Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Limbaugh Problem

There's been some minor kerfuffle lately about Rush Limbaugh and The Dark Knight Rises. He makes the case that the new Batman movie is an allegory for the 2012 election with the "dark knight" representing President Obama and Bane representing Governor Romney (a play on Bain Capitol, the venture finance company that Romney founded). This is, of course, patently ridiculous. The movie has been in production for years, the character Bane was created in the 90's and has been featured in one Batman movie already. And if you dig into the politics of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight franchise, you'll find that it reflects social conservatism, not liberalism. So people have been looking at Limbaugh and chortling at what a dumb thing this was to say.

People are missing the point. Limbaugh isn't stupid. He just assumes that his audience is.

If you've listened to that segment or read the transcript, you'll note that Limbaugh punctuates his argument the the now famous sound byte of President Obama saying "If you own a small business, you didn't build that," which sounds damning until you take the 20 seconds to find the context of the quote. If you listen to the few sentences before, it's obvious that the word "that" is a reference to roads, bridges, infrastructure, etc. In short, anyone who uses this quote without its context is telling you a deliberate lie. I don't know about you, but I don't appreciate being lied to.

I see what you did there, Mittens.
Limbaugh, at least in the segment I linked to above, uses this quotation liberally. This tells me that he is not interested in conveying truth to his audience. So when he spins ridiculous malarky about a movie, he's not doing it because he thinks he's telling the truth. But Kurt, you say, do you think Limbaugh telling lying to his audience is that big of a problem?

No. The problem is that it's working. I don't think Limbaugh's audience is necessarily stupid, but they're certainly willing to be taken in by a convenient deception. Just look at this recent poll. The number of Republicans who think President Obama is a Muslim has doubled since 2008. We're getting mired in these stupid non-issues and losing track of the big ones, like the President's willingness to have a drone strike called on a U.S. citizen.

Isn't there enough disturbing truth out there without wasting time on meaningless lies? I say shame on Rush Limbaugh for having such a poor estimation of his audience. And I say shame on his audience for not disappointing him.


Friday, July 27, 2012

FFF: The Trouble With Princesses

Every Friday Kurt posts a new bit of Flash Fiction. This week...

The Trouble With Princesses
Word Count: 600

Once upon a time there was fairy princess named—what’s that? I know there’s no such thing as fairies. It’s a story. You’re allowed to have fairies in stories. I know, but… Fine. Okay.

Once upon a time there was a princess named Annabelle. Yes, I’m sure that was her name. This was a time when people were named Annabelle. Listen, I understand your concern, but this is a bedtime story, we can’t strive for realism.

Don’t make that face at me.

Fine. You want realism, I’ll give you realism.

Once upon a time there was a princess who was not a fairy. She lived in a world without magic. And because this was a long time ago, it meant that it was also a world without hygiene. The princess was lucky to have not died at the age of six from dysentery.

Dysentery? It’s a bad thing. It’s a very bad thing. Yes, I know you’re also six years old. Well, little girls sometimes did… Look, forget about the dysentery. I was trying to make a point—oh, please don’t start crying. I’m sorry about the dysentery. How about we’ll have this be a magical kingdom without dysentery? Would that make everything better?

Okay, once upon a time in a magical kingdom without… No, there’s no such thing as magic, but this is a story… Do you want me to give the princess dysentery again? So help me, I’ll do it. She’ll never live to rule her kingdom and marry the handsome prince, because he caught the ague when he was thirteen…

I’m sorry. Please stop crying.

Listen, Mommy always did this. I’m… I know. Please stop crying. Nobody has dysentery or ague. Ague? It’s another bad thing. No, there’s no ague under your bed. At least I hope not. I’m sorry, I’m absolutely sure that there’s no ague under your bed.

No, I’m not going to check.

Fine, I’ll check.

There. No ague. I’m sure. Are we better? Can we stop editorializing long enough for me to tell a story?
What does what mean? Editorializing is when… I don’t have time for this. I’m thinking of a story right now about a little girl who went to bed without bedtime stories.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Please stop crying.

We’ll start again. I’ll do it better this time. No, it won’t be like Mommy’s, but I’ll do my best. Can you promise me you’ll just listen?

Once upon a time there was a princess named Annabelle. A few weeks ago, she had been a farm girl, but suddenly her father became the king of the whole land. This was a lot of responsibility. You see, he’d never been a king before, and Annabelle had never been a princess. It was a little scary for both of them.

Annabelle was used to life on the farm, and suddenly she had everything she asked for. And she asked for quite a lot. And her father, the King, he didn’t know what to do. He wanted her to be happy, but he also knew that someday she’d be the queen, and she’d have to know how to rule without him.

This caused a lot of fighting, at first. But they kept trying, because they loved each other very much. And even though they failed over and over again, they kept trying to do better. After a few years, the King learned how to give Annabelle what she needed without spoiling her, and Princess Annabelle learned how to rule the kingdom. And eventually, they lived happily ever after.

The end.

Good night, sweetheart.

Friday, July 20, 2012

FFF: Human Error

Every Friday Kurt is publishing a bit of flash fiction. This week...

Human Error
Word Count: 598

Gavin stared in horror at the family that floated outside the starship. He’d seen the error in his calculation half a second too late, unable to do anything but watch as mother, father, and two daughters materialized in the vacuum of space, only to be boiled by radiation, frozen, asphyxiated, and explosively decompressed, in no particular order. Thirty seconds ago they’d been eager to embark on their new lives as intergalactic colonists. Now they were very, very dead.

Gavin’s hands shook. He had another family in the queue, waiting on him, but he couldn’t move.

“That was your first time losing someone, wasn’t it?” said someone over his shoulder. Gavin looked back and saw a gentle-looking woman. “Can you follow me please?” she asked. Gavin followed her to a room off the main center floor, away from the other workers. They sat across from each other, Gavin wanted to protest, apologize, explain, get back to his queue, but he couldn’t find the words.

“It’s okay, Gavin,” said the woman. “It’ll be okay.”

“Due respect, Miss—“

“Call me Marla,” said the woman.

“Due respect, Marla, but how could you possibly know about it?”

Marla smiled. “It’s my job to know about it,” she said. “And to know about you, as well. You have an impeccable record—“

“I did,” said Gavin, “until a few minutes ago.”

“It’s still very good. Near-perfect. Certainly well above the threshold—“

“They’re dead,” said Gavin. “The man… his little girls.”

“They knew the risks,” said Marla.

“I transposed a couple of digits on their coordinates. Did they understand the risk of me swapping numbers around in my head?”

“They understood the risks,” said Marla, her voice still gentle but with sterner tones. “One of those risks is human error.”

“It’s a stupid thing to die for,” said Gavin.

“Any worse than dying of starvation? Or being eaten by some wild animal? Or catching some disease? Their chances were slim to begin with.”

“Still, they would have had—“

“No,” said Marla. “You need to listen to me. Everyone makes mistakes.”

“I didn’t used—“

Everyone. Everyone makes mistakes. And when we make mistakes, people die, and that’s unfortunate, but it’s way it is.”

“But it’s my fault. They’re dead and it’s my fault,” said Gavin.

“Yes it is,” said Marla, “but you’ve got to forgive yourself anyway. You do good work here, and you can continue doing good work.”

Gavin shuddered. He wanted to rage, he wanted to cry out. He could barely breath under the weight of his guilt. “I don’t think I can do this,” he said.

“You can,” said Marla. “We need you. The migration effort needs you.”

“I can’t just… cope with this.”

“You can,” said Marla.


Marla closed her eyes. “Honestly?” she asked. “You want to know?”

Gavin nodded.

“This one will stay with you. But you’ll recover and even go for a while without any more slip-ups, and then one day you’ll make another mistake. That one will be easier to handle. And the next even easier. After a while you’ll be just as jaded as everyone else here. But for now, you still think of them as people. You still care. And for as long as you still care, that’s when we’ll get the best out of you.”

Gavin nodded.

“It’ll be okay. Really, it will. Take the afternoon, rent a movie, have some comfort food—no alcohol, mind youget a good night’s sleep, and be ready in the morning.”

Gavin nodded. Then he went to his desk and collect his things. Tomorrow would be another day.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Dark Knight is Risible

So I haven't seen The Dark Knight Rises yet, as it hasn't come out yet, but I've read a few reviews and I think I know what the big reveal is going to be.

Possible Spoiler Ahead... Maybe?

I think Marian Cotiallard will turn out to be Talia Al-Ghul, daughter of Liam Neeson's character from Batman Begins. The League of Shadows hired Bane to destroy Gotham, linking the final movie back to the first.

Anybody want to place bets?


Friday, July 13, 2012

FFF: Second Letter From The MCHPAA

Kurt is posting a new bit of flash fiction (600 words or less) every Friday until his brain falls out from the effort. This week, something light...

Second Letter From The MCHPAA
Word Count: 564

Dear Mrs. McTierney:

Thank you for your correspondence of August 3rd. We  at the Music Copyright Holders Protection Agency of America (MCHPAA) do appreciate your prompt reply, however we feel that you are not taking our legal action very seriously. The tone of your letter was terse and even jovial, which I do not believe is appropriate given the possible legal, financial, and criminal implications of the matter.

Nevertheless, allow me to address your suggestions individually.

Item 1: The damages we have claimed are entirely reasonable. This is the aggregated performance royalty for the songs listed in the claim, however large it appears to be. I assure you that this is, in fact, a real number that was arrived at by serious calculations. It was not pulled out of any of our orifices.

Item 2a: The amount of the action may seem excessive when compared to the GDP’s of impoverished nations, as you demonstrated in the useful chart you enclosed, but my colleagues and I consider this comparison to be both unfair and inflammatory.

Item 2b: Per your request, we have double-checked the data in the aforementioned chart. Your figures are accurate.

Item 3: Regarding my credentials, I do have a real law degree. It was not purchased at any of the big box retailers you mentioned. It was not printed on toilet paper. Passing the bar does not involve the human rectum in any way.

Item 4: The substance of the claim is not “preposterous”. Whether or not transmission over a baby monitor constitutes “broadcast” is a matter for the courts to decide, but I believe that we have good standing. Furthermore, that this was a monitor with video means that synchronization rights are also in scope. That you installed the monitor yourself is evidence that you knew you were being broadcast. Again, this is a matter for the courts to decide, not for you to dismiss out of hand.

Item 5: It is not relevant why any employee of the MCHPAA might have accidentally witnessed the broadcast from your monitor. What’s important is that he or she took note of what songs you were singing to your infant.

Item 6: No one at the MCHPAA has those sort of feelings about infants. Any such accusation is inflammatory and unfounded.

Item 7: My mother has been dead for thirteen years and is therefore incapable of the act you suggest she perform on me.

Item 8: While our legal claims are matters of public record, we feel that posting the brief on your—or any—blog or website is in poor taste.

All of this aside, we had not anticipated the reaction to your website and how it might affect our business, our website, our employees, their families, the restaurants near our office, our email servers, our phone system, availability of dental services, the possible withholding of marital favors from our spouses, etc.

I still feel that our claim is justified, but we are willing to drop it on two conditions. First, please take down your post and encourage any of your friends or blog followers to leave us alone.
Second, in the future, when Timmy wakes up in the middle of the night, please make an effort to turn off the baby monitor, or at the very least sing something to him that is in the public domain.


Reese Delgadillo, esq.

Friday, July 6, 2012

FFF: Destroyer of Worlds

Every Friday Kurt is posting a new flash fiction story. This week...

Destroyer of Worlds
Word Count: 582

The red light caught Bennet’s attention; people were coming. He’d want to make sure to have clothes on in the next five minutes. Bennet put his book down and moved to the edge of the plastic bubble that had become his home. The wall gave when he pressed his hand to it, almost like the inside of a balloon—which was what it was, really. With a sigh, Bennet went to tidy up his bed before the tour arrived.

After a few minutes twenty-odd people of varying ages and races filed into the room outside his bubble. They wouldn’t know each other, but they would share this pain:  each of them had lost someone to the SpiderPox. They’d all seen the grid of splotches on the face of a loved one and known that death would follow in a few hours. And they’d all come to see the man responsible. Bennet could feel the hate in their eyes, but he sat resolutely in his chair.

He’d never heard the guide’s speeches, but he could guess what they said. “Behold Bennet Markison, the Carrier, the Destroyer of Worlds.” 8 million people had died because of him—8 million unfortunate souls that he’d met in the course of the two-and-a-half years it took to trace the illness to its source. To him.

It was amazing to think that he could have interacted with so many people. And yet there they were—vacuum sealed, autopsied, burned. Their organs had turned to rubber, their faces to contorted masks of pain and ruptured blood vessels. All because of him. The tour group glowered. No one expected to lose their shit when the saw Bennet behind his plastic bubble, but they all did. They all wanted him dead. 

Bennet refused to collapse under the weight of their stares. It wasn’t his fault, not really. He hadn’t known he carried the disease, and it took weeks to fester in a victim before symptoms appeared, and then only a few hours to destroy them utterly. No wonder the CDC needed so long to track him down.

And in the meantime, everyone had died who had shaken his hand, made change at the local deli, served him a drink, took his ticket stub, nudged him on the subway platform, tapped his shoulder to return a dropped wallet, bagged his groceries, or picked up his mail. In a city like New York, those tiny transactions added up to 8 million people pretty quickly, even after they quarantine.

No wonder they were angry. They’d been afraid for so long. But now that he was wrapped in plastic and on display, they’d forgotten how to be afraid. Bennet rose, picking his book up from the table beside his chair. He didn’t mind being a tourist attracting, but he couldn’t stand the idea that the masses had forgotten how to fear their hermetically-sealed devil. He hurled the book towards the group.

The plastic stopped it, but the sound carried into the tour room. The tourists jumped back. Some fled the room. Some cried. One woman fainted. The guide was breathing quickly and gesturing frantically, probably apologizing.

No one was angry anymore.

A green light came on. Someone was suiting up to enter the room. Bennet chuckled to himself. He’d get a reprimand for this, but no real punishment. They needed him too badly—needed his antigens. They had a world to inoculate.

He would remain their devil a while longer.