Monday, September 29, 2008

Vignette: Confessions of an Evil Mastermind--World Domination Rant

"Like the song says, I used to rule the world.

On three occasions, in fact. The longest lasting 52 hours and 23 minutes. Not that I was counting.

Let's get some things clear. Anybody--well, a surprising number of people, enough so that you really shouldn't sleep well at night, believe me--can build a doomsday device and hold the world hostage. That's impressive after a fashion, I admit. I wouldn't have done it myself if it wasn't worth doing.

But you don't start the 'sole sovereign master of the globe' clock until you get formal recognition of your terms and the capitulation of the major nation states and international corporations, in writing.

You'd be surprised how many would-be conquerors forget about the business side of the domination equation. And it's actually helpful. Once the cream of the Fortune 500 recognizes that your ironclad control will be offset by the chance to pursue all those shelved R & D projects without fear of safety regulations or lawsuits, they're all too happy to jump on board. And then you've got something better than orbital laser cannons when it comes to persuading the leaders of the developed nations. You've got lobbyists.

And yes, I said developed nations. This isn't the General Assembly of the UN, where a majority vote counts for anything. You need the economic and military powers of the world recognizing your power. Everything else falls into line after that. At least in theory. Besides, even a world conqueror has to draw the line of pragmatism somewhere. Is my robot army really going to put me in charge of the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan? No. Can I get a private autobahn named after me built across Europe? Absolutely.

The Guinness Book of World Records currently lists the "Longest Rule of Earth by an Individual" as just under two weeks, said record belonging to Kronos. This is unadulterated crap. For starters, any primate can see that giving a record based on temporal units to a time-manipulator is idiotic. But let's concede that point for the relativity-challenged. The simple fact that nobody alive during that time has any memories of what took place during ten of those days should be a clue that something is fishy. Like, say, she skipped the entire planet ahead in time. That's right, Kronos is just a David Copperfield ripoff in a cape and heels, and I've got the orbital position data to prove it.

I thought about obliterating the Guinness people out of spite, but frankly I'd just have to establish a new institution to record my achievements later. But don't think there won't be corrections made the next time I'm in charge of it all.

Regardless, I was the real deal. That last time I even had my own currency printed up. You can still find the occasional bill on ebay, but don't look at the pictures too long in ultraviolet light. It has something of a hypnotic effect. (And when you do it anyway, because you people never listen, the new address for minions to report to can be found by turning the maze on the back of the latest package of Sugar Bombs upside down and staring at it until the map forms.)

I'll let you in on a dirty little secret in the super villain community. The biggest threat to your imperial status isn't the good guys. It's the other high profile villains. We tend to be a hyper-competitive, individualistic lot who don't respond well to authority. Otherwise we'd just get rich and powerful living amongst the unwashed masses, like all the heroic hypocrites.

Plus you tend to end up with severe ideological differences. The messiah of a new race of mutants isn't going to play nice with the undead sorcerer, who in turn has a fundamental philosophical conflict with the scientific mastermind. Even during my reign, I had to grant control of the world's oceans to that saltwater snorting prick The Atlantean. If you can't get some kind of truce negotiated beforehand, be prepared for the spandex avengers receiving a little behind-the-scenes assist from someone nominally on our side of the fence.

In my more melancholy moments, I think this inability to cooperate is what ultimately dooms the elite among us to failure. Then it occurs to me that the solution might be to set up a coalition to conquer alternate Earths, so that everyone gets a big blue marble to play with. I get this one, of course.

Sound hard? Of course world domination is hard. If it was easy, every megalomaniacal superman or woman would do it."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Vignette: Veteran Superhero Shares Some Wisdom

“Here’s a tip. People are going to tell you their origin story. Sometimes they do it in a moment of weakness, sometimes it’s a bonding kind of thing in a time of crisis. And some people just get off on telling it over and over, like losers who can’t get over their greatest achievement in high school. Whatever. The point is, don’t believe them.”

"Why? Plenty of reasons why somebody would lie about it. What if your actual origin was getting anally probed by aliens who left some kind of radioactive suppository in your body that gave you powers?"

"Am I serious? Heh, sworn to secrecy, my friend. But that’s not the point. Even if you think you’ve got a wonderful origin that every mother dreams of for their spandex-clad son or daughter, it’s probably not real anyway."

"Look, people think they know their true origin. And they’re constantly being proved wrong. For years they think it was the radioactivity in the spider that bit them, then they eventually figure out it was the altered genetics of the spider, then someone comes along and tells them they were actually chosen as a champion by the emissary of some ancient spider god."

"Nobody knows for sure how they got their powers or why. You don’t. I don’t. We just have a best guess about it. And someday some creepy ex-government agent, eccentric scientist, or moody sorcerer is going to pop out of the shadows and turn your world upside down with an earth-shattering revelation."

"Your parents aren’t who you thought they were. Your arch-rival is really your half-brother or sister. Your mystical scepter is really a piece of sophisticated alien technology. You’re not a mutant, you’re the reincarnated spirit of some long-dead hero or the avatar of some mythological being. Your powers might even change. You’ll learn new stuff or forget old stuff. And you’ll have to roll with it. Whether you can or can’t, as much as being able to fly and shoot lasers out of your eyes, determines if you belong with the capes and cowls."

"That’s the world we live in, kid."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Boise Train Depot

Driving up Vista Avenue
I saw the old Bell Tower embraced in scaffolding
Looking like an antebellum rocket ship
in white stucco and red tile
Workers scurrying around its gantry
The last bits of fog rolling away from the base
Like the hot breath of some infernal steam engine
Preparing for liftoff
As the bells ring out the countdown

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Morning walk

In Catalpa Park, 
The giant riding lawnmowers cut circular patterns 
around the scattered trees, 
Leaving behind rings in the wet grass, 
As if the trees were stones dropped into a green pond, 
Ripples spreading out from their bases, 
frozen in the moment after impact. 

Seeing this seems to slow time
And for a moment I feel my sneakers
are walking on water

Friday, September 5, 2008

Been a Long Time

I thought I'd get back into this blogging thing, having barely gotten my feet wet the first time.

I'm feeling a bit melancholy at the moment. It came on somewhat suddenly yesterday, so I'm not sure if it's an emotional blip or the start of a cycle. I work at home, which means that during the summer, when I'm working I'm also dueling with my kids for time and quiet, though my wife is always a HUGE help when she's not teaching classes or going to conferences. Even during the school year, I had my son all afternoon. Now that my son has started first grade, he's gone for the bulk of the day.

And it can get a little lonely. Last week I went to the grocery store for the regular shopping without him in tow for the first time in a couple years.

The funny thing is, I had about one week of this quiet before our in-laws came to visit for this week. They're great people and good company in general. But we don't necessarily interact much during the day and it feels a little odd trying to work up a schedule with an x factor involved.

I was also working pedal to the metal on a freelance project and got ahead of schedule only to have them extend the deadline. Normally that's great news, I suppose. But without the pressure of having limited time during the day to work, a looming deadline to meet, and having guests in the house, I've been very unproductive. My allergies have also been awful for the past few weeks, combining with my medications to adversely affect my sleep and concentration. Usually I go for walks to settle my mind when it wanders, but lately that's been asking for more bleary-eyed, congested punishment.

So I'm trying to get through this week and then settle into an actual routine next week. I feel guilty about not having gotten work done on the freelance project, but no one is harassing me about it at this stage because I haven't missed any due dates.