Monday, December 30, 2013

Sunday, Pony Sunday (Special Monday Edition)

Yes, I've fallen rather behind the curve lately, what with the holidays and all the stress they bring.  I'm going to try to catch up on my "Didja Notice?" series of MLP episode analyses.

Episode 4: Daring Don't

This is pretty clearly a filler episode, as it has nothing to do with the season's story arc of "Solve the mystery of the Harmony Tree's locked box."   I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, as they can't all be arc or mythology episodes, but...

... well, ehh. This episode really didn't do anything for me, as I had no real interest or sympathy with the Daring Do character , who was made out to be more than a little bit of a jerk (and if you can out-jerkify Rainbow Dash, that's pretty bad).  I always envisioned Daring Do as an Indiana Jones type (obviously) but they seemed to crib her personality from the worst aspects of Wolverine (I'm the best at what I do, and what I do isn't pretty, so I do it alone, snikt bub snikt.)

I did like the nerd-off between Twilight And Dashie, though:
Rainbow Dash: We've gotta go help!

Twilight Sparkle: You heard her! She says she works alone!

Rainbow Dash: How can we just stand by and do nothing? You know what's at stake here! Ahuizotl has sought control of the Tenochtitlan Basin since book three!

Twilight Sparkle: True, but in book four, she defeated Ahuizotl and secured the Amulet of Atonement, dispelling the dark magic of the Quetzalcóatl Empress, and thus protecting the basin with the Radiant Shield of Rasdon!

Rainbow Dash: But the Radiant Shield of Rasdon is vulnerable to the dark enchantment of the Rings of Scorcherro!

Twilight Sparkle: Are you forgetting that the Rings were scattered to the four corners of Tenochtitlan, thus rendering the dark enchantment powerless?

Rainbow Dash: Only if you assume the Rings have yet to be retrieved, and the ring Caballeron just stole isn't the last ring to complete the dark tower and its cruel hold on Tenochtitlan! Did you ever think of that?!

Pinkie Pie: You gotta admit, Rainbow Dash makes a pretty good point.
Other thoughts:

  • I'm sure I'm not the only one to see the comparison between Dr. René Belloq and  Dr. Caballeron?

  • Daring Do is a pegasus. Why doesn't she, you know, fly when chasing the bad guys?

  • Oh look, there's evil kitty again.

  • I realize how ridiculous it will sound when I gripe about believability in a show about magical talking cartoon ponies, but the the Fortress of Talicon -- which holds lost archaeological treasures as well as a tribe of aboriginal ponies -- is just a day's travel away from Daring Do's cottage? sigh.

  • Honestly, I just want to write this episode off as "Rainbow Dash's Daydream."
In conclusion -- yes, I know you've been wondering if I'm going to reference the obvious connection between "A.K. Yearling" and J.K. Rowling --  I close with this bit of fanart from talented brony PixelKitties:

“No one will be alive by the last book. In fact, they all die in the fifth. The sixth book will be just a thousand-page description of snow blowing across the graves ...” -- George R. R. Martin

Episode 5:  Flight to the Finish

I haven't seen this episode. Missed it on TV, and it fell off the Hub's website before I could get to it. I've got my DVR set to record it, though, and I think it'll repeat on New Year's Day.

That said, it's a Cutie Mark Crusaders episode, so it's unlikely there's anything arc-worthy here.

However, since I'm on a PixelKitties kick...

Episode 6: Power Ponies

ZOMG. I loved this episode SO MUCH, you guys. While I was slightly disappointed there wasn't a callback to Mare Do Well, this episode did so many things right that kicked my gigglebox right over.

  • A reference to cleaning up the sisters' castle in the Everfree Forest!  I totally called it.

  • Mare-tropolis? Why then does it have zepplins like Gotham in Batman: the Animated Series? (Answer:  because awesome and funny, that's why.)

  • The villain has a Joker origin, Doctor Octopus/Medusa powers, and is called the Mane-iac. Before, I was simply interested. Now, I am *invested* in this story.
  • Also, is it just me, or is Mane-iac done by the same voice actor who did Night Mare Moon?
  • Holy Robin Reference, Batmare!
    • Masked Matter-Horn is a totally awesome name and I'm going to file that away the next time I play in a superheroes game. Giving Twilight matter conversion powers is a solid fit. 
    • However, Filly-Second is the best name ever. I would have picked Rainbow Dash to be the speedster, but giving sugar-filled Pinkie Pie superspeed actually fits her personality. 
    • Speaking of Dashie, giving her weather powers seems like a gimme. Zapp isn't a great name, though. (Although to be honest, neither is "Storm".)
    • Radiance?  Slightly better, and it fits the Green Lantern/Star Sapphire motif. And I do adore how all her creations are prissy. 
    • Mistress Mare-velous isn't a great name either, although I like the combination of Wonder Woman's lasso with Batman's batarangs (especially when they look like horseshoes). 
    • Saddle Rager actually took me a bit to figure out, as I knew there had to be a pun somewhere. I finally figured out that it was a play on battle rager, aka a berserker.

  • I love how in the first fight, the Mane Six totally botches their powers, and by the next scene they've figured out (more or less) how to use them. That's the Failure is Awesome mechanic in action!

  • Isn't it funny how Rarity is the first to really figure out how to best use her powers?

  • The minion on the sprayer with the alarm made me giggle, too. Finally, a competent villain! And Mane-iac didn't even have to yell "You had ONE job!"

  • Saving the best for last:

    "I have a hairdryer."

    "We have a Flutterhulk."

Look! More PixelKitties!

Episode 7: Bats!

I have mixed feelings about this episode. On the one hand, it is very cute, and there's a fun song which is always welcome, and my inner goth approves of anything vampiric. On the other hand, they pretty much telegraphed the "right answer" which I felt wasn't fair to Applejack. I would have preferred a more nuanced moral about finding a compromise for all parties and not just "Fluttershy is always right when it comes to animals/ecology and she shouldn't give in to peer pressure."  After all, her proposal for a "Vampire Fruit Bat Sanctuary" contained no provisions for keeping the bats out of the rest of the orchard -- she admitted that she didn't speak their language, so there's no guarantee that the bats would have stayed there -- and Sweet Apple Acres is apparently a major food source for Ponyville as well as a family business. Applejack has a right to keep an infestation from destroying her crops!

Again, a few thoughts:

  • Oh, Rarity, you're SUCH a size queen.
  • It's funny how during the song, Applejack kind of has a Batman thing going, given what happened in the previous episode.
  • I'm honestly surprised it's taken three seasons to make a "Winter Wrap-Up" joke.
  • Nice callback to Dash's cider obsession, though.
  • Pinkie Pie as Carmen Miranda seems fitting.
  • Why am I not surprised that Rarity has a HAZMAT suit?
  • OK, so the spell has been performed, the vampire fruit bats no longer want apples, and yet something drained the apples during the night. During the night. This will be relevant later.
  • Calling her Flutterbat is cute and all, but the writers missed an opportunity for a truly magnificent pun:

  • Look, Twilight has Magical Powerpoint Abilities!
  • Now's the time when they're discussing how to reverse the spell, and they seize upon the plan to... use mirrors?  To make Fluttershy use the Stare on herself???  How does that even work?  WHY would she want to stare herself?  I know they're riffing off vampire mythology here, but...
  • Remember earlier, when I said that the apples were drained the night previous?  Clearly, Fluttershy only turns into Flutterbat at night (because otherwise nothing would have happened to the orchard after Twilight cast the spell.)  Occam's Razor suggests that the simplest course of action is to wait until sunrise when 'Bat turns back into 'Shy and then dispel the magic.
  • You probably missed it on the TV, as it was very brief, but Flutterbat has a different Cutie Mark:

Three pink bats. This confirms that the Horseferatu is a cupcake goth. 

And to conclude:  a comic!  Not from PixelKitties this time, but from dm29!

And with that, I'm caught up!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Well Done, Flying Monkey Legion

A big THANK YOU to everyone who contributed to my last minutes "Make a Christmas Miracle Happen" post. Thanks to you, my generous and kind readers  (whom I have affectionately named my Flying Monkeys), we were able to help out three cash-strapped single moms by helping them buy presents for their children along with Christmas dinner for all!  In addition we helped a gent pay his rent for the month, so that he and his dog weren't evicted in the middle of winter.

You're all wonderful and I'd like to give each of you a hug for making these miracles possible.

I seem to have a gift for getting people to donate money. I take that as a huge compliment, because you are effectively saying "We trust your judgement that these people need help, and we trust you to get this money to them."  That might not seem like much to you guys, but that's a huge deal for me, so thank you very much for the trust you've placed in me.

I don't know how it could be done, but I would love to be able to administer/maintain a small cash reserve (say, $1000 or so) that could be held in reserve and donated to good folks who need it. It would really make me feel like I was accomplishing something with my life if I could solve some of life's small crises for decent folks by just saying "Here, some cash ought to fix that for you," and BAM! Problem solved like a bullseye.

If anyone has experience with this sort of thing, please let me know.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Thursday is Thorsday

But Wednesday is for Wotan.

I had originally planned to post this yesterday, what with it being Wotan's Day AND Christmas AND the day for Wednesday Night Wackiness, but it was Christmas and I was being lazy so fuckit.

But, because I feel guilty about missing it, I'm posting it anyway. Mazel tov and all that.

The rest of this funny and informative series hay be found here.

Things Salem Should Never Be Allowed Near, Volume 2

I'm a very technically adept person with computers. I have a fairly good idea, despite only some basic training by a major OEM that I used to work for, about the various intimate functions of computer components. I built my own gaming rig. I've repaired a laptop or two in my time. I've fixed countless broken desktop computers, and was a senior level tech in the phone support division of the previously mentioned OEM. This is all important to note in context because when it comes to certain machines, I really have no idea what I'm doing.

 I have a miracle of a car. It's a 1991 Toyota Corolla, with around 135,000 miles on it. The engine runs well, the transmission shifts smoothly. There's no radio, on account of it being stolen when I lived in a Texas ghetto. There's a crack that runs off in a few different directions, nearly forming a crosshair on my windshield. The AC quit working, and the rolly-knob thing fell off of the window crank. But, despite all that, it still starts and it still runs.

An apt analogy of me working on a car.

Despite my complete ignorance as to how it works. Over the past few years, the car's developed an interesting problem. Immediately after making the return trip from Alabama to Texas for a work-related hurricane relocation, the car completely shut off not a half a mile from my apartment. In the process of attaching jumper cables, it sprang back to life, headlights winking on, and the key-noise-maker-whats-it bonging irritatedly at me from inside the cabin. Since then, it's periodically lay in wait for me to go somewhere, only to completely die when I turn the key, only for the dash lights to come back on when I let go of it.

For a while, I would open the hood, scratch my head confusedly, and play with whatever I could find that would move, or at least seem pliable. At one point, I was literally repairing the car by popping the hood, hitting various parts with a wrench, then turning the key. I eventually narrowed down the culprit to the battery terminals. The positive terminal clamp thing had come loose, so I tightened it. Problem solved! Car was starting and driving normally.

Only computer dog understands me.
Albuquerque's winter proved too much and, as I was irrationally afraid of working on the car, I was back to readjusting the terminal clamp every time I needed to drive somewhere, and again when I needed to drive back. The last time it happened, the clamp was so corroded that it literally fell apart in my hands. I caught a ride with my boss to have the battery tested (it needed to be replaced) and buy new clamps, but when I went to put them on, the bolt holding the clamp in place was so corroded and stuck I couldn't turn it. I sat for a bit, scratching my head and remembering basic science. I then set to work tearing the old clamp apart and creating a mass of ugly, shredded, crap-covered metal that would fit into the new clamp. Then I fastened the new clamp to the dessicated corpse of the old clamp, tightened the bolts on it, and was quite pleased with myself when the car started.

I was doubly pleased with myself when I saw the look on the mechanic's face when he saw what I'd done. He personally loosened the bolt with several complicated looking vices and wrenches, then removed the shredded mess that was the old clamp so that I could properly attach the new clamp, which he informed me wasn't even the right type (but would still work). All free of charge.

The moral of this story is that Salem should never be let under the hood of a car, nor anywhere near a proper set of tools.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas & Happy Hearth's Warming Eve

This is a special delivery of love, kindness and laughter from Ponyville!

The fire of friendship lives in our hearts
As long as it burns we cannot drift apart
Though quarrels arise, their numbers are few
Laughter and singing will see us through
We are a circle of pony friends
A circle of friends we'll be to the very end!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Khaotica 2013

(Erin says: for years now, I've been trying to make Khaotica "catch on" within Discordian circles. I gave up after a while, figuring that the entire premise of  celebrating a fake holiday was antithetical to a fake religion based upon chaos and slacking.

Fortunately, it appears that Khaotica -- much like my love for Morgan Freeman -- was actually ahead of the curve.

So I present to you a special Khaotica guest post by St. Judas the Obscene.)

The 2013 Joey Kamikaze Khaotica Special

The way the snow is coming down, getting out of here in the morning is going to be twice the adventure finding the cabin was to begin with, and Nid is only half-relieved to see Joey answer the door. With a resigned sigh he waves to Celeste, who's still huddled over the heater in the truck. The heavy Montana snow is already up to Celeste's knees, but she plows her way to the door and follows the men into the snow-logged cabin. “I almost gave up on you two,” their host says as he closes the door. “Welcome to the set of the 2013 Joey Kamikaze Khaotica Special. Do you have your signed waivers?”

After the couple strip off their boots and coats Joey introduces the camera crew and leads them toward the living room, where the rest of the special guest stars are gathered. Before they can get there Manisha pops around the corner in a pastel Lil' Ganesha & Friends t-shirt and a headset, tablet in hand. Celeste squeals and dive-hugs Manisha while Nid and Joey share a glance. Not that Joey can see Nid's face beneath his festive Frosty the Snowman mask, but let's not dwell on that detail for now.

Celeste gives her Indian other-mother a wry look. “Oh god, Manisha, you're producing for him again? After the thing with the drunk-driving leprechauns? Really?”

“That was a PSA,” Joey says, and everyone wisely ignores him.

“At least that means there should be craft service this time,” Nid says. “He tried to trick the crew of Evil T: The Icepick-Wielding Sub-Terrestrial into potlucking every day.”

“In the dining room,” Manisha says. “And I'm only here because he roped my crew in under the table anyway... again... and I wanted to meet Pete Townshend.”

Celeste's eyebrow arcs and she follows Manisha to the living room, but Nid puts a hand on his cousin's shoulder and gives him a hard look in the eyes from behind the mask. “Why all the cloak and dagger about making a special for a holiday no one's heard of? Khaotica? You know I don't like being on camera, even with the mask.”

“You know how sometimes I get these feelings?” Joey says.

“Oh geez. I know what it is. It's been five years since Ruth killed Santa Claus.”

“She killed him in the future. And you know how the fives thing works. A Khaotica special is the perfect way to dispel this auspicious anniversary's bad mojo.” Nid nods along; that kind of magical thinking is Joey's usual forte. And it explains why they're filming in the ass end of nowhere... though there was never any hiding from Santa when he was in the mood to kill. “C'mon, I'll introduce you to everyone so we can start filming.”

The other special guests are lounging before a majestic river-rock fireplace, the centerpiece of a spacious living room full of plaid couches, shaggy suede easy chairs and other decor that's probably been here since the cabin was built during the Carter administration. The fake moose heads are a nice touch. Joey directs Nid to a somewhat obese 40-something in a leather jacket with greasy hair dozing in one of the recliners. “This is Phonzie, Milwaukee's preeminent Fonzie impersonator. He's here to represent the episode of Happy Days where the Fonz is alone for Christmas until the Cunninghams invite him over.”

Phonzie wakes up enough to offer a hand and a “Merr-aaaaay Christmas.”

Nid shakes Phonzie's hand, holds in his groan and feels thankful the look on his face is hidden. The next guest is at least the real deal. “Yukon Cornelius,” Nid says, needing no introduction.

“Pleased to make your acquaintance,” says the famed prospector. “You here for the silver or gold?”

“Mostly the gift baskets.” Nid looks to Joey. “I'm sensing a theme with your guests.”

“I want to devote my Khaotica special to my other favorite holiday specials.”

“You mean you're doing a clip show because it's cheap. Are you even paying for the rights to the clips, or are you just going to pull them up on YouTube?”

“These specials are representatives of the Khaotica spirit!”

“The Khaotica spirit? Care to define that?”

“No, but don't go around using it, I'm having it copyrighted if this thing's a hit.”

The next guest looks like a four foot tall rug and smells like a muskrat's ass. “You remember Lumpy from the Star Wars Holiday Special.” It's not a question, as Joey has made that particular travesty's viewing a mandatory annual event back home. Nid offers a hand and a greeting and gets a mouthful of random growls and his arm almost ripped off in return. Once Nid has his shoulder back in the socket Joey introduces him to the man with the guitar sitting on the largest couch, currently squeezed tight between Celeste and Manisha. “Representing the Whos of Whoville from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, this is Pete Townshend.”

“Um,” says Nid, but he shakes Pete Townshend's hand and asks for an autograph while wondering silently behind the mask, Pete Townshend is too classy to nail another guy's wife, right? Whenever he and Celeste run into rock stars — and it happens more in their careers than you'd think — Nid has regrets about this whole open marriage thing.

The last special guest is a loose-gazed woman in a Nazi uniform and pyramid hat huddled in an easy-chair in the far corner, occasionally jittering and foaming like a rabid squirrel. “And this is Tila Tequila,” Joey says. “Tila has her own special coming out later this week on VH1.”

Tila Tequila stares off into the empty space between Joey and Nid and bellows, “SOMEONE NEEDS TO SPEAK THE TRUTH WITHOUT FEAR! Otherwise the dark cabal who currently control the world and all of the world bankers will continue to feed you their lies, feed off your emotions, take advantage of your emotions and will continue to keep you THEIR SLAVE!”

Nid pulls Joey aside for a quick family pow-wow. “Please tell me you're not sleeping with her.”

“You know I swore off dating reality TV stars after Susan Boyle left me at the altar on Celebrity Bachelorette. Don't worry about it. Thanks for bringing it up. Ass.”

Before Nid can clarify his objections Manisha springs from the couch. “Okay everybody, it's time to start filming. Act natural and let Nid and Joey lead the conversation. We're going to play clips from different specials and movies, assuming the wifi behaves.” With that she's away behind the cameras, and Nid resigns himself to his fate. He takes a seat on the other side of Pete Townshend from his wife, who gives him a look that could either mean We're in this together, honey or I'm totally banging the guy who wrote "Tommy" later tonight, Nid isn't sure which.

Joey sits in his director's chair beneath a flat panel mounted to the wall by the fireplace, dispensing childhood memories and trading barbs with Nid, pulling feedback from the other guests, generally making an ass of himself like usual. Behind the cameras, Manisha's crew feeds clips to the screen and does their best to keep Joey's focus from derailing too often. Joey introduces them (and the hypothetical future audience) to a few Khaotica traditions — for example, he gives everyone gift-wrapped recently-fresh fish and Slim-Jims, and they have a contest to see who can suck the red off a vodka-infused candy cane and then get the remainder back into the wrapper and on the tree the fastest. But there's one thing that never comes up, so finally Nid has to ask, “Joey, where did this Khaotica nonsense come from?”

“You want to know the story of the first Khaotica?”

“Maybe? Do I? Are you going to tell it?”

Mr. Kamikaze clears his throat. “Khaotica is the traditional winter holiday of the ancient sasquatch tribes who roamed North America before humans ever stepped foot on the continent. According to their legends, in the ancient times a sasquatch called Krampus got into an argument with the Queen of the Narwhals over who was the better singer, so the Queen transformed Krampus into a monster.”

“Heeeeeey,” says the Phonz, “isn't a bigfoot already kind of a monster?”

“That's racist,” says Joey. “When Krampus returned to his tribe they were sorry for him at first, but eventually all his whining got on their nerves. The tribe decided to mess with Krampus a little so he'd laugh again and stop being such a bitch about things. It worked, kind of: Krampus moved away to become Europe's problem and the neighborhood quieted down again. So the sasquatches made Khaotica an annual celebration, or at least they did until most of them died from the diseases the first human immigrants brought over with them. But you can learn more about that in my upcoming book—”

“Are you just making this up as you go along?” Celeste says, and Joey putters off.

Nid sighs and looks the room over. “Isn't there anyone who knows what Khaotica is all about?”

“Raoirrrnnn, wuhuu hhrravhurrr rroa hrruunn.” Lumpy clears his throat and takes a spot in front of the fireplace, where the cameras can pick up the glow of the flames off his shaggy coat. Manisha dims the overheads and puts on the spotlight. The rest of the room goes silent as Lumpy explains:

Manisha flicks the lights back on. The Wookiee collapses sideways, eyes staring but their light already faded, as the flames from the burning log lodged through his abdomen lick at his stinking fur. Everyone scrambles away from the fireplace except Tila Tequila, who stamps and shouts, “STAND UP AND FIGHT!!!!!!! FEAR THEM NOT LIKE THEY FEAR ME, THE FUCKING SAMURAI!” She pulls what looks to be either mace or industrial-strength hairspray from her purse and makes to spray the corpse, but Phonzie grabs her and pulls her back behind one of the couches for cover as she wriggles and yells, “DOWN WITH THE NEW WORLD ORDER & THEIR ZIONIST SHILLS!!”

Another log goes jetting over Nid and Celeste's heads, disintegrating the top two inches of the loveseat they're hiding behind. The third log kills camera 3 and Ron, the grip cowering behind it, who works — worked — on Manisha's show. When Nid looks for Manisha he doesn't see her, but he heard a few people jumble into the closest and he thinks another group went upstairs. As he's watching maybe half a dozen members of the film crew go running out the front door. The last two logs in the fireplace explode against the door frame after them.

“It's him,” Joey says. “I'll be back.” He bolts for the stairs as a cloud of silt and dust chokes the room. The scratching in the chimney is getting nearer, and the bastard's kicking down every bit of ash and creosote he can on the way.

Celeste grabs Nid's arm, and with brief satisfaction Nid notices Pete Townshend running out the front door, dragging Tila Tequila by an arm. “What's Santa's weakness again? Do we need a frog?” Celeste's only tangled with Santa once, and she technically died in the attempt. So did Nid and Joey, that time. Only a bit of time travel on Ruth's part resolved that particular knot, and she's refused to spend the holidays with them since. But Nid's killed Santa with Joey probably two dozen times now since they were teenagers. Like an iconic horror movie villain, he always comes back.

“It changes every incarnation. Nothing works twice.” The whole Santa thing could probably use a quick explanation, right? For the record, the Santa Claus of goodwill and cheer who brings gifts to the children of the Christian West every December 25 is mythological. The gifts are supplied by your parents and/or guardians, the mental image is supplied by Coca Cola's advertising department. Sorry if I spoiled that for you. This Santa Claus is a... something... summoned from... somewhere... by a team of CIA psi researchers during the Cold War, “Like if Cthulhu could only exist in this dimension as the Tooth Fairy,” if you believe Joey's account.

The story goes: During a December 14, 196X attempt to contact the dead and recruit them for intelligence work, the CIA accidentally unleashed a being that took the form of Santa Claus, supposedly after the office decorations. It rampaged around New England in that form until December 31, when some nameless agency sealed Santa back... well, either where he belonged or at least somewhere that wasn't here. But he's been able to manifest by December 14 most years since then. The way Joey tells it, he first encountered Santa when he was 12, and that was the first time he killed the evil old elf—the first civilian to do so. The lethal rivalry continued unabated, and Nid soon became parcel to the most famous of his cousin's blood feuds with supposedly-mythological beings. It seemed Santa's appearances were coming sooner and sooner every year until Ruth killed him five years ago. Decisively, they'd hoped.

But nope. With one last series of scrapes and scratches their old nemesis emerges, looking plump and soul-hungry as ever. His dirty wool suit is stained almost purple with the blood of decades of victims; within his fluffy white beard are braided tiny finger-bones from the latest batch of children he's devoured. His jolly blue eyes move but lack light or expression, and he never blinks. “Ho ho ho! Who's been nice this year? Who's been naughty? It doesn't matter, you're all going to be bodies! Ho ho ho!”

Yukon Cornelius steps forward in challenge to distract Santa while Phonzie makes a run for the door. “Didn't I ever tell you about bodies? Bodies bounce!” While Nid wonders what the hell that was supposed to mean, the prospector twirls his pickaxe and lunges at the terror from the chimney with a lung-emptying “Wahooooooooooo!

For a brief moment Nid allows himself hope, but Yukon's face meets Santa's backhand with a wet crunch, and the Claus strips the prospector's pickaxe like he's taking cookies from an unattended plate. The pickaxe spins up in the air over their heads as Santa snaps Yukon's neck in his mangy green gloves. The axe splats down into Yukon's twisted body, spraying viscera. Santa plucks the pickaxe from his foe's body, gives it a lick. “You were nothing.”

Santa turns to look at the loveseat Nid and Celeste are ducked behind, smiles. “Ho ho ho! Christmas, Yuletide, all year round! Christmas in July! Love to hear that jolly sound, screams you make when you die! Ho ho ho!” The wicked elf holds up a stained burlap sack and makes a show of rummaging through it. “What's in Santa's bag, my dear? What's he have for you, my friend? We'll make Christmas last all year, then bring your species to an end! Ho ho ho, there it is!” Santa pulls a laser-chainsaw—Nid's never seen them for sale either, but by goddess that's a laser-chainsaw, alright—from his sack and slices the nearest coffee table in half just for fun. Nid's grip on Celeste's shoulder tightens and he gives the door a glance, but he knows better than to run from Santa in the snow. If they don't stop the Claus here, all those escaped guest celebrities are already dead, and plenty others too. Besides, who knows what Santa's magic has cooked up outside to keep them trapped here.

“Where the hell is your cousin?” Celeste whispers.

Santa seems to have the same question. “Kamikaze! Show yourself, or I start pulling limbs off family members!” A leopard-print couch covered in questionable stains and a few pieces of mass-produced pop art feel the laser-chainsaw's fury.

“SANTA!” Joey descends from the loft, a familiar-if-chintzy rifle in his hands. He waves for Nid and Celeste to break cover and run upstairs behind him. Upstairs, Manisha waves Nid and Celeste to a spot in the loft overlooking the living room. Most of the camera crew is with her, remotely operating the cameras with their tablets and laptops.

“Kamikaze!” Santa laughs the most ominous ho ho ho Nid's heard in his life; Jabba the Hutt couldn't top it. “When I'm done with you there won't be enough left to send home in a stocking!”

“Hope you kept a gift receipt, Claus, because I know something you don't!” Joey holds up a sheet of paper. “Every weakness of every manifestation you'll take over the next three hundred years, thanks to a friend in the future.” He cocks the rifle. “Let me introduce you to this go round's: the official Red Rider 200 shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time!” And Joey sends his eye down the sight.

“You have to be joking,” Santa says, but he no longer sounds so sure of himself. He takes a step forward, raising the laser-chainsaw, and the BB gun gives a subtle clclk. The laser-chainsaw drops to the floor and dies (the laser goes off, in other words) as Santa's crusty gloves dart to his brow. “You shot my EYE out!” Santa wails, then he shatters like a vase hitting concrete. The shards of his hollow body dissolve into greasy red-green smoke that escapes back up the chimney, and a stillness settles over the cabin.

Nid lets go of the breath he was holding and kisses his wife.

The headcount later puts the death toll at 9, counting all the people killed by the “snow sharks” the survivors who fled outdoors claim were patrolling the area during Santa's attack. Descriptions of the beasts vary, but everyone agrees Phonzie jumped three of them on his motorcycle only to be devoured by another pair moments later. The last anyone saw Pete Townshend, he was following Tila Tequila into the woods.

Nid elbows his cousin in the ribs. “You knew the whole time. Ruth gave you that list years ago.”

“Maybe.” Joey smiles. “Manisha, how'd the footage come out?”

Manisha prods at the pile of smoldering fur that used to be Lumpy the Wookiee with one of her flip-flops. “I'm already editing it down. I think we're talking pay-per-view. You might even make enough to off-set the damages from all the upcoming wrongful death suits.”

The snow is still coming down, but Nid and Celeste are jacked up on adrenaline and don't feel like sleeping in the cabin anymore so they bid everyone good night and get away before law enforcement shows up asking questions. The drive isn't so bad once they get back on pavement, and Celeste leans her head against Nid's shoulder and sighs contentedly.

“Too bad Pete Townshend ran off though,” Celeste says. “I was totally going to jump that. What do you think happened to him and Tila Tequila?”

Nid doesn't say anything, but he silently thanks Santa for this Khaotica miracle.

Deep within the woods, miles in the other direction, Tila Tequila feasts on the blood of her most recent kill and howls naked at the moon in the random tongues of her people, cursing the reptilian NWO members who made the emerald consciousness elves go into hiding. But she makes sure to keep the blood-autographed guitar intact because she needs rent money.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Help make a Christmas Miracle happen

If there are any members of my Flying Monkey Legion (TM) who are financially able to help make a last-minute Christmas miracle happen, please email me* immediately!  

(Details kept quiet to preserve pride and prevent embarrassment of recipient. Emailers will receive more details upon request.)

* erin dot palette at gmail dot com

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Something Something Needs, Not Something Something Deserves

     So I occasionally write about video games, if you haven't noticed. Because of this, I try to maintain an objective viewpoint when going into a game. It isn't always possible. If I pick up a new Call of Duty game, I'm going to be expecting about 4-5 hours of shallow corridor shooting. If I play one of those Bethesda RPGs, I'm expecting a ridiculously huge world with an obscene level of detail and tons of tiny in-jokes. If I'm approaching the third game in a highly successful and critically acclaimed series, my expectations are going to be high.

     Unless, of course, the game is made by a different developer, using the same characters but with different voice actors, and has garnered generally mixed to negative impressions from respected sources. This is not one of those times I went in with an objective viewpoint. Which makes what happens all the more frustrating and confusing.

     Batman: Arkham Origins has several strikes against it from the outset. The first two games, Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, were developed by Rocksteady, an English development team who stunned the gaming world by releasing a game based on a licensed property that was not only good, but outstanding. Not just outstanding, but nearly flawless. It was written by Paul Dini, who was responsible for the best of the landmark Batman: The Animated Series with voices provided by Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Arleen Sorkin, among others from the same show. It treated the subject matter with a level of respect and love that had not been since in a licensed property since Goldeneye 007, and rarely since.

     Arkham Origins rubbed me the wrong way first with the title. Origins is one of those words (like Revelation) that is just lazy and over-used in gaming titles. Dragon Age, Rayman, FEAR 2, and probably a dozen others got there first. Gone is Rocksteady, replaced by an in-house studio for Warner Brothers. Most damning of all (in my eyes) is the replacement of Conroy and Hamill. Troy Baker is a talented voice actor, but it just sounds like he's doing a Mark Hamill imitation (albeit a good Hamill imitation) that just makes me miss Hamill even more. If you're going to be Joker, be your own Joker. Nobody wants to see you imitate someone else's Joker. Conroy is replaced with Roger Craig Smith, who has the dubious honor of voicing one of my favorite (Ezio Auditore) and least favorite (Chris Redfield) characters. His Batman lacks all of the dark humor and intimidation of Conroy's, and his performance is possibly the weakest.Batman has been redesigned so that he looks approximately halfway between his appearance in the first two games and his appearance in the Nolan films, which while good for what they were, I've had about enough of. And finally, that Freeflow combat system has been... tweaked? Changed? Something's off about the timing which has fouled up my ability to take out a room of thugs without a scratch, and I often find Batman punching thin air, or not doing a take-down move when he's supposed to, or even just some random street tough capable of throwing a punch faster and harder than Batman.

     With all of that said, though, I come to the most frustrating and confusing part of it all. I really went into this prepared to hate it. I went in fully expecting to be completely let down, but I wasn't. There's just enough familiarity there to make me feel comfortable, with enough new things to keep it feeling fresh three games into the series, where even Arkham City started to feel old at times. The dialogue really shines, with some really great lines given to Joker, Alfred, and Commissioner Gordon. Despite using the tired subtitle of Origins, it really does go to great lengths in the story, through both obvious events and background storytelling, to show us how things got from here through Arkham Asylum all the way to Arkham City. The story itself feels smaller, tighter, and more focused than the previous games, with characters from later games introduced and treated with great respect and a few really clenching moments. At one point, a character essentially vital to the lore was placed in great danger (see how I'm tap-dancing around spoilers here?) and I very nearly put my controller down, uninstalled, and walked away before the story resolved the situation quite adeptly.

     So, WB Montreal, I have to say. I stand impressed. I went in with the lowest expectations, and I was was proven wrong. It's not perfect by any means, and there are some glaringly terrible things, but I really like this game. Even the multiplayer is kinda fun, and if *I'M* saying that, it really means something.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I'm going to hell for laughing about this...

This is probably something better suited for Wednesday night wackiness, but I wanted to publish this before some other gunblogger beat me to it.

So, there's this thing out there called Flower Shells:

And that's fine, if a bit ironic in that the whole "Guns are bad, mmkay? But if we make them shoot flowers suddenly they're good again" thing only lends more proof to the fact that it isn't the tool that makes something dangerous, but rather the intent behind it. Okay hippie, whatever makes you happy. Buy a shotgun to shoot flowers? Sure, why not.

But after I scrolled down a bit on their website, I damn near fell out of my chair from laughing at the cluenessness of it all.

In the immortal words of Eminem, "I'm going to hell... who's coming with me?"

For anyone who doesn't understand why I'm laughing like a jackass, it is worth noting that in the '99 Columbine massacre, both killers used sawed-off 12-gauge shotguns... and these shells are for 12-gauge shotguns.

Yes, I know it's in incredibly poor taste to laugh at this. It's also, in my opinion, incredibly tone-deaf to offer that particular product in America. If a regular ammunition company offered something like this, the Internet Outrage Machine would immediately switch on and accuse them of insensitivity and thinking only of profit at the expense of the memory of dead children.

So why can't I hold these yahoos to the same standards and point & laugh at their idiocy?  They shouldn't get a pass just because they're green.

Traveller Tuesday: X-Boat Routes in the Marches

As everyone who reads my Tuesday Traveller series knows, I am an inveterate tinkerer with a tendency to obsess over things which don't make sense.  Thus it should come as no surprise when I mention that the X-Boat routes throughout the Spinward Marches have driven me absolutely bugnuts, and when I discovered a way to change them to my liking I spent close to an entire evening doing just that.

Here, then, is the new Spinward Marches according to Erin.

Some notes as they occur to me:
  • The purple lines are for high-speed (J-5 and J-6) military and diplomatic channels. They are not usually available for commercial use, although an obscenely wealthy corporation could buy space on one -- but they likely have their own J-6 ships for that. 
  • I have no way to differentiate between a route that stops at a system and one that simply passes through it. Sorry. You'll have to use your discretion. 
  • Whenever possible, I made a direct line to subsector capitals. 
  • Whenever possible, I made loops instead of lines, both for speed of transmission and for the ability to route communication around damage where needed. 
  • Using this system, communication from sector capital Mora to the other subsector capitals is damn fast, considering that each hex is a parsec (3.5 light years across):
    • 2 weeks to reach Lunion and Rhylanor
    • 3 weeks to reach Lanth, Glisten and Trin
    • 4 weeks to reach Aramis, Frenzie, Regina, Mertactor
    • 5 weeks to reach Iderati
    • 6 weeks to reach Mire and Jewell (but only 2 weeks from Jewell to Regina)
  • Ivendo and Fosey become these odd J-6 hubs, which become less odd when you realize that Ivendo has both a Navy and a Scout base, and Fosey has a Naval Intelligence office. Hmm....
  • Icetina is a weird, nonsensical dogleg that existed before I changed the map. I made the reason for its existence into a plot point. 
  • Similarly, Walston is now a Class B port and X-boat hub due to the actions of the PCs. (It's going to be integrated into the Imperium as soon as the population gets it racism under control.)
  • I switched the locations of Bronze and Steel because I had an adventure called "Project Steel" which was all about removing the X-boat base at Biter and routing it through Steel, and the canonical position of Steel made that idiotic. Rather than change the adventure (Steel is habitable, Bronze is not), I used GM fiat to switch the positions of the systems. 
  • It's now a Jump-2 for the Sword Worlds to get any mail from the Imperium. Suck it, Swordies. 
  • Flammarion is now even more of a critical hub as it is the official link from the Imperium to the Darrian Confederation. It goes to Spume and not Darrian because I figured it was more important for mail to get onto the Darrian's mail service than to go to the old capital. 
  • The Zhodani were deliberately left unchanged. 
In all likelihood, I have made some mistakes with this map. If you see anything that looks strange, please let me know. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Monday Gunday: A quickie

Hey all. Taking a week or so off from posting has helped my stress level somewhat, but I'm still feeling a bit halfassed so I'm basically going to phone this one in.

First, a little something I picked up from ze Lederhosen de Facebooken:

(Except, you know,  strike out "AR-15" and replace with any name or model of firearm ever.)

Second, if this was a real thing I would totally buy and use it.  I wonder if it would come in 7.62x54R?

(If you don't understand the joke, go here.)

And finally, this was what happened when I went pistol shooting for the first time since May:

Ugh. When they say shooting is a perishable skill, they aren't kidding.  This was at 7.5 yards, and I shot about a hundred rounds. Blargh. This is terrible and upsetting and discouraging, especially when you compare it how I shot previously:

How the hell did I pick up a bad habit by not doing a thing?  That's witchcraft, that is.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Do We Really Need A Video Game Awards Show?

     Joel McHale, as I understand, is a comedic genius under the right circumstances. I honestly haven't seen but a few episodes of Community, but I've been told... over.. and over.. that it's a brilliant show. He also used to do The Soup and, while I'm sure it was funny in its own right, was completely irrelevant to me as I'm not a terribly huge television watcher, let alone a follower of the genre covered by that show. What Joel McHale has proven himself not, however, is an apt presenter of a video games awards show.

     Normally, when I title an essay "Do we really need..." I'm going to be arguing that we don't. In this particular instance, I'm going against grain. I've made it clear, in the past, how much of a dedicated gamer I am. Go back and read any number of my previous diatribes, and you'll see my love for the medium. If I had to forgo all form of entertainment media and pick just one for the rest of my life, it would be games. The stories you can tell when you're part of the narrative are touching and personal in a way that, for me, other media just can't match. Aside from getting choked up over the odd episode of Doctor Who, I can't remember the last time I openly wept over something the way I did when Eleanor Lamb said goodbye to her father, or when Tiny Tina and the Vault Hunters made their peace with a great personal loss.

     I'm firmly in the camp that gaming is an art form, and we need to show appreciation to the creators in an art form. Someone needs to have their name out there and a little trophy over their fireplace proclaiming that they told the best interactive story, or crafted the best accompanying music, or were instrumental in introducing the most revolutionary mechanic in a game. We need heroes in the industry that can give clear goals to up-and-comers to aim for and topple down the line, and we need to make a big goddamn deal when someone crafts something so perfect it evokes a genuine emotional response.

     The Spike VGA/VGXs are not the way we need to do that. There's highlight reels out there (if highlight is the right word). I challenge you to watch them. The first time I tried, I got a minute or two in and just closed the video out of complete discomfort. It doesn't help that I'm biased against Geoff Keighley, the main host, to begin with. Dead-eyed Geoff Keighley, sandwiched between a Halo 4 poster and a table full of Doritos and Mountain Dew, long-suspected and outright accused of being a schill for games publishers with his smug gobby face and his awkward diplomacy. He's practically the poster-child for corporate meddling in gaming journalism. I genuinely don't like this guy. He rubs me the wrong way in an (at least in my eyes) irrational way and I feel sorry for the guy.

Courtesy of Eurogamer. This is not a photoshop.

     The previous Spike VGA shows were hollow, overblown mockeries of other shams like the MTV VMAs, which fit right at home on Spike. I'm not fond of Spike, either. Marketed as "The First Network for Men." Apparently Mens programming involves Pamela Anderson, Professional Wrestling, and syndicated prime-time dramas. That's another article in and of itself. This year's "VGX" was re-branded and down-sized, which I think really helped, but still couldn't save it. Joel McHale seemed determine to undermine the subject matter with jokes about female orgasms, Cheetos encrusted fingernails, and taking shots when hearing the words 'next-gen.' Constantly going off-script and blathering on about the teleprompter and being needlessly disrespectful not only to Keighley (which I'd have been ok with), but Reggie Fils-Aime from Nintendo and Double Fine's Tim Schaefer. We get it, Joel, you're drunk and you don't want to be here. Do us all a favor and go home. Get someone who'll appreciate it like Felicia Day, Wil Wheaton, Chris Hardwick, Veronica Belmont. Someone who's played a game recently and can actually muster some genuine enthusiasm. I hate Geoff Keighley and I could have done a better job.

     What really didn't help was when they cut to some rap group I've never heard of who contributed to the GTAV soundtrack that went on to shout things like POTATOES and MY SUIT HAS SHOULDER PADS in between listing the most violent things you can do in a GTA game as why they love games. Way to make gaming look like a pastime for mature adults, guys.

     Fortunately, there are alternatives. The GDC, Game Developers Choice Awards, the Independent Games Festival, and the BAFTA Interactive Entertainment Awards exist. If only we could funnel the attention and funding that Spike gets for the VGA/VGX into one or more of those, broadcast them over the internet, and get someone notable - and related to the industry - to host them, we wouldn't have situations like this year's debacle. Few things make me ashamed of being a gamer. Joel McHale just managed it, though.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Humbuggery is approaching 100%

Christmas has found my last nerve and is not tap-dancing upon it with golf cleats.

I have broken out the hard liquor (Jameson's Irish Whiskey, raided from my father's booze cabinet) in an attempt to chill the fuck out, because if I don't I'm going to end up on the roof taking potshots at Christmas decorations with my Mosin.

If I disappear for a few days, please check Facebook. If I'm active there, then I'm just having a bad day and will get to my blog when I can.  If I'm not, then I'm probably in jail -- send lawyers and money.

I used to love Christmas as a kid. Then, sometime after college, it all changed. It became a high-stress assault on my senses and wallet and now I hate it. And it's only going to get worse, as CarolFest 2013 will start any day now.

I need a vacation from this holiday.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Palette's Product Reviews, past and future

I have, in the past, been accused of doing "back porch reviews." This is usually said with a sneer, as if my observations are somehow invalid because I haven't hauled a particular piece of kit 8 miles into the woods before I used it.

To those people I say this.

Look, you're right, I haven't tested it in every environment and condition known to man. That's not my thing. I am your garden variety Useful Idiot: I know enough to be dangerous, but not enough to be considered professional (or perhaps even competent).  That's my entire schtick. I started out my reviewing career by having my severely nearsighted, arthritic, 70-something mom install and use a laser grip on a gun. The idea here is that if they work for me, they'll work for you, and if I break them they probably aren't very good anyway.

Besides, I manage to get free stuff just by asking, and the haters are probably jealous. So there!

Anyway, this entire post was inspired by the fact that a while back I recommended a flashlight for everyday carry without having beat the hell out of it. Well, as it turns out, Grumpy Bastard DID beat the hell out of it, and it only failed because he lost it. So not only was my recommendation spot-on, but so was my suggestion that inexpensive is good when it comes to EDC flashlights, because now he's only out $20 (well, $40, because he lost the second one too) rather than the $100+ he'd be out if he'd lost one of those really expensive tactical lights.

So that's a win for me.

Now for the future part:  Who has two thumbs, a Glock. and one of these?

Why, this gal, of course!  They just arrived in the mail today. I look forward to installing and shooting them.

You jelly?  Yeah, you jelly.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

     So this last weekend was Black Friday, and for many it was a day where they stampeded en masse through retail stores that were open sinfully early in an attempt to make up for the previous months in a vicious cycle of cannibalistic, ritual discount shopping. I was home, though, as this time of year also marks one of a few great traditions on the life of a PC Gamer. For several years now, Steam has held holiday sales where games are priced ludicrously low, and PC gamers have gone on mad spending sprees where they come away dozens of games richer, and surprisingly not as poor as they'd thought.

     Lately, though, other online retailers have been getting in on this game, too. Amazon's got a rather reckless representative named Tony that posts deals on Reddit (such as Assassins Creed IV at 50% off, when it hadn't even been out a month on PC), and GreenManGaming, with it's cute little alien mascot, throw out crazy deals, too. The best part, if you're a loyal Steam user like myself, is that both of these digital stores also offer Steam keys for most of their games.

     Skyrim at $7.50? Dishonored for $5? Fallout New Vegas with ALL of the DLC for $5? Indeed. Indie hits like Dust: An Elysian Tale, Divekick, and Hacker Evolution for next to nothing? Yes, please. All in all, I walked away from that sale with 15 games and a few pieces of DLC for about as much as I'd get a new release title for. I'm now at 488 games on my Steam account, with a staggering backlog that I'll never get through (no thanks to Fallout: New Vegas taking up so much of my time with the Tale of Two Wastelands mod). So what were my spoils this time?

     Amazon brought me Saints Row IV for $15. Batman: Arkham Origins was $20, with $5 off for a promotional credit I got sometime in June the last time there was a huge sale. Far Cry 3 for $7.49. On the first day of the Steam Sale, I picked up MDK, MDK2HD, Duke Nukem 1, 2, and Manhattan Project, Party of Sin, Dead Pixels, and Evoland for about $13. Some pretentious French art title called Bientot l'ete and an indie helicopter game called Thunder Wolves for $5 apiece. All the Metro: Last Light DLC for $5.
Adorable Steam Seal courtesy of John Hernandez, C5 Studios
     I know it's a cash grab to separate me from my money for games I may not ever get around to playing, but as someone who is as ardent a gamer as myself, I can't help but get irrationally excited over the event every time it comes around, posting praising images of Gabe Newell and doctored pictures of Seals in an old in-joke about the "Steam Summer Seal" that happened due to a fortunate misspelling. Waking up every afternoon and checking that store page is strongly reminiscent for me of waking up at O'Dark-Thirty and scrambling to the Christmas tree, only it happens now at least twice a year, and goes for a week or two.

     I keep promising myself one of these years I'm going to just not buy any games at all and live off of what I got over the Steam Sales. I've got a backlog of a couple hundred games, and have been taking the time lately to replay a few favorites. I think this time, I'll try it. I've only got one more big-ticket game I'm looking for, as I didn't have the funds to spare to get Assassins Creed IV on that sweet, sweet sale Amazon had.

     Then again, last week of December's allegedly got another sale coming, so..

Derp A Herp

This is a Christmas present for my mother that I commissioned from Joie Brown. There's actually a cute story behind it, which I will share with you. 

My mom occasionally watches ponies with me. She doesn't quite "get" the show, and certainly doesn't enjoy it the way I do, but she thinks the characters are cute and the music is catchy, and she is amazed by all the creativity and passion of the fans.

She chose Derpy Hooves to be her favorite pony because mom also has really bad (REALLY bad) eyesight, and has a tendency to be scatterbrained. Of course, I needed to explain to her what derping is, and how one herps a derp.

So one day, she picks up her Celtic harp to practice with it and announces in, no shit, an ERMAHGERD voice, "Erm gerrna play de herp."

Bemusedly, I replied with "You're gonna derp your herp?"

"Yerp!" she confirmed.

Thus, "Derp a Herp" was born. And mom is NOT gonna see this one coming!

Also, God bless Joie for having the patience of a saint. I was as nitpicky and demanding as a mother-in-law for this commission, and to her credit she's still friends with me. :D

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Traveller Tuesday: Moon Toad Publishing

Ian Stead (aka Biomass) is an artist, fellow Traveller player, and a friend of mine. In fact, he's the one who drew up the spiffy deckplans for the Rum Runner that I showed off back in the summer.

Well, the way I got him to do that for me was to trade my writing for his drawing. I've been working on a couple of projects with him, and one of those projects is available for sale at Drive-Thru RPG through his store, Moon Toad Publishing.

The Ship Record Sheets (26 pages, $4.83) is a product that not only gives you several sheets to record information about your ship of choice (including a form-fillable PDF), it also contains the stats for four never before seen ships. (As well as, ahem, a recognizable name in the credits.) Now I know a lot of you are thinking "Why would I want a book full of forms?" To that I say, think of it like this instead: you're paying $1.20 for each ship -- fully statted out, with precision verbiage lovingly hand-crafted by moi -- and you get the records for free.  What a deal, right?

And while you're at it, why not pick up the Ship Book: Pukharra (22 pages, $4.83) while you're at it? Now, I had nothing to do with this one, but the Puk is a great little ship that is ideally suited for a group of interstellar murderhobos. Not just stats, this book has lots of great art:  color renderings, deck plans, lots and lots of detail on the ship, and a sample crew to boot. And besides, one of the ships in the Record Sheet pack is a stealth variant of the Pukharra named the Pooka, so you really need to buy the one in order to get maximum use out of the other.

Come on, guys. Do I need to break out my +5 Vinyl Straightjacket of  Hot Goth-Girl Beseeching Action to get you to buy these?  Because I totally will.

I learned a thing today!

The Romans would put signposts and notices at the intersections of three roads, and that's where we get the word for trivia -- it literally means "three roads" (tri and via).

Because the notices didn't pertain to everyone and thus were neat to know yet not terribly useful, the word gained the definition that it has today -- pieces of information of little importance.

And that was trivia about trivia!

Link for those who doubt me:

(Hat tip to Jeff W. for the trivia)

So, it's that time of year again...

... when I start to get overwhelmed by sensory overload, social demands that by God I will be merry, and generally not having enough time to myself because ZOMG CHRISTMAS.

I missed yesterday's blog post because spent much of the day putting up *&%#&!ing decorations. Because losing my weekend to decorating just wasn't enough, apparently.

So now I am on schedule to be grouchy and gloomy and not being able to get stuff done.

Therefore, if anyone is interested in writing a guest post for me, please let me know.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sunday, Pony Sunday: Castle Mane-ia

I don't know how long I'll keep doing these (Sundays are bad for me in terms of free time to write) but hopefully it won't be too hard to toss off some observations about a 30-minute show.

So, let's begin!

  • Apparently the title is a Castlevania reference?  I dunno, I'm not the computer gamer that Salem is.
  • Continuity with the story arc! Whoohoo!
  • Twilight has a nerdgasm every time she finds a library, doesn't she? And she is getting pretty good with those wings.
  • Those books are looking pretty good despite being in a ruined castle for a thousand years, exposed to vermin and the elements. Since this is a show about magical cartoon ponies, though, it's easy to just assume that the books were enchanted not to decay.
  • Anyone else find it odd that there's a statue of an alicorn that is 1) male (we haven't seen male alicorns yet) and 2) pretty obviously horse-faced?

  • I'm glad to see AJ and Dashie still have their rivalry. Nice callback to "Fall Weather Friends" in season 1. In fact, this episode is full of references to previous episodes.
  • Nitpick: When they're covered in bees (cue Eddie Izzard) their eyes are normal, but once they're revealed to be in bee suits their eyes look shaded from the mesh. Bad continuity, animators!
  • I am really disappointed that the writers didn't further expand on it being "star spider season".
  • It's nice to see Rarity, the embodiment of Generosity, actually doing something, y'know, generous.
  • I'm calling it now:  at some point in time, Twilight is going to make this castle her home. I mean, a princess needs a castle, am I right? Plus this one has a library. I say this mainly because, having seen it in back-to-back episodes, we're likely to see it again.
  • Pony of Shadows + strange shadowy figure + how I mentioned Luna's look of surprise at her transformation into Nightmare Moon + we keep seeing that castle = promising indications of a long-term villain that may tie into comic continuity.  
  • ZOMG this is a dungeon crawl! With traps and everything! PS: you're a dick, Angel Bunny.
  • Is it just me, or is there a definite Scooby-Doo vibe to this episode?
  • Well, you've gone and done it now:  you've mussed Rarity's hair.  Cue the ass-kicking.
  • [Hijinks Ensue]
  • Huh. Apparently Twilight knows Mass Hold Person. . Er, Pony.  As this is a 7th level spell, this makes her at least a 13th level wizard according to the Pathfinder RPG.
  • I'm not certain, but I think Twilight's horn is slightly longer and pointier than Rarity's in the episode, and I don't think that was always true. Perhaps Twi is beginning to take on the longer, leaner look of royalty?
  • More proof Pinkie is a Bard: she can play a musical instrument she's never seen before and work its non-musical functions. Clearly, this is the Use Magic Device skill in effect.
  • And so we have the diary entries replacing the letters. It makes sense, what with Twi no longer being a student, but let's have a moment of silence for the passing of the beloved phrase "Dear Princess Celestia..."
A fun episode, with the promise of more to come. Keep it up, writers!

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Darkest Day of Them All

So it's a holiday, and even if I don't really do much to celebrate it, we all have to play the lazy card sometime. Here's something I wrote a little over six years ago now, in celebration of this particular time of year. 
It all began with a bump on the head. At least, that's what I tell myself, when I'm wondering just how this all came about. Makes it seem all so innocuous, just a little bump on the head. Not even a band-aid. Will they still make those, one day, do you think?

Anyway. I'm writing this now, and I'm about 97% sure that no one will ever see it. I feel bloody ridiculous, I do, but I've got to get this off my chest, to someone, even if it's the grains of graphite scratching across this old safety manual.

Because it's all. My. Fault.

That's right, it's me. I'm the one who threw the switch, I'm the one who ended it all, caused all this chaos and suffering. It's all my fault. Only, it isn't. It was an accident, and I will swear to the end of time that it was ALL AN ACCIDENT. I only bumped my head.

We had been experimenting with utilizing cheaper resources, making and distributing common goods with much lower overhead, and trying to keep schtum about it, lest it get out to public and cause a media frenzy. We really were working towards the greater good. The time of year was perfect for it, too, with everyone going into a financial crunch and looking for cheaper ways to live. I was so sure we'd planned for everything, but we hadn't planned for this.

Right on schedule, the facility went live at 06:oo hours Friday morning. This is apparently a big deal where I'm stationed, I'm not terribly familiar with the concurrent holiday, something about breaking bread with natives. Generally don't concern myself overmuch with other people's holidays.

Only, something was wrong. We opened the steel shutters seperating the operations area from the outer wall, leaving only soft-plated glass, and there they were. Hundreds of them, with dead looks in their eyes and hungry mouths. Listless and vicious, all at once. They saw the shutters go up, and they knew we were in here. As long as that glass held though, everything would be fine.

We were making final preparations, when I'd tripped over stray wire near the plate glass doors. I fell against the wall, and reached out to try and catch myself, when my head slammed into the door panels. I heard a soft sigh, as the glass parted, and it got very quiet for a moment. Then it all went bad. Horribly, horribly bad.

They were inside the facility, inside our safe haven, far before we'd planned, and farther even before we were ready for them. Immediately my friends and coworkers were swarmed, their cries of pain lost among the mindless drone of the crowds. It went on for hours, except for me, stuck in the door control booth. I considered sealing the doors, but if my friends tried to run, I didn't want to trap them. I waited it out. Finally, it was quiet. I warily left the booth, stepping over scattered papers and smashed boxes.

Let this be a lesson, I say. A $200 dollar laptop after Thanksgiving is NOT worth trampling a human being for. Try not to be a bastard this Black Friday, ok kids?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Things for which I am thankful

For ponies!  :D

That once again, no one in my family has killed anyone.

(But brace yourselves, because Christmas is coming, and that time of year is always iffy.)

That my mom managed to set off the fire alarm this year, making me feel less bad about my own kitchen misadventures. 

That my putting the turkey in the pan upside-down turned out to be a happy accident, as that allowed the (normally dry) breast to marinate in its own juices, resulting in a moister, juicier, tender-er turkey. Mom plans to cook it upside-down from now on.

That folks donated money just so that I could attend the Bidet Shoot. 

That I have awesome friends who send me awesome presents for no reason other than "We like you and want you to be happy."

That everyone accepted me wholeheartedly when I came out back in August. 

That lots of talented people donated really killer prizes to Squeak or Treat. 

That so many of you were generous enough that Squeaky made her donation goal to cover medical bills. 

That Squeaky made it safely through surgery and seems to be recovering well. 

That Oleg is going to be in Florida in December, and he wants to see me. 

That once again, I've made it through another year with my Second Amendment Rights intact.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Glock and Pony

Since my shooting range is scheduled to (finally) open tomorrow, hopefully today will be the last Monday Gunday where I phone it in.

However, I still have no real material for today. But since many people have asked me what was in that tactically giftwrapped package -- because everyone seems to know that I have no patience whatsoever and that of course I opened it rather than wait for Christmas -- I figure I'll just show you now.


Now, to make this relevant to my post's title:   I have acquired some degree of fame/infamy for my pony-themed gun safety visual story "Glockenpony." I don't really know why this is so, but I'm happy to take the credit/blame for it (although, given it unexpected popularity, I now wish I had taken better quality pictures with a less crappy camera -- ah well). 

So yes, guns & ponies are basically 2/3rds of my blog content, and thus I decided that I should try to take a nicer picture of both. 

Glock and Pony. 

It's not as nice a picture as Brigid or Oleg can take, and my hopes for turning it into a blog header seem dismal at best, but still -- not bad for an amateur, right?  And cute, I hope. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday, Pony Sunday: Thoughts on "Princess Twilight Sparkle"

Needless to say, there will be spoilers here. If you haven't seen the Season 4 opener yet, go and watch it now.

Now that we have that over with, some idle (bridle?) thoughts:

  • I like how the writers aren't just glossing over the whole Princess thing with "Sure, she's royalty, but nothing has changed!"  Things HAVE changed for Twilight, from her duties to how her closest friends treat her. I don't know if this will be reinforced in later episodes, but it should be. I want to see a struggle between "You're a princess!" and "Yes, but I wasn't always one! I'm not used to be being treated this way!"
  • Side note:  I still think Celestia is grooming Twilight to be her ultimate successor. What we are seeing here, hopefully, is the evolution of a Princess not just for the ponies, but of them as well.  From what I've seen, I get the opinion that Celestia is tired of being revered (and Luna is definitely sick of being feared), and part of that is due to the fact that the Princesses are seen as goddesses. Twilight is more like "girl next door makes it big" -- she's approachable, and while deserving of respect certainly isn't getting the same amount of awe and reverence C and L do.  Of course, given a thousand years, that's likely to change...
  • Any episode involving Discord is always a good one.
  • Did you notice how Twi used the Sombra power to transmogrify the potion?
  • Insights into the mysterious past of Equestria are always welcome!  This is pretty clearly a Deep Mythology episode. 
  • Was it just me, or did anyone else notice that when Luna became Nightmare Moon at the 20:28 mark, she looks a bit surprised? Like maybe there's a part of her that doesn't realize what's going on? Perhaps her corruption into NMM was also the result of Discord's plunder seeds.
  • Why does NMM have a colt's square jaw in some of these shots?
  • It's kind of funny that her voice is still Luna's, and not that of NMM from the series opener. I guess we can attribute that to "maturity of power" or something -- or perhaps the Discord-induced NMM persona grew dominant.
  • As The_Jack pointed out, NMM's beams of destruction look a lot like the cutting beams from Babylon 5's Shadow vessels. 

  • And Celestia using the Elements of Harmony looks a bit like the Excalibur. 

  • The Elements of Harmony are from the Harmony Tree. This jibes nicely with my hypothesis that the Elements are semi-sentient, much like the Pattern in the Amber Chronicles.
  • Anyone else getting a Kabbalistic Tree of Life vibe from this? No? Just me? Okay.
  • Oh look, the symbol for All Magic matches Twilight's cutie mark. She really IS the Harry Potter of Equestria. But why were Cel and Luna's marks there, too?
  • Why does Applejack seem to think saving a tree is weird?  She practically doted on Bloomberg.
  • One thing I've noticed about the Everfree Forest is that lots of the creatures are very elemental. Timber Wolves are, naturally, wolves made out of (animated?) wood. And while I'm pretty sure AJ calls it a crocodile, given its coloration and the sound effects it makes, it really should be a rockadile.
  • Speaking of this, and of Discord, does this mean all the weirdness of the Everfree Forest is the result of Discord? Considering that everything else in Equestria is tightly regulated (even the weather is made by ponies), a place where things grow wild without help is pretty chaotic.
  • Heh. Discord did a good deed and was so subtle about it that nopony noticed. I'm taking this to mean that he really IS reformed. Well, semi-reformed. As reformed as an incarnation of chaos can be, at any rate.
  • And now we have a MacGuffin that will require an epic quest to unlock. I bet it will take the entire season to find all six keys. So much for the original command of  "every episode needs to be able to be seen in any order," eh?  Of course that kinda went out the window with Princess Twilight.
  • My guess? Inside the box is a seed for a new Tree.
  • Fluttershy's raw power continues to terrify me. They've admitted to Discord  that the Elements of Harmony are gone, and that they no longer possess the power to contain an Avatar of Raw Chaos -- and yet a little yellow pony can give him the stink-eye and guilt him into helping clean up because, if he doesn't, she'll be disappointed with him.
  • I, for one, welcome our soft-spoken, yellow-coated overlords.
  • Huh. Twilight has a new crown.
  • We need a name for that maneuver of hers. Twilight Sparkboom?

And that's about it. Did I miss anything noteworthy?

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