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Everyone Who Dropped the Ball in INFINITY WAR (Spoilers)

I liked this movie a lot. If you haven’t seen it, go do that. SPOILERS HERE.







Right? Okay. So leaving the theater, it occurred to me that the heroes actually had a ton of chances to stop Thanos’ plan, and the fact that they didn’t manage it is sort of astonishing. Just for fun, here’s a list of everyone who, by not being slightly smarter/more ruthless, bears direct responsibility for the death of half the universe:

  • Loki could have left the Tesseract behind on Asgard to be destroyed.  This is maybe half a point, since it’s not 100% clear this actually would have destroyed it.  But later events imply that the stones are actually destructible, so maybe?  (Side note: having the stones be indestructible would make waaaaaaay more sense.)
  • Loki gives up the Tesseract to save Thor.  As will become a theme, it’s not super clear where he had it or what would happen if he actually held out on Thanos, but everyone acts as though he’s actually giving Thanos something.
  • Doctor Strange could have destroyed the Time gem immediately on hearing Thanos was doing stuff.  They handwave that he’s sworn to defend it but you would think not giving Thanos unlimited power would take priority?
  • Doctor Strange decides to bring the Time stone with, instead of leaving it somewhere slightly safer then hanging around his neck.  If the spell really does prevent anyone from taking it, even when he dies, he could also have safeguarded it by dying?
  • Iron Man decides to take the ship (and the Time stone) to Titan.  Not taking it back to Earth is understandable, but you know what other option was available?  Literally anywhere else in the universe.  The one thing Thanos emphatically does not have throughout the movie is perfect knowledge of where the stones are, because he’s constantly asking people.  So just like … go lose yourself somewhere?  Space is big.
  • Gamora goes along with the plan to go to Knowhere and … do something?  It’s really not clear what the actual plan is since if Thor, Hulk, and Loki got curb-stomped by Thanos it’s pretty clear Starlord, Gamora, Drax, and Mantis aren’t going to be able to take him out.  Maybe they thought they could get the stone first and run away, in which case you can add Starlord for not just turning the ship around and running away.
  • Gamora for not killing herself once it was clear Thanos was there, or indeed earlier.  That seems harsh but she did ask Starlord to kill her, so she was obviously aware this was a problem.  She could also kill herself later, when Thanos has her in prison and apparently unsupervised.
  • Gamora for giving up the location of the Soul stone to save Nebula.  This one is particularly bad since she a) knows exactly how bad this is, and b) has no expectation that Thanos won’t be able to take the stone once she tells him.
  • Starlord for ruining what was actually a perfectly functional plan to get the gauntlet away from Thanos that almost worked.  He is just the worst.
  • Scarlet Witch and Captain America in some combination for balking at Vision’s perfectly reasonable request to let him sacrifice himself for the good of the entire universe.  Extra points because Cap never really answers Vision’s comparison of his WWII era sacrifice of himself to save America.
  • Doctor Strange, again, for giving up the Time stone to save Iron Man.  At this point he had some vision of the future to guide him, but it’s not clear what would have happened if he’d held out, similar to Loki above.

I think that’s it?  Thanos was really pretty lucky that all the stones were in the hands of good people who would give them up when friends or loved ones were threatened, rather than like Magneto or Doctor Doom or somebody.

Also, note to Thanos: even with a slowly falling world birthrate, human numbers approximately doubled (from 3.8bn to 7.5bn) between 1972 and 2018.  Assuming other civilized planets are similar, you’re going to be doing this again roughly every fifty years, forever.  Probably more often actually, since the greater availability of resources will lead to faster growth rates.  Read your Malthus, man.

Movies, Silly

Abridged Script to BLACKHATS

This is an attempt to reconstruct the script of the movie BLACKHATS, which I watched on the plane ride home and was completely baffling in its badness. I rented it for $6 and there’s an hour of the flight left, so I may as well use it to entertain myself.


Everything is fine. Suddenly, COMPUTERS! We zoom inside the computer to see a light turn on. Then everything is NOT FINE. A water pump breaks, and the reactor almost immediately explodes, because that is how reactors work.


CB: Can you find out who did this?
CC: Only with the help of the Americans. They still have the … code of the … virus? Or something. Ours got exploded in the reactor.
CB: Fine, I’ll have to convince the FBI.

FBI WOMAN meets with FBI BOSS.

FW: I think we should work with them.
FB: Work with the Chinese? Never! *pause* Okay, fine.

Meanwhile, THOR is in prison. He gets called into the prison warden’s office to get yelled at for hacking into the prison commissary with a phone or something. The point is, we know he’s a HACKER, and he mouths off to the warden so we know he’s COOL. He also does some push-ups so we know he’s BUFF.

Meanwhile, at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, HACKERS once again zoom the camera inside a computer and do something with LIGHTS. This causes a catastrophic rise in the price of soy. (Seriously that’s what happens.)

Meanwhile, CHINESE COP meets with his sister, GIRL.

CC: I need you to come with me to America. You are an elite network administrator, and I need one of those I can trust.
Girl: No. On second thought, fine. Does the fact that I’m an elite system administrator mean I get to do computer stuff in this movie?
CC: No, you basically read stuff off screens to us.
Girl: Dang.

They go to NON-SPECIFIC AMERICA and meet up with FBI WOMAN and her partner FBI JERK.

CC: I will immediately establish good relations by telling you how much your technical people suck.
FW: I don’t really even argue with this.
CC: We need my old college roommate Thor.

THOR gets offered a deal to get out of prison, but he negotiates it to a better deal so we can see how COOL he is.

CC: Hey bro, good to see you!
Thor: Your Earth prison could never hold me! I mean, hi bro. Sorry, I’ve been doing so much of this Avengers shit it slips sometimes.
CC: This is my sister Girl!
*THOR and the CAMERAMAN both stare pervily.*

They go to the Chicago computer center and THOR shows up the pencil-necked dweeb who works there by typing on a command line, because he is a HACKER. He runs .exe files on UNIX because that is a thing that happens.

FW: Okay, so this dude planted the virus here. Let’s all go find him.
Thor: Why don’t Girl and I go by ourselves, and you two stay here? Because … reasons. Something about grids.
FW: I don’t trust you so I’m sending FBI Jerk along. Try not to evade him so effortlessly the movie won’t even show us how you do it.

He DOES. The guy they went to find is dead, but he was meeting another guy at a Korean restaurant, so they go there. Nobody shows up. Thor finds a camera and concludes that it’s a trap, and then every Korean in the restaurant inexplicably tries to murder them, including the chef. They escape.

Girl: You are awful good at hand to hand combat for a hacker.
Thor: Verily, none shall stand before the might of Mjolnir!
Girl: But since this was a dead end and we learned nothing, this whole part of the movie is pointless.
Thor: We had better have sex then.
Girl: Why? The movie has made no effort to establish any romantic feeling between us, other than you staring at me like a creep.
Thor: I DO look like Thor, though.
Girl: Point.

They have that weird PG-13 sex where you don’t actually take any clothes off, but wake up later naked under a sheet.

Meanwhile, the competent characters blackmail the representative of the Exchange into revealing his client records, because this is something we are totally comfortable with the FBI doing. They discover that some money from the soy bubble went to China, which is a small place completely accessible by a few minutes’ car ride from Hong Kong.

Everyone meets up in China, and they find the three guys who took the money. Thor discovers they’re being sent their instructions by EVIL FOREIGN MAN, who sits in a cafe texting to nobody all day long while the Chinese police watch.

FW: Wait, you guys are actually watching him already, but you don’t have the content of his texts?
CC: Unlike America China is big on civil liberties.

They try to arrest EVIL FOREIGN MAN, but he produces an army of gun toting thugs out of his back pocket. Chinese police charge in and die horribly in huge numbers. Thor turns out to be pretty good in a gunfight, too. Eventually EVIL FOREIGN MAN kills all the police and escapes in broad daylight, because China is a DYSTOPIAN HELLSCAPE apparently.

Thor: Dang. Once again we are completely foiled and useless.
CC: We actually sort of suck at our jobs. By the way, are you banging my sister?
Thor: Verily.
CC: Right on, bro.
FW: This movie could pass the Bechdel Test if Girl and I exchanged a line, but we won’t.

The Chinese police arrive to say that the reactor is now “under control” so they can go in and retrieve the hard drives of the hacked computers, which may yield a clue. CHINESE COP, THOR, and GIRL do this instead of trained nuclear technicians. It looks like they might pass out and die, but then they don’t.

Thor: The data is on here, but it’s too badly corrupted to use!
CC: We pulled a hard drive from inside a breached nuclear reactor, I’m amazed it still works at all.
Thor: FBI Woman, when you arrested me, you restored my corrupt data somehow.
FW: The NSA has a program called Black Widow that can do that. They let us use it in a high profile case like yours. Now, though, this case that involves nuclear terrorism and the all important soy market apparently isn’t good enough.
Thor: I will break into the NSA by the power of HACKING!

Shockingly, this invokes something semi-plausible (if you squint real hard), rather than just typing really fast. They get the data and find out that the bad guy is using a service that hosts black hat hackers in Jakarta.

FW: Wait, if there’s a service like that, shouldn’t we, the FBI, know about it already?
Thor: Unlike the NSA, this Indonesian ISP is impenetrable to HACKING. We’ll have to physically break in there and grab stuff.
CHINESE BOSS: Not so fast! The NSA called and said they know you hacked them. Chinese Cop, turn Thor over to the Americans!
CC: Right away, sir, let me definitely not go warn him.

He DOES. Thor and Girl escape.

Thor: How did they detect my HACKING?!
Girl: Uh, you called them and asked for something, and when they said no it was stolen literally minutes later. It doesn’t take a genius.

Thor, Girl, and Chinese Cop meet up.

CC: Now that you’re a fugitive, we’ll have to sneak you into Indonesia, Thor. Girl, you have to stay here, because this is suddenly too dangerous.
Thor: That’s right. This isn’t like walking into a nuclear reactor, this is serious.
Girl: You guys suck.
Thor: You don’t want to date me anyway. I’m on the run from the law now.
Girl: Fine, but let’s make out one last time.

They do. Suddenly EVIL FOREIGN MAN shows up and destroys the car Chinese Cop is in with a bazooka!

Thor: Brooooooo!

FBI WOMAN and FBI JERK have been following Thor. They talk a bit about her dead husband, who was killed in 9/11.

FW: Wait, does that count as talking about my family? Did that raise my death flag? Son of a BITCH!

They show up where the gun toting thugs are trying to kill Thor. The FBI agents IMMEDIATELY open fire, and and killed by the bad guys. (I can’t stress enough that their procedure is: drive down the street in a foreign country, see gunfire on the road ahead, start firing guns out the car window without trying to find out what’s going on.). Thor and Girl escape, again in broad daylight, because again, DYSTOPIAN HELLSCAPE. They procure fake documents and exit from the country within literally minutes, because ditto.

Girl: I got the bad guy’s account file somehow, and it lists that he ordered satellite photos of this spot in Malaysia. Let’s go check it out!
Thor: You didn’t hack him, did you? Because HACKING is my job.

In Malaysia, they discover a deserted dam with water pumps of the same brand as used in the nuclear reactor.

Thor: That’s it! The reactor was PRACTICE! The bad guy’s real plan is to destroy this damn, flooding the tin mines in this valley, thus causing an increase in the price of tin while buying tin ore futures!
Girl: That’s seriously the big twist? The bad guys are manipulating the tin futures market, with the money they made on a soy bubble? Is the goal to make their plot so boring that no action hero will come foil it? Not to mention that makes no sense, since destroying a reactor would draw huge attention. This dam is completely unguarded, he could just WALK here and destroy it with a hammer! And–
Thor: I summon BIFROST to transport us to Jakarta!

They break into the top secret ISP by dropping a truck through the roof of the building, then just sauntering in with the cops, once again demonstrating no regard whatsoever for bystanders’ safety. Once they have the data, they steal the soy money, and call the bad guys.

EFM: Who is this?
Thor: Seriously, what accent are you even trying for? Let me talk to your boss.
EFM: Never. Well, fine.
BAD GUY: I am of course vaguely British, unlike my mostly ethnic henchmen. You’ve got my money, what do you want?
Thor: I want a cut of your scheme.
BG: Wait, so you’re holding my money hostage in exchange for more money? How does that make sense?
Thor: Your Earth numbers confuse and anger me.
BG: Interesting. Okay, but I demand a personal meeting, even though that can serve no possible purpose other than for us to try to kill each other.

Thor schedules the meeting in a big public square, thus deliberately starting a gunfight in a dense crowd. He prepares with a screwdriver up his sleeve and makeshift body armor made from magazines.

EFM: I will frisk you, rather than shooting you on sight, although killing you is clearly the plan.
Thor: Thanks! I’ll stab you in the face with this screwdriver and take your gun.
BG: Thugs, kill him!

They shoot lots of random civilians, but Thor is impervious to bullets due to his magazine armor. He kills the thugs. BAD GUY, a fat, pasty British hacker, pulls a knife and attempts to engage THOR in hand to hand combat. Thor stabs him about a million times immediately.

Thor: That’s what you get for HACKING when you’re not COOL.
Girl: I love you! For some reason!
Thor: Abs, I assume.
Girl: But aren’t we still on the run from the FBI? Won’t they easily find the money? For that matter, how are we going to get out of Indonesia after starting a gunfight in public?
Thor: Easily.

Indonesia also being a DYSTOPIAN HELLSCAPE, they do.

News, Silly

THE MAD APPRENTICE Cat Picture Giveaway!

If you know me at all, you probably know that I like cats. My cats, Sakaki and The Tomoes, were eager to help me advertise THE FORBIDDEN LIBRARY, as depicted below.



Now it’s your cats’ turn!

From now until the release of THE MAD APPRENTICE, on April 21st, everyone who emails an appropriate picture to will be entered in the giveaway! Winners will receive a hardcover copy of THE MAD APPRENTICE, signed by me and personalized as you like.

Pictures should contain, at minimum, the following:
-A copy of THE FORBIDDEN LIBRARY. (Kindle, audio, etc are fine!)
-A cat.

My UK publisher has agreed to ship copies to UK winners, so the contest is officially open to UK entrants! Winners in the UK will receive UK (paperback) editions, and I will try to send over a signed bookplate to put in them.


What if I don’t have a copy of THE FORBIDDEN LIBRARY?

They are available wherever books are sold, in paperback, e-book, or audiobook! THE MAD APPRENTICE is a sequel, so you’d want to read the first book first anyway.

What if I don’t have a cat?

That is a serious problem and you should remedy it immediately!

For those who are, for whatever sad reason, unable to get a cat, some creativity will be required. Here are some possible options:

  • Borrow a friend’s cat.
  • Borrow an enemy’s cat.
  • Go to the zoo and borrow a lion. (Note: Do not actually do this.)
  • Go to the library and pose with the stone lions. (Probably safer.)
  • Transform your dog into a cat by the magic of costume!
  • Transform your dog into a cat by the magic of photoshop!
  • Transform your dog into a cat by the magic of actual magic! (Recommended!)
  • Acquire a picture of a cat and use that. (There MAY be some pictures of cats on the internet, if you look hard.)
  • Draw, sculpt, or otherwise create a cat ex nihilo.
  • Use googly eyes and construction paper to make THE FORBIDDEN LIBRARY into a cat! (Note: Not responsible for damages to THE FORBIDDEN LIBRARY. You may want to buy an extra copy for this purpose.)


  • Winners will be selected at random from among qualifying pictures. I will contact winners by email to get snail-mail addresses, desired inscriptions, etc. Particularly awesome pictures may receive a small additional prize at my discretion.
  • Currently open to only the US and Canada — and now to the UK! See above. I’m really sorry, but shipping books elsewhere in the world just gets very expensive from here. (If you just want to send me cat pictures for fun, feel free!)
  • Feel free to include yourself in your pictures. However, pictures will be posted on my website, Twitter, etc, so don’t include anything you wouldn’t want the whole internet to see! Any names and other information will of course be kept private and not used for any non-contest purposes.
  • I am not responsible if you are clawed by a cat who refuses to hold still for a picture. Cat at your own risk.

Now go forth and photograph cats with books!

Minis, Silly

The Defense of Fort Hellcow

I blame Myke Cole for encouraging this sort of thing, and ML Brennan for encouraging me, specifically. Book fort!

Stardate: 8-9-2013. The construction of Fort Hellcow is completed, using amply available local materials.

The defenders, anticipating action, deploy to the walls.

The colonel and his elite troops guard the gate.

Elevated firing positions are built into the cliff face.

Heavy weapons deploy over the gatehouse.

With the enemy confirmed closing in, Command allocates reinforcements.


As the savage aliens approach, however, it becomes clear that the prospects for the defenders are bleak.

Very bleak.



The enemy numbers seem endless.

The defenders prepare to sell their lives dearly.





But wait — in the distance…

A column of friendly armor, rushing to the relief of the battered defenders!

Anyway. The important thing is that everybody gets home without getting stepped on.

Why yes, I am definitely an adult, why do you ask? (How else could I afford so many toy soldiers?)