Wednesday, May 8, 2013

On The Marvel Cinematic Universe

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On Adaptations

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Micro Fiction

These are all twitter length stories, as in, 140 characters or less. Some are meant to be funny, some scary, some are just meant to be. Some were posted on Terror Tortellini as well, all were posted on my twitter (@benfromcanada) Hopefully, you enjoy this little experiment.

Creepypasta Microfictions

My constant coughing didn't bother me, not even when I coughed up blood. When the blood started crawling away, however...

I woke up, saw men in surgical scrubs in my room, working on me. I figured it was a bad dream until I noticed the scar on my stomach.

I figured I'd be heartbroken over my dog's death. After a few bites, however, I was quite fine with it.

A loud bang. We figured someone dropped something & went on with our days. A stolen gun, no fingerprints. The killer got away.

They say our souls absorb a little bit of everything we kill. Eventually, it can overpower us. Think about that next time you step on a bug.

They said Jill could sleep through the end of the world. They were wrong by about an hour.

Comedic Microfiction

I once killed a man. The courts called it "justifiable homicide." The bastard just wouldn't Leggo my Eggo.

First they came for the guns, but I did not speak up, for I am not a gun. Then they gave me a better quality of life, & I was OK with it.

Sometimes when I'm at work I just zone & imagine I'm somewhere else for a little bit. At least I used to, before the malpractice suit.

I just took the angriest, most painful shit ever & now a copy of Atlas Shrugged lies in my toilet.


There is a cesspool at the entrance to my home town. I wish my parents realized what a bad omen that was & moved on. [This one is actually true, one of the major entrances to my home town does have cesspools right next to it. It's terrible to drive in.]

I'll never forget the time I heard what sounded like muffled screams coming from the trunk of dad's car.What an odd sound for a car to make! [Uncategorized because it's both scary and funny]

The government went from benevolent public servants to brutal cannibalistic fascists so gradually we barely noticed the change. [This one is also true, in a metaphorical sense, at least here in Canada, except a lot of us did notice. The 38% of the people who voted for our government are incapable of noticing.]
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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Dealing with my latent transphobia

Most people who know me know I have little tolerance for bigotry, or bigots in general. I've become somewhat of a pariah in the "new atheist" movement for calling out the anti-religious bigotry of some of the main leaders of said movement. I regularly battle with homophobes and sexists both online and off, I have made a few blog posts against racism, and I had a brief twitter fight with noted transphobic misandrist Cathy Brennan (one of the few people I'd use the word "misandrist" on in a non-ironic fashion). However, I very recently realized that I still am holding on to a lingering amount of transphobia, much to my shame.  

For some time now, I've followed Jeph Jacques' excellent webcomic Questionable Content. There was a time when I was a huge webcomic fan, reading 20+ every week or so, and QC was one of the first I truly fell for. Most of the comics I read during that time have either ended or lost my interest, but QC is one of 5 that I still read.* If you aren't familiar with the comic, it's a humourous slice-of-life comic focused mostly on the relationships (romantic and otherwise) of Marten Reed and his friends. While it does have a few fantastical elements, such as the AnthroPCs and the sentient space station that Hannelore was raised on, it's a pretty realistic and true-to-life strip. Despite the name, there is little content that is questionable in Questionable Content. There is swearing, yes, and some conservative sexual taboos are broken (mostly off panel) but otherwise it's pretty tame. When I say "conservative sexual taboos" I mean that there's a good representation of "alternative" relationships in the series.** My old conservative self would freak out at a comic with lots of sexual relationships where the only married couple was gay. 

Which brings me to Claire. Claire is one of three new interns at the library Marten works at. The other two have received little characterization (one of them seems level-headed, the other is WEIRD in a zany way and possibly insane, and aside from their appearance that's all we know about them) but we've gotten a decent chance to get to know Claire. She's shy, kind, level-headed, smart, and socially awkward. She was also born male. From what we've been told, she still has male genitalia but is on hormone replacement therapy and self-identifies as female.

The interesting thing is that if someone revealed to me that they were trans, I'd probably have basically the same reaction as Marten did: acceptance without making a big deal about it. This in and of itself is a major progression for me, as there's no way I would have been as cool with that a decade ago, or even a few years ago. 

However, during QC's most recent story arc, there was some hinted romantic tension between Marten and Claire...and I wasn't OK with it. In fact, I was mildly disgusted by it. At first I told myself this was because it was so soon between relationships, but then I realized that Marten's last relationship was with Padma, and that ended more than a year ago in real time. In fact, his last flirtation that almost turned into something (but didn't) was last summer. Then, I tried to tell myself that Marten went through this sort of thing with every female character, and I was tired of it...but that isn't true either. QC's cast is very female-heavy and Claire is the fifth female character (out of 17 listed on the cast page that are not related to him, underaged or homosexual) that Marten has had any real romantic chemistry with.+ Eventually I came to the unsettling realization that I was not ok with the concept of a pre-op trans woman having a romantic relationship with a cisgendered man. 

The weird thing about this is that in most other areas I've been an ally to the trans community for some time. I'm in favour of letting trans people use whatever washroom they want, I've petitioned against disqualifying trans beauty pageant entrants, I've publicly defended at least one transgendered person from bullies who were verbally harassing her. I almost hired a trans woman (I was only stopped when a more qualified individual came along) and once even asked a post-op transwoman out on a date. She said "no" but that's beside the point. The point is that this revelation surprised me. But it probably shouldn't. 

Even though I've pretty successfully thrown out all notions of traditional gender roles that I once held on to, I don't think I ever tried to throw out the traditional idea of gender that I was raised with. "Men are men, women are women, anything in-between isn't natural." It wasn't hard to find space for "some men like men, some women like women," but it was hard to move anywhere positive regarding transgendered people. I did know one transgendered woman I asked out was trans, but if she didn't tell me that, I'd have not known. She was physically 100% woman, having completed the hormone therapy and the operation. My reasoning for why trans women should be allowed in beauty pageants is, well, they're women now, regardless of what they were born as. As for the other cases mentioned before, those were all cases divorced from sex, sexuality and romance. The reason I'm telling you this, dear reader, is so that I have some incentive to work to change myself. As minor as this bit of transphobia in me is, I want to get rid of it. 

*In case you're wondering, the other four are Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, Order of the Stick, Jesus & Mo and Comic Critics. The latter three of those have semi-regular schedule slips, so I normally catch up on them once every week or so, but I check QC & SMBC almost every day. 

**Marten's mother is a dominatrix, Marten's father just got married to a man, Dora and Tai are in a lesbian relationship, and the few interracial relationships in the comic (Marten & Padma, Tai & Dora, Marten's DEATHM0LE band mates Amir and Nat) are all portrayed as mostly normal relationships. Also, Hannelore is asexual by default, as she finds the thought of sex to be repulsive, and I'm fairly sure Raven was polyamorous before Jeph quit using her. 

+Most of the strip's early narrative was driven by Marten and Faye's unresolved romantic/sexual tension, until they both realized that Faye was incapable of any sort of relationship and Marten got together with her boss, Dora. Marten and Dora lasted quite a while until they broke up, and Marten started a relationship with Padma on the rebound, which ended when she had to move across the country. The only other time Marten had any sort of flirtation was shortly after Padma, with Lt. Potter on the aforementioned space shuttle, and that went nowhere.
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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Rex's Birthday

It was Rex Dunbar’s 30th birthday. What a waste his life had been, he figured. He hadn't even gotten anything good, nor had he had any sort of party. He didn’t even get the day off, even though he asked for it. He'd gotten a handful of gifts from the usual suspects: his mom, dad, siblings. He also got a card from work, as usual. Sometime in the late afternoon, after work, he received a package. He didn't recognize the address or name of the sender, but he accepted it regardless. It was a small box with a card which simply read "Happy Birthday Rex!" No name. Inside the box was a DVD simply labeled "play this as soon as you get it. Important. Watch it all." He did as the DVD told him and popped it into his DVD player. 
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It didn’t seem particularly important. It was an old episode of The Price Is Right. He figured, judging by the hair and clothing styles of the contestants and the look of the prizes, that it was from the early 1980s. Nothing about this episode was particularly striking until… 

“Denise Dunbar, come on down!” Bob Barker had called down a woman with his mother’s name. When he was able to get a look at the very pregnant woman’s face, he found that, indeed, it was his mother. Rex found it strange that she’d never mentioned being a contestant on this show, or even hinted that she liked it, but that bit of weirdness soon gave way to curiosity. “So, Denise, you have 2 children already?” Bob asked. 

“Yes, Alexa and Steven, with a third on the way,” she said, patting her belly. The audience laughed, and Rex knew the rough time when this episode was filmed: shortly before his own birth. Sure enough, after Bob asked about the planned name, she said “I’d like to name him Wesley, but my husband really wants a Rex!” Rex wasn’t particularly surprised that his father won that argument. He was always a very controlling man, at least he was while he was alive. Denise eventually got to play 10 Chances. One of the prizes was a new car that looked exactly like the one that Rex’s mom drove when he was growing up. This made Rex believe that she won the car. However, she took four tries to get the first prize, and another four to get the second. The audience was trying to help...but she still failed her ninth attempt. On the tenth try, they all called out in unison “$9560” a few times. 

“The audience is helping you out, Denise. Is that what you’re going with?” Rex found that sort of statement a little leading, which was odd for a game show, but maybe Bob just took pity on the poor housewife. Denise nodded and wrote $9560. The theme song began playing triumphantly. “Congratulations, Denise!” She was understandably elated. Bob produced a contract and pen. “Just sign on the dotted line and the car is yours!” That was also strange, Rex thought. He’d only seen a few episodes of the show, but any contract signing that did happen generally took place back stage. Either way, Denise signed on the dotted line. Mr Barker briefly examined the signature, slipped the contract into his suit pocket, then snapped his finger. The lights immediately dimmed, and the theme song slowed down and played at a lower, warped pitch. Shadowy men grasped Denise from behind. “Come on down!” Bob cried, and the camera panned to the audience. A few were still fastening the belt around their robes or slipping their hood over their faces, but within a moment, all were standing, walking down to the stage and chanting along with the newer theme song. It was in a language that Rex didn’t understand or recognize. 

“What is going on?” Denise asked, nearly overcome with fear. 

“Shut up, cunt!” Bob angrily shoved something that looked like a pill into Denise’s mouth, kept her mouth closed and massaged her throat to make her swallow. She began to cry. A man wheeled a hospital bed behind her, and the two who held onto her forced her onto her back on the bed. They quickly strapped her down. “Hike up her dress and get her panties off!” The cultists obeyed Bob Barker’s command, and Denise began screaming in protest. “Stop it! Stop it!” “You signed the contract!” Bob sneered as the cultists continued chanting. “To be fair, that only was to make it easier. We can get what we want without your consent, but it takes more effort. And hey, you get a car out of the deal!” He could see her fear, and paused a moment. “Don’t worry, sweetheart, we’re not going to rape you.” He leaned in closer. “Your child is important to us.” Rex began worrying for himself. “You see, the drug I gave you should induce labour in a few-there it is!” Her water broke and Bob stepped aside. “And this child will belong to our dark lord.” Denise began screaming, both out of pain and at the prospect of giving the child to any sort of demon. “We’ve had our eye on your line for a while. Every generation or so, a member of your family gives a son to us, and on his thirtieth birthday, our lord takes over his body.” Rex normally didn’t believe in that sort of thing, so he wasn’t worried about being possessed…but he was worried they’d come for him. 

“NO!” Denise screamed. 

“YES!” Bob Barker replied. “We get one of ours to marry one of yours…oh, I guess I forgot to mention that Sam was one of us.” It made a lot of sense to Rex. “Anyway, we do that, then when the kid is born, we perform the ritual. Then Atroban gets him 30 years to the day later. And this time, you get a new car out of the deal. I figure the price is right, wouldn’t you agree?” Rex wanted to groan at the lameness of that reference, but he couldn’t bring himself to. He was too transfixed on what was happening below. His head was already starting to come out. “Don’t worry, Denise, it’s all taken care of. We’ll protect him, make sure he gets a good 30 years, and best of all, you won’t remember a thing! See, we can do things like that. You won’t remember any of this. By this time tomorrow, you’ll have a bouncing baby boy, a new car, and you’ll think you had a regular hospital birth right after buying this thing. You get a car, no guilt, no worry about the pre-ordained day, the baby gets 30 years of life and health, we get our vessel for our dark lord, and you won’t even remember the birth pain. Everyone wins!” Rex didn’t think he’d win in this deal, not really. His mother kept screaming and crying until Barker finally had her gagged. Bob Barker then turned to the camera. 

“Hey, Rex! I know you’re watching, or at least I’m sure you will be. You can fast forward past the next bit, this will take a while. Then again, you’re watching your own birth, it might be interesting. It’s up to you.” He then shrugged and went back to assisting the other cultists with the birthing process. He was still in his regular suit, while everyone else was in the black robes of the cult. Rex did, indeed, fast forward. While watching his own birth was surreal, the circumstances around it were quite distasteful, and he was more concerned with listening for signs of them getting in. After all, they knew his address…The birthing process seemed to take an hour, and Rex hit play again when the umbilical cord was cut. The chanting seemingly hadn’t stopped, and baby Rex was being washed in a basinet. Bob Barker motioned for a jar. He put his right hand in it, covering his index and middle fingers with a red, glowing substance. He picked up baby Rex with his left hand. 

“In the name of Atroban, I consecrate this child as your Vessel.” Then, he touched Baby Rex’s left ankle and drew a small design on it. It didn’t seem to burn, but Rex did recognize it as an odd birthmark he’d had his whole life. The cultists unstrapped Denise, put her panties back on, and helped her up. She was barely conscious. Bob handed the baby to a cultist to his left, then looked directly into Denise’s eyes. “This never happened,” he said in a somewhat hypnotic tone. “He was born in Cedar Sinai Hospital, you and your husband bought the car earlier today, the mark on his ankle is a birthmark.” She seemed to nod in agreement, and was then given her baby. “You take care of him, you hear?” She nodded as she was led off, and Bob strode towards the camera. “Well, Rex…don’t worry. Atroban won’t end the world while in your body or anything like that, he’ll just…work towards it. Anyway, if I were you, I’d unlock the doors. Just let us in. It’s much less painful that way.” Bob Barker began laughing, and the tape ended with a title card.

“Open the door, Rex.” 

Just then, there was a pounding at Rex’s front door, back door, and at every window. Rex froze. The DVD was over, back to the menu screen, but the chanting of that slowed down Price Is Right theme song hadn’t stopped. He was surrounded. He had no way of escape, and the police would not be able to get to him in time. He took a deep breath, unlocked the front door, then curled up on the floor and accepted his fate. And here is the rest of it.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Full House Of Despair

All hope was lost in a poker game.
Despair was a full house, hope was a flush.
It was then that god abandoned me, and I turned to the devil I knew.
At least I knew that devil threw one hell of a party.
Wherever he went, happiness followed.

I tracked that devil's path through my veins again and again...
Anything to feel again.

To feel anything.

Even to worry about my hopeless state would be a welcome reprieve from apathy's grasp.
Relieving my problems with a needle became my problem. But why give a fuck?

Hope died long ago. I killed her myself.
Then Joy.
Then Honour, Virtue, Pride.
Killing, numbing, dying until nothing but me remained. An empty husk waiting to dissolve into dust. Dead inside, waiting for actual death.

HAHAHA! Just kidding! Drugs are awesome!
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On Geek Music

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Contest winners

We read the winners of the contest we held.
Johnny reads a semi-dirty limerick.
Jenny reads song lyrics.
Graham sings a song.
Pan reads a poem.
Then I read a poem and we announce the winner. And I learn that drumming on my table doesn't sound like a drumroll.
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