The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn April 22, 2015 The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn Usman Malik He will inherit the Unseen. The Ways of Walls and Words April 15, 2015 The Ways of Walls and Words Sabrina Vourvoulias Can the spirit truly be imprisoned? Ballroom Blitz April 1, 2015 Ballroom Blitz Veronica Schanoes Can't stop drinking, can't stop dancing, can't stop smoking, can't even die. Dog March 25, 2015 Dog Bruce McAllister "Watch the dogs when you're down there, David."
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April 22, 2015
Daredevil, Catholicism, and the Marvel Moral Universe
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April 22, 2015
The Old Guy Action Comeback: I’m Getting Too Old for This Sh*t
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April 20, 2015
The Net is the Meat: Bruce Holsinger’s Middle Ages
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April 17, 2015
Spring 2015 Anime Preview: The Hellish Life of a Pizza Delivery Boy
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The Disney Read-Watch: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Mari Ness
Showing posts by: jason henninger click to see jason henninger's profile
Jun 15 2010 11:16am

Are Friends Electric?

Not long ago, Wil Wheaton mentioned that Jonathan Coulton “needs to write a sad song from Mars Phoenix’s POV about finishing its mission and going to sleep.” In addition to thinking this is a great idea, I instantly thought of the rover pushing valiantly to a final stop, alone in the Martian terrain. I became even sadder, after reading this, a sort of obituary for Phoenix. I wondered if he knew how much we down here admired the effort.

Hmm. See what I did there? I assigned heroic, tragic character traits, gender and morals to a machine. And it feels perfectly normal to do so. While the anthropomorphosis stands out to me, here, because it’s a machine that in no way appears human and is on another planet, the truth is I anthropomorphosize all the time. We extend our humanity to the things we make. Or, we make things as extensions of our humanity.

[Tortoise? What’s that?]

Jun 14 2010 11:11am

Micmacs à tire-larigot

I’m fond of found-object and assemblage art. I love that one person’s trash is another person’s robotic mouse. Micmacs à tire-larigot is like that, an assemblage of rusty refuse bits made into a delightful new mechanism.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet, French screenwriter, director and producer who brought us Delicatessen, City of Lost Children, Amélie and other films has most recently created Micmacs. It is, if you can believe it, a magical, light-hearted and charming story of revenge against arms manufacturers. It’s also a reflection on the paranoia and fragility of corrupt people in power, and demonstrates the strength of playful subversion.

[Read more]

Jun 8 2010 3:29pm

Freak out in a moonage daydream

Name someone cooler than David Bowie. Hmm? What’s that? Completely impossible, you say? Right you are, you pretty things. Not only is he eternally stylish and multi-talented, he’s the only person in the history of the universe to wear a mullet and look fabulous at the same time. He owns a chateau, his wife is supernaturally gorgeous and he can play the xylophone. Getting punched in the eye only made him look cooler. Take that, Chuck Norris. Whether juggling with someone else’s hands, singing about child murderers with sinus infections or simulating fellatio on Mormon guitarists, there’s nobody else I find even remotely as splendidly cool as David Bowie. Yes, some of his songs are utter pants. It irks me ferociously that the same man who wrote “Rock and Roll Suicide” also wrote “Let’s Dance.” Or “China Girl.” I mean, David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Stevie Ray Vaughn combined should not yield “China Girl,” surely. But that aside, the great in his career outweighs the crap by a very wide margin.

Science fiction and fantasy play major roles in his coolth. Allow me to point out a few of his key contributions that make him one of specfic’s best entertainers.

[There’s a starman, waiting in the sky]

Jun 3 2010 11:11am

Doctor Who books go to eleven

I think it must be challenging to write TV and movie tie-in/spin-off novels. The author works within someone else’s parameters, cannot violate the canon and yet is not considered part of the canon. Though most of my reading falls outside of this type, I’ve read novels tied into Star Wars and Star Trek and, most recently, Doctor Who. Right about the time the second or third episode of the current Doctor Who series came out, I saw that there were already several Eleventh Doctor novels about to be released. I couldn’t help but wonder if they’d be good. As a viewer, I’d barely gotten to know Mr. Fish-Custard. Could writers convince me so quickly that they had an authentic rendition of him?

[mini-aliens and a galactic trash heap]

May 28 2010 10:11am

Pickles and Parasols: An interview with Gail Carriger

Gail Carriger is an archaeologist and the author of paranormal/steampunk/comedy with sexy bits, better known as the Parasol Protectorate series: Soulless, Changeless and Blameless (due September 1). We met for tea and conversation in the parlour of a well-appointed dirigible drifting pleasantly over Kensington. We spoke of science, language, the nature of the soul and the intrinsic humor of pickles.

Jason Henninger: A lot of interviews with you don’t really get into the archeological side of your life. I’d like to know more about that. And, you specialize in ceramics? How did that come about?

Gail Carriger: I fell into it, as you do. Most people in archeology find their specialties in strange and unique ways. I always wanted to do archaeology, and then the time came for me to actually be in the field, and it was excruciatingly boring. Excavation is really, really boring. It seems like a really romantic profession, archaeology, but at its heart it’s super OCD. The bulk of the work is mind-numbingly dull. Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely love my work but it requires a certain kind of personality, and that personality is not the whip-cracking, fedora-wearing sort.

[When I say “Assam,” you say “lovely”]

May 20 2010 6:23pm

Look around you. Here comes science!

Here are two short reviews of entertaining and entirely dissimilar takes on science.

Here Comes Science by They Might Be Giants

It’s been said a million times that They Might Be Giants has always written children’s songs for adults, so it’s no surprise that they are good at writing children’s songs for children. I don’t entirely agree with that sentiment, since some of their songs in no way speak to children’s experiences. I suggest you listen to “They’ll Need a Crane,” if you don’t concur. That song is not for children, except perhaps if you want to give a kid a musical explanation for why Daddy’s been sleeping on the couch.

[Science is real]

May 4 2010 12:05pm

That is howcome pop-up books are neato

A pop-up book, or to use the broader term, a mechanical book, can become a physical tribute to the internal wonder of reading. The sensation of dreamy description expanding in the reader’s mind is made manifest in the joyful discoveries to be uncovered in manipulating the mechanical book’s features.


Apr 29 2010 11:35am

The Gashlycrumb Losties

Bridget McGovern and I were discussing our shared dislike of the character Zoe on Lost. She said, “I’m going to start writing fanfic about all the ways Zoe could be made to a Gashlycrumb Tinies with only one character.” I am a big fan of Lost and of Edward Gorey, two great tastes that have not, until now, gone together.  With Bridget’s enthusiastic approval, I stole the idea and made the poem below, celebrating the many and varied deaths of Lost

The Gashlycrumb Losties

A is for Arzt who was blown up sky high

B is for Boone who bled out through his thigh

C is for Charlie, courageously drowned

D is for Danielle, left dead on the ground

[A Gasp Of Involuntary Mirth When They Attain Their Dreadful Demise]

Apr 27 2010 10:30am

A fragilistic look at the expialidocious

To my recent and thorough pleasure I purchased Fry’s English Delight, Stephen Fry’s BBC radio show on linguistic peculiarities. The last episode focuses on gibberish. (As anyone who has ever bothered to read my articles knows, I love absurdity, nonsense, gobbledygook and made up words of all kinds to a degree one might call obstressive.) Fry characterizes gibberish as a universal language that anyone can speak and none can understand. And, certainly, who am I to question the moist, pink loveliness that is Stephen Fry? Yet I can’t help but wonder why, if indeed it is as universal as he says, some people are better at it than others. Why do some merely gurgle while others become beamish froods of Unwinese?

[Comeallyedimseldamsels, siddle down and lisle]

Apr 26 2010 10:34am

Novel Disfunction

Almost eight years ago, when my son was a baby and I was a stay-at-home dad, I wrote a novel. I wrote whenever he slept. I got downright prolific and it felt great. I became convinced not only that I’d sell it in record time but also that I’d write that much every day for the rest of my life and be a frillionaire, on horseback sauntering—horses saunter, don’t they?—down a white Tahitian beach sipping the finest champagne from the platinum-coated skull of my 9th grade English teacher.

My novel is not yet published. My frillions have not yet been awarded. Neither makes me particularly upset; I keep trying. The part that really drives me crazy is my inability so far to write another novel.

[blood, devastation, war, death and horror]

Apr 20 2010 4:09pm


Lafcadio Hearn, an Irish-Greek journalist, became a Japanese citizen in 1895 and under his new name, Koizumi Yakumo, crafted retellings of Japanese folktales. Koizumi was his wife’s last name. Yakumo, I’m told, derives from “Yakumo datsu” meaning “eight clouds rising” referring to an old Japanese poem as well as to Matsue in Shimane, where he lived. I think this means Hearn identified very strongly with both the place and the literature.

Hearn has been dismissed by some as an orientalist, romanticizing what he saw as exotic. There’s some truth to that, but I think it’s largely an undeserved criticism. I think he was as enmeshed in Japanese culture as he could be, and the otherness in his stories is supernatural rather than cultural, even though he wrote with the deliberate intention of introducing a western audience to unfamiliar folklore. While many westerner writers, despite their best efforts, retain an us-and-them approach to non-western stories, you could read some of Koizumi Yakumo’s stories without realizing that he wasn’t Japanese by birth.

[Stories and studies of strange things]

Apr 1 2010 4:33pm

Time Ramblin’ Guy

Here’s a joke.

Me: Time traveler.
You: What?
Me: Knock knock!

I was destined to be a time traveler, or so I will someday tell myself. I realized that if time travel were possible it would be possible eventually and therefore, possible now. And that’s how I became a time traveler.

Most days I’m busier than Shiva playing patty-cake with an octopus, but I’ll suspend time and share my thoughts. (Suspending time is easy. You just stick Heraclitus in a hall of mirrors with a Rubik’s Cube.)

[Flexes like a ho, falls wanking to the flo]

Apr 1 2010 3:22pm

Entmoot Convenes to Discuss Same-Sex Marriage

Ents traditionally hold that some day the long-absent Entwives will return. Many Ents, consequently, frown on Ent-Ent cohabitation. But change seems to be coming, even to the change-resistant Ents. An Entmoot has been called in Fanghorn Forest to discuss the matter. Quickbeam, like many younger Ents, feels the change is long overdue. “This isn’t really about the Entwives returning or not. It’s about love.” Treebeard disagrees, saying the Entings are hasty and considers Quickbeam “bendy.”

In related news, the fighting Uruk-hai are rumored to have considered lifting the “Keep it Secret. Keep it Safe” policy.

Apr 1 2010 12:11pm

Dell Announces the Delldo

Dell unveiled a tablet computer this week, under a large banner reading, “What Can Your New Delldo?” Joining the ranks of such controversial product name choices as the Wii, iPad and Palm Pilot, the Delldo sparked some confusion at the press conference. “We went through a number of names,” Dell spokesperson Dick Fitzer stated. “We nearly called it the Slablet, but that didn’t feel fun. The Delldo feels fun.”

Mar 12 2010 4:08pm

Shifting Iconography

José Gregorio Hernández, a pious Venezuelan physician, often provided the poor with medical treatment free of charge. After his death, miracles were attributed to him and 60 or so years after his death the Vatican conferred the title of Venerable upon him. He may someday be declared a saint. While not well known outside Venezuela, he’s widely honored there, a saint in all but title.

A Venezuelan icon artist created idealized statuettes of Dr. Hernández, in an all-white suit (though based on a photo of the doctor in a dark suit). Mark Pahlow, owner of Archie McPhee and long-time aficionado of odd objects, often finds unusual items overstocked outside the United States and sells them repackaged here. He bought a ton of these statues. According to Pahlow, “Since he was mostly unknown to people outside Venezuela, we reinvented him as a mysterious looming figure with a conspiratorial past and a glow in the dark suit” (Who Would Buy This? P. 38). And so Señor Misterioso was born. 

[Turn and face the strange]

Mar 8 2010 1:29pm

Jonesing becomes Smithing?

I am seriously jonesing for Doctor Who to return. Once upon a time I thought Doctor Who was just a dopey show about a guy with a long scarf running around with cheap effects and Theremin sounds. Doctor Who fans made no sense to me either. All that fervor. And for what? Funny hair and saltshaker monsters?

But then, after decades of dismissing the show, I saw Blink. And from the moment The Doctor says “Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff” I was a transformed into a rabid fan. Blink remains my favorite episode, ranking with Hush from season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “The Chimes of Big Ben” from The Prisoner and The Twilight Zone’s “A Stop at Willoughby” as my all-time favorite episodes of any show in the history of ever, times infinity, so there.


Mar 5 2010 5:18pm


Not long ago, two authors (Jay Lake and Ken Scholes) began to write stories, only to switch and end the other’s story. And to add bigtime coolness, artists Greg Manchess and Stephan Martiniere did a similar switch-around with the illustrations for the stories. These are four exceptionally talented people, and the end results reflect their skills. But the game itself, the start and switch, can be played by just about anyone. The Comte de Lautrement said, “Poetry must be made by all and not by one.” The games of the Surrealists and OuLiPo both support this idea. More on the games in a bit.

I’m an enthusiastic, if inexpert, student of the early Structuralists, Surrealists and the OuLiPo. These three interest me most where I see them overlap: exploring the unfixed nature of language. I disavow, gleefully, the notion that any word possesses intrinsic meaning. Viva la context, I might say. I see language as a series of endlessly mutable agreements and revisions. So why not play with it? Why be straight-jacketed by convention, when convention looks so good in a gorilla suit?

[Read more...]

Feb 22 2010 9:08am
Original Story

I Speak Fluent Giraffe: Henngar the Hungry

Henngar the Hungry

Henngar: hunter, barbarian king, the bald, accursed and feared, the tall and rage-beautiful, the gore-quashing, son of Mark the Moustached, who bore the sword Pansysmasher, roamed the land of Santan Monkah, and hungered mightily. So vast, primeval and cruelsome his appetite, he could have, should he have so elected, eaten an inchorous Grulgax daemon, or eyeless trogbat, in one massive gulp of the slavering maw. “Fie upon such stygian whorehounds!” he growled and spat. “I quest for chow mein, and naught else.”

The sun hung hot in the vast orange-blue sky, an obliterating sphere of melancholy and autumnal dyspepsia as Henngar trod on through the snow-flecked strewn places and parts until he found the Promenade of Threes, where food held court. “Here I shall find chow mein, or hot spurting fountains of blood will flow betwixt mine own toes!” and with his smallest finger, smashed a passing horse to prove it. “Scrofulous equine!” he snarled as the draught-beast collapsed in its own steam-enshrouded guts.

He passed through the gilt arches of the Court of Food. Vile thralls gnawed their cud in terror and gaped-mouthed awe as this mountain behemoth of a massive juggernaut of a bloodthirsty and chow mein hungry barbarian lord prince savage swaggered past them.

“You,” he grimaced, teeth gnashing as he wrapped an elephantine fist around the stick-necked neck of a skinny person. “Where is the chow mein? A wench once told me in years past that legend has it a hungry man could find chow mein here, and yet my eyes, looking thither and yon, sliding with famine in their moist sockets, catch nary a glimpse of it. Explain yourself, peasant!”

“My lord,” he pleaded, blood-flecked lips quivering like a dying man’s bowels, “they went out of business!”

“What say you?” Henngar rumbled, and kicked his gargantuan boot into the skull of a passing panda bear, to indicate his displeasure.

“The recession,” the serf whinged, “is harsh on small businesses!”

“Fool’s son of a whore’s leper bitch-dog!” scoffed Henngar. “Why this very morning, as the sun asked me for permission to rise, I heard no less esteemed and veracious a man as Matt Lauer proclaim for all the world to hear that the recession comes to a halt, though for no real reason!” And the limp corpse of the misinformed dirty peasant slid broken to the earth from whence it toiled, like a squid puppet with its very life-giving strings snapped by the gnashing jowls of an arcane thing with teeth.

No chow mein to be had, Henngar flew swiftly and with naught but evil vengeance aforethought, into a blood-fisted, ichor-squelching, sword-in-viscera-sticking mad berserker battle rage until all that remained, as far as his vicious eye could drink in, was blood and bone and sinew and connective tissue and fascia and lymph and partly digested matter and cartilage and nerve-ending exposed to the thousand wicked quills of black and inky corvids in haste.

They, at least, feasted, but Henngar, heavy with coagulant stranger bits and his own copious muscle, roamed on, forever on, hungry.

Feb 19 2010 11:49am

Fame and the graveyard

A little while ago, my daughter and I went to a cemetery, as we often do. Cemeteries are great places to take kids. They are spacious, peaceful, meditative and perfect places to play zombie tag.*

It was a lovely dark gray rainy morning at a tiny gem of a graveyard in Westwood, hidden between tall office buildings. Driving past on Wilshire Boulevard, you’d never know that you were mere feet from Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park, the final resting place of some Hollywood A-listers. Los Angeles and its surrounding cities boast a great many celebrity graves, especially in Forest Lawn and Hollywood Forever, both of which are great for spotting the dead stars, but the smaller Westwood Village and Woodlawn in Santa Monica are my favorites.

I’ve learned, in my time as a grave-spotter of the famous, that big stars often have small graves. Bing Crosby and Bela Lugosi have modest plaques in the same row at Holy Cross. Marilyn Monroe, Truman Capote and Dean Martin are entombed in marble walls, but without any other significant ostentation. Al Jolson’s grave is probably the largest and gaudiest I have ever seen. You can see it from the freeway. Some tombstones are funny. Merv Griffin’s reads “I will not be right back after this message” and Rodney Dangerfield’s says “There goes the neighborhood.”

[meet you at the cemetery gates]

Feb 15 2010 9:11am
Original Story

I Speak Fluent Giraffe: Gaul Deluxe Anti-Free Pairs

Gaul Deluxe Anti-Free Pairs

One ponce the clock comen to the bearhouse a girl all shimsy in the sparkle-locks. Slim of centerpiece, and not much ticking in the crain, she went a bit woodsy-where-am, not gnosting whence or thence, rift or light, soulther or narwhal. Sun shim nighty-mode, and the fordarkest. Creekle in the leavings, shadow jumpen and the frime darken and unwen.

Poor losty sparklehead.

But hopes! She umglovered a domestic with the lights, frontery open a-door.

Tippy-shoe, she cautions interior, noseing a porridge! Wonderbliss, she can hardly. In fact, triple! One bowl tastey steam, and too heat. Two bowl arctic. But porridge-tongue on bowl three is splendous. She throats it full in one.

Now gastroplenty, all drownsy for the cushiums. Primely chair too much chair. Nextum over pliffy and plaffy and can’t comfort. Butever the thirden chair goes round justin rights.
But sparklehead fums all fickle-pickle and bedding hunted. Tip-skip the stairways up.

Pambles she to a lay-down of excise and too big. “Oh, Hegel!” she skumphs and goes two the nexus. “Not enough and wronger!” quith she bouts choice. Bed three and guess it, so comformal and right.

Soon, gliss off to sneep.

“Somerothers tasty and sit around!” krunk a Grimzly bean, of fur and roughace whoms the homer own.

“Same at!” say wifeybear and a mystery.

“Trice!” speeps lil bearn. “and eatums away and sit!”

Foop the upways stair, stair, stair.

“Somesleeper in mine!” they claim, spectively.

“And still on!” say wee.

“Spit and polish!” peaches sparklehaed with binocu-fear of biggin-smallin-justright bear. “Get up with the gitout!” And speed she weigh, off stair door and tree to long, so there.

For more creative grumblings of Jason Henninger, check out the
I Speak Fluent Giraffe Index page.