Monday, June 29, 2009

Ask Militant Ginger

We haven't had an edition of 'Ask Militant Ginger' for a while - and this month we had some doozies of questions! So after an inexplicable absence, here is a question and answer session based on real-life questions that people have typed into search engines - and been taken to 'Militant Ginger' as a result. First off, two questions related to the same movie!

Does the guy smoke in 'He's Just Not That Into You?'

In the romantic comedy He's Just Not That Into You, Bradley Cooper plays a philandering husband married to obsessive-compulsive Jennifer Connelly. It's not his affair that upsets his wife, though - it's the suspicious that her husband is sneakily smoking behind her back (he promised to quit, because Connelly's father died from lung cancer.)

In the final moments of the movie, Connelly is lamenting losing her husband... Right up until the moment she finds a packet of smokes in his suit pocket. Enraged that he'd own up to his affair - but lie about smoking - causes her to finally kick the ungrateful lug out of her house.

So, gentle reader, the answer is yes. Bradley Cooper's character in He's Just Not That Into You is
sneakily smoking behind his wife's back - revealing just how immature and deceitful men can be about seemingly innocuous things.

What car does Ben Affleck's character drive in He's Just Not That Into You?

Bradley Cooper's best friend is played by Ben Affleck - a man with a fondness for 'boy toys.' In addition to his fifty-foot yacht, he has an utterly awesome 'woody' - a wood panelled car.

Thanks to an episode of Pimp My Ride I'd seen earlier that day, I was correctly able to identify Affleck's classic car as a Jeep Wagoneer - one of America's first 'sports utility vehicles.'

They were manufactured virtually unchanged from 1963 to 1993 - making it very difficult to identify the specific year Affleck's was. However, I found the actual car for sale on eBay and can confirm that it was an '87 model.

Why doesn't Socialism work?

This is a question I tackled here. Although I don't think socialism is remotely close to the scary, evil bugbear the conservatives nail it as - I don't think it works.

There are all sorts of reasons why socialism is sketchy, but the root cause behind all of them is 'human nature.' Humans don't want to live in a society in which we're all equal. Man is programmed to want more than his neighbor.

Personal gain is the major incentive to work harder. When a community takes the profits of its hardest workers and distributes them to 'equalize' compensation, it takes away the reason for that one worker to work so hard. He reduces productivity - and the entire community loses out as a result.

But while socialism makes for a crappy business model, but it's not entirely worthless. When it comes to vital infrastructure - like railways, postal services, schools and the like - state ownership often means more flexibility in operating an important public service. Even in so-called 'Capitalist' America, many institutions are state owned because they simply couldn't operate effectively as private industry (like the Postal Service.)

Why do Christians hate gays?

Christians shouldn't 'hate' anybody, but some of them do.

These are mainly the evangelicals and fundamentalists of America (who number 80 million, although that figure is rapidly dwindling.)

Those particular Christians are hypocrites. In the words of Randall Terry, an outspoken Christian activist:
"Let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good...."
He was talking about people who voted for Clinton - but a more common target for evangelical Christian ire are 'homosexuals.' Gay people are blamed for just about everything - including 9/11. To quote Jerry Falwell, the leader of the Evangelical movement (who last year hosted the presidential debate between McCain and Obama in his 'megachurch'):
"The gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make homosexuality an alternative lifestyle -- I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this [9/11] happen.""
Those right-wing Christians claim that homosexuality is wrong because the Bible says so. The Bible also says that eating shellfish and wearing cotton is wrong, but these Christians pick and choose which bits they want to listen to (because if they had to adhere to the whole thing, life wouldn't be much fun at all!)

The Biblical debate is a big one. I've written extensively about it here. In short, though, it boils down to whether or not you think modern society's rules and standards should be regulated by a 2,000 year old piece of corporate propaganda.

Some Christians are unable to remove the Bible from their moral equation - and are therefore unable to judge something based on anything other than their own blinkered standards. Those evangelical Christians 'hate' gays because they believe the Bible told them to. If the Bible told them all to jump off a cliff, presumably they'd do that, too (we can only wish.)

But not all Christians are as limited as these ones. For example, Mummy Militant and I attend a church which welcomes gay people, and even has a few same-sex couples in the congregation. This is because some Christians are evolved, and have realized that Christ's message of love is more important that some fine-print minutia condemning homosexuality.

Why do pirates wear eye patches?

When I was a kid, I got told that pirates wore eye-patches because splinters or swords had popped their peeper out (much the same reason for the prerequisite wooden legs and hooks on their hands.) In actual fact, though, even biopic (i.e. two-eyed) pirates never went into battle without an eye-patch.

This is because the ocean could be a very bright place. On deck, the sun beat down mercilessly. Once you went below deck, however, the bowels of a pirate ships were dark and dim (pirates roamed the seas before electricity was invented.)

It takes up to thirty seconds for your eyes to adjust from bright light to near-dark - so when a raiding pirate stormed below decks, he'd be literally blinded until his eyes adjusted to the dark. That's why they took to wearing eye-patches.

Before the battle, a pirate would don his patch and one eye would adjust to the gloom. The other he'd use normally, and would be all squinty in the sunlight. After battling the enemy on deck, our raiding buccaneer could jump into the gloom below decks and lift his eye-patch - revealing his pre-adjusted eye and having instantaneous vision even in the gloom of the galley.

It's a neat trick - and one that's still used today. My father taught me a trick he used on guard duty with the RAF. Stand with one eye scrunched shut, so if the enemy cut the lights, you'll still have some pre-adjusted night vision and be able to react much faster than waiting for both peepers to adjust to the blackout.

What does Quantum of Solace mean?

'Quantum of Solace' was a fantastic short story from the James Bond anthology 'For Your Eyes Only.' It hardly features Bond - and was more about the story of two young lovers and their doomed love affair.

In it, Ian Fleming coined the term 'Quantum of Solace' to describe the smallest smidgen of love or respect that keeps somebody in a relationship. 'Quantum' is the smallest amount measurable by man. 'Solace' comes from the Latin word for consolation or comfort.

It's generally the 'Quantum of Solace' that keeps somebody in a bad relationship. If a boyfriend ignores his girlfriend, goes out with the boys without her or cheats on her, she might want to leave him - but when he does that one thoughtful thing - like making a mix-tape of 'their' songs or something equally inconsequential - it reminds her of 'why she fell in love with him' and the whole vicious cycle starts all over again.

But, more than that, the 'Quantum of Solace' is that essential spark which keeps love alive. As long as there's that 'Quantum,' a relationship can exist. When it's extinguished (by, perhaps, one thoughtless act too many) love can never be rekindled.
"The Governor had presented Bond with a theory concerning love, betrayal and cruelty between marriage partners. Calling it the 'quantum of solace,' the governor believed that the amount of comfort on which love and friendship is based could be measured. Unless there is a certain degree of humanity existing between two people, he maintained, there can be no love. It was an adage Bond had accepted as a universal truth."

High Time to Kill, Raymond Benson
How do I start writing adventure stories?

It's easy! Pick up a pen and get scribbling!

As readers of Militant Ginger will know, I love old-fashioned adventure stories. In fact, a constant thread throughout my life has been my efforts to get 'Adventure Eddy' into print.

While I haven't been altogether successful, my years of writing have taught me A LOT about penning adventure stories - specifically:
  • You've got to grip the reader from the first paragraph - like in the Adventure Eddy story 'Science Lesson,' in which he opens a package somebody mailed him and finds a deadly fat-tailed scorpion inside!
  • You need to have an unanswered question which keeps the reader motivated to continue reading - like just who sent Adventure Eddy that deadly scorpion!
  • The characters must have good motivation for doing what they're doing. Characters drive a story forward, not plot. Give the characters believable motivation (like revenge, or a need to clear their name) and it'll make the whole unlikely scenario believable.
  • Instill a sense of urgency! Time limits, or being chased by bad guys or police, give characters that extra bit of motivation to do dangerous things, and take risks they might not normally.
  • Set up a few action set pieces - There are moments in a book that you'll remember forever - like James Bond's escape down the mountainside in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Think of some really thrilling, really dangerous obstacles to overcome and it'll rack up the sense of peril.
  • Put your characters in real danger - In Live and Let Die, James Bond's eponymous best friend Felix Leiter was mauled by a shark - a trick Fleming used to let his readers know that the dangers Bond faced were real, and there was no guarantee that even 007 would make it to the end of the book.
  • Have a twist in the tail! The hardest trick is to throw a satisfying denoument into the mix. At the climax of the book, you've got to turn things around in such a way to blow the reader out of the water - and leave them breathless, yet satisfied. A good example is in the climax of Hugh Laurie's book 'The Gun Seller.' I won't spoil it, but it's a cracker and involves an exploding helicopter.
Do Nephilim die from copper shotgun rounds?

This is probably the oddest question I've ever been asked - linking back to my synopsis for a story called 'The God Squad.'

In it, a band of Vatican-approved 'monster hunters' would face off against an evil Nephilim - one of the half-angel, half-human creatures God had attempted to wipe out with 'The Great Flood.'

As far as I know, Nephilim are not noted for having any specific vulnerability to copper, so I'm not sure what significance that would make - but that wouldn't stop my band of morally ambiguous monster hunters riddling him with shotgun shells, if they thought that would get the job done!


Meghan said...

Great post and you have amazing attention to details. However I still think pirates wear eyepatches cause they just look bad ass.

Coffee Bean said...

You crack me up! I've thought about doing a post on what word searches have taken people to my Uneducated blog. I have to say some must have been sorely disappointed! LOL! Reading what some people are looking for in a housewife can get X rated.

Roland Hulme said...

LOL! There's a whole new opportunity for a new blog there, CB!

mre30seattle said...

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