Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Saturday, July 30, 2011

F Is For Final Confrontation, Part Three

New York City; Central Park. The crowd looks on as the warden finishes securing each limb Grover has with the straps. Now it's merely a matter of the warden giving his word, and the drawing and quartering will begin. The men with the horses stand by to hear the warden's word; Gonzo sits astride his motorbike, revving the engine, sobbing in tears at how his good friend must die, and how he must take part in it. Kermit has returned to Miss Piggy's side, and they're both in tears. Big Bird, Oscar, Cookie Monster, Bob, Maria, Susan, and Bert and Ernie sob quietly. The Count, being a vampire, is incapable of tears, so he's counting Oscar's tears. Waldorf and Statler are bawling. Scooter, Fozzie, and Animal look downcast. Doctor Honeydew is making some last second calculations on the precise order that Grover's body parts will fall in. Beaker looks, as usual, like he's strung out on speed.

The warden steps away from Grover, back to the side of the platform. He looks grave and saddened by his duty, and raises his hand, ready to give the signal. A voice calls out, "Stop!!" Everyone falls silent, and a state official comes through the crowd, breathless. "We've just gotten word. It's over. It's all over. The threat is over. Mr. Johnson is dead!!" The crowd cheers and roars in approval.

The horses are startled by the sound and start fussing. Their fussing pulls at the straps securing Grover, who yells out. The men calm down the horses. And the warden rushes over to Grover, untying the straps. Grover's girlfriend rushes through the crowd, reaching the Muppet. She grabs him and kisses him repeatedly. He groans. "Oh, pookie, that was too close. I thought I was bound for heaven. I could see Jim Henson right in front of me," he tells her.

Kermit comes forward out of the crowd. "What happened?" he asks the state official, while Grover and his girlfriend make out.

"We've got word from the Mounties. Inspector Ulrich tracked Johnson to his lair and shot him in self defense," the official remarks.

A reporter with Entertainment Tonight calls from the crowd. "Will Lars be going back to rehearsals with Metallica now?"

Waldorf shakes his head in disgust. "I haven't heard a question that moronic since McCarthy asked if I knew any communists."

Statler nods. "Yes, well, I'm the one who ratted on you."

Waldorf looks shocked. "That was you????"

Statler nods again. "You seduced Rosalind Russell when you knew full well that I had a thing for her, remember? I was pissed at you, so I took revenge by ratting you out to the Communist witch hunt."

In the crowd, Doctor Honeydew looks up from his calculations. "Haven't they started the execution yet?" he asks Beaker, absent-minded as usual.

Beaker looks at him. "Meep meep!"

"But I have to see the effects of a drawing and quartering done in real-time. Beaker old boy, I wonder if you'd volunteer yourself to be drawn and quartered..."

"Meep!!! Meep!!! Meep!!!!!!!!!!"

Alberta; the secret bunker of the late Mr. Johnson. Inspector Lars Ulrich oversees his officers working the crime scene. Coroners are on the way, though he's not sure if he should have called them or a prop master to dispose of the remains of the villain. Constable Borden comes over. "Inspector, we're uncovering evidence of his political ties. He kept recordings. Looks like the bastard was indeed in contact with the government."

"Thank you, Evangeline. We'll deal with that later on. For now... he's dead."

She looks at the body of the dead Muppet. "All that trouble he caused..."

Ulrich nods. "Yes, well, it's over now."

"That's a good thing you did, sir. Calling it in, getting word out in time to save Grover," she remarks.

He shrugs. "For a second or two, I did consider letting him die. He really is annoying, you know."

Borden smiles. "Don't tell that to my four year old niece. She'd never forgive you. She loves Grover." She pauses. "I've heard from the detachment. The press is gathering there. They're asking a lot of questions. They want to see the hero of the hour. Including the... entertainment reporters."

Ulrich rolls his eyes. "Let me guess. Lars! Now that you've killed a Muppet, isn't it time to get back to going out on tour? Are they born that stupid?"

"Apparently so, sir."

"Idiots. Well, I get first pick on which of them I get to kick in the ass and put in the hospital."

Friday, July 29, 2011

F Is For Final Confrontation Part Two

New York City; Central Park. As the crowd looks on, many of them weeping softly, the warden leads Grover to the center of the platform. Kermit follows, and Grover turns. Kermit sighs (he does that a lot) and extends a hand. Grover shakes it. "You're the bravest Muppet I've ever met," Kermit remarks.

"I can die happy right now," Grover proclaims. "I had some mind-bending sex last night. I must say, pre-execution sex really does beat out conjugal visit sex on the toe-curling ratio, Kermit. That's the memory I will take to my grave as this drawing and quartering rips me from limb to limb to limb."

Among the crowd, Bert and Ernie cry in each other's arms. Big Bird blows his nose, comforted by human stalwarts Bob, Susan, and Maria.  Oscar is annoyed by Cookie Monster, who's scarfing down bags of peanut butter cookies and getting the crumbs all over him. The Count spends his time counting the people in the crowd. Doctor Honeydew is doing some quick calculations, watched by Beaker. Scooter, Animal, and Fozzie are joined by Miss Piggy, who's pushing them out of the way so that she can have all the room she wants. And Statler and Waldorf are talking.

"I haven't been to an execution this maudlin since Carrot Top was killed," Statler remarks, wiping away tears.

"Carrot Top was killed?" Waldorf asks.

"Yes, for crimes against humanity," Statler replies.

"I thought he was just an unfunny comedian," Waldorf says.

"Not just," Statler tells his colleague. "He's the guy who got Firefly cancelled."

"That son of a bitch!!" Waldorf bellows.

Grover lies down on the platform. The warden begins to tie the straps. In the crowd, Grover's girlfriend sobs loudly. Doctor Honeydew turns and looks at Beaker. "You know, Beaker, if my calculations are correct, pieces of Grover's inner stuffing will hit everyone in the first three rows on all four sides of the platform. What do you think about that?"


Alberta; The secret bunker. Mr. Johnson stands face to face with Inspector Lars Ulrich, who keeps his gun aimed at the deranged Muppet. "I thought I had an arrangement with the federal government," Johnson mutters with a sneer (villains like to sneer). "They do a fellow evil-doer a favour by throwing entertainment reporters at you to keep you occupied. Damn that Baird, you can't trust a politician to get anything right these days..."

"I'd thought you had help," Ulrich mutters. "Help from the top won't help you now, Johnson. You're going to prison for the murder of Elmo. There's no more demands, no more escape. You're done."

"Wait a minute," Johnson says. "How the hell did you find me?"

"I went back and looked at your file," Ulrich answers. "You like turnips and artichokes on your pizza. I checked with every pizza delivery shop in the Western provinces. Only one place had been taking regular orders for pizza like that. Lo and behold, here it leads me to this compound. Piece of advice? If you're a fugitive from justice, you should avoid giving into your usual habits and appetites. This place couldn't be yours."

"No, it's on loan from the federal Tories. Like I said, they've been doing me a favour helping me hide out."

"I'm sure that'll cost them at the polls. Now, hands up, Johnson. You're under arrest," Ulrich tells the Muppet.

Johnson shakes his head. "I still have the destroy the world gambit in my hands, Inspector."

"No you don't," Ulrich counters. "I've been all over this place since I got inside, and there's no trace of any doomsday device or even a control for a doomsday device. All this time, you were bluffing." 

"Well, okay, so I was bluffing... it still got me what I want. Grover's about to die, and there's nothing you can do to stop it. Not that you really want to. Face it, Inspector, you want to see Grover die just as much as I do, don't you?" Johnson smiles. He reaches behind his back, grabbing at a gun tucked away in his waistband, screaming, "Die, you son of a..."

As he raises his arm to fire, Ulrich opens fire on the evil Muppet. Johnson is hit several times in the chest. He gasps, and staggers back. Ulrich fires again. The bullets tear through Johnsons' head. Pieces of stuffing hit the control room consoles. Johnson collapses in a heap of stuffing to the floor of the control room. Ulrich steps forward, kicking away Johnsons' gun, verifying that the Muppet is dead. "Give my regards to Hell, you bloody miserable bastard," Ulrich tells the corpse. He looks up at the television screen. Grover is being secured by the warden at the execution site. Ulrich hears Johnson's words in his mind: you want to see Grover die just as much as I do, don't you? He stares at the screen, and wonders, Well, do I?

To Be Concluded.....
Anderson Cooper will do anything for a photo-op

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

F Is For Final Confrontation, Part One

The Count teaches the annoying glittery vampire what real vampires are capable of
Sesame Gothic

New York City; Central Park. A large wooden platform has been erected in the park, with three horses set at three of the corners. Each is harnessed, the long lines feeding back towards the center of the platform. Each horse is kept under control by a man. All around, a large crowd is gathering. The mood is somber and subdued. Among the crowd, longtime couple Bert and Ernie are both in tears, rather then the usual bickering they do, accompanied by Sesame Street humans Bob, Maria, and Susan.  Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, and Cookie Monster are seated behind them. Nearby, Beaker, Doctor Honeydew, Animal, Fozzie, and Scooter are watching the Count, who's counting the horses over and over again. Long time old Muppets (and hecklers by habit) Statler and Waldorf are seated in box seats, heckling the horses. And Gonzo sits on his motorbike at the last corner of the platform, a chain behind him leading to the center of the platform. A stir rises in the crowd. Grover the Muppet walks through, accompanied by his girlfriend, who's in tears. Behind them, Kermit and Miss Piggy walk hand in hand. The world press is assembled, broadcasting live. Grover walks up to the platform, where a microphone has been set up. A prison warden stands beside it.

"Hello," Grover greets the crowd. There are many tears. "Oh, do not be sorrowful! For I am going to a better place, sir! You see, the way I see this, I am giving up my life so that the world will live. That, sir, is a very noble thing to do, sir! I am a Muppet ready to die for his planet, sir! It is the only honourable thing to do." There are more tears. Even Statler and Waldorf, usually given to heckles and jeers, are reduced to sobs. "I do not understand why Fred Johnson has such disdain for me. I do not believe I will ever understand his reasons, sir. But he has done many terrible things, and he threatens the future of this world. So, I will freely give my life."

The warden steps forward. "Bless you, Grover. You're a very brave Muppet. Now, I should explain to you exactly what's going to happen here, in very explicit detail. You're going to lie down right over there in the center of the platform. We'll strap you in, one strap to each limb. On my signal, the horsemen will set their horses to pulling, and Gonzo there will start driving his motorbike, the chain of which will be attached to your right leg. The straps and chain will start pulling at your body. You will begin to feel at this point an intense pain in your body. It will only get worse. The forces of horse and motorbike will continue to pull at your body in four directions. And there will come a point when your body gives way, and is torn to pieces. Blood and Muppet stuffing will fly everywhere. I can only imagine how excrutiatingly painful it will be. I've never actually executed anyone this way, so we had to consult a manual."

Gonzo weeps. "I'm sorry, Grover. You shouldn't have to do this. But if anyone should take part in your execution, it ought to be a friend, don't you think?"

Kermit steps forward to speak one last time on behalf of his client, the Muppet whose life he saved in court. "Isn't this a bit of overkill? Wouldn't this be a bit more merciful if it was just a firing squad?"

The warden sadly shakes his head. "Johnsons' demands were very specific. Grover has to be drawn and quartered."

There are more tears, particularly from Grovers' girlfriend. In the crowd, a distinct series of words is heard: "Meep! Meep meep! Meep! Meep!"


Far to the west and north, across the Canadian border in Alberta, a lone Muppet sits in his secret bunker (on loan from the current federal government, who of course shares his evil streak). Mr. Johnson has the television on in the control room, and he's sitting at a desk, rubbing his hands with glee. The broadcast from New York is going out live. He watches, cackling with laughter. "I've got you now, you bastard! No more of your annoying voice and your irritating politeness and your aggravating quirks! You're going to die, Grover! You're going to die, and I get to watch it! Hah hah hah hah hah!!! Everything I've ever wanted, and it's about to happen! Well, not quite everything. I wonder what's taking that pizza delivery guy? I swear, if I miss the execution live, I'll take it out of his hide."

"No, you won't." The voice startles the Muppet supervillain. He bolts out of his chair, turning, and sees someone in the shadow of a corridor leading out from the control room.  The man's face is hidden in the darkness, though Johnson can see from his lower legs that he's wearing the Mountie working uniform. "You're going to prison for the rest of your life." The man steps into the light, holding a gun. It's Inspector Lars Ulrich.

Johnson glares at him. "Oh, come on!!!  Can't you wait five minutes?"

To Be Continued....

Meep! Meep!! Meep meep meep!!

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Smiling Idiot, Bob the Mumbler, And Musical Mayhem

"If music be the food of love, play on. Give me excess of it." ~ Orsino, Twelfth Night

"The Irish gave the bagpipes to the Scots as a joke, but the Scots haven't got the joke yet." ~ Oliver Herford

"Opera is where a guy gets stabbed in the back, and instead of dying, he sings." ~ Robert Benchley

"Listen, lads, I think the song's really smashing, but there's just one thing we've got to change before we record it. Instead of Hey Prude, why not go with something else? I don't think we'll want to be performing that song with Prude in the title all the time, particularly after we break up the band when John meets some weird crazy nutcase. Not that I'm saying that'll happen. Hey, wait, I know. How about Hey Jude?" ~ Ringo Starr

"Mumble, mumble, mumble, yeah, mumble, mumble, (incomprehensible), mumble, mumble, uh huh, mumble, mumble, mumble, mumble, yeah, (incomprehensible) (incomprehensible), mumble, mumble, rolling stone, mumble, mumble, mumble...." ~ The lyrics to pretty much any Bob "Mumbler" Dylan song since 1963

"You're a great audience, Montreal! You know, before we go on with the concert, I'd just like to draw your attention to a cause near and dear to my heart. I want you all to think about the plight of the vampire rabbits that are being persecuted around the world right now by those sadistic wankers in the Van Helsing Society..." ~ Bono, during a recent U2 concert in Montreal

"Do I have to explain to you people what Summer of '69 is really all about?" ~ Bryan Adams

I've noticed quite a few writers, when mentioning it in blogs or comments in various places, have music on when they're writing. It inspires them, it gives them something to set a pace to, or it just puts them in the right frame of mind. For me, the type of music depends on what I have to write, though largely I'll rely on film scores to begin with (I'm a fan). Classical music also works well, and I've found jazz to be as well. Rock might tend to distract, as we might be inclined to sing along to our favourite musical act. And as for country, I'd advise against using it for inspiration, unless your story is about a guy whose wife just left him and took the pickup truck, the dog, the kids, and the last case of 24 in the fridge while she was at it.
I've got a fairly eclectic range of musical tastes. I can find at least something to like in many genres, with the following exceptions: rap, hip-hop, and metal. In the first two cases, they're just not music. In the last, it's too obnoxious and really hostile. Sorry, Metallica, but there's a reason your audience has gone deaf on you. I'd say it to you directly, but you guys have gone deaf too.

I have my mother to thank for the eclectic range. Any music appreciation I have in me is due to her. I certainly didn't get it from my dad, whose idea of music is largely confined to accordion tunes, Sousa march music, and the abomination otherwise known as The Smiling Idiot, Andre Rieu. You've no doubt seen the Smiling Idiot on countless PBS pledge drives, messing around with perfectly fine classical music that he seems to think needs improvement for some reason or another. Apparently the Smiling Idiot has a following; his concerts always feature audience clapping like demented seals through every single tune. Johan Strauss Jr. must be rolling over in his grave every time the Smiling Idiot massacres The Blue Danube Waltz.  
Andre Rieu aims at the snarky Canadian calling him a Smiling Idiot...
Anyway, my mother has a preference for classical and opera, but never did fall into the turn that crap down vein of parenting. As long as we weren't listening to something like, oh, Little Richards' often overlooked Kill Your Parents In A Pool Of Blood And Fire (go look it up, it's on his greatest hits album... I'll wait here for you to get back), she was fine with it. So I gradually developed my own taste in music, and it branched off into all sorts of directions. It starts, of course, with rock, but it went from there to jazz, folk (Celtic folk, not the Joan Baez variety of sitting around campfires for ten hours singing kumbayah nonstop), country (at least the ladies side of things), the blues, and more.

Incidentally, three basic truths: U2 is the greatest touring band in the world, Great Big Sea is the most fun you can have at a concert, and Sarah McLachlan is a goddess of music. Infinity plus one, which means these basic truths can never be disputed. So there. Debate's closed.

Along the line, it might have been liking film scores that got me into classical. Half of my personal collection consists of film scores, and that's what does the trick for me as an accompaniment to writing. With the classical side of things, it depends on the era. Baroque, for example, doesn't do anything for me. I like the sound of a fully developed orchestra, so realistically, we're talking about Beethoven and onwards. Sorry, Herr Bach, but you put me to sleep. Don't even get me started with Gregorian chants.

What brought on this musing on music? Earlier this month I attended a concert at the National Arts Centre here in Ottawa. The Orchestre de la Francophonie is associated with the NAC, and is marking its tenth anniversary this year. The orchestra put on a concert featuring three of the masters, which was well attended. The evening started with Mozarts' Magic Flute Overture, then moved into Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, and finished with the Second Symphony by Brahms. All of them are beautiful pieces of music. Brahms' Second can be best described as majestic. And even if you're unfamiliar with classical music (heathen! I cast you out!), you know the opening notes of Beethovens' Fifth. The first movement of the symphony is all power and strength, brooding, just like we imagine the composer himself. The fourth movement is my personal favourite: listen to it, and it's pure joy in musical notes. By the same token, his Ninth Symphony is the closest any human being has ever come to perfection.

Watching the concert, I found myself paying attention to the musicians, to their body language, to the way they held themselves on stage. Some of you may remember a character blog I wrote awhile ago, featuring a classical violinist named Cecilia Brennan, who just happens to be a terrorist. While she didn't make an appearance in Heaven & Hell, she did get mentioned indirectly in the book, and she'll turn up in a couple of books again down the line. One of the things that I took away from that concert was the decision to write the same three pieces of music into a concert Cecilia will give in that coming book. I suspect that before I start that book, I'll need to spend time with musicians, to get to know their schedules, their discipline, and what the audience looks like from their point of view. I wonder if the musicians will appreciate that the musician I'm writing about will be a devious terrorist. Depends on how they view villains, I suppose.

Music. It can inspire us. It can put us to sleep. It can annoy us (Britney, Miley, Christina, I'm looking at you). It can make us wonder who's torturing a mime (which, incidentally, is not a violation of the Geneva war conventions).

In time, the latest act to burn up the charts or win American, that is American Idol (fans of said show being heathens of the first order) will fade into dust. No one will remember them a hundred years hence. It was the same way in the classical era: lots of composers who never had staying power.

So, for those of us with good taste who are wondering how long a certain pint sized nitwit and his annoying songs are going to stay around, I say these two words: be patient.
I leave you then, with a small avian member of the polar chamber music ensemble and his bright idea of how to make a dull day somewhat more exciting.....

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Fall of the House of Murdoch

Kill MacGyver.
Shoot MacGyver.
Stab MacGyver.
Blow up MacGyver.
Strangle MacGyver.
Burn MacGyver at the stake.
Drown MacGyver in Puget Sound.
Stuff MacGyver in an incinerator.
Ask MacGyver how a do-gooder meddling troubleshooter secret agent always manages to get out of my traps with a paper clip and a tube of toothpaste. It's really, really, really, annoying.
Did I mention killing MacGyver?
Work on finding inner peace.

~ from Murdocs' bucket list of things to do before he dies

I said Murdoch, not Murdoc! Come on, weren't you paying attention in the title?

Obviously the last few days have been pretty hard on one Rupert Murdoch. The hacking scandal that led to his shuttering the News of the World and appearing before a Parliamentary committee in London has picked up steam. His business ventures have come to screeching halts or are on hold, arrests have been made, resignations have been tendered, accusations have been made, and it doesn't appear to be letting up.

Murdoch's built a media empire on tabloids, right wing slants, and apparently little in the way of ethics. For all his attempts to pass the buck on and claim he had no idea what was going on and that phone hacking into the accounts of murder and terrorism victims went unknown by him... come on. Does this guy strike anyone as the sort who wouldn't know that was going on?

Murdoch appeared with his son to take questions, while his wife (half his age, what does that say about him?) lingered behind him, looking cross and pissed off at what I'm sure she considered to be lower beings daring to have the audacity to speak to Supremor Rupert the First. That is, when Wendi wasn't busy fighting off a spectator with a foam pie. Son James, for his part, came off as incompetent. And Rupert himself? Like a very old man, cornered and cranky because the peasants weren't giving him the respect he believes he's due.
I've long held the opinion that the man's crazy (though not in the sense that it absolves him of his actions), and a paranoid, cantankerous megalomaniac at that. Rumor has it that when Jonathan Pryce played a media baron villain in Tomorrow Never Dies that he was basically just channelling Rupert, after all...

What do you suppose it is about him that turned him into the way he is? I suspect it starts with being named Rupert. Come on, anyone named Rupert will, at some point in their life, feel the urge to become a megalomaniacal supervillain (Rupert Giles being the exception, of course). Saddle a kid with that name, and I assure you, a few decades down the line they'll be gleefully kicking puppies, stealing money from orphans, and establishing far right news networks with the added joke of being fair and balanced.

Is it the end of the line for Rupert Murdoch? Between this growing scandal and the fact that the old boy just sold Myspace for a fraction of the hundreds of millions he bought it for, you might think he's finally passing the point of senility. At the very least, he's having a very bad year.

Maybe he just needs to get back with friends who understand him. 

As for his wife Wendi, she's already shown how capable she can be in the role of over-protective bodyguard. If she winds up causing a problem as the story develops, well, we'll just have to see to it that the worlds' most resourceful operative is sent after her. All he needs to do the job are a clotheshanger, bubble gum, soda pop, and a battery.