March 12th, 2011

Peter G

It Just Didn't Seem Right To Write About Other Stuff And Not This

I want to take a moment to talk about the continent of Atlantis.  It's a legend I'm rather familiar with.  As everyone and their brother knows, Atlantis was supposedly a continent that sank into the ocean, taking its advanced technology and society with it.  The stories are that they had mastered things from artificial power to mystic arts. All gone in a heartbeat.

Now, I'm not making a direct allusion between Atlantis and the recent events of Japan.  It's more between Atlantis and the rest of the world.  See, mankind is blessed with the ability to learn, understand, and control.  In a relatively short time span, we have created hardier crops to increase our food supply.  We have harnessed the laws of physics to do things using nature that people thought could only be done by magic.  We build empires every day, from land to financial to social.

And here comes the world to remind us that we aren't that powerful after all.

We aren't the masters of our worlds.  Not even close.  As we grow up, we learn about things.  We heed those warning voices.  And yet, for all our sophistication and intelligence, we are still just as vulnerable as those days when we first came into the world.  It can all be gone in a flash.  And it will be something you never saw coming and something you couldn't have done anything to stop.

Something like 9/11 happens.  We can point all the fingers we want, but honestly, I don't think it would have made any difference.  The terrorists wanted to shock America and the world and would not have stopped until they did so.  There was an earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004.  New Orleans.  The hurricane that actually made it up to New York (New Yorkers may be able to handle winter driving better than Southerners, but they couldn't handle the hurricane.  Meanwhile, the Southerners were thinking, "You bunch of pussies think THAT'S bad?!?  Come down here in season some time!").  The Haiti disaster.  The tsunami disaster of Indonesia in October 2010.  Australia.  The Arizona Massacre.  And just when everyone thinks that, yeah, Indonesia was bad, but it was okay, only 400 people died (what a terrible thing to think, "only 400 people died"), along comes an 8.9 hitting Japan almost as if on a dare.  "Fine, you want widespread destruction?  I'll give it to you."

Watching the video is just a mindnumbing revelation of how helpless we truly are.  Usually, footage of Japan will show you the busy cities or the quiet traditional country or the weirdness of their fandoms.  None of that, just pictures of people.  People like you and me.  People that could have been and might still someday be us, trying to survive something that can't be reasoned with or stopped.  Helping each other to safety.  Protecting each other from inhuman threat.  Crying for their losses.


I saw the wave overtaking the airport.  I saw the wave sweeping an entire parking lot of cars around like soap bubbles in the sink.  Buildings cracking.  A skyscraper wobbling like a Jenga tower.  People in anguish.  You don't need to understand Japanese, their pain is a universal language.

And yet, there's still a sort of insulating layer.  The Internet, thanks to blogging and YouTube and all kinds of things, lets us all see and experience things, as close as we can get without actually being there.  But it's still the Internet.  Everything is just another TV channel, they aren't necessarily people.  We watch, we think about how terrible it is, but we are still safe in our own homes, with heat and food and loved ones and other things we still have and they don't.

But we don't know how long we have them.  Something like 9/11 or the Oklahoma City or the Arizona Massacre can happen.  Here in Illinois, we are on a tectonic fault line that is actually bigger and more unstable than the San Andreas.  In my lifetime, I recall at least two times and possibly a third where an earthquake hit here.  I remember the first time.  What happened passed the duck test ("If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, chances are you're dealing with a duck").  It felt like an earthquake, even though I'd never felt one before.  But this is Illinois.  That can't happen out here.  Then I found out about the fault line and that not only could it happen here, but it was likely to happen again.  I don't recall another earthquake in Los Angeles, but we've had one or two since.  The last one happened when I was visiting Mornblade and his lovely wife.  It hit, they looked around in shock, and I didn't even budge on their couch as I thought, "Oh.  Another earthquake."  It didn't occur to me until the next morning how arrogantly blaise my reaction was.  I mean, not only have we had more earthquakes in the same time span than LA, but I don't think Chicago buildings are engineered to withstand earthquakes.  Combine that with Chicago being, essentially, a floating city, and one good pop could make the city go Atlantis on is.

We are not the masters of our worlds.  We just live here, hoping against all hope to make something of our limited time here.  And you never know when it will end, when something will remind you just how small you are.

My heart goes out to all victims.  Those who came before.  Those who just arrived.  And those who haven't gotten here yet.
Kill It With Fire

How Appropriate That World Party's "Ship Of Fools" Is On The Radio Right Now

I used to like Family Guy.  The first seasons, before it got cancelled, were funny and I enjoyed the DVD's.  When it returned, Seth MacFarlane started losing sight of what made the show funny.  I look at it now and see a bunch of self-congratulatory masturbatory dreck (Brian, for example, was better as the voice of reason instead of a liberal soapbox).

The show has a reputation for really pushing the boundaries of taste.  It may surprise you to learn that not all the jokes they come up with make it on the air.  One of the writers at a table session came up with a joke about Meg wanting to watch 8 Simple Rules and Chris saying, "That show hasn't been the same since they killed off John Ritter."  Everyone at the table stared at him and he said, "Oh, he would have laughed."  (It got changed to George Lopez and Chris saying, "That show only furthers the stereotype that George Lopez is funny.")  Another problem happened because of timing.  It takes about eight months to animate an episode.  So they will forget what is in an episode until they get the print back from Korea.  One episode had Stewie wandering around the house with a full diaper, complaining, "It smells like New Orleans in here."  Between the time they sent the vocals and storyboards off and got them back, Hurricane Katrina hit.  Stewie's line hit, and everyone watching dropped their jaws.  They cut it before it even made it to the network.

So, you are the producer of a show that likes to go for risky humor.  You hire people who write risky humor.  This means there is a question of appropriateness, but as producer, it's your job to weed out the jokes that are inappropriate.

This also means that, if your writer goes outside your control, he's going to do something stupid.

Alec Sulkin is a writer for Family Guy.  And last night on Twitter, he posted this little nugget of wisdom....

If you wanna feel better about this earthquake in Japan, google “Pearl Harbor death toll”.

Doooooooooooooooooouche!  Bag!

I don't even know where to begin in addressing the epic wrongness of this.

I will simply say this:  jokes are supposed to be funny.  This does nothing but evoke a racist event in America's past.  Kutabare o baka ze!

I've Got A Pocket, Got A Pocket Full Of Sunshine

Everyone's talking about the iPad2.  Everyone wants an iPad2.

I don't even have an iPad1.

Kylie, my IBM S10 netbook, is great.  But there are some times when you want a one-handed operation device.  My Palm Pilot Zire 22 was outdated when I got it, and with the move to Garnet and now HP buying Palm, it's over.  I was holding out hope for an Android tablet.  But part of the problem is the price.  Dell makes an Android tablet called The Streak that has cell phone stuff built into it.  However, I have a pay as you go cell phone.  I simply don't use it often enough to justify a monthly plan.  So getting a Streak would cost me $600.  I don't want an Android tablet THAT bad.

They make tablets without the cell phone stuff.  That puts you in the $300 range.  There are cheaper out there, but oh my God, are you rolling the dice.  Augen made a tablet, the Gentouch 76.  But it runs unauthorized Android so you have to sideload everything.  Resistance screen, meaning you have to use the stylus and things that require more than one point?  Good luck.  Heats up uncomfortably.  Battery life is about two hours.

I thought that was bad until I saw the Archos line-up.  When it comes to the quality of the hardware, Archos makes Augen look like Apple.  Sound chips without drivers and all kinds of shit.  There was an Android with a 2.8" screen, but that was simply too small, and once again, I'm not sure what I would be getting for the money.

Out and about, and everyone who got an iPad2 is showing off their toys.  And I hear something.

There's a sale on Android tablets at one store.

I go over to check it out.

Sitting on the shelf is a Cruz Velocity Micro tablet.  $170, marked down from $300.

I look it over, wondering about it.  Non-working display.  Given the disasters of Augen and Archos, I wonder if I want to take a chance.  Dammit, if only I was at home and could look it up, but we're talking an hour's travel each way.

Then I slap my head.  There's a McDonald's here and I have Kylie in my pack.  You think I'd remember I take her with me just about everywhere.

Jumping online to check it out, I run across nothing but glowing reviews for the device.  Capacitance screen!  7" display!  Regular SD slot!  Don't like the Android 2.2 it comes with?  You can wipe the device and put a newer Android or a full blown Linux distro on it!  Overclocking!  This is what I've been waiting for!

I grab one.  The box says it comes with an 8G memory card.  Whoops!  Came with two!  (I need one for my camera for C2E2 next weekend.)

Now, I need a name.

I name my computers to keep track of them.  An odd division is my desktop machines are named after men and my portable machines are named after women.  So, what am I going to call this tablet PC?  I'm searching through names, and nothing is working.  I wonder if I should call it "Raquel," the name of Dom's secretary in the Stress Puppy strip.

Then, I remember another character I created.

In Sound Waves #4, Rhapsody meets Melody's parents.  Her dad is Laminar, and her mom is named Fermata.

RHAPSODY:  "Fermata," huh?
LAMINAR (snuggling his wife):  What can I say?  She likes to be held.
MELODY (rolling her eyes):  Oh my God....

A tablet PC that you hold constantly....

Folks, say hello to Fermata.