Sunday, December 29, 2013

Unto 2014

The more you want to be able to do something, the harder it is not to be able to do it. Just now, what I'd like to be able to do more than anything is summarize. I want to be able to understand all the things that have happened to me over the past 12 months. It's hard because I don't want to analyze so many things that went so badly. There's a price to be paid when what you are and what you think you can be are greatly out of alignment. For some people this constitutes ambition, and for some it's delusion, and the only way to know is to try.

I tried giving up my old life to go traveling, and it was a disaster. It was actually even worse when I got back, for reasons I'd still rather not share. But the life I'm living now makes me happier than the one I left behind to get here. It is for that reason that, for the first time since 2010, I really believe next year will be better than this.

I'm so sorry Our World has gone a year without an update, and it's more or less entirely my fault. The good news is that last night Kuurion sent me the finished versions of the first 12 pages of the prologue chapter. They're as good as anything he's ever drawn, and I can't wait until we can show them to you.

To recap, the rewrite covers the parts of the comic that are currently done as color pages. We're redoing that part of the comic, both in story and art, because neither of us were happy with it. The completed rewrite will segue directly into the existing black and white pages.

I don't know if I'll keep up the blog or not. Kuurion hasn't written a post in literally years, so it's just me now, and my enthusiasm for it has waned. I suppose we'll see. As it stands, I have reasons to believe 2014 will be a good year, and there, too, I suppose we'll see. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Webcomic Review #10: Homestuck, revisited

Have you ever gotten to the end of a really good book or movie and wished there was more to tell? You will never have that feeling with Homestuck.

Kuurion introduced me to Homestuck about the same time he wrote our original review for it. That was in June of 2012, and at the time I believed that I would have caught up with the story in about a month. At this point, having read literally thousands of pages and seen dozens of animations, I don't think I'll ever finish it. The story creator Andrew Hussie is telling moves too fast and has too many intricate parts for me to follow anymore. Half the purpose of this review is to apologize to Kuurion and let him know his favorite webcomic has bested me in fair combat.

Homestuck starts with a premise that is deceptively simple. Structured like a text-driven video game, Homestuck introduces you on its first page to an unnamed boy who has just had his thirteenth birthday, and suggests you name him. The reader doesn't actually have any control here, though; when the comic prompts you for something, it's almost like it's talking over your shoulder to someone you can't see. This gets the reader into the habit of ignoring the omnipresent second person structure - though, in appropriately surrealist fashion, it becomes important later. Or at least that's what I think happened.

The comic grows complex quickly, something that caught me off guard because the dialogue is so disarmingly simple. Our protagonist, now named John Egbert, lives a strangely insular life that seems to consist exclusively of talking with his friends Rose, Dave and Jade through an IM client. The story, while nominally a comic pretending to be a video game, is actually conducted largely through huge blocks of IM chat that appear as text beneath the picture part of the comic on most pages. Overshadowing this already complex set of proceedings is the fact that the apocalypse is about to start, and also John has just become the client player in a real-world video game called Sburb.

In fact, each of the four kids is either the server or client to another, allowing them to daisy-chain the control structure. The server player is actually more in control than the client, who appears on their screen - like a video game. What does the client player do? He or she fights imps, which have suddenly appeared and produce useful materials like "build grist" when defeated. The player can use grist and other materials to make things using a trio of confusing machines: the cruxtruder, the totem lathe, and the alchemiter. As the game's second person narration cheekily points out, you'll never have quite enough material to make the thing you want.

If you're not excited by this premise yet, then truthfully I've done something wrong. Homestuck is a masterpiece that will rope you in and hold you for a very, very long time. But it lost me and, try as I might, I can't get the magic back. Hussie shares Stephen King's gift for making the improbable a little too acceptable. The comic starts so far outside the realm of plausibility that it's actually managed to lap the readers by the time they've adjusted their expectations. In addition to the stories of the children, we're introduced to a number of side characters - starting with the Wayward Vagabond, an imp living in a desert in an unspecified time and place.

Once we've wrapped our heads around him, we're introduced to the trolls who are heckling the kids through IM. Except that they are literally trolls, who live on a planet in another universe and created our universe through a game of their own called Sgrub. Then we're introduced to a set of characters called the Midnight Crew in an "Intermission" segment that actually loops around the have direct bearing on the plot. Or maybe those two segments happen the other way around; for the purpose of this review, it doesn't really matter.

There's a pattern that repeats here: the stage keeps getting larger. We get to know the ground rules of the universe through John, and then we meet his three friends. Then we zoom out and meet the Wayward Vagabond, who becomes the first of several "wanderer" characters. Then we zoom out and meet the trolls who made John's universe. Then we go to a second universe, at which point the story breaks into two parallel lines and I gave up. Again, this is literally thousands of pages in, and still with no end in sight.

There are a lot of kind things that can be said about Homestuck, but since they've all already been said, I'd rather give voice to my own, slightly less kind thoughts. While I will openly and honestly say that Homestuck is a rare and significant cultural work, it's also susceptible to diminishing returns. I had loads more fun reading the story at the beginning before it become bogged down under accumulated internal mythology and story lines. There's just too much going on here, and I stopped reading because it stopped being fun to read.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Webcomic Review #9: Manly Guys Doing Manly Things

As I continue to stagger forward under a strange load of accumulated promises, I'm trying to keep work in rotation. That way, nothing stays undone for too long, even as I work towards getting everything operational again. To that end, here's a new Webcomic Wednesday. These things were supposed to be every Wednesday when they were new, I think, but I can't believe we were ever that ambitious. But hell, here's at least one for this month. Take it one piece at a time.

Fan fiction has always had a bad rap. I don't know why; I just know it has. However, the metric starts to change when there's a visual component. That's not to say DeviantArt gets an automatic "awesome" sticker from the Internet (even if it totally deserves it), but there's less of a bias. If I had to guess, I'd say it's because it's easier to digest something visually than through prose, but sometimes you meet somebody who takes the added bonus fan comics have over fan fiction and uses it as a step stool to greatness. And that brings us to to "Manly Guys Doing Manly Things."

MGDMT - conventiently located at for your browsing pleasure - is proof that a strange idea can unfold like a beautiful, weird flower as it matures. Those are the main characters in that comic above. Our protagonist is Commander Badass, a supersoldier for the future who has returned to modern day to run a temp agency for ultramanly men (usually from works of fiction). The woman next to him is Jones, romantic interest to him and exposition springboard for us. Since Manly Guys has its manly fingers in as many pies as writer Kelly Turnbull feels like, it wisely avoids examining what such an interconnected fanfic world would look like, and wisely sticks to a ground-level view. (One exception that still played to the rule showed the Commander eating breakfast cereal and watching members of the Lantern Corps rag on each other in the universe's version of C-SPAN.) In case you're wondering, this means Kelly actually saw "Green Lantern."

Helping the story bridge the gap between fan fiction and original work is Jared, the kid holding Fattest Pigeon. Jared is a Pokemon trainer whose favorite Pokemon is an extremely laconic Gyrados named Mr. Fish, who swallows Fattest Pigeon whole in the follow-up comic, prompting Jared to walk into its mouth for retrieval.

According to the site's 'About" section, "Jared is the end result of a complicated mathematical equation designed to compute the most completely average teenage boy ever," something I very much subscribe to. I had a friend who looked like this when I was in college, and you probably did to. Jared is a sort of intern for the commander, who never really knows what to make of him. Jared is similarly oblivious, and the two get on in good-natured confusion at all times.

Comics - which are usually stand-alone entries, but sometimes become arcs - showcase life at the apex of manliness. True to its offbeat form, this often leads to unexpected situations. In the very first comic, Kratos, from the God of War series, is shown trying to sell electronics through violence. In another, the commander makes Jared put money in a jar for using the word "epic." Sometimes wires get crossed and we see what it's like when a bunch of different fictional characters are played by one real-world actor:

From its springboard as a situational comedy into the most esoteric depths of fandom, "Manly Guys Doing Manly Things" is a rich tapestry of "What is this, I don't even." And if the Internet has yet to produce a higher form of art, I haven't seen it.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The End of MythBusters

My wife has spent the last week out of town, staying with her mother, who had surgery on Monday. With so much time to myself, I've ended up watching a fair bit of "MythBusters," because we don't have real TV reception here and I tend to default to what I know on Netflix.

Netflix is a few years behind, so I've only actually seen one new episode, and that was only because it was one I'd somehow missed on my previous passes through. Of the episodes available, I've probably seen most of them half a dozen times. I've been watching "MythBusters" for years. But, as it enters its tenth year on the air, I find myself increasingly nervous about how, sooner or later, it will be cancelled, and take another of my lines to the past with it.

The show follows a fairly simple premise, but it's undergone a number of revisions as it's evolved. The first season introduced the setup: Two men, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, "with over 30 years of special effects experience between them," tackle myths to see if they're possible or not. The net for "myths" has widened over the years: Originally the mix was mostly urban legends and historical tales, but as time went by an increasingly large number of things seen in movies came up.

Those earliest episodes seem downright primordial to someone who's kept up with the show. Adam and Jamie, somewhat uncertain before the camera, would introduce a myth and then test it. And then another. Then, usually, a third. Quick segments by Heather Joseph-Witham, credited as a "folklorist" on IMDb, would give context to the myths. She only did 18 episodes and, without being mean, I don't think anybody missed her. Interview segments seemed out of place as the series found its footing and became all about the explosions.

The very first episode I ever saw was "Explosive Decompression," the first episode of 2004 that was in reruns by the time I saw it in 2006 or so. This was classic "MythBusters": five episodes before the show's build team made its first proper on-camera appearance, and eight before Heather left. I don't remember her being in this episode, though; it was just Adam and Jamie.

By now the show had a good rhythm down. The very earliest episodes seem ponderous in retrospect: The guys would test one myth, then another, and yes, if there was time, a third. The introduction of the build team as a separate, autonomous group allowed the show to stagger the myths. Adam and Jamie would start a myth, then the build team would start a separate myth, then we'd go back to Adam and Jamie while they finished up, then the build team again, then Adam and Jamie would start something else, then the build team would finish, then Adam and Jame would finish their second myth as the credits rolled.

And, with a little more ironing to be done, that was the gist of it. The build team originally consisted of Tory Belleci, Scottie Chapman and Kari Byron. Scottie left the show in 2005 and was replaced with Grant Imahara. Like Scottie, he had a specialty - she did welding, he was into robotics. The others were more general-purpose, although Tory gradually built a well-earned reputation for hurting himself.

And that's how it is today, minus a period in 2009-2010 when Kari was off on maternity leave and was replaced with Jessi Combs. But a decade is a long time, and the popular consensus is that the show is beginning to flag. I remember having a discussion with a friend of mine, Eric, in 2010. He'd been my boss in college, and after I'd graduated I'd left the area to live out of state for six months. Coming back, he and I caught up on all sorts of things, including the show. We'd both been fans when I was in college, but he'd become disenchanted of late, calling them the "Fun Busters." He disliked how they took movie myths apart, feeling it ruined the fun of the movies.

When I got back was also when I lost track of the show. My mother - yes, I moved back in with my mother - didn't have full cable, and when my girlfriend and I moved in together, we didn't get it either. We didn't have the money. From the time I first saw the show before I left for college until the time I got back from Florida (where my rented room had cable), I kept up with the show. These were its best years, too - I'm currently rewatching the episode where they build and burn model Hindenburgs, but I remember when this episode was new in 2007. I also remember seeing a clip of it on the air years later, when narrator Robert Lee introduced it as a "classic episode." And that might have been the first time I felt a twinge of sadness, because I hadn't been aware of the passage of time before.

I'd comment now on how the hosts have aged, but the funny thing is that only Adam really has. Tory, Grant and Kari all look like they're in their late 20s to early 30s, but Kari is 39 and both the guys are 42. Jamie, born in 1956, looked 55 when the show started, and he looks 55 now. Adam, born in 1967, is the only one who seems to be aging normally. Over the show's run, his beard has grayed as his hairline has (unevenly) receded. It's possible they could push this another decade, but it seems incredibly unlikely. As the cast ages and the myth well depletes faster than it can be replenished, I see "MythBusters" hanging on for at least two more years but not more than five.

And it's going to break my heart when this happens, because "MythBusters" has always been there for me. I watched that very first episode in 2006 with the whole family gathered around the TV. Nobody does that anymore, not without also checking their phones and laptops while they watch. And there we were, and my brother looked at the hosts' vast shelving units full of improbably labeled bins and said to my father, who was to die 18 months later from a cancer we had yet to discover, "they have more crap than you do." My God, how we all laughed.

It was there for me in college, and I watched who knows how many episodes in my dorm room on a black-and-white TV I'd originally picked up as a gift for my then-girlfriend but grew too to love too much to give away. If I wanted to see an episode in color, I would go out to the dorms' common rooms and watch it there. I'd stay on campus during the summer to work at the print shop (with Eric, the friend I mentioned earlier), and I'd sit in the common rooms and watch "MythBusters" there while summer thunderstorms rolled in across the mountains. It was there when I joined DeviantArt in 2008, and has been the source for what is frankly the best body of fan art ever (sample above by Arashicat).

And it was there for me in Florida, a travel experiment that sucked. It's there for me now, even though I can't see the new episodes. Actually seeing the show is of secondary importance, believe it or not. It's enough for me to know that there are yet people in this world busting myths. I can catch up with the actual episodes later.

EDIT: Today, Adam Savage tweeted this:

I hope they live forever.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Let's start again

Hello. I'm Captain Video. I like stories about zombies, explosions, hijinks, confusion, long odds, bad ideas, secrecy, honesty, deception, revenge, aliens, suburbia, explorers, sunken ruins, broken things, obsolete technology and doomed romance. And forgiveness. And redemption.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Webcomic Wednesday #8: Dear Toadington

The original intent behind Webcomic Wednesday was, quite frankly, that we'd do them more often than we have. We haven't had one of these since the Homestuck review last June. The thing was, Kuurion got me into reading Homestuck at about that time, and I thought I'd be able to do my own review of it by July. It hasn't worked out that way because I still haven't finished Homestuck; it's incredibly complex and staggeringly long. So I just ended up not writing any more of these. Until now! Today is a Wednesday, and I'm making myself do this.

But I'm going to ease myself back into doing these with a softball review of a comic I love without reservation: Dear Toadington. It's made by two brothers, James and Jefferson Miller. The closest thing it has to a plot is shown in the first strip:

After that, each of the comics is titled "Stories About...", where each comic is a separate story being shared with Toadington. The whole setup is sort of like "Robot Chicken," except that I actually like Dear Toadington. I was made aware of it the one and only time they advertised with Our World as (and I'm paraphrasing from memory) "the webcomic for the discerning gentleman amphibian." At the time, this was the current comic. It's still one of my favorites:

It's smart and it's sick. I haven't liked, or even understood, every single Dear Toadington comic, but when I do, they're usually defined by those two characteristics.

It's rare for the people who pass through the warped lens of a DT strip to show up more than once, but there are exceptions. The Millers themselves appear in a number of comics (especially the early ones) and Daedalus, of mythological fame, appears in "Stories About History's Greatest Inventor," "More Stories About History's Greatest Inventor," and, as of this week, "Even More Stories About History's Greatest Inventor." His inaugural comic is a perfect demonstration of the Millers' sense of humor. Daedalus is tasked with building a labyrinth to contain the minotaur. The word "labyrinth" is normally used as a synonym for "maze," but in truth it isn't. A maze has dead ends in it; a true labyrinth is just a very long path. King Minos has his doubts when shown the blueprints, but Daedalus is sure that nothing could ever walk the whole two miles of the labyrinth and escape. Naturally, he is wrong.

The world of Dear Toadington is invariably childish but often hostile. In one comic, for instance, a man is shown walking down the sidewalk and is then randomly set upon by crows, with "CROWPOCALYPSE" written across the bottom of the page. In another, a different man walking down a different sidewalk arrives at a "sidewalk closed" sign, pops a Mentos in his mouth, and is shown in the last panel wearing a bomb vest in a standoff with police. In the series' most random cartoon to date, "Stories About Awkward Conversations," we see the Millers eating in a diner and discussing a Choose Your Own Adventure book when a sad looking clown comes up and puts a bloody handprint on the outside of the window. They both look at it, and then James asks Jeff again which adventure he chose.

Kuurion doesn't get Dear Toadington, something I have never faulted him for. Dear Toadington is not something that can be gotten 100% of the time. But, fortunately, they have a Twitter feed, which you might find useful for narrowing down why you aren't getting something in particular.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Don't Ask Me About the Plane

Salem, Massachusetts, is known for one thing, and one thing only: witch trials that were held there in 1692. Witch trials that, according to at least one TV documentary I saw, may have been fomented somewhat by the lack of any sort of entertainment in Salem. The natural irony is that all Salem entertainment today is based on witch trial history. Somebody needed to break this cycle. That somebody was the guy who runs this place:

This is a car repair place, although you'd be forgiven for thinking it was a mini golf. The guy who runs it also works at an animal reserve and rescue place in Cost Rica. Or something very close to that; he had a sign up inside that explained it properly, but I didn't have my camera with me then. This is his way of sharing with the world.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Robin Hood" and the Advent of Furry Fandom

Stuck without Internet for two and a half days, my wife and I ended up rooting through our movie collection for entertainment. We watched three movies from our childhoods - Anastasia, Robin Hood and Mulan. Mixed in with my realizations that Eddie Murphy used to be really funny and Christopher Lloyd makes an awesome Rasputin was the thought that Robin Hood might have consolidated most, if not all, aspects of furriness.

This carries significance to me as the writing half of an anthro webcomic. Neither Kuurion nor I are entirely on board with the idea that what we're doing is "furry," exactly - the term carries connotations that we don't completely associate with - but it's something we resort to as shorthand. Both "anthro comic" and "furry" are in Our World's HTML fields, and I don't think any search engine has used those things since AltaVista.

Robin Hood predates all but the most primordial aspects of furry fandom, and as such I think it had an unrecognized yet simultaneously outsized influence on the shape of things to come. First, though, some context.


After Walt Disney died in 1966, the movies bearing his name went into a qualitative slump that lasted for more than two decades. The Onion's A.V. Club has an excellent review of the first movie made without him, "The Aristocats," which it describes as the beginning of the company's dark age. "Robin Hood" is the movie they made after that, allowing them to reuse footage. Here, watch:

My thanks to whomever made that video, which is honestly still best viewed on a screen not larger than a stamp. Still, the quality is good enough to tell the tale: That dance sequence was cobbled together from three different movies (the other two being Walt's last and first films, "The Jungle Book" and "Snow White.") The knowledgeable among you may have also remembered that Phil Harris, the voice of Little John (who sings "The Phony King of England") is also the voice of Baloo the bear from "The Jungle Book."
"If ever an entertainer was born to be a Disney character, it's Phil Harris," writes Noel Murray in that "Aristocats" review you still haven't read, and he makes a fair point. Harris just sounds so much like a Disney character. So much, in fact, that they reused him in all three of those films. In the "Aristocats" his made-for-AM radio voice works because he plays an alley cat (the refined female lead was Zha Zha Gabor), and it's pretty much the same case with "The Jungle Book."

Here, however, he plays the unwitting lead of an entire faction of people who, in 14th century England, have country accents.

Click on that to see the full-size version. If you haven't seen the movie: Yes, they actually have cards at the beginning explaining who the people are and what they're supposed to be. We're almost to the furry bit, but it's worth going through this because it's just so weird. Clockwise, from top left: Robin Hood (Brian Bedford, British); Maid Marian (Monica Evans, British); Sir Hiss (Terry Thomas, hissy); Lady Kluck (Carole Shelley, Scottish); Alan-a-Dale (Roger Miller, country); The Sheriff of Nottingham (Pat Buttram, country); Friar Tuck (Andy Devine, country); and Prince John, (Peter Ustinov, British). So, of the nine main characters in that picture (which I got from Fanpop; thanks, Fanpop, for compiling all those pictures into a grid) we have four who actually sound like they're from the United Kingdom, three who sound like they're from the Deep South, and one guy who talks like a snake because he's a snake.

Setting Sir Hiss aside, that's still half the major cast being from a wildly different time and place. Pat Buttram is Mr. Haney from "Green Acres," for God's sake, and Roger Miller is the guy who sings "King of the Road." None of this was ever given any contextualization, either. It's just a thing that Disney did, in addition to plundering their other films for footage. So how did this slap-dash collage become the place where the basic tropes of furriness first unified? Truthfully, from what I can tell, this was largely an accident, as the Wikipedia page can explain:

"Initially, the studio considered a movie about Reynard the Fox. However, due to Walt Disney's concern that Reynard was an unsuitable choice for a hero, Ken Anderson used many elements from it in Robin Hood.

"Robin Allan writes in his book Walt Disney and Europe that 'Ken Anderson wept when he saw how his character concepts had been processed into stereotypes for the animation on Robin Hood.'"
So that's where it started. Walt decided that Reynard the Fox wasn't Disney material and the concept art was reprocessed into something else.


Disney is a cultural-economic monolith. Each of their animated features is conspicuously numbered, indicating the importance that each commands. Even if "Robin Hood" isn't the first Disney animated feature most people would name if pressed for a list, it would probably come up once they're past "The Lion King" and all the princess movies. Probably after "101 Dalmations" but before "Oliver and Company," but I'm only speculating.

As a Disney movie, "Robin Hood" will never go away. It's something each generation of American youth is routinely exposed to, like Playmobil people and chicken pox. People grow up, have kids, and reach for all the same things that they had when they were children. And some of those kids grow up to be furries. But why?

WikiFur (the furry wiki encyclopedia, as you probably guessed) says that furry fandom was born when the old "funny animal" genre expanded out of comedy and into drama. (Taking an additional step back, the original funny animal cartoons probably owe something in their popularity to the fact that furries are easier to draw than humans.)

"Robin Hood" is, in my mind, the first time anthropomorphic animals had been used visually in a dramatic situation, and every one of those points is necessary to the genesis of the fandom. The WikiFur "History" page linked above (and here) lists a number of works considered groundbreaking on the road to furdom, and "Robin Hood" is the first to meet all of them. While many other works contain multiple dimensions of furriness ("Kimba the White Lion" actually made it stateside several years earlier, and I only discount it because the characters aren't truly anthropomorphic), "Robin Hood" was the first to put them all together. The closest thing previous is this:

It's almost drama ("Well, what did you expect in an opera? A happy ending?"), it's visual, and it's anthro. But it's not really furry. Not even with the it's-awkward-but-we're-laughing sexuality that evokes virtually everything non-furries seem to think of furries. It also isn't actually a story, it's a parody of a story, existing exclusively as a mocking shadow of its subject. "Robin Hood" was more ambitious than that, although truth be told, "What's Opera, Doc?" might well be the better cartoon. After seven decades of sight gags, the funny animals finally got a chance to be something other than funny in "Robin Hood." The spectre of death is very real here, going against the keystone tenet that cartoons can't die, and the characters are shown with (generally) realistic emotions.

King John, the "Phony King of England" from the song, is, for instance, shown as a thumbsucking mama's boy trying desperately to overcome his own inadequacies through wanton brutality. That's not a three-dimensional character, but it's at least two-dimensional - earlier cartoon characters, like Daffy Duck, could only show frustration and fear. To move from frustration to overcompensation, and fear to self-conscious inadequacy, is akin (to switch analogies) to the step up from the three primary colors to the whole spectrum of secondary colors.


Ultimately my argument of significance is built entirely on circumstantial evidence, but I feel like it's pretty good circumstantial evidence. And the significance also extends to the way furries look. I'm too tired to upload any more pictures, but actually click on any of the ones I have. Compare Robin against Bugs Bunny up there. Bugs is lanky, with smooth fur. Robin looks more like an actual anthropomorphized version of the animal he is - his fur fluffs out in places, something that has gone on to be virtually universal in furry art.

But he looks more human than Bugs, too, and that's the last and biggest part of what it means to be furry. Furry fandom - and its detractors - are so distracted by the animal half of things that both sides forget that it's the humanity that people need to be able to relate to. The exception to this rule being the assignment of breasts. That's another, probably somehow longer, essay. For now, it's enough to say that the human element, while less visible, is not diminished.

The last visual component is also the first thing you see, even if you don't notice it anymore: Anthro characters wear clothes. Donald Duck, a true funny animal, doesn't wear pants. And while this has been a font of cultural ridicule for Donald, we also know he doesn't have anything to hide. He's just feathers down there, which is a great source of relief for me and God knows how many other people. But Maid Marian has slight secondary sexual characteristics, and her lady-in-waiting, Lady Kluck, has cleavage. These aren't animals anymore; they're naked under their clothes.

"Robin Hood" was the place where funny animals stopped having to be funny, but it's also the place where they stopped having to be all animal, too. TV Tropes, which has covered all this ground before, calls this evolution "Anthropomorphic Shift" but in this case the shift all took place prior to the start of the movie. "Robin Hood" made a story about humans and told it with animals - but, crucially, the animals are still largely human. And that, simply, is where everything finally came together.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Libraries I Have Blogged From

Here in Lebanon, New Hampshire, you get two basic choices for "library," and they are both ridiculous. The first is the Lebanon Public Library, which is built primarily out of marble and, even with a new wing, is so tiny that the books have to really be packed in there. This is the children's room:

See, that's what I imagine a children's room in a library looking like - a congenial mess. My wife and I spent a fair amount of time there because 1) usually there aren't actually that many children, and 2) the adult section had the one obligatory creepy guy who never left. Later on we found out that there was some extra space on the second floor, which you can get to with this elevator:

Which contains this phone:

The piece of paper taped to the handset says "Call 911."

and then be left alone to browse the Internet in peace.

Your second choice is the Kilton Public Library, which was finished in 2011 and feels remarkably like an airport concourse. This is what the inside of Kilton looks like:

That's... not actually that many books. "Spacious" isn't a word you normally associate with libraries, either. How many people did it take to bankroll such a majestic public structure?

This many:

Holy living fuck. That board is four feet wide and contains 526 plaques. BUT - does Kilton have this poster?

My wife says this is the "2000s-est thing ever." She's not wrong.

Nope, that's the proud property of Lebanon Public. This is too close to call. Let's go to the grid.

Criterion Kilton PL Lebanon PL
Sells coffee?
M + F
Unisex (2)
Bathroom smelled like weed smoke at least once?
Will sell you photocopy of NYT crossword?
Spells "public" as "pvblic"?
My Little Pony-themed Obama-style poster?
Donations board the size of a flatscreen TV?
Confernce room with moving walls?
Microfilm machine?
Share a website?

Clearly, this is still too close to call. Such are the bountiful options if you are in Lebanon, N.H., and need a place to read/blog/get high.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Water Is the Enemy

Water is the enemy.

Water permeates. Water corrodes. Water consumes.

To be fair, the fine folks at Isuzu and Concord, makers of my car and camper, respectively, did their best. Nineteen is old for a car. Forty-three is really old for a camper. And where things are starting to give out, water is starting to get in.

I don't know the full providence of Milo, the Isuzu, but I bought it in Vermont and it looks like it were used there its whole life. Vermonters use road salt, and it's hard to explain the ramifications of that to people who've never woken up to a thermometer reading -10 and whined "Not again!" to themselves. By lowering the freezing point of water, the ultimate need and ultimate enemy, road salt makes roads passable under circumstances they wouldn't otherwise be. But it comes at a terrible price.

Milo is rust-eaten to a degree that astounded the man who sold it to be and then ended up doing frame repair work. I backed into some steps with the trailer hitch and about ten pounds of rust fell off. Just handfuls of gravel-sized pieces of iron oxide.

Water is the enemy

The camper, a 1969 Woodsman Traveler, leaks. I'm not entirely sure from where - a path of delaminating wood indicates the back window - and it's making the board the mattress sits on wet. Laying down a tarp seems to help some, but only to a point.

Yesterday, I spent an hour and a half - I checked the clock - trying to get a taillight to come on because water had seeped into the casing. This was on the truck, and the taillight, after being cracked by a previous owner, was patched with some sort of rubbery epoxy. But water got in anyway and the taillight stopped working. After pulling out some (naturally) rust-eaten screws, I managed to liberate the old bulb and then had a certified hell of a time trying to get the new one to come on because one of the contact points in the socket was rusted over and in a hard-to-get place.

As this latitude, at this time of year, an hour and a half is most of your afternoon, and I spent mine trying to make a bulb come on so the cops wouldn't pull me over again. Because water is the enemy.