Archive for May, 2003

The Fellowship of the Peep

Sunday, May 25th, 2003

I’m beginning to think I should have a separate MovableType category for works of literature mocked up with children’s toys, photographed, and put on-line. This link is from RJ, and features Gandalf’s greatest line that he never actually said: “Bilbo Baggins! You don’t look a day nearer your sell-by date!”

Really Cool Buttons

Saturday, May 24th, 2003

I’m still wrestling with PHP and tabs, having discovered a very strange Mac/IE bug in the CSS tabs with submenus. [It turned out to be a whitespace problem.] While I’m geeking, you might want to play with another toy from the Kalsey Group: the buttonmaker. Make buttons like the popular XML/RSS ones on the right of this page (or the main blog page, if this post has fallen off it).


Jade says the color picker is broken, but you can get the HTML colors off a nice color chart.

The Joy of PHP

Thursday, May 22nd, 2003

I’ve never quite understood the appeal of PHP, but now that I’ve played around with it a little, I find that it really would make revamping the site much easier. I could also use it to replace my perl hit tracker; using the logging examples at phpfreaks and phpbuilder, I put together a PHP tracker that does everything my current Perl version does except for automatically omitting me from the logs and writing a new file every day.

I also found this advice on avoiding echo eye-opening. It’s exactly the sort of thing I’d want to know and that my PHP book from Buck-a-Book isn’t telling me.

CSS Tabs

Wednesday, May 21st, 2003

I use tabbed browsers (Camino, Phoenix, Opera, Netscape 7) all the time, and quite a while ago I wanted to add a tab-style navigation design to this site. I figured it must be possible in CSS, but I never made the effort to get it to work.

Sometime since I started reading his blog in NetNewsWire instead of a browser, diveintomark implemented CSS tabs on his site. In fact, tabs are everywhere. In my research, I found three general approaches:

  1. Pseudo-navigation, in which the tabs do not open new html pages:
    • Brainjar has both a tutorial and a demo.
    • superflysmack
    • q42 - this one is more hyper-navigation, since new sites are opened in the same page rather than hidden static content being cycled through the tabs.
  2. Simple navigation, in which the tabs represent three to eight main pages:
  3. Tabs with submenus:

I found many of the links in a webgraphics blog discussion, but just looking up “CSS Tabs” in Google was overwhelming. I’ve only noted the ones that struck me in one way or another.

I adopted the diveintomark code for a personal webserver just so I won’t have to stare at my Netscape 2-era plain html link lists anymore, and I’m working on the Kalsey approach for new navigation for this site. I made a mock-up of what I’m hoping to achieve, and there are more tabbing meditations there filling in as filler text. One thing I forgot to mention is the rounded corners you should see if you’re using a Mozilla-based browser.

Buffy as Cookies

Tuesday, May 20th, 2003

Veronica makes a mean blue margarita, so the following should be taken with a rim of salt…

Buffy’s cookie-dough speech happened to touch on a pet peeve of mine. It’s not so much a psychobabble peeve as a characterization peeve - that is, of course I believe that people mature over time, but I don’t believe that people look at their own maturation process from the outside. Buffy can be cookie dough, but she cannot conceive of herself as cookie dough.

I’m going to make a wild guess that most of my readers have been twenty-three (sixteen plus seven) in the past, and that when they were twenty-three they thought of themselves as complete human beings, capable of saying which dead vamp they were in love with without further “baking.” It’s one thing to claim immaturity as a cop-out - the classic “I need time” which really means “go away now” - but it’s inhuman to claim immaturity as a real protest.

The integrity of the individual at any age is an aspect of human dignity that is quite frequently lacking in badfic, but rarely lacking in real, live people. The proper reaction to someone who says they’ll know how they feel ten years from now is disgust, not respect. How you’ll feel in ten years is another issue entirely - everyone does feel something now, and ought to be able to express it in word, if not in deed.

Blogging as Crack

Tuesday, May 20th, 2003

I found a link to William Gibson’s blog on diveintomark; he talks about the allure of fan writing:

One of the reasons, I’m convinced, that I’ve been able to produce even the few novels I have is that, almost from the start, I largely swore off less formal avenues of literary expression. The culture of SF, particularly, seemed to me to be studded with truly scary examples of talented writers who had chosen to sublimate their energies in SF’s native (and relatively ancient) fanzine scene, the geniuses of which (and there arguably were a few) eventually (and perhaps inevitably?) evolved their own equivalents of blogging.

Of course, Gibson blogged that, so it’s not clear that he has sworn off this informal avenue of expression. Even if I swore off fandom, I don’t think I could give up the blog crack.

Buffy as Badfic

Monday, May 19th, 2003

Warning: spoilers for seasons one through seven.

First there was the movie, and the movie was bad. It was B-grade bad, but that’s not the same as badfic.

Then there was season one, and Angel couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag, but a hulking black hole that sucks the life out of every scene he’s in is not badfic per se. The badfic of Angel was the Mr. X effect inherited from the Deep Throat character on the X-Files - a stalker who just hovers around acting like there’s a deep plot that Our Heroes are missing. Yet there is no real plot, just a lot of bad lighting, mood music, and honeybees.

Badfic is the attempt to conjure up the emotion and excitement of a good plot without actually bothering to write the good plot. The Master was also B-grade bad, but too obviously over-the-top to be badfic. Season two, on the other hand, was a world of badfic. A gypsy curse designed specifically to keep you apart from your inscrutable boyfriend is no more dignified than the worst Mulder/Scully hurt-comfort fic. Then he turns evil, you have to kill him, and you feel bad about it. If it were me, I’d be happy to have an excuse to off the sod. He really needed to be put out of everyone’s misery.

That brings us to the high point of Buffy, season three - was there ever a bad guy like the Mayor, or a bad girl like Faith? There was still some residual Angel badficness going on - hey, he needs a transfusion, and it has to be your blood! - but the Mayor’s wonderful anti-Angel speech made up for all that.

Season four wasn’t too bad, despite the Buffy Does Sunnydale U. badfic elements. Spike was a significant redeeming factor. Glory was a little too punchy in season five, but like the Master, she was B-grade rather than badfic.

Likewise, resurrecting Buffy was a nice B-grade move, but refusing to let her get over her death even after she’d sung through all her issues in the musical was a classic badfic move. Turning the spunky Buffy of season four into depresso-girl of season six was another badfic move. The motto of badfic is, a good wallow is better than a good plot.

The final move of badfic is to break the conventions of the genre. Season six brought us good guys going bad and becoming arms runners and rapists, doing the magic drug, and flaying people, not to mention death by gunfire. Season seven has upped the ante to maiming main characters and voting Buffy off the Hellmouth. If someone noticed how Buffy got to be the Bad Slayer, do tell me.

How could I forget the soap opera that is Spike? Spike gets a soul, Spike goes batty, Spike goes evil, Giles tries to get Spike killed, and finally, the Spuffy episode to end all Spuffy speculation (in a bout of dry heaving). Yes, Buffy again confesses her undying ambivalence for Spike, and barely one commercial break later, is doing the tongue mambo with Angel. It’s a soap opera love triangle undreamt of in the worst badfic.

All I can say is, Drusilla much?

As if there were any doubt…

Sunday, May 18th, 2003

Which X2 Character Are You?

According to The Essential Difference (link by Jerie), I’m an extreme type S. I tried the systematizing part twice, and got a 34 the first time and a 57 the second time. So, apparently, I’m more male-brained at night than in the morning…

The Fascinating Villain

Sunday, May 18th, 2003

Besides yet another answer to the question Why Khan? I also have a new MIS page up, mainly to provide an index of my drabbles from the Empty Shell challenge.

Today’s answer is Ayn Rand’s. In “What is Romanticism?” from The Romantic Manifesto, she observes that the best (in the sense of most interesting and well-drawn) characters in Hugo, Dostoevsky and other Romantic authors’ works are the bad guys, while the heroes are cardboard figures:

This phenomenon—the fascinating villain or colorful rogue, who steals the story and the drama from the anemic hero—is prevalent in the history of Romantic literature, serious or popular, from top to bottom. It is as if, under the dead crust of the altrust code officially adopted by mankind, an illicit, subterranean fire were boiling chaotically, and erupting once in a while; forbidden to the hero, the fire of self-assertiveness burst forth from the apologetic ashes of a “villain.”

Now this is even truer for Khan than for the characters about whom Ayn Rand was writing. Altruism is ingrained in our culture despite all her attempts to root it out. It’s easier for us to look at the Prime Directive and say that’s the dead crust of a self-defeating moral code—and that maybe Khan is right to try to bring order to chaotic humanity. Ordem e Progresso (order and progress, the motto on the flag of Brazil) was a more popular motto in the 60’s than it is today.

So the attractive villain is the villain who might be right, who is somehow a challenge to the morality of the hero (anemic or not). We see this in “Space Seed” when Spock is shocked at Kirk’s admiration for Khan Noonien Singh; part of what makes Kirk an anemic hero is that he feels no need to defend his own culture. He calls Khan a tyrant without ever praising freedom, and so there is no conflict of ideas, only the brightness of Khan against the drab Federation background.

I do love a colorful Khan.


Sunday, May 18th, 2003

The last time I was at Pandemonium, I picked up a couple of those yellowed old pulp novels, the ones that cost more used than they did new. Since I read so much Golden Age and pulp sci-fi in my misspent youth, I’ve tended to focus on the last decade or two in my recent reading. Sometimes, though, I long for the pulpiness of a simpler age.

Wolfling by Gordon R. Dickson (1968) was just what I’d been looking for. The hero is your standard inscrutable, antisocial, independent man. He finds his Earth subsumed in a newly discovered galactic human empire, ruled by a master race of High-born from the mysterious Throne World. The High-born are genetically superior to other humans, yet they have their own weaknesses which Our Hero hopes to exploit to free Earth. Despite several clues along the way, I managed to be surprised by the twist at the end.

I’m not saying there was any literary merit to this novel, or even anything of scientific interest beyond the one anthropological observation made by Our Hero late in the story, yet it exceeded my very slight expectations for a disintegrating Dell paperback with a half-naked guy on the cover.