Kong, The Eighth Wonder of the World

A Tasty, Tasty Biscuit
Sunday, December 18th, 2005

Eric Burns, aka The Websnark, is (in my opinion, at any rate) the foremost critical voice in webcomics. And I say this not only because he has nice things to say about Schlock Mercenary, but because his criticism is so consistently SOLID, regardless of what he's reading. Oh, and he respects the fact that his readers will disagree with him. Even when he says "I've given up on [webcomic 'x']," he does NOT berate the people who still read it and love it.

So yeah, I got 'snarked, and came out of it with a tasty, tasty biscuit. The low-carb diet precludes me EATING said biscuit, so I'm having it bronzed. I could use a trophy or two.

There's a comment from me under that particular Websnark installment in which I carefully do NOT spoil the coming weeks and months of Schlock Mercenary. Since posting it I've thought a bit more about what I can and can't say about Our Story Thus Far...

Remember a week or so ago when I mentioned C.S. Lewis and Christian Allegories? Lewis said that Narnia was a "supposal" rather than an allegory. Well, there are already a few of you who are looking at Petey, the Qlaviqlese, and Schlockiverse politics in general and wondering whether I'm creating some complex allegory for the current political scene. I'm starting to wonder if I know how C.S. Lewis felt.

I don't follow politics closely enough to create a decent allegory for the complex mess we have worldwide in the 21st century, and I'm not sure I'd want to in any event. And I doubt Schlock Mercenary qualifies as a "supposal" under Lewis' definition, though it's possible that ALL science fiction is "supposal" in nature. I THINK what I'm creating can be regarded as "satire," at least in some circles, but mostly I'm not thinking about that. I'm not a deliberate satirist. I'm just having fun, poking fun, and writing the story that The Voices In My Head narrate. One of them happens to be a nigh-omnipotent aggregated super-intelligence (nothing artificial about it, folks) who, in Ennesby's words, is "meddling."

*Sigh*. You know the Voices have the upper hand when I have to start quoting them in order to explain myself.

Kong, The Eighth Wonder of the World
December 16th, 2005

Sandra and I decided that King Kong was the one film we had to see together this holiday season. Then, like a jerk, I decided I couldn't wait until next Thursday when we can both find time and a babysitter, so I went and saw it alone yesterday.

You need to see this film in theaters. I probably didn't need to tell you that. I mean, come on... GIANT GORILLA.

You've seen the trailers, I'm sure. Often with trailers that good, I'm worried that they've shown me all the best parts of the film. Not so with King Kong. They've shown you tiny snippets taken from some of the best parts of the film, and they've very thoughtfully NOT shown you some of the VERY best bits.

I remember reading "Liberty Meadows" one day, and Frank Cho had drawn a gorilla fighting a bunch of velociraptors. The caption was along the lines of "Sorry, no story today. I just wanted to draw a monkey beating up on a bunch of dinosaurs." Now, students of Cho's work will likely tell you that this was a dig at the syndicates, because "monkey-boy" Frank Cho was sometimes at odds with his employers, the "dinosaur" syndicate editors. Regardless, I like to think that he really DID just want to draw a monkey fighting with dinosaurs. And if I'm right, Frank Cho will weep tears of joy while watching King Kong, because it will fulfill his darkest monkey-punching fantasies.

(Yes, I know, Kong is an APE, not a MONKEY. Understand, however, that "monkey" is a funnier word by several orders of magnitude. If Charlton Heston, in Planet of the Apes had said "Get your hands off me, you damn, dirty monkey," the film would have been a smash-hit comedy.)

King Kong is just over three hours long. Don't buy a drink at the theater unless you've got great bladder control, because I can't think of a single place in that film where it's okay to miss a few minutes. Just hold it in. And do go before the movie starts, kids.

Some will say that the film COULD have been shorter. Peter Jackson COULD have just given us two hours of eye-candy, with none of that bothersome STORY or CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. Thankfully, he's a better director than that. Even when Kong is not on the screen, your eyes will be. You'll care about ALL these players, and you'll keep watching to find out how their epic adventure changes them (hint: at least one of them becomes monkey-chow).

Inline Text Ads
December 15th, 2005

So... I'm over at PhysOrg.com reading some cool news -- apparently another Kuiper belt object has been discovered, but the tilt of its orbital plane (47 degrees tilted from that of our Solar System's planets) and its nearly circular orbit are playing havoc with existing theories for how the Kuiper belt formed and evolved.

Several words in the article appeared to be hyperlinked, and the first was the temporary name of the 500-to-1000 kilometer object: "Buffy." I expected to be linked to articles about how temporary naming took a fun spin with "Xena" recently, but no, this was a sponsored link, and mousing over it gave me a pop-up about buying Buffy The Vampire Slayer on DVD.

There were other words in the article that were similarly linked -- "remote," "coax," and "computers." Each was pointed to a page that had absolutely NOTHING to do with Kuiper belt objects, or even astronomy. Go look at the article and see those words in context, and you'll see what I mean.

I love HTML. I love the way the appropriate use of anchor tags and hyperlinks allows us to deepen our understanding of subjects by connecting words, terms, and phrases to articles that provide further information. The Astronomy Picture of the Day and Wikipedia both do this really, really well.

I also like Internet advertising. I have to -- it pays my bills. But it's getting better and better at connecting me with products, services, and information germane to what I'm reading about, or otherwise closely related to my own interests. Mind you, I block pop-ups, and scan pages for content before granting an eyeball to the ads, but it's nice. If I'm in a hurry, the ads don't slow me down a bit. I've designed my own site with this principle in mind.

But the method of inlining the ads used at PhysOrg hijacks the reader, confounding attempts at deeper understanding. PhysOrg just trained me to keep my mouse the heck out of that window while I'm reading -- I can't trust their hyperlinks.

Besides, I already own all seven seasons of Buffy on DVD.