Christmas with Skynet

Last night, I invaded A Christmas Carol.

Dad’s Garage closed Invasion: Christmas Carol last night. Invasion, for the uninitiated, is an improvised version of the holiday classic. The basic premise is that each night, a random character is added to the mix with no advanced warning to the regular cast members. The unknown character is first introduced as the ghost of Xmas past, and then is sprinkled in through the remainder of the show. The cast members must incorporate the new character’s presence into the storyline.

Previously, some of the random characters have been a barbarian, a thief, a department store Santa, a Ghostbuster, and Hitler.

Last year, they did Invasion: Our Town with the same concept using the Thorton Wilder play. I invaded that one as an Indiana Jones-like character. Jesus made an appearance in a different episode.

I invaded Carol as The Terminator. Or rather, an early prototype Terminator, the T-1, “before they added bad breath.”1

Upon discovering that Scrooge was not Sarah Connor, I agreed to join Scrooge on his viewings of the past.

Later on in the show in a poorhouse scene, the husband of Scrooge’s old flame turned out to be John Connor, and a shootout ensued, killing all the poor (the front row of the audience). In the grand finale of the show, I finally discover Sarah Connor, wished her Merry Christmas, snapped her neck, and then we all said “God bless us, everyone!”

I am totally in the Xmas spirit now, humans.

1 A too-vague reference to the movie that likely no one got. But really, that was for me.

Two random items of interest, and a bonus

I am in my cube listening to some coworkers singing Christmas carols in a nearby meeting room, accompanied by an acoustic guitar.

To own the truth, they are not bad.

I have found my new favorite spanish verb:

trasnochar – to stay up late

¡Trasnocharemos a las 31 de diciembre!

Estoy aprendiendo el tiempo futuro. Ahora puedo escribir sobre viaje de tiempo.

A bonus third random item:

Overheard in the hallway:

“If you think about the number of insect legs in your peanut butter, you’ll probably never eat a PB&J again.”

Four Against One

I’m alone in the house with two five year olds and two two year olds. So far, I’m winning.

The girls are drawing with crayons quietly, the boys are downstairs wrestling loudly.

Occasionally, I have to stick my head downstairs and tell the boys to not wrestle on the stairs, or stop throwing knives, or to keep the open flame to a minimum.

L_ drew a little bit on Scout’s paper.
Scout: Daddy, L_ drew on my paper!
Me: She’s helping you!
Scout: Oh. (beat) Thank you, L_.

That never happens with boys.

Book Log – The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything by Stephen W. Hawking

I understood maybe 50% of that. Maybe.

In this series of lectures, first published in 1996, Stephen Hawking tries to ‘splain It All to us. From the early history of universe theories (Ptolemy, Copernicus, Newton, etc.) all the way up to String Theory.

I was fine with stuff up until he started talking about finite space-time with no boundaries, “like the surface of the Earth, but with two more dimensions”. I understand the words, but I can’t get a mental picture of what that actually means practically speaking. Throw in “imaginary time”, and I’m pretty much down for the third time.

I note he says that by the “end of the century”, we should know whether String Theory is worth anything. That is, by 2000.

If Wikipedia is any gauge, String Theory does not (or should not) really enjoy the status of a full blown Scientific Theory, as it is not falsifiable in the foreseeable future until we can do some testing using equipment on a scale of the solar system. Many scientists say it more accurately qualifies as a “mathematic framework”. Whatever that means.

All in all an O.K., albeit challenging, read.

La Prueba Que Fue

Terminó mi prueba de español. Creo que fui bien.

Si marqué 100 puntos, voy a tener un buen diccionario electrónico. Pero si perdí mas de 2 puntos, y los otros estundiantes no perdieron nada, yo no voy a ganar.

Mi amiga Carmen dijo que estuvo muy nerviosa. Creo que sólo es una prueba; No es vida o muerte.

Voy a saber quién gana cerca de seis de la noche del miércoles.

Book Log – Gods of Riverworld

Gods of Riverworld by Philip Jose Farmer

Okay, so that was the final Riverworld novel, book #5, unless you count the collections of short stories, which I don’t. They are dead to me.

In case you haven’t been keeping track, the Riverworld series describes the adventures of everyone who ever lived. Sort of.

It imagines that (almost) everyone who ever lived on Earth has been resurrected on a planet entirely composed of a winding, 10 million mile river. Everyone is young, healthy, and essentially immortal. All needs are provided for by this kiosk things that give food and clothing and, for some reason, cigarettes. Also some sort of mind altering drug in gum form. Nobody knows why.

The series is ostensibly telling the story of the people trying to figure out why they are there. More or less. Two of the books are primarily concerned with Samuel Clemens and King John building two gigantic riverboats and fighting each other on the way to find out why they are there. Yawn. I’ve commented in the book logs for those that my overall impression of that story was “Just let it go, Mr. Twain.”

By the fourth book, we’ve pretty much got a picture of what’s going on. In fact, Philip Jose Farmer had intended to stop the series there. But, like Douglas Adams, he decided he had a fifth one in him. Essentially, this book is a story of what the people decide to do with the knowledge of what is actually going on on Riverworld. Essentially, this is pretty much ado about nothing, aside from a not very interesting dissertation on human nature.

I kept reading because there were mysteries, and I thought maybe we’d learn something new about the world Farmer had built, but not so much. I think the series could have been kept to two books just fine.

Book Log – A Short History of Myth

A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong

It took a few starts to get me going into this book. It attempts to thimbalize the general progression of beliefs from pre-history until now, in a mere ~150 5×8 pages. With wide spacing.

I had to keep stepping back and taking a breath when she is claiming a general belief for people in the world over periods of thousands of years, when it’s hard to nail down what people in, say, Georgia believe this week, as a group. But it’s a necessary simplification for what she’s trying to do.

Perhaps I had more trouble than usual because I’m continuing to simulatenously read Guns, Germs and Steel and The Ancestor’s Tale during this same period, both humongous works with tons of detail covering the same time period or greater than Myth.

There are a few points she makes that I remain skeptical about.

One is that it is only recently that people have taken their myths to be literally true, a quirk of modern fundamentalism. She claims the bible was not written as a historical document, but rather as metaphor… Genesis, for instance, is not a literal description of the beginning of the world, but rather a story to give one context to live in, to help in developing our personal philosophies. Or something like that. I couldn’t find a quote that sums it up neatly.

My question is, how does she know? Though there are many footnotes, I didn’t see one attached to that assertion anywhere. Really, Genesis was not meant to be taken literally? Ever? Huh.

The second point that I take issue with is her assertion that we’re kind of flailing these days without our mythology. She makes the claim that novels can suffice, and some art.

This reminds me of an episode of Northern Exposure that I thought particularly brilliant. There is a shaman who is trying to break into the business of healing White People through his means, and he goes about collecting White People mythology. So he asks everyone for their stories that get handed down, and all he gets are these campfire stories about murderers with hooks for hands and the like.

So, he gets frustrated, but then he meets with Ed, shaman in training, in the movie house. He is watching some classic, I think Citizen Kane. He then realizes that movies are our modern mythology, our stories that give us the context, the philosophy.

But Karen Armstrong never mentions tv or film. Perhaps they are too recent in a historical context to include in a book with such huge time-scope.

Or maybe she’s just never seen Citizen Kane.