Wednesday, May 31, 2006
I’m your superman
Oh yes I am!
I may not be as fast as a shot from a gun
And stoppin’ locomotives ain’t my idea of fun
And I don’t have the magic to fly through the air
I can feel it when you are there
And when you’re near me I’m like someone new
I even feel real bulletproof too
Na na na na na. . .
I’m your superman
Oh yes I am!
I am not super strong I have no super sight
I’m not afraid of being in kryptonite
And I don’t have the magic to fly through the air
I can feel it when you are there
And when you’re near me I’m like someone new
I even feel real bulletproof too
Na na na na na. . .
I’m your superman
Oh yes I am! "
~Rick Springfield, I'm Your Superman
Sunday, May 28, 2006
I grew up in their house, and it took me years to get a handle on what they're passionate about. Not because I'm self-absorbed, but because they put my sister and I before everything... including their pastimes and passions.
So when I tell you my parents love open-wheel racing, I'm not talking about the "Oh, I love celery" or "Oh, I love Snoopy" kinda' love... I'm talking about the kind of love that could even make its presence known in a household that was almost entirely kid-centric. The only Sundays we didn't have a huge, butter-laden, syrup-besotted breakfast? Race day at Indianapolis my friends.
My dad had -hell, has- this huge transistor radio. AM and FM, mind you. Telescoping antenna? Oh yeah. He used it twice a year: the afternoon before race day he'd take it out of the linen closet, and check the batteries... and race day? He'd carry it everywhere so he wouldn't miss a moment of the race as it was broadcast live while he swept the gutter and fed the dogs. See, in those days (Good Lord I'm old... I just typed "in those days") the race wasn't broadcast live on TV, and my dad? He's many things, but patient he ain't, so he and that radio were as inseperable Sunday mornings as Lenny Bruce and handcuffs.
I remember watching him from the kitchen window, holding the radio in one hand, and a rake in the other, and stopping every so often with a far-off look in his eyes when the announcer somberly decribed a crash, or excitedly called out that Mario or AJ orBobby had taken the lead, and thinking "So dad loves car races. Huh." It made me feel like I knew him, and didn't, all at once.
Of course, once the race was over it was time for the TV pre-race shows, and eventually time to watch the race itself. I used to think my mom watched just 'cause my dad did... but then I learned that they dated at Sprint Car and Midget races... and saw Grand Prix "in the round" once... turns out my mom loves the shiny cars and the drivers with the unpronounceable names almost as much as my dad does.
Me? I like auto racing, sure. What's not to like? It's loud and smelly and full of gadgets. Stock Cars are okay (there's a Superman car, you know) but I prefer the open-wheel cars... I dunno, they're more... glamorous. They speak of some exotic, European lifestyle where every driver lives on champagne and watercress, and is married to Catherine Deneuve. It doesn't hurt that James Garner played the quintessential American Grand Prix driver in the aforementioned Grand Prix, either. Or that I had a racing helmet just like the one he wore in that epic film... 'cept mine was made out of plastic, and I wore it when I rode my bike... 'till I got old enough to understand embarassment anyway.
Yeah, I like auto racing, but I've come to understand it's not the races I'm drawn to so much, but the memories of my parents enjoying them. There wasn't a lot of "quality alone time" for my parents during my formative years... but there was that one Sunday, each and every Memorial Day weekend. That Sunday I got to see my parents enjoying the race, and enjoying each other, and not just looking out for us and the family... and you know? I don't think I've ever felt closer to them.
Gentlemen! Start your engines!
Friday, May 26, 2006
"Paul's impact on other people, and in fact on the entire history of science fiction, is undeniable. At a time when most Americans didn't even have a telephone, he was painting space stations, robots and aliens from other planets. In an era when Lindbergh made headlines by flying across the Atlantic, Paul envisioned starships plowing across the galaxy."
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
I get the complaints about these reissues of the original trilogy, I do... and I understand that there's no such thing as too much money for George Lucas, honest... but are we Star Wars geeks so accustomed to complaining that we're just sucking the last dregs of joy from the franchise or what? And why do any of us complain about these reissues? It's not as though there's a chance we'd actually not buy one.
Look: those are the covers for the Star Wars reissues, coming this September, and I think they look rad. And come on, Han'll shoot first, Luke won't scream when he throws himself down the Bespin airshaft, and Anakin's apparition will once again be some benign middle-aged college professor.
So you sayers of nay? Drink a tall glass of shut the fuck up and get in touch with that kid who fell in love not just with all things sooty and shiny in a galaxy far, far away that Spring day in '77, but with the movies, alright? It's because of these films you even give a shit about aspect ratios and interpositives, and believe you me the original editions will never, ever measure up to your memories of them, so take 'em smaller and tinnier, and remember how even that was the best thing you'd seen since Steve Austin fought Bigfoot.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
She probably wasn't too into it in the first place considering she can't even spell it right. Plus after seeing the way her life is turning out what else is she supposed to assume except that Kabbalah has failed her. Be reasonable.
Oh, and then there's Maude:
It wasn't that long ago crazed paparazzi drove Britney to drive her kid into traffic on her lap, remember?
Well she's up to her crazy baby-killing antics again, and has been photographed with an improperly installed child safety seat facing forward instead of backwards.
" "It's far safer if the seat is facing backwards to avoid head-on injuries and whiplash in case of a collision," said California Highway Patrol spokesman Tom Marshall. Spears, 24, "could be" cited for violating Section 27360 of the California Vehicle Code, which says child safety seats must be installed to comply with the federal standard. "We would have to witness the violation. We can't issue a citation from a photograph," Marshall said. "It's a bit of a gray area," he added, because state code doesn't specify the backward installation - a federal regulation does. Spears' rep did not return calls for comment yesterday. "We strongly urge anyone who is uncertain of how to install a car seat to come down to one of our headquarters and get help. We offer that service free of charge," said Marshall."
You'd think Britney would have done a little research on how to raise a baby, but it really looks like she's just winging the whole thing. At this rate the baby will end up tied to the hood of the car with rope, or taped to the door, and I'm sure, eventually, just tossed in the trunk. Because hey, people can't yell at you about your baby if they can't actually see it.
Friday, May 19, 2006
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Monday, May 15, 2006
I don't know why, exactly. Maybe 'cause, you know, I'm old... maybe 'cause I just found myself with $38 credit at Amoeba Records and I spent it on a limited edition Sonic Youth CD and an import of a Smithereens CD... which means, you know, I'm old.
Maybe it's because old terminology for careers long gone seems fresher and more alive than the jargon I juggle for what I do now. Maybe that's what aging is in the new millenium: we don't remember our lives more vividly... just our jobs.
Yeah, so, to backsell: we went to a Giants game yesterday.
Nancy is much-respected and deservingly much-beloved at work, so as a reward for a job very well done, they gave her Giants tickets for the game this Mother's Day. We know nothing about baseball, and less about the Giants, but even we could figure out that seats 6 rows right behind home plate are pretty damn good. I mean, people in burgundy shirts come and take your food orders, scurry quickly away... and then? Then they come back almost immediately with the food you ordered. Sure, you can go to the exclusive clubhouse, or go to the only-a-little-less-exclusive dining areas in the bowels of ATT Park where the players' locker rooms are... but why? Why do that when a friendly middle-aged guy with a ponytail will bring you MGD and licorice just because you want it, and don't want to miss when Barry bats?
I know lots of people enjoy baseball. I know a lot of them actually understand baseball. I know I'm not one of them. I know Sunday rocked anyway, 'cause my wife gave us a day in the sun, and I ate a hot dog while foul balls rained down on us in cue burned grooves. You could hear the "SHHH-SHHHHHHHH" they whispered as they fell to the dirty concrete that surrounded us, and the only thing surer than the fact some 10-year old would catch one? Another 10-year old would get another chance soon enough.
That, though, is the thing about me and baseball. I can't be bothered to give half a shit about the game of baseball... but damned if the baseball mythos doesn't play me like a harp from Cooperstown. Unless I'm watching The Natural, or Field of Dreams, I just don't get the game... and even then? Then I only get it 'cause some dickwad LA writer has figured out my emotional pressure points and combined "freshly-mowed grass" and "distant yet loving father" so's to leave me weeping when the game's won -or not even played- just so long as we toss a few and pretend we know what WHIP and ERA mean while that girl with the long hair and a quiet smile brings us tea and gazes knowingly into the sun while it sets sleepily behind the backstop. This manipulative, hamfisted undertone acts as a bed for these films... and damn if they don't lure me in and make me call my dad as the credits roll every time.
So Sunday was cool, and wonderful, and weird... and not without miscues. Not the least of which were each of Barry Bonds' turns at bat... and watching hime go 0-3.
It was weird to watch. I mean, love him or hate him, the guy's a denatured force of nature. Want him to pass Babe Ruth on the home run roster or not, well, you wanna' be there to see it, right? So it was surreal to sit there, and watch even Dodgers fans cheer Barry on in the hope that they'd go home a little part of history.
It was also weird to not understand why the Dodgers were reluctant to throw to him. Obviously I get it on paper... but in practice? Sitting there anticipating the crack of the bat and the release of the pigeons? Made no sense to me. Didn't they understand he was going for a record, and just two home runs away from surmounting a once -and still mostly- insurmountable obstacle? Only two guys before Bonds have hit 714 home runs in what? A bajillion years of baseball? That's pretty impressive, right? So why on Earth wouldn't the Dodgers' pitcher throw to Barry in the 1st inning? Is the guy just a dick? This one game can't be more important than the legacy, right? I don't claim to understand, or even much care, but still, it was damn frustrating to watch 'em walk Barry that inning. Almost as frustrating as it was incomprehensible that they even considered walking him in his next two trips to the plate. I mean, come on... he's clearly got batting issues. If it's the stress or the heat or what, I don't know... but that did not look like a guy who's an ass hair away from passing Babe Ruth in the record books.
While we're discussing things I don't get, what's the deal with the "7th Inning Stretch?" It's like the daypart of the baseball world, right? Some arbitrary -but no less important- divvying of the day? But why the 7th inning? And what is the stretch? Is it the "stretch" of the legs? Did they always sing God Bless America during it... 'cause that was a little creepy, and it really didn't help my circulation any. And you know, it's hardly effective as a stretch. It's no longer than any of the other breaks while the teams switch sides, so it's no easier to stretch your legs then during any other mid-inning, and since it's no longer of a break it hardly qualifies as "stretch" in duration. And what's the deal with mitts? And why do I suddenly sound like Jerry Seinfeld?
Anyway, it was a great day. The Giants lost, but no one seemed surprised. We got to park for free a mere four blocks from the ballpark despite some kid at a pay lot taking us for suburban rubes and trying to trick us into not parking at a free meter. We enjoyed what can only be called "the best breakfast ever" before the game and crossed the Bay Bridge with almost no difficulty after the game. All that, and for once we remembered to bring the camera.* Lookee:
*Tell me I can't still hit the post.
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh, the Skinner Box.
B. F. Skinner’s entire system is based on operant conditioning. The organism is in the process of “operating” on the environment, which in ordinary terms means it is bouncing around its world, doing what it does. During this “operating,” the organism encounters a special kind of stimulus, called a reinforcing stimulus, or simply a reinforcer. This special stimulus has the effect of increasing the operant -- that is, the behavior occurring just before the reinforcer. This is operant conditioning: “the behavior is followed by a consequence, and the nature of the consequence modifies the organisms tendency to repeat the behavior in the future.”
Imagine a rat in a cage. This is a special cage (called, in fact, a “Skinner box”) that has a bar or pedal on one wall that, when pressed, causes a little mechanism to release a foot pellet into the cage. The rat is bouncing around the cage, doing whatever it is rats do, when he accidentally presses the bar and -- hey, presto! -- a food pellet falls into the cage! The operant is the behavior just prior to the reinforcer, which is the food pellet, of course. In no time at all, the rat is furiously peddling away at the bar, hoarding his pile of pellets in the corner of the cage.
A behavior followed by a reinforcing stimulus results in an increased probability of that behavior occurring in the future.
What if you don’t give the rat any more pellets? Apparently, he’s no fool, and after a few futile attempts, he stops his bar-pressing behavior. This is called extinction of the operant behavior.
A behavior no longer followed by the reinforcing stimulus results in a decreased probability of that behavior occurring in the future.
Now, if you were to turn the pellet machine back on, so that pressing the bar again provides the rat with pellets, the behavior of bar-pushing will “pop” right back into existence, much more quickly than it took for the rat to learn the behavior the first time. This is because the return of the reinforcer takes place in the context of a reinforcement history that goes all the way back to the very first time the rat was reinforced for pushing on the bar!
Now... what made me think of that?
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
The first chapter of the Superman Returns novelization is online!
There's really no spoilers... unless you were raised by wolves in a walk-in freezer at the bottom of a lake... in which case, don't you have bigger problems than maybe being exposed to a paltry few plotpoints of this summer's mega-blockbuster?
Yeah, that's what I thought.
Those wolves taught you to read, didn't they? Get to it then.
Superman Returns, Marv Wolfman
Kal-El was asleep when his world exploded. His only memories were of shifting back and forth in the soft, protective confines of his mother’s womb, dreaming of the gentle sounds she made. They were encouraging songs and tender coos that let him know how much he was already loved. As she sang, he knew her hand would gently brush against her swollen abdomen then come to rest on his small, bulging stomach. He anxiously waited for that all-too-brief moment, hoping that very soon he would look into her eyes and let her know he loved her, too.
He was sixteen hours old when he opened his eyes to see her standing over him, a sweet proud smile on her lips. “You are so beautiful,” she said, playing with the fringes of his already thick, black hair. “And you deserve so much more than what awaits you.”
He recognized his mother’s voice—it had comforted him for as long as he could remember—and he returned her a small smile in response. Her fingers danced across his tummy again, tickling him. He giggled, the chubby flesh around his eyes wrinkled as he reached to touch her long dark hair. She was beautiful but her dark gray eyes were welling up with tears. He didn’t understand what was wrong with her, but in the nine months he grew inside her he had learned to deal with her shifting moods.
A second figure entered the room. When he spoke Kal-El knew it was his father, a handsome white-haired man with piercing blue eyes. He had heard his soft voice, muffled and distant, many times before, but now there was an anger in it Kal-El had never known, and the words, which of course meant nothing to him, were spat out quickly, as if rushing through them would let his father get past the annoyance, whatever it was, and onto something more pleasurable.
“They won’t listen no matter what I say and in spite of the proof I show them,” Jor-El said. “They’re fools, and the fools they are would let us all die.” Kal-El watched his mother circle her arms around his father, comforting him. “We have our contingencies, Jor-El. We’ll make this work. You know we will.”
“I pray you’re right, Lara, but you know how intractable they can be. You should have heard them. ‘Krypton die? Oh, never, Jor-El. This is just another of your mistaken fantasies.’ Fantasies?”
He paced the room angrily, slamming his fist against a bright white wall. “Those small-minded condescending buffoons don’t know how close I came to . . .” Jor-El unclenched his fist and dropped his arm to his side. “Unfortunately, I didn’t do anything, as much as I wanted to. Korth-Or ended the meeting just in time, and I left without another word. Fantasies? After everything I’ve showed them, everything I’ve done, how could they treat me in this way?”
“They’re frightened old men, Jor-El. They’ve spent their lives extolling the perfection of Krypton. How could they believe now that we will be victims of a cruel fate beyond our control?”
Kal-El suddenly laughed, wholly inappropriately, and Jor-El’s anger faded. He turned to look at his handsome son, barely one day old. He’d been suddenly summoned by the Council from Lara’s bedside, and this was his first opportunity to study his son closely. He looked so much like Lara; eyes steady but happy, lips curled into a wonderful, warm smile.
This should have been Jor-El’s happiest day. This should have been a time for celebration.
His father was smiling back at him, but as with his mother, the infant could tell it was halfhearted. Jor-El’s deep, reassuring voice had always given him hope, but he sensed trouble now, and he started to cry.
“Don’t cry, Kal-El, everything is going to be so good for you.” Jor-El nuzzled his cheek until Kal-El’s tears sputtered out and were replaced with soft, happy giggles.
“Kal-El will never know another sunrise,” Jor-El said, tickling the boy’s stomach, working to keep him calm. “At least not ours. The sun that will one day warm him will be young and burn yellow, and it will be the source of his great strength. Lara, he’ll come to cherish it, not ever knowing the star he was born under was red and old and dying.”
They called him “Kal-El.” That was his name. Jor-El was his father. And his mother was Lara. They were his family.
Jor-El carefully lifted him from the soft blankets and held him facing their wall-sized window to look out onto their beautiful world that, as far as he could understand, had always been there and always would. There was crystal as far as he could see, shining brightly, reflecting the growing red glow of Krypton’s dying sun. Kal-El turned away and cried; it was all too bright and vivid for his still-innocent eyes.
Jor-El sat in the far corner of the room where Kal-El would be protected in the comforting cloak of shadows. He opened his eyes again and saw his father, his face drawn and tired, grimly looking at him.
“My son, although we failed more than we care to remember, you must know we were a great people once. Enlightened even. We yearned to touch the impossible, and more often than not we succeeded. You will take that greatness with you, my child, and it will comfort and guide you.”
“The ship will hold?” Lara interrupted, taking the baby for his last feeding. “It is such a long journey.”
He nodded, smiling thinly. “I harvested the crystals myself.”
Lara kissed Kal-El’s cheek, then made a sucking sound against it. He giggled again, and her tears, thought long ago spent, began anew. “It’s not fair. We’ll never see him crawl or learn to walk. Isn’t there any hope?”
Jor-El shook his head; no matter how long one took to intellectualize what had to be done, there was no real preparing for the actual moment. “Not for us. But he will walk. He’ll even talk. And when he gets there—he’ll do so much more.”
Kal-El cooed as his mother held him tightly, afraid to let him go. He heard her heartbeat quicken; it was not the same comforting, steady beat he had gotten so used to for all his short existence. Things were not right.
He wanted to cry, to bring their attention back to him, but instead he sputtered and gurgled some meaningless sounds.
Lara had worked alongside her husband for five years, three as his assistant before they were married, and two since, rechecking all of his calculations, then going over them again and again. For the past month she increased her efforts, all the while secretly hoping that they would learn the Council was right all along and that it was she and Jor-El who were wrong, that they had made some small, undetected error that somehow blossomed into his ridiculous theory.
Krypton’s sun will go supernova? Impossible. Not in our lifetime or the lifetime of our grandchildren. Yes, it’s a red giant, continuing to expand, and yes, it’s been cooling for more than a generation, but it has eons to go before it explodes. Come, come, Jor-El. We’ll all be long dead before that happens. Don’t you understand, Jor-El, what you ignored is that Krypton is shifting in its orbit. That would explain the quakes we’ve been experiencing . . . They had a hundred excuses why Jor-El was wrong.
But Lara knew as much as she prayed to Rao that one day she would cradle Kal-El’s own baby in her arms, tweaking its little nose, and gently pinching its soft, pillow cheeks, at some point in the next ten hours, when there was no longer any margin for error, she would wrap him securely in the brightly colored blanket she’d bought the previous month and kept boxed in the corner of the freshly painted bedroom next to theirs, then she would carefully tuck the blanket around him as she placed him gently into the crystal star they had kept hidden in a secret panel in their inner lab. They had practiced the routine at least a hundred times. Kal-El’s father would activate the security protocols to protect him during his journey, place the father crystal in the pod next to him, and then, after delaying the inevitable for as long as they could, Lara would reluctantly nod her consent, and they would send him off to his destiny.
His dreams would begin as theirs ended.
Mount Argo rumbled, shaking their laboratory again, but this tremor was weaker than they had been for months. Maybe we are wrong, Lara prayed as she gazed at the vast city beyond their window. Maybe it is just earthquakes. Maybe they are finally subsiding. Of course she knew better; she had completed the calculations herself, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t hold out hope for some unexpected miracle. Perhaps Jor-El didn’t believe in Rao, or in his mercy, but she always had.
She heard the baby cooing in her arms and kissed his warm cheek again. Jor-El always said Kal-El was destined for greatness. But destiny was a thing of faith, too, not much different from her own.
Lara turned again to look out into the city, still glowing with a strong, steady, internal light. As sure as she was of its fate, she couldn’t bring herself to accept that its eternal greatness would, all too soon, simply cease to exist.
It had been a timeless city, strong and powerful. It survived the vast armies of three great nations waging war on its bloodied streets. It stood proud as the signing place of an everlasting peace. Since then, thousands of generations had lived here, and Lara, who was raised half a world away on the Crater Plains, and had spent her early years dreaming of living where Krypton’s earliest founders had once walked, did not want to believe that this magnificence, and all it stood for, would soon be gone.
She had spent her first year out of the university touring the city and its outer regions, basking in its surprising history. She trekked out to the Valley of the Elders and camped there for over a month, living in the shadow of Krypton’s greatest. She could feel the energy, raw and surging and still very much alive in the immense crystal monoliths that seemed to reach beyond the famed half dome whose vaulted roof protected the valley from the planet’s temperature extremes.
At night she would huddle in her sleep cocoon, its warming fabrics giving her the courage to walk the next morning along the fabled roads that Sor-El, Kol-Ar, and Pol-Us, the chosen representatives from the three warring nations, must have taken when they created the original Laws of Humanity that governed Krypton since those troubled early days.
The Valley of the Elders was set in a deep, miles-wide canyon, and from the ground, those crystal monolith towers, constructed in a large circle, reflecting the full spectrum of light, looked to Lara like hands raised in reverential prayer, faceted fingers stretched to touch their enduring red sun if not Rao himself. The towers’ exterior faces and interior walls were illuminated with the massive crests of the newly civilized Krypton’s brave founders, each rune shape uniquely designed.
Lara remembered reading that the fabled three had argued against their inclusion here; with all humility they believed they had merely drafted a logical document of rules and order and did not deserve inclusion themselves in the circle of ancients. But when the grateful people of Krypton voted that they would have to be included, they begrudgingly accepted the honor. It was the people who followed the laws who deserved recognition, they said, not those who merely wrote them.
Kol-Ar’s emblem was the open hand of truth and justice. Sor-El’s crest was a diamond-shaped shield with a winding serpent inside, a warning not to return to the dishonesty and violence that once had plagued their planet. Pol-Us’s sign was the open eye, to provide eternal vigilance against those who sought a return to the barbarous times.
These three, and the others who followed them, ushered in generations of peace. To Lara, being in their valley, breathing the air they breathed so long ago, gave her chills. She was sure the power she felt here would last forever. She could not know that in five years’ time, in little more than the snap of her fingers, the valley, the towers, and everything around them, would be gone.
Kryptonopolis had been grown from a single crystal mount more than ten thousand years before, and it still showed no signs of decay. Other stones, resting atop the flat base, had been grown and shaped by the earliest Kryptonians into vast cities millions of buildings strong. The tall towers surrounding the great building that was home to Krypton’s Science Council gleamed in the bright red sunlight.
Lara was happy they didn’t live closer to the Council. When she first came to the city to work with Jor-El, she believed there was probably no greater honor than to be welcomed into those halls. But even before the Council’s reaction to Jor-El’s discovery, she had come to loathe that sanctimonious institution with every angry emotion she could summon.
Lara and Jor-El’s home, larger than typical for Argo’s south wall, had been cut into the mount’s face by Sor-El himself. It looked out over Argo’s cliffs into the wide expanse of the Xan Chasm and its rainbow falls. Even after five years she could not look into that cavernous gulf and not feel humbled by its majesty.
Krypton was a world of wonders she had just begun to explore, and she cursed the fates that demanded its destruction.
Jor-El reached for the baby. It was time. For a moment Lara’s eyes glazed over. No. I won’t let you send him away. I want him to be with me for just one more day. One full day. But Lara knew changing her mind now would condemn their son to the same fate awaiting them. She snuggled her face into Kal-El’s, kissed him for the last time, then handed him to his father. “But why Earth, Jor-El? They’re primitives. Thousands of years behind us.”
“He will need that advantage.” Jor-El gently drew his finger across Kal-El’s forehead, down his nose, and came to rest on his tiny, red lips. “To survive he will need that and more.”
Jor-El returned Kal-El to the crystal pod as Lara again tucked him into the blanket. “He will be odd. Different,” she said, trying not to look into those large, innocent eyes for fear of changing her mind, this time for good. Jor-El briefly touched his son’s hand, then ran his fingers over the pod’s internal crystals. They flashed in the expected order as the star’s power began to charge. “But he will be fast. Virtually invulnerable.”
Kal-El’s tiny hand patted the inside of the pod, mimicking his father’s actions, not realizing this small, cramped space would soon become his new mother and father and home for more than two long years. The crystals would feed, nurture, and protect him. And even in his long sleep he would spend the time listening to Lara’s and Jor-El’s voices talking to him, teaching him all that the twenty-eight known galaxies had to offer.
“We should go with him,” Lara said suddenly. “He’s too young. He’ll need us.” Jor-El laid down the special white crystal he was programming and put his arms around his frightened wife. He pulled her close and held her until he felt her rigid body soften and melt into his. “I promised the Council we’d stay on Krypton, but I said nothing about Kal-El.” His hands slowly moved down the curve of her back as he nuzzled her long, slender neck, enjoying again her sweet perfume smell and remembering why he had fallen in love with her so many years before.
She was supposed to be his lab assistant, but unlike the others who had applied for the job, she was not only smart but seemingly unaffected by his position in the Council. He wasn’t used to not being fawned over.
He was, after all, Jor-El, perhaps Krypton’s greatest scientist, or so he’d been told repeatedly by nearly everyone who wanted something from him, which was pretty much everyone at the Academy.
And, of course, he was also a direct descendant of Sor-El himself. You’re much too humble, Jor-El. Don’t you realize how great you are? You discovered the Phantom Zone, for Rao’s sake, the humane way of dealing with unrepentant criminals.
Increasingly of late, however, as he thought more of his own mortality, he began to question that discovery. Perhaps eternal damnation in some nameless limbo was actually worse than a simple and swift death.
But Lara never treated him as one of Krypton’s best and brightest. She had worked with many of the other so-called greats since leaving the university, and she had begun to think that though they might have once been good, maybe when they were young, fame and fortune had turned them into little more than, well, idiots. And lecherous ones at that.
At parties she entertained her friends with her deadly accurate impersonations—the meaner they were in tearing apart their professors, the more everyone laughed. She delighted in explaining exactly how she could take all these oh-so-brilliant men’s ideas, mix them together, and convert them into a single energy source, and they still wouldn’t produce enough power to operate a child’s top. They were rude and arrogant, surviving on the glory of their past achievements as well as the diligent work of their young assistants, of whom they took merciless advantage. She would then take her bow, and her friends, all young assistants, of course, would wildly applaud her.
Lara graduated at the top of her class, and had done significant work since then while publishing numerous papers. She had agreed to apply for the job as Jor-El’s assistant only after deciding she would accept nothing less than complete equality with him from day one. And he would have to credit all her work.
She was not going to assist him only to be forgotten and shoved aside. She was still fuming over what that fat fraud Bal-Do had done to her. The so-called great Jor-El would have to accept her on her own terms, she stubbornly decided.
Their first meeting took her aback somewhat. Initially, he seemed to be serious and somber, which she expected based on the sober tone of the papers he published. But as they spoke she saw he was able to laugh easily, even at himself, especially when she tried to explain why one of his early letters, which had been collected into a long-out-of-print holo, was not only based on a miscalculation, but pompous in its assumptions.
“I was young then,” he explained, laughing. “Full of great ideas and so sure of myself. But you’re right. I was pompous. But I think I’m better now.” Lara felt ashamed she had even brought it up.
His eyes were warm and inviting, and though she didn’t want to admit it at first, he was very easy on her eyes. His hair was white and plentiful, and his face was flawlessly smooth. He was a good fifteen years older than she, but he had the build of someone who had been athletic when he was younger and kept in shape even now. The feelings she was suddenly having were disconcerting, but she felt she went there with an agenda and swore she would stick to it, no matter what.
Unfortunately, the interview, which she carefully rehearsed so she could control it no matter what direction it took, never quite happened, at least not the way she expected.
Jor-El had read her papers, asked her a few insignificant questions—or so she thought—and then asked what she expected from this job, if she got it.
She was prepared.
“I want to work at your side as an equal.”
“Which means . . . ?”
“I’m not an underling. I’m not an assistant. I’m not there to bring you food. And I’m certainly not there for anything not related to our work. I want that very clear.”
He nodded, amused. “Understood.”
“Also, whatever we work on, I want to be part of it. I want to share the effort and the glory.”
“And . . . ?”
“And? And whatever papers we write, I want my name on them, too.”
“Is that all?”
She calmly recited the rest of her rehearsed demands, fully expecting Jor-El to reveal the dark streak she knew he’d been hiding until then, folded her arms across her chest, stuck out her chin, and waited for him to say, “Thanks, but I’ll keep looking.”
Before the meeting she thought she’d be fine with that, but seeing the corner of those powerful eyes crinkle up in amusement, and watching him looking at her with a much more handsome face than she had assumed from his holos, she wasn’t sure she still held that exact same feeling.
“No problem, Lara,” he said, astonishingly. “Can you start the beginning of next week?”
“Uhhh, yes. I, um, just want to make sure. You heard what I said?”
He was checking out a research holo. He froze the image, paused, and looked up at her with a puzzled expression.
“My hearing’s fine. I have no problems with anything you asked for. Pretty standard as far as I’m concerned. If you add anything to the work we’re doing here, of course you should get credit. Doesn’t make any difference to me where the ideas come from.”
She kept staring at him. “That’s it then?”
“Frankly, I was afraid you’d say the money wasn’t good enough. So, are you trying to talk me out of hiring you, or are you taking the job?”
It was about an hour after she got back to her small apartment on the Helios Crevice, that she realized she hadn’t even said “thank you.” She sought to repair that mistake her first day at work, thanking him not once but nearly a dozen times.
That night, bundled up in her blankets, she cursed her excessive enthusiasm. “Take it easy, Lara. He’s just a man,” she told herself, although not quite believing it.
Within a week she was back to normal, questioning his work, his methods, and arguing nearly all of his conclusions. Although when she was still so impossibly young she was wrong more often than she was right, under Jor-El’s patient tutelage she grew quickly.
They worked together for three years. And by the time she couldn’t deny that she was completely in love with him, he realized that he had already fallen for her.
Lara took Kal-El’s tiny hand in hers and slowly massaged each pudgy finger. “I worry for him. Away from us he’ll be isolated. Alone.”
“No,” Jor-El said, holding a long white crystal up to the sunlight filtering in through their living quarters window. The light refracted, painting an iridescent rainbow across the infant’s face. “He will not be alone. He will never be alone.”
The big quake took them by surprise. They watched helpless as the south wall of their home quivered, then splintered and shattered, taking half the room with it. They saw Mount Argo shrug off thousand-foot slices of its once-proud crystal face. The massive shards slid down the mountain, hugging it tightly, a child refusing to leave its mother’s side, only to disappear into the mists of the Xan Chasm. Two million homes, carefully and delicately grown and carved into the crystal over many thousands of years, vanished into that abyss. More than three million lives were lost.
“Jor-El?” Lara was rushing to Kal-El’s bed. The grinding roar outside had awakened him, and he was crying. She picked him up and held him close.
“It’s happening, Lara. Sooner than we thought, but just as we said.”
“I’ll get the father crystal,” she said.
They heard Krypton scream its helpless protest as Argo’s peak exploded. It took less than four minutes for the great mount, home of the planet’s culture and science, to sink unseen into the darkness. Krypton was dying.
Jor-El leaned into the crystal ship and tenderly stroked his son’s face. “You will travel far, my little Kal-El. We will never leave you.”
Lara removed the father crystal from its compartment. It had accepted nearly 95 percent of its programming. “It’s not complete. Some of the sciences are missing.”
“There’s no more time. It will have to do.”
He was kneeling by his son, his voice strong and reassuring. Kal-El was smiling at him, listening attentively to his calm, steady tone.
“Even in the face of our deaths, the richness of our lives will be yours. All that I have, all that I have learned, everything I feel, all this and more I bequeath you, my son. You will carry me inside you all the days of your life. You will make my strength your own. See my life through your eyes as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father, and the father, the son. This is all I can send you, Kal-El.”
He felt another quake and placed the father crystal next to the child.
Lara kissed Kal-El, her face, trembling with tears, hovered just above his. “I love you, and I’ve hardly had a chance to show you how much. Keep my thoughts alive in you, my wonderful, special boy.”
The star’s hatch lowered onto the pod, and the crystals melted together in an impenetrable seal. Jor-El took his wife’s hand, and they stepped back as the star began to rise.
Lara wanted to turn away, but her eyes never left the ship as it crashed through the ceiling, crystal rain cascading down.
“Kal-El, my son, you are all that remains of a once-proud people,” Jor-El whispered, his voice breaking. “And in you Krypton’s glory will live on.”
Jor-El put his arm around his wife as they watched their son’s ship fly into the night, a living comet beginning its long and dangerous journey. When it finally disappeared into the black, they kissed each other and waited for the end to take them.
The red giant knew its time had come. The nuclear fusion deep inside it had exhausted its last sources of fuel. Hydrogen fused with helium, then those into oxygen and carbon, then into silicon and sulfur and finally into iron, which could not fuse. Without the energy to push back against the massive crush of gravity, the collapse was beginning. Shock waves would soon blow the gaseous shells of the star into space in a supernova as bright as the entire galaxy.
As Kal-El slept, Krypton’s red sun died. His new home began a slow crawl across the empty vastness, heading toward a tiny, nearly insignificant bit of matter on the rim of a faraway galactic spiral that received its meager light from a fragile yellow star barely out of its infancy.
The final fragments of his world, green and glowing like miniature suns, hungrily spread outward, beginning a fateful voyage of their own.
Even in his sleep, his eyes tightly closed, the Last Son of Krypton saw the blinding brightness. What is that? he asked himself. Why is it so cold? Why am I afraid? I was never afraid before.
Jor-El knew there could be no mistakes now, not at his son’s expense. He carefully grew and nurtured the crystals himself, starting with a specially cultivated seed, layering in molecule after molecule. And, as it grew, building on top of itself, he shaped each section to its very specific need.
Jor-El had spent the most time growing the crystals for the ship’s outer shell. They had to be impervious to the fluctuations of heat and cold as the star neared distant suns or sped away from them. Lara had gone over each of Jor-El’s calculations. She monitored the birthing process, watched the crystals expand, examined each atom, and eliminated any with even the slightest question concerning structural integrity.
The infant fit comfortably into the star’s preformed cushion, which would expand even as Kal-El himself grew.
He was an hour shy of one day when placed in the crystal star, but when it finally found its way to Earth, he would be nearly three years old.
Copyright © 2006 by DC Comics
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Monday, May 08, 2006
For working on larger issues
Once a rough draft is finished, you should try to set it aside for at least a day and come back to the paper with a fresh mind and thus more easily catch the errors in it. You’ll bring a fresh mind to the process of polishing a paper and be ready to try some of the following strategies.
Read the Paper Aloud
If we read the paper aloud slowly, we have two senses--seeing AND hearing--working for us. Thus, what one sense misses, the other may pick up.
Check the Thesis Statement and Organization
Write down your thesis on a piece of paper if it is not directly stated in your essay. Does it accurately state your main idea? Is it in fact supported by the paper? Does it need to be changed in any way? On that piece of paper, list the main idea of each paragraph under the thesis statement. Is each paragraph relevant to the thesis? Are the paragraphs in a logical sequence or order?
Remember that You are Writing for Others
No matter how familiar others may be with the material, they cannot "get inside" your head and understand your approach to it unless you express yourself clearly. Therefore, it is useful to read the paper through once as you keep in mind whether or not the student or teacher or friend who will be reading it will understand what you are saying. That is, have you said exactly what you wanted to say?
Check the Paper's Development
Are there sufficient details? Is the logic valid?
Check the Paper's Coherence and Unity
Are the major points connected? Are the relationships between them expressed clearly? Do they all relate to the thesis?
Review your Diction
Remember that others are reading your paper and that even the choice of one word can affect their response to it. Try to anticipate their response, and choose your words accordingly.
Original: The media's exploitation of the Watergate scandal showed how biased it was already.
Revision: The media's coverage of the Watergate scandal suggests that perhaps those in the media had already determined Nixon’s guilt.
In addition to being more specific, the revision does not force the reader to defend the media. In the first example, though, the statement is so exaggerated that even the reader who is neutral on the issue may feel it necessary to defend the media. Thus, the writer of the original has made his job of persuading the reader that much harder.
No matter how many times you read through a "finished" paper, you're likely to miss many of your most frequent errors. The following guide will help you proofread more effectively
• Begin by taking a break. Allow yourself some time between writing and proofing. Even a five-minute break is productive because it will help get some distance from what you have written. The goal is to return with a fresh eye and mind.
• Try to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n as you read through a paper. That will help you catch mistakes that you might otherwise overlook. As you use these strategies, remember to work slowly. If you read at a normal speed, you won't give your eyes sufficient time to spot errors:
• Reading aloud. Reading a paper aloud encourages you to read every little word.
• Reading with a "cover." Sliding a blank sheet of paper down the page as you read encourages you to make a detailed, line-by-line review of the paper.
Personalize Your Proofreading
You won't be able to check for everything (and you don't have to), so you should find out what your typical problem areas are and look for each type of error individually. Here's how:
1. Find out what errors you typically make. Review instructors' comments about your writing and/or review your paper(s) with a Writing Lab tutor.
2. Learn how to fix those errors. Talk with your instructor and/or with a Writing Lab tutor. The instructor and the tutor can help you understand why you make the errors you do so that you can learn to avoid them.
3. Use specific strategies. Use these strategies to find and correct your particular errors in usage and sentence structure, and spelling and punctuation.
Check your Writing for Abstract Subjects, Particularly Those you have Combined with Passive Verbs
Try substituting concrete or personal subjects with active verbs.
Original: More attractiveness is sometimes given an act when it is made illegal.
Revision: When an act becomes illegal, some people find it more attractive.
Cut out Wordiness Wherever Possible
Original: They are desirous of ...
Revision: They want ...
Use Active Verbs
Since verbs tend to carry the meaning of your sentences, use the most precise and active ones possible. Thus, avoid constructions using the various forms of the verb "to be."
Original: Inflation is a threat to our economy.
Revision: Inflation threatens our economy.
Avoid Using Stretcher Phrases such as "It Is" and "There Are," Unless Needed for Emphasis
Remember the need for strong verbs.
Original: There were several reasons for the United States' entrance into the war.
Revision: The United States entered the war for several reasons.
Replace Colloquialisms with Fresh and more Precise Statements
Because colloquialisms tend to be used so often, they also are not very precise in meaning. A hassle, for example, can be an annoyance, an argument, or a physical fight.
Original: Her behavior flipped me out.
Revision: Her behavior first stunned, then delighted me.
Review your Sentences . . .
Be sure that no parts of the paper are "short and choppy"; be sure that the rhythm of your paper is not interrupted, except for a good reason, like emphasis. A good way of smoothing out such a problem is to try combining sentences, and in so doing showing the relationship between them.
Original: The best show in terms of creating a tense atmosphere is "Jeopardy." This is probably the most famous of all games shows. It is my favorite show.
Revision: The best show in terms of creating a tense atmosphere is "Jeopardy," which is also probably the most famous of all game shows and my favorite.
For Usage and Sentence Structure
For subject/verb agreement:
1. Find the main verb in each sentence.
2. Match the verb to its subject.
3. Make sure that the subject and verb agree in number.
For pronoun reference/agreement:
and 1. Skim your paper, stopping at each pronoun. Look especially at it, this, they, their,them.
2. Search for the noun that the pronoun replaces. If you can't find any noun, insert one beforehand or change the pronoun to a noun. If you can find a noun, be sure it agrees in number and person with your pronoun.
See the OWL handout on pronouns.
For parallel structure:
1. Skim your paper, stopping at key words that signal parallel structures. Look especially for the following: and, or, not only...but also, either... or, neither...nor, both...and.
2. Make sure that the items connected by these words (adjectives, nouns, phrases, etc.) are in the same grammatical form.
For more information, see the OWL handout on parallel structure.
For Spelling and Punctuation
1. Examine each word in the paper individually. Move from the end of each line back to the beginning. Pointing with a pencil helps you really see each word.
2. If necessary, check a dictionary to see that each word is spelled correctly.
For more information, see the OWL handouts on spelling.
For compound sentence commas:
1. Skim for conjunctions: and, but, for, or, nor, so and yet.
2. See whether there is a complete sentence on each side of the conjunction. If so, place a comma before the conjunction.
For more information, see the OWL handout compound sentence commas.
For introductory commas:
1. Skim your paper, looking only at the first two or three words of each sentence.
2. Stop if one of these words is a dependent marker, a transition word, a participle, or a preposition.
3. Listen for a possible break point before the main clause.
4. Place a comma at the end of the introductory phrase or clause (which is before the independent clause).
For more information, see the OWL handout on commas after introductions.
For comma splices:
1. Skim the paper, stopping at every comma.
2. See whether there is a complete sentence on each side of the comma. If so, add a coordinating conjunction after the comma or replace the comma with a semicolon.
For more information, see the OWL handout on commas.
1. Look at each sentence to see whether it contains an independent clause.
2. Pay special attention to sentences that begin with dependent marker words (such as "because") or phrases such as "for example" or "such as."
3. See if the sentence might be just a piece of the previous sentence that mistakenly got separated by a period.
For more information, see the OWL handout on sentence fragments.
For run-on sentences:
1. Review each sentence to see whether it contains more than one independent clause. Start with the last sentence of your paper, and work your way back to the beginning, sentence by sentence.
2. Break the sentence into two sentences if necessary.
For left-out words:
1. Read the paper aloud, pointing to every word as you read. Don't let your eye move ahead until you spot each word.
2. Also, make sure that you haven't doubled any words.
Saturday, May 06, 2006
I remember going to the Fox theater a few years later to see The Empire Strikes Back. It was actually a very chilly evening (in May? In Fremont? Who knew?), but my family waited in line dutifully anyway. I just assumed the anticipation that crackled off of my skin would be enough to keep them warm, but no... my mom was mostly frozen when we finally found our seats. I sat next to her, and had to miss half of the opening crawl 'cause I had to explain to her why this film -the sequel to the first film, which she (amazingly and charmingly) loved- was "Episode V." You try explaining the whole "See, he started with nine episodes, then made Star Wars, which is the first episode of the middle trilogy" concept in the time between the opening Star Wars logo and the launch of the first Imperial probe droid to a half-frozen woman who, really, barely cares. It's no easy task, tell you what. I don't think she ever got it... but then, she fell asleep before Luke's fateful meeting with the Wompa... how much could she really have taken in?
So, while she was surprised to see "Episode V" scroll up the screen that Spring, that surprise was nothing compared to my shock when I settled in to my seat a few summers later for a re-release of my beloved Star Wars... and watched slack-jawed as "Episode IV A New Hope" scrolled up and into the rafters. I heard some other kid ask his pal "Did it say that before?" and it was all I could do not to stand up and scream "NO! No you dummies! It didn't say that before! Is the sky still blue? Do birds still sing? Does anything make sense anymore?"
This was before George's "Special Edition" roll-out.That one addition was pretty much it for changes that summer... but it was no less shocking then than years later seeing Hayden Christensen's ghostly figure standing beside Yoda and Obi Wan at the end of the special edition -now canon- Return of the Jedi.
George wasn't just tinkering with his films, he was tinkering with my memories, and with my childhood. Now, I understand that these are his films, and that he can do whatever the hell he wants with them. If he decides all of the Imperials should be in black face all the time, so be it. It's his universe, and welcome to it. I get that art is never really finished, and that every work is a work in progress. I don't mind that he wants to tweak some plot points in Episodes IV-VI to make the entire story arc more cohesive, and trick us into believing that he really had "the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker" in mind before he took the lens cap off in Tunisia. I actually appreciate a lot of the changes he's made, and for my money I wouldn't mind seeing some CGI Luke in Return of the Jedi... I'd really like to see Luke getting his Jedi mojo working, and not just swinging a glowing stick at grimey mercenaries.
But I haven't appreciated not having access to the original trilogy as it originally appeared. I haven't appreciated not getting to revisit my childhood. I liked it there. Not only is George's dismissal of those films a slap in the face of my childhood, but it's an insult to all of the men and women who obviously toiled long and hard creating those films. Not just the effects, but the machines they had to build from scratch to generate the effects. Sure, by today's standards those original effects look out-dated... duh. But they still look great, and unless you were there in the darkness in '77, you have no idea how awesome a spectacle those technicians created. That work deserves to be archived, displayed and admired. It surely deserves more than to be written off by it's creator as "Well, it was the best we could do at the time, and it was never really exactly what I wanted, so these latest, re-tooled versions? They're Star Wars now, and you all can just pack up your childhoods and forget those original editions ever existed. Thanks for buying all of those travel mugs!"
And besides, we all know Han shot first. We all know that in any given situation Han would shoot first. It isn't in his nature to not shoot first, and if you notice, he never, ever asks questions later. He just tips the bartender, and strolls away from the body.
So, while I appreciate the tinkering, I've never understood George's obstinate refusal to release the original trilogy unedited on DVD. If anything, having both versions in circulation would only highlight the effects he'd added later, and prove his point about filling those plot holes. Plus, come on, we all know he'd make another gajillion dollars on an "original" trilogy release. You think I could actually not buy those DVDs? Have we met? Have you ever been to me?
Well, I would buy them... and come this September? I will.
So let it be written... the official press release:
"Fans can look forward to a September filled with classic Star Wars nostalgia, led by the premiere of LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy video game and the long-awaited DVD release of the orginal theatrical incarnations of the classic Star Wars trilogy.
In response to overwhelming demand, Lucasfilm Ltd. and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will release attractively priced individual two-disc releases of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Each release includes the 2004 digitally remastered version of the movie and, as bonus material, the theatrical edition of the film. That means you'll be able to enjoy Star Wars as it first appeared in 1977, Empire in 1980, and Jedi in 1983.
This release will only be available for a limited time: from September 12th to December 31st. International release will follow on or about the same day. Each original theatrical version will feature Dolby 2.0 Surround sound, close-captioning, and subtitles in English, French and Spanish for their U.S. release. International sound and subtitling vary by territory.
Over the years, a truly countless number of fans have told us that they would love to see and own the original version that they remember experiencing in theaters," said Jim Ward, President of LucasArts and Senior Vice President of Lucasfilm Ltd. "We returned to the Lucasfilm Archives to search exhaustively for source material that could be presented on DVD. This is something that we're very excited to be able to give to fans in response to their continuing enthusiasm for Star Wars. Topping it off with a new interactive adventure makes September 12 a red-letter day for Star Wars fans."
That's also the day fans will be able to experience the LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy video game, the action-packed sequel -- filled with tongue-in-cheek humor -- to one of the best selling video games of 2005."
Friday, May 05, 2006
Thursday, May 04, 2006
He is the very definition of "iconic" and "mythic..." and clearly Bryan Singer knows this. The respect he has for Superman is palpable. Watch the trailer, and tell me I'm wrong.
I know, I know... I was doing so well... cautiously optimistic and all... not letting my love for Superman and delight in Bryan Singer taking the reins of Superman Returns carry me away... yeah, that was yesterday. Today? Today I watched this trailer. Judging from how giddy and weepy it made me, I'd have to say that this is the best movie ever.
Is it June 30th yet?
How 'bout now?
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
By the time the buzz was wearing off
we were standing out on the sidewalk
with our tattoos that looked like rings
in the hot Nevada sun
Kids piled high, our moms and dads shook hands
in a party of Polaroid friends
rented a pool and hired a band
Maybe they knew more then we knew
cause they danced and drank
while we jumped off the deep end
Oh I've got you to thank for this
Christmas came around
yeah and everything was going to crap
and our moms and dads not a clue to be had
Yeah we put on a pretty good act
and they seemed to all need to believe it
so we danced and smiled and paddled hard beneath it
Oh I've got you to that for this
You can't say you've never had a doubt
and smoked it down but really wanted out
By the time the buzz was wearing off
we were standing out on the sidewalk
with our tattoos that looked like rings
in the hot Nevada sun
and they won't fade
~Ben Folds, You To Thank
Monday, May 01, 2006
But the rest of you, what are you thinking? Reporting on NSA wiretapping or secret prisons in Eastern Europe? Those things are secret for a very important reason: they're super-depressing. And if that's your goal, well, misery accomplished."
~Steven -"Ballsalicious"- Colbert