Friday, December 25, 2009

Studies I would like done: Athelete Attractiveness over Time

Hypothesis: Basketball stars have gotten more attractive, as a group, each decade since the inception of the NBA.

Required Definitions:
  1. Is there an objective definition of attractiveness? I doubt it. Probably you're looking at so many dozens or hundreds of responses using a Likert scale to reach an adequately powered sample for analysis. Actually, you might need more than one - do people need to differentiate "cute" from "handsome" or "sexy"?
  2. Who are you asking: fans or the general public? I wonder if there's a difference. Would fans find a player more attractive because he played for their team, was a great player or won championships? I think that would have to be evaluated before embarking on the main body of research. And then you'd have to evaluate whether or not that held true for fans from all teams or just fans from the player's home city. If you went with fans, you'd likely need a cross-section of fans from all over the country. If you went with the general public, you'd probably need a set of questions aimed at determining if they are or are not fans, and if so, how much of their lives are dedicated to watching basketball.
  3. In the context of the time in which they played or the modern era? One could try to evaluate how attractive the long-ago peoples of the 1950s found their sports heroes, but that seems likely to turn into some kind of tedious historical sports writing exegesis. I think you have to go with live people you can survey today, but maybe it would be interesting to see if you have to adjust for age. Probably you'd need a question about how long each respondent has been paying attention to basketball, and what kind of time they've put into it over time. That would be a hard question to ask, I think!
  4. What is a "basketball star"? You'd either need a list determined by a trustworthy third party (like the NBA itself, or maybe something like Sports Illustrated) or you'd have to craft a definition of "star" from scratch. You could go with a Lexis-Nexis search and pick the players who appear the most frequently, but you'd also get players who had a lot of scandals but weren't necessarily stars. You could go by pay scale, but you'd have to determine whether or not well-paid players are always stars and if they're considered as good at the beginning and end of their careers. You could go by stats, but you'd have to determine which stats, at what tolerances, and if your chosen tolerances are appropriate in every decade. I mean, maybe rebounds and assists are important now and there are star players who only score 4 points a night but kick ass at getting the ball into the hands of their teammates, but was that true in the 60s? in the 70s? And did the ABA and NBA have different methods of tracking stats? There are a lot of questions here that I'm sure a sports statistician would be happy to suss out with you.
Methodology: It seems like you could use a paper survey or even a telephone survey for something like this, but I think there's a lot of potential for using the internet.

Do a pre-survey to get basic demographic information (age, gender, self-identified race and ethnicity, level of education, city/state where they spent the most years between the ages of 1 and 18, current city/state, how long they've lived there, socioeconomic status, marital status).

Then show a slide show and ask them to rate the attractiveness of the picture they're seeing. I'd use two or three pictures for each player in random order. You could use two pictures in uniform - one home, one on the road- and one not in uniform. (But which uniform? Maybe wherever they played longest?) It would also be interesting to try putting names on the photos for some people but not for others. How many respondents would recognize all of them by sight alone?

Do a post-survey with your fandom questions and maybe thoughts on attractiveness in general. I'd be sure to ask which team, if any, they rooted for as a kid, and let them pick as many as they like. I'd also ask if they thought someone had been left out of the line up of stars.

You'd have to account for people who don't use the internet. Maybe you could have a study center and advertise publically for people to come in and take the survey in person. That might hurt your national sample, though - too much input from one region.

Analysis: Aside from proving or disproving the hypothesis, there's a lot of potential for exploring some interesting questions about how fandom influences perception. Do the people who self-identify as rooting for Atlanta differ in their perceptions from people who self-identify as rooting for the Hawks? (Yes, I know that's the same team. That's the point: is one person rooting for the city while the other is rooting for the actual team and the players who comprise it?) Also, does it matter if you know who the pictures are of? How many people recognize the names of sports heros without having any idea what they look like? How many people recongnize pictures of sports heros without having any idea who they are? What is the influence of age on ideas of what makes an attractive basketball player? Is there a different standard of attractiveness for basketball players and non-basketball players? What kind of comments do people make as they're making their evaluations?

Okay, sports social science: get to it!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mike Rice: unintentional dirty old man

Mike Rice cracks me up; his commentary is peppered with unintentionally dirty comments. Tonight I will do my best to catalog some of the inappropriateness.

Of Jeff Pendergraph:
He'll bang ya. And there's a guy named Dwight Howard on the other team who maybe needs some bangin tonight.
About a foul:
Andre Miller really nailed Howard and he thought it was the big guy, Joel Przybilla, and they're goin' at it.
Just calling the game:
Miller really gets it from behind.
On Joel Przybilla:
Boy I'll tell you, Joel is huffin' cause he is just bangin'. Every time down, him and Dwight Howard bang each other.

You've gotta meet Dwight Howard early so he doesn't get low-post position, so you bang him there. You bang him everywhere.

Joel going out of the game made the Orlando Magic spurt.
Even Mike Barrett got in on it tonight:
It was all set up on the penetration of Bayless.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Execution and intent: "In Bruges" and "Revolver"

I have a terrible head cold, and as a consequence, I seem to be spending the long weekend watching movies. Last night we watched In Bruges, with Colin Farrell, and this afternoon we watched Revolver, with Jason Statham. I knew that Revolver had gotten rather bad reviews and that In Bruges had gotten good reviews. (I even remembered reading that it had been almost criminally misrepresented in its ad campaign.) But, you know, I liked The Transporter and it's not like I'm doing anything with this time other than keeping Kleenex stock on the up-tick. Interestingly, these movies work as a kind of gangster-genre Goofus and Gallant. Although Revolver was released in 2005 in Europe, it didn't make it to the US until March 2008, a month after In Bruges, almost as if the distributors wanted viewers to make that connection.

While there are some overt similarities - both are gangster movies that take place in somewhat imaginary locations, both have accented (to my American ears) leads from the British Isles, neither movie begins at its story's beginning, both have a mysterious and powerful gangster king pulling the strings in the background - the most striking similarity is one of intent. Both movies would like to be a deeply affecting, multifaceted meditation on what it is to be a certain kind of person. In Bruges succeeds at delving into what it is to be a good person, while also being clever, funny, touching, tense, thoughtful, well-crafted and well-acted. Revolver, on the other hand, is like one of those stories you write at summer camp, where each person adds a line and then folds the paper so that the next person can only read the most recent addition before adding their own line. It's confusing, noisy, directionless, and -worst of all- pretentious beyond all reason. It seems to think it's a meditation on ego and personal strength, full of mantras plundered from someone's freshman social studies notes they found on a bus. I've seen Triscuit boxes with more philosophical value.

I have so much I want to say about this, but I'm having trouble constructing coherent sentences due to my head cold/medication situation. I hope Pete will write about this himself. When we finished In Bruges last night, neither of us could really talk about it. It was so dense and funny and sad and strange and wonderful. About a quarter of the way into Revolver, I said to Pete, "This doesn't make any sense." And then one of the characters said, "This doesn't make any sense." I thought, "Oh, okay, this is how it's supposed to be." But it never made any sense. It just kept pushing on and on forever, like a sheep with its head stuck between two slats in a fence.

Monday, October 26, 2009

And another ad I don't get

I can't find the video for this one, and I'm not really all that inclined to look too hard, so I'm just going to put this out there for you to ponder:
There is an ad where a dude high-fives his own reflection in a window after talking to his doctor about Viagra.
I have tried, and failed, to come up with a way in which this is not the least cool thing ever broadcast.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I don't get this either

Here is another entry in the Annals of Marketing That Can't Possibly Be Effective.

I assume that the idea is that you'll see this ad and think, "Wow, that girl is cute and hip and singing right to me. And this song isn't at all an irritating earworm!" What I find surprising is that she says, in the song, that internet college is not real college. Well, she says they're not all the same and you have to find "the right one." But University of Phoenix and ITT Tech commercials spend hours every day telling you how real they are and how much the people who "attended" them love them. It seems like admitting that internet colleges might be less than legitimate undermines that whole idea.

I also find it curious how much this ad diverges from the University of Phoenix/ITT Tech model. Where are the successful professionals, the single moms, the guys who no longer live in their mother's basements? No one in this ad is wearing khakis or a sports jacket; no one is giving a testimonial about how much they love working at an IT help desk in some nameless corporate dungeon. A friend of mine tells a story about how someone she works with has paid upwards of $20,000 for a University of Phoenix MBA and couldn't understand why they never got past the interview stage for any new job. Finally, they asked one of the interviewers, "What could I do to make my interview stronger?" and was told that the problem wasn't with their interview skills, it was with their degree. The interviewer said that while s/he was sure one learned something in online college, it just wasn't the same as a real degree. My friend's coworker was completely blindsided by this information. It is my experience that most people who decide to get an online degree really believe in the process - I mean, you'd have to with the price you pay. I am surprised that someone out there believes internet college has great untapped market in wannabe hipsters watching The Mighty Boosh on Adult Swim late on a Sunday night.

There's another one with a girl in her pajamas saying something about "I'm not going to bed; I'm going to college. No, really!" Like no 19-year old girl has ever gone to college in her pajamas. Really - have the people who make these ads never been to an actual college campus? Going to class in your nightwear is not an experience exclusive to classroomless courses. Also: why is that a selling point? Shouldn't the selling point be "you don't have to find parking" or "you can do this late at night, between your two full time jobs, after you put the kids to bed but before you have to drive them to school"? Anyway, these commercials bug me and I don't know why I care. Maybe because the song in the first is such an earworm. Or maybe I wish that I had gone to internet college. It wouldn't have saved me any money and I wouldn't feel comfortable telling anyone where I went, but it would have been a shorter walk.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I don't get it

Please tell me how this makes sense:

Seriously: how is this selling diapers? What does Woodstock or The Young Bloods have to do with Ultra Leak Protection? Are those babies stoned? Where are their parents? What kind of message is this promoting? I'm so confused!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Response to Joe, re: women and sport

This post is a response to my friend Joe’s post about roller derby. I suggest you start there.

The whole "sports but also sexy" aspect of women's athletics has always bothered me. It's like women have to be objectified to participate in organized sports or it's simply too boring for anyone to bother watching (men and women alike). Look at the WNBA- they aren't trying to be sexy or cute, just really awesome at basketball, but there's no dunking and I guess it's not as exciting or something, so no one watches.

Aside: I maintain that all sports are boring because every game is essentially the same: they run up the field/court, they run down the field/court, sometimes they defend, sometimes they try to score, sometimes they win, sometimes they lose, but really, blocking is blocking and scoring is scoring and how many times can I be expected to watch blocking and scoring before I want to die?

No one liked the LPGA until there were cute women to watch. My impression of women's tennis is that it wasn't an en vogue spectator sport until people were interested in catching a glimpse of whatever was under those short skirts. Also the grunting.

Aside: I also hate the L in LPGA. I get that WPGA would take too long to say as an acronym, but the seniors tour gets to be the PGA Seniors Tour, so why not have the PGA Women's Tour?

It all bothers me. It's shameful that for women, sport and sex are so intrinsically linked. I agree with you that Roller Derby is preferable to the utterly disgusting spectacle that is lingerie football, but that’s because lingerie football isn’t a sport at all; I would argue that it’s not even a pretense of a sport. It’s an outdoor strip club minus the nudity. And it’s a distillation of everything that’s wrong with the presentation of women’s athletics. The majority of sports consumers are men, and ultimately, they would rather watch a football-themed floorshow than female athletes really playing football. In my head, I can actually hear the Western Male Psyche saying to me, “Women’s football league? Why do we need that? We’ve already got a football league.” (The more cynical part of me can also hear an ass being slapped and a demand to “get me some more beer, Sweet Cheeks.”)

My point is that I wish we were more careful, as a culture, about confounding sex and sport when it comes to women. I would agree with you that you’re a better man for being attracted to archetypes of strong, independent women, and for being generally uninterested in the assault on the women’s movement that is lingerie football. (Now, if you’re a dude who’s into it in the same way he’d be into a strip club floorshow, I think that’s an appropriate and understandable reaction.) But let’s be clear (and I think this is the point Beau was making before): you’re attracted to strong women, and roller derby is, in your experience, full of demonstrably strong women. That does not mean roller derby is an inherently sexier event. You’re also attracted to authenticity of experience. Lingerie football is a very poor football simulacrum. It’s not even a good stripper simulacrum because no one actually gets naked (I assume). And you saw real women doing real sport at the derby, so it wins on authenticity. But everytime we make a value judgement about which sport is better and include "which does a better job of turning me on" in the calculation, we're no longer talking about sports.

I don’t know if it’s possible for men to separate their enjoyment of athletic excellence from their sexual desire when it comes to women’s sports. But I do know that I don’t ever find myself thinking, “I prefer being forced to watch the Blazers over the Seahawks because they’re a better looking team and you can actually see their sexy, um… selves? …” even though that’s technically true, now that I think about it. But I do find myself thinking, every basketball season, “It could be worse. Pete could be a huge fan of the NFL, or baseball. ::shudder::” That is about sport: game length, game pace, frequency of scoring, and ability to see the action without six hundred replays. It does not occur to me that you could objectify male athletes while they’re playing because they’re too busy being, well, athletes. But it seems to occur to everyone that you not only can, but should, objectify female athletes. I assume, because they’re women. It would be dishonest of you to claim that you aren’t turned on by roller derby girls, and I applaud your honesty. But it would be nice if women's sports were as interesting to the general public on their athletic merits as men's.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Thesis: MTV should make music videos freely available

Does anyone watch MTV for music videos anymore? Can you even see them on MTV? They can't sell you albums if you never see them. And shows like TRL (which I don't think is even on the air anymore) relied on people knowing what videos they wanted to see before they called in. MTV ought to just make it all available online, like a Hulu for music videos. It can't possibly hurt viewership and it would sell more albums (if videos have ever had that effect). I'm sure the music industry would hate it and want royalties, but the networks have their own man-eating lawyers. Plus, you know they'd have ads and banners like everyone else, so they'd make more ad revenue that way. It would also give new bands a chance at a larger audience, the way MTV used to at its inception. When it played music.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Next Facebook

Pete has asked a very valid question via stupidTwittergoddamnit: what is the next facebook that everyone's parents aren't on? Although neither of us would ever post anything to facebook that wasn't for general consumption, and both of us keep our pages private anyway, it's still mildly troubling that when a friend posts something profoundly stupid or grotesque, the older adults in my life can just bop on over to my page and check it out. Perhaps I shouldn't have friended them, but how cruel would it be to say to your mother, the woman who gave you life, "No, I'm worried you'll find my friends' fart jokes offensive. Or asinine. And then you won't want me to be friends with them." Okay, so this is not a literal issue for me. My friends don't tell fart jokes (at least not on facebook) and my mom wouldn't care (or notice) if they did. She has better things to do with her time and is a fully licensed and bonded member of the On-Line Community. But I think about other people's moms. If I comment on someone's picture that looks like they're getting a bj from a pirate statue, will their mom read it and think, "Oh my lands! mah baaaaby!" (All other people's moms sound like southern ladies from old Bugs Bunny cartoons in my head.)

Pete thinks they should just be generationally separated somehow. Maybe by reunion decade. All the people between grad and 10 years can see each other, but not those between 10 and 20. Or if you have kids who are old enough to understand what facebook is. My 15-year old cousin friended everyone in the family and we're all weirded out by it. Not because he isn't great (he is!), but because we lead completely different, non-intersecting-except-that-we're-related-and-see-each-other-at-holidays lives. I'm not in high school. He's not pondering how to advance his career, buy a house and start a family. It doesn't mean I don't love him or that I'm not interested in what he's up to; it just means I don't want to see his quiz results in my news feed (but which muppet is he?? and how does he even know what a muppet is! Jim Henson had been dead for almost four years by the time he was born!) and I don't want him to see my comments on people's crap on his (I guess I'm a balloon full of mayonnaise? whatever that means; I wanted to be a chair).

The thing is, facebook is the It thing right now, but remember when MySpace was all the rage? I kept hearing about it, but looking at one of those things feels like being hit in the face with epilepsy, so I was never personally interested. And now all the parents are getting into stupidTwittergoddamnit, so that we can all know when they've eaten a sandwich or if it's hot today or whatever it is that people tweet about. (When I investigated stupidTwittergoddamnit in grad school, lo these many (3) years ago, it seemed like all the posts were "I'm eating a ham sandwich" or "Home from work. TGIF, lol!" I have not seen any convincing evidence that things have changed much since then. And yes, I've seen Shaq's feed.) But that too shall pass. The truth of the matter is, in my opinion, our parents are always going to join new social networking stuff online because we'll always talk about it. Or people they work with will.

Ultimately, the best policy is the one drilled into you in kindergarten: If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. The internet is not the free-for-all, anything-goes, anonymity that many would like to believe it is. Everything can be traced back to its progenitor (or 4-Chan, but those are often one and the same) and eventually that fat guy at work is going to find out you refer to him as Muffin Stuffer "in your facebook"; your dad's brother-in-law is going to stumble upon that picture of him tripping over his own ridiculous lawn ornament on Fail Blog; and your grandmother is going to be horrified to discover that you're an atheist. Typing without thinking, editing, carefully weighing each potential misunderstanding, profits no one, and yet everyone does it everyday. Me, I'm trying to keep putting my foot in my mouth the old-fashioned way, by not thinking before I speak. (Yes, a superior at work actually said to me yesterday, "That's Dr. Dude to you," and for that, I thank her. It's good to be reminded that being friendly, that liking someone professionally, does not mean you're friends. Not in the fullest sense of the word, anyway.)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cultral Tropes: Riding in Vehicles

On our way home from dinner tonight, Pete and I saw this great little MG convertible containing a guy and (probably) his son. It occurred to me that I don't think I've ever actually ridden in a convertible. I feel like I have. I've certainly seen enough of them and experienced it vicariously through TV and movies that this personal oversight has gone unmarked. That got me started on thinking about how many other vehicle-related cultural tropes there are that you might not actually ever experience without feeling any personal lack for not having done so. I'm going to start a list here of the ones I can think of. Maybe you have additions? How many of these things have you done? Have you ever thought, "Man, I'd really like to do that someday!" about any of them, or are these the kinds of things that no one ever really feels like they're missing out on? Here is my list. I've put an asterisk before the one's I've done.
  • *Drive in general
  • *Ride as a passenger in general
  • Ride in a convertible
  • *Ride in the back of a pick-up truck (in the bed)
  • *Ride in a limo
  • *Ride in a taxi in general
  • *Ride in a yellow cab in New York
  • *Ride in an old black taxi in London
  • *Be driven in a town car
  • Ride in an ATV
  • Ride a motorcycle
  • Ride a scooter/moped
  • *Ride a bicycle
  • Ride a tandem bicycle
  • Ride in a car with your feet out the window (My mom has a terrible story about someone doing this that results in a broken leg, so I could never bring myself to do it.)
  • *Ride a city bus
  • *Ride the subway in any city
  • Ride the subway in New York
  • *Take a San Francisco trolley
  • Ride in the Portland tram (gondola? what is that thing called again?)
  • *Ride in a funicular
  • Ride a Swiss gondola (the mountain kind)
  • *Take a train in the US
  • *Take a train in Europe
  • Ride a train from one state to another
  • *Ride a train from one country to another
  • *Sleep in the sleeping car of a train
  • Take the Trans-Siberian railroad
  • Take the Orient Express (Can you even do this anymore?)
  • *Drive from one state to another (Oregon to Washington doesn't count, Oregonians. And Virginia/Maryland/DC doesn't count, DC-area people.)
  • *Drive across the US
  • *Drive across a country other than the US
  • *Drive between countries
  • Drive between countries other than the US and Canada
  • *Ride a ferry
  • *Drive your car onto/off of a ferry
  • Take a cruise
  • *Canoe
  • Kayak
  • Whitewater raft
  • Ride in a speedboat (Maybe? I don't think so, but I'm not sure)
  • *Ride in a rowboat
  • Ride in a Dragonboat
  • Ride in a sailboat
  • Ride in a Venetian gondola (Had the opportunity; couldn't bring ourselves to do it)
  • *Take the Sternwheeler
  • Ride in a Mississippi riverboat
Well, that's probably good enough. I probably shouldn't have bothered with the boats. In any case, I hope it's at least food for thought.

Monday, July 06, 2009

An Open Letter to the Loud Engine Dickwads Who Drive Past My House

Dear Dickwads,

Okay, I get it, you have small penes. But there are many quieter alternatives to an unmuffled exhaust system for letting everyone know that. For instance, you could just walk around pantsless wearing a t-shirt that reads, "Hey everyone, I've got a small penis!" Or, if that's too direct for you, what about silk shirts open to the navel so that everyone can see your copious chest hair and gold medallions? Gold medallions + chest hair + unbuttoned silk shirt = small penis. That is math anyone can do. Another idea is to join a glamrock Toby Keith cover band. See? I'm full of ideas here and all of them are quieter than your goddamned engines!

The thing is, when you drive by I can't hear my husband speak, I can't hear the TV or the radio, I can't hear myself think. Sure, I know you have a small penis (your obvious goal in all of this), but I can't, in point of fact, see you because - and this is crucial - I'm inside my house. So you have not actually achieved your goal at all! I know someone has a small penis, but it could be your neighbor, Silk Shirt Steve. Or any of your biker buddies, or the guys in your Assholes of America Car Club. See? The pantsless thing would work way better! I mean, I can’t see you when I’m in my living room trying to watch Miss Marple on OPB anyway. So there’s no need to alert me to the passing-by of a truly tiny John Thomas. But if you did the pantsless thing, or the cover band thing (I do live next to a live music venue!), the laughter of the people who could see you would alert me and make me come to the window. Then, voilá! You would achieve your goal of me knowing about your less than mighty member!


With ire and lip-curling, homicidal frustration,


PS Maybe check the comments section for other ideas as to how you could more quietly share your little longfellow with the world. I have found the people who read my blog to be most helpful in all respects.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Blogging from my new phone!

Really I just want to see if this works. I have to say though, typing on the qwerty keyboard with my two thumbs makes me feel like one of the cool kids! Seriously, I'm pretty sure I am now both smarter and more attractive for using the internets with my thumbs. And I'm sure I look younger, and not that I wanted to look any younger, mind you. But I've just been notified that it's two on the morning, so I'm going to bed. TAH DAH!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How did this ever sell beer?

Spuds McKenzie.


This one in particular:

And this exists. Seriously. I cannot believe my eyes, but this exists:

Alright, discuss.

"It's your f-ing duty, so just buy a GM already. Jesus!"

I know I'm a little behind on the times with this, and I've been meaning to write about it for a while, but I've been busy and haven't found the time. Until today! Because I'm home sick, and I'm bored and can't watch the TV because it is babysitting our niece!

Have you seen the GM rally cap ad? If not, here you go:

So. Right. I think it's just awful. Insulting, really.
"You know what America needs right now?"
Yes, in fact, yes I do. America needs equal pay for equal work. America needs health care coverage for all Americans. America needs her troops back home and getting the benefits they were promised and deserve. American needs her people to stop buying on credit and to learn to economize. America needs to educate all... What now? I'm sorry, what was that?
"America needs a come back."
Um, okay. I guess that's kind of the same thing, I mean, assuming we had all those things before the most recent economic crisis.

Nope, sorry: upon a quick check of any reference anywhere, we have never had those things, so a "come back" is setting the bar kind of low.
"Because we can do this, if we all start thinking differently."
Yeah, that's true! We can get this country all the things her citizens need and it will need to start with thinking differently!

Huh? Oh, you meant that whole "come back" thing. Right. So, um, how will thinking differently get us to this to the low bar you've set? It seems like "thinking samely" would be a better way to get back to where you were a decade ago.
"At GM, we're reinventing the entire company, starting with the ownership experience."
That is a great idea! Yes, make owning a GM like owning a better, more reliable car. Wait, can you just make a better, more reliable car instead?
"Introducing the Total Confidence Plan. It starts with up to nine months of payment protection. Lose your job? We'll make your payments, up to five hundred a month."
Okay, this seems like a nice thing to do, but is based on anything? What is the average length of time someone is out of a job these days? Will 9 months cover you? And what's the catch: do you have to make payments for 9 additional months once you get a new job? Also: why are you encouraging people to buy a new car with $500/month payments in this economy?? That just seems irresponsible.
"Then something you've never seen before: vehicle value protection. When you buy a new car, we'll help protect it's retail value at trade in time."
Again, unless you can make it be Not A GM, I don't see how this is possible. I assume it's because you'd be buying another GM. But doesn't that seem like blackmail? Or at least coercion?
"It also comes with our fully-backed, five-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty, and the safety and security of On-Star, standard."
I'm just gonna go ahead and assume everyone hears "And believe us, you're gonna need it" after "warranty". On-Star just seems like bells and whistles to distract from the major faults inherent in any recent GM. And just as an aside: I have always wondered about the phrase, "fully-backed powertrain warranty." 1) Are you ever offered a "partially-backed" warranty? 2) Is it just on your powertrain? I assume that's something to do with the transmission. Or is it a PowerTrain warranty, like, it's as powerful as a train?
"It's time to reinvent, it's time to rally. It's time to come back with the total confidence plan."
Okay, where is the reinvention? You're still selling GMs. You have not once said that they will be of better quality, more reliable, better looking. Will they get better mileage? Will they have lower emissions? Will they buy you a puppy? You can't just point at a thing and say, "Ah, haha, I hereby reinvent this! See, it's reinvented!" It's not a performative, like pronouncing two people man and wife.

I'm going to skip over the next phrase for a moment to comment on the final sentence of the commercial (before they tell you to visit their website), but don't worry, I'll come back to it. (Ha! See what I did there?) Telling people "it's time to come back" implies that they were GM customers and left for whatever reason, but that those reasons are moot because they evidently signed some kind of agreement that after a certain amount of time, they would return to GMs cold, steel bosom. It's got this whole paternalistic vibe to it that, while appropriate for calling your kids in at night ("Kids! It's time for dinner! You have to come in, now!"), is not really appropriate for appealing to potential customers.

And now back to the phrase, "It's time to rally."

I guess the paternalism is really the core of what bothers me here. GM seems to believe that it has the right to tell you when to buy its vehicles and that it has simply held back in exercising that right because up until now, the economy was strong. They aren't saying, "These new models are totally awesome and address any, let alone all, of your concerns." They're saying, "Okay kids, it's time to suck it up! You have to buy a GM now!" And they're telling you that somehow this is going to fix America. That buying a GM is going to... what? Make us what we were? No, just make GM what it was. Kind of.

Finally, the whole rally cap thing strikes me as a misjudgement. If I understand the concept of the rally cap correctly, it's when fans turn their ball caps inside out if their team is losing near the end of the game. It's a show of support where there's nothing else you can do. (It's also another example of Magical Thinking in baseball, like the curse on the Cubs, but that is neither here nor there. I just think it's funny that baseball has more superstitions than a 17th century Welsh farmer.) So here is GM's basic thesis, in SAT syllogism format, as far as I can understand it.
Rally cap : Baseball game outcome :: Buying a GM : Fixing the economy
It implies that the only Americans who are cheering for the home team are those who are buying a GM. It implies that the average American cannot effect change in their country so they might as well give up on anything more significant than a symbolic gesture. It implies that GM has the right to make demands of you, that GM is the sole arbitrator of what is or is not American, and that like growing a Victory Garden in WWII, buying a GM in 2009 is a patriotic duty. And they're not going to offer you a goddamn thing to make it worth your while. 5 year/100,000 mile warranties and On Star are old hat; GM's been slapping those on their cars for years now.

The only things that are new are the "payment protection" plan (which also implies that you're likely to lose your job, making it unclear why you should be encouraging people to add another payment to their monthly bills) and the mythical "value protection" plan. I mean, whose to say in five years that they didn't do their damnedest to protect the retail value of your car, and they did, they really did, but gosh, how could they have known car values would drop by half, but they saved you some of that, so you're really only losing 40%, aren't they great?

What are your thoughts? Did this strike you as ridiculous as well? Were you insulted? Do you think anyone heard this message and went out and bought a GM?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sydney Makes Things Up About Rebecca Haarlow (9)

Rebecca Haarlow is spending the off-season working on her soon-to-be-published, sure-to-be-a-best-seller academic tome, "1,001 Mopboy Nicknames and Their Origins."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Computer Nerds: Help My RSS Feed

Or the Portland Tribune. Whichever. Here is my brilliant idea that is possibly impossible and probably tedious. I subscribe to the Trib's RSS feed through NetNewsWire (it's a reader!). Every time they update a story (like change a misspelled word, add missing punctuation, add "alleged" between phrases like "a Tigard Man wanted for the" and "a Gresham Man wanted for the" and words like "murder" and "assault", etc.), I get a new item in my feed. I would like, when I read the most recent version of the story, for my reader to mark all prior versions as read. Either that or could someone send a tutorial to the Trib's web guy on how to edit stories before posting them. Or how to update an old post without creating a new one.


Thank you for your time.

Haha- did this edit just come up as a new item in a news feed? If so, sorry!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On Science and TV

TV and science have a rocky relationship. They love each other, but they don't really understand each other. Or rather, TV loves science with zero understanding of how it functions, much like the unworldly spinster and one Mr. Liberace. Oh sure, he's sparkly and glamorous, talented and good to his mother, but ladies: he's gay and he's passed on; he can never love you back and you are never going to have a little cottage together on the beach in Malibu. TV sits up at night drawing hearts around pictures of beakers and diagrams of atoms. It writes Mrs. T. V. Science on all its peechees in elaborate cursive.

But I digress... TV shows seem invariably drawn towards the scientific, and to my way of thinking, they are better when they recognize and accept that their love can never be and just shrug it off with a "yeah, but what if..." and a wistful smile. For example:

Star Trek.
How does warp speed work?
Crystals. It's science!

The X-Files.
How come things are unexplained in the world and mysterious?
Aliens. It's science!
(What's with the weird guy who ate you and then barfed you into an underground man-mould?
Uh, Indian folk magic? Look, we're just enjoying ourselves here.)

Heroes. (Okay- I only saw season 1. Maybe they have fucked it up. I don't know.)
What's with the super powers?
What do you want from us- they're super powers.

Star Wars & Firefly.
So, spaceships, eh? Laser guns? Chinese and English in the same sentence?
Time out of mind! The distant past, the distant future and far far away.

Law & Order.
Forensics, that's got beakers and stuff, right?
We're only civil servants! It takes weeks, nay, months!, to get results on this stuff. We don't need to understand it, we just need to do our due diligence. Hey- look at that shouty guy over there!

These programs accept that they are entertainment. People don't watch Firefly to learn how spaceships fly; they watch because it's awesome. They don't watch Law & Order because they want a lesson on Watson and Crick; they want a police procedural. (Don't worry, I'm getting to CSI: Branson.)

What was great about the X-Files, I have come to realize, was that half the time Mulder just shrugged and grinned his goofy half-grin at whomever he was with, as if to say, "I know, right? Crazy times!" The other half of the time Mulder burst into a room, shouting, "Scully! I have an insane conspiracy theory about alien technologies or something!" And Scully would do an awesome Leela impression ("Oh lord, he's made of wood"), her hand on her brow as she looked at the floor, gathering strength to soldier on.

One of my favorite scenes in Star Trek was in one of the movies, the one where they travel back in time, and the doctor is in a hospital. He passes a guy on a stretcher, checks his chart while he surreptitiously scans him. When he looks at the chart and his tricorder or whathaveyou, you exclaims, "My god, the barbarians!" because they're going to remove the patient's kidney or something. I think he says, "I can cure him!" and zaps him with his Future Technology and like magic, er, I mean, science, the man is cured! Yay! No one pauses to explain how it theoretically works. It's a grey box. It has a red light and a touch screen. It makes noises. You point it at a guy and push the screen to make the noises and it fixes the guy. SCIENCE!

But not everyone is the cool girl at the party who just kind of hangs by the tin tub full of melting ice and light beer looking awesome in her skinny jeans and old concert t-shirt saying, "What's up" to everyone who passes by, laughing at jokes, just, like, being cool. Someone has to be the over-eager girl at the front door putting everyone's jacket on the bed in the guest room, laughing too loudly so everyone knows she's having a good time, doing one shot after much preamble and immediately vomiting into the kitchen garbage can. That girl is the show whose entire season I recently watched on Hulu. That girl is Fringe. Fringe has carefully coordinated her headband, belt and socks without noticing that she is a bald double-amputee in sansabelt pants. Fringe practices opening conversational salvos in the mirror before going out only to overwhelm strangers with stories about her dead cat ("ohmygodMittensItwassosad") told in a rushed, overloud voice. You can't dislike her because she's trying so hard. But the closest you can get to liking her is pity, and that makes you feel kind of icky.

Fringe spends about a quarter of each episode providing "plausible" explanations for how its "science" works. This is a terrible mistake because it's all so easy to understand and therefore feels, well, unscientific. (On a related note: part of how ER sounds authentic to the layman is the amount of jargon they use in the "medical" parts of the show. You're not meant to understand it. You're supposed to just let it wash over you, a wave of medicalese to set the mood.) Fringe insists on explaining things in words I know, which really takes away from the authenticity (for lack of a better word) because I'm pretty sure I don't understand advanced genetics, biochemistry and physics.

In a recent episode, one of the characters asks, "Tell me: did the creature have the arms of a tiger, the body of a scorpion and the tail of a rattlesnake?" He later exclaims, "Bat DNA! Of course! That was the missing ingredient." Um, right. I know they're going to glibness-in-the-face-of-incredible-weirdness as their attempt at The Cool Girl, but it just comes off like a poor imitation. (Oh Lord, she's put on her Osmunds t-shirt.) Fringe would be so much better if it took a page from the X-Files and used that time for character development and to generate an atmosphere. J J Abrams: more shrugging, less fakey science.

The sad thing is, like CSI: Frankfort, Explaining The Science is part of the salespitch. The difference is that CSI: knows what its audience wants, namely ballistic gel and mood lighting. I don't get the impression that it thinks its a great police procedural ("Yes, let the CSIs make the arrest! They're all armed and go in for busts all the time!") or even much of a mystery show ("Huh, you say he was holding the gun and confessed to firing it? I dunno guys, sounds like a real poser!"). It is a showcase for Future Technology and lighting design and it seems happy with that. (CSI: Miami, of course, is a showcase for David Caruso's mad standing-at-an-angle skills and Khandi Alexander's awesome cleavage, if little else. Personally, I can't watch either show and I refuse to acknowledge the existence of NCIS and CIS: Big Apple. But that is neither here nor there.)

Fringe doesn't seem to know what its audience wants. Sometimes it thinks the viewer wants to know how the actual molecular reactions work. But then it gets bored (and also, it doesn't know what it's talking about anyway) and so then it thinks the viewer wants Action. There is a flurry of activity where people can travel across the country in a single hour, where there is always interagency cooperation and no one ever asks the protagonist about her crazy diction (what is up with Anna Torv's accent?). No, no, the people want to see monsters! Enter the bad CGI... Now maybe a love interest? No, no they're just friends. (Another digression: there was one moment between Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson, of Dawson's Creek fame, where, to comfort her -as a friend, mind you- he reaches out cups her face in hand, running his fingers into her hair and then drawing her to him to hold her while she weeps (? I don't know-maybe she was just sleepy). I tried to imagine one of my friends doing this and all I could see was a Craft Night gone horribly, hilariously wrong. I tried to imagine two friends of the same gender touching each other like that. Nope: that move is for lovers only, guys.

But back to the science thing. I'm really kind of disappointed. How is it possible that writers and TV producers don't get that you don't have to explain every goddamn thing?
Star Trek, how do your transporters work?
They break you down into your constituent parts and then reassemble you somewhere else.
No, really: how do they work?
It's future science! Just climb right in- it's awesome and it works every time, except for that time we beamed Spock half way into a rock and Bones had to build him a bionic ass. But that at least was funny!

Fringe, how does teleportation work?
Well, you see, you break the object or person down into is constituent parts and then reassemble it somewhere else. There is this ring-thingy that you have to build on the receiving end of the process, but not on the starting end. Did we mention this is advanced Quantum Physics? Yeah, it totally is. Real bleeding edge. But the object being teleported gets a large dose of radiation, so if it's a person, they better wear gloves and sunscreen!
No, really: how... wait, what? Sunscreen protects you from radiation when you're broken down into a bunch of molecules? That doesn't make sense!
Uh oh... Cheese it!
Is it to make up for not having enough plot? For having wooden actors? (Or in Joshua Jackson's case, actors who somehow manage to make bedroom eyes in every scene regardless of what's going on.) Does Fringe think its "science" gives it a veneer of legitimacy? Because it's like calling a ratty old Osmunds t-shirt "My Rock'n'Roll Shirt." I don't think Fringe could be saved from being so-so at best even with a She's All That nerd-to-hot-chick makeover. (And not just because the "nerd" in that scenario was acutally a hot chick with glasses and a pony tail.) I keep watching it because I don't really have to pay attention, so I can knit at the same time, and I can watch it on my computer when Pete is watching endless basketball. And I don't find it unbearable. I mean, it's not Two and a Half Men or anything. But good lord it makes the tiny, atrophied fraction of my brain that was been devoted to studies loosely labeled "science" cringe.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sydney* Makes Things Up About Rebecca Haarlow (8)

Rebecca Haarlow totally cares what Pete thinks.

*And by "Sydney", tonight we mean "Joe."

Pete's favorite video game

Mermortal Kombat: Undersea Alliance. His favorite character was Merscorpion. He knew all the fatalities ("Out of Water," "Shark Bite") and all the rad moves. I mean, merfatalities.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Auld Lang Syne

This weekend we had dinner with a group of people assembled to see a friend as he blew through town on his way from Seattle back down to LA. As usual, we were happy to meet the friends of our friends and had a great time. Which, of course, we knew we would because of the email exchange that occurred in setting up the date, in which everyone was quite amiable. When we arrived at the appointed meeting place and were parking, Pete says (mid-parallel park, because he's so cool he can parallel and make observations at the same time), "Hey, that guy looks like B." And indeed he did.

Perhaps I did not start far enough back. Okay then, background. Pete and I met the first week of college in a freshman seminar on the Spanish Civil War. On the first day of class, there were 10 students. By the third week, I think there were 5, only 4 of whom remained at the end. Those 4 people were me, Pete, B. and a Czech girl, S. Now somewhere, lodged deep in the recesses of my memory, I knew that B. had lived in the same dorm as some of our friends, which struck me as rather small world at the time. But I had pretty much completely forgotten this piece of information and had not thought about it since.

We got out of the car and walked over to the group and sure enough, here is this guy that we haven't seen in 9 years, with whom we spent 1o weeks in a rather intense class (at least the professor was very intense)... and his 1-year old daughter. To date, I had not yet met the offspring of anyone I went to school with. I know people have had kids, but I have been terrible about getting around to meet them. Add to this the surprise that Pete recognized B. at a distance... Pete never recognizes people!

I spent a good portion of the evening chatting with B. and his wife, J., and watching them with their daughter. I feel like I frequently read about people running into old acquaintances and being envious of what they've done with their lives, or saddened, or bored, and that it really makes them reflect on their own lives and goals. But I can't think of many instances where people run into old acquaintances and are just really happy for them and how well things have turned out for them. (Probably because it's not a very dynamic position and doesn't really provide any insight into the characters.) But that is just how I felt chatting with B. after all these years. He and his wife appear to be really happy together, from what we saw he's a great dad, and he just seemed kind of quietly self-confident. And that little girl... oh man was she cute! And happy. She didn't cry, she didn't fuss. She was just happy the whole evening. It is my observation that children with really good parents are often happy with strangers and not fussy. She knew that whatever she needed, she'd get it.

(Minor Digression on Good Parenting from Someone Who Doesn't Have Kids But Does Have a Lot of Opinions: what really impressed me was how J. and B. gave their daughter plenty of freedom to make her own choices without ever taking their eyes off her. For example, whenever she started to toddle off down the street, B. would call, "Where are you going? Bye bye! Bye bye!" and she'd usually turn around with a big grin and toddle on back. When she didn't turn around on her own, he was at her side in about three strides, guiding her back to the group. She got to feel autonomous, pattering about on her own two little legs and he made sure she was never in any danger without being a helicopter parent.)

My point here is not to make anyone's ears burn or anything. More that our culture seems to worry quite a lot about what people will think of us in the future. We stress about reunions and running into old friends with whom we've lost touch. I know people who keep their Facebook page completely hidden to everyone they don't personally friend because they don't want anyone they used to know to find them. At least in one instance because they are certain that those people have not changed at all and they don't want to have to listen to the same old BS they suffered through in high school (over 15 years ago).

In my experience, though, running into people I haven't seem in 10 years is almost always a good thing. There are people at Craft Night where I can't believe we didn't hang out in high school and I totally regret letting 10 years go by without getting together. There are people I've only seen or talked to once in the last decade, but who have made incredible transformations out of bad situations. It is interesting to me that if my experience is unremarkable, those stories may be the most common, are taken for granted and therefore never make it into popular narrative. (Or perhaps I should say "the popular narrative", as in, the narrative constructed by popular culture as a whole.) And because the popular narrative spends so much time stressing over the less common bad reunion where everyone is better than you or no one has changed, that is the popular motif.

Questions: Is it your experience that running into old friends or acquaintances is generally a negative experience? Is it anything you ever give any thought to? Do you look forward to your next reunion? Do you keep your Facebook page hidden because you're pretty sure everyone is still an idiot (okay- that's probably true; I know I still am) or is it more for professional considerations? Does MySpace make you feel epileptic? (Off topic, yes, but still a valid question. My answer is: yes, yes it does.) Have you ever looked at someone's Facebook or MySpace page and been sad for them? (I have only had that happen with MySpace and never with someone I know.)

You thoughts: I want them!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Quick Knits

I usually don't blog about knitting because I assume most of the ten or fewer people who may or may not read this would not be interested. Also, it is good to not let one part of your life take over all parts of your life. But I have finally found the perfect baby shower gift that is handmade, not too expensive, can be done in five days (if you can knit for 5-7 hours on each of the first three) and is not a hat. Erika Knight's Classic Cashmere Sweater from Simple Knits for Cherished Babies took me literally three days to knit. Today I will block it and tomorrow I will sew it up. If I had been smart and bought the ribbon for the ties in back when I bought the yarn, I would do that tomorrow too, but that will have to wait until I can make it to the fabric store.

It's a neat pattern that has you knit the sweater all as one piece. The only seams will be at the sides.
You start at the bottom front and knit up to where you cast on extra stitches from the sleeves. I used the single loop cast-on from the Knitter's Handbook, at least I think that's what the cast-on is called. It's the loosest or second loosest option, which seemed important. I don't think you want baby knits to be too restrictive, and very firm cast-ons and bind-offs lead to stiff seams.

Once you get to the neck opening, you knit each side individually. But you don't have to dump the stitches for the other side anywhere; they can just hang out on the end of one of the needles until it's their turn. To me, that makes this pattern psychologically easier and faster. You need no special equipment, just yarn and a single set of needles*. When both sides of the neck opening are complete, you knit across all stitches again, binding-off the arms when wide enough, and suddenly you're done. I found the pattern to be well written and easy to use. It has little hints at the beginning and in the text describing the pictures that have to be integrated as you see fit. For example, the hints suggest slipping a stitch at the beginning of each row of the sleeves so that when they're folded back there will be a nice little detail at the cuff, but the the pattern doesn't say, "Sl1, K to end; Sl1 P to end." It just says "continue in straight stitch until x inches long."

I used RYC Cashcotton DK for this, in colorway Fresh. It's a mix of cotton, microfiber, angora and cashmere, so it pretty much feels like the squishiest, nicest thing ever under your fingers. The pattern calls for three skeins and I bought four with the intention of making a little hat to go with it. So far I have used one and a half skeins, so I think I will make little booties too. Conventional wisdom with baby knits is that they should be machine-washable, and I typically agree with this. However, I think there's some wiggle room for newborns, as they won't be able to wear it for very long before it's too small, so a handful of hand-washings is probably not too onerous, if the knit is nice enough to warrant the trouble. And trust me: this yarn warrants any trouble you care to take. It's that amazing.

*Of course, I consider a crochet hook for weaving in ends, an embroidery needle for sewing up and scissors to be the essentially, taken-for-granted tools of every knitted item. That should go without saying.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


While Pete watched the Blazer game on TNT (with its unlistenable commentators), I subjected myself to a little piece of probable masochism and watched "Enchanted" streaming on Netflix. They couldn't perform enough of those songs at last year's Oscars and I've always kind of wondered what all the fuss was about. My expectations were very, very low. And you know: it wasn't a total and complete waste of my time. It was mostly a waste of my time, but Patrick Dempsey's irritated rejoinders made much of the movie almost bearable. And I liked the little post-feminist twist at the end; very cute.

What surprised me was how empty I felt once it was over. I have ranted in the past, out loud if not in this blog, about how much I hate the unrealistic standard set by romantic comedies for what love and relationships are supposed to be like. There's so much focus on "happily ever after" that girls who grow up watching too much of that dreck are woefully unprepared for the quotidian realities of a real, long-term relationship.

AN ASIDE: I feel I should offer the following disclaimer before going any further: I am one of those irritating people who is happiest doing the most mundane relationship/household things. I love going to the grocery store, I love long days in and out of the car running errands, I love chatting in the kitchen while I make dinner and Pete does the dishes... And I also had the nerve to marry my best friend, so we genuinely get along and enjoy each other's company.

SO... why do people usually watch romantic comedies? Because they like the sensation of vicariously falling in love. Now the whole deal with "Enchanted" is that it's supposed to put the lie to the fairy tale "happily ever after"- that given a dose of reality, even an animated fairy princess would realize you can't base a lifetime of "happily ever after" on a single duet and a mutual attraction. But it's still a romantic comedy, so the princess in question (named Gisele) has to fall in love. And she does. With real world New York divorce lawyer Dempsey. And it's very cute: she forms an attachment with his daughter and we find that she is less worldly than a six year old. Predictable, but not over done. So that's something.

ANOTHER ASIDE: One thing I did like is in the beginning, when Dempsey decides to let this strange woman sleep on his sofa - mostly because she's already asleep - he tells his daughter he wants her to sleep in his room that night. (Oh, keep your gross nonsense to yourselves, you guys!) It's exactly the kind of thing a real parent would do: protect their child. And mostly movies don't bother with stuff like that because they're too worried about how it would look that a grown man is telling a six year old to sleep in his room. And of course they would trust the trustworthy stranger! Why not? Also: the very first scene where we meet Dempsey's daughter, he's picking her up from Karate and gives her a book on great women, like Marie Curie and Rosa Parks. My feminism's all a tingle! Bravo, "Enchanted;" you did two things that were both surprising and charming.

ANYWAY... Because "Enchanted" makes it so abundantly clear that the "ever after" part is a long time and "happily" is going to take some time and consideration even if you do fall in love at first sight, I was surprised that it so closely followed the usual story arc for a romantic comedy. The big climax is that she falls in love with him, and "ever after" is glossed over in a "dancing around the apartment as a family" montage as the credits begin to roll. I wish that it had condensed the current plot down to 30-40 minutes and then spent an hour showing us how that relationship works.

I mean, this woman made me think of the first verse of Ben Fold's Five's "Kate": "She plays wipe out on the drums / The squirrels and the birds come / Gather 'round to sing the guitar." I mean, she called all the rats and pigeons in New York to clean a dirty apartment... with song. (And yes, the singing is very, very annoying. VERY ANNOYING.) How long is her unworldliness appealing? How do they get her a social security number? How did she start her little clothing business? And did she steal it from Dempsey's former girlfriend who accompanies the prince back to fantasy land? There are so many questions! It could have been a kind of brilliant surrealist mystery- the detective or IRS man nosing around the apartment, assuming her dress company is a money laundering front. Her saying, "I bested the evil Queen of Andalusia or wherever I claim to be from: I think I can handle the IRS." Cut to Gisele sitting in a little office in a bland government building, drooling with boredom, muttering "You're the evilest queen!" before passing out. Then the IRS man hates her because he thinks she's anti-gay! Hilarity ensues!

Okay, so that last bit was a terrible idea. I can own that. My point is, I really wanted to see what life was like for a pragmatic, cosmopolitan divorce attorney and single parent who (ostensibly) marries (and certainly at least moves in with) a magical virgin with all the wide-eyed optimism and sophistication of a small child. I wanted to see how she did as a parent; did the little girl ever get to be a little girl, or did she have to keep giving her step-mom advice, like, "don't wear too much make-up or you'll look like a slut." (That is really a piece of advice she gives Gisele in the movie, though not in those exact words.)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Sydney Makes Things Up About Rebecca Haarlow (7)

Rebecca Haarlow penned a screenplay for "Undercover Blues 2: Son of Muerte" that was never made due to Stanley Tucci's belief that audiences would not buy a complicated backstory involving the characters played by himself, Park Overall and Dave Chappelle.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Sydney Makes Things Up About Rebecca Haarlow (6)

Rebecca Haarlow owns a variety of wigs and false moustaches for the purpose of starting waves at the various sporting events she covers.

Friday, February 27, 2009

News from early 80s Portland maybe!

Ken Jennings is trying to start a meme and it's kind of a neat idea. What are the first five news events you remember as a kid and how old were you? I'm trying to figure out how I would even begin to determine this. I vividly remember watching the Challenger shuttle explode (1/28/86, 5 years 2 months). I think I remember Mary Lou Retton in the 1984 Olympics (7-8/84, 3 years 8-9 months), but it's so hard to parse out what's cultural detritus from growing up with a TV and what's an actual memory. I will think about this and see what else I come up with. I kind of think the only way to do it, though, is to look at a list of events from those years and see if anything rings a bell. But is that cheating?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Answer Me This

How did Steven Seagal become... Who thought that he was a.... What... Wh... ...How do his movies get made?! He's terrible! The "action" is awful! I'm watching this thing Pete has on and I'm asking myself: To whom is he even a hero in this? Rageaholics? Workaholics? Good ol' boys? Wannabe cops? I simply don't understand how this man has a career.

Pete said he's watching it for the moment when the female lead realizes she's going to have to kiss him at some point. I said I'm watching for the moment when she realizes that she's in a Steven Seagal movie. Then we saw... Tom Arnold. I said, "I bet he already knows he's in a Steven Seagal movie." Pete said, "At this point in his career, Steven Seagal may be wondering how he ended up in a Tom Arnold movie."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sydney Makes Things Up About Rebecca Haarlow (5)

Every year Rebecca Haarlow officiates the secret ski contest between Matt Zaffino and Channing Frye on January 26, in honor of Australia Day.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Elitist Coffees for Douchebags

Have you seen the new McDonald's ads for their "gourmet" coffee drinks? I cannot believe that this works for them. On any level. I think what they're going for is "Cappuccino is an elitist, snob drink that we're bringing to the people," but what they're actually saying (in my opinion) is "Cappuccino is an elitist, snob drink and the only people who would ever drink it are elitist douchebags, but once McDonald's serves it, you'll see, the snobbiness is all a put on because secretly everybody wants to drink coffee at McDonalds." I just don't understand how this is an ad campaign. "Hey assholes! Come drink our snooty drinks!" And the implication that a soul patch or enjoying books (and yes, even "films", although I might agree with them about berets on adult men) could only ever be a put on, that's just so degrading. To everyone. It tells the average McDonald's customer that they cannot like these things. Come on, McDonalds! Times have changed; there's a new game in town called optomism, respect and pro-book-learnin'. Get on the Obama Train, guys!

PS: I think there are two of these ads, but I couldn't find the other one quickly. I did learn, however, that Kiwis are idiots. McDonald's: why are you insulting your customers so much?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

This is happening.

This. Near my house. I have got to pay more attention. I wonder if this will change the quality of the weirdos in the alley.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sydney Makes Things Up About Rebecca Haarlow (4)

Rebecca Haarlow did not pick out Mike Dunleavy Sr's jacket/tie combination, although she did once best Mike Dunleavy Jr in a battle of wits. And in a pancake eating contest. And at "Bad Dudes."

Bonus: Rebecca Haarlow is a bad enough dude to save the president.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sydney Makes Things Up About Rebecca Haarlow (3)

This one time, Rebecca Haarlow caught Sam Adams making out with a dude who had reached the age of consent and said, "That's okay Sam; I'll keep your secret cause that's just how I roll."

Friday, January 16, 2009


Is it just me or has the whole world forgotten the actual meaning of the word "miracle"? I think it's great that all those people survived that plane crash in New York, but it wasn't a miracle. It was good planning, good training, a competent crew and plenty of good samaritans. The news media have to choose: either everything's a miracle and there's no point in training or safety regulations, or some things aren't miracles, they're just really good people doing their jobs really well. A real miracle is when a plane falls out of the air into a marshmallow factory and everyone on board is cushioned in a pillow of pure joy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I give up

I give up on making things up about Rebecca Haarlow. It turns out that it's a lot more fun in your living room when you can say negative or slanderous things and not worry about hurting anyone's feelings. But if I were a minor local sorta-celebrity, I would google myself daily and would feel bad reading about how I once got so mad even Allen Iverson told me to calm down. Or how I once had my stomach pumped because I ate an entire bulk bin of whole nutmegs. Or how my affair with Joel Przybilla ended because I wouldn't make him waffles after I beat him at Horse. Well, maybe I wouldn't feel bad. Maybe I'd just feel confused. Anyway, I can't bring myself to publish most of the probably-more-confusing-than-mean things I come up with, not even for laughs on a stupid blog probably only ten people have ever read. (Although the three I came up with just now are pretty good. And not at all mean.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Nostradamus again

There are multiple History Channel programs about this guy. Here are two of my favorite Quatrains that HC interviewees say means something bit I think are just hilarious. First the French and then the English. You should look up what the internet has to say about the first one. Apparently it means Iran is going to blow up the Suez Canal, blocking the shipment of Australian biscuits (of the toaster variety?) to Europe. On the HC (in HD) they actually used the word "biscuit" (which means "cookie" in French) and called it the "Biscuit War Quatrain." Seriously: people get paid for this.

Century 2, Quatrain 3

Pour la chaleur solaire sus la mer,
De Negrepont les poissons demy cuits:
Les habitans viendront entamer,
Quand Rhod et Gannes leur faudra le biscuit.

Because of the solar heat on the sea
From Negrepont the fishes half cooked:
The inhabitants will come to cut them,
When food will fail in Rhodes and Genoa.

Century 5, Qutrain 98

A quarante huict degré climaterique,
A fin de Cancer si grande seicheresse:
Poisson en mer, fleuue: lac cuit hectique,
Bearn, Bigorre par feu ciel en detresse.

At the forty-eigth climacteric degree,
At the end of Cancer very great dryness:
Fish in sea, river, lake boiled hectic,
Béarn, Bigorre in distress through fire from the sky.

The second one is supposed to be about an atomic war that blows up SW France. Which is weird, because they also interpret the beginning to be about the 48th parallel, which south of Paris (right around the Freiburg Pete lived in, incedentally). My interpretation? Well, I do a lot of work in women's health topics. To me, "climacteric" means "menopause." Those first two lines, in my interpretation, predict a 48-year old woman in early menopause due to cancer treatment who is suffering vaginal dryness. Nostradamus suggests a folk remedy made by boiling fish from three different environments (probably to make a gelatin-like substance) and I think Béarn and Bigorre are a metaphore for the vagina. In his time, both had recently been independent kingdoms, but now one was part of France as the King's personal lands while the other remained outside the larger royaume. He's saying that just insideas well as just outside the southern "border" could use some fish salve.

I don't know, guys. I think this is an equally valid interpretation. Also, in C2Q24 (or however you're supposed to note these things; I don't really care that much), one that supposedly references Hitler, "Quand rien enfant de Germain observera" is translated as "When the German child will observe nothing," only "German" in French is "Allemand." "Germain" is not a French word; it's a French name.

(Oh my God - the morning news just presented someone's name like this: "Chelsea" and then underneath "Has Cellulite". Hahahaha!)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Mother's Bistro: In bed with the Salt Barons

We ate at Mother's tonight and I have to say, their food is slipping. The underlying flavors, combinations and presentation were all still great, but what is with all the salt? Roast chicken shouldn't taste alternately salty and bland. If I managed to get two or three "bland" bites in a row, my sense of taste returned and it was really delicious. But then I'd get a salty bite, zotz my tastebuds and taste nothing again. Additionally, their cauliflower cheese was pretty awful. I don't know what cheese they were using... It was white but it wasn't white cheddar, swiss, fontina, provalone, parmesan, gruyere, havarti... at least not that I could discern. It wasn't good, that's what's important. But the underlying ability was there: the califlower was perfectly cooked, tender without being limp, crisp without being raw. The chicken was moist and juicy, the skin just crisp without being fried. But in the end, I just ended up feeling totally bloated, tired and over-full.

Dad didn't like his pot roast. I thought it was okay, but whoever did the sauce had a heavy hand with the wine. If that's not what you're expecting, then it's no good. It was also very salty, although Dad disagreed. We might have a different perspective on salt, though. I believe in lightly seasoning each layer of food as I'm cooking - just enough to bring out the flavor, but not enough to be noticable. Most salted food should have a savory flavor, not a strongly salty flavor. If I roast a chicken, I want you to be able to taste chicken, lemon, thyme, rosemary, onion, garlic... But I don't want you to think, "Is a pint of water really going to be enough? Why doesn't she bring that carafe over here so I can drink straight from it."

The worst part is that I'm a chicken shit. When the chef (or one of the cooks - I didn't notice an appellation on her white jacket) came to the table to ask how everything was, I just smiled and said, "Oh, great!" I really like the ambiance, the introductory rolls and breads are delicious, the staff are great... (In particular, our waiter was super.) I just don't have it in me to be honest and risk making everyone uncomfortable by lodging a complaint when everyone's had such a nice evening.

Sydney Makes Things Up About Rebecca Haarlow (1)

This one time, Rebecca Haarlow ate an entire cheesecake. Just cause she was hungry.

(Explanation (kind of) here.)

Friday, January 09, 2009

Sydney Makes Things Up About Rebecca Haarlow (0)

I have this idea for a blog. It would be called Sydney Makes Things Up About Rebecca Haarlow. If you don't know who Rebecca Haarlow is, that is okay. She has a Facebook page. That means she is a celebrity. She is the on-court interviewer for the Blazer's commentary team of Mike Rice and Mike Barrett. I think she's pretty good at her job, but never really thought about her that much. One of my co-workers said she and her husband couldn't stand Rebecca Haarlow and I thought that was weird; I mean, it's a pretty innocuous job. But one evening we noticed a guy in the stands at the Rose Garden with a big sign that said "We Love Rebecca Haarlow!!" (Or something similar.) So we looked her up, wondering if this was going to be a thing. We didn't learn much - just that she went to Princeton, is tall and an athlete - and I did not make any of that up. I think it was that same evening, each time she introduced a pre-taped bit and the camera was about to cut away, her face would fall very suddenly and she would look some combination of annoyed, tired, irritated and/or sad. I, of course, started hypothesizing as to why this might be.

"Oh, maybe it's cause the story's about Joel being hurt. Maybe she's got a thing for Joel. Ooh, Pete! Do you think they were secretly involved and now they've broken up and she's annoyed?"

"No no, I think maybe she's got a cold. Maybe she's really tired. Yeah, she looks tired."

"Ooh, Pete wouldn't it be awful if she and Joel were involved? And she had to report on his injury? [Silence] What? What is that look for?"

I determined that maybe Pete did not think listening to me make things up about Rebecca Haarlow was very interesting. Also, he couldn't hear Mike Rice's palaver over my own.

And then it came to me: this should be a thing on the internet. Only I can't quite bring myself to start a new blog that is definitely totally stupid and that I might only use twice. So I thought I would start here. So look for me making things up about Rebecca Haarlow (for no good reason) in the near future.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Scientific exegesis of Nostradamus is not *actually* science. Sorry, History Channel.

I'm watching this show on the History channel right now - mostly because Pete teasingly suggested it and I had to call his bluff - and it is, well, silly. That is really the best word for it. It is chock-a-block with "scholars" talking about scientific interpretations of Nostradamus' quatrains. Seriously. Men who have trained in real sciences (yes - only men) are using their understanding of nuclear and cosmic radiation to explain... Nostradamus. Their justification is that Isaac Newton believed in alchemy and prophesy. Yes - and he also believed that leeches were a valid treatment for disease. Time and place, Scientists! Time and place!

The problem with this kind of "science" is that it's all predicated upon a completely ridiculous supposition: that Nostradamus could predict the future. He predicted Sadaam, you know. Here is their evidence. Quatrain 8:70.

He will enter, wicked, unpleasant, infamous,
tyrannizing over Mesopotamia.
All friends made by the adulterous lady,
the land dreadful and black of aspect.

Okay, that is not even English. That does not make any kind of grammatical sense. Here is the French.

Il entrera vilain, mechant, infame
Tyrannisant la Mesopotamie,
Tous amis fait d'adulterine d'ame,
Terre horrible, noir de phisonomie.

Admittedly, my French is a wee rusty, but I believe that "dame" is "lady" and "d'ame" is "of soul." I read this more as "He/It will enter ugly, mean, infamous / Tyrannizing Mesopotamia / All friends made by the bastard of soul / horrible earth, black physiognomy." It is interesting to note this definition of "physiognomy" from the wiktionary: "The art of telling fortunes by inspection of the features." I this this is really about a soul singer turned fortune teller who is good at neither avocation. But I digress.

Has there ever been a time when human beings didn't think the apocalypse was right around the corner? No. There has never been such a time. This program is looking for concordance between the Mayan End of Days Calendar, Hopi folk tales and a the poetry of a 16th century French pharmacist. Oh, and the Bible Code. The answer is: The world will end in 2012. Well, the Hopi say that the Fifth Age will begin in 2012. I say, "Fair enough, Hopi." To the rest of them, though, I can say only this: you are not doing science! Please stop pretending that's what you're up to!

I know what you are thinking: why keep watching if it is so ridiculous? Well, it's on the HD History Channel and it has all these gorgeous images of space (you know - predictions and cosmic rays all come from constellations). And now that it's muted, it's way less irritating.

Pete's take: "It's a stretch for being history, too." Maybe they should call it "pre-history" or "peri-history." Or, you know, "bull shit."

Okay, it just ended with shots of Portland and a guy saying something about "when new Rome fell." Um, hello? We're Little Beirut? Geez - it's like he's totally out of touch with the world or something.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, Everybody! (Happy New Year, Dr. Nick!) I have many updates, but I also have to shower and go to work. Let's see how fast I can run through these (synchronize watches now: it is 7:45 am).

1) Snow snow snow!! I've been putting together a slide show of snow pictures from our 2-week long "Arctic Blast," to use the parlance of our local news stations. I will get it posted soon - maybe tonight? - for those who are interested. Please keep in mind, non-Oregonians and especially people from snowy climes, most years Portland gets a quarter inch of snow in February and everyone gets their single snow day. 2 weeks of snowing is pretty much unheard of, and having more than a foot on the ground at all times in Portland, with temperatures under 30 (under 20 some of the time!)... well, that's just crazy talk. But it happened, for the first time in 50-years.

2) Pete has come up with a new name for the Sylvan overpass on Hwy-26 and I think we should petition the city to adopt Storm Team Memorial Overpass as its official appellation. "This is Mark Glyzewski for Storm Team 8,000 on the Storm Team Memorial Overpass. Back to you, Shauna."

3) I super love KGWs morning crew during a Weather Event. Normally I watch channel 12 (because some how Good Day Oregon has totally grown on me - probably because they're a little punchy every day and the aforementioned Glyzewski sounds like Number 24 from "Venture Brothers") but no matter when you got up between 4 am and 1 pm, KGW was on. That's right: Brenda Braxton and Russ Lewis were on for 9-hours every morning. And by the last hour, they were punchy. Delightfully nutty, having a good if exhausted time, blowing kisses to the viewers.

4) Hm. It's been 10 minutes already. I'm wandering!

5) Christmas: good. Gifts didn't all arrive, but we had at least one thing for everyone. I knit my brother socks, but even with all the days off, only had one finished because I had to rip back so many times. It would be nice if I could count and do basic arithmetic correctly the first three times.

6) New Years: good. Unexpected fun! Mike and Marissa took us out for drinks and we rang in the new year at a very subdued, mostly empty Baghdad Theater. On the way there, we ran into some nutters from Sacramento asking where they could catch a cab. Well, where they could catch a "fuckin' cab," so asks the guy. His female travelling companion says, "And sorry for saying 'fuck,'" and shoots him a look. We all demurred - I think Marissa said, "We're all adults here." Indeed! Pete said, "At a hotel," at the same moment I said, "You can't." I explained that Portland isn't really a cab city, so you have to call for one, unless you're near a hotel. And we couldn't think of a hotel nearby. So we asked where they were headed and told them how to take the bus. The girl became ebullient: "Oh man, Portlanders give the best fucking directions! You guys are so nice here! In [somewhere else - Seattle maybe?] they're all like 'Fuck you' but here, like at the airport even, people were all like, 'No, go this way, take this,' it's awesome man." The guy says, "Yeah, don't even ask for directions in SF. They're like, 'You don't know? Too fuckin' bad.'" They were pretty excited about the bus.

7) Edlund Family Christmas: held on 1/3 this year because of the snow. Good times, although we did miss Uncle Mike. We played Codeword or Password or something - I forget the name - and somehow made it work with a group of 16 people. Good times! Keaton and Mom share the same evil gift for passing the thing right before it buzzes, thereby scoring a point for their team.

8) A Very Martin Christmas: held yesterday, 1/4, because of snow. Also good times! We got our 8-year old niece Dance Dance Revolution because it seemed like her kind of game. And man was that a success! At one point she, her mom and an auntie all worked together to try "U Can't Touch This" on Expert, or so they thought. Mom took up and down, auntie took right, niece took left. They did not pass the first time, but repeated to finally score a C. And then realized it was on Basic, not Expert. You would not believe the peals of laughter generated by that game.

9) Oh noes! 8:05!

10) House update: It's cold. Really really cold. The hot water heater is not functioning very well and the fridge is making weird noises. And we've now found two "adult" items in our alley. The first was a porn DVD, about a month ago. The second was a "toy" - so very very gross. It was out there all day on Saturday, but after midnight some yahoos from the club next door noticed and came through the fence to examine it. Pete could hear their cries of, "ew! gross!" and then one of them said, "Oh gross, it's all covered in Vaseline but I don't even care I'm gonna pick it up and touch you with it." You should have seen him trying not to laugh to loudly where they'd hear him. It was dropped outside our fence when their ride arrived. I have pictures, but I'm not posting them for the same reason I wanted it gone from the front of the house: I don't want this to become known as the Vibrator Blog just like I don't want this house to become known as the Vibrator House. It was gone by Sunday evening - I have no idea what happened to it. I choose to believe it belonged to a club patron who tried to throw it away in our garbage cans, failed completely, and then noticed it on his/her way to church on Sunday and removed it for us. More likely, though, a less squeamish neighbor threw it out. Either way: hooray!

11) Okay, for those of you playing along at home, it's 8:15. That means it took me... ::sigh:: 30 minutes to do a "quick" update. You know, it's a good thing I don't make new year's resolutions, because I would break them all the time.