Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Torchwood Coming to FOX? NO! NO NO NO!

So Russell T. Davies is working with FOX to bring Torchwood to America.

Not amused

I'd like to get excited, but some of us remember the time FOX tried to take on Doctor Who.

So a few caveats:

  • First, please, please, please don't set it in America. But if you must, don't set it in L.A., damn it.
  • Second, let's not forget that while FOX was home to The X-Files, it's also the graveyard of Firefly, Dollhouse, Arrested Development (yeah, not sci-fi, don't care, I'm still mad), and, again, the infamous Doctor Who tv movie.
  • This is American tv--what are the chances Jack's sexuality is imported unaltered?

So--how bad do you think it'll be?

*For the record, I'm not a Paul McGann basher. The movie wasn't the worst thing I've ever seen, just painfully American.

I'm sure this hasn't been done before...

There are 5092 novels set in the Middle Ages

Which is why my (hypothetical) mystery novel will be set during the beginning of the Roman colonization of Britain. And the detective is a druid.

Wait, what's that you say? It sounds like Cadfael or The Name of the Rose with white robes and hard-to-pronounce names? Dammit. Yeah, well... You and my husband can go back to reading Conan Doyle; I have genius to tap into.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Time for some Great Chieftan o’ the Puddin-race

America is ending the ban on importing haggis.

As a native Philadelphian, all I can say is, hey--I grew up eating scrapple. Haggis is child's play.

Now if we could just get wine without sulfites...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Really, I'm just glad she wasn't dating Kirk.

This is an interesting (to me) post/quiz about/for people who are uncomfortable with the Spock-Uhura pairing in the Star Trek reboot, and how often racism plays into it. I largely agree with the post, except for one thing: I thought the pairing was weird because I tend to think of Spock as repressing any romantic, sexual side, except for the whole pon farr 7-year-itch, so to speak. On the other hand, subverting the idea of a Kirk-Uhura romance was good, just because I didn't expect it. But apparently I was wrong--Vulcans don't wait for pon farr, it doesn't work that way. So it's not weird for Spock and Uhura to be dating.

I dislike is the implication of the post that if you're bothered by the romance, it's because of Uhura. For me, it's how I thought of Spock's character. It's not that I think he's not being really Vulcan if he dates Uhura; I just never thought of him as having any passion. It never occurred to me.

Am I prejudiced against nerds?

(Is using the word "nerd" offensive?)

I don't know about the argument that in the 24th century Uhura and Spock would have the experience of being outsiders in common; I'd hope that by then, being a black woman wouldn't have any more significance than having red hair. But then again, even red hair is still an issue, apparently.

Humans are stupid.

And I always wanted red hair, but that's neither here nor there.

I grew up watching TOS, since my mom was a big fan. I'm sure there are a lot of things I missed, and don't remember correctly; I've only seen a hand-full of episodes as an adult, mostly I don't think it's in syndication right now. Is it?

Now, TNG, that I remember. And it helps that Syfy (ugh) plays it on Mondays. (Mondays? I think so--days blend together).

And they didn't even need those stupid glasses.

Here's a fascinating article about how medieval monks "saw" their designs in "3d":
The Book of Kells and similarly illustrated manuscripts of seventh- and eighth-century England and Ireland are known for their entrancingly intricate artwork -- geometric designs so precise that in some places they contain lines less than half a millimeter apart and nearly perfectly reproduced in repeating patterns -- leading a later scholar to call them "works not of men, but of angels."

But behind the artwork's precision is a mystery: How did illustrators refine the details, which rival the precision of engravings on a modern dollar bill, centuries before microscope lenses were invented?

The answer, says Cornell University paleontologist John Cisne, may be in the eyes of the creators. The Celtic monks evidently trained their eyes to cross above the plane of the manuscript so they could visually superimpose side-by-side elements of a replicated pattern, and thereby create 3-D images that magnified differences between the patterns up to 30 times.

Read the whole thing, it's fascinating.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"...one of the more horrifically difficult languages of Europe"

I just came across this year+ old entry at Cantos of Mvtabilitie, and love it:

You could make a case that Old Irish is a 'Classical' language, like Latin or Greek or Sanskrit. Latin? After a while, ordinary Latin ends up being more or less transparent to the reader. (Ordinary Latin, not Tacitus or Propertius.) You can read it quite cheerfully. And Greek I think always remains a bit trickier (the midgy drifts of particles, the propensity to dialectical forms, the specialised jargons). And Sanskrit is like an exotic holiday for Classicists: a new script, a complicated phonology, the system of sandhi-variations which obscure the endings, and a general rather bewildering mixture of stylization and lushness. Like the above trio, Old Irish is Indo-European, has a heroic literature, and grammatical features such as inflected nouns and adjectives, plus a complex conjugated verbal system.

But describing the Old Irish verbal system as 'complex' is like referring to the Arctic as 'somewhat chilly'.

Yes. Indeed. I still can't wrap my head around Old Irish. Put Old Irish in front of me and ask me to translate it, and I might weep. Or send you on your way to David Stifter.

Oddly enough, the great Whitley Stokes could handle Old Irish, but apparently never mastered Modern Irish.

For those of you who love language, or Old Irish, go read it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Open Your Mouth and Say Nothing

So apparently doctors don't like people complaining about them--how shocking.

Some docs, worried about their reputations, are trying to fight back against negative reviews, requiring patients to sign contracts — critics call them “gag orders” — promising not to post comments to public sites. Others ask patients to sign over copyright to future comments, hoping for leverage to have any nasty tags removed.

Complain about your doctor, and he can refuse to treat you?

There's another side to it, of course:

“There’s no venue for physicians to get their side of the story out,” said Segal, who notes that doctors can't respond to specific patients because doing so would violate federal privacy laws.

While some sites, like Angie's List, know who's posting, most don't identify or verify commenters, said Segal, who blasts that anonymity.

“You don’t know whether it’s a patient, an ex-employee, an ex-spouse or even a competitor," Segal said.

I understand the urge to fight back against someone complaining about you. But what's really disturbing to me are two things: first is the copyright idea. Let's look at that again:

Others ask patients to sign over copyright to future comments, hoping for leverage to have any nasty tags removed.

Wow. And I thought the RIAA overreached.

And secondly, there's this:

Patient will not denigrate, defame, disparage, or cast aspersions upon the Physician; and will use all reasonable efforts to prevent any member of their immediate family or acquaintance from engaging in any such activity,” reads the “Mutual Agreement to Maintain Privacy”
The contracts typically limit patient comments for five years from the last doctor’s visit and they imply that breaking the terms could land the patients in court.

So let's say I signed onto this contract because this is the only doctor I know--let's face it, most of us work full time, may have restrictions on who we can see put on us by our insurance plans, and even if we didn't, shopping for doctors can be an exhausting experience, especially if you have something seriously wrong with you. Or worse yet, let's say most or all doctors adopt this practice, so I can't even rely on a "free market" approach of just hunting down a doctor who doesn't require this kind of contract. And my (hypothetical) doctor screws up and doesn't diagnose a brain tumor, and I die. If my family publicly complains that hey, this doctor is a quack who can't find a baseball-sized tumor, they can be hauled into court and sued for complaining in a public forum.

I actually understand the position of doctors--or really anyone--who are being anonymously criticized, sometimes unfairly, and sometimes may be lied about. But then again, without the protection of anonymity, people probably wouldn't publicly complain, and sometimes those complaints are earned. I can think of several off-hand as I sit here, but to be honest, I'm afraid to post them because I don't want to get any negative repercussions for the patients involved, since the situation is on-going.

And really, what I find disturbing isn't the idea of doctors being able to fight back and reclaim their reputations; what I find really scary is the idea of using copyright law to fight them, and of suing patients' families. Because my husband, who makes $15/hour and drives our rattling ten-year-old Ford Taurus, really doesn't have the right to challenge my Miata-driving doctor who makes $150,000 a year.

I hope he likes fixing that clunking noise it makes.

Monday, January 11, 2010

At Least I Can Finally Buy Beer on Sundays. But Only After 11 AM.

New Jersey's Assembly moves to legalize medical marijuana, joining a growing list of pragmatic states; meanwhile back here in Pennsylvania, it's barely the 20th century, and we still can't decide if selling beer in the supermarket will result in rum, Romanism, and rebellion. But if we sell it with a sandwich, that you have to eat in the store, that's just tolerable.

Given how much money the state makes in taxes on alcohol, you'd think they'd jump at the chance to legalize medical marijuana.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside. No, I Mean Really Fricken Cold.

I'm supposed to go out and pick up some groceries, but I'm just not motivated yet, thanks to the weather. Oh, sure, the sky is clear and it's sunny, but it's in the low 20s. But hey, at least I'm not in Europe. Or the Midwest. Or... well, let's just say as far as winters go, Philly's not that unusual, but with more snow. (Yay snow!)

Lifehacker has some tips on keeping warm. Me? I'm a believer in longjohns and hot toddies.

The Decline and Fall of South Street

Pearl Art is closing at the end of the month. I'm both depressed and not surprised. South Street has been in a rapid decline for several years now, ever since they started raising the rent rates. But there are a lot of causes behind the emptying of South Street, much of it sad.

So let's take an incomplete tally:

  • The Brick Playhouse: well, this is a case of mismanagement--I know, because I was a member. But the few years I was part of the Playhouse was some of the happiest of my life.

  • Zipperhead: namechecked in the Dead Milkmen's "Punk Rock Girl, it was, of course, a clothing store. Best part about the place was the exterior (which may still be there, I don't know, I haven't been down that way in a while)--big ants crawling up the side of the building. Apparently they've moved and changed their name, and the fact that I only found out about it in 2010 says something, though maybe it just points out my own ignorance.

  • Spaceboy Records: and when we lost Zipperhead, we lost their neighbor, Spaceboy. I loved Spaceboy--they had a great selection of new indie, new lps, old LPs and CDs upstairs. But with the massive changes in the record industry, even big chains have gone out of buisness. Between the high rents and the decline of record sales, there was no way a place that deals largely in new music products was going to survive, but it still hurts.

  • The Book Trader: not exactly gone; they moved up to 2nd and Arch. But I miss their two-story store on the corner of 5th and South, with the big bay windows where you could look out on the street below, busy with foot traffic, lit up at night. They moved, but it's not the same, and South Street isn't the same.

  • Philadeli: sure, it was pricy, but they sold six-packs, great sandwiches, and now they're gone too.

  • TLA Video: I don't know what got them more--the rise of Netflix, or the decline of South Street? Sadly, I'm going with Netflix overall, because this isn't the only store they've closed; they've also closed the one near my old apartment on Spring Garden St.

And there's probably lots of others that I can't remember.

There are a lot of causes--South Street's rent is too high, we're in the Great Recession, and media consumption has moved from brick-and-mortar stores to the computer. And there are still places that I like down there--The Bean Cafe, Tattooed Mom, they're still there, and hopefully will stay there. But I've lost a lot of reasons to go down there.

And now Pearl Art, where you could find just about anything you wanted, is gone. And I hear that's as much how the company--not this particular store--is managed.

I don't have to leave my house anymore to buy a book, or find a record, or rent a movie, or talk to friends. Everything can be done right here on my laptop, as I sit on the living room, warm and narcotized by the soft glow of Law and Order in the background, while tabs for Netflix, Amazon, and Facebook are up on the browser. But doing so, I'm losing something. I'm losing real human contact, I'm missing meeting new people, I'm missing finding things by accident.

Den just reminded me of Tower Books, also gone a long time, before even Tower Records, IIRC. He used to sell his zine there.

Friday, January 8, 2010

In Which I Rant About the History Channel and the Apocalpyse

I really shouldn't watch the History Channel--it just makes me mad. And so I'm watching a program called "Seven Signs of the Apocalpyse", showing how science proves we're living out the Book of Revelation.


First of all, how is interviewing a bunch of evangelical fundamentalist nuts about the apocalypse "history", when they believe it to be a future event? And furthermore, the winning stupid comment goes to Left Behind author Jerry Jenkins, who, speaking against the idea of gamma rays hitting the earth, said "God doesn't have to use science to destroy the world". What? What does he think science is--a branch of magic? "God doesn't have to use geomancy to destroy the world"? I ... I can't even figure out what that means. What does that even mean???

"God doesn't need sound waves to make a noise."

"God doesn't need to use words to recite The Waste Land"

I know, looking for real history--as opposed to another episode of "How awesome is Dan Brown?"--on the History Channel is like looking for educational programs on TLC, which, if I remember correctly (and I do), used to mean "The Learning Channel", where they'd show programs like the awesome Connections. And now...

And now I just heard a guy say "Well, ancient peoples didn't know human anatomy, but they did know blood is the source of life." WHAT? Really, there were no doctors? Hippocrates? Celsus? Oh, those guys were morons--they didn't anything about the human body.

Also, the source of life? What does that even mean? What a meaningless phrase.

Look, I'm glad I'm alive in a world of MRIs and antidepressants, but I really get tired of the idea that everyone who came before the modern world was just a bunch of morons sitting around banging rocks together.


As my husband just said, "I guess they're not going to show Power of Nightmares on here."