Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fantasy Football Week Three: The Blowout

Well, my Browns have started 0-3. My fantasy football team is doing a little better, as last week's game that ended as a tie according to initial scoring ended up a 1-point victory for me under the final scoring. The change left me at 1-1 on the season, until I got blown out this weekend in a humiliating (if I had a sense of shame about such things) 105-68 defeat. Peyton Manning had a great game on Monday night, giving me 29 points single-handedly (my opponent's QB was only worth 5), but once again I had very low production among my running backs and wide-receivers. I think I've finally found some half-decent players for the next game in Ricky Williams at RB and Pierre Garcon at WR.

Sun Runners 68 total points
Peyton Manning, Ind QB 29
Steve Slaton, Hou RB 10
Le'Ron McClain, Bal RB 2
Patrick Crayton, Dal WR 5
Chad Ochocinco, Cin WR 5
Antwaan Randle El, Was WR 2
Todd Heap, Bal TE Q 4
Steelers D/ST, Pit D/ST 1
David Akers, Phi K 10

Laconia Puggles 105 total points
Trent Edwards, Buf QB 5
Brandon Jacobs, NYG RB 15
Willis McGahee, Bal RB 16
Chris Johnson, Ten RB 9
Terrell Owens, Buf WR 0
Santana Moss, Was WR 23
Dallas Clark, Ind TE 12
Jets D/ST, NYJ D/ST 11
Stephen Gostkowski, NE K 14

The House That Jack Built

The House That Jack Built is, as you might manage to guess from the title, about a house built by Captain Jack Harkness. Except, it's no ordinary house: it's the place where some sort of time-travelling, paradox-eating, other-dimensional alien entity-thingies have set up shop and retroactively altered the timeline to make the house into an always-has-been site of horror and murder. As with a lot of Torchwood books, the ultimate cause of whatever is happening (aliens! aliens! aliens!) is usually secondary to the happening itself--in this case, the Poltergeist/Shining experiences of a new couple moving into the house. The author, Guy Adams, has a great grasp on the characters, a unique style of intercutting scenes so they pick up a little before the end of the previous scene (but from a different perspective), and a penchant for creating creepy goings-on. My favorite part of the book was the introduction of a new character, Alexander Martin, a stranded alien whom Jack recruits to be the fill-in doctor since Owen bit it. Alexander is a rascible, louche old man with an eye for the ladies--in other words, he's what Jack would be like if Jack were 80 years old and cranky. Suffice it to say, Alexander is a great character whom I would love to see again. Bottom line: another strong entry in the Torchwood series of novels.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Spark & Burn

FROM THE ARCHIVES (Buffy book reviews)

Spark and Burn

Diana G. Gallagher (2005)
RATING: 2/5 Stakes

SETTING: Various Seasons

CAST APPEARANCES: Spike, Buffy, Willow, Xander, Cordelia, Oz, Giles, Angel, Principal Wood, Nikki Wood, Darla, Drusilla, Clem, The First, Cecily, The Annointed One, Joyce, Devon, Ampata, Jonathan, Machida, Dalton, Tom Warner

MAJOR ORIGINAL CHARACTERS: Peak (shapeshifter); Otto (vampire); Pond (amphibian); Trevor, Klaus (Machida’s henchmen); Jurgen Koch (Nazi demon hunter)

BACK-OF-THE-BOOK SUMMARY: “In the nineteenth century a boy named William was born. A sweet, gentle boy—no one could have guessed the suffering he’d cause, the pain he’d inflict. When, as a young man, he meets a woman called Drusilla—a strange woman, a woman unlike anyone William has ever known—he is fundamentally changed. She has turned him. There will be no more William. He is Spike now. As Spike, he travels Europe with a band of vagabond vampires. Dru, Darla, and Angelus instruct him on his new nature, and from them he learns about that greatest of vampire enemies, the girl who is chosen to stand up against them, trained to kill them, endowed with the strength it takes to defeat them: the Slayer. Then and there, Spike decides he’ll hunt down those slayers. He’ll see how many he can find. Who would have thought then that he’d fight on the Slayer’s side? Who would have guessed that Spike, once William, would go out and seek his soul for a slayer? Who would have dared dream he’d fall in love with one?”


Spark and Burn is an odd Buffy book, unlike any that have come before it. In many ways it’s similar to the novelizations of Buffy episodes that used to come out periodically (such as The Angel Chronicles or The Willow Files); the bulk of Spark and Burn is an adaptation of segments of important Buffy episodes in which Spike appeared, except told from Spike’s point-of-view. This often includes “inserting” him on the edges of the main storyline as he watches Buffy and crew kill the badguys. For example, Spark and Burn spends several pages on Spike supposedly watching pretty much everything that happened in the episode Reptile Boy, where a demon snake named Machida lives below a frat house. On the other hand, the novel also has some completely original segments, some providing backstory to the Spike we know and others filling in the gaps between television appearances. We see Spike and Drusilla in New Orleans shortly before they make their first decision to come to Sunnydale and a long (and somewhat boring) World War II flashback that has Spike having an inconclusive meeting with Machida.

The idea isn’t a bad one—there’s several great Spike stories waiting to be told, whether set before, during, or after his appearances on the episodes. But although tying in closely with continuity is a laudable goal, the novel just isn’t much fun. Spark and Burn is a great title for a book on Spike, but the book lacks exactly that: some spark. Spike just isn’t very dangerous, exciting, funny, or any of those other things we love him for. Diana Gallagher just doesn’t have the gift for writing Spike that other authors (such as Golden & Holder) possess. Indeed, she tries too hard to make him a noble hero, and he comes off too melodramatic and introspective—fine for Angel, but not for Spike.

If you already own the episodes adapted, there’s only a couple of new scenes in the book that are worthwhile. The explanation given for why Spike was able to kill Nikki Wood was well done, and I enjoyed seeing where Spike’s cerebral henchmen Dalton came from. On the whole, however, there’s plenty of other better Buffy books to buy.

Freedom Requires the Breath of a Living Constitution

FROM THE ARCHIVES (Daily Nebraskan columns)

Freedom requires the breath of a living Constitution

Jeremy Patrick (

October 23, 2000

"Is it not the glory of the people of America, that whilst they have paid a decent regard to the opinions of former times and other nations, they have not suffered a blind veneration for antiquity, for custom, or for names, to overrules suggestions of their own good sense, the knowledge of their own situation, and the lessons of their own experience?"
--Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist # 14

Currently, there is considerable controversy among legal scholars (and presidential candidates) over the proper method of interpreting the Constitution.
Liberals tend to favor a "living, breathing" Constitution arguing that its provisions should be construed in light of several factors, including language, history, purpose and applicability to modern life. Conservatives argue for "originalism" or "strict constructionism;" Constitutional provisions should be construed only according to plain meaning and drafters' intent.
The debate seems abstract and academic, but the consequences are very real. Supporters of a "living, breathing" Constitution believe in a fundamental right of privacy, near-absolute protection for free speech, strong separation between church and state and expansive due process for persons accused of crimes. Originalists usually take opposite positions on these issues.
In effect, current controversies over abortion, homosexuality, school prayer, gun control, the death penalty and more all turn on how one approaches the Constitution's meaning.
The originalist position is inviting; it offers the promise of objectivity and consistency - society would be protected against the subjective morality of whoever happens to be on the Supreme Court. Otherwise, originalists believe, the Court becomes a group of unelected Platonic Guardians, imposing their morality.
Noble talk of protection from tyranny sounds nice, but unrealistic: Whatever method of interpretation justices choose, they still have the same power to impose their will, subject only to constitutional amendment, impeachment or death.
The irony of originalism, for all its talk of objectivity, plain meaning and intent, is that it's nowhere to be found in the Constitution. Indeed, the framers would have been terribly arrogant if they had believed that they were setting forth eternal truths for all time.
They intentionally wrote the Bill of Rights in broad terms ("reasonable searches," "due process," etc.) because they knew future judges would face situations they had not foreseen and need to be equipped with tools to protect individual rights.
The framers knew that by the time an oppressed minority had convinced a super-majority of states to pass a Constitutional amendment, it might be too late.
This is why they wrote the Ninth Amendment, which states the people retain rights not explicitly set forth in the Constitution. Originalists believe that the Ninth Amendment is (in Robert Bork's words) an "ink-blot on the Constitution."
As legal scholar Edward Lazarus said, it is "far from obvious why the Constitution, replete with clauses of indefinite content, designed with the evident purpose of applying to unseen and unforeseeable changes in the structure of American society, should be interpreted exclusively by reference to the vision of persons dead for more than 200 years."
Originalism suffers from severe practical problems as well: If the Constitution should be interpreted by framers' intent, who's intent are we speaking of? The actual drafters? The state legislatures that ratified it? The people who elected those legislatures?
How do we even know what their intent was? Records of the time are incomplete; two people often disagreed (as they do now) about the very meaning of a provision they both supported, and the most vociferous and frequently recorded views may be that of persons in the minority on an issue.
Trying to figure out what people who lived two centuries ago thought, or would have thought about an issue they were never faced with, is pure speculation. Judges have trouble simply judging; we should not ask them to be expert historians and mind-readers as well.
Originalism proponents are really working backwards: They know what positions they have on controversial issues and are seeking a process to justify those issues.
Justices Scalia, Thomas and Rehnquist, leading proponents of originalism, are not exactly liberal in their private lives and have frequently used the doctrine in inconsistent ways.
As Lazarus puts it, recent events have "demonstrated to the public what had long since been evident to students of Court history: that originalism is potentially every bit as malleable as other methods of interpretation."
So what is the correct method of interpretation? I don't think there is a correct method. Judges applying the Constitution must bring with them the same tools used in making and applying law in other contexts, such as history, precedent, language, intent and practical effects.
Ultimately, judges must exercise what Justice O'Connor calls "reasoned judgment." As radical as it may sound, at some point we simply have to trust judges to do the best they can and apply the law with both reference toward democratic principles and respect for individual rights.
Handcuffing judges with the chains of history may produce a peculiar kind of consistency, but only at the cost of liberty. I hold tremendous respect for the drafters and ratifiers of our Constitution. But I have my own passions, desires, hopes and dreams - and I will not let them be destroyed by the ghosts of dead men.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Clone Wars Campaign: Recap # 27

This was the second of the three-session adventure on Dramos V. I was really impressed by the creativity the director showed in coming up with the subterranean civilization, it's leadership, and the nature of the threat that our characters slowly uncovered. It was a good reminder to me that Star Wars can successfully incorporate elements of the strange and uncanny.


Inside a formal reception room on Dramos V, Jedi Knight Lee and Padawans Sian Suan and Kasa watch in silence as a delegation from the Confederacy of Independent Systems is seated across from them. The true nature of the meeting becomes clear: the government has assembled a delegation from both the Republic and the CIS and plans to decide which of them will be allowed a presence on the planet. Lee speaks briefly on behalf of the Republic, but Ludo Todoori, the Neimodian leader of the CIS delegation, draws his ace in the hole: the Separatist battlecruiser orbiting the planet has sufficient troops and weapons to bring order and peace to the troubled city of Pentanossus and elsewhere.

Mirmark Karpok (leader of the ruling House) and Mirmarks Gotal and Lodiss (leaders of the two minor Houses) are almost swayed, but then Sian Suan stands up and in an impressive bit of oratory convinces them to give the Republic delegation 24 hours to find the root of the problems on Dramos V. After the meeting concludes, the three Jedi decide to split up and try to get as much information as possible from the government leaders. Lee sets up a meeting the next morning with Mirmark Karpok. Kasa speaks to Mirmark Gotal and learns that the caverns beneath the city are off-limits and that no maps exist. Mirmark Lodiss tells Sian Suan of ancient myths on Dramos V concerning supernatural beings called Archons, who were seen as guardian spirits, and says that belief in them surged almost 500 years prior.

[AG 275]

The three Jedi return to their quarters shortly after midnight. Lee talks to Lumzoz and learns through some decrypted data that the Solar Kraken mercenaries are linked with at least one of the minor houses on Dramos IV: either House Lodiss, which is allied with the Church of the Archons and is against any mining or excavation of the area beneath the city, or House Gotal, which is aggressively in favor of digging. Kasa does some research on the computer and studies the tangled history of droid-based mining on the planet. Meanwhile, Sian Suan gets some much needed sleep.

In the morning, Lee and Kasa arrive at the palatial estate of Mirmark Karpok. They learn that Mirmark Gotal is strongly in support of the Separatists, but Kasa then makes an offensive blunder and the two Jedi are asked to leave. While they're away, Sian Suan enters a deep meditative trance and reaches out with the Force. She senses a powerful wielder of the dark side just a few kilometers away, but is even more intrigued by a major disturbance in the Force somewhere below the city of Pentanossus--Sian feels a dangerous presence in the Force reaching out to her and barely manages to break the trance before the presence can trap her.

With time running out, the three Jedi decide to seek out the source of the presence by travelling down through the tunnel created by the giant serpent the day before. Just before they descend, Kasa tries to contact Lumzoz by comlink and gets no response. The Gungan draws upon his connection with the Force and realizes that their freighter has been fired upon by a planetary orbital defence platform and that Lumzoz is unconscious in an escape pod. Sgt. Jett is sent to retrieve the pod and rescue Lumzoz.

The three Jedi descend deep into the caverns underneath the city, led by Sian's ability to see well in the dark. Eventually the trio reach a wide, high cavern that has walls covered in a thick, foul smelling slime. The Jedi begin to cautiously make their way across the cavern when they are suddenly ambushed by Lendon Trask, the Separatist Kel-Dorian Force user who had apparently followed them. Trask seems to have masterful control of the Dark Side of the Force, as he hurls lightning from his fingertips and levitates himself in the air. As the melee continues, the disturbance awakens the instinctual hunger of the mold entity in the cavern, and thick, slimy tentacles reach out. The battle against Trask is furious, but eventually the three Jedi win out only to make a stunning realization: Trask is actually a droid powered by a strange, floating black triangular object, and his "Force" powers were actually accomplished through technology. Sparks from the droid's damaged circuitry turns the flammable slime-covered cavern into an inferno, and the three Jedi manage to escape with scant seconds to spare.

Return to Clone Wars Campaign Main Page

Buffy Fan Fiction Challenge: Part I

I never read fan fiction for a few reasons: (1) for most of my favorite series, such as Buffy, Star Wars, Torchwood, etc., there's enough authorized fiction to keep me busy for years; (2) sorting through the reams of crap fan fiction to find the one or two nuggets of decent story-telling seems like too much work (especially since I like to finish what I start); (3) I like stories that are in continuity--I generally don't even read authorized non-canon material (such as Star Wars Infinities or Marvel What If? stories).

However, future-wife Kelly loves fan-fiction and has challenged me to give it a fair chance. Thus, this is the first in a three-part series where I read what she has selected as a great example of Buffy fan fiction: "The Giles and Spike Collection" by someone named Lori:

Kelly tells me to start with Going Underground and I'm thrust into an alternate end-of-Season-Six story where (I'm not sure why) Spike has come to London to hang out with Giles, and the pair are (I'm not sure why) busking (i.e., playing music and collecting coins from passerby) in the subway. Quentin Travers and his assistant come across Spike & Giles and then the foursome are attacked by a Shrod demon. A pretty decent action scene takes place, as Spike & Giles work together to kill demon on a moving subway train. Then, a concussed Giles is taken to Spike's apartment where the two share a heart-to-heart about Spike's love for Buffy and Giles' growing love for Anya. See, the author had me moderately interested up until this scene, but I just can't buy a sympathetic and thoughtful Spike comforting Giles and so forth--I just can't imagine this scene going on with what I know of the characters, and it takes me out of the story. So far, the fan-fiction seems written by someone who is far more interested in romance than plot and dialogue--but I have accepted the challenge, and we'll see if Part II gets any better.


FROM THE ARCHIVES (Buffy book reviews)


By Nancy Holder (2003)

RATING: 2/5 Stakes

SETTING: Seventh Season

CAST APPEARANCES: Buffy, Giles, Willow, Xander, Anya, Dawn, Andrew, Jonathan, Kennedy, Faith, Spike, Angel, Robin Wood, The First, Amy, Caleb, Hallie, D’Hoffryn, Quentin Travers, Molly, Rona, Annabelle, Chloe, Vi, Chao Ahn, Amanda, Kelly, Shannon, Colleen, Dianne, Caridad, Isabella.

BACK OF THE BOOK SUMMARY “The First has come to Sunnydale and set its sights on taking down the Slayer. On the side of the White Hats: Buffy, Xander, Willow, Anya, Dawn, Giles, Spike, Faith, Angel, and an assortment of young, innocent, untried Potentials. In this season-spanning storyline, Buffy Summers will learn about the primeval origins of her own strength, and have the opportunity to train those who would succeed her. And as the forces of evil find their way back to the Hellmouth—where it all began—the Slayer will uncover what being the Chosen One is all about: Power.”


Unique among Buffy novelizations, Chosen doesn’t simply present one or two episodes in book form; instead, it novelizes the entire seventh season in a thick, 700-page tome. Buffy’s seventh and last season was certainly a grim one, but also included some of the show’s best writing. Many of those great scenes—Xander telling Dawn that she’s not special, she’s extraordinary; Anya and Andrew having a wheelchair fight; Buffy, Willow, and Dawn facing their demons in “Conversations with Dead People”—are included in Chosen, and it’s impossible to read the novelization without feeling the same emotions elicited by the episodes themselves.

To a large degree, however, that’s the purpose and effect of any decent novelization—to embody, in a different format, what made the original episodes great. Although Chosen is satisfactory in this sense, it fails in others. Most glaring (and annoying) is the incredibly poor proofreading, literally the worst I’ve ever seen from a mainstream press. Words are frequently misspelled, grammar is massacred, and some idiot used the computer’s “Find and Replace” function improperly, resulting in every single instance of “potential” capitalized as “Potential” and every “the first” capitalized as “The First.” Thus, Xander tells Spike that “I take The First shower in the morning” on page 98. Even a quote from one of the characters on the back cover of the book has a grammatical error. I understand Simon Pulse was in a hurry to release the book to coincide with the show’s final episode, but a final read through by an English graduate student would have made the book look far more professional. Fortunately, the unintentional humor created by these frequent errors helps replace much of the intended humor from the shooting scripts that was left out due to space considerations.

Holder, unlike the authors of other Buffy novelizations, takes more freedom with the scripts, often giving us her interpretation of what the characters are thinking or what certain dialogue means. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this—novelizations don’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) word-for-word recreations of the script; but it can be jarring to Buffy fans who made different interpretations of what certain scenes in episodes meant. For example, the very last scene of the very last episode of season seven depicts Buffy staring out over the crater that used to be Sunnydale, with an enigmatic smile on her face. Holder’s interpretation of this scene is that Buffy is thinking of the “cookie-dough” metaphor she gave to Angel earlier. Not necessarily the wrong interpretation, but perhaps different than how other fans (including myself) interpreted the scene. To some degree, it takes the fun away when mysteries like this are “solved” by the writers of novelizations.

Overall, Chosen is the worst of the Buffy novelizations I’ve read so far. It competently recreates the episodes like any minimally-acceptable novelization, but is otherwise an error-strewn mess. It should be purchased only if you’ve never seen season 7 episodes and can’t wait for the DVD, or if you were foolish enough not to record them and want to reexperience certain key moments.

The Maker of Beauty and His World's Atrocities

FROM THE ARCHIVES (Daily Nebraskan columns)

The Maker of Beauty and His World's Atrocities

Jeremy Patrick (

October 09, 2000

"Look at that, Jeremy!" my Mom says while pointing outside the car window. "How can there not be a God?"
This innocuous comment is one in a long line of continuing theological remarks between my parents and I. These debates are actually kind of nice - we talk more now that I've become atheist than we ever did before. And I must admit, the sky is beautiful.
As we drive along the Colorado interstate, the sun is just beginning to set behind the mountains. The sky is purple, orange, red, other colors I cannot even describe - the kind of view at the end of an epic novel as the hero walks away to seek his destiny. The kind of sunset when the beautiful woman and handsome man embrace at the end of a romantic movie.
But I think back (why, I'm not sure) to one day during summer classes at Chadron. The campus was mostly deserted, and I had lunch alone every day, reading the newspaper and eating a mini cheese pizza - the only vegetarian meal available.
I didn't read much of the international news because I knew the same headlines would be running five years from then: Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, conflict in Northern Ireland, sanctions in Iraq.
But my eye caught a little article (a blurb, really) about a civil war in Rwanda. It stated that thousands and thousands of members of one group were "hacked and bludgeoned to death" with machetes and clubs by members of another group. Hacked and bludgeoned!
Summarized in the space of a paragraph and bare for the world to see. I knew no one would care; more people would read and think deeply about their daily horoscope than this. But it was my wake-up call, my little existential introduction into how absurd our world really is. I was stunned. I am still stunned.
I remember, also, news reports of the rape camps in Bosnia. Girls as young as 12 violated by an entire platoon of soldiers. Atrocities committed by both sides. Even if one army was better than the other, neither could be considered justified by any stretch of the imagination.
My body is cruising along in my parents' new Dodge Intrepid, but my mind is seeing migrant farm workers in California, killing themselves for $5.15 an hour. Queer people walking nervously with their partners because they don't want to become the next Matthew Sheppard. A 1,000 times a 1,000 young men rotting away in 10-by-12 concrete cages for having "committed" nonviolent drug offenses.
If I am bitter, it is not from personal experience. I do not know what these people really feel like. The problem is I can guess. I guess they're not as happy as my mother is right now, secure in her white, middle-class, $60,000 a year job with a husband, three kids and one black Labrador retriever.
I guess they would trade the beautiful sunsets for relief from their pain.
I know any God responsible for sunsets, rainbows and warm puppy dogs is also responsible for holocausts, poverty, prejudice and the myriad other cruel ways one portion of humanity has subjugated another portion.
If God exists, he is perfectly beneficent and malevolent at the same time. The ultimate incarnation of schizophrenia.
"Whatever," I say as I shrug my shoulders and flash a not-quite-real smile. I let her have this moment - there will be others, and perhaps then I'll tell her why I don't enjoy the sunset as much as she does.
(c) 2000 Jeremy Patrick

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bullets and Bracelets

I had stopped collecting comics when the big Amalgam "event" took place in 1996. The basic concept, from what I understand, is that a jointly-owned character named Access somehow had the power to temporarily merge the Marvel and DC universes in such a way that most characters received traits from each universe. The only direct exposure I've ever had to this . . . unique . . . idea is Bullets and Bracelets, a one-shot combining the Punisher ("Trevor Castle") and Wonder Woman ("Diana Prince, Freelance", bearing adamantium bracelets). The pair are forced to travel to Apokolips to find their son, but first they have to face off with Thanoseid (yes, Thanos and Darkseid combined). It's honestly not bad . . . just kinda weird and unsettling--like seeing Han Solo as Captain of the Enterprise or Picard making the trench run in the cockpit of his X-Wing.

Fantasy Football Week Two (The Push)

Well, week two for the Sun Runners held both good news and bad news. For the bad news, no team in the league scored fewer points than mine did. For the good news, one team didn't score more points than mine, and that happened to be the team I was playing. In other words, I got a tie (56-56), which is probably fortunate considering the spread had me as a 15 point underdog. Once again, my main issue is the running backs--I got Le'Ron McClain off of waivers and started him instead of Steve Slaton, but it didn't make much of a difference. I'm planning on grabbing Ricky Williams later in the week and starting him, while trying to trade my back-up QB (Brett Favre) for a good back or receiver.

Sun Runners Box Score
Peyton Manning, Ind QB 20
LenDale White, Ten RB 2
Le'Ron McClain, Bal RB 2
Lance Moore, NO WR 0
Chad Ochocinco, Cin WR 15
Antwaan Randle El, Was WR 3
John Carlson, Sea TE 4
David Akers, Phi K 8
Steelers D/ST, Pit D/ST 2
Sun Runners: 56TOTAL POINTS

Seagrams 7 N 7 Box Score
Tony Romo, Dal QB 9
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jac RB 7
Brian Westbrook, Phi RB 6
Jamal Lewis, Cle RB 3
Calvin Johnson, Det WR 12
Joey Galloway, NE WR 5
Jeremy Shockey, NO TE 4
Adam Vinatieri, Ind K 11
Chargers D/ST, SD D/ST -1
Seagrams 7 N 7: 56TOTAL POINTS:

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Willow Files Volume 2

FROM THE ARCHIVES (Buffy book reviews)

The Willow Files, Vol. 2

Novelization by Yvonne Navarro (2001) based on teleplays “Gingerbread” by Jane Espenson, “Doppelgangland” by Joss Whedon, and “Choices” by David Fury

RATING: 3/5 Stakes

SETTING: Season Three

CAST APPEARANCES: Buffy, Joyce, Giles, Willow, Amy, Oz, Sheila Rosenberg, The Mayor, Michael, Cordelia, Principal Snyder, Angel, D’Hoffryn, Anya, Percy, Faith, Wesley, Vamp Willow, Devon

BACK-OF-THE-BOOK SUMMARY: “Since the self-proclaimed ‘science nerd’ had the odd luck to fall in with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Willow Rosenberg has come into her own. As a member of the Scooby Gang, Willow used her skills as savvy ‘Net girl to help save the world on more than one occasion. But as time passed, Willow’s powers evolved from Web surfing to the limitless realm of magic. And with that change came some difficult life lessons. Willow has always longed for more parental guidance, but when Sunnydale’s adults are swept up in a witch hunt, Willow finds that her mother’s judgment really burns. And who knew that her forays into the black arts would bring her literally face-to-face with an alter ego ‘Old Reliable’ never imagined existed? Ultimately, though, when it comes time to take charge of her future, Willow realizes that whether it be as a computer hacker or Wicca extraordinaire, she can go further than she had ever dreamed . . . by staying right were she has been all along.”


The second volume of The Willow Files contains three strong Season Three episodes, one of which centers on Willow (“Doppelgangland”) and two where she has an important role (“Gingerbread” and “Choices”). Tying the episodes together are original diary entries written in Willow’s voice. Unfortunately, the entries aren’t written as well as they were in Volume 1: Willow comes off a bit too flippant and slangy, sounding too much like Xander or Buffy.

“Gingerbread” is one of the best stand-alone episodes from Season Three. When two young children are found murdered, occultists are suspected and an angry community group forms to root out all forms of witchcraft—Wiccans included. The story says something about how easy it is for well-intentioned people to wreak great harm.

“Doppelgangland” is another classic episode. When Anya recruits Willow’s help in casting a spell, a sexy, sadistic Vampire Willow from another dimension crosses over. We get to see a whole other side of the character in an episode that foreshadows the end of Season Six.

The last episode adapted, “Choices”, probably features the least amount of Willow. When Mayor Wilkins obtains one of the last items needed to prepare the way for his Ascension, Willow sneaks into City Hall to try to get it back. It’s a fine episode, but more of an ensemble piece.

Yvonne Navarro’s adaptations are straightforward and never stray from the episodes as filmed, but she does a good job keeping the original humor and action in written form. I’m not sure if anybody bothers to read the novelizations anymore given the widespread availability of these episodes on DVD, but this is a decent example of what they’re like.

A Question of States' Rights

FROM THE ARCHIVES (Daily Nebraskan columns)

A Question of States' Rights

Jeremy Patrick (

Daily Nebraskan (
October 02, 2000

No opinions so fatally mislead us, as those that are not wholly wrong; as no watches so effectually deceive the wearer as those that are sometimes right.
---C. C. Colton

In politics, some fads rise up and then fade away, never to be heard from again; others lie low in periods of unpopularity, only to pop back up every few decades when the time seems right. A powerful and growing movement in this country has reunited under the banner of "States' Rights."
The states' rights ideology has been popular in the South since pre-civil war days, but now it's increasingly becoming part of the standard lexicon of Republican and Conservative activists. Prominent Republican politicians and jurists, building on the traditional belief that the federal government is a bloated bureaucracy, have turned to the notion of states' rights and sovereignty as support for their conservative vision of America.
As the GOP platform states: "our commitment (is) to restore the force of the 10th Amendment, the best protection the American people have against federal intrusion and bullying ... Washington must respect that one size does not fit all states ..."
Several Justices of the Supreme Court have embraced the ideology and have used it to strike down certain federal laws, such as those that allow persons discriminated against on the basis of age or disability from suing state agencies.
Almost all of us can agree that federalism (the division of power between states and the federal government) has some merit. The Constitution was designed to disperse power in order to prevent tyranny and we can all see the virtue in having 50 separate "laboratories" to experiment with what laws bring about a just and fair society.
However, the rhetoric of states' rights is actually employed for more sinister purposes.
As legal scholar James Wilson said, "When one studies the history of federalism in the United States, states' rights advocates usually favored federalism to protect something else. Initially, the slave owners relied on federalism because they knew the federal government was the greatest threat to their peculiar institution. Later, racists relied upon states' rights to protect the continued subordination of African Americans through segregation and violence."
What do current states' rights advocates hope to achieve? They use the concept to attack environmental laws, workplace-safety regulations and even some civil rights laws. It is clear that they are not committed to the concept to protect against "tyranny" but merely an instrumental tool to achieve desired goals.
States' rights activists abandon the concept whenever the federal government imposes a conservative ideology on states. Recent examples are abundant.
In 1996, voters in California approved Proposition 215, an initiative that allows marijuana to be approved for medicinal use. Although seven other states have passed similar laws, last month (at the request of the Justice Department) the Supreme Court issued an emergency ruling preventing an Oakland medicinal marijuana club from opening.
The federal government has "fiercely attacked" medical marijuana laws, even threatening to incarcerate physicians who prescribe the drug. Where is the vigorous defense of state "sovereignty" now? Conservative states' rights activists are nowhere to be found.
Similarly, Oregon's law allowing physician-assisted suicide would be "essentially nullified" by a pending Congress bill that would enact criminal penalties for doctors prescribing lethal doses of pain medication. Although Maine residents will vote on a similar assisted suicide initiative in November and the Alaska Supreme Court is considering a right-to-die case that may result in limited legalization, conservatives are pushing for the federal law.
If states' rights activists sincerely believed in the virtue of limited federal government and an opportunity for states to experiment, they would speak out. So far they have been silent.
If the federal government is too large, it is the people's fault. The same persons who elect state officers elect their federal representatives, and (in these cynical times) you rarely encounter anyone pleased with either their local or state governments.
In the abstract, the idea of states' rights as a limitation on federal power seems wise. In modern political discourse, however, "states' rights" is simply a code word: conservatives invoke it with vigor when they dislike a particular federal policy and ignore it without shame otherwise.

(c) 2000 Jeremy Patick

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


The 1997 one-shot Bug is a bit of an odd beast, insofar as it's a 48-page special about a character from a series (Micronauts) cancelled a decade prior. Was there really a demand for this? Well, in any event, it's mildly amusing stuff, as the title character gets warped through time and space by Annihilus' cosmic control rod to end up being present at the origins of super-heroes like Spider-Man, the Punisher, the Hulk, and (I think) Batman. I did appreciate the five pages of Fred Hembeck-drawn "activity pages"--a nice little bonus that fit in well with the book's silly sense of humor. I'm certainly glad I picked this up for a quarter instead of the $ 4.20 (Canadian) cover price though.

Le sac de Couffignal

Until recently, I'd never actually read any Dashiell Hammett, though I loved The Thin Man movie (and found The Maltese Falcon a bit dull). Le Sac de Couffignal ("The Gutting of Couffignal") is the translation of three Hammett stories. The first two are mysteries, and I can't say I find anything particularly remarkable about them--probably, unfortunately, because my limited aptitude in French is good enough to follow the plot but not enough to really appreciate Hammett's famously terse prose. The third story ("Tulip") is actually an unfinished novel and probably the last thing Hammett wrote before he died--best I could make out is that a famous writer (representing Hammett) is visited by an old war buddy and they share long, rambling, and relatively boring conversations about life and literature. My favorite part of the collection is the lengthy postscript by Lillian Hellman, Hammett's lover for thirty years. Hellman's account of Hammett's iconoclastic personality, struggles with the government, and eventual death from lung cancer are interesting and poignant.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Faith Trials Vol. 1

FROM THE ARCHIVES (Buffy book reviews)


By James Laurence (2001), based on teleplays “Faith, Hope & Trick” by David Greenwalt, “Bad Girls” and “Revelations” by Douglas Petrie, and “Consequences” by Marti Noxon

RATING: 3/5 Stakes

SETTING: Season Three

CAST APPEARANCES: Buffy, Faith, Xander, Willow, Oz, Giles, Angel, Cordelia, Joyce, Principal Snyder, Wesley, Kakistos, Gwendolyn Post, Scott Hope, Mr. Trick, Lagos, The Mayor, Deputy Mayor Allan Finch, Balthazar, Detective Stein

BACK-OF-THE-BOOK SUMMARY: “Sometimes, it’s gotta be a drag to be the Chosen One. Occasionally a girl would rather be at the mall, talking on the phone, or even doing homework than saving the world from unstoppable evil. Fortunately, Buffy Summers has always had a support system of friends and family to help her cope. But what if she hadn’t? She might have been just like Faith. Faith, the ‘shadow-shelf’ Slayer, is strong, sexy, and willful. When she first arrives in Sunnydale, Watcher-less and fancy-free, Buffy has doubts about the tag-team approach to patrol. As times goes on, though, she learns to find the fun in synchronized slayage, and appreciates Faith’s zest for life. . . . Until Faith’s impulsive attitude toward her calling takes her one step too far, and her inability to cope with consequences eventually pushes her over the edge. . . .”


The first (and so far only) Buffy novelization centered on Faith, Volume One of the Faith Trials focuses on the rogue Slayer’s adventures in Season Three. James Laurence, a newcomer to Buffy-authordom, provides a solid and straightforward adaptation of four episodes: “Faith, Hope & Trick”, “Revelations”, “Bad Girls”, and “Consequences” (contrary to the book’s cover, “Enemies” is not included, with “Revelations” as the surprise substitute).

“Faith, Hope & Trick”, as the title indicates, is the first appearance of Faith, Scott Hope, and Mr. Trick, and involves Faith’s confrontation with Kakistos, the vampire who slew her former Watcher. A solid story, the best part of both the episode and the novelization is seeing Buffy’s jealously over how quickly Faith moves in on Buffy’s mom, friends, and even would-be boyfriend. A short prequel is added to the novelization, detailing Faith’s arrival in Sunnydale, but it’s not of any particular interest.

After a similarly so-so original intermission, the book moves on to adapt “Revelations,” which tells of evil Watcher Gwendolyn Post’s pursuit of the Glove of Myhnegon. Laurence does a skillful adaptation of an episode that has plenty of humor, plenty of romance, and an important betrayal, as Faith loses (what else?) faith in someone she had trusted--this episode starts Faith on the downward spiral that makes a strong story arc for Season Three.

“Bad Girls” features a rather silly major villain--an overweight, immobile bather named Balthazar. However, the episode is redeemed by great scenes with the Mayor and Laurence does a good job in the adaptation of making us feel the rush that Buffy and Faith get during slaying. For die-hard fans of the “rogue demon hunter,” Bad Girls is also Wesley’s first appearance.

The final episode adapted, “Consequences”, tells how Faith tried to set Buffy up for the accidental killing of the very-human Deputy Mayor in “Bad Girls”. Giles and the other Scoobies see right through Faith’s plan, but they’re unable to redeem her and she decides to go seriously evil by allying herself with the Mayor. The episode is far more interesting than my description makes it sound.

All in all, Volume One of the Faith Trials contains four solid stories, with smooth, straightforward adaptations by Laurence. Although the book doesn’t contain very interesting original material, hardcore Faith fans shouldn’t hesitate to pick it up.

No Room for Gay Blood Donors

FROM THE ARCHIVES (Daily Nebraskan columns)

No Room for Gay Blood Donors

Jeremy Patrick (

September 25, 2000

"There are more things, Lucilius, that frighten us than injure us, and we suffer more in imagination than in reality."
---Seneca, Epistulae ad Lucilium

I remember filling in the little circle next to "YES" on the questionnaire. I did it with some trepidation, but my girlfriend at the time (a med-tech student) had assured me that they would simply ask me some additional questions.
Once I explained my answer, she said, everything would be fine. I know now that studies show many people lie on these forms. Because of pride, morality or some mixture of the two, I decided to be honest.
With even more trepidation, I handed the form to the nurse and sat down across from her at a little desk screened off from everyone else in the gymnasium. She had a little card ready.
"What type of blood are you?" she asked. I could never remember, even though every time I went they told me. I still can't remember. "O" maybe?
It's amazing that I can still recall that G.I. Joe No. 54 (a comic book I bought almost 14 years ago) has a picture of Flint on the cover, firing a machine gun while parachuting from a burning plane, but that I can never recall one of the most important facts about myself. She made small talk as she pricked my finger with a little gadget, waited a minute or so, looked at it and then wrote the results down on the card.
"OK," she said. "Just let me look at your form and then we'll get started."
Her finger trailed down the page, and she tapped at each question and its answer. About halfway down she lifted her finger up to tap and it stayed there, as if suspended from a string. She had a confused look on her face. She looked at me and then looked down to read the question and its answer again.
She pushed the paper across the table so I could read it.
"You answered 'yes' to the question: 'Have you ever had sex with another man, even once, since 1977?' Is that right?" she said.
"Yes," I said nervously, but remembering Kitty's advice. "But it was always safe, and I've tested negative each time."
"I'm sorry," she said with a sigh, "but that's grounds for permanent deferral." She looked sincerely apologetic, but mindful of her duty. "We really do appreciate you coming in."
There wasn't much else to say. I got up and left. I was a little angry but mostly embarrassed. Kitty had been wrong, but not without good reason. She'd given blood several times and always answered "yes" when asked if she had ever "had sex with a man who's had sex with a man since 1977."
After explaining that it was always safe, they had gone ahead and let her give blood. We had assumed the same rule applied to men, but you know what they say about the word "assume."
Last week, the FDA's Blood Products Advisory Committee considered ending the ban on gay blood donations. The American Association of Blood Banks (which makes up half of the nation's blood banks) proposed the change because it felt that the ban was discriminatory and unnecessary to keep blood transfusions safe.
Predictably, the Red Cross opposed the change.
In law school, we sometimes ask whether certain laws are overbroad or underinclusive.
The current ban on gay blood donations is clearly both.
It is overbroad because it considers a man who has only had safe sex in a monogamous relationship as the same kind of risk as a male hustler. It is underinclusive because a man or a woman who has had unprotected anal intercourse with a member of the opposite sex dozens of times is not even asked about the practice.
Perhaps in 1985, when the ban was first adopted, it made sense. But now, enormously accurate nucleic acid tests can detect the presence of HIV within 20 days after infection, and the traditional "risk groups" have changed: Heterosexuals are the majority of new HIV infections in this country. (Omaha World-Herald, Sept. 13, 2000)
As the safe-sex advocates like to say, "It's not who you are but what you do."
James Petty, director of an equal rights group, said it well: "HIV is a disease that affects all people. It's particularly prominent in the African-American community, and we're not saying African-Americans can't donate.
"It's increasingly prominent among women, and we haven't said women can't donate. It's an old stereotype that has long passed any period of usefulness. It's presumed that if you're gay, you're a carrier of STDs or AIDS." (PlanetOut News, Sept. 15, 2000)
On Sept. 15, the FDA committee voted 7-6 to retain the ban.
On Sept. 20, the Associated Press carried a story with the headline: "Red Cross Appeals For Blood Donors."
Apparently, blood donations are decreasing about one percent a year, while the demand for blood is increasing by the same amount.
According to the article, several hospitals have been forced to postpone elective surgeries due to lack of blood, and the Red Cross has only a three-day supply in its national inventory.
"The nation's blood supply is in danger," said Red Cross President Dr. Bernadine Healy. "We need help now."
I want to help.
But I can't.
(c) 2000 Jeremy Patrick

Fantasy Football: Week One

Well, I got royally pasted in Week 1--mostly because my running backs hardly came up with anything and because Drew Brees threw six touchdown passes for my opponent. My wide-receivers and tight-end did better than I expected, which may bode well for future games. The good news is that, although I lost, my team scored more points than many other teams in the division.

Team Sun Runners (76 Total Points)
Peyton Manning, Ind QB 14
Steve Slaton, Hou RB 2
LenDale White, Ten RB 2
Lance Moore, NO WR 3
Chad Ochocinco, Cin WR 8
Josh Cribbs, Cle WR 7
John Carlson, Sea TE 21
Steelers D/ST, Pit D/ST 11
David Akers, Phi K 8

Team Sanderbeck (102 Total Points)
Drew Brees, NO QB 36
Ryan Grant, GB RB 12
Ray Rice, Bal RB 11
Dwayne Bowe, KC WR 10
Andre Johnson, Hou WR 3
Anquan Boldin, Ari WR 1
Jason Witten, Dal TE 7
Titans D/ST, Ten D/ST 14
Mason Crosby, GB K 8

Torchwood: Cyberwoman (S1, E4)

"You need to figure out whose side you're on here--'cause if you don't know, you won't make it out of here alive."

Cyberwoman (Season One, Episode Four) ("Beneath the Torchwood building, Ianto Jones hides a terrible secret: a half-converted cyberwoman.")

What I Liked

* The very collegial opening scene--Hub basketball, banter, and going out for beers.

* The acting of Gareth David-Lloyd as Ianto--he brings it, showing some real acting chops in portraying a character who has reached real desperation.

* The scene where the team goes to battle stations--very exciting.

* Pterodactyl vs. Cyberwoman--come on, that's pretty good stuff!

* Ianto's inability to kill Lisa at the end--usually in fiction, heroes are always able to make the tough decision when it counts.

What I Didn't

* A single cyber-being doesn't seem all that scary because it doesn't have much in the way of offensive power--it just slowly walks forward and tries to smash people.

* Jack's effective dialogue about Ianto having betrayed the team and Torchwood is nicely done, but Ianto seems to be forgiven fairly quickly.

What I'm Not Sure About

* Why did Torchwood build such a massive facility in Cardiff for a team that's never seemed to have more than a handful of operatives at any one time? (we've seen a couple of members during the late 1800s, a couple of members during WWII, and four or five members in Jack's flashback during Fragments).


By: James Strong (director), Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto), Chris Chibnall (writer)

Tone: Everything in the episode is "absolutely magnificent", but there's some nice humor.

Interesting Bits:

* The episode was going to open with Ianto meeting the scientist at the airport.

* It was intended to run much later in the season, but the showrunners wanted to establish a clear tie to the Dr. Who mythos.

* A funny anecdote about John Barrowman's ass smashing an antique door.

* The device that Tosh uses to unlock doors is the same prop she used in the first episode to scan books.

Deleted Scenes

* An extended scene of the group leaving the Hub for drinks, with more banter.

* Tosh brings Ianto coffee at the very end of the episode as a goodwill gesture, but he snubs her.

Torchwood Declassified: "Girl Trouble"

* Interviews with people about the character of Ianto

* Costume designers on how they made the Cyberwoman both sexy and scary

* Interviews about how much people loved the idea of having the pterodactyl fight Lisa.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Clone Wars Campaign: Recap # 26

This was the first session in a story arc directed by one of the players and worked really well. I quite liked the adventure hook (it had a nice, mysterious Star Trek like feel) and the atmospheric details of Dramos V. I played Sian Suan, a spunky, impulsive Jedi (a character salvaged from several years ago when I first encounted the Star Wars RPG as a player in a KOTOR campaign). One thing that worked especially well in this session is that, because people kept having dreams and hallucinations, it created a real feeling that nobody could be completely trusted--which led my character and and her Master almost coming to blows.



[AG 262]

Deep in the heart of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, Padawans Sian Suan (a Sullustan) and Kasa (a Gungan) are sparring when they receive a message to report to the Council chambers. Inside, they see the human Jedi Knight Lee and the Thisspiasian Jedi Master Oppo Rancisis. Master Rancisis tells the Padawans that they will be travelling to the Outer Rim planet Dramos V (under the direction of Lee) in order to investigate reports that the population is having strange dreams and engaging in chaotic behavior. In addition, they are to discover why Republic Agent Menich Fenchler has ceased communications.

Suan inspects the freighter they've been assigned for the voyage, while Lee and Kasa research the history of Dramos V. They learn that the planet was settled almost a thousand years prior, and was notable for a great purge of all droids five centuries after its founding. After loading supplies aboard the ship, the two Padawans meet two additional individuals that will accompany them on the mission: Sgt. Jett, a Clone trooper; and Lumzoz, a Republic Data Analyst. During the ensuing hyperspace voyage, the group formulate a plan: the two Padawans will investigate Fenchler's disappearance while Lee meets with Karpok Mirmark, head of the ruling council of Dramos V.

[AG 274]

The freighter arrives at Dramos V, but sensors indicate that a Separatist cruiser is orbiting on the far side of the planet. Suan hastily pilots the ship down through the atmosphere to reveal a dark, storm-swept world. Landing beacons signal the ship to descend through wide caverns on the planet's surface and into an underground city named Pentanossus. Seconds after landing, the unwitting Jedi are beset by strange hallucinations: Lee thinks she is dueling with Count Dooku, whilst Sian thinks she's wandering through a dark forest and Kasa believes he's gone deaf. Eventually the hallucinations fade, but the experience puts everyone on edge.

Lee is contacted by a messenger from Karpok Mirmark and invited to a gala reception later in the evening. With several hours to pass, the Jedi and Sgt. Jett decide to travel together to the last known address for the missing Agent Fenchler. After travelling through several poorly-lit tunnels, they emerge at a decrepit apartment block. With Jett guarding the outer door, the Jedi make their way to Fenchler's quarters, only to find it deserted. Lee and Kasa take up a careful search, while Suan talks to Fenchler's neighbors.

Suan gets a tip that Fenchler often shops at a nearby market. The impulsive Padawan decides to investigate, but finds herself ambushed by a trio of mercenaries. When a dramatic backflip and flourishing of her lightsaber fails to scare them off, she's forced to escape a hail of blaster bolts and hide in a darkened alley, with no sign of Fenchler.

Meanwhile, Lee suffers another hallucination but shakes it off seconds after Kasa reports finding a hidden data crystal. After discussing their find in a back room, the pair of Jedi hear sounds from the main room--a group of intruders have stunned Sgt. Jett and are loudly ransacking the place, looking for something. Lee and Kasa peek out and see a group of thugs wearing matching body armor and carrying blasters. Kasa calls upon the Force to hurl a couch at their leader, while Lee springs across the room and ignites her lightsaber. A furious battle ensues. Kasa holds off several of the attackers with his expert martial arts ability, but is badly hurt by a flurry of grenades hurled his way. Seconds later, Lee finishes the fight with a resounding gesture by slamming her opponents to the ground with the Force. The leader of the group is taken prisoner and proves vulnerable to suggestion: he confesses to being a member of the Solar Krakens, a mercenary group hired by the Separatists to find Fenchler. Lee decides to bring the prisoner with them in the hopes of perhaps infiltrating the mercenary group.

Suan manages to sneak her way back to the apartment block and rejoin her companions and the prisoner. In their room at a local hotel, Suan and Lee argue about what to do with the prisoner: Suan insists he be turned over to the local judicials, while Lee wants him kept nearby as a valuable resource. The pair of Jedi almost come to blows when they realize that Sgt. Jett is not immune to the strange hallucinations of Dramos V: he's drawn his blaster and is about to murder the prisoner. Lee grabs the clone trooper's arm while Suan quickly ignites her lightsaber and cuts the pistol in half. More shouting breaks out between Lee and Suan until Kasa manages to broker an agreement: the prisoner will be turned over to local authorities but Suan will attempt to refrain from questioning her master's orders. Kasa transmits the data crystal to Lumzoz in the freighter for analysis. The three Jedi then share a strange vision that almost seems a cry for help: somewhere in an underground chamber, two old men have fallen prostrate before a huge, pulsing, egg-shaped object. The vision seems to be more than an hallucination, but the Jedi are unsure how to respond.

While Lee contacts the local constabulary to take control of their prisoner, Kasa and Suan travel to the city's market area in search of clues to Fenchler's disappearance. A grocer remembers Fenchler as a Gran who often frequents the cantina in the spacer's quarter, but says he hasn't been seen in weeks. While inside the store, the three mercenaries who earlier attacked Suan return. The impending firefight is interrupted by a rumbling in the ground underneath them, seconds before a huge snake-like creature emerges from a fissure in the earth. The mercenaries flee at the sight of the giant snake, which wraps itself around Kasa and spews acid in every direction. Kasa manages to free himself long enough to summon the Force to slam the serpent into the ground, but his strength reserves quickly give out. Suan makes sure the customers have escaped and then fires her ascension gun into the ceiling in order to swing high into the air and slash at the serpent's head with her lightsaber. The battle is difficult and bloody, but eventually the two Jedi prevail when Suan plunges her blade down through the creature's skull.

Lee arrives outside the store, only to find herself ambushed by the three waiting mercenaries and shot in the back with a blaster bolt. She survives, however, and, joined by the two Padawans, engages the mercenaries in battle. The leader tries to flee but Lee slams him to the ground using the Force and the Jedi take another prisoner to turn over to the judicials, while letting the other two mercenaries escape.
After quickly cleaning themselves up, the Jedi make their way to Karpok Mirmak's gala reception. Soon after they're seated, a surprising group enters the assembly hall: a Separatist delegation, led by a lightsaber-wielding Kel-Dor.

Return to Clone Wars Campaign Main Page

Political Hypocrisy Draws Fire

FROM THE ARCHIVES (Daily Nebraskan columns)

Political Hypocrisy Draws Fire

Jeremy Patrick (

September 18, 2000

Hypocrite, n. One who, professing virtues that he does not respect, secures the advantage of seeming to be what he despises.

--Ambrose Bierce, "The Devils Dictionary"

With Dennis Miller off doing "Monday Night Football," I feel justified in stealing his shtick. So I don't want to get off on a rant here, but ...
My pet peeve is ignorance and hypocrisy in politics. I am frequently peeved.
Recent events have not eased my discomfort. I was planning to write about the problems with Attorney General Don Stenberg, but my editors insist I have only 750 words, not 750 pages.
Instead, I'll begin with his assistant, J. Kirk Brown. Recently, Brown applied to the judicial nominating commission for an opening on the Lancaster County District Court.
The commission is charged by state law with the task of selecting qualified applicants and forwarding their names to the governor, who makes the final decision. After the commission found Brown unqualified, he wrote a scathing column attacking it for operating in secrecy and for being biased against him for his work on capital punishment cases. (Interestingly, a secretary in the Attorney General's office wrote a similar piece on the same day for the same newspaper.)
The commission operates in secrecy because the whole point of a merit-based system is to avoid political pressures; this is why we no longer elect judges.
Brown's attack on the commission for being biased against him for his death penalty work holds delicious irony. Stenberg and Brown have done everything in their power to keep judicial and legislative branches from acting on clear and nearly-unanimous research that demonstrates the use of capital punishment as biased against poor and minority defendants.
Brown only loses a job opportunity because of the commission's bias. The men and women he kills have lost their lives because of society's prejudice.
Stenberg and Brown are not alone in the hypocrisy department.
I first met Mike Johanns as he came to Chadron to campaign for governor. I remember asking him, after he gave the usual stump-speech, if he had any rational, secular justifications for being opposed to same-sex marriage.
He mumbled and stumbled and finally admitted that it was for religious reasons. I could at least respect his sincerity; Johanns has often spoken of the importance of his Catholic faith.
But Johanns likes it both ways. He condemns abortion supposedly based on his sincere religious beliefs, but enthusiastically supports the death penalty (a position clearly at odds with the doctrines of Catholicism). Johanns refused to allow a clemency hearing for Randy Reeves, a clear break with tradition.
I guess life is sacred only when in accord with the Republican platform.
Similarly, after signing a state proclamation for a March for Jesus, Johanns responded to criticism that it violated the separation of church and state by promising he would not limit the proclamations to a single faith.
But soon afterward, he refused to sign a similar proclamation for Wiccans because he personally disagreed with it (Omaha World-Herald May 6, 1999). Apparently its OK for government to sponsor religion, if its the kind of religion Johanns agrees with.
Inconsistency I can forgive; blatant hypocrisy I cannot.
Even when some politicians have been clearly proven wrong, they won't admit it. Once, while I was a Chadron State undergrad, Sen. Chuck Hagel spoke to our political science class. When I asked him why he and other senators were blocking the confirmation of openly-gay James Hormel as Ambassador to Luxembourg, Hagel gave a long spiel about how having a gay ambassador would tarnish our country's great reputation and harm sensitive diplomatic efforts.
No surprise to hear that most Republicans are homophobic; but it's not what they'd want you to believe. The Republican Party's 2000 campaign platform states that gay people shouldn't get special rights but that equal access should "guarantee every person a fair shot based on their potential and merit."
Hagel said the same thing when he spoke. He said he didn't care what sexual preference a person had, so long as they could do their job well.
Yet, when blocking Hormel's confirmation, Hagel and the Republicans didn't speak of his qualifications or lack thereof; they spoke of his being openly gay. This is not a "fair shot based on . . . potential and merit."
It's been slightly over a year now since Hormel first assumed the post. By all accounts, he has been well-received by government officials, fellow diplomats and Luxembourgers in general (Dallas Morning News, Aug. 9, 2000). I'm sure Hagel is surprised to hear that the ever-so-important nation of Luxembourg is pleased, and if our foreign reputation has been tarnished, it cannot be traced to our having a gay ambassador.
Even the best of us make mistakes; only the worst of us will not admit them.
Mr. Brown, please take a few minutes and watch "The Hurricane." And keep your chin up about that whole judgeship thing; I hear Judge Wapner on "Animal Court" might be retiring soon.
Mr. Johanns, when you decide to stop talking out of both sides of your mouth, please let me know - I'm curious to see what you really believe.
And Mr. Hagel, when you have a moment, stop by.
I bake a great humble pie.

(c) 2000 Jeremy Patrick

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Journals of Rupert Giles Volume 1


By Nancy Holder, based upon teleplays “Helpless” by David Fury, “A New Man” by Jane Espenson, and “Blood Ties” by Steven S. DeKnight (2002)

RATING: 4/5 Stakes

SETTING: Seasons Three, Four, and Five

CAST APPEARANCES: Buffy, Giles, Willow, Xander, Angel, Oz, Joyce, Cordelia, Anya, Spike, Tara, Dawn, Riley, Ethan Rayne, Quentin Travers, Blair, Hobson, Kralik, Professor Walsh, Glory, Ben, Jinx


BACK-OF-THE-BOOK SUMMARY: “Buffy Summers is hip, modern, and pop culture savvy. Rupert Giles, her Watcher, is a stuffy Brit whose idea of bliss is a good book and a strong cup of tea. Odd as the duo may be, though, they have managed to avert their fair share of apocalypses. Plural. One thing they can’t seem to conquer, however, is Buffy’s bad birthday luck. At eighteen, Buffy is subjected to a Watcher’s Council Cruciamentum, a test of her own non-physical wiles--and of Giles’s attitude toward both his charge and his calling, as well. And when the Slayerettes throw a surprise party for Buffy’s big 1-9, Giles finds himself feeling useless and out-of-the-loop-y. But it is at the Slayer’s twentieth birthday gathering that both Buffy and Giles are forced to re-examine the nature of blood ties and the definition of family--or risk losing a mutual loved one more important to them--and the fate of the word--than either ever imagined. . . .”

REVIEWVolume One of the Journals of Rupert Giles contains perhaps the cleverest framing sequence of any Buffy novelization to date. On the day of Buffy’s twentieth birthday, after Dawn has discovered that she is the Key that Glory is looking for, Giles is heartsick to think about how much pain and suffering his Slayer has endured over the past years. He decides to make a deal with the devil (or at least a demon named Krathalal): in exchange for his own blood, he wants Krathalal to protect Buffy from harm. After limiting the bargain to last only until Buffy’s next birthday, the demon decides to test how far Giles is willing to go to protect his ward. Krathalal forces Giles to read to him, from his Watcher’s Diary, the events that took place on Buffy’s eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth birthdays. In other words, Giles is forced to re-live the pain he has, to some degree, caused his own Slayer.

The first episode adapted in the novelization fits the framing sequence perfectly. In “Helpless”, Giles reluctantly agrees to take part in an ancient Watcher’s Council tradition: he must secretly drug Buffy to render her “normal” and then lock her in a house with a frenzied, insane vampire named Kralik. Of course, things never go as planned: Kralik escapes early and kidnaps Joyce, and Buffy discovers Giles complicity in the whole affair. The episode is one of the best portrayals of Buffy and Giles’ relationship, and seeing Buffy glare at Giles for betraying her, the same way she did at Jenny Calendar in Season Two, is both shocking and believable.

“A New Man” was one of the show’s periodic light episodes. The irascible Ethan Rayne comes to Sunnydale and manages to turn his friend and rival into a seven-foot tall horned demon. Although played mostly for laughs once the transformation starts, there are some poignant moments at the beginning of the episode where Giles suddenly starts to feel his age at Buffy’s birthday party, and later when he and Ethan reflect back upon their lives and what they’ve done with them.

Season Five episode “Blood Ties” is really more a story about Dawn than it is about Giles. After breaking into the Magick Box and stealing Giles’ journal, Dawn discovers that she is the cosmic Key that Glory has been hunting for all of this time. What does it mean to find out you’ve only really existed for six months? That you’re a bundle of energy shaped by monks into the form of a teenage girl? Dawn, not surprisingly, does not deal with the revelation well. One scene in particular from the episode has always stuck in my mind as one of the most stunning (and creepy) moments in Buffy history: Dawn appears in the hallway, holding a knife, blood dripping down from her arms and wrists where she has cut herself. “Is this blood?” she chokes out, “Am I real? Am I anything?” A very strong episode, even if Giles is not central to the plot.

Although it’s hard to separate out the actual episodes and the novelizations in my mind, Nancy Holder sticks to the scripts closely and uses good interior thoughts to flesh out the characters’ actions; apart from annoying spelling and punctuation errors (though far less noticeable than in the Chosen novelization), this is a strong adaptation of two excellent episodes and one good episode. The birthday theme and the framing sequence combine to make this one of the better Buffy novelizations out there.

Torchwood Magazine # 6

Not much excitement in this issue:

* An interview with John Barrowman. Major highlight: the revelation that he often takes his cock out between scenes to keep the crew entertained. Also, his nickname is "Jinny"--not sure why.

* An interview with Tom Price, who plays PC Andy. Price seems like a cool guy and spends most of his time doing stand-up comedy.

* Part three of the Rift War! strip. Still crap. Rhys spends six weeks babysitting a giant (two-story tall) alien infant which has adopted the form of a giant (two-story tall) human infant? Rinse your eyes out with bleach after reading.

* An interview with Paul Kasey, who plays the Weevil, the Blowfish, etc. Pretty standard stuff if you've seen any behind-the-scenes stuff on sci-fi shows before.

And that's more or less it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Purpose Behind the Pen

FROM THE ARCHIVES (Daily Nebraskan columns)

The Purpose Behind the Pen

Words Hold Immortal Power

Jeremy Patrick (

Daily Nebraskan (

September 11, 2000

"It is part of the social mission of every great newspaper to provide a refuge and a home for the largest possible number of salaried eccentrics."

---Lord Thomson of Fleet

I like to think of myself as a writer, but I'm not.
Although I do a lot of writing - columns, book reviews, essays, articles, and more - I hate every minute of it. Perhaps that's not true: Revising is fine, and I always get a little thrill out of seeing myself in print.
But the actual act of sitting down and writing is plain torture; trying to think of something worth saying, making the proverbial order out of the chaos of thoughts in my head and expressing them in a way worth reading is not something I enjoy.
I envy writers like Dickens or Vonnegut who were constantly overflowing with ideas and could sit down and write for hours on end. I've resolved that if I ever write a book, I'm going to be like Jack London; supposedly, he wrote exactly 500 words a day and often stopped in the middle of a sentence when he reached that number.
I write solely nonfiction, mostly about "current issues." I haven't written fiction since I won the "Budding Young Author" award back in eighth grade for some cheesy sword-and-sorcery story. I realized, recently, that I write nonfiction because it allows me to avoid risks.
The risks aren't contained in what you write about, they are contained in the way you write it. I pick on religion, political groups and college administrators all the time, and it never worries me. I know that I can make the arguments and defend them well. But fiction, on the other hand, troubles me because I have no wall of rationality to stand behind. The ability to make dialogue sound "real," to make plots interesting and to write something truly original are not talents many people have.
Perhaps I'm simply afraid to find out if I have them or not.
I'm not exactly sure why I write. I think part of it is the aforementioned little thrill that it's a little dent in my solipsistic armor to know that others are actually going to read something that I wrote while lying on my little dorm-room bed listening to The Dave Matthews Band.
Part of it, I must admit, is a missionary's zeal for spreading The Truth. Of course, my Truth is not the Word of God, but the Word of Liberalism or Rationalism or what have you; the effect, however, is the same. I sincerely believe that I'm right on most things and therefore, am all too happy to share it with everyone else.
What I really am is a Reader. I read voraciously. All kinds of stuff - comic books, fiction, nonfiction, magazines - are prey for my carnivorous appetite. I think, to at least some degree, my desire to write exists to justify my desire to read. I know that one day I'll be dead and everything I'll have read will not matter a shred; but at least by writing I feel like I'm using that information for a higher purpose.
Giving back, if you'll allow a cliché, to the writers who gave to me. Creating instead of just devouring. In my vainer moments, there is even a tiny hope that some of what I write will live after me - my own little grasp of immortality in a godless universe. Of course, this is the most futile of desires.
Only a tiny percentage of writers achieve fame, and their importance usually dwindles with time. Admittedly, there are some who have lasted centuries, such as Shakespeare or Aristotle, but even the few who have survived are usually not remembered in the way they would have wished: We read Plato's "Republic," but few seriously entertain the notion of philosopher-kings; some students are forced to slog through Dickens' "David Copperfield," but hardly anyone reads it for the purpose it was intended: pleasure. As Twain said, "Classics are the books everyone talks about but nobody reads."
We have returned to the beginning: If I hate writing so much, why do I do it? Unfortunately, the answer still eludes me. Regardless, in the words of Isabel Colegate, "It's not a bad idea to get in the habit of writing down one's thoughts. It saves one having to bother anyone with them."