Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Rescuers Down Under series I'd like to see.

Ideally I'd like it to be a spin off following Cody's adventures, but the pieces you'd actually need to do the thing are generic enough that it wouldn't actually have to be in the same intellectual property and could be done as something wholly original.

I mentioned that I'd like to see such a series in the thread about The Rescuers Down Under.  It's worth noting that the first 20% of that movie is all Cody, the Rescuers of the title aren't called in until the evil guy with a shotgun and monitor lizard sidekick captures Cody.

We get to see Cody in action, and we get to see what Cody does.  Cody wakes up to a strange sound, puts on his shirt, grabs his pocket knife, packs sandwiches, and runs off.  He's joined by three small birds, which I think are laughing kookaburras and tells them he knows, wakes up Nelson the short beaked echidna, and three wombats and finally reaches Faloo, a female kangaroo who is "sounding the call" by blowing into a hollowed out tree that serves as an emergency siren type thing.

In other words we see him gathering his crew for a job.  When he arrives he asks, "Who's caught this time," which tells you what he does.  He frees animals that have been caught by poachers.

As it turns out, his crew is useless.  The eagle with a 40 foot wingspan he's being called on to save is high up on a plateau and none of his friends can scale it.  The birds could presumably fly up it, but once there there's not a lot they could do.  Their beaks aren't ideal for cutting rope, which leaves Cody and his pocket knife to do the rescue alone.

He succeeds, though in the process the eagle, who panicked at the sight of the knife accidentally knocks him off the cliff.  She saves him, of course, and he's treated to an amazing flight.  Then on his way back he sees a captured mouse but doesn't recognize that it's bait for a trap, he sets off the trap by freeing the mouse, and that's what allows the poacher to catch him and have the plot of the movie really be kicked off.  (The poacher kidnapped him because he wants the eagle and figures out that Cody knows where the eagle is.)

I'd like to see more of the adventures of Cody, or someone like Cody.

Cody is presented as normal except that he can understand some animals.*  His exploits aren't based on any kind of superpower but based on a desire to help, and possibly a lack of a developed sense of self preservation.

He's capable enough but doesn't always stop to think** and for all his impressiveness he's still just a little kid.

He's an ideal protagonist, basically.  He has flaws that make sense and could cause him serious trouble, he has the compassion necessary to drive him to do the things the audience will approve of, he's got courage but not so much that he doesn't show fear.  And he helps cute animals.  What more could you ask for?


The series that I'd like to see is this:

An animated show, with the look of traditional animation,*** which follows Cody (or someone like him) as he and his team work on an ongoing basis to help animals in need.  And the giant eagle is a must.  Because awesome.  Because the kid flying on the eagle's back was the stuff dreams are made of.  Because giant fracking eagle you can ride.

Eagles are not a taxi service, but when the giant eagle is a close friend who you've been through matters of life and death with sometimes it'll give you a lift and that is awesome.  I mean that.  There's some awe right there.  In fact, there's probably enough that you can take some if you're low on awe and it won't be missed because so much of the awe will remain.

And this show would age in real time.  Not second by second or even week by week, but for every year that passes the human protagonist would grow one year older.  (Aproximately.  Scheduling and such.)  You'd watch as the protagonist grew up and faced challenges and such and had to fit, "I run off into the wild to rescue animals," in with the growing responsibilities of real life.

Also, you know how I've been referring to the protagonist as "he" and similar pronouns?  That's a lie.  The protagonist would be transfemale and so part of growing up would be realizing that and transitioning.  And probably taking flack for that, though it depends on how isolated the protagonist's home is from civilization, how accepting local civilization is, and such factors.

Watching the show you'd see as the apparent boy went from being possibly ashamed, to accepting herself, to out, and as she grew up into a young woman.  And you'd see major milestones in her life, like when she got too big for the eagle to carry her and had to take up hang-gliding instead.  (She's never going to give up flying.)

Also, in terms of inclusiveness, while definitely want to think of child friendly and lack of nightmare fuel when it comes to animal mating habits, at least some realism ought to carry over so we should see happy gay couples, individuals who mutually agree that they have no intention of a lifetime commitment, polyamory, and the various other non-nightmare fuel things we see with wild animals.

I mean, seriously, if there aren't lesbian birds in a long running show with talking animals then something has gone wrong somewhere.  I'm not saying that the animals should talk about sex, far from it, but it's not as if it's ever been difficult to make it clear that an on screen couple is a couple.

Mixed relationships would also likely come up.  Sadly they've both passed away, as have various humans who knew them, but I will always remember the donkey (her name was Arizona) and llama (his name was Xanadu) who loved each other.  They were perfectly content to live in separate fields, but they flat out refused to leave one another's sight.  Their stable had to be built so that it straddled the fence between the two fields, otherwise they wouldn't use it.

And that's to say nothing of adoption.  (This is domesticated animals, but still: did you know ducks can suckle?  There is nothing in their biology that would lead you to believe that they could, but it turns out that when a cat adopts ducklings the fact that ducklings seek out warmth and food has, at least once, led to the ducklings suckling on their adoptive mother alongside the biological children of said mother.)

Actually, one of the things that annoyed me as the Ice Age movies went on is that they seemed to have a "keep it in the species" rule for romantic love.  In the movies different species are treated more like different races than anything else so you get unfortunate implications like whoa.

Pairing Manny and Ellie allowed them to make the point that people should be together based on wanting to be, not based on needing to be.  But then sticking Diego with Shira, and the fact that no where else is there a couple that crosses species lines, really makes it seem like the rule is that you can be family with anyone, but screw you you're only allowed to romantically love the people you're expected to romantically love.

I assume that part of this is that, while adoption does happen (once) in the movies, they want the possibility of biological children.  But that still doesn't leave me satisfied with what they're doing.

Animals are fully capable of surrogacy.  Studies on lesbian birds, for example, have shown that when they want a family one or both of them (I don't know of any studies on poly lesbian birds) will go off, find a willing male, get impregnated, and then come back so that they can lay eggs and raise a family together.


* Rules are never really laid out in The Rescuer's series and there's definitely a large helping of the rule of fun in how things are played.  This much is definitely true:
1 All animals are presented as being able to understand human language.
2 Some animals are presented as being able to speak.

I think a big part of the division in The Rescuers series is predation.  For the most part, good or bad predators can't speak.  They can understand speech but have to communicate to speaking beings via tone and body language.

But there are exceptions.  From the first move, a house cat can speak (does domestication matter?).  In both movies albatrosses can speak.  In the second movie a frill necked lizard (diet consists of insects and small vertebrates) can speak.

** He freed the mouse while the mouse was trying to warn him it was a trap and not pausing for a second to think why a mouse would be tied up in the wilderness, that's what got him caught.

Then he made his situation worse when he insisted on saying that the poacher was a poacher instead of playing along with the poacher's lie that the trap was a hole dug by the poacher's sidekick (a monitor lizard.)  Telling someone, basically, "You're guilty and I'm going to try to get you arrested," while in the middle of nowhere is not exactly smart.

*** Using computers to do things you can't do in traditional animation while still having it look like traditional animation is where the blended style of The Rescuers Down Under went right.

Frankly the fact that we, 24 years later, still rarely see things that have the look of traditional animation while having the depth and possible camera mobility afforded by a three dimensional environment is just disappointing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ugh, money.

So I forgot to do the regular reminder that I have a donate button and I love when people use it this month, but I also figured that didn't matter much because the major money hump was over and things should be relatively good until I have to factor in tuition and whatnot.

What I'd not exactly forgotten about but more lost track of was that a while back, a little over six months it would appear, I used credit to punt the need to pay a bunch of money into the future.  The way it works is that if you pay in full within a certain period then it's done, but if you don't then interest is retroactively charged from the starting date.  Which means that if I don't pay what remains (which appears to be most of it even though I could have sworn I made payments that should have gone toward it) by Sunday, retroactive usury will attack me.

Given that what remains is $1,351.29 I'm guessing I'll be attacked by retroactive usury.  Which isn't actually as bad as I at first thought it was, remember that only six months have passed and interest rates are annual.  That said, it's still bad.

So, yeah.

And then donations come into my thinking.  It's easy to let such thoughts dominate one's thoughts.  Is there one person who might donate $1,000 out there?  Are there ten who would donate $100?  Are there 100 who would donate $10?  Each of those alone would basically solve the problem, and it's easy to fall down the rabbit hole of thinking what would be needed (well if there are two people willing to pay $200 and three people willing to pay $100, and five people willing to pay $20...)

But the dwelling on the matter doesn't stop there because then there's the question of getting within range.  The day it needs to be paid by in order to avoid interest is the same day I get money for the month and via the magic of semi-instant online banking I think I could pay, say, half of it by Sunday but that would leave me with nothing to pay the expenses of the next month with.  So ... um.  If I took that leap I'd basically be counting on people to donate because without them I couldn't pay the bills.  But the bills for that month aren't that much so ... thinking about the situation is like a black hole, it sucks up brainpower and thinking time that could be better spent elsewhere.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Various thoughts on The Rescuers Down Under

In the year 1990 Disney and Pixar teamed up for the very first time to produce the film The Rescuers Down Under, a rare sequel that surpassed the original in more or less every possible way.  It was a blending of traditional animation and computer techniques that sometimes worked (the way a seemingly traditionally animated scene simulated a radial dolly shot was awesome, for example) and sometimes failed (the New York skyline sucked, for example.)

While I am inclined to gush with praise of the movie, that praise comes with caveats.  It has been said that Frozen is the most feminist, and most progressive, movie Disney has ever made.  Frozen is not a particularly feminist or progressive movie.  It's just that other Disney movies are less so.  Keep in mind that Frozen came out in 2013, and The Rescuers Down Under came out in 1990.  So, with Frozen in mind, imagine something 23 years less progressive and 23 years less feminist.

I'm not going to make a defense of where it falls flat.  It's a Disney movie from 1990.  That should give you a good idea of where its problems lie, and one can either enjoy the work in spite of them, or not.

I have a suspicion that one of the reasons it is so much better than the original is because of sexism.  The Rescuers passes the Bechdel test.  The Rescuers Down Under does not.  The reason is quite simple.  Both involve a kidnapped human child.  In the first movie the child and the kidnapper are both female.  In the second movie the child and the kidnapper are both male.

In theory this should mean nothing.  The same stories could certainly be told if we gender-flipped the villains and children.  In practice, though, I think there reason that Cody from the second film is a much more interesting character than Penny from the first is that, as a boy, the filmmakers allowed Cody do things.

Cody is kidnapped because, basically, he's a rescuer himself.  He is not a mouse who is part of an international society based in the UN Building, called the Rescue Aid Society, dedicated to never letting a call for help go unanswered.  But he is someone who rescues.  The movie begins with him hearing a signal that means someone needs help.  It turns out that he's got a whole team of his own.  Three birds, three wombats, a short beaked echidna named "Nelson", and a kangaroo named "Faloo".

Cody asks Faloo who's been trapped and she tells him it's someone he doesn't know, a giant (as in 40 foot wing span this exists in dreams but sadly not in reality) Eagle named "Marahute".

As a result the film starts with Cody scaling a cliff to get to the spot where she's been trapped and cutting her free before the poacher who set up the trap can catch her.

He ends up getting kidnapped because Marahute gave him a feather (and an awe inspiring flight) in thanks and when he saved a mouse that was being used as bait he fell into a poacher's trap himself.  When the poacher saw the feather he took Cody in order to make Cody tell him were Marahute was.

The first Rescuers starts with Penny dropping a message in a bottle into a bayou in hopes it will get her help.  Why is she there?  Because she's the only one small enough to fit into the hole and reach the pirate treasure.  If you just called bullshit thrice over, you're not alone.*  But the point isn't how much sense it makes, the point is that the first movie starts with a young girl making a desperation move that involves minimal effort and the second movie involves a small boy doing an epic feat of awesome altruism.

It's possible that the reason one child was mostly passive (though points to her in that she did try to escape on her own, failed though that attempt was) and the other was very active had nothing to do with gender.  It's possible.  But I'm guessing it's not true.


What I said before about the difference between Bechdel pass and Bechdel fail being a result of the kidnappee and the kidnapper one gender or the other shows how male skewed the casts are.  Ignoring the kidnapped and the kidnapper, I count two females with speaking parts in the first movie (the female lead, a mouse, and a native housewife, a muskrat, who lives near where the kidnapped girl is being held) and three in the second (same female lead, Cody's mother, who speaks in one scene, and Faloo, who speaks in one scene.)

That's ... not good.


The movie doesn't have all that much going on in it.  It's only 78 minutes long, and if it were up to me about 14 of those minutes would be tossed because in my opinion they don't contribute much, and if anything they detract from the movie.  The credits take four minutes, so we're talking about just about an hour flat of content I think is useful.

But that's not why it doesn't have much going on in it.

Yes, an hour long movie can only fit half as much content as a two hour movie, but in this case I think the more important point is how the content is handled.

The movie tells a story, of course, and it's a decent story, but it's more about showing you a different world.  You see things through the eyes of mice who ride fireflies (don't think about physics too much here) and the eyes of a boy who is given a chance to ride above the clouds on the back of a giant majestic eagle.

It's about taking you to a new world, and looking at the world you know from a different perspective.  The sequence where mice transmit a message from Australia to the RAS headquarters in New York is just plain fun (and involves a mouse transmitting station built out of an abandoned plane.)  One even gets the sense that if they'd shown more stops along the way** each would have shown the the local mice ingeniously, and uniquely, MacGyvering their own communications system from human refuse and whatnot.

And there are just neat details, like the clocks on the wall showing what time it is in various locations being wrist watches because they're mice so a wrist watch is clock sized for them.

What it amounts to is something that's very, very fun.


That's the big thing.  24 years later it's still fun.


So, changes.  I basically always talk about things I'd do differently; I see no reason now should be an exception.

The voice cast was great.  George C. Scott was perfect as the villain, for example.  Thus if I were doing it there would have to be a time machine involved because I want the original cast.

A movie made today would be longer which means room for more depth, more characters, more everything.

Before I get to that, I've already mentioned that there were things I'd like to see less of.  The big one was Wilbur in the hospital.  It basically went for the idea that hospitals are torture chambers.  Wilbur wasn't released, he escaped.  His bad back being knocked back into alignment in the process.

Wilbur being incapacitated for a while worked well with the plot (if he weren't the mice would just fly to the bad guy's place and we wouldn't be able to see their journey) but it doesn't come off as BECAUSE PLOT.  In fact, it doesn't come off as that remotely.  If all I could do was cut then I'd just cut most of it so that what we saw would basically be his entrance and when he finally left.

If I were doing things my way then I'd just handle it differently.  Wilbur could still be terrified of the mice at the hospital (set up in an abandoned military hospital truck, if you're wondering) but he'd be wrong to be terrified.  He'd find out that the doctor really did have his best interests at heart and be healed by medicine not random slapstick.

Ms. Bianca is handled badly in general.  Not the character herself, for the most part, rather how everyone reacts to her.  The reaction is basically thus: "OH MY GOD PRETTY FACE!" followed by trying to please her or trying to court her.  This is something that carried over from the original.

Something that, thankfully, didn't carry over from the original was the nature of her relationship with Bernard.  In the original the two fell in love because ... well because.  There was no reason other than the fact she was the female lead and he was the male one.  Apparently simply being in close proximity equals love.

This movie, on the other hand, seems to realize that you can't marry a man mouse you just met.  Time has passed since the first movie.  The first movie was Bianca's first mission and she took Bernard, then a janitor, along when people didn't think she should go off on her own.  In the time between the two movies the two have risen to be the top agents of the RAS and Bernard is the USA's delegate to the society.  Even if it happened off camera, they had a long getting to know you period.

Bernard is ready to propose, and Bianca is ready to accept.  And then starts him attempting to propose.  This part I don't like.

First the ring falls out through a hole in his pocket and he's left crawling around a high class mouse restaurant chasing after it.  Then the mission gets in the way of him saying anything.  Then, when Jake (their self-appointed local guide) finds out the two are not yet married, Jake always has them transported such that Jake is next to Bianca and Bernard is in the back.  The one time they're alone Bernard (having realized the traditional ring in a box format is less likely to fall through pocket holes than a bare ring) tries to propose but is interrupted by Jake's return which, since it involves a snake that might like to eat them, leaves Bernard in soaking wet.  It's only when everything is over that he finally manages to propose.

Not a fan of that kind of thing.  Definitely not a fan of Jake using a rescue mission to try and hook up with the cute girl he just met.

When you look at what's really contributing to the movie, there's no reason Jake needs to be attracted to Bianca.  Also, there's no reason Jake needs to be male.  I'm largely in favor of keeping the original characters and just augmenting the cast with more female characters, but there is something tempting about a female Jake.

Regardless, if Jake the kangaroo mouse has to treat Bernard badly there are reasons beyond, "Hey, romantic rival, I must shun him," and the other reasons are better.  Jake has serious doubts about Bernard's competence, and for good reason.  First off, Bernard knows nothing about Australia.  That doesn't bode well for someone trying to conduct a rescue mission in Australia.  Second, Bernard has confidence problems.  Bernard operates best in high stress situations.  As in, "Oh, God, oh, God, we're all gonna die."  When he doesn't have imminent catastrophe forcing him to do things, his lack of self confidence leaves him bumbling and apparently useless.

While Bernard does do some pretty useful things before the climax, Jake doesn't actually see Bernard do anything useful until the climax.  Thus until the climax Jake sees Bernard as dead weight.  If Jake has to be a jerk to Bernard, thinking Bernard doesn't belong there because it actually looks like that's true is a much better reason than Bernard being a rival for Bianca's affection.

Which brings me to how Bianca acts the whole time.  When Jake is leaving Bernard at the back while he stays right next to Bianca, she doesn't seem to notice.  She should notice.  She should notice and react.  This is the mouse she loves enough to marry.  She should totally notice when he's being left out.  (Also, from a believability perspective, one has to assume that she's used to speaking on Bernard's behalf because, while he may be capable of being a top agent, there's no way he could convince anyone he was a top agent.)

So... yeah.

Other than that I'd want there to be more female characters showing up (why, for example, are the animals the poacher has in cages exclusively male?) and a resolution for said characters the poacher has in cages.  One assumes that at the end of the movie, with the poacher gone and Cody free, someone (Cody, or Rangers sent by Cody) frees the animals, but there's nothing in the movie itself about their fates.


I was going to stick this in here, but I've decided to give it its own post at some later date, but short version is I'd kind of like to see a TV series about Cody and his team (now including 100% more Marahute) as they go about their business of rescuing trapped animals from poachers.

By the way, that team Cody has (Faloo the kangaroo, three smallish birds, three wombats, and Nelson the echidna)?  It never shows up after the very beginning of the movie.  Seems like they should at least be looking for him.


* Why couldn't they:
1 Find a small child who liked the idea of climbing in a hole to get pirate treasure thus saving them the trouble of kidnapping one?
2 Find a small adult (they do exist, you know) who was willing to do it for a cut of the profits?
3 Enlarge the hole?
And there are so many more reasons that makes no sense.

** They show four:
1 Signal sent from Australia
2 Picked up in the Marshal Islands and forwarded to Hawaii
3 Picked up on human military communications in Hawaii where the mice distract the person monitoring such communications, decode the message, and relay it to New York [via unseen stations in LA, Denver, St. Louis, Chicago, and Washington D.C.]
4 The signal is picked up in New York

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Write me a check before you tell me how to live (Me and my generation)

(This is a US-centric post because it's about something that happens in the US.  It may happen elsewhere, I suspect that it does, but it's about it specifically happening in the United States of America.)

I also accept wire transfers, Paypal donations (button in the upper right hand corner), and cold hard cash. The point is not the method of payment, the point is the payment itself.

You see, people older than my generation like to talk about the failings of my generation. Usually they're of the Baby Boomer generation* or the beginning of Gen X. In fact, in general, there seems to be a thing where older people tell younger people that they're doing it wrong.

They want to tell us how to live, how to act, how to talk, how to think, how to love, how to hate, how to work, how to play, how to EVERYTHING.

Ok, fine. I'm all for getting advice. But I prefer my advice to come from decent sources. The fact that these people are lumping together a large and varied group based on something as arbitrary as age already gives me suspicions that the people talking about my generation (and, often, the later parts of Gen X too) are not reliable.

But let's give them the benefit of the doubt. Say that you can judge people based on age alone.

No president has ever been a member of my generation. In fact, for many definitions, no president of the US has ever been a member of the generation before my generation either and even in the definitions where Obama is a member of Gen X he's on the cusp of being a Baby Boomer. The point is, he's a lot closer to the people telling those younger than themselves how to act than he is to the people being told how to act. (My generation isn't even old enough to run for President yet.)

The average US Senator is a Boomer. Definitely not my generation. The average member of the House of Representatives is too.

The average CEO? Also a Baby Boomer.

What this means is that the people in charge of this country are of the same cohort as the people giving my generation advice. If the people telling my generation how to act are right that we can judge people by their generation, then we can judge them by their generation.

Their generation caused the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, their generation raided pension funds, their generation organized an interstate system of fraud in order to steal peoples homes (see: robosigning), their generation refused to prosecute the people who did that last thing, their generation refused to maintain the infrastructure resulting in the country fucking crumbling around us, their generation deregulated things in what looks like a drive toward a new Gilded Age, their generation is the reason that the US educational system is mediocre bordering on god-awful, their generation is the reason that the government is so dysfunctional it can't pass anything, their generation has set us up with a climate that's headed toward fubar, their generation knocked upward mobility down and proceeded to beat it savagely, their generation is why we have a tax code that ensures deficits, their generation is the reason we have a Supreme Court with members who admit they don't know the first thing about the US Constitution, their generation is the reason that the NSA is spying on Americans, their generation is the one that's trying to take away women’s rights, their generation is the one that's going around trying to disenfranchise people, AND SO ON.

If we really can judge people based on what generation they're in, why should I listen to these people?
(And if we can't then these people are talking out their asses.)

Swaths of my generation can't even get into the fucking workforce because their generation made so many of the jobs go away.

Somebody needs to get these people to take responsibility for their actions and get them to clean up their mess because it's a big fucking mess.

But I'm willing to forgive and move forward. All I need is a sign. Just a tiny little sign. So, people who think they know how my generation should conduct its affairs, your generation screwed up the economy so badly that trillions of dollars simply ceased to exist. Give that money back. I accept checks, wire transfers, Paypal donations, and cash.

Don't worry, I'll make sure the money goes where it's supposed to go. No, I don't trust you to put it there yourself. I'm willing to forgive, but I've seen how you handle the global economy and we're placing that firmly off limits. Just because I'm willing to forgive doesn't mean I'm willing to make the same mistake twice.

If, on the other hand, you're not willing to pay up for the damages that your generation did then I'm afraid I don't have much time for you telling me how my generation should act. I've seen how you act, and screwing up everything while counting on your children and grandchildren to pick up the pieces doesn't appeal to me. I believe people should take responsibility for their actions and work first to do no harm and second to mitigate and repair any harm they have done.

As for why my generation hasn't picked up previous generations' messes yet, there are multiple reasons:
  1. We're not in a position to do it. The same people who made the mess are stubbornly holding onto the reigns of power and will not let go. We do what we can, but there's only so much you can do when policy is decided by others.
  2. There's plenty of mess to go around. The economy is a mess. The political system is a mess. The environment is a mess. The infrastructure is a mess. The human rights situation is a mess. The social safety net is a mess. The educational system is a mess. The healthcare system is a mess. Social mobility is a mess. The tax code isn't so much a mess as a void where good policy should be but instead there's this money sucking thing that causes wealth to flow from the middle and lower classes to the upper class even though it's supposed to be the other way around. (Capitalism 101, people!) The banks are literally organized crime now, that goes beyond mess. Bribes are legal now in multiple different ways. Previous generations didn't spay and neuter their pets. Pay has become decoupled from production. So on, so forth.
    -To focus on everything at once would create diffuse solutions that didn't adequately address any of the problems. Instead people need to focus on single areas. That means that the entire generation can never be brought to bear on any single issue.
  3. Every time we make some forward progress, previous generations use their positions of power to drag us even further back.
  4. We're working on it, damn it. I don't recall anyone breathing down previous generations necks forcing them to make the mess in the first place. Why is it suddenly so urgent that we fix it without any god damn help?
They say we're lazy, they say we're disinterested, they say we think we're entitled, they say we don't care, they say we won't work. They say they know better. They say all of this while living in a cesspit of their own invention and refusing to take responsibility for the smell.


* So, here's the thing:
  • A generation is generally considered to last for 20 years based on the idea that a first time mother gives birth at 20 (in 1970 that was just about true on average in the US.)
  • The “Baby Boom” happened after the end of World War II when people had sexy fun times.
  • World War II did not end on a multiple of 20 but instead in 1945
Which means that people have vast disagreements on when the Baby Boomer generation began and ended.

For example: Glenn Beck.

For some people he was born almost, but not quite, two years before the Baby Boomer generation ended. That would make him an undisputed Boomer. Not even on the cusp, firmly within the lines. For other people he was born more than four years after the Boomer generation ended, that would make him firmly a member of Gen X and not a Boomer at all.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Princess Story, Part 6

[Previously Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5]

"Mel, I can't sleep," Apo said, knocking on his sister's door.

There was no response.

"Mel, I know you're not a light sleeper."

Still no response.

"Come on Mel, I want someone to talk to," Apo said.

When he got no response again he sighed and opened the door.  She had a bad, and unsafe, habit of leaving things unlocked.  On the one hand, the sound of a door opening would be sure to wake her up --royal quarters, even the ones intended for foreign royalty who were visiting as guests, had very strong doors, which almost always meant very loud doors-- on the other hand it was a bad habit.

When he walked into the room he was considering whether it was worth talking to his sister about the value of locked doors, again, or just to let it slide.  When he approached the bed he realized that he'd been focused on the wrong bad habit.

After securely closing (but not locking -- he didn't want to lock her out) the door to his sister's room, Apo sprinted to the quarters of the captain of his guards and knocked softly.

"Who is it?" a groggy female voice asked.

She sounded at least somewhat annoyed, and Apo new she had reason to be as her duties often meant she got less sleep than almost anyone else.  So Apo approached the matter with formality.

"Captain Arga, this is Prince Apobammos.  Princess Melitta is not in her quarters."

After a mumbled sound that Apo guessed was profanity, followed by some shuffling, the door opened.  Captain Arga was dressed in her night clothes, which revealed more Apo would normally be comfortable with, but at the moment there was business.  Apo simply waited for Arga to speak.

"How long as princess Melitta been gone?"

"Her bed hasn't been used."

"Are our guests aware of her absence?"

"Not that I know of.  I'm hoping to keep this quiet; do you know where your opposite is?"

Integrating the Eraymobatai royal guard with the local palace guard had been one of the first priorities.  Of course captain Arga knew where to find the captain of the palace guard.  The question, on its face, was silly.  But it wasn't just a question, it was a request.  She nodded and closed her door.

Soon she returned dressed in light clothing and adorned with a short sword that was made for speed rather than power.  If something happened in the palace she expected speed, rather than armor or powerful weapons, to be the key to victory.

After locking her door, captain Arga led her prince to the head of the palace guard.

"We had better hope that they don't have any dark secrets," Apo said, mostly to himself, "if they do she could stumble on one and kill the entire treaty."

"You're not worried about your sister's safety," captain Arga said.  It was more statement than question, but still left the impression that a response was expected.

"She can take care of herself," Apo said.  "You trained her."

"And she learned well."

"Better than me."

"I didn't say that."

"You didn't have to."

"So," Arga said, "what are you worried about?"

Apo thought for a moment.

"That she'll get so caught up in exploring a strange place looking for adventure that she won't turn up for a month," he said.  "At which point ... at which point it'll be too late to stop a war and countless people on both sides will die."

"Probably a reasonable fear," Arga concluded.  "Let us hope that they don't have catacombs."

"Let us indeed," the prince said.


Soon they reached the central guard station in the palace.  Captain Arga spoke to the outermost guard:

"Tell captain Robur of the palatial guard that captain Arga of the Eraymobatai wishes to speak with him, and that the matter is to be kept quiet."

A few moments later a burly man in ceremonial (but, Arga noted, quite functional) armor came to see captain Arga and prince Apobammos.

"I thought you were sleeping," he said to Arga.

"I was," Arga said.

"Your majesty," he said, with a slight bow, to Apo.

"Captain," Apo replied.

"What's going on," captain Robur asked them both.

"My sister is missing," Apo told him.

"She likes exploring," Arga explained.  "Does the palace have catacombs, disused wings, a dungeon?"

"Empty places that you haven't told my captain about because they mean little defensively, but tempting to a young woman who finds the unknown exciting," Apo added.

Robur nodded.  "We have a deep underground," he said.  "Layers of passages laid down over centuries as the area turned from a fishing village to today's city."

Prince Apobammos and captain Arga hung their heads.

Captain Robur confirmed their worst fears, "She could spend years down there and not see everything there is to see."  With a sigh he added, "We haven't fully charted it ourselves."  After a pause he added, "After all, our primary concern was to make sure they couldn't be used to sneak into the palace, which we have, but only by sticking to the perimeter and making sure any open passages there had gates added to them."

Captain Arga said, "We have to organize a search for her."

Apo added, "And we have to do it quietly.  The entire reason we're here is political, the political ramifications could be catastrophic."

"Majesty?" Robur asked.

"My sister is presumably just having harmless fun, but if word gets out that she's wandering the under-structure of the palace complex the wrong person can spin that into her being a spy meant to infiltrate the complex and find a way in.  It would cause the war we're hear to prevent."

Robur nodded.

"I'll select only my most trusted guards."

"You have untrusted guards?" Arga asked, a bit of a smirk on her face.

"I trust all of the guards with my life, my freedom, and the lives and freedom of my royalty," Robur said in a
very serious tone. "But trusting someone with secrets is another matter entirely."

Apo and Arga nodded.


A few miles of the coast a small storm was brewing and it turned the calm surface of the ocean into a ragged landscape filled with moving mountains of dark waters and scarred by whitecaps.  Rain pelted anything unwise enough to venture within the storm.

"Closer!" Melitta shouted.  "Closer to the water!"

Princess Lara laughed and obliged.  She couldn't remember the last time she felt such pure joy, and she steered the magic carpet into the troughs between waves, mere feet above the water at its lowest, the high points towering over them.

She needed all of her skills to dodge the tall masses of water pushed about by the storm, but she hardly noticed.  She had never felt so alive; everything was coming naturally to her.

Lightning struck the sea to her left and she headed toward it.  She was looking for the center of the storm, and enjoying every drop of rain in her face and every salty splash when water erupted from the sea.

"Don't stop," Melitta said.  "Don't you dare stop."

Lara smiled, but then realized that, since she was behind Melitta, the other princess couldn't see her.  "Don't worry.  I have no intention of stopping."

"Is it always like this?"


"Having a magic carpet."

"There isn't always a storm," Lara said.


Hours of fun later Lara and Melitta were flying over calm seas, and now Melitta was learning to fly the carpet.  The two had traded positions, but Lara was facing back so she could see Melitta and advise her on how to guide the carpet.

Both were still damp from rain and sea spray --salty too-- but their adrenaline filled joy from before had transformed into a much mellower feeling of contentment and well being.

Melitta's skills were slim, but, going slowly and letting Lara guide her under the moonlight above the clouds, she was able to learn all the basics of controlling the carpet.

Just as they were about to trade places for the return Melitta heard something.  Slowly, carefully, guiding the carpet lower through the clouds she was surprised to see what seemed to be the lights of a village.

"Did we go in a circle?" Melitta asked Lara.

"No," Lara said, looking over the side of the carpet to see where they were.  "We wen't further than I realized."

"Where are we?"

"It's called Insula Agorum. It was our first farming colony at sea.  Now it's the center of a duchy and an important trading hub."

When they were fully under the clouds and the view was as good as it would get, Melitta carefully crawled forward on the carpet and tried to get a better look at the island and the surrounding sea.

The noises she had heard came not from a village, but from a boat heading toward the island.  The lights she had thought came from a village, now unobscured, were from a city of some size with a couple smaller cities and dozens of villages visible.  The island itself was impossible to see, where not lit by the lights of a settlement it was inky blackness.  She was only able to make out the shape because she could see the ocean reflecting the moonlit clouds, where it was invisible the island must have been.  It seemed to have at least one mountain on it.

"Can we fly there?" Melitta asked, offering the drivers position to Lara.

"We really shouldn't," Lara said.

"Of course we shouldn't," Melitta said, a smile on her face even as she tried to hide it.  "Can we?"

Lara just smiled back as she took over flying the carpet herself.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

The 9th Legion, as revealed by film (parts one and two of three, I guess)

[Yes, this is me being silly in a very verbose way.]

The 9th Legion has long been a source of considerable mystery because it disappears from the historical record without note.  Certainly other legions were disbanded, two 12th legions were disbanded for example, but not without any clue as to what happened.  It last appears in the historical record in 108 AD, at which time it is stationed in York.

It's not until decades later that the 9th becomes conspicuous via its absence.  Many theories have been provided, but nothing really tells us the story.  Fortunately we have an answer to this problem: movies.

Movies are a source of troves of information but suffer from the same problem as all "texts", that being one of transmission.  When we have multiple sources we can at least see where they diverge and thus have some reasonable basis for deciding what to believe and what to disbelieve.  When we have only one source it's much more difficult, and it involves a lot more guesswork, to put together a theory of what to believe.

Scholars pour over the dialogs of Plato trying to separate the real Socrates from Socrates as used by Plato as his mouthpiece.  A similar approach is taken when examining the film Serenity as we try to sort out what is truly Firefly and what is addition, condensation, commentary, opinion, corruption, omission, authorial bias, polemic, didactic, and so forth.  Is, "Guy killed me, Mal.  He killed me with a sword.  How weird is that?" Firefly?  Is the black man dying first?

In other words, while films may inform us of the fate of the 9th Legion they cannot be taken at face value, we have to recognize that no historical document ever reaches us in a form truly representative of what happened.  At the same time we try to recognize, control, and account for our own biases and filters we must also be attempting to sort through the biases and filters in the work we are viewing.


Three films inform of us of the fate of the 9th Legion.

Centurion (2010) - Shows the fall of the 9th, what happened to the non-deserters, the alleged suppression of the legions fate, and the building of Hadrian's Wall.
The Eagle (2011) - Shows the actions that would lead to the reinstating of the 9th, attitudes toward it's disappearance, and what happened to deserters.
The Last Legion (2007) - Shows the final fate of the 9th at the fall of the Roman Empire.

Some parts were clearly edited for genre, style, or just so that big names could be thrown around.  This is most clear in the first story in this odd trilogy, so we may fruitfully begin there and allow Centurion to demonstrate the transmission problems we encounter in cobbling together the story of the 9th.


Centurion is a condemnation of Rome and essentially indicates that the only way to win is to turn one's back on Rome.  For those who don't the unwinnable game plays out as a story of failure, death, and gore.

The title character is Quintus Dias, a centurion at of a a frontier outpost.  The story begins when his outpost is destroyed by Picts.  He is spared the fate of his men because the fact he knows their language is thought to be of some value.

Before the 9th even appears in the story we see some editing and streamlining to simplify the story.  The natives are shown to be united into a single kingdom (Picts) under the rule of one man.  Tribes banding together to fight against Roman Britannia is completely believable, it happened multiple times before (see Boudica, for example) but tribes uniting into one is simply inaccurate.  The presentation of Picts to the north and Romans to the south is a gross oversimplification of the political climate of the time.

Also we see the use of famous names to give grandeur to the story.  The outpost we see destroyed is supposedly Inchtuthil.  Inchtuthil was no small outpost.  It was the headquarters of an entire legion.  It was not destroyed in war but instead methodically dismantled.  The nails that had been used to hold it together were buried, likely to keep the natives from using them.  Finally, it was abandoned some 20 to 30 years before the movie takes place.

The story then moves to the 9th.  Against the general's reservations the 9th is ordered north to eliminate the leader of the Picts.  Since there was no leader of the Picts more likely scenario would be that Rome was seeing tribes band together again and wished to eliminate the leader of the confederation, but the tribes were still distinct.

The governor is said to be Gnaeus Julius Agricola, but it is also clearly indicated and stated outright that the Emperor at the time is Hadrian.

Depicting the governor of Britannia as Agricola is entirely out of place historically, but makes sense when one realizes what the author is attempting.  Agricola's son in law Tacitus wrote a biography of him at the beginning of the Nervan dynasty, apparently in an attempt to influence the new emperors by providing them with an example of good leadership.

Tacitus' biography of Agricola became famous and survives to this day.  The founders of the United States looked to it for guidance.

Agricola is thus the most famous and most respected Roman governor of Britannia.  To invoke his name instead of Quintus Pompeius Falco* (the likely governor given the timing of events) gives the work a grander feel, and to tear him down in the work is to tear down the Roman idea of good governance.

In fact Agricola was ordered to return to Rome by the emperor Domitian in 85 AD, some believe that it was because he was out-showing the emperor.  Hadrian was less than ten years old at the time.  After Domitian was assassinated the reign of the "five good emperors" began.  Nerva replaced Domitian, but soon died of natural causes.  His (adult) adopted son Trajan replaced him.  Trajan adopted Hadrian and it was only upon Trajan's death, again by natural causes, that Hadrian ascended to the throne.

In other words: serious transmission issues here.

The author's desired story and moral conflict with accuracy and accuracy is tossed aside.

What is significant is that the 9th's general points out that they've never had any luck in finding the native leader and the governor responds by giving him the best available guide, a mute native woman named Etain.

Etain leads the 9th north.  They encounter the titular centurion and save him from being executed on the spot at the end of a failed escape attempt.

Not long after the 9th is led into an ambush by Etain.  The order to retreat never reaches the rear of the Roman line, so those ahead cannot fall back.  Surrounded and occupying the low ground.  The legion falls.

Between the initial battle and the end of mopping up operations Quintus, five soldiers, and a cook awaken on the battlefield.  When one reveals that the general had been captured rather than killed the seven men attempt to mount a rescue mission.

They witness other Roman survivors from the battle being hunted down and killed by native warriors led by Etain.

They ultimately fail to save the general, who instead orders them to fall back and orders Quintus to save the remaining six men by leading them back to Rome safely.  The remainder of the movie largely centers around Quintus failing to do just that.

Before it gets that far, though, two things happen.  One is that one of the soldiers, Thax, kills the Pict king's son thus earning an order that the Romans be hunted down and killed.  The other Romans are unaware of this at the time.

The other is the narrative tripping over itself to condemn Rome with the revelation of Etain's back story.  Her story, which explains why she hates Rome, is quite horrific.  Unfortunately for the attempt to damn Rome with that horrific story, it also makes little sense.  She was the only witness to the events described, but she herself was unable to describe them.  Where, then, does the story come from?

This could easily be solved if Etain were able to write or communicate some other way, but all evidence is that those who wished to silence her did so effectively.

Regardless, Etain kills the general.  She also throws the legion's standard, an eagle made of gold, into a fire.  (The fire in question would not be hot enough to melt the gold so this must be seen as a symbolic act.)  Then the Pict king sends her to hunt down and kill the remaining romans.

At this point the film becomes the story of how those Romans were killed off one by one.  When the first dies the same confrontation separates them into two groups each of which think the other is dead.  Thax disables his companion and leaves him to die in order to escape wolves pursing them both.

The other four are reduced to three before they run across Arianne, a Pict who was exiled after being accused of witchcraft.

A short exchange again shows how style is elevated above accuracy.  Quintus says, "We were 3,000, now we are 3."  Those numbers go together nicely, but the primary soldiers alone would have numbered above 5,000 and if the general tapped the auxiliaries the number would have been above 11,000.  This doesn't include non-military staff traveling with them, as evidenced by the non-combatant cook.

Regardless, Arianne shelters them and points them to a Roman outpost.

Arriving at the outpost they find it abandoned and learn that the emperor Hadrian has given orders to fall back.  This is semi accurate.  Hadrian's reign was one of consolidation which did include falling back from unconquered areas.  However, as with the abandonment of Inchtuthil, the Roman army wouldn't likely have left an outpost intact for the enemy to take over.

Making their stand at the abandoned outpost, the three are able to defeat the force chasing them, but are reduced to two in the process.

The two reunite with Thax before reaching the new frontier, where they see Hadrian's Wall beginning to be built.  While the other soldier, oblivious, rides toward Roman territory, Quintus and Thax get into a confrontation over the fate of the Pict king's son.  Quintus blames the deaths that have occurred since the failed rescue attempt on the murder, and thus blames them on the murderer: Thax.  Thax attempts to kill Quintus but dies in the process.  The time this takes puts Quintus too far behind the last remaining soldier to make him to stop.  Mistaken for a Pict, the last loyal soldier of the 9th is killed by Roman boarder guards.

Quintus is greeted as a hero for returning with the news, but it is decided that it is best for the fate of the 9th to remain a mystery for public relations reasons.  The exact quote is, "If word gets out every tribe in every nation will rise against us."  This also seems dubious.  The first emperor, Augustus, saw three of his legions destroyed by Germanic tribes.  When he learned of this his response was not to suppress the story but instead, as reported by Suetonius, to repeatedly bang his head into a wall while saying he wanted his legions back.

(Also the numbers of those legions (the 27th, 28th, and 29th) were never used again.)

Regardless, an attempt is made on Quintus' life and he flees Rome to live in exile with Arianne.


The second movie, The Eagle, is a story of family honor, redemption, friendship, and such things.  It takes place 20 years after the fall of the legion, at which point only deserters remain alive.  Its attitude toward the Roman Empire is largely neutral.  It exposes many of the horrific flaws of Rome, but does not editorialize on them.

In some ways it is more damning to Rome than Centurion because its even handed presentation of Roman imperialism is no more flattering than Centurion's clearly biased presentation.

While the 9th disappeared without a trace it is common knowledge amoung the Romans that legions don't disappear without reason and thus assumed that it had been slaughtered.  In some ways more damning than the loss of the legion was the loss of its eagle.

When three legions were lost to Germanic tribes the territory lost in that war was abandoned and no attempt was ever made to recapture it but decades were spent in (eventually successful) attempts to recapture the three lost eagles.

The story follows Marcus Flavius Aquila, the son of the 9th's general, as he tries to redeem his family name.  Initially he is given a minor military posting in Britannia.  He is soon injured in combat and he is commended and decorated for his honor but discharged due to the injury.

Marcus recovers from his injuries at his uncle's estate in southern Britannia.  While there he is instrumental in getting a slave spared in the arena.  In response his uncle buys him the slave, Esca.

When rumors of the lost eagle being sighted are reported from Hadrian's Wall, a recovered Marcus, accompanied by Esca, journeys north of the wall to retrieve it.

(Everything that happens north of the wall is basically impossible to gauge the accuracy of, owing to a lack of records.)

Esca hates Rome, but considers himself in debt to Marcus and so does not attempt to flee or betray him.

Eventually the two reach the site of the battle where a deserter who was taken in by hospitable locals recounts the battle.  Esca could have done the same as his father, a Brigantes chieftain, fought in it.  A coalition of tribes, it is said, banded together to ambush the Romans.

The Eagle was taken by the most ruthless tribe: the seal people

Marcus and Esca journey to the seal people's territory where he claims that Marcus is his slave and uses his lineage to be invited into their camp.  He and Marcus steal back the Eagle, are caught in the act, kill the ones they are caught by, and then escape.  Their escape is witnessed by a child from the group but, since he does not know it is an escape, he is convinced to be quiet about it.

Warriors from the seal people pursue; Marcus is slowed by his injury.  Marcus grants Esca his freedom and forgives him of any debt and asks him to flee, but instead Esca recruits deserters from the 9th who come to the aid of Marcus in hopes of redeeming themselves.

Before the battle the young seal person who failed to announce their departure is executed as an example of what happens to "traitors".

In the battle the pursuing warriors of the seal people and most of the deserters from the 9th Legion are killed.  Marcus, Esca, and the survivors make their way to Hadrian's Wall.

When Marcus returns the Eagle there is talk of reinstating the ninth with him in charge but instead he walks out on the higher up Romans and has Esca decide what they will do next.


We don't have stories for what happened between the 9th's reinstatement and the fall of Rome.  Instead our next and last chapter is as the Western Roman Empire is falling.  It takes place some three hundred years after The Eagle, and only hints at what may have happened during those years.

And this is the point where my computer crashed.  Twice.

So I'm just going to post as is and come back to The Last Legion later.


* His full name was Quintus Roscius Coelius Murena Silius Decianus Vibullius Pius Iulius Eurycles Herculanus Pompeius Falco

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Being more than a Simulacrum (a Kim Possible fan fiction) (part 2)

[Link to part 1]
[For those unfamiliar with Kim Possible, I have a lengthy footnote on Shego's powers, what "Global Justice" is, and the incident with the tower that has such a profound emotional impact on the clone.]

[The Doctor Sound backstory based, with permission, on Blackbird's story All I Really Want which basically inspired this whole thing as a sort of, "What if Shego had been honest from the start?"]


“Ok,” Shego said, mostly to herself. “Since I'm not pretending this is your story, you could probably use some background.

“After the comet we were on our own. Hego and the Wegoes could still pass as normal, and so some people we helped who worked in the right places made them new identities. Mego and I couldn't exactly hide being purple and green respectively, so there was no escaping what had happened.

“For Mego … well he's narcissistic enough that he could have been turned plaid and still not had it bother him, but for me it was a huge thing. I was the green girl. The freak. I was still in high school at the time and that was hell, but I could never leave it behind. No matter where I went there was only one pale green person, so I could never just blend in and pretend to be normal.”

“But you were a hero,” the girl on the bed said.

“That didn't help, Kim-- not-Kim... uh, you need a name.”

“I think I should talk to my family before I decide on one,” the girl said contemplatively.  She accepted that she probably was a clone, but Shego was right about Kim's family, they'd accept Kim's clone as a member of their family.  That was going to be a strange meeting.  A moment later she snapped back to present reality, “But you're right, some placeholder until then would be useful.”

“Ok, Placeholder.”

“That's not what I meant!”

Shego grinned. “No. 'Placeholder'. I like it.”

The girl, newly christened 'Placeholder', just made a grunt.

“Anyway,” Shego resumed, “That didn't help, Placeholder. If anything it made it worse.

“I couldn't leave the job at the job. I was constantly criticized for how I did my work. Couldn't I have saved the day faster? Was I really putting my all into it? Did stopping the bad guy really require that much property damage? Didn't I know that that graffiti covered burnt out building my plasma damaged was actually a 'historic site', not in any official registry of course but still it was a 'National Treasure', which I had sullied with my playing the hero and thus...” Shego let Placeholder fill in the rest on her own.

“Oh,” was all Placeholder could think to say.

“And then there was a question of style,” Shego said. “We had a routine to how we did things. Mego used his shrinking power to sneak in, do reconnaissance, disarm any booby traps, sometimes even more. Once he was done he'd report to Hego and me, and the operation would openly commence. Hego would use his super strength and accompanying endurance to create a distraction. Once the enemy was distracted I'd come in and do most of the actual fighting. While Hego and I were keeping everyone occupied, Mego would evacuate any hostages and do any necessary sabotage that he couldn't do in the reconnaissance phase.

“When the Wegoes were old enough to join us, they helped me, but their style was entirely different. They could multiply into enough copies of themselves to immobilize their opponents just by piling on them.

“Hego was the traditional hero, Mego was the one who rescued people, the Wegoes were the adorable kids. I was the one throwing the punches and doing most of the actual violence.

“Everyone who thought I was too rough wouldn't let me hear the end of it, and the ones who thought we should be tougher on the bad guys usually didn't think a girl should be on the team to begin with.”

Placeholder just nodded. She, well Kim but she had the memories, had had her fill of sexism long ago and it never actually ended. Kim dealt with it by being the absolute best but she didn't doubt that as soon as a male who was her equal, or worse still her better, showed up everything would get infinitely worse.

Kim was mostly able to get a pass because she wasn't part of a team in the traditional sense. She was a lone hero with a sidekick whose name most people couldn't remember. If she were part of a larger unit with equals it would be easy for the sexists to dismiss her contribution.

“The news loved the angle that I was the dark one,” Shego resumed. “In the beginning it was two noble heroes and their hot-headed short-fused sister. Then it was four noble heroes and their violent sister.

“They even had some articles suggesting I was a bad influence on my younger brothers.

“Of course you can't run the same article over and over again so the media made it out that I was sliding further and further into darkness. They'd try to tally up how many punches I thew and how much plasma I discharged. If it was more than the last time it was time for another 'Shego becoming more violent' story. If it was less then they wouldn't mention it. Of course, when there was no change at all random variance meant that half the time they'd get to say I was getting worse.”

“Ouch,” Placeholder said.

“Thanks, princess,” Shego said. “Anyway, the worst part was that Hego bought into the whole thing and thought that I was sliding into evil.”

“Hego did say that the more you fought evil the more you liked evil,” Placeholder said, drawing on Kim's memories.

“Yeah, that was his take. After his fifteenth attempted intervention I decided I wasn't going to talk to him outside of missions any more.”

“That probably made him think you were more evil,” Placeholder said.

“Probably,” Shego agreed. “And this is where the story I was going to tell you goes.”

“I was wondering when we'd get to that,” Placeholder said. “Do tell.”

“All of that got to me, mostly it made me lonely because I didn't have a single friend, and--”

“Sorry,” Placeholder said, gently taking one of Shego's hands.

“It wasn't your fault.” Shego snorted. “You didn't even exist yet.

“Anyway, maybe it did make me a bit more angry, maybe it did make me a bit more violent, but apart from Hego buying into it, it didn't really matter to anyone but me. For all of the bad press I was still a hero in good standing.

“No article about me throwing more punches this week than last week could change that.

“Then, in one instant, everything changed.” Shego took Placeholder's hand away from her own and put it back in Placeholder's lap. “There was a new villain, a small time themed villain who called himself Doctor Sound--”

“I've never heard of him.”

“There's a reason for that,” Shego said darkly. “I ended up fighting him on top of a roof. In the final moments I had him cornered and was expecting him to either charge me to get away or to just surrender. The problem was, he didn't know I had him cornered.” At first it seemed like an ordinary pause between sentences, but the time went on and Shego just sat there, not saying another word.

“What happened?” Placeholder asked softly.

“Wha?” Shego said as she snapped back to the present. “Sorry.” Shego took a moment to compose herself and then said, “He took a step back when there was no back for him to step on.”

“That's it?”

“No, that's the beginning. A news helicopter recorded things from just the wrong angle. It looked like I might have pushed him.

“That was enough. Everyone who had said I was getting too extreme or going evil was convinced that their suspicions had been confirmed. That's to be expected, what took me completely off guard was everyone else.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that in an instant everyone in the world turned on me. Even the few people who had publicly defended me before found that it was so much more fun to tear someone down than build her up.

“I mean that no one would believe me when I said that I didn't push the man. I mean that every single owner of every single building I had ever been involved in a mission in decided to simultaneously sue me for damages to their property. I mean that I was denounced as a poor role model for children and a corrupter of youth whose very existence would cause little girls throughout Go City to grow up to be murderesses.

“All of this time I was trying to set the record straight and say that, even though I didn't kill him, I was so very sorry for being the cause of his death.” Shego was suddenly angry, “Because I was sorry, damn it! I'd never felt so horrible in my life as when that asshole died. I didn't agree to Hego's plan of becoming superheroes because I wanted to fight or because I wanted vengeance, I agreed to it because I believed in justice.

“I wanted to take Dr. Sound to jail. I didn't want to kill him. I didn't want to kill anyone. I swore that I'd never kill again. Which probably seems redundant since I never planned on killing anyone in the first place.”

“You put me-- you put Kim and Ron into loads of deathtraps.”

“None of which stood a chance of actually hurting either of you-- of them,” Shego thought about the mistake they'd both made. “Damn this is going to be hard Placey.”

“'Placey'?” Placeholder asked.

“Well I can't exactly call you 'Kimmie'.”


“Where were we?”

“Death traps.”

“Right. In addition to expecting you-- her-- them to escape, I always had at least seven ways to save you if somehow things went wrong.”


“The first three would make it look like Drakken had failed in either the design or manufacture of the death trap. The fourth was in case things went so wrong that I had to risk a failure that had no obvious explanation, and the last three were desperation plans that would make it unmistakeable I'd saved,” Shego paused to make sure she said the right words, “Kim and Ron, and thus would destroy my reputation as a villain.”

“You had a tendency to look happy about them getting in the deathtraps.”

“Well, Place, I--”


“I'm trying to work out variations on your temporary name PH. I'm not going to call you 'Princess' or 'Placeholder' every time I want to make reference to you,” Shego said, slightly annoyed.

“'Place' is better than 'Placey'.”

“Noted. I was happy to see them get into deathtraps because it meant I got a free show watching them get out of the deathtraps.”

“A free show?”

“The only thing missing was popcorn.”

“Ok, so you have a semi-plausible explanation for the deathtraps,” Placeholder said. “And I suppose it would explain why you never punched Kim with the full force your plasma provides.”

“Uh... out of curiosity, did you just figure that out or does Kim know I've been pulling my punches?”

“Given what you can punch through when you want to and the relative frailty of human flesh and bone, do you really have to ask?”

“Kim knows.”

“Kim knows,” Placeholder nodded. “So is there more to the story?”

“Nothing I said or did could convince anyone, and that includes my family, that I didn't do it. Nothing could convince them that I was sorry for it happening.

“I tried to track down Dr. Sound's family to see if there was anything I could do to help.”

“Did you?”

“Eventually, yes. At the time, no. I wrote an editorial against vigilantism because even professionals, which we were --at that point Team Go had an understanding with the Go City Police Department-- could kill someone with a simple mistake.

“And then, finally, the pressure got to me.”

“How so?”

“You have to remember that there wasn't really evidence against me. He died from falling off a building, there was a video that made things look ambiguous. I wanted to be arrested. I thought that if I had my day in court I could prove I was innocent and everything would go back to normal.

“Before Dr. Sound died I never thought I'd want normal. I hated normal. But even with all the things that made my life hell before he died, that was infinitely better than how things were after he died.

“They didn't arrest me, in spite of me offering to turn myself in, because they knew they couldn't make the case hold up against me. And they were very clear on that. It wasn't because they believed I was innocent, it was because they didn't have enough evidence to prove that I was guilty.

“Which was basically the same thing as saying I was guilty.

“Since I wasn't arrested, and I was still in high school, I was still attending school. Except instead of being the green freak, I was now the killer green freak who got away with murder.”

Images of a school engulfed in green flames played out in Placeholder's mind. She asked, “What happened when the pressure got to you?” even though she wasn't sure she wanted to know.

“Almost nothing,” Shego said. “I punched one bully and broke his nose.”

“That's it?”

“His name was Allen, when I was planning to tell you this was your story I was going to say you hit Bonnie.”

“I would nev--”

“Are you sure? Someone's been making your life hell for years, your entire world is coming crashing down around you, everyone thinks you're guilty of a murder you didn't commit, and you don't think you might lash out?”

“You're right. I know that I've never even met her and, even so, just having Kim's memories of her makes me want to punch her. If I were stressed enough to loose control I probably would.”

“The important thing is that punching Allen was something that could be proven. Normally a fight in a school would never get that kind of attention, but it was basically used as a proxy for what happened to Dr. Sound. They even called it, 'assault with a deadly weapon,' on the grounds that my hands theoretically could kill someone.

“When they tried to arrest me for that... that's when I ran. And when I found out about Global Justice.”

“Global Justice?” Placeholder knew the name, of course, but wouldn't expect them to be involved in the story.

“They never had all that much interest in Team Go because we were strictly local, but they had apparently been planning on recruiting me when I was older and their recruitment files double as their 'How to take down a threat' files.”

“So the fact that they've worked with Kim...”

“Probably means that they've worked up multiple plans on how to take down Kim.”

“What did they do to you?”

“Well they saw me as a hero turned villain just like everyone else, so they decided to hunt me down before I could get my villainous act together.”

“I'm guessing they failed.”

“Damn straight. But they did manage to make me feel like an animal. Being hunted will do that to you.”

“So where does the story end?”

“It ends with me finding that there was one group that would accept me. Before that I tried being a fugitive hero and got certified to teach, but neither of those worked out.”

“I'm guessing that the group that would accept you happened to be villains.”

“Some of them thought that I did kill Dr. Sound and had no problem with it. I wanted nothing to do with them. Others believed me when I said I was innocent. A surprisingly large portion of the villainous community only became criminals after being falsely accused of being criminals.”

“Really?” Placeholder had a hard time believing that and let her incredulity show in her voice.

“I said, 'a surprisingly large portion,' not, 'a majority,'” Shego retorted. “It's a large enough portion that a lot of villains who are guilty of every crime they've ever been accused of are still willing to believe that someone claiming to be innocent may well be innocent.

“I wasn't ready to sign on with take-over-the-world schemes, but it turned out I had an aptitude for thieving.”

“I'll say.”

“I started out as an apprentice and within a year my teacher claimed to have been surpassed. I stayed in that career until I met Drakken. He was perfect ... well ... almost. He's got a lot to learn about consent--”

“Mind control comes to mind,” Placeholder said.

Shego ignored the comment and continued, “--but that's true of villains in general. He needs stuff stolen frequently, his staff is unionized, he's brilliant enough to create reality warping inventions while still bumbling enough to not be at risk of actual world domination--”

“Two things.”

“Why is it always two things?”

“Thing one: How is not being able to succeed a plus?”

“Do I seem like the kind of person who wants to live in someone else's autocracy?”


“I like the world the way it is. A mess of conflicting laws and jurisdictional conflicts. A never ending line of politicians and unelected villains tripping over each other trying to grab power for themselves while leaving the rest of us with some modicum of freedom.”

“You think politicians are elected villains?”

“Read the congressional record sometime.”

“I think I'll pass. Thing two: Drakken came pretty close at times.”

“Close isn't good enough, Place. Close just gets you frustrated.”

Placeholder thought about the memories she inherited from Kim. The ones where Drakken had come close. One memory wanted to be first in line, she tried not to think about it, trying not to think about it made her think about it more, and finally she was reliving a moment that she'd never lived through in the first place.

Kim told Shego that she hated Shego. Kim kicked Shego off a building into a tower charged with enough electricity to kill any normal human. The tower collapsed on top of Shego which also would have killed any normal human. Kim didn't realize that Shego's comet-given power would save Shego, instead she had every reason to believe that Shego had died. After all, Kim had done enough to Shego to kill almost anyone twice over. Kim smiled at that.

Placeholder didn't like that memory. Placeholder didn't like that person. For the first time Placeholder hoped that she wasn't the real Kim.

“Moving on,” Placeholder said, a slight shudder in her speech.

“Is something wrong?” Shego asked, concern audible in her voice.

“One of Kim's memories,” she said and hoped Shego wouldn't inquire further.

“Something involving me?” Shego asked.

“Yes,” Placeholder said with, she realized after saying it, perhaps too much force.

“Did I do something?” Shego asked.

“Kim did something,” Placeholder said angrily, the volume of her voice rising. Shego had a look that was unfamiliar in Placeholder's memories: utter shock. When Placeholder resumed she spoke softly. “Kim almost killed you.”

That,” Shego said, contempt and disgust mingling in her voice.

“And then, when she had every reason to think she had killed you, she smiled.”

“I ... didn't know that,” Shego said, a slight shake in her voice.

“I don't want to be Kim,” Placeholder said.

“Kim is better than that particular memory makes her seem,” Shego said.

“Don't defend her!” Placeholder shouted.

Shego held up her hands, in a gesture of, “Calm down,” and, “Give me a moment to explain.”

But, there was going to be a 'but',” Shego said.


“But you don't have to be anything you don't want to be,” Shego said, “and you can't be Kim anyway. Kim's already being Kim.”

“Ok, so, what now?” Placeholder asked.

“Well, you're ready to walk by now...” Shego trailed off.

“I just realized I never told you,” Placeholder said, “I'm staying. I decided to before asking about your story.”

Shego tried not to smile. She failed.

“I've had living quarters prepared for you,” Shego said. She stood up and gestured for Placeholder to follow. “Shall we?”


[Previous][Being more than a Simulacrum Index][Next]
[Kim Possible Index]


Shego has green skin, green plasma powers centered on her hands, and positively inhuman durability.  She got these powers when a comet struck her and her brothers.  They became superheroes.  Nothing canonical ever says what became of their parents. 
Her brothers are Hego (Super Strength), Mego (able to shrink and return to normal size), and the Wego twins (able to multiply themselves.)  At some unspecified time before the series she switched sides and ended up sidekick to Kim's arch-nemesis Drakken.  She's generally considered more useful than he is.
In what was supposed to be the climax of the entire series (but then the series was given another season), Kim --enhanced with a supersuit-- kicks Shego into a tower surging with uncontrolled electricity and the tower then collapses on top of Shego.  Given that any normal human being should have been killed two or three times over by the kick/electricity/giant-pile-of-building-landing-on-head combination, this is generally regarded as kind of a big deal especially since Kim smiles at this before she finds out Shego somehow survived. 
 Global Justice is the Kim Possible version of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Friday, May 9, 2014

One way Disney's Frozen could have been with better parents

Ok, so Frozen is a good movie, it's a fun movie, it has themes that need to be expressed (suppressing who you are and staying in the closet your whole life isn't a good idea, don't jump into a lifetime commitment on first impressions, sometimes bad people are obvious but/and sometimes they are not, non-romantic love matters too, so on) and if you don't go in with inflated expectations you'll probably find that the good outweighs the bad.

But the entire plot hinges on the troll who knows his magic making a hideously bad suggestion (in his defense, based on the troll's later musical number I don't think trolls understand humans all that well) and the king and queen going with it thus forever changing their two daughters lives and leaving them both emotionally screwed up.

One is terrified of herself and worried that any human contact could cause her to accidentally hurt someone.

The other is left so isolated that she can be easily taken advantage of very easily by the first person who manages to get close because she too lacks human contact and the only conversation she has is with inanimate objects.

This is not, in any way, a good decision.

A better one might be:
Wise old troll: I recommend removing all magic, even memories of magic.
Queen: Thank you for the recommendation, but please only do what is necessary to heal Anna, nothing more.
King: Why?
Queen: If Anna can't remember Elsa's magic then she won't see the danger and won't understand why we do the things we'll have to do.  It would be like begging her to be hurt again.  If we want to keep her safe it's best if she remembers exactly what happened.
King: That's a good point dear, I hadn't thought of that.  (Aside:) I wonder why such an obvious point escaped me.
Queen: *cough*because plot*cough*


No one really heard the story of how Anna got hurt because Anna couldn't remember, the parents just assumed that Elsa had done bad things, and Elsa felt guilty.  Anna may be young when it happens, but she might be old enough to say, "It was my fault," and, "I'll be more careful next time," and, you know, "Sorry."

One can then imagine Elsa having a very different upbringing, one where, "Conceal don't feel," had a counterpoint of a strong relationship with Anna in which Anna encouraged Elsa to try to control her powers by learning to use them.  It would be nice to see where the queen fit into everything.  She does have a listed voice actor on IMDb, so she definitely spoke.  One line as I recall.  Maybe two but I'm betting less than ten words total.  Not really enough.  (Looked it up, less than five words.)

But, anyway, this would result in a different Elsa and a different Anna.  Anna might still be lonely and looking for true love, but not because of total isolation.  She'd still live in a largely empty palace because the idea was for the gates to reopen when Elsa gained control of her power which, for the movie to happen, she won't.  But if Anna and Elsa actually talked to each other Elsa would probably arrange for Anna to get outside so she wouldn't be so down.

For that matter one can imagine Elsa getting out too.  Isolated places would be good places for her to practice.

Anyway, stuff.


While the major ship in the fandom may be incest it has been pointed out that Kristoff's life is ice ("it's a palace made of ice.  Ice is my life,") and Elsa has ice powers and yet the two barely meet.  I honestly don't care about the shipping but later bullshit I'm going to introduce could use the idea of there being an established maybe-true-love for Elsa.

So as Elsa, Anna, and Kristoff grow up Anna is helping Elsa with her power, the key is that Elsa doesn't realize that love is the way to control it.  She assumes that better control with Anna giving her a hug is because there's more comfort and less fear.  Elsa meets Kristoff and starts to develop a relationship.  Anna dates but doesn't ever find the one.

I picture this happening at some point:
Elsa: You don't think I'm a freak?
Kristoff: All of my family members are trolls.
Elsa: ...
Kristoff: I was adopted.

Hans takes a much more active role in screwing things over because the less closed off sisters would be more susceptible to foreign intelligence gathering so while commoners might not know a prince could find out that Elsa had ice powers and Anna was searching for true love.

Instead of wanting to get married Hans and Anna just want permission to date/court/whatever the term is publicly (needed because political ramifications could be huge) which Elsa would grant and in the process get close enough to Elsa to deliver some kind of poison/curse that he got from a woodcarver who could do subjects other than bears.

Shortly after Elsa loses control and runs away just like in the normal movie.

Since Anna isn't so easy to manipulate in this version I'm thinking she wouldn't leave Hans in charge, she'd just expect him to help whomever she did leave in charge.  Which, since she's in the movie anyway (Disney loves making reference to itself) I'm thinking should be Rapunzel.  She's got a reputation as a good ruler, a kingdom of her own so she won't try to take over, and so forth.

Anna goes after Elsa, probably more or less as it is in the movie, and a varriation on the same accidental harming of Anna but with some different details like:
--Anna makes a point of the fact that Elsa's control was getting stronger and stronger before everything went wrong
--Elsa saying that for some reason she's lost control and it's only getting worse and trying very hard not to face Anna for fear of ice shards.  In the end it doesn't matter and Anna gets hit.
--Kristoff and Elsa are surprised to meet each other there and he says something like, "She's your sister?  You're that Elsa?" having not known that he was dating the queen.
--Elsa, "Were you telling the truth about being raised by trolls? ... Get my sister to them.  Now! They know how to save her."

Just like in the movie Elsa ends up captured by Hans, unlike in the movie the trolls do not break out into a totally inappropriate song and dance.

Since they know Kristoff is with Elsa, when they find out she isn't Elsa, Anna and Kristoff have time to explain some things.  The end explanation works out like this:
--Anna needs an act of true love to unfreeze her heart.
--Elsa is losing control because poison/curse has turned her power against her and ice shards will eventually overpower her heart which will put her in the same position as Anna.
--Anna will die first without help.
--Kristoff takes Anna back to Arendelle because Hans seems to be her best bet, with the intention of turning around and heading back to Elsa as soon as she's dropped off.

Note that I didn't say the assumption of a true love's kiss being the thing to save the afflicted had been changed.


When Anna gets dropped off more or less the same thing happens except Hans in his, "I've been pretending to be good so much I finally need to allow myself an evil monologue," speech confesses to poisoning/cursing Elsa so that he could appear the hero, use Anna's post Elsa-implosion emotional brokenness to steer her into a legally binding relationship, and thus take over.

When Hans reports that Anna died Rapunzel, still in charge, wants to see the body, is asking questions, and isn't ready to put Hans in charge on the basis of him saying Anna said her wedding vows, with no witnesses, before dying.

Hans is essentially able to pull a coup by getting those in charge of implementing orders to listen to him over Rapunzel and thus "with a heavy heart" order Elsa's execution.

Rapunzel goes to Flynn* (her boyfriend/husband depending on timing of the movies relative to each other) who is initially goofy until he sees that she's brought him a frying pan, then he's instantly serious.

Rapunzel sends Flynn to free Elsa and warn her of the plan to execute her, and sets off to find out what happened to Anna herself.

When she finds Anna, Anna has given up hope for herself and is more concerned with Elsa because she's still got "True love's kiss" on her mind, assumes Kristoff is Elsa's true love, and know he's headed in the wrong direction (back to the North Mountain when Elsa is in the castle.)

Elsa won't let Flynn help her because she's afraid she'll hurt him but breaks out on her own.

Kristoff sees the storm and turns back, with Rapunzel's help the dying Anna tries to reach Kristoff so he'll know more than the general direction of Elsa.  (And Elsa doesn't even know she needs an act of true love.)

Being told Anna is dead causes Elsa to fall into utter despair (same as the movie) which greatly speeds the freezing of her own heart (new thing.)

When Anna runs to save Elsa at the cost of her own life, Elsa notices and tries to stop Anna though it means her death (symetry) at which point they both freeze, magic boom knocks out Hans (like in the movie) and then the two thaw because each of them trying to sacrifice herself for the other is the act of true love needed to thaw their respective hearts.

Elsa finally realizes that love is the key to controlling her power.

Everyone makes their way to a boat so they won't fall in the water.  Flynn may or may not show up with a frying pan.

The fjord is melted, happy ending for all.

Romantic relationships are left open.  Kristoff and Elsa still don't know if they're really right for each other, Anna is still single and looking for the right person.  As with the actual movie this isn't about sticking a wedding at the end.

Rapunzel and Flynn head back home just like everyone else who came from away for the coronation.


* I know, I know, his name is really Eugene.  I think of him as Flynn.