Snakenami! Or, Snakes on a Wave!

Hollywood has given the greenlight to a sequel to Sharknado, but I was thinking, instead of just doing sharks in a tornado again, why not branch out and do other combinations of predators and disasters?

Here are the requirements:

1) The title must be a combination of a predator and a natural disaster.
2) It must star at least one 90s or 80s has-been.
3) The less scientific plausibility, the better.


Snakenami! Starring Dean Cain and Shannon Doherty:

Premise: Offshore drilling destabilizes an underwater fault, triggering a series of quakes which in turn causes several tsunamis. One passes over the Amazon, picking up thousands of anacondas. It also destroys an illegal chemical dump, releasing tons of an experimental growth hormone into the Atlantic. Another tsunami carries the now giant constrictors to Miami. It’s up a Coast Guard officer (Cain) and a university herpetologist (Doherty) to evacuate the city’s flooded streets before the gargantuan snakes kill everyone at the Miami Sound Machine Reunion concert.

What’s your idea?

Press Conference of Shame

This week, Anthony Weiner held the traditional press conference of shame. In his case, this is his second relating to the sexting scandal. As is traditional in the press conference of shame, his wife, Huma Abedin, stood by his side. She played the role of “The Good Wife” very well. I have to wonder what was going through her mind as she stood in front of all those cameras and microphones. What was she thinking about as he humiliated both of them in front of the whole world?

Was she thinking about how just last year, she was a high ranking aide in the State Department? Did she pause to think about how she’s a close confident of someone who could very well be the first woman president (One who has had her own share of public marital problems to deal with)? Did she wonder, “Why am I hanging with this schmuck, who already blew it as a Congressman and whose chances of becoming mayor of America’s largest city just fell to zero? In a few years, I could be on a short list for a cabinet position, why am I chaining myself to this narcissistic idiot?”?

Just once, in one of these press conferences of shame, I’d love to see the wife kick him in the balls and walk off. I guarantee, no one would stop her.

The Shambling Guide to New York City

The Shambling Guide to New York CityThe Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like urban fantasy.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I like the idea of urban fantasy. I like the idea of a secret hidden world within our world where magic is real, monsters live among us, and only a select few know about it.

What I don’t like is much of what is published under the heading of “urban fantasy,” most of which is really paranormal romance. Yes, I’m talking about Twilight. Vampires are predators who feed on the living, not sparkly emo stalkers obsessed with high school girls eighty years younger than they are. I read one of the Sookie Stackhouse novels that the TV series “True Blood” is based on and the less said about my opinion of that, the better.

That’s why it’s such a pleasure to find something in urban fantasy that isn’t about whiny, co-dependent relationships with a vampire who is little more than a human with an eating disorder. Mur Lafferty has been a fixture of the podcasting world pretty much since there have been podcasts. She’s been doing her writing show, “I Should Be Writing” for several years now, so it’s great to see her long overdue major press publication.

The cover art alone tells you that this is something different from most urban fantasies. It eschews the leather-clad heroine with a tramp stamp holding a weapon in the moonlight. Instead, we see a professional woman walking down the street with various creatures in the background.

The protagonist of “The Shambling Guide to New York City” is Zoe, a travel writer. After a disaster of an office romance left her employed and forced to move, Zoe lands a job editing a travel book about New City. The catch: The book isn’t aimed a humans, but the various vampires, demons, fey, and zombies that visit the Big Apple. Office politics take on a very different meaning when half her coworkers would just as soon eat her as take writing assignments from her. Managing a writing staff consisting of zombies, vampires, a death goddess and an incubus (there are no sexual harassment laws covering her new job) is challenging enough, but when the new HR director turns out to be golem made from the head of an ex-boyfriend, Zoe starts to think that maybe someone at the publishing company is out to get her.

“The Shambling Guide” is a fun, quirky book. Lafferty balances light humor and dark horror with a skill well above that of most first-time novelist. Zoe avoids many of the stereotypes that plague urban fantasy heroines. She doesn’t waste her time mooning over unrequited love or overcompensating for deep insecurities. Zoe is smart, clever, and assertive while clearly aware that she has step in over her head. If you’re tired of emo vampires, pick this up.

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Anti-Intellectualism in Politics

A people’s history of Mitch Daniels – The Maddow Blog.

Former Indiana governor and current president of Purdue University recently got himself into a dust-up over what text books are appropriate to use in history. Reports are coming out that as both governor and university president, Daniels has tried to keep to certain text books from being used for credit in the classroom. He seems to have a particular vendetta against the writings of Howard Zinn, whom he accuses of promoting “liberal propaganda”. At first, it seemed like he was just focused on keeping the book out of K-12 classrooms, but latter reports revealed he has been trying to keep out of Indiana’s universities as well. Daniels has reportedly called the book “crap”, “Anti-American”, and has said that it “should not be accepted for any credit by the state.”

Now, there are two levels here. One is whether schools, in particular K-12, should be including controversial works in their reading lists. The other is whether these works should be critically examined at the college and university level. This isn’t like cases of trying to wedge creationism into science class. Creationism is not science. It can’t even be considered pseudo-science. It’s just a bunch of wishful thinking by people who refuse to look at the evidence. But in the case of students reading a text like Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” Daniels is objecting not because of any particular factual inaccuracies, but simply because he doesn’t like the political interpretation of the work. And that’s where he doesn’t just bump into the issue of academic freedom, but collides head on with it. The purpose of scholarship, especially in the social sciences, is not tell students to memorize a series of facts, but to examine the ideas that helped shaped the course of history. The fact that some of those ideas are controversial is all the more reason why they should be subjected to critical examination. Perhaps such an examination may be too advanced for K-12 schools that have to conform to a state mandated curriculum, but examining these works in the university setting is the very essence of critical thought. I’d rather have a student read the book and give an intelligent rebuttal for why she disagrees with it than not having been exposed to the ideas in the first place. Ideas, like life, that are not examined and critiqued are worthless, regardless of how precious they may seem to those who hold. If Mitch Daniels fears that a book will tear down the fabric of American society, than that speaks far more about his lack of faith in students than it does about the strength of the ideas presented in the book.

But maybe I’m wrong. Either way, I think I’ll add Howard Zinn to my reading list.