jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
When you haven't been writing, there's always memes. In this case, [livejournal.com profile] catcetera tagged me on Facebook to describe ten books that had a big influence on my life. I'm supposed to tag three other people to keep the meme going, but I'm not a big fan of obligating people to do things for my amusement. I think it's a fun exercise, so I'll just tag "people on my livejournal feed who think it would be fun".

Onto the books, in no particular order:

1) The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan. Simply the best book on skeptical thinking I've ever read. The Baloney-detection kit alone is reason to have this book included in high-school curriculums everywhere. I've owned five copies of this book. They keep getting "loaned" out.

2) The Annotated Alice by Martin Gardner. This book is responsible for my love of Alice in Wonderland. It gave me a deeper understanding of the source material and triggered a love for nonsense verse and logical puzzles.

3) A Night to Remember by Walter Lord. Ballard's discovery of Titanic's wreck in 1985 may have triggered my love of Titanic, but it was Walter Lord's book that sealed it. Many books have been written about the details. This is still the best overview of what happened for the beginner. Titanic would be a historical footnote if it weren't for Walter Lord.

4) The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. What would you do if the end of the world happened? This book gave me my first taste of an everyman dealing with a cozy calamity. I've had a fondness for those stories ever since. This is also a zombie apocalypse novel if you squint hard enough.

5) The Chrysalids also by John Wyndham. This is the better of the two, and just the thing for my teenage self to dig his teeth into, especially when my teenage self was so horribly misunderstood by the hidebound grownups around me.

6) The C Programming Language by Kernighan & Ritchie. There are richer languages out there (C's descendants C++ and C# for example), but I still have a soft spot for C, warts and all, since it was the first programming language I truly grokked. Plus, any book that has sat on my desk, constantly used, for my entire professional life, must be influential.

7) The Stand by Stephen King. The first time I truly identified with one of the bad guys was this novel. I still feel angry that HEL didn't make the right decision.

8) Captain Canuck #4 by Richard Comely. This was the comic that got me into collecting - 'nuff said.

9) The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay. Modern characters transported to a fantasy realm? Yes please. The best example of that trope that I've ever read. Approaching the end, I dreaded that the ending could not live up to the wonder of the previous pages. My fears were unfounded - the last page was as good as it could be and let me put the book down with a feeling of satisfaction that few books have equaled.

10) ElfQuest by Wendy and Richard Pini. The original twenty issues were awesome. A pity they never wrote anything else. These books introduced me to Fandom and for that alone, they deserve a place on this list.
jamesq: (Jarhead)
There's a picture meme running around Facebook right now that I've included below:

Santa Loves Veterans

A friend conveyed the same sentiment in his status update in a much more erudite manner without the picture. He was not alone.

Does anyone other than me think this is actually somewhat disrespectful of veterans? We'll leave aside the fact that Remembrance Day is actually meant for remembering armed forces members who have died in the line of duty. One could easily reword the picture to reflect that.

Now I'm someone who has great respect for what our veterans have done. We ask them to do a difficult, sometimes life-threatening job and they don't often get thanks for it. Sometimes they do things I'd rather they didn't do, but that's not really their fault so much as it is the government that gives them their assignments. I can disagree with our military being in Afghanistan, and I can think that they're not accomplishing much while there, but that doesn't mean they're not trying and they're not in danger.

So yes, I respect our soldiers and our veterans.

My big objection is using veterans for emotional blackmail. Don't do X because Veterans! It's like the very similar argument of Think of the Children. It's not something you say if you are interested in debating something on its merits; You say it when you want to stifle debate. After all, you couldn't possibly support X, that means you hate our troops!

Completely unrelated to this, I agree that retailers get into Christmas-mode way too early (I know the meme says decorations, but it's really retailers who are guilty of this 99% of the time). If I had my druthers, it wouldn't begin until much later than November 12 - I'd put it at the American Thanksgiving weekend. This gives everyone time to prepare for Black Friday. A month-long span that begins and ends with holiday weekends should be plenty.

In short, there might be damn good reasons why we would want to limit Christmas. Or not, I suspect most people just find it a little exhausting rather than an affront. I say live-and-let-live. If a retailer wants to go all Christmas-y starting in July, it's no skin off my nose. I might decide not to shop there because it's irritating, but in the end I'll probably base my purchasing decisions on other criteria, like price or convenience. If too-early Christmas means that much to you, don't shop there. That means some personal inconvenience as you search for alternatives though and I bet most of the people who've posted this meme aren't going to put any more effort into this than clicking on "like". And that puts memes like this firmly into the realm of slacktivism - important enough to share, not important enough to take any real action. It's a little like prayer that way. As for supporting veterans by not doing something - I can claim I'm patriotic by not putting up decorations. It's so much easier than actually doing something, like attending Remembrance Day ceremonies. I support Canada's Justice system by not pissing on the courthouse steps! Easy!

I suppose one could simply actually ask a veteran their opinion in the matter - whether they think we should control behaviour prior to November 12th. I suspect they don't think that. However "veterans" is not some platonic ideal of a class of people who all share the same opinion. My dad served in the Canadian Forces (albeit not during wartime) and he couldn't get enough of Christmas - it was his favourite holiday. Other veterans might not celebrate Christmas at all.

On the subject of using veterans as your club to shame people? I'm guessing they like that even less than early Christmas decorations.
jamesq: (Villain)
[livejournal.com profile] somejauntypolka posted this picture to her Facebook:
Who's a pretty Princess?

I was inspired! It helps if you picture the skit with Batman's rogues gallery as the Mounties.

I never wanted to be Bruce Wayne in the first place!
I... I wanted to be... THE BATMAN!

Skulking from alley to alley! Striking fear into the common criminals of Gotham City! With my sidekick Robin by my side!

Two-Face!
Riddler!
Clayface and Killer Croc!
The Penguin!
And of course, the Joker!
We'd sing! Sing! Sing!

BATMAN:
I'm the Batman and I'm all right.
I sleep all day and I work all night.

VILLAINS:
He's the Batman, and he's all right.
He sleeps all day and he works all night.

BATMAN:
I beat up thugs. I scowl a lot.
My cave is a laboratory.
Alfred does my shoppin'
and stitches up my injuries.

VILLAINS:
He beats up thugs. He scowls a lot.
His cave is a laboratory.
Alfred does his shoppin'
and stitches up his injuries.
He's the Batman, and he's all right.
He sleeps all day and he works all night.

BATMAN:
I beat up thugs. I whip myself.
I like the smell of leather.
I put on bondage clothing
and get rough trade in bars.

VILLAINS:
He beats up thugs. He whips himself.
He likes the smell of leather?
He puts on bondage clothing
and gets rough trade in bars?!?
...
He's the Batman, and he's all right.
He sleeps all day and he works all night.

BATMAN:
I beat up thugs. I wear ball gags.
I get suspended by my bra.
I wish my Dom were Catwoman
just like my dear Papa.

VILLAINS:
He beats up thugs. He wears ball gags.
Gets suspended by his bra?!?
[talking]
What's this? Wants to be dominated? Oh, My!
He should have said something sooner! We could have switched!
[singing]
He's the Batman and he's all right.
He sleeps all day, and he works all night.
He's the Batman and he's all riiiiight.
He sleeps all day, and he works all night.
(with apologies to Terry Jones, Michael Palin, & Fred Tomlinson; and also to anyone into BDSM - I keed, I keed)
jamesq: (Default)
Looking in my email's spam folder I see this message:
Sarah Sent You A Message

I loved your fb pic
we live close i was wondering if you would like to hookup sometime?
Check out my profile here and tell me what you think.
My Facebook picture? Me being dragged screaming into a cave by an unseen, possibly tentacled, force.

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jamesq

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