Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Let's salute the Bucket Guy

In today's news there was an update on the sea migration into Italy from troubled points east and south.

There was a few seconds of footage of the topside of one of the rescue vessels, and the hazmat suit-wearing figure of what I will call the Bucket Guy.

Like the Bag Man of the famous Tian An Men Square photograph, which seems to stop tanks with the sheer force of his shopping bag's will, the Bucket Guy must make his rounds.

Be it in the full, judging glare of the noonday sun, or as a clumsy altercations by flashlight at midnight,

He must find his way through the huddled crowd amassed atop his vessel, and, upon demand, turn himself into a human toilet.

This is a small but important task since (a) they can't allow the shipboard facilities to be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers, and (b) they can't have people defecating over the ship's edge as a matter of safety, and (c) they probably want to gather specimens from sick people.

Today we salute thee.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Faces On, or Off?

A one-panel by Randall Munroe.

I think the Argentinian cartoonist Quino might have been able to pull this off without the need for the explanatory caption. He would have done it simply through the horrified expression in the dining companion's face. Such was his genius.
Interestingly, it is Munroe's genius that enables him to convey equally pithy sentiments without the use of faces AT ALL (although not so much in this particular example). A stick figure shrugging its shoulders pathetically is truly a sight to behold.
I wrote to him (Munroe) some years ago to ask him about his preference for omitting faces. I asked him in the context of prosophagnosia (the inability to recognize or process faces and facial expressions) and how that is one of the symptoms of Asperger's.Syndrome, among other traits he manifests. He told me he didn't have Asperger's, but that his brother does. I suppose I was partly right in my guess.
A good example of Quino at work, for comparison:

Friday, September 12, 2014

Dear Comedy Central

Dear Comedy Central (help@cc.com),

I would like to start out by saying I'm a fan of Mr. Devine's comedy, and rather enjoy Workaholics.  I think it's a quality, broad-humor show with a brainy streak in the vein of classics like The Three Stooges and Cheech & Chong, and I look forward to viewing more episodes in the future.  I also would like to make the point that I don't shirk from rough comedy; in fact, I revel in the stuff.

However, I think the choice to use a gun (with fired blanks, apparently) at the end of the "Adam Killed a Man" episode of "Adam Devine's House Party" was unfortunate.  I found particularly egregious his pointing the gun for comedic effect (a) at two police officers he was holding hostage, (b) at the (obviously shocked) crowd present, then (c) at his own face.

I do understand that the pointing of guns is widely used on TV programs, but there is usually a psychological wall separating the violence in drama/cop/thriller shows and comedy programming (just as The Daily Show gets away with certain types of editorializing because the network that puts it on the air has the word "comedy" in its name, unlike, say, Sean Hannity, whose network awkwardly includes the word "news" in its name).

Further complicating things, it seems the conceit of "Adam Devine's House Party" to be that it's a pseudo-reality show (as obviously scripted as it may be), where a real-life Mr. Devine is hosting a party of sorts at his house (which also has a theater in it?), and that some of his guests have been invited to perform their stand-up comedy acts.  Eliminating the "fourth wall", in this sense, opens up some comedic possibilities to be sure, but also brings with it the need for extra responsibility since what it portrays can be taken to be more "real" by some viewers, even if they still think of it as scripted comedy in general.  Try to think like a 10-year-old on this one.

Please note that my comment is NOT about the episode in general, its murderous plot, the fact that Mr. Devine appeared on camera throughout the episode covered in blood while presenting the various acts (I actually thought that was pretty funny), or any other dramatic elements. I'm only referencing the gun as an object, and how it was used on-screen.

This is a particularly sensitive matter when a comic actor of Mr. Devine's talents, which appeal mostly to younger viewers, can put the wrong idea in people's minds about what sort of thing is "funny" to do with your friends (something tells me that somebody, somewhere, at some point, mourned the cancellation of MTV's "Jackass", but I hope never to meet that person).

I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.  In particular I would like to hear that this uncomfortable choice is a single occurrence, and not a sign of where Mr. Devine plans to take his artistic sensibilities in the future.  I sure would hate to miss any of it.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Worst-Case Scenario

I'm often given pause by how casually some people use the phrase "worst-case scenario", and then proceed to describe some situation that is truly trivial.  For example: "with some traffic, worst-case scenario we'll get to the party an hour late".

The worst-case scenario, given everything that philosophy and science tells us about ourselves and the universe, would be the chance generation of a virus that infects the brains of human beings rendering them absolute hallucinatory schizophrenics.  Driven only by their instinct to eat and reproduce, yet forever tormented by imagined pains, visions and horrors existing only in their own minds, our world would be bereft of all remnants of humanity, save for the shuffling, brutish walking dead.

Some say this might have already happened, but at least in my version the rest of the universe is safe from us.

And speaking of space flight....

Are celebrity space boondoggles covered in real time by the media?

Friday, January 03, 2014

Mr. Brooks, of The New York Times, has been there, and feels your pain

Do you sometimes get the impression that a member of the commentariat is forced to write a certain piece because they lost a bar bet with their editor?


To save you some reading, his argument, in the content of Colorado effectively ending pot prohibition as of Jan 1, boils down to the painfully familiar concept that people should be put in jail for smoking pot because won't somebody please think of the children??  The perversity of this coming from a member of the part of small government, ending the nanny state, etc, is plain.

On a related but more amusing note, I still remember a latter-day piece by Christopher Hitchens, written in perfect earnest dead-pan, of his experience going through a scalp-to-toes day spa treatment which I'm SURE was a put-on by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter:

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fictitious Argument with Lewis Black

I'm going to see Lewis Black on stage tonight.

If I ever get into an argument with Lewis Black it would probably go something like:

Lewis: "Have you ever been to the jungle?"

Me: "I was walking through the jungle one day with my mom and we bumped into a boa constrictor."

Lewis: "Your MOM?  My mom took me to the zoo!"

Me: "Zoos are like a jungle, but with bathrooms."

Then things would get a bit confused.

Me: "'Hey, mom, look out, there's a boa constrictor', I would say." Then he would say: "That's nice dear."

Lewis: "I don't know what kind of shit you're on, kid, but I like the cut of your jib.  Why don't you slide off that boa you're riding on and get on the reality train?"

Then there's ice cream.  Did you know there's ice cream in the jungle?

Monday, October 08, 2012

What would it take to get you to tell me where I'm going?

Today's mini-rant:

I need an easily-replaceable part for my car.  It's a data update disc for a dashboard GPS.  It would take me ten minutes to swap, and it would take them three hours at the dealer's garage and there's nothing to do in that part of town so I would be bored.

I can't buy it from my dealer and have it shipped to my house; not allowed.  I would have to pick it up (the dealer is not THAT inconvenient to get to, but let's pretend it is).

I also can't call the manufacturer corporation and have it sent direct from them; not allowed.  And neither party has a web site I can order it from.  Oh, and they won't tell me what the part # is; not allowed.  So I can't source it otherwise.

So, they make this part / data disc, want to charge me money for it, I WANT to give them money for it (so I know it's the latest version and genuine), but they won't take my money at my convenience.  I have to GO somewhere and pick it up.

I understand that car manufacturers have a "special relationship" with their dealers in terms of parts and service (and some of it is legitimate; new break pads should be installed properly etc), but, a data disc for a GPS ?  That's trivial.  The worst that would happen is you don't get to Chuck E. Cheese's on time for your nephew's 4th-birthday bar brawl.

Again, I'm willing to PAY for it; just f*&@!@! SELL it to me and you can split the money any way you want; I promise I won't sue!

I just don't feel customer-serviced right now.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sydney Harbour Scrape

Oh, why not.  Everybody knows everything I've done (including some police stations in North Sydney, and Prague, of all places).

The time is January of 1999.  Some things have changed, and some have stayed the same.

Here goes: It was the last day of a month-long work stint in a boring office building in North Sydney (just across the Harbour Bridge from Sydney proper) that I decided that as a farewell party to my short-term co-workers I should get them good and soused.

So I announced over email that that evening we would gather at my corporate-rented apartment, adjoining the water's edge of the North end of Sydney Harbor, and have a drunken party.  A sort of "all are welcome; none gets out alive"-kind of affair.  I am happy to report that all showed up, and all got out alive.

But there was ... underwear swimming into Sydney Harbour to the extent of reaching the chains of anchored yachts (about a quarter mile, in the middle of the night).

Now, for the second half of the story:

It was around 4 am, after the irresponsibility had been taken care of, and all had gone but me and a certain other, that the police showed up.  A noise complaint from the neighbours, of course.  I might have gotten away with it if only I hadn’t left the stereo on too loud.

When my "certain other" was asked to show up at the door and present identification, and I went back inside to do the same, the next thing I hear is "Stop! You can't do this! Don't you know who I am! Do you know who my father is?!"  Oh boy.

Turns out that the UNcertain other flipped out his ID card from his wallet a bit too quickly and nicked the policeman's cheek, and thus they dragged him away from the doorway, filing it as assault.  In this instance, the police had no time for lineage.

I had to stay up the whole night, dig out a phone book just to find out what police station he had been taken to, call a cab .. the whole boy-scout bit.  I got him out of jail (barefoot; he hadn't been wearing shoes at the time of the drag-off), and literally kicked him on the ass as we walked off from the station.

So, the point of the story is:  Don't look for trouble, it's got your number and it will find you.  (Also, when you play with foolish boys, turn the music down).

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Time My Sister and I Were Held up at Gunpoint

It was the night of December 25 (going into the 26th), 1992.  We had just left a family party, probably right after midnight.

My sister and I were in my mother's car and we got a flat.  Fairly run-of-the-mill trouble, really, just at the wrong place and the wrong time.  So we pull into a closed-down gas station so we could use their air pump and re-inflate and get our asses home for the evening.

As we're trying to address the situation this compact sedan with four guys screeches in from nowhere and the guy in the front-passenger seat bolts out and the first thing I think of is "why is that guy holding a toy gun?"

Uh oh... that's not a toy gun.

So he tells me to lay on the floor face down (on the oily greasy gas-station tarmac), tells my sister to back away and put her purse on the floor, tells me to take my wallet out of my back pocket and throw it at him (all complied with; don't argue with a guy with a gun, you will lose) and then .... they take a look-see ... and go away.

I can't honestly recall what was in my wallet; I can tell you that my sister's purse didn't have much more than a stick of lipstick in it.  I'm happy to report that both our brains were safely in our skulls as of later that night.

The one bit of luck out of the situation is that my father at the time lived just a few blocks away so my panicked call to him resulted in quick help.  He came; he re-inflated.  He dragged us off and gave us shelter.

He also gave me a bed in which to cry myself to sleep that night.  There is no shame in feeling sorry about things.

Monday, June 18, 2012

I'm warming up to the standard punctuation form of the period being enclosed within a direct quote, as in:

"This is what he said."

 ... as opposed to

"This is what he said".

For many years I opted for the latter simply because it made more syntactical sense, coming from a computer programming background. I now understand that, if one is to quote someone directly, the statement, as a whole, should be completely enclosed within the quotes.

Somewhere, E.B. White is giggling to himself and high-fiving some supernatural form of Strunk. But then "that's what they said.".

Something I may or may not recommend depending on which ad is shown: