Today is Commonday, 27 of Trogool 4115. [4115.03.27]

…assuming you follow the Common Calendar, of course, but I assume you probably do not. Or should. Ahem. Newsletter!

Entropy Arbitrage welcomed visitors from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czechia, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Philippines, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, and Vietnam this month, which never fails to please me. Remember, all content is made available under the CC-BY-SA license, so if anybody needs to provide a translation, you don’t need my permission, provided that you comply with the terms of the license. However, feel free to ask for help or otherwise reach out, too.

June’s Idle Thoughts

Welcome to the twenty-fourth issue of the Entropy Arbitrage newsletter. Two years at this!

All True, Except for Any Parts That Make Me Look Bad…

I have a small confession that I haven’t watched the United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack public hearings. Of course, I’ve seen and heard highlights, because every news outlet covers it, as they should. But despite the importance, I have three reasons for opting out.

  • I’ve followed the story, so I have a fairly good idea of what they’ll present; I may not know details of the presentation, but I know how the narrative fits together,

  • I’d just as soon not watch victims of the incidents relive their trauma, and

  • The thing that I want to talk about, I don’t want to sit through fascists trying to pretend that they all secretly fought on our side.

Expanding on that last part, every Republican’s testimony falls into two categories. At one end of the spectrum, you have the Jared Kushner-style “I couldn’t crime there because I spent all my time criming over here,” and the more general “I agree with all the rumors, except that I remember looking cooler.” I recognize this from watching the people around abusive relationships, though they usually frame it from the opposite direction: The gossip contains all lies, except for the parts that put the blame in somebody else’s lap.

Every Republican wants you to know that they told Donald Trump that his plan would violate the law. Sure, they supported him and will support him in the future. Sure, they didn’t speak out until the time had passed. And yes, everyone carefully steps around the detail that, if Trump succeeded, laws wouldn’t matter, because that overthrows the government. But they swear that they said the thing, so they deserve a cookie.

Those other Republicans, they did bad things. But “Team Normal” just wants to subvert democracy by stopping people from voting and relying on an obstructionist Senate, so that they can pretend to stand for democratic ideals.

Worse the media eats up this nonsense. They love a reasonable Republican who “only” wants to indebt (non-white) people to an extent where they need to work multiple jobs and give up their civil liberties to feed their families, or who “only” wants to increase gerrymandering and voter suppression to create a WASP-y ethnostate. Even (especially?) the progressive media loves these stories, praising the strength of Republicans while demanding to know why Democrats haven’t fixed voting rights or given us single-payer healthcare, yet.

I don’t write this to excuse you from watching the hearings. You should, especially if you haven’t followed the story from the beginning. But you should watch it realizing that the Republicans will tell shaded versions of the story that play down their blame. But if they really believed in democracy, they wouldn’t stand with a party that overtly attacks it. Yes, even Liz Cheney.

House Numbers: Secret Conspiracy or Totally Random?

The house where I live sat for a while without a house number, and those weeks have left me with a feeling that mapping apps have wrecked people’s ability to navigate on even the most superficial level. Specifically, deliveries to my house have unexpectedly needed to circle the block to find a house that shows up clearly on every map that I’ve ever seen, and people lost in the neighborhood knock on my door just in case my address matches the address that they can’t find, even though it wouldn’t make sense.

The first situation completely mystifies me on every level. Every map has my house number on the lot, with the nearby cross-streets marked clearly. If a delivery has made it to my neighborhood, then the driver shouldn’t need to drive a block in each direction and up one block on a cross street to confirm the location. Yet somehow, that happened consistently.

The other situation also mystifies me, but I can at least understand how systems have cultivated ignorance that led people to my door. Specifically, because people use apps and devices to replace their navigation, it seems like people no longer understand that house numbers run monotonically down (almost) every street, odd numbers on one side and even numbers on the other. Without that fundamental information, if they can’t find house number (randomly generated examples, here) 439, then it might seem reasonable to check at house number 80, even though the two houses shouldn’t sit near each other or on the same side of the street.

Now, granted, I did once need to find a house where two streets apparently “grew into” each other from opposite directions, so that house numbers alternated odd and even on each side of the street, incrementing in opposite directions. I assume, however, that most people do not share that experience.

I wish that I could see how to fix this problem…other than making sure that every house has a prominent number, I mean. Surely, we should have the ability to teach people how streets work.

Please, Someone Fix Customer Service

I applaud the people who work in customer service. I do. They deal with the inane problems of angry customers of a service that they probably don’t care about, and their survival largely depends on keeping those angry customers happy, but without costing the company any significant money or anticipated money.

Therein, however, lies the problem. In my lifetime, Customer Service has gone from a system that—however reluctantly—solves problems to a system that avoids solving problems with as perky an attitude as possible.

Recently, I’ve had a couple of purchases go awry, at different price points from different sources. And the response to my complaints all follow the same insipid script of they “feel so sorry that [I] feel that way” (not an apology), and after some more non-statements about how much they value me, offer a short series of options with barely any distinguishing features between them, all of which requiring similar extra uncompensated effort on my part, and also requiring me to pretend that I have agency.

If I push back, the script changes to accuse me of harassing the underpaid employee, rather than criticizing the company that wrote the scripts.

Aesthetically, this seems like an uncanny valley problem. They could all make this a series of button-pushes, where I make the same decisions without wasting time communicating with someone who doesn’t actually care. Instead, they present me with a human who they’ve cleverly reduced to robotic status, assuring me that they value my time, even as they waste it. I don’t want a fake therapist who offers to refund me 5% of the purchase price to have something repaired, though. Nobody wants that. I want someone to fix a problem.

Which customer service desk do I need to call to get someone to pretend to care about that…?

In Praise of the Arrowverse

As I mentioned last month, it looks like the Arrowverse—the TV shows based on DC Comics, airing on the CW, launching with 2012’s Arrow—nears its end. Previously, they ended Arrow itself, Supergirl, and Black Lightning, seemingly to make room for new shows Superman & Lois, Painkiller, and The Canaries; two out of three of the shows never made it past their backdoor pilots. More recently, Batwoman, Legends of Tomorrow, and Naomi received cancellation notices.

Of the original programming blocks, that leaves The Flash, Superman & Lois, and Stargirl, which all struggle in the ratings. Last time, I wrote about where I believe that the franchise stumbled, taking it from the engine keeping the CW relevant and a much-needed facelift for DC characters, to an afterthought where none of the actors or writers seem to enjoy their jobs if the characters have anything to do other than playing D&D. This month, I want to dig a bit into where the shows worked particularly well, building it from a punchline to a franchise that convinced many to watch almost six hours per week.

We need to start with their creating a full media franchise, where it feels entirely natural to see a sorcerer, an alien, and a “meta-human” working together on an artificially intelligent time machine in the Old West, for example. Considering that they started with a jackass running around the city shooting people with arrows, making the expansion feel natural deserves a lot more credit than it gets. Compare this to the MCU, where they reclassify a lot of uncanny ideas as super-science, and still try to segregate the different kinds of characters until the crossovers, or to represent a change in direction. By contrast, the Arrowverse embraced almost all the weirdness published by DC in eighty years…with apologies to teen comedy fans, raging that we’ve seen neither Binky nor his Buddies.

I also find the casting incredible. Actors either fit their roles from the beginning (see the cast of Supergirl, for a prime example) or quickly grew into them. And while many of the characters haven’t had many live-action incarnations prior to this, many of the performances still feel definitive in many ways. Where they don’t meet that bar—we’ve yet to have a live-action Superman or even many animated versions whose actor even tried to do anything other than emulate Christopher Reeve, for example—they still come close.

Speaking of casting, I could also add that the writers have (sometimes) had the intelligence to scrap established franchise lore and accept that the chemistry between some actors works better for them. Arguably, they didn’t do that often enough. For example, they gave up on the idea of Oliver Queen falling in love with Laurel Lance—obviously their plan—when they realized that Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards worked far better together. As a result, Lance got some stories far better than Black Canary ever got in the comics, and Katie Cassidy’s acting improved dramatically for it.

And while never enough, given eighty years of whitewashing in the broader brand, the producers also diversified the cast impressively. I would have liked to see more leads with minority identities, especially for the bigger names, but they made the DC brand feel much more like the world outside our windows than nearly any other major franchise. I would have liked to see more East Asian, South Asian, Latinx, and non-binary characters in particular, but they do have representation, along with plenty of amazing Black characters, one great transgender character, and sexual minorities woven throughout the casts of the many shows.

Maybe most importantly, the franchise established a preference for discussing problems openly and finding solutions that benefit everybody, rather than pummeling anybody who could pose some abstract threat. Episodes where the heroes put in the effort of solving someone’s problem, so that the “villain” has no need to commit a crime, stand as thoroughly radical ideas that modern superhero writers need to embrace. Heroism—outside the etymological reference to any larger-than-life protagonist—revolves around doing the right thing, not the most exciting thing. Increasingly, the “right thing” needs to feel inclusive, too. When even the jackass with the arrows understands that mature discourse works better than piercing vital organs, the audience has no excuse.

I hope that, as this franchise shrinks and presumably draws to a close, other franchises—the DCEU or whatever remains of it, the MCU, Star Wars, Star Trek, and smaller and newer multi-title properties—learn from this competitor, and integrate its lessons widely. 🥂

People-Search Antics for June

Somewhat impressively, it doesn’t look like anybody has produced anything new…at least, nothing true and new.

Project Previews

June has expanded to take up almost all my available time and energy, so I unfortunately didn’t quite get to everything (anything?) that I wanted.

Renewed Lease to Doomsday

Continuing my “postmortem” as I try to salvage this book idea, I wanted to talk a bit about how I selected the characters that I did, and why—regardless of whom I chose—this probably went bad inevitably.

I intended to build an informal team of four primary superhero characters, where each character had a different creator. After all, if I use someone else’s characters in a Free Culture product, I should spread the “wealth” (credit) around. I also wanted some gender/ethnic/religious diversity, but I knew that I could always fudge that, for most characters, if I needed to. Each major character needed to make sense as starting their careers at or before their first appearances. And I wanted the characters to “tell me” what the overall plot involved. Oh, and every character should have the potential to lead their own series, as opposed to just serving to prop up a protagonist.

I still stand by most of those rules. Choosing characters from multiple sources and ensuring that they have their own presence makes the team look like it formed organically, instead of created to fill roles. Rebooting obscure characters might as well create an original character. And building the plot around character background details gives the characters a reason to participate.

To solve this, I pulled out all my known sources, especially if the creator built a series or franchise, rather than just a single work. You’d probably recognize many of them from the Free Culture Book Club. Why do that work twice, right? Some works don’t have a narrative structure, though, so you have not seen them, there. And I think that caused the first problem: By choosing characters from a Free Culture role-playing game supplement, for example, those profiles don’t always talk about a supporting cast. That meant building a supporting cast, which we’ll talk about later.

In any case, I dug through each source, listing the characters that caught my attention, narrowing it down to eighteen candidates. From there, I discarded the characters who definitely wouldn’t fit, and then looked at commonalities in their backgrounds and powers. Three of them had a certain antagonistic element in their background, so they (and one more) became the leads. Characters who had a similar background element became the equivalent of recurring characters.

And then—as promised above—I started hunting for a supporting cast, characters who could serve as bosses, significant others, and neighbors. And I believe that this made a second bump, because now my leads have friends and family just…stapled onto them. You saw part of the results of this last week, where I tried to justify these relationships by…creating more relationships. Character-A needed to date Character-B, but the characters don’t feel like they fit together, so Character-A also becomes Character-C’s employee, and Character-D’s friend, because Characters-B and -D need a friendship. I tried to justify this after the fact, by saying that this novel would represent “Season 4” (or whatever) of a hypothetical television series, after the writers had used the characters for years.

As I’ve probably mentioned, the book’s premise involves having the supporting cast serve as the motivating force of a superhero team, because so many existing shows don’t seem to know what to do with their supporting casts. And the story needs to focus on the inherent power of relationships for a major plot point to make sense. With all that responsibility, seeing the relationships fall apart under scrutiny feels especially embarrassing.

When I get back to the story, this might make a good place start work, again: Shrink the cast to its minimum, and maybe play out the prior seasons to grow the supporting cast into something usable, rather than presuming the existing relationships that exist just because I think that I might need them.

Watch Your Conscience

Did I “ugh,” last month, here? I spent half the month dealing with plumbing problems—pipes and water, not fundamental code or anatomical—and the other half recovering. I hate that these delays push off release, of course, but I also hate how they increase the amount of work required to finish, as I try to figure out where I left off.

Media

In no particular order, I present a list of some things that I finished watching, listening to, or read in June. No, I don’t remember when I started them, unless they were short. You can probably estimate that I watched about an hour of any given “archived” television show per day, though, if that helps. If you’d like to know what I finish watching as I finish it—sometimes I catch something during the narrow window when people can watch it free—you might become a member at Buy Me a Coffee.

  • Dolemite feels almost alien to me—in my defense, it does come a time and a culture that I don’t have much connection to—and it certainly traffics in stereotypes, but I still enjoyed it and can understand why it reached the status of “classic.”

  • I figured that I should read A Wrinkle in Time, given that I mostly enjoyed the film adaptation on Disney+ last December. Admittedly, I did expect it to just tell basically the same story, of course, but not more abstractly. Given novel lengths, I expected it to have even richer detail, but no, I guess not. Instead, it has more hints of Christianity, which doesn’t feel like it works. If I hadn’t seen the adaptation, though, it probably would have gone down easier.

  • Less—yes, chosen for Pride Month, and to correct my lack of reading books by gay authors for gay audiences—quickly charmed me, as it shifts between midlife angst and some of the funniest asides that I’ve seen in a while. Let me sell you on it: Imagine a modern treasure-hunting novel (The Cryptonomicon comes to mind, bear with me), without relying on the pretext of a treasure, and without wasting page after page describing every new location in detail.

  • I don’t have much to say about the What If…Captain Carter Were The First Avenger? Original Soundtrack, other than I liked it better than most MCU music, which makes some sense, since the episode of What If…? (from a few months ago) also had more substance to it than the rest of the series. It shares a problem of a lot of MCU soundtracks, though, in that the directors seem to only task their composers with a general mood, so only a few passages remind me of the show itself. In all fairness, though, I mostly decided to listen to test Hoopla’s music streaming, and this runs a short twenty-three minutes. Still, Karpman deserves more attention.

  • Woke, season 2 builds on the first season, exploits a variety of conspiracy theories, and tells a solid story about modern activism, without falling back on easy answers. Definitely check out real-world Keith Knight’s K-Chronicles, too, which has a lot of the same sort of humor.

  • The Red Scrolls of Magic, another Pride Month selection, has accomplished something that I thought impossible: It hooked me on a high fantasy story immediately. I “get” who our couple is, and see how their urban fantasy world works, without chapter upon chapter of mind-numbing exposition that brought more joy to write than it could ever bring in reading. I don’t like the “third act reveal,” especially given the relevant character’s treatment, but companies could do far worse than using this as the template for fantasy franchises, instead of retreading yet another off-brand Tolkien.

    • I should probably mention that the premise of the children of demons becoming something like superheroes and supervillains strongly resembles the premise of the Heroine Complex books, such as Haunted Heroine discussed last month. If you enjoy that series, you’ll probably enjoy this.

  • Amélie — A New Musical…well, they didn’t write it for me, odd, given that I generally take a pro-musical stance, and loved the 2001 film that forms the source material. However, every song sounds the same to my ear, with a similar simple melody and focusing on some specific phrase from the film that has nothing to do with the plot or repeating obvious things; the entire prequel aspect seems desperate to answer questions that nobody ever asked. I find the music especially problematic, since the film’s score became a major part of the story, and this rejects that in favor of the sort of music that almost feels like a weird An American Tail spoof. That said, the cast unsurprisingly puts in excellent work, led by Phillipa Soo.

  • Spider-Man Unlimited probably only draws serious interest as a historical artifact, answering the question of how one adapts Spider-Man, when one has licensed the character, but (somehow) not his supporting cast, villains, or costume. At least one solution involves finding an excuse to send Spidey to an alternate Earth within our solar system, and making everything else up, or licensing the cheapest characters available, as one goes along. It does have its moments, but I can see why the network dropped it.

  • 9 To 5 — The Musical has potential, and I admittedly only heard the album rather than seeing a staged production, but I feel like it lurches between an earnest musical comedy trying to sound like Dolly Parton’s music, a spoof of older musical comedy, and generic Broadway fare, and not in a “let’s explore different genres of music” way, like Stephen Schwartz sometimes experiments with. If it could pick the first, they’d have something great. If they could pick either of the others, it’d sound fine. But the hopping around makes it hard to take it seriously, especially as an adaptation of the classic film.

  • I trail publication by a year, because publishing has consolidated, but DC Pride 2021 follows the template of most thematic anthologies. It has some good stories, and some mediocre, but it mostly serves as a guide to the company’s characters representing gender and sexual minorities. Even then, I say “mostly,” because the final story just drops a bunch into a fight scene, without naming them. As a big surprise to me, we find out that DC seems to have embraced Extraño—a goofy character from the mediocre New Guardians series in the 1980s—as sort of the “elder statesman” of the queer (and adjacent) community, which makes sense, given that his representation as a gay superhero probably predates everyone else’s, but also makes me wonder if someone will rehabilitate any of the New Guardians’ other stereotypical characters, too.

  • The House in the Cerulean Sea takes forever to get moving beyond wishing that it could sound as clever as classic comedy writing, but about halfway through, the writing stops meandering aimlessly and sprints to the ending. It goes from “ha ha, bureaucracy bores people” to talking intently about feeling different from everyone else, family and home, relationships, and building infrastructure for revolution.

  • How to Find a Princess…I have an impulse to describe the plot, because I find those aspects interesting, but instead I’ll point out that the book moves much faster than I expected, and author Alyssa Cole creates deep, strong characters. Apparently, a book comes before this, but every entry in the series apparently has episodic plots about different royal families, so I feel less guilty about starting here than I did with Haunted Heroine.

  • Someone recommended This Is How You Lose the Time War, and I owe that person my thanks. It reminds me of some of my favorite stories growing up, though I’ve never really appreciated more than a couple of epistolary novels. The audio-book runs four hours. You have the time for it. Go. 👉

    • As a bonus, this became the first “Pride Month” book that did not have a major subplot about a put-upon protagonist who needs to learn to stand up for themselves.

  • One Last Stop comes close to equalling This Is How You Lose the Time War, though the two stories don’t have similar plots or characters. Everything about the story, from the characters, to the semi-buried wild premise, to the banter, to the sex scenes all feel intensely real and have such a gleeful feel that I found it difficult not to grin through a lot of the book. Especially given its length, sustaining this kind of energy impressed me. And I say this as someone who usually hates sex scenes, because they usually feel like the author wrote them for an unrelated story and has little to no familiarity with actual sex, often reading as verbose versions of “oh, you wanted sex…?”

    • Given the show’s location, premises, and careful construction, you might think of it as the opposite bookend to Russian Doll.

    • Apparently, one of McQuiston’s other books will get a high-profile Amazon Prime release, so I don’t need to go into my “someone should adapt this instead of giving us another Indiana Jones sequel or yet another attempt at Battlestar Galactica”-style diatribe. Producers know her work, so we may well get an adaptation, if Red, White, and Royal Blue does well on release.

  • I found Jonny Appleseed extremely tedious, despite high hopes after reading the summary. It feels like a collection of tropes meant to annoy me personally. The book consists of around fifty stories, falling into two categories: What amounts to body humor or a stereotypically masculine sex scene—brief, and focusing on anatomical features or fluids as if disembodied—as a trigger to remember some story from youth. The author wants me to care about the protagonist’s non-relationships and references to brand names, and…no, thanks. It has the virtue of not overstaying its welcome, though, with the audiobook (read by the author) running about six hours.

  • I’ve wanted an excuse to read Far Sector since it came out, and a few extra borrow-credits on Hoopla provided that excuse. I always liked the Green Lantern franchise, no matter who led the books, even though I don’t care for the modern “police procedural” approach to the franchise. And within the confines of that new regime, Jemisen does some great work, not only producing good science fiction that should hit home for a lot of readers, but also doing the hard work showing Jo Mullein (our protagonist) as the person who fills her role in the story; I never need to ask why characters follow or confide in her. One amazing aspect, I should mention how much this feels like a 1970s Green Lantern story, only different in that it acknowledges police violence and stars a Black woman.

    • Bonus: I finally realized that I can/need to click the page in Hoopla’s interface to get the panel-by-panel view of comics, so I no longer need to struggle to read small print photo-reduced into too few pixels to carry real meaning without guesses…

  • First Nations Comedy Experience, maybe Season 1 works with a great idea, but spends far too much time with non-Native comedians—often giving them time for longer sets—plus at least one whose Native heritage comes from a recent DNA test 🙄, and two seemingly chosen for their heritage from India to both make the obvious joke. The host starts out as grating, and talks about himself far too much for my tastes, but he shows a lot more heart after the first couple of episodes of missteps and may have won me over, mostly. More importantly, as a producer on the show, he also introduced me to quite a few great (and a few not-so-great) Native comedians. I hope that FNX produces a second season, at some point.

  • Obi-Wan Kenobi mostly just does what it needs to do, try to reconcile the stories—and probably fans—of the original and prequel trilogies, without contradicting anything that casual fans will notice. For the most part, though, the show really comes alive when it focuses on young Leia; I hope that Vivien Lyra Blair makes it through her teenage years without burning out, because that kid has more talent than I’ve seen in a while.

    • Moses Ingram, Kumail Nanjiani, and Indira Varma—someone I never thought I’d enjoy in a role—also deserve a lot of credit for bringing life to this “Whatever Happened to…” piece.

  • Green Lantern: Legacy has the usual (and aforementioned) Green Lantern problems of making it a law enforcement job with partners and training. But it also gives the franchise a fresh spin by building it into a Vietnamese family’s legacy and grief. And given the timing of her origins and where she chose to settle, I can’t help seeing the possibility that Kim Tran (the late grandmother) could have replaced Hal Jordan in DC’s history, which would go a long way to fixing the decades of whitewashing that I’ve spoken about elsewhere. The writers won’t do that, because fans throw a fit if Hal Jordan so much as takes a nap, but the possibility exists, complete with naming her cat “Jordan.”

  • In Transit feels like something that would entertain more in person or on video, but it still works fairly well as an album. The songs have a deliberate style to them that I appreciate, and some lyrics stand out nicely. Unlike most modern a cappella presentations, they mostly exclusively sing, with only a couple of mouth-sound or faux-rap tracks.

  • Let’s Talk about Love continues my Pride Month reading, this time actively seeking out a protagonist representing a gender or sexual minority who sits outside the more common gay or bisexual groups, since they seem to dominate the space. I liked it, for the most part. The characters have some depth to them, and the prose doesn’t waste much time. On the downside, the protagonist spews a constant stream of pop-culture references, and we don’t really see what “bi-romantic and asexual” looks like in practice, since the bulk of the book basically sits between two relationships; it shocked me when the book ended, given how much time the other books have spent on “coupling.”

  • Saga Book One often gets a mention on lists of favorite comics, so as long as I felt inclined to catch up on comics, I might as well give it a shot. It certainly has aspects that I associate with Image Comics and why I probably ignored the comic at the time—the occasional gratuitous nudity, coarse language, and gore—but I found the story far more engaging than I expected to, and you’ll definitely see the next collection discussed here soon.

    • Oh, did I mention that one group of characters speaks Esperanto? I did want an excuse to learn it…

  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness feels like a serious let-down, after taking three shows—Wandavision, Loki, and What If…?—to set it up. Don’t get me wrong. I had fun watching it; Elizabeth Olsen and Xochitl Gomez carry a lot of weight, here. The action seems somewhat better than usual MCU fare, too. But the story has no emotional heart. The script doesn’t let us sympathize with Wanda—in fact, you could basically subtitle the film Wandering Womb—and the protagonists have no personal growth, instead looking at alternate universes and feeling gratitude that they didn’t live those lives. And it also pulls the hack move of introducing a bunch of second-string heroes for the purpose of slaughtering them, to make the threat to “real” heroes seem more pressing.

    • In an alternate universe, Disney produced this film with Elizabeth Olsen as the lead, and America Chavez uses the multiverse and evil magic to teach her how to come to terms with her grief, and put her on the path to atoning for her transgressions. That script has references to A Christmas Carol, including a hint that Professor X produced a one-man show based on the story in 1988. My counterpart in that universe died—both tragically and hilariously—trying to befriend a jaguar that escaped from its wealthy owner, and so we don’t have that newsletter available. But I assure you that he would have loved that version at least as much as scratching behind a jaguar’s ears.

    • One feeling that I can’t shake? I’ve also seen this story before, but Gardner Fox wrote it for DC in the 1960s, and it took about a page in the middle of a more important story, before moving on…

  • Both Can Be True felt frustrating. The majority of the book pushes a strict gender-binary, repeated telling us that non-binary people “flip” between boy and girl “modes,” as if non-binary requires adhering to a binary. And after four-fifths of the book—where I spent most of my attention wanting to scream “just wear whatever you want, you self-involved jackass”—it finally comes to the idea of maybe letting people just live their lives. It vaguely saved itself, then, but in the most exhausting way that it could find, and clings to the insulting “mode” idea until the end.

    • It also has a weird helping of “I need this event to occur, but that would require me to take action, which would make me feel uncomfortable, so I do nothing,” a ton of jokes about kids not interacting face-to-face, and more contrived drama than a prime time teen soap opera. It feels like a middle-aged person wrote this trying to capture the presumed life of a pre-teen, for the benefit of a middle-aged audience, rather than anything that a young person might touch.

    • Also, “Chewbarka”? Dumb name for a dog, because Lucas named the Star Wars character after his dog, who got his name from the Russian word собака, which translates to…dog. At that point, why not just name the protagonist Kal (for Kallai/Kalliope) Humanchild.

  • Curtains didn’t really do much for me. The music felt vaguely generic and relied a lot on what I’d consider old tropes, including the “some parts of the song become loud for emphasis” idea. As I’ve said before, maybe it works better in a theater. I like the premise of a musical murder mystery, if only for the sake of alliteration.

Blog Posts for June 2022

In case you missed one and don’t like RSS readers, here’s a round-up of the past month’s worth of posts.

I also revisited and updated some older posts, for various reasons.

Significant changes to the text come with clear and dated markings. Changing the wording or correcting a typo is more routine, but it indicates that I’ve at least been looking at the post. Longer changes probably have a brief write-up in this very newsletter.

The most popular posts on the blog have been Recutils — Small Technology Notes, Real Life in Star Trek, The Ultimate Computer, Calafia, Queen of California, and Copyright Searches for the month.

Articles I’ve Been Reading

You’ve seen some of these already in Friday posts, but here’s more from the sources in my RSS reader that I thought were worth reading.