A Saint Patrick’s Day Spoof

A Saint Patrick’s Day Spoof

With the debut of Marvel’s “Iron Fist” today on NetFlix today, the pain of cultural appropriation has been in the minds, on the lips and at the fingertips of many people for the past few weeks. They bemoan yet another American man who goes to a foreign land (central Asia in this case) and not only succeeds at doing what the locals could not, he then comes back with those skills and becomes a hero to those in his native land. I can understand some folks’ derision of such an old trope, but even they overlook one egregious example.

“The Quiet Man” – a movie starring John Wayne and directed by John Ford

In this movie, a boy named Sean Thornton is born in Ireland but, after tragedy takes his father, he ends up in a foreign land, America, where he also loses his mother. These losses only serve to inspire the orphaned lad. He not only grows up, he grows up bigger and stronger than his fellows, eventually succeeding to high levels at the dominant fighting style of his new home (boxing). Then, tragedy strikes. Required to fight a man he liked, Thornton kills his friend in the ring. His skills now at their peak, he tries to give up the skills he acquired and returns home to Ireland.

Once there, he runs afoul of the villain of the film, a bully named Daniher, while falling in love with the bully’s sister, Kate. In the end, it is because of the lessons and skills he learned in America that he conquers the bully, wins the heart of his love, and basically becomes the hero of his new/old home.

It’s atrocious how Americans in this movie are seen as weaklings to be killed by the hero as a stepping stone on his journey where he learns our fighting arts and then leaves us for his home country, using our skills to win acclaim over there. Why couldn’t they have his story be an actual American born here, who then travels over there to share his wisdom and his strengths with people who need him? It’s cultural appropriation; that’s what it is.

So, I’m hoping you will join me in boycotting “The Quiet Man” this St Patrick’s Day, for its atrocious treatment and cultural appropriation of good Americans.

* * *

For those who can’t remember, spoof is humor. I *do* recognize cultural appropriation when I see it. I just wanted to play with the idea because most of the arguments I see against “Iron Fist” are the ones I bring up here, without people actually seeing an actual episode.

Responding to a Movie Review

At his blog, Keith R.A. DeCandido posted a review of the old movie “The Seven Per-Cent Solution” and how it ties into the infamous Sherlock Holmes story “The Final Problem.”

I wanted to reply that, and I did, but thought it was also a suitable entry for my own blog so I repeat it here:

Agree and Disagree

I agree that “The Final Problem” made no sense. I can’t speak to its writing since I haven’t read it in many years but I remember the whole ret-con aspect of it and thought it didn’t make much sense. And I agree that the modern need in stories for a villain to match the hero has led to Moriarty becoming a recurring villain, like Lex Luthor is for Superman. It doesn’t matter who else Superman fights and defeats, Lex is the standard by which all others are measured, and he ALWAYS returns. That way lies often weak storytelling but the same sort of comfort kids get from hearing the same fairy tales over and over: it’s a threat we know and one we know the hero will always defeat.

I disagree with your praise for “The Seven Per-Cent Solution” but I might have to give it another chance. When I watched it (also many years ago) my problem with it was that it didn’t feel like a Sherlock Holmes story. It felt like one of the many early- and mid-1970s deconstruction and disillusioned retellings of old stories. “Robin and Marian” (Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn) is another such film which takes the often thrilling adventure stories and makes the characters think everything they did was pointless. Bringing up “The Seven Per-Cent Solution” does make the last season of “Sherlock” more understandable to me, though. I also disliked its main story arc and the final episode, and now I think it’s because it reminded me of that movie.

Thanks for the insightful review.

Humans v. Aliens

In response to one of the Thursday Tangents over on Jane Lindskold’s blog, I added the following response.  I thought it worth sharing here.  The subject is humans fighting back against the aliens.

* * *

Three takes on humans fighting back from my memories:

First, an old short story by Lester Del Rey in which God has decided to side with aliens in an invasion of Earth … and may have bitten off more than He can chew: “For I Am a Jealous People.” Has one of the best final lines of a short story, if you’re in a martial sort of mood.

Second, a loose trilogy by Alan Dean Foster called “The Damned” in which humans, crazy as we are, are REALLY good at war and we become the footsoldiers desperately needed by an alliance of peaceable aliens (to whom fighting is almost psychologically impossible because all civilized spacegoing races become ultra-peaceful) who are fighting for survival against an alien race who can telepathically convince their “allies” (actually subject races) to fight with no such qualms. While I don’t consider it among Foster’s best work, it has some interesting ideas about war and warriors.

And third, Eric Frank Russell’s book, “Wasp.” I love the concept of this book: a wasp can destroy a car and 4 adults if it attacks the right point at the right time; so a spy can cause massive problems for the aliens with the right training and materials. It reads very much like a World War 2 spy thriller, but science fictional, and shows one human taking on an entire world of the enemy and bringing it close to chaos all on his own.

Twilight Homes

creepy-suburbia

Twilight Homes – 1000 words – 2017-01-31

I thought it was a shortcut.

Traffic on state highway 99 was backed up at the exchange onto state highway 111 and I knew it would be a good fifteen minutes just to make it through and I had a pint of Häagen-Dazs in the grocery bag. So, I cut into a new subdivision which my GPS assured me had access to the 111.

Except, upon entering the Twilight Homes development, I couldn’t find my way out.

I drove west as far as possible, only to end up in a cul-de-sac. So I drove north, but that just turned west and then south and then west again, leading to another dead end.

Okay. No panic yet.

I passed a woman jogging and rolled down the passenger window to ask directions. She ignored me.

Finally, I saw a real estate saleswoman standing outside an open house.

“Excuse me,” I said.

“Oh, hi!” she exclaimed. (That’s not writerly cleverness. She actually exclaimed everything she said. It was creepy.) “You must be the new addition to our little community!”

“No,” I said. “I got lost. Now I’m just looking for the right road out of here.”

“Oh, no one ever leaves!” she exclaimed. “As we here at Twilight Homes like to say, once you’re here, you’re here forever!”

“What?”

“We have a nice little two-bedroom cottage for you! Quite reasonable!”

“What do you mean no one ever leaves?”

This time, I saw the fractured cheerfulness behind her eyes as she said, “Just that! Once you become a part of our community, you’re part of it for the rest of your life!”

“See ya,” I said, driving away.

“I’ll be right here with the paperwork!” she exclaimed after me.

I spent the next three hours cross-sectioning the entire subdivision, making a physical map on the back of my grocery receipt and eating my ice cream before it melted away. I found no way out. I also saw no other cars moving, and few of any kind. No one would speak to me. Eventually, I passed the saleslady again.

“What’s with this place?” I asked her. “No one’ll talk and I can’t find the way I came in, or any way out.”

“Twilight Homes is a close-knit community!” she exclaimed. “Once they get to know you, you’ll be visiting each other for backyard barbecues in no time!”

“There has to be a way out of here.” I tried logic. “How do you get the food for the barbecue, or the money to pay for it?”

“Oh, people learn to work from home and everything gets delivered by drone-drop! We have the best wi-fi network in the country! Why would anyone ever want to leave?!”

“But how did I get in here if there’s no road connecting to the outside?”

“Pshaw! This place is a marvelous little secret and only a select few ever find it! Come inside and let me show you the granite countertops! Every house in Twilight Homes has them!”

I drove away again and parked in a little dead-end drive with no houses, where it looked like they thought about putting in another cul-de-sac and then just stopped and decided not to. I slept in my car that night, poorly, figuring I’d follow the locals on their way to work in the morning.

Except, in the morning, there were still no cars going to work. I circled the edges of the subdivision on my map, to see if I’d missed anything. I hadn’t, so I switched tactics. I parked my car on what I figured to be the southernmost edge of the property and walked along it slowly, looking for either the 99 or the 111 in the distance so I could cross the space on foot. What I found were dense thornbushes and deep ravines from a local stream, nothing crossable. I moved clockwise around the edges and found similar blocks on all sides. One expanse had a tall soundblocking wall which I climbed (with a great deal of difficulty, being twenty years past my prime and with the sedentary life not helping at all). On the other side of the wall? Another ravine, this one deeper than the others.

Near the end of the day, unwilling to spend another night in my car, I drove back to the cottage where the saleslady was waiting exactly as she had been the previous day, only a different colored blouse indicating any change.

“Well, I can see you’ve had a thorough look at the subdivision! Are you ready to see your new home?!”

Surrendering, I said, “Show me.”

That was eighteen months ago. I make my money selling my writing online: stories, articles, essays and whatnot. It’s enough to make my house payments and keep me fed. I can order anything I want online, from clothes to books to food. I even, finally, got a dog. I finally had the time for one. I call him Number 6. I tell the neighbors it’s a joke because my first 5 pets were hamsters whose lives were so short, I called them by numbers to avoid getting too attached, and it stuck. My neighbors invite me to dinners and barbecues and, to be neighborly, I invited them back from time to time.

I don’t make waves. About two months after my arrival, there was a guy who couldn’t fit in. He lasted about a month, then he suddenly died. Heart attack, according to the mortician who lives four doors down. Sure. An athletic 23-year-old died of a heart attack only one month after getting caught here. So, I smile and play my part like the real estate lady. Her name is Jenny. Sometimes, she spends the night when the loneliness gets too much for her.

I know you don’t believe me. This, of course, is just another one of my stories that I send out into the world. Believe me or not, but listen to my warning. Never, under any circumstances, enter the Twilight Homes.

* * *

Afterword: I got lost in a subdivision trying to take a shortcut. I started driving, encountering blind turns and cul-de-sacs, getting more and more turned around, and my writer brain went “Idea!” I eventually got out (as far as you know).

Photo Credit: blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2009/07/chanhassen_is_n.php but I played with the colors.

This will be my last story for a while. I need to focus on other things for a little bit.

Inhuman Resources

6036897367_fa82d9ba74_b

Inhuman Resources – 100 words – 2017-01-30

“Boo!”

“Ahh! Bob! You’re a ghost!”

“Yeah, I am. I told you I was dying and needed to be put on leave.”

“Yeah, sorry about that. Look, I had to fire you. Too many sick days.”

“The company’s refusing to pay life insurance benefits to my wife and kids.”

“Well, yeah. You weren’t working for us any more. Only employees get insurance. Company policy.”

“They’re homeless now.”

“Geez. I’m sorry. Wish I could help.”

“You will. You see, I’m not homeless.”

“Really? Where do ghosts live?”

Bob’s ghost possessed his former manager. “Hello, roomie. We have a file to fix.”

* * *

Afterword: I’m sick today. I’ll probably have to call in sick tomorrow, which gets put into my HR file. This story came from that.

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pocait/6036897367

 

 

Nyctophobia

sun

Nyctophobia – 100 words – 2017-01-29

“The Sun doesn’t exist!”

“Now, Wendy, of course the Sun exists. It’s right there.”

“It’s an illusion!” Wendy cried. “It only seems to exist if people believe it’s there. If they stop believing, we’ll all die.”

“Well, people do believe in it, Wendy, so why are you worried?”

“The Phaeton I probe. It’s supposed to dive into the sun to take readings.”

“And?”

“And it’s going to prove the Sun isn’t real!”

The doctor sighed. He prescribed a sedative for Wendy, then set his DVR to record the realtime transmissions from Phaeton I. It was going to be quite a show.

* * *

Afterword:
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/4923566097
The title means “fear of the dark.”
The story was inspired by another @MagicRealismBot tweet:
https://twitter.com/MagicRealismBot/status/825525093069516800
A baroness discovers that the Sun does not exist, and is driven insane.

I eliminated the baroness, made Wendy not insane but frantic, and wondered: what if she was telling the truth but a scientific probe was about to try to take readings from a Sun that isn’t there?
Sleep tight.

Piece of Mind

home-accessories-sculptures-care-free-frog-garden-statue

Piece of Mind – 100 words – 2017-01-28

Elisabeth Lake didn’t really believe the locket she sought contained part of a little girl’s mind.

In the darkness, Lissa advanced through the small yard to the kitschy fountain with the frog centerpiece.  Silently, she moved the frog to the right, revealing a silver locket hidden beneath.

The giggle she heard as she pocketed it gave her pause, but she was a professional. And a mind, even just a piece of one, was priceless.

That giggle, though.

Lissa knew that she would deliver the mind.  She was a professional.

But that wouldn’t stop her from stealing it for herself.  Soon.

* * *

Afterword: Elisabeth Lake is one of my recurring characters. She presented herself when I saw this tweet from @MagicRealismBot:
https://twitter.com/MagicRealismBot/status/825011679062749184
A tiny little girl’s mind is in a Dutch garden. A king plots to steal it.

Photo Credit:
http://www.globaltornado.me/sacjsh2of4x1spz-home-accessories-sculptures-care-free-frog-garden-statue.html

Memorial

unknown

Memorial – 100 words – 2017-01-27

Sometimes, being Chief Conjurer of Oldbridge, Massachusetts is like being a pro referee. You’re expected to get it right instantly, while everyone else gets to check the replay.

Fifteen years ago today, I got it wrong.

That was the day I accused a beautiful witch of trying to enslave me. Only after she’d killed herself did I learn the truth. The true culprit will spend ten thousand years dying. The woman I accused? She loved me. I never knew.

Now, every year, on this date, an inscription appears in the sky over Oldbridge: “Remember me.”

I do, Aishling. I do.

* * *

Afterword: I had to force this one down to drabble size. The first draft clocked in at nearly 160 words. (It’s that opening line. It uses a lot of words, but I didn’t want to lose it for a Chief Conjurer story, even in a drabble.) The source of the idea for this tale was a tweet by @MagicRealismBot. The story idea in my head actually started out much kinder and quite a bit happier than what eventually got written, but I guess I was in a sad mood in the end. Here’s the original tweet: https://twitter.com/MagicRealismBot/status/824649267197259776
On the night of the full moon an inscription appears in the sky above the Garden of Eden. It reads: “I hope you remember me.”

Photo Credit:
https://pixabay.com/p-984050/?no_redirect

 

A political post

This will, I hope, be my last political post for a while.  Over on the blog of Daniel Keys Moran, a science fiction writer whose work I enjoy, things have become and stayed very political for a while, and the one path of the discussion turned to whether or not voting for Clinton in a state which was a stronghold for Clinton or Trump really mattered.  This was my reply:

* * *

I currently live in Texas, a state which was going to vote for Cruz in the Republican primary and, after he lost, for Trump in the general election, no matter what.

I voted for Bernie in the primary, not because I thought he could win, but in the hope enough votes for him might convince the Democratic party to move a little more left again, to be a little more pro-people instead of being quite as pro-corporation as they are now. Didn’t exactly work, but I did what I could.

In the general election, I thought seriously about voting for a third party candidate, since I knew Texas would go for the Republican, no matter who it was. Some folks I talked to refused to vote at all, since they believed their vote wouldn’t matter. I also talked with socialists who refused to vote for Trump or Clinton because of their policies. When I told them I was voting for Clinton to run up her overall vote total to help in the “mandate” question when she won (I really thought she was going to win), they scorned me and said the GOP would ignore any “mandate” and said I should vote for who I wanted, whether they had a realisitc chance or not.

I’m glad I voted for Clinton because it turns out that running up her vote total apparently has turned the President into an idiot chihuahua barking at imaginary mice (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/25/us/politics/trump-voting-fraud-false-claim-investigation.html?_r=0). Meanwhile, the GOP has no mandate and they know it, which is why they keep trying to pass rules to hide what they’re doing (gag orders on whole departments being the favorite since their attempt to hide their actual votes on things was prevented).

Did my vote matter? Individually, maybe not. But me and the millions like me who voted for Clinton in “stronghold” states where the outcome was a foregone conclusion one way or the other seem to have had some effect after all.

The Perfect Stone

united_states-mexico-border-wall-progreso-lakes-texas-jpeg

The Perfect Stone – 701 words – 2017-01-26

It was a Wednesday at the Caveat Emptor Curiosity Emporium when he walked in. Orange-ish skin, yellow-ish hair that looks fake, too long tie, small hands, I knew who he was.

I should note at this point that CECE moves around quite a bit. Just because the shop was in that city on that particular Wednesday, it doesn’t mean the shop would be there again. Though, with the available clientele there, I’m pretty sure CECE shows up in the area quite frequently.

Anyway, he came in that day, all self-important.

Well, first, the men in suits came in and tried to grab all of the weapons off the shelves. Our anti-shoplifting mechanisms are second to none, however, and none of the weapons moved.

“Store employees and customers who might actually want to buy items only,” I told them.

They then searched me quite thoroughly, although whether looking for weapons or looking for a remote to release the weapons, I’m not sure. I let them have their fun for sixty seconds, then said, “Buy something or get out, before our store security kicks in.” They glared at me for another ten seconds, then left.

Then the man came into the shop.

He looked around for a few minutes, then asked, “How much for everything?”

“That’s not how this works,” I told him. “We sell what you need, not what you merely want. Nobody could possibly need the whole shop. You came in because there’s something you desire, something that you need.”

“I want…. No. I need to build a wall.”

“So go to that big box retailer of building supplies.”

“The wall has to be special.”

“Ah. You need a foundation stone for the wall.”

“Yes! A foundation stone! I need the perfect stone for my perfect wall. It’ll be great.”

“Foundation stones, we have. Aisle three. Follow me.” As I led him to aisle three, I asked, “So, what’s the wall for?”

“To make America safe.”

I stopped. “How’s a wall going to do that in a world with nuclear weapons?”

“Safe from illegal immigrants.” I stared at him and he continued, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

“I see,” I said, and I did.

I brought him to the right section and pointed at the shelves. “We have stones from many of the world’s greatest walls.”

“Nobody builds walls better than me, believe me. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. Mark my words.”

“Right,” I said. “We have stones from the Great Wall of China…”

“We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country.”

“Ahem … the Berlin Wall …”

“I think Germany made one very catastrophic mistake, and that was taking all of these illegals.”

“… stones from Troy, from Hadrian’s Wall, the Wailing Wall, …”

“I’m going to be the greatest wall producer that God has ever created.”

I stopped and said, “You want a wall that would require an act of God to knock down?”

“Yes! Exactly!”

Nodding, I picked up one particular stone. “This is the one you need.”

He held it in his tiny hands and I could see the burning need. “I’m going to take this in the national interest. Because it’s to protect America. Your store will get to say you provided the foundation stone for the Wall. Right? Okay.” With that, he walked out of the store.

After he left, the two shrunken heads in aisle two piped up. “The boss isn’t going to be happy he left without paying,” said the one I called Stanley.

“True,” the one I called Livingstone replied, “but I’m just glad he’s gone. One of those men in suits tried to steal me.”

“Take it easy, guys,” I said. “I don’t think the owner will mind too much.”

“Oh yeah?” Stanley said, disdain clear in his voice.

“Why’s that?” Livingstone added, only slightly less derisive.

“Because that was a piece from the walls of Jericho,” I said, “and you know the boss has been trying to unload a whole crate of those divinely blessed rams’ horns from Joshua’s army. I think we’re going to have a lot of buyers real soon.”

* * *

Afterword: Yesterday, the President signed an Executive Order to build a wall on the border between the United States and Mexico. I decided to have a little fun with him and the whole wall idea, and for that kind of pointed humor, the Caveat Emptor Curiosity Shop seemed like an idea setting. Note: several of the quotes from the customer are actual quotes, some only slightly modified, from the President. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out which are real quotes and which are the creation of the author.

Photo: The already existing wall on the Texas/Mexico border. Photo Credit:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:United_States-Mexico-border-wall-Progreso-Lakes-Texas.jpeg