Friday, October 31, 2014

She-Hulk's Favorite Superhero

Even superheroes like to have fun. In a recent episode of "Hulk and the Agents of SMASH," the hulks go trick-or-treating. Skaar may not realize that pirates only wear one eyepatch, but at least he's trying. (Hey, in the TV series, he's from another dimension, so give him a break!) Still, he does pretty well with two eyepatches, so maybe he has super-vision in addition to his super-strength. 

You may have noticed that Spider-Man, standing behind Skaar, looks rather well-endowed in the chest area. There's a reason for that.

It's She-Hulk! And Spider-Man, as she proudly tells her comrades Hulk, Red Hulk, and A-Bomb, is her favorite superhero. Think about that. Spider-Man's just a scrawny High School geek. She and the Hulks are already pretty special. Spider-Man is her favorite superhero, really?

Cool. Good choice, Shulkie.

Happy Halloween, everyone.

Dragon Dave

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Doctor Who & Yes Minister on the Brothers Grimm & Consonantal Shift

"Yes Minister" (and its sequel, "Yes, Prime Minister")
have proven enormously popular.
The TV series was broadcast between 1980-8,
and adapted for radio, the stage, and into books.
A new series of "Yes, Prime Minister,"
starring actors from the stage play,
was broadcast last year in Britain.

Part 5 in a series on the Doctor Who story "State Of Decay" by Terrance Dicks

According to Terrance Dicks, new Script Editor Christopher H Bidmead was fascinated by the similarity of names between the original ship's officers of the Earth spaceship Hydrax, and those of the current Lords of the Tower, or The Three Who Rule. This proved one of many points of contention between the two men as they sought to prepare "State Of Decay" for filming. Bidmead argued that he wanted two pages of dialogue explaining Grimm's Law, and the the Law of Consonant Shift. Terrance Dicks, who had written many Doctor Who scripts, shepherded scripts through the production process under producer Barry Letts in previous years, and novelized many of the Doctor's adventures, had a simple comeback: "No Chris. It's not interesting. It's boring."

Made curious by this particular argument, I looked up the Brothers Grimm and the Law of Consonant Shift. The Grimm brothers worked on a project called Deutsches Worterbuch, which Wikipedia proclaims is the largest and most comprehensive dictionary of the German language in existence. They did not finish it during their lives, but such was the depth and value of their contributions that successive scholars completed their work. (In this way, it became to Germany what Samuel Johnson's dictionary was to England). As best I understand it, part of the Grimm brothers' work involved tracking how German had evolved over time, and in all the various countries and regions in which the language was spoken. Aside from regional differences, the language was further broken into Low and High German, the latter of which evolved into the modern German language. As to the High German Consonant Shift, the work of the Grimm Brothers apparently demonstrates how Old High German changed over time, and makes a nice contrast with Old English, which didn't*.

Have I lost you yet? Don't worry. If I haven't, I soon will. The Wikipedia article on High German Consonant Shift discusses how voiceless plosives turned into fricatives, the same sounds became affricates, and the three voiced plosives became voiceless. If any of that makes your head spin, you're not alone. It reminds me of discussions that periodically take place between Sir Humphrey Appleby and Bernard Woolley, two head civil servants, in the British comedy series "Yes Minister" and its sequel "Yes, Prime Minister." The two civil servants were trained in classics at Oxford, while the politician they serve, Jim Hacker, attended the London School of Economics. So occasionally, Bernard or Sir Humphrey will divert from discussing a practical solution to a problem to discussing the language in which the contentious issue is stated. The two civil servants soon find themselves fascinated by how words and phrases were translated from Greek or Latin into English (and comparing the merits of each language), while Hacker looks on with a glazed look in his eyes. When the two men compliment each other on their erudite conclusions, Hacker asks them what they've just decided, and how it relates to the problem at hand. Sometimes they can remember the issue they were discussing before they got carried away with their interesting diversion, sometimes not. But the viewer is left in little doubt that the two civil servants have just demonstrated the writers' contention that the civil service is more concerned with the minutia of bureaucracy, whereas politicians are the ones concerned with reaching practical conclusions to contemporary problems in English society.

So who was right in this instance, Christopher H Bidmead or Terrance Dicks? What do you think? Might a thorough discussion of how languages evolve have enhanced viewers' appreciation for "State Of Decay"? Personally, I suspect it depends upon how the discussion was framed. While I like the short discussion between the Doctor and Romana, I'm guessing that a more in-depth dialogue on how languages change over time wouldn't have driven the story forward. Most likely, it would have caused viewers to scratch their heads like the right honorable Jim Hacker, rather than provoking elation as it does in Sir Humphrey Appleby and Bernard Wooley. Still, I agree with Bidmead: it's a fascinating topic, and would never call it boring. Difficult to follow: certainly. Sleep inducing: probably. But definitely not boring.

But then, I majored in Business Administration in college.

Dragon Dave

*My father-in-law really should have written this article, as he grew up speaking and writing German as his first language. As for me, I took Spanish as a foreign language, and know enough words to appear a complete idiot, should I ever try to use them in public. Estoy no muy bueno con espanol. Comprende amigos?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Doctor Who on The Brothers Grimm & Consonantal Shift

An old monitoring station at the
Cape Canaveral Air Force Space and Missile Museum

Part 4 of a series on the Doctor Who story "State Of Decay" by Terrance Dicks

After meeting the residents of the Village, who insist that the nature of their suppressed society has remained unchanged for a thousand years, the Doctor and Romana are captured by rebels, who escort them to the nearby dump. They find amid the rubbish a variety of old technological components, some of which the rebels have salvaged and gotten working again. As they lack instruction manuals for their use, the rebels have devoted their lives to learning how the computers function. In a culture in which education and reading is forbidden, the rebels pursue a monk-like existence, closeted away in their cave beneath the dump.

The rebels quickly realize that the Doctor and Romana can advance their studies, and indeed, after inspecting the equipment, the Doctor and Romana conclude that the discarded computer systems are from an Earth spaceship named the Hydrax. With a little fine tuning of the controls, Romana retrieves the old ship's manifest.

Ship's Officers. Captain: Miles Sharkey. Navigation Officer: Lauren Macmillan. Science Officer: Anthony O'Connor. The captions were accompanied by a head-and-shoulders identification portrait--a man, a woman, and another man, all in standard space uniform. The pictures, like the lettering, were blurred.

"The read-out's still quite legible," said the Doctor. Not bad after a thousand years!"

Tarak was staring at the screen in horror. "Those faces. They look--familiar!"

"They must all be long-since dead, I'm afraid," said the Doctor. "Some family resemblance perhaps?"

"I was a Tower Guard once, Doctor. I saw them every day." Tarak peered at the blurred pictures and shook his head. "But it can't be."

"Who did you see every day?"

Instinctively, Tarak made the Sign of Protection. "The Three Who Rule."

After leaving the rebels with assurances of future help, the Doctor and Romana head to the Tower, where they meet two of the rulers: Lord Zargo and Lady Camilla. (They will meet the third member, Aukon, the High Counselor, all too soon). Then Zargo and Camilla leave the Doctor and Romana alone in the Tower's audience chamber for awhile.

The Doctor brooded for a moment. "Ever heard of the Brothers Grimm?"

"This is no time for fairy stories, Doctor." 

"They didn't just write fairy stories, they discovered the Law of Consonantal Shift, the way language changes down the centuries."

Romana wasn't to be outdone on points of scholarship. "Oh yes, I remember, b's into v's, that kind of thing?'

"Exactly. And over a thousand years, Macmillan could become...?" The Doctor paused encouragingly.

"Of course! Camilla!"

"And O'Connor...?"


"That's right. And Sharkey, of course, turns into Zargo."

--From the novelization Doctor Who and the State of Decay by Terrance Dicks

The similarity in names and appearances suggests to the Doctor and Romana that the current rulers are direct descendants of the Hydrax's officers. Of course, there is another possibility, but for the moment, it's enough that they have discovered where the inhabitants of this planet came from, as well as why there is only one Village on the entire planet.

Now take some time to read one of the Grimm brothers' classic fairy tales*, and then come back for "Doctor Who & Yes Minister on the Brothers Grimm & Consonantal Shift"**, which I guarantee you'll find either sublimely interesting, or tediously and mind-dullingly boring.***

Dragon Dave

*With apologies to the Doctor's companion Romana, there's always time for a classic fairy tale. Am I right, or am I right?
**Possibly the longest title for a post in the entire history of the blogosphere.
***Preferably the former. But then, given the circumlocutory nature of my loquacious writing style, who can say?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Day Devoted to Comic Books

Yesterday, I had a day devoted to comic books. See, I've been reading a series lately, "Skaar Son of Hulk," and I needed a particular issue. I knew a store that had it, but it was a good drive away. My wife and I had originally planned other things, but she's seen I've been enjoying it, so she suggested that we drive to the store and buy it. So now I'm the proud owner of Skaar #8, and look forward to reading the entire four-issue story arc involving Skaar and the Silver Surfer on the wonderful world of Sakaar (the planet in which the mammoth "Planet Hulk" is set).

While there, the gentleman behind the counter noticed that I had picked up a couple older issues, and mentioned that they had a greater collection at another store. He said that it was located just a few blocks away. I had no idea that this company had another store, and so I thanked him, and we drove over there. You know how the guys in "The Big Bang Theory" are always perusing the $1 comic books whenever they visit a comic book shop? Well, this shop had lots of older $1 comics, and as I had brought my list with me (I keep a list of all the comics I have and need in all the series I collect), my wife and I had fun perusing the boxes. We were delighted to find several comics that finished off series we had been collecting, such as "The Micronauts," "Outcasts," and "Vision and the Scarlet Witch," as well as some other titles we wanted or were curious about. All in all, a fun day was had, and now we look forward to the many fun evenings of reading that lay ahead.

While we did our searching, I overheard a lady behind the counter talking with another customer. They were talking about several TV series they both enjoyed, and their mutual passion was obvious as they enthused about the various story arcs and characters--the things that worked for them, as well as those that didn't. While I haven't seen the shows they were discussing, it was nice to hear their passion and affection for these programs. It inspired me to carry on with my own writing, in the hopes that someday some readers might feel the same way about my work. I suppose, in a way, that's the reason I'm collecting comics now. Some of these issues I may never get around to reading (although I hope to), but they intrigue me. Some I collect because I like the overall series, or the characters involved, even if the individual issues or some of the story arcs aren't everything I wish they were. And then there are some series that really sneak up on you and surprise you, such as  "Skaar Son of Hulk." It's complicated, it's visual, and it challenges me. Yes, really: a comic book that challenges me. There's a lot there that I'm sure I'm not getting, but I look forward to rereading Greg Pak's stories, and know I'll probably get more out of them then than I'm getting on my first read-through. (The artwork is also impressive). 

Anyway, I had a great day, in which my passion for one story led me to others, and I got to hear some folks enthusing about the stories that got inside them, and became part of their lives. What a great way to spend a Saturday!

Dragon Dave

Friday, October 24, 2014

An Excursion to Salt Pond Beach

Pocket: Did you hear where we're going today?
Denim: Master & Mistress said something about Salt Pond Beach.
Pocket: I hope this weather clears up then. 

Denim: According to my information sources, it's not supposed to rain so much on the southern and western sides of Kauai.
Pocket: You want to tell the weather gods that, or should I?
Denim: There's no need to be sarcastic. 
Pocket: I just wish I could EXTERMINATE this rain! The fierce downpour has already forced Mistress off the road. She'll probably just turn around now and head back.
Denim: Have faith in the Mistress, and in my information sources. Optimism may not banish the clouds, but it will help you accept what you cannot change.

Denim: Hooray! The weather cleared up, and we made it to Salt Pond Beach, on the westernmost coast of the United States!
Pocket: Thanks for helping me adopt a more optimistic viewpoint so I could EXTERMINATE my blues. 
Denim: No problem. Even Daleks have moods.

Pocket: I suggest we reduce the reception on our visual sensors. 
Denim: An astute suggestion, sir. With the clouds clearing, the colors might overload our systems.

Denim: Master's sketching, the Mistress is taking photographs and collecting shells, and the locals use this beach to make natural sea salt. What shall we do?
Pocket: Let's just sit here awhile. There's so much to see.

Pocket & Denim Dalek