After which you can discount the ending

This goes back about nine years, but I hadn’t heard the term before, and I figure I can trust Neil Gaiman’s description:

Several people asking what I meant by “Plot Coupons”.

I think Nick Lowe (the Interzone film critic, not the rock star or the Marvel editor) was the first person to coin the term. It’s a very useful way of thinking about a particular type of structure of a story.

It’s the kind of story where the protagonist(s) is told to go and collect a bunch of objects. It’s a very good way into a world, because it takes you all over, looking for things. Often, early on, someone will say something like, “A thousand years ago, Estragon The Dark Clown, for reasons that will never be adequately explained in this book or its many sequels, placed his power in The Funny Hat of Doom, The Big Red Nose of Darkness, the Wig of Desmond, and the Revolving Bow Tie of Light. It has been written, that only when these four objects come together will a Saviour arise to save Clowntown. You, Beppo, you must take this map (helpfully printed in the front of the book for easy reference) and nip around the book obtaining these four things (each the object of veneration by a different culture, each guarded by very different groups of people) at great cost to yourself and to the supporting cast, and then you must bring them back here.”

Or, quoting Liam at Tragic Sans:

Note that “the author” can be substituted for “the Gods” in such a work: “The Gods decreed he would pursue this quest.” Right, mate. The author decreed he would pursue this quest until sufficient pages were filled to procure an advance.

Which sounds cruel, but as Nick Lowe (the rock star, not the Interzone film critic or the Marvel editor) says, you’ve gotta be cruel to be kind.

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Has this ever happened to you?

If you’ve written anything more complex than “Hello world!” it probably has:

Fuck Yeah Computer Science Major Penguin

Kind of like discovering a missed yarn over, 300 stitches after the fact.

(Original here: collect the whole set.)

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I’m (again) thinking R.B.

When Rebecca Black walked into ARK Music Factory, they offered her two songs. One of them, she said, was “about adult love,” and she turned it down because “I haven’t experienced that yet.” The other one, of course, was “Friday.”

Cover art for Person of InterestThe follow-up to “Friday,” “My Moment,” was based almost entirely on her experiences. So what do we make of the third single, “Person of Interest,” due out next week? She’s already spilled the beans — and apparently not refried beans, either — in an English-language interview with a mostly-Spanish TV network:

“It’s a love song but it’s not a love song. It’s about almost teenage crushes — when you’re not in love yet but you really like a guy — which I’m really excited about because I don’t think there are too many out like that.”

We have to assume that she’s been there and done that. Incidentally, there’s already a Wikipedia disambiguation page for the term “person of interest,” though the song isn’t officially listed thereupon; a query to “Person of Interest (Rebecca Black song)” tosses you onto the main Rebecca Black page. Of course, nine months ago nobody could have imagined a main Rebecca Black page on Wikipedia, let alone that some aging goob in the flyover zone would do a weekly news report about her — or that a corporate cousin to Consumer Reports would help solicit lyrics for yet another parody of “Friday.” Household-word status is at hand.

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Bread spread

I got an anguished note yesterday from Oklahomans for Liberty, whose mission is “to let Oklahomans know whether their lawmaker’s proposed legislation benefits the constitution they swore to uphold or if instead benefits the benefactors who have donated thousands to the legislator’s campaign coffers.”

It seems that they were startled to discover that Tulsa billionaire and all-around one-percenter George Kaiser, a known Obama “bundler,” had passed around some sizable sums to “so-called conservative legislators.”

My first reaction was “Geez, guys, lighten up. A lot of your left-wing plutocrats won’t give so much as a dollar to the GOP or anyone associated with it.”

I note that no one has yet called for a boycott — as distinguished from, say, an “occupation” — of Kaiser’s oil company or of his bank, so evidently this is mostly a reaction to Solyndra, a reflection of the Power of Bad Press. I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt that George Kaiser has any of these legislators on speed-dial. (Governor Fallin, maybe.)

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Quote of the week

Andrea Harris, noting our dependence on the movies for conceptualizing occupations other than our own, provides a handy synopsis of Every Movie About Writers, Since Ever:

[T]he old writer hasn’t written anything in years and hates himself and is coasting on his past accomplishments but who cares he’s rich and famous and people call him a Writer and he has that goddamn WASP dream house with the book-lined library and it’s probably out in the woods somewhere on one of those lakes where rich white people live. Anyway, in this movie the Young Writer comes on the scene, and he’s Troubled, but Passionate, and he does a lot of intense frowning at tiny pieces of paper he’s scribbling on in a diner, and he pays for his coffee by writing a poem for the waitress’ son who has leukemia, and he makes Passionate Love to a quirkily beautiful young woman who will be played by Minnie Driver, and he enters the life of the Old Author and Shakes It Up.

I bet we could find a couple dozen books built on this particular template without having to look beyond Brian J. Noggle’s east-facing shelf.

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One among many (a repost)

I was standing on a mountaintop at the Edge of Nowhere, or so it seemed, staring into the face of the enemy, and I knew he was staring back.

Not that anything scary was about to happen. There was a rather large body of water between us, and even on the clearest of days I couldn’t see him and he couldn’t see me. Still, I knew he was there, and I assumed he knew I was there, and a few dozen other guys were making a list and checking it twice and delivering it to the commanding officer. They were doing their job, and I was doing mine.

And a few months later, that particular job came to an end; I left this post, a little older, maybe a little wiser, an unexpected medal added to my uniform, and after a few days of R&R — well, maybe some R, but not a whole lot of R, if you know what I mean — I reported back Stateside and was assigned to the Reserves for three more years.

This was before “Be all that you can be,” and I’ve never been sure I was all that I could have been. But we had a mission, and I was part of it, and I’d like to think that I had something to do with the fact that the enemy no longer exists.

That enemy, anyway.

On this day of remembrance, there are millions more with their own stories to tell. You’ve already heard mine.

(Originally posted 11/11/2004.)

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Patience, patrons

The new Northwest Library is getting an old, established name: the name of Patience Latting (1918-  ), who served as Mayor of Oklahoma City from 1971 to 1983 after four years on City Council.

The look of the Patience Latting Library, however, is anything but old and established. Metro Library System has put up some renderings and some work-in-progress photos.

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Quality is Service Pack 1

Ford has been booed loudly from several corners for its clunky MyFord Touch in-car software. When the announcement came down that there was going to be a major upgrade to the package, my first thought was “Well, that ought to clog up the dealer service departments for months.”

Maybe, or maybe not:

If you’re one of the 300,000 or so customers out there with MyFord Touch, you’re already on the list to receive a USB flash drive containing the update. You’ll be able to do it yourself or take it to any dealership.

Is it possible to brick an entire car? We’re about to find out.

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Swinus abossiculus

Willy Staley of The Awl is happy to offer several explanations for the McRib phenomenon, and this is the one I think is least unlikely:

[T]he sandwich has a cult following, but it’s not that popular. Like Star Trek, Arrested Development and that show about Jesus Christ returning to San Diego as a surfer, the McRib was short-lived because not enough people were interested in it, even though a small and vocal minority loved it dearly. And unlike these TV shows, which involve real actors and writers with careers to tend to, the McRib needs only hogs, pickles, onions and a vocal enough minority who demand the sandwich’s return, and will even promote it for free with websites, tweets and word-of-sauce-stained-mouth.

Besides, what other reason have I to go to Mickey D’s? McNuggets?

Incidentally, Boston Market’s frozen-foods division is selling a suspiciously McRib-like entree. Better grade, or at least higher recognizability, of mystery meat, but the sauce is downgraded a point for insufficient tang.

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Two wheels good, no wheels better?

Last week’s photo of Famke Janssen on a bicycle garnered, shall we say, mixed reviews, so I figured I’d balance things out with a photo of Famke Janssen not on a bicycle, but in a director’s chair.

Famke Janssen at Savannah Film Festival

This shot was taken at last week’s Savannah Film Festival, which screened Bringing Up Bobby, written, directed and co-produced by Janssen. The festival offered this synopsis:

Bringing Up Bobby is the story of a European con-artist, Olive, and her 10 year old American born son, Bobby, who find themselves in Oklahoma in an effort to escape her past and build a better future. Olive and Bobby blithely charm their way from one adventure to another until Olive’s criminal past catches up with her. Consequently, she must make a choice: continue with a life of crime or leave the person she loves most in an effort to give Bobby a proper chance in life.

And what better place to escape your past than in Oklahoma? Olive, you should know, is played by Milla Jovovich.

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Where the interaction is

That’s where Will doesn’t want to be. And here’s how he paid the water bill:

Our water bill goes to City Hall. But instead of dropping it off, I put a stamp on an envelope and dropped it off at the nearest drop-box.

Three guesses where the nearest drop-box is.

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Afternoon delete

About 3 pm every weekday, the yawns come fast and furious. I’ve always considered this a by-product of my screwy circadian rhythms: should I wake at 3 am, I’m likely going to be too hyper to get back to sleep, and left to my own devices, I’ll rapidly adjust to a 26-hour day, which is fine if I’m going to Bajor, but not useful in this part of the Alpha Quadrant.

Not that I’m at all alone with this condition:

I usually get around 6-1/2 to 7 hours each night. Even with a lot of sleep, I still can get drowsy in the afternoon.

After the little research I made on the condition, I realized the suggestion of a nap was missing. Otherwise, doing what the body is demanding is not an option. I’m guessing this is due to the fact it’s taboo in our society to sleep while at work.

Well, of course. Getting a nap might make you smarter, and we certainly can’t have that.

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What a wiki game you play

Brian J. Noggle, who wouldn’t be caught dead participating in a meme, has created a meme:

Go to your browser’s address bar and start typing en.wikipedia and report the five top results.

Deucedly clever, that. Here are mine, as of the time of typing this:

Explanations available on request, not that I expect any — and assuming I can think of any.

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Hermie don’t play dat

While Herman Cain vows to tough it out, Pejman Yousefzadeh figures the Cain Train is more or less permanently derailed:

[T]he allegations are succeeding in knocking the Cain campaign off of whatever game it once might have had, and any confidence that Herman Cain will be able to survive the Republican nomination contest — let alone a race against the veteran campaign squad that is bound and determined to get Barack Obama a second term in the White House — ought to be completely dissipated by now. Oh, I am sure that there remain some Cainiacs who hold out the last, desperate vestiges of hope that somehow, someway, their candidate will recover, Lazarus-like, capture the GOP nomination, and win the White House. But why should anyone put anymore stock into their tired, Baghdad Bobesque assurances that everything is all right, that the Cain campaign is walking on water (before turning it into wine), and that the former pizza executive has his opponents right where he wants them?

(Title swiped from Michele Grant; it was funnier when she said it.)

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Not your friends and not your benefits

Bill Quick, in a post from the summertime that bounced back into view, points out the basic structural problem with the current paradigm for so-called “employee benefits”:

Those “free” benefits are paid for by you with your much reduced salary. Is your employer one of those who notes on your paycheck all the “free” benefits they are so graciously bestowing on you? Well, add all that money directly to your own salary, and that’s how much you’d be earning without those “freebies.” Think you could shop around and do better than what your employer, GargantoCorp, is spending your money on for “your” benefits?

Assuming, of course, that GargantoCorp would actually raise salaries to compensate for freebies withdrawn, which in the current corporate climate seems unlikely.

That said, though, were the government’s thumb removed from the scales, I suspect I could find quite a nice package for way less than is being spent now on my ostensible behalf. Then again, when have you ever seen a spoiled child give up a toy willingly?

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Where it all goes (’11)

For the last few years, I’ve been breaking down the property tax I pay by recipient. The actual tax rate in my particular district rose by 2.84 percent; it’s the highest ever, or at least the highest since the beginning of the County Assessor’s online list, but not by much. Here’s who’s getting what, with what they got last year in brackets:

  • City of Oklahoma City: $141.26 [$142.27]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools: $548.87 [$524.90]
  • Metro Tech Center: $136.58 [$138.15]
  • Oklahoma County general: $107.23 [$110.34]
  • Countywide school levy: $36.60 [$37.02]
  • County Health Department: $22.90 [$23.17]
  • Metropolitan Library System: $45.97 [$46.50]
  • Total: $1039.41 [$1022.34]

Note that with one exception, everyone is making do on slightly less than they got last year.

The individual millages for each of these are listed here.

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