Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Darth Tahwtiaw

THIS MEME MAKES NO SENSE. I mean, it's funny because butts are funny. But the underlying premise is absurd.

There seems to be a pretty well-established formula for coming up with Sith Lord names. The canonical ones are:

Darth Bane
Darth Plagueis
Darth Sidious
Darth Maul
Darth Tyranus
Darth Vader

(And if you're deep on the old, pre-TFA Extended Universe you might throw in Darth Revan, Darth Caedus and Darth Traya, too.)

These aren't backwards names! I've never met somebody named Luam or Suoidis, have you? More to the point, they're not even random combinations of letters the way you could argue some minor Star Wars characters (or other fantasy/sci-fi creations all across the genres) appear - Nien Nunb or Mon Mothma and whatnot.

They are English words or word-fragments and they are about as subtle as chainsaws in signalling that their bearers are Evil Bad Guys. "Bane" means the undoing of something. "Maul" means to seriously wound. (See also "General Grievous", not technically a Sith but definitely squarely in the "Title and Straight Up Word For Something Harmful" camp.) "Plagueis" is just the word "plague" with some extra letters at the end to make it sound slightly less on the nose and more like a name, and the same goes for "Tyranus"/"tyrant". "Vader" sounds like "invader" with the first syllable dropped, just like "Sidious" is a foreshortened "insidious".

(It's hard to tell with the other three if they were subverting or ignoring the rule or what, although to be fair I think a lot of the EU Darths were introduced even before the prequels, which really hammered the rule home. Still: "Revan" could be a clipped form of "revanche" or "revenant" or even good old "revenge"; "Caedus" is about one letter off from being an anagram of "seduce" and seeing as how he's the conceptual predecessor of Kylo Ren's origin story, that tracks; and "Traya" is close enough to "traitor" that I rest my case.)

So yeah, you want to come up with your Mos Eisley Cantina Regular Name (Momaw Nadon) or your Maz's Tavern Hanger-On Name (Wollivan) go ahead and mash up or rearrange your middle name and the city where you were born. But if you're planning on introducing yourself as you fire up a red lightsaber, you'd better be leaning towards something like Darth Corruptus or Darth Quisition or something. Otherwise people are never going to take you seriously.

Friday, May 13, 2016

I've officially run out of clever ways to allude to life being circular

I started a new gig this week. The job interview I made vague reference to last month led to a job offer which led to me terminating my nine-year government contracting stint and taking a week off and embarking on a brand new adventure. Different industry, different title/position, different commute - all things I may very well (hopefully) return to in subsequent posts. Because the blog isn't dead yet, dangit!

First week and all, I went out to lunch a fair number of times. Monday my new boss (who's actually an old friend) and one of my fellow team members took me to a perfectly mid-scale sandwich place. Tuesday I just grabbed something from the snack shop and ate at my desk. Wednesday my boss and I went out for Asian. Yesterday I brought leftovers from home.

Today my boss and I went to a kabob place.

I got the falafel. Because of course I did.

So far, off to a good start.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Out-of-this-world Social Media Tuesday

The Green Moon! So many questions!

1 - Wow, what are the odds that an astronomical event which lasts 90 minutes and happens only once every 420 years would fall directly on 4/20? I'm no mathemetician, but it has to be somewhere around the magnitude of "you gotta be fucking kidding me."

2 - I'm a little bit disappointed that it doesn't last for 80 (4x20) minutes. Come on, solar system, get your shit together.

3 - OK, obviously this is a semi-sophisticated bit of trolling, but is it being perpetrated by stoners? That would explain the green/420 references but man, isn't the whole point of being a stoner that you purposefully have other habits to occupy your time besides intesive-focus activities like photoshopping elaborate satirical memes? So, is it a non-stoner simultaneously trolling stoners and scientifically illiterate people who uncritically like and share dumb pseudo-science memes? Or a non-stoner who kind of weirdly wishes they could be a stoner, knows the shibboleths and thinks incorporating them is extra-hilarious?

4 - And perhaps the most important question of all: I saw this meme on Facebook because friends of mine were liking and sharing it. Are those friends in on the joke, and sharing it ironically? They must be, right? Right?

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Stretching all the way back

Young Frankenstein was a movie I watched a lot when I was a kid, at first because it was one of my dad’s favorite comedies and eventually because I grew to love it as much as he did. It’s not exactly a pop culture obscurity, and among people who tend to work movie quotes into conversation, lots of them reference Frau Bl├╝cher and “walk this way” and “taffeta, darling” and “put the candle back!” But where I think my family might have stood out was how frequently we called back to “Could be worse. Could be raining!”

I was thinking of this today, or actually a variation on it: could have been raining yesterday. Because it is in fact raining today in the nation’s capital, in addition to being unseasonably cold, and my fleeting forays out from under cover to get on and off the train were less than pleasant. But it would have been worse if this weather had showed up a day earlier.

Because yesterday, I showed up to work without my badge, which meant I couldn’t get into the building. I knew exactly where my badge was: sitting in my computer card-reader (I now guiltily confess that it’s been so long since I updated the blog with any regularity that I don’t remember if I ever properly chronicled the transition from wearing badges and having a separate network access card to using the network access card as a badge/ID and electronic door-unlocking mechanism all in one. On the one hand, there are fewer dingles and dongles to keep track of, but on the other, if you mislay your card you are multitudinously hosed.) So my vague plan was to stand outside the front door of the building and hope to encounter a sympathetic co-worker upon their arrival, and then beg a favor of them. And in a turn of rare good fortune, this plan actually worked fairly well. One of my colleagues, who is a fellow contractor but an employee of a different firm and thus both sympathetic and not at all responsible for me, arrived about five or ten minutes after I took up my post, and she was willing to go upstairs, fetch my badge from my desk, and bring it down to me so I could get in and get on with my day. So my forgetfulness only caused a minor glitch, standing around nervously for a bit on a cold but sunny morning.

Now normally I am pretty good about keeping track of my stuff, creature of habit that I am, so you may be wondering why I was badgeless Wednesday morning in the first place. Indeed, there was a very specific reason, namely that I had left work on Tuesday in a rush because of a minor calamity at home. Mondays and Tuesdays are my wife’s days off and when I had left the house on Tuesday morning the state of the household was somewhat mixed. The little girl was sick, and was likely going to spend most of the day on the couch, with my wife tending to her needs while also keeping tabs on the bino (who just turned three and is as big a handful as ever), while I was at work and the little guy was at school. The little girl had been sick since the night before (or was it two nights before? I admit at this point it’s all starting to blur together.) and my wife had been performing most of the direct-contact caretaking duties. This ultimately took its toll and by mid-morning on Tuesday my wife had fully succumbed to the horrible bug and was no longer up to the task of minding an ill five-year-old and a rambunctious three-year-old. So she called me and I gathered my things and bolted, trying to mentally assemble an improvised way home out of Metro schedules and taxi rides. But in my haste I forgot my badge.

The day before that had been oddly off-model as well. It was a non-holiday Monday and yet every single person was home. Business as usual for my wife and the younger two kids, whereas I had taken the day off because of a scheduled job interview (shhhhh) in the afternoon and the little guy was home sick with the last vestiges of his own bout of the bug. He was mostly recovered, so it was a fairly low-key morning (pretty sure the kids all stayed in pajamas until almost noon) and I made it to my interview on time, but it ran late, and then I had to drive home from said interview during rush hour (and in the rain!).

Sunday was the day when the little guy was mainly in convalescent mode, although he had first fallen ill Saturday night. My wife and I had had a date night scheduled for Saturday evening for weeks, with a babysitter lined up in the form of a favor-returned by someone my wife had done cat-sitting for. We got the kids ready for the weekly movie night, the sitter arrived, and my wife and I set out. The plan was to hit a local drinkery for a bit and then proceed to a local eatery (or not so local; there is no Outback Steakhouse in our town and it’s been years since I’ve been to one, and it may be mid-range low-brow bo-bo but I am quite fond of that joint, as is my wife, so that was where we were planning to jaunt some distance to and treat ourselves on our wild night of freedom) but right about the time we were contemplating closing the tab at the brewpub, we got a call from the sitter than the little guy was tossing his little cookies. So that cut things a bit short and set off the plague invasion.

And ironically all of this crazy shared sickness and schedule rearranging (after I came home early on Tuesday, my wife took a sick day yesterday, which was just as well because the bino got sent home from daycare before lunchtime with a fever, which magically disappeared by the mid-afternoon visit to the pediatrician’s office, then returned by dinnertime; today my wife is back on the job though still not feeling 100%, the two younger kids are home with a sitter, and the little guy and I are more or less on regular routine) came on the heels of the previous week, where my wife worked several late nights and we continuously commented on what a crazy week it was, and then on Friday …

… on Friday I left the office at the usual time and walked to the train station, where there was a large crowd of people. Not terribly unusual for a Friday; I always take the earliest train home and on Friday more people tend to do the same. And in this case some of the crowd was owing to the fact that trains were running late, and people who would normally have boarded and departed (on the earliest train on the other line the station serves) were still hanging around waiting. The announcement system was indicating trains were running 15 minutes late. Not the end of the world. Then that expanded to 20, 30, 45 minutes. I was texting my wife to keep her posted. She was home at the time, but had a 6:00 appointment to keep (again, apologies, I don’t think I’ve devoted any blog-space to the fact that my wife started a new job where she exclusively makes housecalls, or if I did it was fleeting and long ago, so there you go: Wednesday through Friday and sometimes on weekends when she is on the clock she is variously at home waiting for a call, driving around a very large service area, or at someone’s house tending to an extremely sick animal). Around the time that my train had not shown up after 75 minutes of waiting, with the system announcements continuing to indicate delays “up to an hour” we finalized our own plan, which went a little something like this:

- I got on Metro and took it to the end of the line
- She picked up the kids from daycare and drove them straight to the Metro
- I jumped in the car and all five of us proceeded to her 6:00 appointment
- She got out at the appt. with her gear, and I hopped behind the wheel and took the kids out to dinner at McDonald’s
- (Incidentally it was one of the saddest McD’s I’ve ever been to. It was in a strip mall, not a free-standing structure in the parking lot of a strip mall but one of the small storefronts. Not only did they not have the Playplace I had been hoping for to placate the kids, but they did not have napkins or ketchup. At least they had Happy Meals.)
- When my wife was done with her appointment, I drove the kids back to pick her up.
- All five reunited again, we made the hourlong drive back home just in time to tell the kids they could skip bath but had to brush their teeth and go straight to bed.

I say again, it was ironic that we thought that Friday night was as disjointed as things were going to get, back before the rolling waves of decrepitude swamped us. On the bright side, at least both my job and my wife’s have been cool about our need for flexibility, and at least nobody has been so seriously ill as to need to go to the hospital or anything, and at least I’ve dodged the bullet and everyone else seems on the upswing one way or another. Could be worse, even though it is raining.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Bad at Math

It's Social Media Tuesday so I am going to rant about something I saw making the rounds on Facebook a few weeks ago: Death Wish Coffee.

I failed to grab a screencap of the actual meme that was passed from page to page, but to the best of my recollection it claimed that Death Wish was the strongest coffee in the world, with 200% more caffeine than a standard cup of coffee. It also observed that drinking it was not recommended for those with heart conditions or anyone who wants to sleep in the next three days.

Har har har.

I just found the whole thing baffling, mainly because it seems to regard caffeine as this quasi-magical substance that must be handled with delicate circumspection. I drink a ton of caffeine on the regular (and I'm well aware that this probably has a deleterious effect on my health, but that particular horse has long since left the barn). I drink my coffee every morning, seven days a week, from a comically large mug, which just might be twice the size of a standard coffee cup. I also drink soda like Coke and Mountain Dew which have plenty of caffeine themselves. I used to drink Jolt, when that was a thing. I've been mainlining caffeine since I was 16, so that's nearly three decades of constant consumption which has turned the drug into something I'm largely metabolically immune to, and at this point is somewhere between a habit I haven't kicked and a psychological placebo. Sometimes on a Saturday I might have two comically large mugs of coffee in the morning, a soda at lunch, and go to a movie at night and enjoy a medium 44 oz. soda then as well. And I never do anything once I finally get in bed other than fall asleep like a baby.

So if I were to drink a cup of Death Wish Coffee, I doubt very much it would keep me awake for days on end. It would probably just make me have to pee, maybe a little faster than the usual brew.

And the thing is, all of the above notwithstanding, I don't consider myself a coffee junkie, at least not out of any proportion compared to the average American. One thing I don't do is go to Starbucks mid-morning and/or mid-afternoon, although I do see loads of people around me doing just that on a daily basis. And certainly the soda manufacturers of our fine country are not going out of business. There are loads of people drinking several caffeinated beverages over the course of any given day, is what I'm saying.

So who, exactly, would lose sleep if they so much as allowed Death Wish coffee to touch their lips? The only reasonable conclusion I can draw is that someone at some point mistakenly thought that "200% more caffeine" meant "200 times as much caffeine". Because, yes, I'll grant you that my twenty-six-and-counting years of building up a tolerance to caffeine would probably be blown away by getting two hundred doses all at once in a single cup of coffee. I daresay that much stimulant in such concentration would either leave me vibrating like a cartoon character or in fact literally kill me. But that's not what 200% more means. It means two extra, an equivalent total of three in the space of one. So drinking one cup of Death Wish coffee is like drinking three cups of regular coffee, which is something normal people do over the course of a day without batting an eye (or unbatting them when it comes time to turn in for the night). It doesn't sound like reckless self-endangerment to me so much as a bit of a timesaver.

Apparently nobody who propagates the meme has thought this through, though. They read "200% more" and think "200 cups of coffee ZOMG SO MUCH". Or maybe it's just a question of scale. If my entire yearly income were to increase by 200%, that would be life-changing. Ditto if the number of small children I had living under my roof went from three to nine. But caffeinated coffee is such a small thing in the grand scheme of life that a factor of two bump doesn't strike me as earth-shattering. All I can do is just shake my head at the arithmetic illiteracy, if in fact that's what it really is. Of course a lot of these people gobsmacked at the outrageous caffeine content of Death Wish are the same ones who complain that they can't help their kids with their Common Core math homework because it's so counter-intuitive. That's probably a screed for another day, though.

Monday, February 8, 2016

To be The Man you've got to beat The Man

Did the whole Super Bowl party thing last night, which was a relatively sedate affair. Five couples gathered around the ceremonial wings and beer to watch the game, and there was very little rooting interest in the actual participants. One couple was pulling hard for Denver, and the rest of us (a motley assortment of fans of New York, Philly, Pittsburgh, Washington, New England and ... Arsenal, I think?) were fairly agnostic. Not only were none of our teams playing for the championship, but none of our teams' hated rivals were playing either. (I've spent as many if not more Super Bowls rooting against the Pats, Ravens and Cowboys as I have for the Steelers or Giants, I'm pretty sure.) We were the platonic ideal fans, tuning in because of the spectacle and just hoping for a good game.

Then the Broncos fan left around halftime and we all started openly rooting for the Panthers.

OK, not really, mainly at that point we just wanted to see the game get interesting and maybe Carolina mount an impressive comeback, though obviously that didn't happen. I said during the pre-game, and I said truthfully, that I would not be disappointed with either of the two potential outcomes. I like Peyton Manning and I like the idea of him winning two Super Bowls for two different teams and going out a champ, since everyone (myself included) assumes his retirement announcement will come some time Wednesday morning, if only because the victory parade in Denver isn't until Tuesday afternoon. But I also like Cam Newton and thought the Panthers had a great season and liked the idea of them claiming the trophy just fine as well.

If anything, I was leaning towards rooting for the Panthers because I like my pro sports to be entertaining (if they're not vindicating my personal fandom investment - I'm totally fine with a Giants or Yankees coronation that bores everyone else to tears). Peyton at the end of his career is basically grinding it out, and there's nothing wrong with that per se but I admit I tend to undervalue things like the inherent nobility of stolid work ethic and overvalue razzle-dazzle, especially in the specific, superficial sphere of American athletic events. And of course, I don't always get what I want. Super Bowl 50 was a microcosm of late-stage Peyton Manning, the game manager trusting in his running backs and his defense to methodically do their jobs and not give the game away.

And again, it wasn't a thrilling instant classic but the end result is Peyton's second ring and secure legacy and that's cool. The game was broadcast for free on network tv so I can't say I didn't get my money's worth.

Weirdly enough, even having just articulated that Peyton is an athlete whom I respect without ever really getting stoked about, I'll miss not having him around the NFL in the future. But I suppose time will tell how much longer we'll have him pitching insurance and pizzas and whatnot in our living rooms.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Destroying the Destroyer

This past weekend, during the Great Snow-In of 2016, my wife and I watched the Thor movie from 2011. I had offhandedly mentioned the possibility of renting/streaming Thor: The Dark World, which as I recently mentioned I haven't seen yet, and my wife expressed interest in watching that with me but also wanted to see the original, since she had missed that the first time around. I certainly enjoyed the first Thor enough to be up for a re-watch, and so we settled in for some Asgardian antics on Saturday night, and will get around to the sequel some other weekend (and/or homebound winter weather event).

So she liked the movie and I liked it all over again but I was particularly struck by the first half of the climax. Spoilers for some/recap for others: on Earth, Thor-in-exile confronts the mystic Asgardian artifact the Destroyer, willingly laying down his life to end its rampage, which restores his worthiness and godly birthright. Returned to full strength, Thor defeats the Destroyer (end of first half of climax) then returns to Asgard, confronts and defeats Loki, and blows up the Bifrost in order to save the Frost Giants from Loki's attempted genocide. It's a lot of sturm and drang, appropriately enough! But as I said, my focus here is on the Midgard stuff.

They shot Thor in New Mexico, in one of those synchronicities of plotting and budgeting (I assume): the friends Thor makes on Earth are astrophysicists studying phenomenon in the night sky, so of course they're hanging out in the middle-of-nowhere desert away from light pollution. The showdown between Thor and Sif and the Warriors Three and the Destroyer takes place in a tiny town that looks like it has about five streets, one diner (with big plate windows for bodies to go flying through) and one gas station (to blow up real good from the Destroyer's heat blasts).

I mean of course there's some nasty collateral damage, because it's an action-adventure movie and those sort of visuals (a) raise the narrative stakes with a sense of danger and (b) look totally rad. But what's noteworthy is that when the Destroyer first stomps into town, the other Asgardians go to fight it while Thor helps his new human friends to evacuate the town. Thor does humble, subservient (and, not for nothing, a bit Christlike) things like picking up little kids and putting them in the back of a pickup truck so they can get the heck out of the combat zone. When all the civilians are gone, that's when Thor goes to face the Destroyer and offer his own surrender.

Then he gets his powers back and it's ON. And one thing I really like is that they don't forget to emphasize Thor's powers over storms as god of thunder. He doesn't just punch the Destroyer or smack it with Mjolnir, he actually summons up a tornado by spinning the hammer, and the vortex sucks up the Destroyer so that they are both in midair, with the Destroyer hurling fiery blasts out of its face and Thor swatting them aside until finally he batters the blasts back into the Destroyer's head, overwhelming it and blowing it up.

In many fair points of comparison, Thor is essentially Marvel's Superman. (I'm far from the first person to observe this, obvs.) They both have red capes and fly. They're both big guns, superstrong and tough. Neither one is human. The weather control stuff is one of the big differentiations, which is one reason I approved of their inclusion in the Destroyer scene. But notice, if you would, the other narrative function the tornado serves: at that point they're so high above the rooftops that the impressive explosion doesn't do any further property damage to the little desert town. This is the right way to dispatch an enemy, and Thor takes care to do it this way because he is a good guy.

Clearly I am teeing up to yet again take a whack at how Man of Steel fundamentally fails its title character. In my defense, the hype machine for Batman V. Superman has been roaring along lately, and I've been sitting through the trailer while trying to socially enjoy other things (The Force Awakens, the NFL playoffs) which naturally gives rise to people talking about anticipation for the Man of Steel sequel ... and what am I supposed to do, just sit there and smile and nod and not remind people what a garbage fire of cynical dreck Man of Steel was? So the portrayal of the ultimate altruistic omnibenevolent superhero as someone who wouldn't know the right thing to do if it smacked him in the spitcurl, who doesn't spare a thought to innocent bystanders or cataclysmic property damage while he whizzes around trading blows with his antithesis, has been top of mind.

I just never made this explicit connection between the first Thor movie and the new Superman movie before. Thor came out two years before Man of Steel, after all, and plenty of other stuff got processed through my overthink-a-tron in the interval. And I gotta say, even at the time when I first saw Thor, it didn't really leap out at me how Thor was motivated by a desire to preemptively clear the battlefield and move things to an atmospheric level where the fallout on human lives would be minimized. I just took it in stride as The Way These Things Are Done In The Superhero Stories I Was Raised On. It took Man of Steel's obliteration of the rules of engagement to make me consciously aware of it, and now, in retrospect, Thor comes out ... well, if not looking even better, at least proving the point that it's not that hard to get the fundamentals right.

So yeah. Goyer and Snyder can keep on being the worst imaginable custodians of superheroic legacy. There's plenty of other filmmakers out there who actually get it and whose movies I'll happily support.