Category Archives: Round-Ups

Links, Bonus Features, Thematic Randomness

May 4th is for all of us

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Well, another Star Wars Day is upon us. I’ve already done my celebrating in traditional fashion, by buying a discount Star Wars comic volume (this year to get the Infinities stories which include the comic adaptation of the original screenplay).

But I thought that since most other great Sci-Fi franchises don’t have a day, that Star Wars might be willing to share. Below is a list in no particular order of shows and comic books you should check out instead of re-watching Empire Strikes Back for the 20th time (or maybe afterwards at least).

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Babylon 5 – A show that delivers on its concept of a five season novel arc. There are imperfections: Boxleitner’s acting is overdone, the CGI has NOT aged well, and of course, Byron. But if you can look past these you’ve got a great show that was equal parts epic, funny and moving. Also, at least 3-4 strong female leads (passes the Bechdel test all over the place) Ivanova is my personal favorite. Season 4 is the high point, but I think you need to at least watch Season 3 prior to get the full effect. And if you like the epic space-battles of Star Wars, wait till you meet the Shadows, the Vorlons and the White Star.

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Red Dwarf – A man stranded millions of light years from earth, all of humanity long dead, with his only companions a holographic recreation of his snotty roommate and a creature evolved from his cat. The show is a little long in the tooth now, but the first 5-6 series are great. My favorites are the early episodes when it is much more isolated, just a couple of people playing off each other to great comedic effect. We could lose the cat from the show, and Kryton doesn’t always grab me, but Rimmer and Lister are worth the price of admission. Also bonus, really early Craig Ferguson in the first series.

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The Fuse – Comic book previously reviewed on the blog. Procedural murder in space with six issue arcs for each case. Set in a large power generation station in space with a community of drifters, technicians and society elites. Has some of the same beats as Babylon 5, but better explores the homeless situation with the “cablers.” Three volumes currently available with more coming soon. The dynamic between the two lead detectives is great and not always what you’d expect. And again features a grumpy older female lead.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – If you’re like me, you grew up thinking The Next Generation was the best Star Trek. But you need to give DS9 a look (as I’ve argued earlier). Characters grow and change from season to season. I’m doing a rewatch of early seasons and can’t believe they never shoved Bashir out an airlock. At least (to coin an old Simpsons joke), his name comes with instructions (“bash-here”). DS9 has all the things NextGen doesn’t, continuing story lines, epic battles, and a mix of comedic and dramatic plots. The Bajorans are a weak point, but there’s so much this show has to offer it’s worth another look.

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Saga – Not for the faint of heart. Just completed 36 issues of its planned 60 issue run. Bold, imaginative, epic, and deliberately unfilmable. NSFW in so many ways. My favorite post and rundown of the first 12 issues gives you an idea of what’s coming. But for all that shock value, it delivers on the space opera epic story centered around family. What more could a Star Wars fan want?

This is just a ridiculously small sampling of what’s good out there. So enjoy your Star Wars viewing if you must, but you can also feel free to swim out into the deep end. The water’s fine.

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The Simpsons – Best Episodes for Writers

People who know me well, know that I try to keep up an encyclopedic knowledge of The Simpsons, and have a belief that a list of episodes can be created for just about any topic imaginable (something I often do at holidays or whenever some topic comes up in conversation, most often with my wife *sorry*).

Writing isn’t a topic you’d think would be well covered on The Simpsons, but actually there are a number of references to almost every member of The Simpson family putting out a book or two.

Bart Gets Famous – Season 5 Episode 12

A future jump ahead finds Lisa at the typewriter as a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist with Bart polishing all her awards. Best quote “Impaled on my Nobel peace prize. How ironic” after Lisa gives Bart a swift kick.

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They Saved Lisa’s Brain – Season 10 Episode 22

Several episodes involve impassioned letters by Lisa to the populace of Springfield, this one inspired by the riotous behavior at a low-fat pudding gross out contest. Her plea for more dignified discourse earns her a place in the local chapter of mensa.

Treehouse Of Horror VII (The Thing and I) – Season 8 Episode 1

Though not officially canon, unsold copies of Homer’s autobiography are seen in the attic. Apparently the book wasn’t very popular.

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Bart of Darkness – Season 6 Episode 1

Bart is trapped in the house with a broken leg, and TV is all reruns. Apparently his only alternative is writing his own play. “Is it St. Swithens day already? Tis!”

Diatribe of a Mad Housewife – Season 15 Episode 10

Marge writes a popular romance novel in which Homer is portrayed as a boor, and Flanders her sexy lover. Confrontations at the edge of cliffs ensue. Apparently all you have to do to succeed is write and you’ll immediately be popular.

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I’m sure there’s many I missed. Any other flavorites?

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Sex and The Simpsons

Long time readers of the blog know that my weekly Friday afternoon ritual is to listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour and enjoy a little reportage on the latest movies and musings on pop culture. Last Friday featured a discussion on the way sex is portrayed for parents with children, whether its played for laughs or if the people involved actually seem to have some passion. Usually I can count on fellow nerd Stephen Thompson to be right there with a way to relate almost any discussion to The Simpsons, but this week he let me down. Maybe you were just feeling you bring up The Simpsons too much Stephen, though I don’t know how such a thing could be possible. The Simpsons touches on almost all the areas you discuss when it comes to its portrayal of sex, something I will now demonstrate for you with 12 episodes.

Homer desired by other women

Despite being bald and overweight, Homer has had several opportunities for extra-marital affairs, all of which he has declined even in times of marital trouble. In “Colonel Homer” (Season 3 Episode 20) after a fight with Marge, Homer takes country singer Lurleen Lumpkin from cocktail waitress to country TV star when a song of hers relates to him. Lurleen is both grateful for Homer’s interest and faith in her, and lack of expecting something in return. She tries to invite him to “bunk with me tonight”, but Homer declines (and later asks Lurleen to clarify if she would have gone all the way, to which her reply is an enthusiastic yes).

Great line from this: “It takes two people to lie. One to lie, and one to listen.”

More notably in “Last Temptation Of Homer” (Season 5 Episode 9), a new employee at the nuclear plant, who shares Homer’s love of donuts, beer and sports, causes a real conundrum for Homer. He’s obviously attracted to her, and she to him. Despite being shown by the ghost of Colonel Klink that both his and Marge’s lives would actually be better if he left her, and being told by a fortune cookie that he will find happiness in a new love, Homer stays and shows Marge the night of her life. “Oh Margie, you came and you brought me a turkey, on my vacation away from workee”.

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Marge desired by other men

Marge has been pursued by a lot of would be Letharios, from Moe to Mr. Burns to a Manatee loving Alec Baldwin to old high school flame-out Artie Ziff. But the most notable is Jacques from Season 1 Episode 9’s “Life on the Fast Lane”. A selfish birthday present from Homer sends Marge to the bowling alley, where she meets a sensuous bowling instructor who invites her back to the Fiesta terrace. Marge is annoyed at Homer, and enamored of Jacques, and was saved only by “an ironic street” depicting love’s blossoming, to old age, to death, to skeletons in a shop window. This leads to one of the most classic endings of The Simpsons where Marge meets a depressed Homer at the power plant, and he carries her out in his arms. “I’m going to the backseat of my car with the woman I love, and I won’t be back for ten minutes!”

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Season 14 Episode 4 “Large Marge” also brought Marge a lot of attention, from her husband and other less desirable corners. Her new bazoomas even inspired Homer to song, though they did prove to be an awful strain on her back.

Grandpa vs. Sexual Inadequacy

Season 6 Episode 10 brings a double whammy to the discussion of sex, “Grandpa vs. Sexual Inadequacy”. Here we see Marge and Homer’s problems in bed frankly depicted, with reasons for lack of loving being TV movies, enchiladas, and the classic TV trope of the kids running in. Grandpa has the solution, and while the idea of old people having sex is mostly played for laughs, Grandpa provides a tonic that puts the spring back in Homer’s step, so much so that the two decide to go on the road selling the tonic to everyone.

Both Abe and Mr. Burns fight over the hand of Marge’s mother in “Lady Bouvier’s Lover” (Season 5 Episode 21). Notably Mrs. Bouvier turns both Burns and Abe down for sex and marriage, but while some moments are still played for laughs, particularly Homer giving his Dad “play it cool” advice to get a kiss, some moments are really sweet and show Grandpa can be more than just an old coot.

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Homer’s weight is rarely discussed as an issue with his relationship with Marge (less than you might think), though a notable exception is “King Size Homer” Season 7 Episode 7, in which a scheme to get disability payments by gaining weight forces Marge to make the admission that she is less attracted to Homer.

Homer goes too far

Homer does occasionally get himself in real trouble with Marge on the issue of sex. In Season 1 Episode 10 “Homer’s Night Out” a photo of Homer dancing with Princess Cashmere circulates through Bart’s school and Homer’s work, eventually leading to Marge throwing him out. Homer redeems himself by teaching Bart that women are not just objects (sort of), but his impassioned plea is good enough for Marge.

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More ruinously, Homer reveals many of Marge and his private moments in Season 5 Episode 22 “Secrets Of A Successful Marriage”, thoroughly embarrassing Marge, and causing her to believe she can’t trust him anymore. His plea for forgiveness of “complete and utter dependency” is a little weak, but while Homer doesn’t always say the best things, he says them in the right way.

Homer the Lover

Homer and Marge have on balance a fairly healthy sex life, with some ups and downs. They do occasionally engage in roleplay (or at least winter coatplay) “That name again is Mr. Plow”. When the kids are away in “Kamp Krusty” (Season 4 Episode 1), Marge and Homer get frisky in the shower, though all the lost weight, new hair and love life evaporate as soon as the kids return.

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In “Natural Born Kissers” (Season 9 Episode 25) Marge and Homer’s dull anniversary leads them to believe the passion is gone. But after nearly getting caught hiding in a farmer’s barn, the element of danger adds new zest. This leads them to try nookie in all sorts of dangerous places, leading to nearly being discovered in their old love nest in the putt-putt windmill, and finally ending up standing naked in a loaded football stadium. While a lot of this is played for laughs, and there is definitely some “ew, gross” from the kids, much of the episode does show the two of them having fun.

So, as we have now learned, The Simpsons belongs in every discussion of pop-culture. You would do well to remember this, Stephen 🙂

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Should I use chapter titles?

The very first novel I ever completed had a title for every chapter. Digging through my old Word Perfect 6 documents (which OpenOffice really didn’t like, my book was not 7000+ pages with a bunch of numbers and symbols), I thought I’d share them with you (bear in mind this book was started in 1999 and finished in 2003):

  • Chapter 1 – The Proposal (solid)
  • Chapter 2 – The Problem (got a theme going)
  • Chapter 3 – Winning is half the battle (changing it up, nice)
  • Chapter 4 – What’s a ship without a crew? (good question)
  • Chapter 5 – Testing Phase (back to two words, good choice)
  • Chapter 6 – Sim-Central (don’t know what this really means, but I think they were using a simulator?)
  • Chapter 7 – Picking up the pieces (A little on the nose, but apparently they broke the simulator)
  • Chapter 8 – Cellular Christmas (wait … what?)
  • Chapter 9 – Scarecrow’s Dilemma (if he only had a … wait for it …)
  • Chapter 10 – Sarah Walker (Oh, now we’re using the name of a person, and remember Chuck hadn’t aired yet)
  • Chapter 11 – Unfinished Business (simple but back to solid)
  • Chapter 12 – Pre-launch Jitters (don’t you just hate those?)
  • Chapter 13 – Ready To Go (Okay so we’re ready now, right?)
  • Chapter 14 – Unto the breach (That doesn’t sound good)
  • Chapter 15 – Rapid Ascent (Wait, we were supposed to launch two chapters ago!)
  • Chapter 16 – Anticipated Arrival (We were expected?)
  • Chapter 17 – Crimson Sun Revisited (When did we visit it before? Answer, in the prologue which was titled ‘Galateia’ and not ‘Crimson Sun’, though Crimson Sun was involved. Anyway, moving on.)
  • Chapter 18 – Camping out under the stars (sounds nice)
  • Chapter 19 – Licking their wounds (maybe not)
  • Chapter 20 – Running the Gauntlet (originally misspelled Guantlet)
  • Chapter 21 – Awakened Spirits (meh)
  • Chapter 22 – Recovered Data (back to the theme I see)
  • Chapter 23 – Ghosts of Past and Future Days (seriously?)
  • Chapter 24 – Harkenings of Atlantis (is Harkenings a word? WordPress doesn’t think so.)
  • Chapter 25 – The Emerald City (Wizard of Oz?)
  • Chapter 26 – Behind the Curtain (Definitely Wizard of Oz, late in the game decision to go with this theme)
  • Chapter 27 – At long last (indeed)
  • Chapter 28 – Casual Conversation (eh)
  • Chapter 29 – The Greater Mysteries (getting profound)
  • Chapter 30 – For the future (inspiring)
  • Epilogue – Return Journey (There and back again)

There was also an interlude called ‘En Route’.

Here’s the problem. Obviously some of these are just dippy, darlings that even I wouldn’t recognize today. Some are straightforward and simple, others are bland and shapeless. Some make up words, some appropriate Moody Blues phrases, and some are too unspeakably clever.

This is why I don’t write chapter titles, and why my tendency has been for one or two word book titles. I’ve read a few books where the title really adds something to the chapter, but I’ve yet to write one. I do think that if you’re going to do it, you should make some conscious thoughts as to a consistent theme. It’s probably okay to break it once and a while, but only if you have a reason to do so. And “Ghosts Of Past and Future Days” is not such a reason.

I like titling parts of a book, as these can almost fell like mini-novellas, and those deserve a title. But beyond that, probably not. Hell, I have a hard enough time thinking of a title for each blog post.

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