they scream, ignoring the fact that Superman isn’t even human — he could be green and polka dotted (although that might make his secret identity a bit tougher to hide).

Sometimes it really matters whether a character is male or female, black or white … if it’s important to the plot. And sometimes the writer/director/producer decides to go against the expected to make a point or to do something different with the character.

Re-interpretations of fictional works happen all the time. Look at how many times Shakespeare has been done in a new way. Characters can change race and sex; the story can take place in the present or the future — it’s fiction. You can do that.

With Doctor Who, it’s even easier to change, because the Doctor changes. Since the show has been going on for 50 years or so, the same actor has not played the part and so the writers came up with “regeneration” where the Doctor sheds his old body and takes on a new one. I’ve never understood plot-wise why that has to happen, but I certainly understand why that needs to be done for TV’s sake. And there is nothing in the established history of the show to indicate why the Doctor regenerated as male the last dozen times (or, for that matter, why the aliens always seem to be attacking London, but that’s a separate issue). So what’s wrong with a female this time?  Statistically speaking, shouldn’t that have happened long ago?

For that matter, what’s wrong with changing real, actual history for dramatic purpose? Hamilton features minority actors playing the white Founding Fathers, and they did that to make a specific point, as well as to say, “Who cares what color the actor is that plays this part?”  The story is still plenty strong, the characters are believable and real, and so what if they don’t look exactly like the people they’re portraying?

So let’s stop complaining when we get a black Santa Claus or a black Hermione, or a female Doctor Who. It’s fiction.

Hodor Forever

The story of how I “predicted” the Hodor plotline has apparently gained me another 15 minutes of fame, as it’s once more recounted on Cracked’s web page today in an article called “6 Throwaway Jokes That Ended Up Predicting Huge Plot Twists.”

If you don’t know the story, click here for the background.

George was of course a great sport about it all and gladly posed for a joke picture afterwards:


Star Trek: IDIC

“Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.”

Celebrating the differences that make us great and accepting those differences was one of the key concepts in the original Star Trek. So I’m glad to see that the official Star Trek merchandise now includes pride

There have been complaints, of course, because there are who claim to be fans of Star Trek who really aren’t, because they don’t get the whole theme of the show. In fact, for most of science fiction (apart from dystopian stuff), when you look to the future, you see more acceptance of different cultures, not less.

When Star Trek first began 50 years ago, it was a shock to see a female officer, and even moreso to see a black female officer. Well, yes, she was in charge of “communications” which, in many episodes, made her just a glorified receptionist, but then there were those where Uhura went on those missions alongside the men, fighting right beside them. Every once in a while, we’d get other female officers and even a black admiral or two. “No way the future would be like that!” some people claimed in 1966, never imagining that within their lifetime it would be unusual not to see people like that in power.

We clearly haven’t reached the goal of true equality, but like the Vulcans, we should always strive for infinite diversity in infinite combinations.  Live long and prosper.

Wonder Woman Once More Surprises Hollywood

Hollywood: “It’s clear that audiences want movies with female heroes.”

No, dammit, we just want good movies. When will you learn?


For years you said, “Audiences don’t want science fiction movies” and you pointed to how they never made any money. Then Star Wars came along, and you said, “Aha! I guess audiences changed their minds!”

Animated films? “No one goes to see them.” Then Little Mermaid is a huge hit. Aha! People want animated films!

Pirate movies? “Nobody wants to see pirate movies, they always bomb.” Pirates of the Caribbean is a hit? It’s so nice how people have adjusted their views on pirate movies.

“Audiences don’t want movies with female superheroes!” was Hollywood’s call until this weekend. “Look at how Catwoman and Elektra bombed!” Somehow the concept that the reason those earlier movies didn’t do well was because they sucked never crossed their minds.

Hollywood’s stupidity is most apparent when it comes to using main characters who aren’t white. “White audiences won’t go to see a movie with an ‘urban’ sensibility!” they say.  (“Urban” is their code word for “black” — as if there are no white people living in cities.) Seriously, Hollywood, this may come as a shock to you, but I can relate better to a story set in an “urban” environment than I can with a story about a bunch of rich, white people in an English countryside in the Victorian days, but for some reason Hollywood never considers that.

So I am also anxiously awaiting the release of Black Panther next year, and if it’s any good, I predict that Hollywood will respond by saying, “You mean people want to see movies with black heroes?”

No, you dimwits.  We want to see good movies.


Peter Pan in Pink

Tired of politics today. Here’s a cute (and true) story for “Throwback Thursday.”

When I was around nine years old, I played a Lost Boy in the Virginia Museum Theater production of “Peter Pan.”

The first scene we were in involved us running around on stage, looking up and seeing Wendy flying into Neverland (off stage). “It’s a bird!” one of the Lost Boys would say. “It’s so big!” another would say. “Look how white she is!” I’d shout out.


Me in costume backstage, doing my homework before the show

So we practiced and practiced and then the show opened and every night, I felt like an idiot saying my line. You see, in the scene, we’d take arrows and shoot them into the air and then Wendy would come down on her wires and land on the stage, where we’d realize she was not a bird. And there she would be, for everyone to see, dressed in the pink gown the costume designer gave her.

So one night about a week into the performance, when it came to my line, I shouted out “Look how pink she is!”

I was surrounded by laughter. I peeked into the audience but then realized it wasn’t coming from there — it came from the stagehands. You see, after performing a play so many times, everyone knew everyone else’s lines and it runs like clockwork — but I had thrown a wrench into the clock.

The show continued on, and after the performance, the director came up to me, while everyone was watching, and kneeled down before me. I was scared that he was mad, but he smiled and said, “Keep the line.”

So I marveled at Pink Wendy for the rest of the performances.

What if the critics’ choice always won the Oscar?

When Moonlight won the Oscar this year, I noted that it had also been the best reviewed film of the year (according to Rotten Tomatoes).  So I started wondering how often that happened.

Here’s a list of the best reviewed films of each recent year compared to the film that actually won the Oscar. Most of the time, the Oscar winner is near the top, but sometimes, it’s clearly not the “best” film of the year.oscar

Note that Rotten Tomatoes uses some magical mathematical formula based on how many reviews a film gets and who those reviews are from and so on so that even if both films get the same percentage of good reviews, one may come out ahead of the other.

Rotten Tomatoes started in mid-1998, so I only went back to 1999 on the chart.

2005 is an interesting year — the best film was a documentary, and the winning film Crash was not very well liked. In fact, it didn’t even make the Rotten Tomatoes top 100 for the year.

The film that came in second that year was Wallace and Grommit: The Curse of the Wererabbit, but as we can see from other Rotten Tomatoes winners, the Oscar never goes to an animated film no matter how well made it is. I mean, seriously, look at this list:  Over the past 18 years, animated films have topped the charts 8 times.

Year Best Reviewed Film (Tomato score) Best Picture (Tomato score + rank)
2016 Moonlight (97%) Moonlight (97%) #1
2015 Mad Max: Fury Road (97%) Spotlight (96%) #3
2014 Boyhood (98%) Birdman (91%) #15
2013 Gravity (96%) 12 Years a Slave (96%) #2
2012 Argo (96%) Argo (96%) #2
2011 Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows 2 (96%) The Artist (96%) #2
2010 Toy Story 3 (99%) The King’s Speech (95%) #5
2009 Up (98%) The Hurt Locker (98%) #2
2008 The Wrestler (98%) Slumdog Millionaire (92%) #8
2007 Ratatouille (98%) No Country for Old Men (93%) #3
2006 Casino Royale (95%) The Departed (91%) #6
2005 Murderball (98%) Crash (75%) > #100
2004 The Incredibles (97%) Million Dollar Baby (91%) #15
2003 Finding Nemo (99%) The Return of the King (95%) #2
2002 The Two Towers  (96%) Chicago (86%) #27
2001 Monsters Inc. (96%) A Beautiful Mind (75%) #71
2000 Chicken Run (97%) Gladiator (76%) #47
1999 Toy Story 2 (100%) American Beauty (88%) #11