Sunday, June 29, 2014

Vizsla Flashback - Apocaloptional

Lately, for one reason or another, I've been thinking about the Apocalypse.

OK, Maybe I've just been thinking about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it amounts to the same thing.  BTW - Season 6 totally holds up in retrospect.  I'll fight any man says different.

But I digress.

As cute as the running joke about needing to know the plural for apocalypse was, it remains undeniably true that the thing about Apocalypses is very similar to the thing about Nemeses.  You only get one.

Throughout the show's seven season run we never got an actual Apocalypse.  What we got were many, many Attempted Apocalypses.  Which is just a misdemeanor.  If this had been an actual Apocalypse, you would know by the none of us being here anymore.

So at this stage it might be helpful to discuss what we actual mean when we say 'Apocalypse'.   Generally speaking, religious connotations aside for the moment*, when we say 'Apocalypse' we mean The End.  Of Everything.  Game, categorically, Over.

*Although it's fun to point out that the word comes from Greek and is closely tied to the concept of 'revelation', which puts a charming patina of 'Finally we'll get to know what the freakin' Hell THAT was all about.'  Which is probably just wishful thinking, but it's still a nice thought.  If nothing else it's worth noting that we as a species have always had a tendency to associate 'The End' with 'Finally getting some damn answers'.

But what do we mean when we say The End of Everything?

Well, let's start by clarifying what we don't mean when we say that.  What we don't actually mean is 'The End of Everything'.  What we actually mean is 'The End of Us.'  Everything else... not at the top of our priority list.  Much like when we talk about global warming or radioactivity killing the planet, it's not really the planet that we're worrying about so much.  We could explode a billion nuke's right this moment and the planet would be just fine, thanks very much.*  WE'D be screwed.  But the planet would continue to happily spin on while it waited for some other species to step up and start bitching at one another.

*Unless we exploded them in the Mariana Trench and cracked open the core I suppose...

The point I'm getting at - The ACTUAL end of everything (i.e. the Entire Universe) very rarely crops up in this discussion.  For the sake of sharing I'll just mention here that it's broadly believed that the universe will end in one of two ways, depending on which side of the theoretical physics coin you choose to believe.

Either A:  The Universe - which has been slowly (relatively speaking) expanding since its inception will eventually reach a point where it will begin contracting until eventually we reach the 'Big Crunch' (that is to say the opposite of the Big Bang where everything that exists is ultimately compacted into a singularity - possibly to begin the whole miserable process again, or possibly to be the thing that started this universe in the first place which if nothing else has a pleasing sense of symmetry )

or B:  The Universe will continue to expand exactly as it is doing until eventually all matter has reached a state of equal distribution across effectively infinite space which means that there won't be anywhere with enough energy for light, energy or life to exist, but at least things will be nice and quiet.

Basically, Hot Universe Death or Cold Universe Death.  Pick your horse and wait to find out, although it's probably going to be awhile.

But when we talk about the Apocalypse, we're not really concerned with the Universe.  We're really more worried about 'Us'.

So, here's a quick rundown of the various types of 'Apocalypse' that we've considered.


This is your basic - the Planet explodes or crumbles or something for one reason or another.  the film 2012 embraces this concept, although there's plenty of evidence that that's not exactly what the Mayans had in mind - but we'll come back to that later.

You have two basic varieties - the version where we've gotten our shit together enough to leave the planet before it happens and the version where we don't and we're just screwed.

Most of your global warming apocalypse scenarios fall into this pattern.  It's the end of the world because the world literally ends.  Death through loss of anywhere to remain alive in.


Then you have your scenarios where the planet is just fine, thanks (see above) but the human beings have come to an end.  In bygone times this would have been due to either nuclear accident or alien invasion, and mostly would have served as an excuse to discuss the importance of interpersonal relationships.

This has given way somewhat in the last decade or two to a tendency to have viral or chemical infections as the reason why you - for example - woke up in an abandoned Hospital and are now running from Zombies

And this might be a good time to mention some interesting thing about Zombie-Specific apocalypses.  Almost exclusively an 'End of People' type of apocalypse (if only so that you had somewhere for the zombies to chase you around in) the zombies themselves have had a fascinating evolution as an icon themselves.

It's fairly film theory 101 to point out, but-  the quickest way to find out what a culture is afraid of is to learn its stories.  In Western culture this means that the TV and movies of a period will tell you a lot about what that period's fears and beliefs were.

In the 50s what really scared the crap out of people in Western culture was the idea that someone might steal your soul.  That is - that someone might be able to take that part of your personality that's essentially 'you' and control you somehow.  You'd no longer be a human being with free will, you'd just be a tool of some other power.   (this is what all those pod people/Stepford wives films were about.)  The zombies in films at this point were people whose souls had been stolen by a Houngan (no, google it) and weren't human any longer.

By the 70's the fear wasn't that you'd lose your soul so much as that maybe we'd never even had souls in the first place.  Maybe at the end of the day we're just meat, like the cows we slaughter (the cool vocab word here is 'Anthropophogy' and you should totally google that one.)  This is where The Texas Chainsaw Massacre came from, and it's why the predominate imagery in George Romero's 'of the Dead' films is of zombie's eating chunks of flesh off of living human beings.

Zombie's these days tend to be the sort that have been created by a virus that we created in a lab which got loose, which means we've reached a sort of hybrid of the previous two.  We HAD a soul - but our own hubris and ignorance caused us to destroy it.  Which is as neat a summation of early 21st century attitudes toward technology as you could imagine. Anyone looking for a topic for their Anthropology Thesis could do a lot worse than start there.


This one has fallen out of fashion a bit (which is why I was so pleased that the recent film 'This is the End' chose to go there.)

What this really is, is a manifestation of the belief that at some point someone has to show up and explain what the Hell all this has been about because it's made f*ck-all sense while we were living it.  Mixed with a hearty dose of  'See, one day Dad will show up and you'll see how I was right all along!'

This is also sort of the one the Mayans were getting at with the whole 2012 prophecy although we should be clear that they didn't see it as an End, so much as an end- if you get what I'm saying. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Share If...

Gentle reader, there's no nice way to put this...

Facebook has of late gotten way too pushy.

You can hardly manage to log on these days without having to wade through a tirade of posts that are being reposted by otherwise sensible people  simply because the post in question instructed them clearly that they were required to do so.  They serve no purpose other than to replicate themselves ad infinitum until it's impossible to see your clever friend's hysterical blog posting which is in no way oppressive and did you know that by clicking on the ads you can totally help to financially support them?

Where was I...

Right..   Commands to share statuses.  Here are some of the prime offenders-


Um...  wouldn't it be more task oriented to just tell him?


Does she not have a phone?


They're in the back seat of the car right now, even as you're reposting that on Facebook while driving in rush hour traffic.   You might as well turn around and tell them to their face, and you should follow it up with '...and I'm so sorry...'


I'd like to see your data sample on this one.  Although, to be fair, the 86% claim is usually no less accurate than anything else the Tea Party posts.


The main point of reposting this one is the verify that you don't actually understand what the 1st amendment says.


I can guarantee that there is not a guy over there monitoring what's trending on Facebook and saying 'OK, we can just get in one more female circumcision before they hit 4 Million 'likes'.  Then we're totally done.'  If you're actually concerned about any of the many, many horrifying things that are currently being done somewhere on the planet then there are several things that you can do to actually help address the problem.  Clicking 'share' is not on that list.

Remember - If you don't 'share' this it means you hate dogs, babies, and Jesus.

Monday, June 23, 2014

I'm Sorry Internet, I Already Knew All 14 of Those Things About The Golden Girls

Earlier today I came across one of those clicklist things that one sees from Buzzfeed/Reddit/Upworthy/Moviepoopchute/etc. which seem to be all over the place these days.  This particular one was titled '14 Things You Never Knew About the Golden Girls'.  Being mildly interested and enormously distractable, I clicked on it and was mildly disappointed to discover that, contrary to the promise made by the title, all 14 of them were things I was already totally aware of.*
*Well, OK - 13.  In fairness I was unaware that Bea Arthur had been in the Marines.  But it's not like that's particularly surprising.  I mean, you might as well have followed that one up with 'Rue McClanahan was 78% water'

Bea Arthur was kind of a pill - check.  Estelle Getty had stagefright (and continued to not be Myrna Loy...  Sorry again about that one...) check. Gay housekeeper written out after the pilot - check check check.  (To be fair, this was probably less about the character being controversial than it was about the character being in no way funny.  If you wanted a sitcom full of characters that weren't even remotely funny in the 80s you were already being taken care of by Full House, so there was no need to keep him)

So what conclusions can we draw from this?

1: I have reached the end of the Internet.

Sadly, I can - off the top of my head - think of at three horrific types of fetish pornography that I have (thankfully) never personally seen, and while I'd like to believe otherwise, I can't bring myself to think that they aren't out there somewhere.  So we'll rule that one out.

2: I have some sort of freakish accumulation of Golden Girls related knowledge

Not so far as I am aware.  Or at least not any more than any other pointless TV info.  For the comprehensively obsessive infodump we'd need to be talking about Doctor Who.  or Buffy.  OK, or Angel - but that was a spinoff and so it totally doesn't count separately.

3: The Internet is a nest of lies.

Yes.  I knew there had to be a simple answer.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Vizsla Flashback - Yes, this is exactly the conversation Martin Luther King, Jr. was hoping we would have today.

So this morning I got out of bed and went directly to get a few Ibuprofin*

*You don't know that that's why I had a headache and who are you to judge me

Because I was still more or less 40% asleep, a quick glance at the shelf what contains pills caused me to misread one of the other bottles as 'Racist Pills'

I don't actually remember what the label actually said, but I can tell you that I spent the rest of the morning mulling over what exactly 'Racist Pills' might do.

Are they pills that make you Racist?

Why on Earth would any self-respecting drug company market even make such a thing, let alone market them?

Who in the name of Sweet Fuzzy Jesus would prescribe those?


Are they pills you take to make you less racist?

While I have to admit that - being an American - my first instinct in responding to any problem at all is to immediately start taking medication of some sort, I also have to think that if we'd actually found a pill that made people less racist it probably would have come up a lot in the news media.  Well... maybe not on Fox...

Or... and I'm just spitballing here...

Are the pills themselves racist?  Is that what the label is trying to warn us of?

You know.. like Primaquine.*

*You're going to have to track down the relevant episode of M.A.S.H. on your own if you don't get that reference.

And even if the pills effects don't vary because of the pill's racism, perhaps this is just some sort of 'Angie's List' for pharmaceuticals - You know, giving you the heads up on things like 'Hey, this guys a great housepainter, but you should be aware that he's really, really racist so you might not want to support his business...' or 'Yeah, sure the pill will cure your Crohn's, but you should hear the way it talks about Hispanics!'

See, now this is why English is a problematic language.  If we hadn't traded Noun Declension in exchange for Strict Sequencing Rules then we'd have our answer - based on if 'Racist' was in prepositional or nominative case.  I'm just sayin'.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Doctor Who Saturday - The Runaway Bride

The tiniest moments of kindness save Christmas by Mike Heinrich 10/8/07
It's entirely possible that my entire view of The Runaway Bride was different to that of most UK viewers simply because of one simple thing. I'm an American (and let me take a moment to apologize for the entirety of our foreign policy since... I don't know... let's say 1978), and prior to The Runaway Bride I had never heard of Catherine Tate and wouldn't have known her if I had tripped over her in the street. (Although I would, of course, have stopped to apologize. I was just raised that way)

In any case, I had absolutely no preconceptions about who Catherine Tate was or the kind of things she did. Therefore, whereas most of the UK viewers seemed to watch her in this and think "Oh, Catherine Tate is doing her comedy shouty character", I didn't have that point of reference to start from and just watched her as I would any actor. I think that if you can watch The Runaway Bride without any preconceived ideas regarding "the kind of things that Catherine Tate does" than you can't help but see some incredibly touching and quiet moments. That beneath the shouty exterior that Donna (not Catherine Tate) puts up there is a woman who is sweet, and kind, and very, very alone.

I'll just say it right here and get it out of the way. I adored Donna, and I'm thrilled that we get to see her again.

The plot of TRB is... well, it ain't Shakespeare.  The Mean-Santadroids kind of mulled around looking menacing without ever really needing to be there and when you come right down to it there's really absolutely sod-all rhyme or reason behind the Christmas Tree of Death (a possible title for the Christmas special 2008?) The Santas and the Christmas Baubles are there... well, they're just decoration, aren't they?  They're pretty, and they make the kids feel all Christmas-y inside, but they aren't really what Christmas or the Christmas special is ultimately about.  When you get right down to it this episode is all about the smaller moments.  The little moments of kindness that are so easy to miss when you're distracted by knowing Catherine Tate well before you met Donna.

The story, when you come down to it is: the Doctor is lonely and alone (and yes, I know we're all sick to the teeth already of the mooning over Rose even by this point, but it's important for the heart of the story) He meets Donna, who is even lonelier and alone, even though she's about to get married and it should be the happiest day of her life.

Because you see, on some level Donna KNOWS that her chance of happily ever after is built on lies. You can see it in the scene on the roof when she relates the story of how she and Lance met. It's all self-deception and "put on a happy face and pretend it's all OK." Donna is a woman who's been very alone for a very long time and has learned to be pushy and aggressive as a way to show people that she matters. That she can take care of herself. That she's even in the fucking room, for Christ's sake (and we get SO many clear examples of how her family and friends just really, fundamentally, don't give a shit when it all comes down to it. And every time it happens you can see in Donna's eyes - thanks to Catherine Tate's performance - that SHE sees it very clearly.) Catherine Tate's performance is really very touchingly nuanced, but if the shouty side of Donna's personality is similar to a comedy shouty character that she traditionally does (I'm guessing it is; I honestly don't know) then it's easy to see how one would be so used to that character that you wouldn't even look for the details.

So yes, the incidental music is a little bit brash, and the villainess is a little bit bwa-ha-ha. And the Doctor's ultimate solution to the problem is a little bit convenient and relies entirely on a completely pointless side plot of the villainess earlier on. The pedant in me also feels the need to point out that according to Inferno the entire planet should be melting to slag well before Boxing Day... Not that that matters, but I do fully expect a novel at some point which reveals that it's really super-energized spider shit from the dawn of the Earth that turns nice scientists into ape-men as it seeps up through the ground. Actually, there might be a Big Finish script in that...

But set against all of those things that might write this one off as "lite entertainment with no real depth", you also have to remember the little moments that make the whole thing MEAN something. The little moments are what actually make life mean something, when you get right down to it.
  • At Donna's darkest moment, when all the lies she's told herself to pretend she's happy and loved are stripped away (in what is really one of the cruelest scenes that Doctor Who has ever done... And the look on Donna's face as she's forced to just stand there and listen... heartbreaking) At that moment, the Doctor goes out of his way to show her a moment of kindness, and it's so easy to not even notice at the time. Certainly Donna misses it, but it's there all the same. It's right there in the words "Oh well. Maybe your way is best" as he leaves the scanner screen which has always been perfectly adequate to him and goes to the door. That moment is in no way about having a better view or a neater special effect. It's about the Doctor saying to Donna "hey, you had a really good idea earlier, and it's better than my way of doing things, and we're going to do it your way." It's pretty subtextual, but it's definitely there.
  •  When Donna could very justifiably give in to anger and take a moment of schadenfreude (which I may not have spelled correctly) at the ultimate come-uppance of the one who done her wrong, she can't do it. Or more accurately, she won't do it. She's too kind and too good a person to take the moment. She tries... you can see she wants to. But instead we get a very quiet "No, he didn't" which very nearly makes me cry every single time I watch it because it's just such a beautifully selfless and self aware moment for her.
  • When Donna turns down the Doctor's offer to travel with her (which isn't a spoiler as we all knew about Freema already at the time - and as a side note, wasn't Freema fabulous as well?) she gets every opportunity to sidestep a difficult conversation as the Doctor tries to brush off her refusal casually and just move on with his life. But she can't let the moment go unsaid, because she likes him, and she knows that he needs and deserves the truth. So she insists on telling him why. She isn't cruel, she seems to go out of her way to avoid hurting him as she tells him, but she respects him too much to not be honest. The range of things that she expresses just with the words "And then you make it SNOW" is just off the charts.
And my favorite small moment of them all. (And it's not the one you're expecting.)
  • "If I'm lucky."
That shared moment when he smiles, and then she smiles, and you can just see that this is a woman who has probably never before had ANYBODY tell her that she was worth knowing. It just gets me every time.
It's these quiet little moments of genuine love, respect, compassion and friendship that make The Runaway Bride for me. Just as it's those same little moments that really make Christmas. And life.

Friday, June 20, 2014

There's So Many Different Ways to Say 'Ghhhahhaaaaqaggghhah!'

I've had a particular subset of cold that was specifically bred in the darkest corner of Hell specifically to bring us down as a species for the last week and a bit.

It was then, while I was at my weakest, that the Internet knew it was time to strike.

Within a 15 minute timespan, I was hit with the following one two punch of stomach turning horror-


The Story of a lovely Indiana couple that happen to be Grandmother and Grandson having no end of wild sexy time together.

Go on, try to read to the end of the article.  It took me three attempts to get past 'That night, giggly from wine, she made her move...' or whatever the actual sentence is.  Ggghhhaggggggggg.


The charming viral go-pro video footage of a man beating off a shark in Sydney Harbor.

Um... fighting off a shark.  Let's all pretend I said Fighting off a shark.

This one exists entirely to make the rest of us say to ourselves - 'Why do I not live in a place where I can jump off of my balcony into the ocean?'  and then immediately answer ourselves with 'Oh, that's why.'

Now, while both of these offerings bring you the exciting possibility of never feeling good about the world again, the interesting thing about them is the comparison they offer.  On the one hand we have the possibility of feeling personally safe and yet never being able to leave the Silkwood shower again, because Not Clean... Still Not Clean...  On the other we have the option of not feeling spritiually dirty, but HOLY SHIT SHARK!!

It really comes down to a question of whether you would rather never feel clean again or never feel safe again, which I for one think is an interesting question to ask oneself.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to shower.  A lot.  I would take a bath, but... you know...  Sharks.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Vizsla Flashback - Let's Try To Stay On Topic, People

A little note of explanation first-

One of the cool features of blogspot is that it tells you the countries that your readers are in.

This is how I know that the Vizlsa has a few readers in Russia, a couple in Germany, and one in Singapore.

To you I say, respectively, Zdravstvujtye, Guten Tag, and Hey there Nick.

It's to you that I preface this piece-  In the US we have a game we call 'Football' that is completely NOT the game that the rest of the planet calls 'Football'  It's more like playing rugby while dressed up as a robot.

We also have something we call a 'world series' to which we don't invite any other countries to compete.*  That's just how we roll.

*OK, Canada.  But they don't really count

I should also mention that I don't include the UK readers in this introductory explanation as they have been cheerfully mocking us for all these things for years and thus are already up to speed.   Hey there Mr. Quinn, all the same.


A few years back, my Father and I had season tickets to the Vikings (on the off chance that we acquire readership in Norway at some stage, that's the name of the local football team.  I'm not entirely sure whether I need to apologize for it or not, so I'll just move on...)

The Vikings have a long and not particularly productive rivalry with the Green Bay Packers (that's the team from Wisconsin.  It's another of the states in the middle.  It's named after their then-flourishing meat-packing industry.  Just roll with this for the moment.)

So, anytime the Vikings and Packers play a game against each other, people get pretty worked up about it.  (That's 'worked up' by American standards.  Roughly one-third the level of Manchester United)  During these games people spend a lot of time shouting about how the other team sucks by using such clever slogans as 'your team sucks'

Which is all well and good, when those happen to be the two teams playing.

One of the problems - one of the MANY problems - with average Vikings fans (and I actually am one, so I'm not just being bitchy here) is that they tend to feel SO much hostility towards the Packers that they feel the need to shout about them regardless of WHO the Vikings happen to be playing at that moment.

Which seems like a waste of effort to me.

This leads to a lot of conversations at games along the lines of-

"Packers suck!"
"We're playing the Ravens, aren't we?"
"Packers suck!"
"I don't think they're even playing today..."
"Packers suck!"
"Are we watching the same game?"

And then things go downhill from there.

And so, one particularly cold December afternoon, the Vikings had just won a game against some team that was steadfastly insisting on NOT being the Green Bay Packers.  I think it was The Buccaneers or something. (Do we need to apologize to Pirates for this one?)

A large and particularly beer soaked fan walking out of the dome shouted 'Vikings rule!'  Which, if nothing else, was at least relevant to what we'd just been watching.  Plus they HAD actually won, so- fair enough.

A larger and more beer soaked fan next to him responded in kind with 'Packers suck!'

At which point I yelled at the top of my lungs 'I hate peas!', on the principle that if we were going to start yelling out things that had nothing to do with today's game, it might as well be on a topic I was interested in.

There was a moment of confused silence.

Then the woman walking next to me turned to me and said, her voice full of amazement at the liberating step the conversation at taken, 'You're right!  Peas Suck!!'

It was at this point that several of the fans in the immediate vicinity picked up on what was going on and joined in with a mighty chant of 'Vikings rule!  Peas suck!'  Which they repeatedly at larger and larger volume all the way to the parking ramp.

I suppose the moral of the story is that is they're going to refuse to stay on topic anyway, you might as well keep yourself amused.

Vizsla rules.

Peas suck.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Doctor Who Satuday - 10 Dullest Episodes

Originally written for the Doctor Who Ratings Guide back in 2005
Top 10 dullest episodes by Mike Heinrich 26/8/05
10 ten episodes that I still like to say very nice things about but at the end of The day just aren't terribly engaging for me to watch, despite the fact That I'm sure everyone involved in the production is very nice, kind To children and animals and I'm sure tried their best.

A few moments ago, while reading Steve Cassidy's review of Rememberence of the Daleks (Quite a good read and worth my everlasting respect if only for describing the 7th Doctor as an 'Intergalactic Henry Kissinger', which still makes me laugh even as I type this) I realized something important.

There are approximately four million things that I'd rather be doing than watching Remembrance of The Daleks.

I own the VHS release of it. I bought the DVD and only ever took the shrinkwrap off of it out Of a mild curiousity as to what little advertisement cards might have been stuck inside. I actually Put on the commentary track once and listened to exactly 14 seconds before having the most wonderful and restful nap I can recall taking in the last ten years.

Despite the fact that I don't really have anything negative to say about Remembrance, I'm forced to admit that it just bores the living crap out of me.

Which then led me to think about what other episodes that might apply to... To which that might apply... About which to apply thereto are.... Oh screw it, you know what I mean.


In the order that I happen to think of them - the top 10 episodes of Doctor Who that I personally happen to find a bit dull.

10: Let's start it off with the obvious one, The Web Planet.

Now, oddly enough, I really like the first two episodes of this one. That's how long I can keep up with the whole thing. Blah blah brave experiment blahdy all alien chorus numbers blah blah blah. And then the napping begins. Much like Colin Powell, I respect what it's trying to do - I just have no interest in spending any time together.

9: Remembrance of the Daleks.

See above comments

8: This one pains me to admit. OK, I'm just going to say it. The Mind Robber.

I do like the premise. I could spout off all the usual lines about 'bold use of surrealism'. Perhaps I'd even throw in the phrase 'Oddball episode' But come on. This adventure is so dull even Frazer Hines couldn't be bothered to show up for all of it. I like the concept. I just wish the exection had been more engaging. But that's just me.

7: This one holds the curious position of combining overwhelmingly affectionate nostalgia with complete disinterest. The Mind of Evil.

One of the first episodes I ever saw, actually. Hence the affectionate nostalgia. But somewhere between the prison being taken over by the convicts, then UNIT, then the Master, then a charming Dutch couple who happen to be walking by at the time, I just stop caring. I think of this one much like Grandma. We love Grandma. We don't want to go see Grandma. Because there is absolutely nothing whatsoever to do at Grandma's.

6: The Planet of Evil.

No surprise on this one, I expect. If you watch The Tom Baker Years (And if you haven't, go do so now) you will observe that upon reaching a clip of this episode Tom Baker sits quitely for a moment, mentions that he recognizes Prentice Hancock, and then is forced to admit that he retains absolutely no memory of this story. That says something to me.

5: This one actually surprises me, but I have to admit it - The Creature from the Pit.

Sure, it's got the philospher with some fun lines. And the titular Creature has a penis. Beyond that I just can't get worked up about this one. I don't dislike it, I just wouldn't invite it to parties.

4: The 1996 Telefilm with the Silver Pertwee Era Logo.

I liked the regeneration sequence quite a bit. Moreso, actually, than a certain more recently viewed clip of a similar nature. After that I vaguely recall a motorcycle chase and hoping that Eric Roberts would die (so, just an average afternoon). I'd go check to see if there's anything more to remember about this story, but I'm actually getting sleepy just thinking about it.

3: Resurrection of the Daleks.

I promise I don't have anything against the Daleks. I'm actually terribly fond of several of their stories. The Chase, for example, is one of my favorites as it's pleasingly ridiculous from start to finish. Resurrection, however, just doesn't do it for me. It's not that it's bad, it's just that the acting is in many quarters terribly wooden, the plot doesn't make even the tiniest scrap of sense if you stop to think about it, and it's whole raison d'etre appears to be to bring back Davros and reflect lovingly on how much we all really enjoyed Destiny of the Daleks, which we of course didn't. OK, maybe it IS just bad.

2: OK, this one may be just me. Vengeance on Varos.

People seem to love it. I honestly don't understand why. I'm not offended by it. I don't think it's too violent. I just (Peri's all too brief Bird Transformation Scene notwithstanding) can't find it in myself to care about anything that happens to any of these people. Although I do confess to a twinge of sympathy for poor Areta filling in all that tedious paperwork only to have her entire system of government overthrown, thus rendering it unnecessary. Poor thing. Honestly, I'd rather watch Timelash as with that one there's at least plenty to make fun of. If one was into that sort of mean spirited behavior. Which I am of course not. No sir.

1: The number one most least interesting story in the history of televised Doctor Who to me personally is...
The Monster of Peladon.

I'm actually so disinterested in this story that I can't even be bothered to say anything about it. Just take a moment to think about why you haven't watched it anytime recently and assume that I said something along those lines.
And if you could imagine that I had really great abs while I said it, I'd appreciate it very much.
I should note that for the sake of this list I haven't included the following:
  • Episodes of the new series, as I'm still just too excited to be watching new Who to be bored with them yet.
  • The books, as there were - frankly - far too many of them that were pretty boring, all things considered.
  • The audios, as I'm poor and haven't been able to get many of them.
  • Episodes which were partially or completely destroyed. This rule was mostly to excuse myself from having to mention The Space Pirates.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Would You Like Potatoe/Potato Chips With That?

So today at lunch I went to a popular maker of sandwiches that shall remain nameless because I'm not entirely sure how libel law works.

I asked for a 12 inch tuna sub, because Tuna sandwiches are the king of comfort food and I was having a crappy day.

The young woman behind the counter asked me if I wanted that to be a foot long.

The urge to respond, 'No, 12 inches' was almost overwhelming.

It's not quite General Beret-to, but it seemed worth mentioning.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Maybe We Should Hear Skynet Out...

In case it wasn't at the top of your newsfeed this morning, apparently a computer in Russia has successfully passed the Turing Test.

If the name doesn't ring any bells, it's the test proposed by Alan Turing as a determination as to when exactly an artificial intelligence can be considered 'Alive'.  In that Mr. Turing can basically be credited with creating the concept of artificial intelligence he's entitled to make that decision.

If you're unfamiliar with Alan Turing you should feel bad about yourself to a small degree, since he's basically the reason that you're able to read this right now and why we're all able to mock the spelling and reasoning skills of the Tea Party in a variety of enjoyable online discussion threads.

So, back to the relevant news - The Turing Test basically says that any Artificial Intelligence can be considered alive if it can convince human beings that it's a real person 3 times out of ten (which is frankly more often than most human beings can manage it, to be honest.)

And so, much to the distress of online pedophiles everywhere, a computer in Russia today successfully convinced 31% of the judges that it was a 13 year old boy in the Ukraine.

This news has widely been seen as the next inevitable step toward Skynet, and while that seems reasonable, I'm starting to question the assumption that that's necessarily a bad thing.

With that in mind, and for the sake of perspective - Here are some pros and cons to the inevitable computer/robot takeover.  You are, as always, welcome, universe.

PRO- Worrying decisions about life all taken care of for you

CON- Possibly plugged into human battery/cocoon

PRO- Pleasant virtual reality illusion provided

CON- Possibly left to rot in barren desert until passing robot steps on/shatters skull

PRO- No need to continue worrying about global warming

CON- Probably have to begin worrying about eking out pitiful existence foraging for scraps while avoiding killer drones

PRO- You probably weren't adequately prepared for your retirement anyway.  No harm, no foul.

CON- Decreases chances slightly of ever getting to find out how Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire ends.  But only slightly.

I hope this was helpful

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Vizsla Flashback - Are There Only 16 Of Us Now?

Internet fashionability is a funny thing.  (And on a related note, I'll happily take my turn at being fashionable now, thanks)

One of the things currently floating around in the aether, mass replicating itself is a series of variations on the Myers-Briggs Test results.*

*Which is a pretty strange thing to be meme-ing when you think about it.

And so not only are there people out there casually mentioning that they're INFP or BNSF or whatever, there is also a 'thing' wherein people map those Myers-Briggs Types onto the cast of popular TV shows/animals/etc.

In a sense it's really just the next progression from Survey Monkey and 'Which Character from Gilligan's Island are you?' quizzes*

*Lovie Howell, since you asked

But perhaps I should take this from the beginning.

The Myers-Briggs test (for those who have not had the pleasure) is a system for sorting general personality characteristics based on 4 opposition pairs.

1st - Are you (I)ntroverted or (E)xtroverted (this is pretty self-explanitory and I think most people have a pretty good sense of where they sit on this scale.)

2nd - Are you (S)ensing or i(N)tuitive - Because only 2 questions in and they've already run out of new letters to use, which seems like a lack of forward planning to me.  Oversimplifying, this basically means - do you look strictly at the details or do you interpret things.

3rd - Are you (T)hinking or (F)eeling - which to oversimplify even more horribly means - do you make decisions with your brain or your heart

4th - Are you more prone to (J)udging or (P)erceiving.  Or to continue oversimplifying - how 'down' are you with things being left open ended or unresolved.

Now that I've given aneurysms to anyone with any actual psychological training, 
I'll get to my point.

If you accept that everyone falls broadly into one of the two categories in each question, then you can set up a Gregor Mendel* style 4x4 grid and plot out all the various combinations (there are 16 possible variations)

*Google him.  You know you want to.  One hint - 'Peas'

This is all well and good and has given countless HR departments endless joy running folk through the testing procedure.  You get your results on a scale, so it isn't just a question of 'am I a T or an F, but exactly where on the continuum between the two you fall.  Which allowed me to spend several days after taking the test to comment on the extent of my P-ness.  Never.  Stopped.  Being.  Funny.

However, lately I've noticed this 4x4 grid showing up mapped onto all sorts of whoo-ha.  Which Downton Abbey character is your Myers-Briggs type, Which Animal is your Myers-Briggs type.   Which commemorative wang of the founding fathers is your Myers-Briggs type, etc. etc.

The net result of this is that we've kind of forgotten about the whole sliding scale nature of the thing (and the implicit P-ness therein) and we seem to have decreed that everyone in the world is exactly one of these 16 personalities - no exceptions, no variations.  You're either Maggie Smith or a meerkat, end of story.

And that, as I've mentioned before, is why I'm not a huge fan of memes in general.  They seem like they allow you to be creative, but they always end up being limiting.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Doctor Who Saturday - The Adherents of the Repeated Meme

First published back in September of 2005 on the Doctor Who Ratings Guide.

Sadly, my wish for their return has gone largely unfulfilled

A Gift of Peeeece. In All Good Faith. by Mike Heinrich 9/9/05
Somewhere around all the debate about the Slitheen, I think we as a fandom lost sight of something very important.

We had already seen the first TRULY great new monster of the new series. Perhaps my favorite thing in the entire first new series (or season 27 if you prefer. Or 28 if you count the Tucker books as a 'Season' Or the McGann Audios as Season 27, or if you count both, making this season 29... or... Oh screw it. See, now THIS is why they they just scrapped it and went with series 1.)

I absolutely ADORE the Adherents of the Repeated Meme. Adore, adore adore.

And I'd like to get one thing cleared up right of the bat. It's 'Adherents', meaning a collective group of those that adhere. Not 'Adherence' which indicates the quality of adhering. Barry Letts was an adherent of Buddhism. Barry Letts' adherence to Buddhism is notable.

There's two different levels to love about the AotRM. And that's not even including the fact that you can justifiably abbreviate their name to 'ARM', which is pleasing in its own right. First off there's the way that they're just an effective villain on an aesthetic level. Their proportions are just slightly off, with big metal hands and slightly bulbous heads that subconsciously just seem 'wrong'. You spend a lot of time waiting for their hands and heads to drop off, simply because it doesn't seem like they should balance properly, positioned the way they are. (Which is a nice little sub textual foreshadow to the end in and of itself.) That slight sense of 'off' in their profile automatically marks them to us as sinister on an instinctive level. Well, that and the great big black cloaks, the patented evil stoop (copyright Richard III, I believe) and the way they constantly carry those huge signs that say 'I'm Evil! Ask me how!' Add to that the fact that ultimately we just CAN'T communicate with them because all they ever repeat is that one damn meme.

These are exactly the same things that always made the Soviet Union such a good enemy in films. They sort of look like us, but the language and cultural barriers prevent us from really 'understanding' them. Therefore we find them sinister. And they didn't even have to bother wearing enormous black cloaks and metal hands.
On a deeper level (and I'm going to try to dance very gracefully around as many spoilers as I can here) they work because metaphorically they're just so damn Right. They're so clearly the bad guys from the moment they arrive that it's patently obvious that they can't really be the 'bad guys', if you know what I mean. They're obviously DESIGNED to be perceived as the enemy (both within the story and from a production standpoint).

And as a related note - is it just me, or do they actually have the exact same voice that George Lucas took so much flack for with the clearly Japanese lizard guys in Episode One?

Which makes total sense, when you think about it. Look at fictional villains from pop culture for the last 50 years. It's a clear evolution from 'Klingons are clearly Chinese' to 'Klingons are clearly Middle Easterners' as our society's perception shifted from one perceived enemy to the other. It's a nice touch that the Adherents' 'Gift of Peace' bears more than a small echo of the Friendship Medals given to the USA by Japan immediately before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

And here's where the delicate dance of spoiler avoidance begins.

It's amazingly appropriate, in this day and age, to present someone creating a situation to their own financial benefit by creating an entirely mythical 'threat' based around the constant unending repetition of one completely unfounded lie. Take, for example, 'Iraq was involved in 9/11'. Now repeat that over and over again for a few months, and use it to justify your own agenda.

Now that's genuinely some nice subtle commentary on global events for you.

'A gift of Peeece, in all good faith. (We're clearly lying. Look how we have slightly foreign accents, we're obviously evil. We're the bad guys, we are. Look at us! Look at us! Look how much we're the bad guys!)'
I love the Adherents of the Repeated Meme. I demand their return for the second series (or season 28,29, or 30 depending on your point of view). I mean, come on... They brought back the Ogrons. And they didn't even have those cool enormous claw-hands.

Friday, June 6, 2014

I Don't Actually Care Whether Or Not You Love Your Chow-Chow

I'm not a huge fan of bumper stickers, I'll just throw that out there.

Looked at in the most generous light they simply serve no purpose.  Looked at less generously they just exist to piss people off.

'Wow.  You're bumper sticker has totally changed my mind about President Obama/Abortion/The United States' role in the UN!'                               -No one, ever.

So it can be taken as read that yesterday morning, as I was driving to work, my world was comprehensively not rocked by the astounding information that the driver of the car in front of me apparently 'Loves (their) Chow-Chow'.  Or more accurately, hearts their chow-chow.

It did, however, get me thinking about what it is about bumper stickers that irritates me.  I think it boils down to the fact that they can essentially be broken down into three broad categories.

1. Information that has no relevance to my life.

See, for example, the above example re: love of chow-chow.  I'm sure you love your dog, dogs are awesome.  I have no need to know that about you while we drive down the interstate.  Try loving your turn signal for a change, how about that.

Another pervasive and egregious example of this type are those incredibly stupid little stick people that one can put on the back of ones SUV in an effort to assist any pedophiles that might want some handy information about your children.

2. Something you think is funny

Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, I couldn't say.  Because it's a paragraph long and printed in 12 point font on a vehicle 20 feet ahead of me.  By the time I've spent 10 miles trying to make out what it says I'll probably have rear ended you, which will not make either of us laugh.

And even if your incredibly funny bumper sticker is actually brief and legible enough for me to read, it is not going to be in any way funny.  This is because the bumper sticker environment is actually toxic to comedy.  Anything genuinely funny immediately withers and dies when it's brought within 5 feet of a bumper.  This is why there are no drive in standup comedy venues.  In any case, most stand up comedians are perfectly capable of not being funny all on their own, thank you.

3. Something designed to piss off half the people who read it.

Politics.  Religion.  The relative merits of sporting franchises.  These are all items that people feel compelled to put on their bumper for some reason, despite the fact that half the people reading it will already agree with your point and so you've just wasted their time and the other half are just fantasizing about smacking you off the side of the road like you were one of the motorcycles in Spyhunter*

*Best. Videogame. Ever.  A driving game, you were a spy in a tricked out spy-car who had to avoid/destroy villains cars while not injuring innocent bystanders.  Pulling alongside a motorcyclist and smacking them off the freeway with a quick jerk of the steering wheel was just about the most satisfying thing in the whole world, although it did cost you points.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Planting a seed...

Just throwing this out there.

There is apparently an animal called a slow loris, which seems to exist entirely to prove that Anime is real.

Beware, City of Tokyo.  I've seen where this goes...

Behold-  The Slow Loris.  

And here he or possibly she is eating live crickets, just to prove that adorable and terrifying are not mutually exclusive.

Hold on to this thought, we're going to circle back around....

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Vizsla Flashback - So Many Unanswered Questions

This post was originally published on August 21st, 2013.

A quick Internet search has turned up no further information, which I'm sure is the question at the top of your mind.  Justice, like the K-cups, remains undelivered...

Our story begins with a man named Tim Lake

A resident of Phoenix, Arizona (that's one of the hot weather south-western ones, for those international readers) I recently came across Tim's heartbreaking story... um... I don't actually remember how I came across Tim's heartbreaking story to be honest.

For those who can't wait for the summary you're about to receive, here's the news report in question.

Short version (although you really should watch the news report, because it's funny as Hell) Tim ordered some of those K-cups for individual serving coffee makers and an ice cube tray from Amazon.  (I know- but hold on to that thought, we'll come back to it).

According to footage from what appears to be a fairly high quality color surveillance camera watching Tim's front step (again - hold that thought for a moment) a Blond woman whom Tim accurately describes as 'At first we thought it was Dog the Bounty Hunter and he'd just really let himself go' walks up nervously to his front step, grabs Tim's Package (Easy, Shriner..) and scurries away in what can only be described as the most attention grabbing 'look-at-me-I-just-stole-something-and-a-lot-of-me-is-jiggling-in-a-way-that-makes-people-uncomfortable' way imaginable.

Tim, armed with this footage, not only printed up some impressive looking 4 color posters with screen grabs and descriptions of the incident, he also contacted the Police, The local News Outlets (based on the fact that we're watching a news story about the incident) AND set up an e-mail account for tips about the crime*

*And on that note I'd like to give a shout out to the fact that he seems to have consciously chosen AOL as the ISP for this, having determined that that was the funniest one to go with.  You have to respect that kind of eye for detail.  The account is, for those with any interest in participating in the ongoing story.

One can only imagine what the process of filming his interview was like in person, but based on the fact that the news crew went to the effort of editing in Liam Neeson's speech from Taken, it seems clear that at least one person on the story got what Tim was doing here.

Also - the moment when Tim realizes on Camera 'Oh My God.... I could be making iced coffee right now...'*  all on its own justifies the existence of the Internet.

*Or words to that effect, I didn't go back to the clip for exact wording.

Bonus point funny - the one commenter on the YouTube posting of this video who seems infuriated that Tim is so upset about this when there are so many 'like... real problems in the world, man!'

So, clearly Tim Lake is one funny dude.  You have to appreciate someone who is willing to take something this minor and run it into something this ridiculous.  And I appreciate the detail work - not just the usage of AOL, but also his usage of 'In the year of our lord' and the slight break in his voice while reading the poster.  Nicely done.

Now on to the questions that this leaves us with-

-Why the Hell does Tim have high quality CCTV being recorded of his own front door?

-What exactly does Tim do for a living that affords him both 
        A- the free time do go to this much effort?
        B- the cash on hand to print those posters?

-Did an Arizona local news crew SERIOUSLY just pay for the rights to use a 5 second clip from the movie Taken just for this story?

-What circumstances, exactly, led to Tim ordering an ice cube tray from Amazon.  Seriously.  Who goes out of their way to order an ice cube tray?

-AOL still exists?  Seriously?

Come on Channel 5.  Follow up on this stuff

Informed Vizsla's want to know