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“The fictional world, the story, is a place we visit enough, and it can become a type of home we return to. Unlike the real world, where ‘returning home’ is a city that is changed and often a house that is in less repair than when you left, to perhaps find something like an attic or one room that is ‘mostly unchanged’ and the weird disjunction between ‘the world almost familiar’ and ‘years ago, untouched’ – fiction can mindfully make more graceful introductions to us for ‘this is what you remember, but here is a room you’ve never seen’ tied together well.”

Top Ten Years Later

Okay not all of the last ten years have been Top but they certainly are Late. I was startled to realize it had been a decade since I listed my ten favorite movies, and there has been a bit of a shuffle, most significantly affected by the realization that I am a different person and that things catering to my narrow demographic no longer carry as much appeal. Some of these are pretty ossified regardless, though. I look different than I used to, but I still have all my own bones.*

  1. Hackers
  2. Brick
  3. Spirited Away
  4. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  5. Alien
  6. While You Were Sleeping
  7. Moonlight
  8. Dancer in the Dark
  9. Sneakers
  10. Wall-E

Fighting it out just below the 9/10 zone: Toy Story 3, Grosse Point Blank, Punch-Drunk Love, The Matrix. Movies that might work their way up in another ten years: Moana, Arrival, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

* yes even teeth mostly

Lying, addendum

I’ve just gone through my archives and realized that all the times I’ve plugged Bobwhite have been strips wherein Cleo is humiliated. I think there is some identification going on. Cleo provides an outlet for derision aimed at College Brendan that, perhaps more healthily, does not involve fantasized face-punches.


If you are a regular reader of this blog, or indeed any reader of this blog, it is extremely likely that you will have no idea what the following few sentences mean. Don’t worry about it. I’m just dumping this into Google because I’ve spent the last four hours clawing at my head trying to solve a problem that is, to the best of my searching ability, undocumented anywhere else.

If you are trying to use the Magento XML-RPC (or SOAP) API to import new product data and keep getting the following error:

SQLSTATE[23000]: Integrity constraint violation: 1452 Cannot add or update a child row: a foreign key constraint fails

Then it may help you to know that the catalog_product.create function takes an integer for its product attribute set ID, and that the key for the ‘Default’ set (as of Magento is 4.

(If that doesn’t work and you recently upgraded, the most popular suggestion is to ensure that all your MySQL tables are InnoDB, but that wasn’t my problem.)

Aaand seven years later

I finally figured out an in-continuity reason why the Burly Brawl looks like a crappy video game for its second half! It is a crappy video game! The rendering engine for the Matrix itself can’t keep up with that many polygons moving that fast at a lifelike framerate, so everybody’s faces and clothing lose polygonal depth and end up looking smooth and unrealistic.

I only regret that this does not explain the increasingly monologue-driven and stupid plot. (To see me regrettably attempting to do just that, please reference The Grand All-Encompassing Star Wars Conspiracy Theory.)


It’s time to canonize the rules of Pirateball. I would put this on Wikipedia but we all know how that would go.

Pirateball was developed by myself, Jon Brasfield, Darren Hudson and McKinley Moore. Fellow contributors and playtesters included Tim Downing and Will Johnston, and possibly other people I don’t remember; this was developed at Centre College between 2001 and 2003.

There are no pirates involved.

Pirateball is like baseball in aspect, and ideally is played on a baseball diamond, but is an individual sport. The minimum number of players is three, comprising a batter, a pitcher and a first baseman. If you have more players, you can put them in the outfield or have a catcher, but too many fielders makes the game pretty much impossible, so if you have six or more players you should just start a batting queue. After each at-bat, players rotate through positions (with a minimal crew, it goes batter to first baseman to pitcher to batter and so on).

You will need two wiffle bats, a wiffle ball and a beach ball or one of those big latex balls you get at K-Mart. If you don’t have a second wiffle bat you can just use an umbrella or something.

Here is how an at-bat works:

  • The pitcher throws the ball in the batter’s general direction. Don’t be a dick about this.
  • The batter swings at the ball. There aren’t any balls, only strikes, so you might as well swing. Foul balls count as strikes.
    • You get four tries to at hitting the ball to get it into play. It says something about our collective athletic ability that we had to allow four strikes with a wiffle ball.
    • If you miss all four, the pitcher throws a fifth pitch, using the beach ball.
    • If you miss the beach ball, not only are you out, you lose a point and don’t get to have sex for five years.
      • I’m really glad it’s 2008.
  • Once you hit the ball, you run to first base, HOLDING ONTO YOUR BAT. If you drop it out of habit you’ll have to go back for it.
  • You will need your bat because when you get to first base you will have to fight the baseman, who has the second bat. Luckily for you, the rules specify that he is “kind of a wuss” at this.
  • Having touched first base, you head directly to third, over the pitcher’s mound (literally over: you have to jump), and then head for home.
  • The pitcher and fielders, if any, are spending this time getting the ball and trying to get you out with it. Catching the ball does not count as an out, nor does tagging: you have to be hit by a thrown ball. If one player throws and misses, a different player has to take the next throw. This is why the game gets a lot harder with more players.
  • If you reach home untagged, you score a point for yourself, and you can be pretty proud of it because almost nobody ever scores.

The game continues to cycle through batters until it is dark and everybody is tired. The winner is the player with the most points, or, more specifically, not me.

You’ll note that I have used masculine forms in the description above, but of course pirateball is a coed sport. If you’re in the Winston-Salem or Triad areas of NC and would like to experience the majesty of pirateball, let us know! You will have to provide the diamond or equivalent playing field. You will also have to provide the balls, bats or batlike self-defense weapon.

We will be glad to provide the sexy.

Okay look I finally wrote my fanfic post

Every two weeks I post a new bit of what is, I must reluctantly admit, Star Wars fan fiction. This week I made Han Solo a girl. Andy really liked that, and this started as a response to his commentary.

Luke and Leia hold at least as much mythic significance most people of our generation as, say, Theseus and Ariadne would have held to your typical Athenian. Putting them onstage applies a certain pressure of reader expectation to your plot; twisting that can have the same effect as subverting other, more generalized social norms, and has the benefit of coming from an unexpected direction. Sumana’s excellent post about slash and subversion points out that such twists can “disorient and reorient” your experience of the original work. It’s exactly what Euripides did with Medea, and Virgil with Aeneas (and Dante with Virgil).

But since our high-information society allows–indeed, legally requires–traceback to the writer who first introduced any given character into our awareness, we no longer have stories that seem to have spontaneously informed our culture. When every dollar has a serial number, there is no common coin. The consensus-approved solution is to wait until the story you want to rewrite is a) old and respectable and b) in the public domain, and right now, the former still takes longer. The problem is that the rate at which we produce stories is accelerating, and a story that fills the Western imagination one year will likely have been forgotten in the tide of newcomers eighty years later. This is what fanfic tries to solve.

My basic conceptual issue with fanfic is that it caters mostly to niche audiences; it tends to reinforce cliques and generate closed language instead of transcending boundaries and bringing together disparate audiences (props again to Sumana for illuminating that distinction, although at the time it was in the context of neo-web projects). Cross-genre fiction appeals to a unity of two groups, where crossover fanfic appeals only to an intersection. In that way I actually have more sympathy for stories written in the context of ultra-popular milieu: you can parse and enjoy Star Wars fanfic without being a Star Wars fan. If you’re alive and reading English in 2007, it very likely has connotations and relevance to you.

Of course, by the same token, the word “fanfic” has enormous connotations (and connotations of enormity) to people who’ve been internetting for a while. It’s usually either a sniveling kleptomania that must be stamped out or a persecuted child who must be defended. I maintain that fanfic is a gradient based on how well you hide your influences, that authors who deride fanfic as stealing could use a strong dose of self-examination, and that I personally prefer work on the better-hidden end of the scale because that means you had to do the work of hiding it. Lazy fiction is not good fiction, and I say that as someone who is pretty lazy, pretty often.

Where Do You Get Your Ideas

Sometimes when you ask your brain for an idea it has nothing, and you ask your pocket notebook for an idea and it just shrugs its little moleskin shoulders, and then you ask Internet for an idea and it makes you put Youtube videos that you’ve already seen on your iPod for two hours, and you run out of buffered stories and it sucks.

Other times, you click the random article link and it tells you about nonexistent Popes on the very first try.

I love you, Wikipedia.