One day I went to play volleyball and someone there announced that we were all invited to her friends' (they were twins) birthday party and that there would be a bouncy slide. So I went, bringing four boxes of cookies to justify my being there. The only person there I knew was one who, up until that night, thought my name was Peter for some reason and I didn't correct him because I thought it was funny. The twins lived in a house they had bought together in a quiet part of town, which seemed nice although they mentioned that some of their neighbors were drug addicts who attracted police who woke them up in the middle of the night. I didn't think anything of that at the time.
"Where are you from?" one of the twins asked, as most people do.
"Upstate New York," I said, and then, before she could move on to the next question most people ask about what part, "Potsdam area."
"Oh, funny story," she said, "my ex-husband is from there."
There was a table with some index cards and pens, inviting attendees to write our favorite memories of the twins, and I hilariously wrote that mine was meeting them for the first time that evening. I had some room left on the card so after some ethical debate I left my web address. When I got home, I was horrified to discover that I had somehow put the pen cap in my pocket instead of putting it back on the pen. It seemed stupid to interrupt their lives for such a trifle, yet it needed to be made right no matter how small, so I determined to leave it on their porch with a note.
"How are you?" asked some lady sitting on her porch on their street. I said I was fine, thanks. I left the pen cap and the note and then by happenstance as I was wandering later that day and realized I was on the same street again, took the opportunity to check whether they had retrieved it yet. They had. I reached the end of the street and found several shriveled-up crusty dandelions growing by the road. I like picking the shriveled-up crusty bits off of dandelions. I enjoy it more than I can explain and I couldn't possibly care less if people think it's weird or assume I'm mentally deficient. So I picked the shriveled-up crusty bits off these dandelions and was about to leave when the lady who had said "How are you?" started incoherently yelling something.
I should have just kept going, but I wandered back over across half a block to stand in her front yard and ask what she was saying. She was brown and wrinkly, wore glasses, and was smoking a cigarette. What follows is reconstructed from my memory to the best of my ability. It was disjointed and surreal and repetitive at the time.
"What are you doing?" she asked. "I just wanna know what you're doing. I saw you on this street earlier, I said 'How are you', now you're back, and you went running real fast when Brennan pulled up in his car."
I hadn't noticed or reacted to any cars. I told her why I had been on the street earlier and how I happened to be on it again.
"Which house?" she asked.
I told her the number.
"That green one?" she said.
I didn't know, I couldn't see from here which one it was and I didn't know if it was the green one because I have better things to do with my brainpower than memorize the colors of houses I've seen twice.
"You're lying," she said. "I don't like liars. I know you're high... on meth." That was news to me, but it explained a lot. "I know because I used to be on meth, but I've been clean for seven years. I know you're here because of Brennan and Stacey. "
"Who are Brennan and Stacey?"
"Oh, you know."
Where could the discussion go from there? There was nowhere for it to go if she was going to be as asinine and incoherent as an anti-vaxxer.
"You were here twice, and God knows when else, because my dogs knocked me down. I have two huge dogs. If I ever see you around here again, I'm going to sic them on you."
"You don't own the street," I said.
"I don't care, I have kids. I have kids."
"You can't attack me for no reason."
She got this smug hoity-toity look and said, "Suspicion of activities." She obviously missed the memo that in the United States, "suspicion of activities" is neither sufficient grounds to attack a stranger nor even an actual legal term of any kind. I should have called the police then and there. She called out one of her kids, a girl of about middle school age, and told her to go get her brother. And she went and got her brother and her brother was about thrice the size of his mom. And I thought she was going to have him attack me, but he literally just stood there awkwardly for the remainder of our discussion.
"How did you know where I live?" she demanded, squinting at me.
"Because you yelled at me from across the street!" Why she thought my being here had jack to do with her was beyond my meager powers of comprehension.
"You were over there in the dandelions -"
"Yeah, is picking dandelions a crime now?"
"------- dandelions, man? Seriously?"
"Yeah, seriously!" My patience was quickly unraveling as it began to appear that this person was just a bigot against Aspies. If I want to pick the shriveled-up crusty bits off dandelions, I'll pick the shriveled-up crusty bits off dandelions. I don't owe her or anyone else on this planet an explanation.
"If you come back, I - it won't be good for you." Yeah, I'm really scared of a woman older than my mother who sits on her nalgas and smokes all day. I could probably just run circles around her until she died.
At this point I decided I was done being polite. "I'm gonna come back just to piss you off," I promised.
"Yeah, well..." she said something else that I wasn't listening to as I decided she had wasted enough of my time and left.
"I'll go wherever the ---- I want!" I yelled back. I usually try not to swear loudly enough for anyone to hear, but I made an exception that time.
I contacted the Logan City Police via Facebook because I was too nervous to call. Why don't they have an email? God forbid they have any contact method for people with non-urgent matters who have anxiety about phone conversations or being arrested for no reason. Of course, even though the Logan City Police Facebook page says they usually message back within a few hours, they never messaged me back, just like they never messaged me back the first time I contacted them about something. And the first time it felt personal, like they didn't consider me a person of equal value, but this time I should have seen it coming. I had briefly forgotten that harassment and threats are perfectly legal in the United States.
If she had just left me alone, I would have felt zero need to go back. But I was going to keep my promise. There was no way in hell I was going to give in to her abuse. So I went back the next day.
A dog barked as I neared her house. Through the screen door, I saw it, about a third of the size I expected. I think it was a bulldog but I couldn't see it clearly. So their existence was confirmed. She was still sitting on the porch, though I almost didn't recognize her without her glasses. As I passed by I looked her in the eye with the most defiant look I could manage. This was the moment of truth.
"Shut up, Z," she said to the dog.
My conclusion? That she was on drugs, probably meth, the first time. That makes it easy to forgive her. I am, by nature, one of the least forgiving people in the world, but I have an enormous space in my heart for addicts. Having stood up to her and kept my honor, I am now willing to put this incident behind us.
I'm Han Solo
I have not yet seen "Solo: A Star Wars Story" because not being surrounded by a huge obnoxious crowd is more important to me than seeing it as soon as possible. Here is another tribute song that keeps me psyched for it.
I committed to write a post every week even if it's crap, and this year maybe you've regretted my decision.
I cannot believe it's been a decade since "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" was released. I watched the teaser over and over as if that would magically make it be released faster. I wrote "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is released today!" on the top of all my school assignments. I went with some friends for one of their birthdays and I loved it. I found it exciting and funny and original. I know hating George Lucas' more recent movies is the cool thing to do, but I don't, okay? Sue me. I don't hate any of his movies, actually. Not even "Howard Duck", which in my opinion is better than any of the Transformers movies and at least a dozen others I could mention. Anyway, I can't believe how fast my life is zipping by. A tender mercy, I suppose. I don't want to live very long. My tolerance for humanity's nonsense that I find myself constantly surrounded by ran out at least five years ago. I consider it far worse than death.
I don't want Harrison Ford to die, though. He's a national treasure. It was a gutsy move to cast him in the fourth Indiana Jones movie at age 65 and even gutsier to be casting him now, ten plus years later, for the fifth movie set to be released in 2020. We can only hope this will help to reduce American culture's contempt for old people. Disney originally promised that no one besides Harrison Ford would ever portray Indiana Jones (even though he's already been portrayed by River Phoenix, Neil Boulane, Boutalat, Corey Carrier, Sean Patrick Flannery, and George Hall) but now they're saying this fifth movie will be followed by a reboot of some kind. Because of course it will. Steven Spielberg thinks the next Indiana Jones should be a woman. I think if they go that route, they should at least change her name to avoid confusion. They could name her, say, Lara Croft, and call the franchise "Tomb Raider" or something like that. I don't know. It's just a thought.
One of the rumored future Star Wars anthology films is about Obi-Wan Kenobi. TMZ claims to have some details about it. "The report claims the Obi-Wan film is not an origin story like “Solo” but a direct prequel to the original “Star Wars.” The script is set on Tatooine and picks up with Obi-Wan living in exile and watching over young Luke Skywalker. Tensions between a tribe of Sand People and local Tatooine farmers bring Obi-Wan out of hiding." I, for one, hope this is true. I would love to see a Star Wars movie that takes place on one planet with no space battles and little or no involvement from the Empire. Presumably Obi-Wan wouldn't be able to do much with the Force or his lightsaber either, since, you know, he's supposed to be hiding. Hopefully we would see more of the Sand People culture and perspective and no longer view them as mindless killers - Disney could borrow from a Legends story where a moisture farmer befriends them and finds that they have souls after all. This would be such a unique movie and great change of pace from the usual Star Wars fare.
Recently I discovered an online treasure trove of Star Wars fan films that have almost or entirely been forgotten. Yes, most of them have been forgotten because they suck. But I'm wading through to find the gems, and I consider all of them to be worth watching once, or at least worth playing in the background while I do something more important once, if for no other reason than as nostalgic relics of the bygone era of 1999-2005. They make me grateful for how high the bar has been raised on fan films since then. All fan films now are expected to have impressive cinematography, realistic special effects, passable acting, and original music. Some are all but indistinguishable from Hollywood productions. And they're all made available on the internet for free so the filmmakers don't get their butts sued off. This is one considerable advantage of being alive in this annoying and stressful era.
The other night I had this dream where I'm in a car in a parking lot late at night, maybe my car, maybe someone else's, I don't know. But this cop thinks I'm looking suspicious so he pulls up and tells me to get out. I get out and start hyperventilating and coughing from fear, but I figure that's a good thing because it should make him take pity on me. He asks to see my ID and I give it to him, remembering that it's expired, reminding myself that airport security and the jail's visiting center accepted it anyway so he should too. He gives it back and tells me to get in his car. I ask if I'm in trouble. He says no. He takes me to the police station, which is the size of an airport and has a bunch of little shops like an airport, and he takes me to this shop where you design your own trail mix by picking ingredients, and he tells me to get whatever I want. I feel myself waking up but I determine to remember his name so I can thank him for his kindness. I look at his name tag: Michael Post. Thank you, Michael Post.
In anticipation of "Solo: A Star Wars Story", I am reposting this delightful song.
After "Rogue One" became the second Star Wars movie in a row to have a female main character*, I witnessed some male idiots complaining that even Han Solo would be a woman in his upcoming movie. And as stupid as that was for them to say, it got me thinking. What if the trailers have been deliberately throwing us off this whole time? What if the movie is not primarily about Han... but Hannah? She would, of course, eventually become the Han Solo we know and love, either in this movie or one of its four sequels.
Hannah: What can I do, Chewie? Every bounty hunter in the galaxy knows my face and genetic signature.
Chewbacca (in Shyriiwook): I have an idea, but you're not gonna like it.
The Solo part comes about when the team we saw in the trailers teaches her that group projects are literally the worst.
*Assuming for the sake of this discussion that there is only one "main character" per movie. If we count multiple main characters per movie, then obviously all of them have had female main characters. Interestingly, the idea for a movie about stealing the Death Star plans and this movie having a female main character dates back to around 2003, long before the current efforts at diversifying Star Wars. John Knoll wanted a character for his daughters to look up to. Awwww.
Reasons I'm Looking Forward to "Solo: A Star Wars Story"
*It has the words "Star Wars" in the title. Let's get that out of the way. I will watch anything with the words "Star Wars" in the title, even if the preceding word is "The" and the next two words are "Holiday Special". I have a problem and I don't care who knows it. Not all Star Wars films or TV episodes are made equal, to be sure, but any Star Wars movie or TV episode is better than no Star Wars movie or TV episode. Did we really need this movie? No, we don't technically need any movies ever. Is it a cash grab? Who cares? If someone makes something and millions of people want to give them money for that thing they made, I don't see that as even a little bit problematic. Unless it's a nuclear bomb or a supervirus. But what else do you expect Disney to do?
Executive 1: Well, we've purchased the second most successful franchise ever for $4 billion, and there's obviously still plenty of demand for it, but let's not make any unnecessary new movies.
Executive 2: Brilliant!
Bonus points if you can name the first most successful franchise ever without looking it up. No, it is not Star Trek. Not even close.
*It has some of the coolest aliens I've ever seen anywhere in my life. While it is a bit jarring that the newer films show very few of the traditional Star Wars aliens that I know and love - Rodians, Twi'leks, Grans, Biths, Jawas, etc. - it is exciting to see them making the galaxy a bigger place with hundreds of new ones. And the ones I saw sitting around Lando when Han first meets him look incredible. So bizarre, so unfamiliar, so alien, and yet so realistic. Most of the new aliens are puppets and costumes, but they look so much better than the puppets and costumes of the original trilogy or even the CG of the prequels. Seeing these ones literally took my breath away.
*It respects the original canon. As every nerd is aware, in 2014 Disney invalidated virtually all of the expansive and often contradictory Star Wars books, comics, video games, etc. in favor of creating their own, but they still liberally borrow and adapt from what came before. In the original canon, Han joined the Imperial Acadamy and got expelled for rescuing a Wookiee slave named Chewbacca. The trailers clearly show Han joining the Imperial Academy. The gang Han Solo faces off against has been officially identified as the Cloud-Riders, who first appeared in one of Marvel's earliest Star Wars comics in 1977. In that story, Han Solo faced off against them with a small band of hired vigilantes who included a green wisecracking six-foot-tall rabbit named Jaxxon and an eccentric Jedi Knight in shining armor named Don-Wan Kihotay. Yeah. That was a thing that happened.
*It looks like the Empire aren't the primary bad guys. They're in it, obviously, but from the trailers it appears that they're in the beginning and then fade away to let gangsters and crime lords be the primary bad guys. This would be a refreshing change of pace. Even with most of the old canon gone, I think the Empire has become overused when there are so many other eras and characters in the galaxy to explore. They're like Indiana Jones' Nazis.
*It covers new genre territory. Star Wars is mostly scif-fi, specifically space opera, with heavy mythological and religious overtones. "The Star Wars Holiday Special" was... uh... something or other. The no-longer-canon Ewoks movies and TV series were fantasy, with lots of magic ridiculousness and heavy inspiration from The Lord of the Rings. "Rogue One" was a gritty war film. But there has never been a Western/heist Star Wars movie until now. Disney can never please everybody as it tries to strike a balance between nostalgia and originality, but I for one applaud any experimentation with new territory even if it doesn't always work as well as they hoped. For that reason I preferred "The Last Jedi" to "The Force Awakens" even though it weirded me out.
*It has Mimban in it. In 1978, Alan Dean Foster published a book called "Splinter of the Mind's Eye" that was meant to work as a low-budget sequel to the original Star Wars if it flopped. To save money on scenery, almost the entire book was set on a foggy swamp planet. Circarpous V, aka Mimban. Han Solo is nowhere to be seen because there was no telling if Harrison Ford would be willing to return for another movie, so the story follows Luke and Leia and Artoo and Threepio as they race against Darth Vader for the Kaiburr Crystal that amplifies one's connection to the Force. And it veers into some very uncomfortable territory between Luke and Leia, like when they're alone on a raft and Leia is sleeping and Luke stares at her lips and I've said too much already. Anyway, I first picked up this almost thirteen years ago and I loved it. Though I didn't consciously copy it, I can almost certainly credit it with my own story "Space Girls" also revolving around a crystal with supernatural powers. So, nostalgia blast. Mimban's canonicity was preserved by a passing mention in an episode of "The Clone Wars", but seeing it on the big screen was too much to hope for.
*Donald Glover looks great as Lando Calrissian. Of course, we have to cut movies a little slack because real people's appearances don't change as much with age as character's appearances do with different actors. Someday soon this problem will be solved with CG. But for now, Donald Glover is more than good enough. He looks similar enough and I enjoyed him in "Community" and he oozes charm and charisma every moment that he's onscreen in the trailers. And somewhere, I just know some mouth-breather is complaining about "the ------- social justice warriors who added another black character to Star Wars".
*Having said that, the actor they got to play Chewbacca looks exactly like the one in the original trilogy. He has the same facial structure and the same fur coloration all over and everything. He could be Peter Mayhew's clone. God bless George Lucas for saving these abnormally tall and hairy people from lives as circus freaks.
*It has the words "Star Wars" in the title.
A Reason that Puts a Teensy Little Damper on My Enthusiasm for "Solo: A Star Wars Story"
*Alden Ehrenreich looks very little like Harrison Ford. The mere fact of someone besides Harrison Ford portraying this character doesn't bother me in the slightest, but seeing as they're supposed to be the same person and Harrison Ford came first, he does need to be emulated. They don't need to be identical, like I said, but Alden Ehrlenlich is light-years away. As with Hannah, this discrepancy could also be resolved in-universe with surgery.
I will wait to see the movie before judging him on his acting. But Disney looked at thousands of auditions and literally picked the first one they saw because why exactly? It's not as if there aren't others out there who look more like Harrison Ford. This guy, for instance, who made this little gem that helps tide me over while I wait for the movie. Bracelets writes: "HOLY CRAP. THAT DUDE COULD BE HARRISON'S ILLEGITIMATE!!!"
A Person Who Made Me Happy
Adrian Thompson is, in my estimation, the best writer in our fiction class, coming in two slots above me. I was disappointed by his absence on the day that my first story was workshopped, but he sent me a message via Canvas, the website that USU uses for various stuff. Because I had not been in school for a year and a half prior to this semester, I forgot all about checking for Canvas messages and didn't notice it until about a week ago. I want to reproduce his message in its entirety here because it made me smile so hard.
"Hello Chris, since I sadly could not make it to class today I am sending my comments on your story over this email. Hopefully they will assist you with revision.
What works well:
--I honestly love this story. The first sentence is masterful in my opinion, perfectly setting up the amazing setting and interesting characters. The allusions to space-related things throughout (the Jetsons, Ernie's moon song) are just amazing and work really well to create a specific tone and mood for the surface of the moon itself.
--Jane and Chantelle's characters are examined well through what they enjoy (for Chantelle, pointing out Jane's abnormalities and for Jane, "living the experience," and we get some great interiority from Jane through all her instances similar to "but she saw no reason to tell her" or "she couldn't care less." The image of Chantelle's bright green eyes hidden behind blood-red bangs is just phenomenal. Figurative language works very well when it occurs, especially when it connects us to character, such as the "dead human skull Jane had seen once" and her beautiful meta-descriptions of earth.
--By far the strongest aspect of the story, however, is the dialogue and interaction between the characters. Every single line from each of them chastising the other is just drop-dead funny, and their familiar relationship of bully and victim is made fresh and new through the specific, unique things they say to one another. The LEVELS which each go to to in terms of criticism are just astounding, from inventing "lunar wolves" to snapping directly back at every chastisement each offers the other with a perfect response. And, oh my God, the PUNS--even down to the friggin title! So awesome. Their extended interaction is honestly so interesting that it carries the whole story by itself.
What needs improvement:
--I didn't get that they were on the moon, and not an alien planet, until page four. Mention it immediately to help the audience withhold one specific image of the setting throughout.
--In terms of worldbuilding, some things you use are working very well, like subtle mentions of slang like "stragging," "Philistines," and "space spit," all of which I just adore, and the fact that some channels on the moon's radio waves play music. Other mentions of things such as Jane's birth on Mars or descriptions of the system-wide space travel program that got them out there in the first place, however, work less well since they are mentioned briefly and without connection to the plot. Other descriptive phrases feel much too, er, "on the nose" and expected in terms of the genre, such as "the last person in the galaxy" or "like a disabled ship in a meteor storm." Just watch for moments like these which feel too basic, like something the reader him/herself would think to use given the setting, and focus on your interesting invented phrases and obscure, quirky references.
--Even though the character interaction is strong enough to carry the story in general, I do think that the narrative should be more condensed in terms of plot. While each conversation is golden in its own right, you should probably pick out the best ones and move quicker so that you have room to elaborate on other areas--such as a more lengthy description of the tussle that rips Chantelle's suit. Interaction w/ teachers and the other bullies at the end also felt sudden since we had not seen them before, so maybe switch back and forth from the main action to flashbacks that reveal Jane's relationship with all of them at the start of the trip to better establish tension throughout.
--I find it interesting that BOTH girls are unlikable/not entirely innocent in different ways, instead of just acting as an evil bully and innocent victim, but in Jane's case--as the main character--I think these aspects of her could see further exploration. She seems to feel NO guilt whatsoever to BREAKING Chantelle's space suit, but why? Would it serve the story better for her to find that she does, even though Chantelle remains so cruel to her? Take things a step farther based on what the audience knows about them by the end to expand upon each of their characters.
--The ending is great in terms of subverting expectations at first (I LOVE the fact that Jane makes a bomb instead of just giving her oxygen to Chantelle, as one may expect, but Chantelle's later reaction feels a bit wanting. For Jane to save her life and Chantelle to do NOTHING to change her attitude towards her felt jarring--she doesn't need to run over and hug her as her new best friend, but even a small mention to her cronies of "hey, maybe lets let her off the hook for today" or something like that would work great. Jane ends her character arc in a good place regardless, but for Chantelle to do NOTHING felt disappointing, as if the whole plot of the story did not accomplish anything between them.
--The mention of the nanobots feels somewhat like a cop-out--as if the characters were never in any real danger if recuperation occurs so quickly and painlessly.
Like I said, Christopher, AMAZING story, and I am truly saddened by the fact I could not take part in the discussion of the first sci-fi story I've seen in Charles' class during the past three years.
"A space hero. Like a regular hero, but in space."
A Person Who Did Not Make Me Happy
Returning home with a bag of laundry last Saturday, I was walking by the church on the boulevard when a vehicle pulled up near me and the passenger tossed a burning cigarette butt at my feet. I stood behind the vehicle and positioned my phone to take a picture of the license plate, but before I could, both of the guys inside got out. One stayed in the shadows while the other walked over to me. He had a shaved head, a tank top, and tattoos all down his muscular arms - in other words, he was yet another example of the fact that most stereotypes exist because they're true. "You got a problem?" he sputtered. "You got something to say?" He threw in a few swear words. I guess I was supposed to be intimidated. But I'm never afraid to die, and this night I was in such a dark place that my normal aversion to most physical pain was gone and I didn't care if he broke all my limbs. I had just spent stake conference hiding from my ex-crush, but this jackass with the maturity of a twelve year old did not instill me with one iota of fear.
"You dropped something," I said, pointing at it. I resumed taking the picture. Realizing that he had failed to intimidate me, he swore a few more times and went back to his buddy. I sent the picture to the police, and I don't know if they can actually do anything about it but it gave me a certain satisfaction.
I deeply regret that I didn't just pick the thing up and toss it back in at them. Dear smokers: if you want to poison yourself, that's fine with me, Darwin approves, but keep it away from me and dispose of your cigarette butts like an adult.
We had Star Wars day recently. Bracelets referred to it as "such a revered reminder of our fandom" and that was when I knew her conversion was complete. I'm so proud of her. Anyway, this John Williams masterpiece that in 1997 replaced the cute but lackluster "Yub Nub" pretty well encapsulates how I feel about this hellish semester being over, not counting the first 37 seconds because there is absolutely nothing bittersweet about it.
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
- David Young
About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.