Saturday, November 23, 2013

Some Kind of Saturday Grab Bag Monster

I spent a good chunk of time at work this week generating an inordinate amount of paperwork. (Yes, this means I basically gave in on this request.) I consoled myself by noting that there was a side-benefit to all of it. Assuming that I resume my active job search after the holidays, and assuming that I do manage to find a better gig and must depart this particular position, and further assuming that I remain magnanimous enough to tie up loose ends as best I can and provide as much guidance to my successor as possible, all of this documentation will actually be a pretty good way for someone to get up to speed on the projects I've handled.

Of course what that should really say above is "my successor, if any". Because there's never been any plan in place at all (that I'm aware of, at least) as to what would happen if I suddenly disappeared. That's an incredibly bad sign for those who will ultimately have to muddle on without me, but arguably yet another strong sign that this is not a place I want to hang about all that much longer.


I was talking yesterday about absence of Thanksgiving to-dos at my previous job; the flip side of that, arguably, could be the presence of Thanksgiving at the little guy's school, which was pre-celebrated this past Thursday. Not this coming Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, but a full week before Thanksgiving. I'm not sure if this was so that the children wouldn't overdose on tryptophan or just because Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday so if school is closed on Thanksgiving it's best to pick a different Thursday. (If it's the latter, that is the kind of overthought scheduling I can certainly get behind.)

Anyway, all it really was was the school cafeteria offering sliced turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy for lunch on Thursday. The little guy's been in school for almost three months now but he's always brought a full lunchbox. He was the one who came to me and my wife to ask if he could buy the "special lunch" for school Thanksgiving, and we said sure. (And then almost packed him a lunch on Thursday morning anyway, until remembering at the last minute.) The little guy got a kick out of it and said he wants to order school lunch again, "maybe in December some time." Very moderate of him. We'll see if it impresses him as much when they go back to the old stand-bys, although admittedly it's been literally decades since I've sampled school cafeteria fare, so who knows.

Also my wife has made some ominous pronouncements that the little guy had better like her Thanksgiving dinner as much as the cafeteria lunch, if not moreso. She has of course made these to me, not to him. So after next week I will report on how that all goes down!


I am still dedicated to watching every broadcast episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., so even if during a given week I don’t dedicate an entire Wednesday Bonus post to the show, you can rest reasonably assured that probably only means I thought the latest episode was fine, if lacking anything spectacular enough to yank 1500 words of reaction out of me. Still, there is a little tidbit I’ve been dying to work in reference to, and I haven’t managed it yet, so into the grab bag it goes:

Maurissa Tancharoen is one of the showrunners for S.H.I.E.L.D.; she is also Joss Whedon’s sister-in-law, married to his brother Jed (who is also involved with the show). She has a pretty interesting resume but I will always know her first and best as being part of the cast, as well as one of the writers, for Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. I love that silly piece of fluff so much that I actually bought it on DVD, which provided me with not just the complete web series but also some worthwhile bonus features including “Commentary: The Musical!” Maurissa gets a song all to herself in “Commentary”, a plaintive number entitled “Nobody's Asian in the Movies” which lyrically laments the dearth of non-stereotypical Asian characters portrayed by Asian actors across all forms of entertainment. (Maurissa is Thai, fwiw)

It’s a funnier song than that description probably makes it sound, and it runs through my head every single time Melinda May is on-screen during an episode of S.H.I.E.L.D. Melinda is a cipher character so far, the all-business total badass chick who also happens to be portrayed by Ming-Na Wen, who is Asian. So immediately, at the outset of the season, I thought, “a ha, that must be Maurissa’s pet character in this project.” Because of course every writer has pet characters. Then as the season progressed and May remained a blank, black-leather badass, I found myself thinking “That’s it? That’s what Maurissa chose to do with her Asian character in a high-profile mainstream action show, make her non-stereotypical by making her one-dimensional? Although you could say that a character being inscrutable is kind of stereotypically Asian. Oh wait, now May is doing tai chi …”

I’ve said it before, there have to be a lot of allowances made for S.H.I.E.L.D. to be a show controlled by unimaginative corporate monoliths where maybe once in a while a glimmer of subversive personality might sneak through. I’m holding out hope that this is the case with a lot of the elements on the show, but especially with Melinda May. I refuse to believe that Maurissa doesn’t have some kind of long-term plan for the character, slow-rolling it though she may be. But only time (and/or DVD box sets with deleted scenes and other bonus features) may tell.


This week I got the bright idea of trying to brainstorm a music mix to incorporate into the kids’ nightly bath/bedtime routine. As I mentioned on Thursday, it can be a challenge transitioning into that part of the evening every day, particularly on days when my wife is working and I’m running the show solo. I figured cranking up some tunes at 6:30 could serve multiple purposes:

- As a cue for the kids to respond to. When the music starts, it’s a clear line of demarcation between “not bathtime” and “bathtime”.
- As an incentive, something to make the whole ritual a little more entertaining, ideally for the kids, but if nothing else, then for me.
- As a timing signal for me. If I know approximately how long each song is, then I know based on where we are in the playlist whether it’s time to pull the plug in the bathtub, or stop dickering over which pajamas the kids are going to wear, and so on. (Without having to look at a clock, since there isn’t one in the bathroom.)

Along the lines of that last point, I am the kind of obsessive person who would in fact memorize the order of a playlist and know its song lengths within a few seconds, but to simplify things I realized I could pick songs according to theme, and have a few songs that evoke water which last as long as the little girl’s bath is supposed to last, and then songs that evoke getting ready for or going to bed. So then it’s not “this is the fifth song, time to towel off” but rather “this is the towel-off song”.

By now obviously I’m absurdly overthinking this, and I’m trying to decide how I would fill out such a playlist. Do I go with outright kiddie songs, like Ernie singing “Rubber Duckie”, or innocuous songs ostensibly for adults, like Bobby Darin’s “Splish Splash”? And how many grown-up songs are there about going to bed that aren’t implicitly (or explicitly) about the other thing we do in bed besides sleep?

Well, there’s always Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, I suppose. Which, ha ha, yes, tucking my kids in for the night to the sounds of last century’s preeminent thrash metal sellouts sure seems like stellar parenting. But when the little guy was very little, no more than three (if that), guess what one of the very first songs he really responded to on the radio was? So it doesn’t seem so bizarre to me to think of the two going together, at that. If this ever goes any farther than a thought experiment, I’ll let everyone know.

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