Monday, March 11, 2013

Parental Advisory

Sorry for the lack of post last week. I wrote an extensive post/comment on another blog elsewhere but it wasn't really funny so I didn't link to it. Well, unless you think it's funny that NSERC post-docs haven't had a pay raise since 1982. On to today's post:

Normally when I write these posts I get the topic from something I've seen, a photo I've snapped, an issue I want to rant about – that kind of thing. When I get those ideas I'll stick it in a note file on my phone and by the time I start blathering I've got a pretty good idea where I'm going with the thing. This time it's different.

I have no idea what I'm doing.

Which is a pretty good parallel for what I'm about to do, which is have a kid. In case you're out of the loop, Erika could pop any day now. I haven't written about it until now because of what happened with our daughter Claudia; a story far too sad to tell in a blog like this. Now that we're well along in the pregnancy though, we have no shortage of people who are happy to tell us about what to expect when the little guy arrives. As that advice has rolled in I have noticed some themes, a few of which I'd like to share:

1) "Topper" syndrome.
"The Topper" is a character in Dilbert comics who always wants to have the best story in the room. There's an analogue of this in child rearing, in which people seem to delight in telling you about the worst possible scenarios you could expect.

"Oh wow, just wait until your kid craps straight out of his diapers and all over his clothes. I swear, there was one time Timmy literally exploded and sent poop everywhere. Honestly, we had to put him back together like he was a Lego man or something."

"Wait until they're big enough to start climbing stuff. I turned my back for one second yesterday and when I turned around he was halfway up the bookshelf and juggling knives. Scared the hell out of me but at least I got a pic on my phone. Want to see it?"

"Did you get covers for your electrical outlets? I hope you got covers for your electrical outlets. We saw Suzy poking at them during the holidays and like fools we didn't do anything about it. Then when Christmas morning rolls around what do we find behind the tree? Meth lab."

2) The Baby Board complex.
If you've ever gone to a parenting website (or even facebook) you've seen this. It's a product of the fact that there's literally as many ways to parent a child as there are parents. Let me walk you through the thought process of a baby boarder:

    FACT: There are hundreds of options I must choose from on this one issue.
    FACT: I can only select one of those options.
    FACT: I will do the best thing for my child.

    CONCLUSION: The best thing you can do for your child is the option I selected.

People are understandably pretty invested in the quality of their parenting, but it can get confusing when you've got different people drawing a line in the sand and saying their way is unequivocally the best method... and they're saying opposite things. Fortunately Erika and I will just think through things on our own and carefully select the best best options for our own child. And if you choose differently, well whatever. It's not my problem you don't love your kid as much as I love mine.

3) Parenting Amnesia
The first two were about new parents, this one is about old parents. As in, the parents of my generation. To understand this phenomenon, consider some statistics I just made up:

78% of young parents spend at least one hour a week fantasizing about using duct tape as a parental aid.
81% of old parents say their kids were "pretty easy" to handle.

65% of new moms refer to their labour experience in the same way Iraq veterans refer to their last deployment.
88% of old moms refer to their labour experience as "not too bad".

100% of new parents are super proud of how young their kid started talking/walking/eating solid foods/reading/contributing to their RRSP.
100% of old parents are super proud of how young their kid started talking/walking/eating solid foods/reading/contributing to their RRSP.

I guess you're never too young to start optimizing your memories.



What's with that photo? They should have just called it the BrAun Douchebagger. Oh well, at least they went whole-hog and spelled Braun in a douchey way.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Valjean vs. Javert: Who's more Miserables?

Hey, so who out there likes wildly unpopular opinions? I do! Well, maybe it's not wildly unpopular, most people probably haven't thought about it. Given the success of Les Miserables however, I'm going to at least assume you disagree with me. Here you have it:

Inspector Javert was a better person that Jean Valjean.

I'm serious! We all give Valjean a ton of street cred because the book/musical/show's pretty much about his life story, but when you step back and take a look at the thing analytically? Let's break down their Bios and see if you disagree with me:


- Born in 1769
- Poor beginnings.
- Had a sister, but otherwise an orphan.
- A physical beast. We know this because we get told over and over again how much of a freak he is, both strength and agility-wise.

- Born in 1780
- His mother was a fortune teller and presumably a criminal of some kind.
- His father was a galley convict.

Can we talk about this for a minute? Look at the facts: Valjean actually starts out with better life prospects than Javert. I mean... can you start lower than beginning your life in jail? Yet somehow Javert says "Screw this, I'm fighting my way to the top!" Meanwhile Valjean  gets all "Boo hoo, I'm hungry" and resorts to theft.



Original Occupation: Pruner and Thief.
    - Yes, he stole because he needed food since there wasn't a lot of work, but I think there's an argument to be made that his first occupation led to his second.

Trying to escape from prison... 4 TIMES.
    - I don't think this point can be stated with enough emphasis. Valjean spent 19 years in prison. 19 years for a B&E? That's outrageous! Heck, even the French agree  that's why they only gave him a 5 year sentence! Maybe a 5 year sentence is a little harsh but if he'd just sucked it up he would have been 31 when he got out, which is still a decent age. Instead he got 3 years tacked on each time he ran away, plus 2 for resisting arrest. Dude, stop running away! It's not working! Just eat your medicine for crying out loud.

    - So Valjean has finally gotten out of prison, then has one bad experience as a worker and immediately steals silverware from the Bishop. The Bishop of all things! You couldn't have just punched a cop or something? Geez Murphy, not a quick learner. But at least he...
    - Learns his lesson. We've all seen the musical, where the Bishop gifts him the silver and tells him to be a better man so he takes the lesson to heart and goes off and reinvents himself, right? Wrong. The part they don't show you in the musical happens after leaving the Bishop, when he encounters a young boy walking down the road and tossing a coin in the air (presumably to buy a gigantic lollipop). The kid drops it and Valjean responds by stepping on it and telling the kid he'll beat him senseless if he doesn't run away (which he does). THAT'S when Valjean realizes he's a monster and changes his life. So... good job by you. But it won't buy that kid his lollipop.

Calls Napoleon "The Emperor" at his trial instead of "Bonaparte"
    - This was a really, really bad idea in 1815.

Pays for Cosette when he had a note authorizing him to take her for free.
    - Huh?

Original Occupation: Assistant Prison Guard.
    - What did he put on his resume? "Prior Experience: Born here?" "I was born to do this job?" The possibilities are endless. At least he was smart enough to choose a recession-proof occupation.

Offs himself because he can't reconcile a world where someone can be a good person but still a criminal.
    - Oy... someone's got unresolved mommy issues. The guy really needed to chill out more; all work and no play makes Javert a dull boy.



Constant Escape Attempts
    - Well you really can't argue this one. Tries to escape 4 times during his original sentence, actually escapes successfully when he's arrested as Mayor. Moves around constantly to stay hidden from Javert. Plus two counts of Resisting Arrest. Love him or hate him the guy knows what he wants, and that's not prison.

Wants Criminals in Jail
    - He chases down Valjean for roughly 10 years, not to mention volunteering to go undercover at the barricades in order to save the lives of French soldiers (even though he'd likely be killed if the rebels realized who he was). Love him or hate him the guy knows what he wants, and that's bad dudes in prison.


Let's just run through the list for each:

- Arranges a job at a convent for the guy who got stuck under the cart in the street. Which seems a bit weird but whatever.
- Turns himself in so that another guy doesn't go to jail for his crimes (although he immediately escapes because hey, it's not like he wants to go to jail for his crimes).
- Impresses the guys on the barricade with a great shot but avoids actually killing anyone.
    - So if you're keeping track at home he's a strongman, an acrobat, and a sharpshooter. He also revitalizes the industry of an entire town and becomes Mayor in one year. Yeah, this guy had NO choice but a life of crime.
Doesn't shoot Javert in the face at the barricade. Which is nice.
- Rescues Marius. By the way, Marius had just killed a bunch of French soldiers. For a moment consider that these were guys who probably kissed their wife and kids goodbye when they went off to work that morning, but never came home because of some drunk college kids who blocked a street. But hey, the guy had a thing for Cosette so what's Valjean to do? (Little known fact: Les Mis doesn't take place during the French Revolution)
- Keeps his promise to Fantine and raises Cosette.

- Steals from a family.
- Escapes from jail.
- Escapes from jail.
- Escapes from jail.
- Escapes from jail and assaults a police officer.
- Robs a Bishop.
- Threatens to beat up a kid for a penny.
- Steals the kid's penny.
- Doesn't pay attention to the working conditions at his factory.
- Tells Javert he'll go quietly, then...
    - Escapes from jail again.
- Joins a revolutionary movement.
- Stops visiting Cosette once she gets married. I have no idea why.
- Arguably ruins Fantine's life.

I'm going to punch up that last point a little. Fantine wasn't doing so well, what with her boyfriend leaving her knocked up and taking off, but she was getting by because of her job at Valjean's factory. Unfortunately the foreman at the factory wanted a piece of Fantine, she won't give it to him, and everyone knew it. So when some total shrew co-workers get into it with her there's the possibility of major conflict.

Fortunately Valjean gets there before the foreman! Valjean to the rescue! Aaaaand he says screw this, you deal with it Mr. Foreman. Which leads to her getting canned because Valjean has zero awareness of what's going on at his factory and/or doesn't care.

HOWEVER: In the book Valjean never knows about the incident even though Fantine blames him for it, so we need to mitigate this point a bit in Valjean's favour. One way or another though, the inactions of Jean Valjean leads to Fantine becoming a prostitute and selling her hair, as well as her two front teeth. I bet you didn't know that part! Needless to say, I think we can all agree why that's been left out of the modern adaptations of the book:

Shit... even without teeth Anne Hathaway is still attractive.

- Dude REALLY hates people who break the law.
- When he thinks he's mistakenly accused Mayor Madeleine (actually Valjean, and no he's not in drag) of being Valjean he tenders his resignation as an inspector, because an inspector must be above reproach.
- Continues to pursue Valjean because he's never, ever been given anything to suggest Valjean is something other than a crook.
- The aforementioned undercover actions at the barricades despite the risk to his life.
- Let's Valjean go when he finally finds out that Valjean isn't the bad dude he thought he was.
- Never breaks the law until he lets Valjean go at the end. Although he makes up for it by killing himself?

- Doesn't really "chase down the facts" as much as he should. CSI: Paris this ain't.
- Suuuuper inflexible morally.



Well I never said it wasn't going to be close, but I think it's pretty hard to argue that Valjean didn't lead a life where he pretty much did whatever was right for Valjean at the time, punctuated by some good acts in his later years. Contrast that with Javert, who basically tried to be a good human being his entire life, if a somewhat shortsighted one.

How is it that every culture on the planet (except for those wacky Germans) seems to have independently discovered shaving? It's not like they had the technology to make razors or mirrors back then. Instead you've got some guy with a brass broadsword trying to shave himself in a mudpuddle, all the while hoping he doesn't accidentally cut off his own head.

I think the only logical conclusion is that the women of every culture on the planet (except for those wacky Germans) independently decided men look better without beards.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Show and Tel

Have you ever met that person who always tells you how in love they are with their boyfriend or girlfriend?

“Ooooh… we’re so glad we met each other. Every day together is a moment we cherish. Nobody, ever, in the entire history of the world, been in love as much as we are.”

Have you ever met that company that always tells you how great their customer service is?

“Ooooh… we value you so much as a customer. Every customer is a beautiful gem that we cherish. Nobody, ever, in the entire history of the world, has cared about their customers as much as we do.”

Those sound similar? It’s because they’re basically the same person. For instance:

You only hear it from one side of the relationship.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m sitting there listening to someone yammer about how bountiful the love is between them and their partner, I can be pretty sure that when the other person walks into the room they’re more likely to start a conversation about Corn Nuts than about their relationship. Ditto with corporations. If I use a company who advertises their excellent customer service there’s a much better chance that mentioning their name will cause me to verbally illustrate some innovative ways they can pleasure themselves in a barnyard than there is that I’ll start singing their virtues. I’m looking at you Comcast.

The person is under the delusion that saying something is the same as having something.
Look, I can tell you I have a pony. I can tell you how I ride her to work, and how I brush her hair every morning, and feed her fresh oats by hand, and how it’s the best way to get to work ever. But that’s not the same as physically having a pony. It's a mental construct, which is not the same thing as actual stuff. To get "stuff", you need to work hard and acquire it. No shortcuts. Telling me about your fantastic customer service is going to fix your broken company at about the same rate that imaginary pony will get me to work. But you know what will fix your customer service? Actually trying to reduce my wait time on that 45 minute phone call to Bangalore. As for your relationship, well, if you’re busy telling me everything’s perfect there's a damn good chance you’re ignoring things things that do need work.

Ex marks the spot.
A 5 minute conversation with anyone who’s ever been in a relationship with them in the past is probably going to react the same way: "Yeaaahhhhh... not sure I'm buying it."

Ever watched the show “How I Met Your Mother”? AKA, “The Creepiest Show Ever”? Seriously… what is wrong with this Ted guy? Hey, I enjoy the show. It’s funny, entertaining, and they make good Canada jokes. Nobody laughs at Canada jokes more than Canadians. But let’s think about this analytically: The premise of this show is that he’s telling these stories to his son and daughter! What??? Can you imagine your dad telling you this stuff?

“Oh man, did I ever bang your aunt silly…”
“Did I ever tell you about the time I nailed two girls at once?”
“Your Uncle Barney… honestly, I don’t know how he isn’t dead of syphilis. Here, let me tell you about 247 of his one-night-stands…”
“Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn Robyn, Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn…”

Seriously, they should have named this show “How I Settled For Your Mother”.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Going Ape Over Genomes

For Christmas Erika got me the National Geographic Genographic Project gene tracking. It's pretty cool. It shows how your specific gene makeup reflects humanity's historical movements, what % of you is neandertal, etc. That led me to looking some stuff up, and guess what I discovered: At some point, the population of all humans on earth dropped to somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 individuals.

Ten thousand!!! Heck, let's go on the high end and say fifteen thousand; do you have any idea how few people that is? Here's an idea: The average NHL arena holds 16,617 people (yes, I did that by hand). That means the entire population could have gotten lower bowl seats, but that wouldn't matter because there wouldn't be anyone on the ice to watch play. That said, I've heard that the teams in 97987 BCE were total crap so they probably wouldn't have missed much.

It's pretty tough to wrap the ol' noggin around though, isn't it? I mean... gorillas are pretty screwed, but at least there's still 25,000 alive today. Heck, chimpanzees are critically endangered and there's 21,000 of them kicking around! I bet they wish they'd knocked us off when they had the chance.

SCENE: 10,000 BCE

CARL THE GORILLA: "Hey Ted... looks like we were right. Mr. "I'm too good for the trees" over there isn't doing so well anymore."

TED THE CHIMP: "Smarmy bastard. I hope you rot! Yeah, you! Think you're the only one with opposable thumbs? Oppose this!"

CARL THE GORILLA: "You know what I think? I think we should just take out the whole lot of them. I don't like the way they look. All that tool-stuff... it freaks me out."

TED THE CHIMP: "Hey, I make tools too."

CARL THE GORILLA: "Your mom showed you how to jam a wet piece of bamboo into a termite mound. Not exactly the shuttle program Ted."

TED THE CHIMP: "Whatever. Might as well just leave them alone. It's not like they can do anything to us, right? Heck, you could literally pull his arm off and shove it up his ass."

CARL THE GORILLA: "Heh heh... that would be so funny. I'm totally doing it."

TED THE CHIMP: "Fine. But just this once."

At any rate... looks like humanity has done pretty well for itself since then. The gorillas and chimps? Not so much.

This is a list of the 5 highest viewed posts all time for my site:

1. Fashioning a Post (Jul 3, 2011) - 1006 views
2. Pontificating on a Probably Return to a Proper Posting Period (Oct. 8, 2012) - 857
3. Moving to Australia Part III: We Have Arrived (Feb 20, 2012) - 344
4. The Burning House (July 2, 2012) - 322
5. I'm Afraid of Emily Dickinson (Aug 14, 2012) - 177

Ok, I get numbers for Fashioning a Post. I mentioned "The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo" in there, and it has a photo from the Swedish film, so that's probably why it's getting pinged all the time. But the second one? 857 hits in 118 days? That's over 7 hits a day! And it's a post about how I haven't been able to post! Hey, feel free to check it out and see if you can tell me why so many search engines seem to be turning it up. It's only about a paragraph long, but it does include the terms "Looking for work" and "Job hunt", so maybe that's it. Still, I wouldn't say posts 1 and 2 are my best work. I'm going to have to step it up a notch if I want to knock off the front runners.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Feeling Crabby

Did you know that crabs feel pain? Neither did I, but it's right there in the science journal of experimental boilology. It says "If you cook crabs they'll die screaming horrible deaths of utter agony." Or something like that. I mean, look at this article in the Globe and Mail, titled "That lobster you are going to boil feels pain: study".

Wait... are lobsters crabs? 'Cause I'm pretty sure they have different names for a reason. Also... what the hell! How do you know if crabs feel pain! Did they interview the crabs?

EXPERIMENTER: "Ok, now I'm going to give you a light shock. I'll move it up a little after each one and you tell me when you feel that it qualifies as pain."

CRAB: "Gotcha."

EXPERIMENTER: "How's that?"

CRAB: "Tingles a little, that's about it."

EXPERIMENTER: "What about now?"

CRAB: "It's a bit uncomfortable, but nothing I can't handle."


CRAB: "That's weird... my claw keeps snapping open and closed."

EXPERIMENTER: "Ok, I'm going up again."

CRAB: "Ow! Yeah, that hurts."


CRAB: "What the hell!? Yeah, I already said it hurts. Turn the damn thing off!"

EXPERIMENTER: "A little bit more..."

CRAB: "Aaaah! Stop it!"

EXPERIMENTER: "You smell so good right now."

CRAB: "What is wrong with you!!!! Owowowowow! Wait, what's that?"

EXPERIMENTER: "Oh this? Ummm.... Stage 2 of the experiment requires me to melt some butter on you. It's nothing to worry about."

Honestly though, how do you quantify pain in an animal? For people it's easy, you just ask them. So what did they use as a criteria for the crabs? Apparently, learning quickly to avoid a stimulus is enough. For example, here’s the crab experiment:

1. There's two caves.
2. Crab goes into one cave.
3. Crab may or may not get a shock.
4. End of trial one.
5. Crab goes into the cave a second time, crab gets a shock.
6. Crab says "eff this" and tries the other cave.
7. Ergo, the crab feels pain.

Whaaaa??? Why does that mean the crab was in pain? I mean sure, as people we can extrapolate and say "yeah, that probably hurt." But by that logic we'd also say anteaters hate their freaking lives because ants taste like ass, whereas in actuality anteaters probably think ants taste like tapioca pudding.

Let me put this another way. I'm going to show you the exact same experiment with a person, and you can tell me whether this behaviour can be explained as straight-up proof that crabs feel pain:

1. There's two elevators.
2. Paul goes into one elevator.
3. Paul may or may not smell fart.
4. End of trial one.
5. Paul goes into the elevator a second time, Paul smells fart.
6. Paul says "eff this" and tries the other elevator.
7. Ergo, Paul feels pain.

See? Step 7 makes no sense. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't describe that scenario as a painful experience (that would be one helluva toot), yet by the crab experiment criteria it's "painful".

Just one more reason to be critical of everything you read.

Ever heard of Gamma world? It's a roleplaying game like Dungeons & Dragons, made by the same people (Wizards of the Coast), and more or less using the same rules. The major difference is that it's futuristic sci-fi instead of fantasy.

This is the description of one of the powers for the character that controls electricity: "You zap your enemy with an arc of electricity, making your foe jerk and dance around like a spaz."

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? "Jerk and dance around like a spaz"??? Since when was the word "spaz" used by anyone a) older than 11, and b) not totally out of touch with derogatory terminology?

Now, some of you regular readers may be aware that I discovered I was epileptic about a year and a half ago, so obviously I'm going to be more sensitive about this. But this description could basically be written as "You zap your enemy with an arc of electricity, making your foe jerk and dance around like an epileptic.", or ""You zap your enemy with an arc of electricity, making your foe jerk and dance around like a retard."

Including that description in a game book validates its use as a non-offensive term, which it is not. Some people would say that it's part of the vernacular now and has lost its offensive tone, like the words "gypped" (gypsied) or "heepy-jeebies" (Hebrews and Jews). I disagree, because people still use the word spaz specifically in the derogatory manner, directed at the group it's derogatory towards.

At any rate, I wrote the letter below to Wizards of the Coast:

Hi there,

I have a simple request of you, which I hope you'll take seriously.

In the description of the Electrokinetic power "Electric Boogaloo" you say "You zap your enemy with an arc of electricity, making your foe jerk and dance around like a spaz." As an epileptic, the use of term "a spaz" makes me sick every time I see it. Maybe the person who wrote it didn't realize the term "a spaz" means "an epileptic", and was unaware of the painful association that terminology has for any person who experiences grand mal seizures, particularly those who experienced seizures when young. Regardless, could you change that description in future versions of the rulebook? I want to play gamma world, but I literally can't play an Electrokinetic character. Given that there's a thousand other ways to describe the power without using those words, I don't think this is an unreasonable request.

Take care,

And this was their response:

Greetings Paul,

Thank you for contacting Wizards of the Coast Game Support, we appreciate you for providing feedback. This email is to inform you that we have received your comments, and while we cannot guarantee an additional response, we do appreciate that you took the time to bring your thoughts on the word choice for Gamma World.

Thanks again, and if you have any additional questions or comments for us, please contact us again. Have fun, and good gaming!

Translation: Yeah, whatever.

So hey, Wizards of the Coast; go screw yourselves.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Games and Ammo

Note: I'm not completely insane, so please don't read this post under the belief that I'm somehow arguing in favour of anything other than rational thought.

Can we chat, just for a moment, about guns?

The recent shootings in the US have been brutal. Absolutely, unabashedly, brutal. When something like that happens it's a wake-up call for an entire culture... a chance to ask "Are we doing it right? How could we do it better?"

It's good to know they've come up with a solution:

I'm going to zoom in on that top left corner for clarity's sake:

Yes, that's right. Guns aren't the problem in these shootings. Video games are the problem.

What? How the hell does that work? Seriously, this was the front page of the NY Times for Sunday, January 13th. Apparently in the US, while people were racing out to buy automatic weapons in fear of laws that might happen, they were busy pointing the finger at video games because, hey, some of those shooters played video games (and yes, I'm going to quote extensively from that article).

Look, I know a lot of people want a scapegoat here. But in this instance I'm going with the tiny shards of metal travelling at the speed of sound over a bunch of images on a television. For crying out loud, there's a real opportunity here... who could possibly benefit from deflecting the argument away from guns?

"...public rhetoric has clearly shifted since the shootings, with politicians and even the National Rifle Association — normally a fan of shooting games — quick to blame video games and Hollywood movies for inuring children to violence."

Oh. So you're telling me that after a bunch of people get killed with guns the NRA is pointing the finger at video games? You think they don't have a horse in this race? Folks, that's like the liquor industry arguing that the most effective way to combat drunk driving is to regulate milk. A little critical thought would be nice.

One of the problems here is that lawmakers don't know their ass from a teakettle when it comes to games. They simply say "violent video games" without really understanding what that means. For instance:

"There have been reports that Mr. Blah Blah*, the Newtown gunman who killed himself after his rampage, liked World of Warcraft and other violent games, as do many young men."

Whoah, hold on... what the hell just happened there? What was the point of the "as do many young men" part of that sentence? Are you saying the guy is like many other young men, so don't blow the games thing out of context? Or are you intimating that there's a whole bunch of young men out there who are potential killers? Christ... you went to journalism school, didn't you? A little clarity would be nice.

Back to my original point, which was the part about how he "liked World of Warcraft and other violent games." Uhhh... anyone out there actually seen what WoW looks like?

Yeah, that's a regular murder simulator you're got there. If there's a way to sub-menu a person to death, this guy's primed to do it.

Come on. Please educate yourself on the issue.

"Studies on the impact of gaming violence offer conflicting evidence. But science aside..."

Sigh. This quote says so much. "You can have your science, but what you should really be listening to is my gut instinct..."

"Residents in Southington, Conn., 30 miles northeast of Newtown, went so far as to organize a rally to destroy violent games. (The event was canceled this week.)"

Well at least we didn't get all the way to book burning.

“I don’t let games like Call of Duty in my house,” Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said this week on MSNBC. “You cannot tell me that a kid sitting in a basement for hours playing Call of Duty and killing people over and over and over again does not desensitize that child to the real-life effects of violence.”

THAT'S WHY THERE'S A MATURE RATING ON THE BOX!!! WE'RE TELLING YOU NOT TO LET YOUR KID PLAY IT!!! Congratulations for being a parent who can read. No, really, bravo. By the way, you know who puts those ratings on the box? The games industry. And they did it on their own. You think that happened with films? FYI, the average age of a gamer is 35. It's not like they're shipping a free copy of Call of Duty and a package of Marlboro's with every Super Mario Brothers sale. Oh, and by the way:

"2009 research by the Federal Trade Commission [credited] game makers for going further than any other media group to shield children from inappropriate material. Major retailers like GameStop consistently refused to sell “mature” rated games to minors, the commission found, and game makers usually did not market them to children."

So yeah, there's that. We're deliberately trying not to put violent games in the hands of kids. The only thing that can get in our way is crappy parenting, but lord knows that's not going to be part of the argument. By the way... do any of you readers think the games industry has to do any of this? Actually, we don't:

"The industry’s biggest political asset may be the 2011 ruling by the Supreme Court that found restrictions on the sale of video games to be unconstitutional.

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, wrote that evidence linking games to violence was unpersuasive and that games had the same legal protection as violent literary classics like Grimm’s Fairy Tales or “Snow White.”"

So here's the summary: There's no conclusive evidence that violent games preclude children towards violent acts, but the games industry regulates itself anyway, even though the US Supreme Court says it doesn't have to. There is evidence however, that when people get shot to death there is a gun involved.

Take this opportunity to fix a problem, America. Don't squander it on rehashing an argument that a) has no scientific basis, b) is already being addressed, and c) has no direct relationship to the problem.

Perhaps surprisingly, the most salient quote in the entire article came from a Texas Republican:

"Representative Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, suggested that the focus on violent video games is misplaced. He called the games “a healthy form of education and entertainment for our family” and said ratings made it easy to keep inappropriate games from his children."

Hear hear.

*I don't think that splashing the media with the names of these mass murderers does anything to help the problem. In fact, I think it's partially why they do it; to gain a measure of fame in compensation for a life of anonymity. I'll be damned if I'm going to contribute by putting the guy's name in my blog.

Why is it that so many people don't remove the foil from packages of dip, cream cheese, sour cream, etc? They just kind of open it halfway and then leave the rest attached so that it stays there when they put the lid on, forcing them to laterally excavate dip from under the foil like a coal miner. Does that foil have some sort of magical properties I'm unaware of? Just remove the foil and enjoy unencumbered dip access!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Drinking in Your Television

Why is it that people in film and television never finish a drink unless it's supposed to say something? Here's the ways people handle a drink on TV, and how the scene invariably ends:

The Angst Drinker
Holds their beer/highball loosely, never really takes a sip. Probably plays with the label/straw and talks straight down into the bar, only occasionally turning to look at the person they're talking to. Deep thinking moment.

EXIT STRATEGY: Takes one actual sip, places the drink emphatically on the bar, then grabs their coat and leaves. Note: This person ALWAYS has a coat hanging folded on the back of their chair.

The Brief Conversationalist
This guy just drops by and is greeted with a "can I buy/get you a drink?" They accept the drink, have a 12 second conversation, and never touch their beverage.

EXIT STRATEGY: They just walk away, leaving the person who got them the drink stuck with the bill for something they never even tried to have a sip of. Note: Unlike real life, this person rarely gets punched in the face for being a dink.

The Casual Gathering Folk
This is any scene where a bunch of people are drinking. The drink is there simply to say "Hey, I'm enjoying some time with my friends." At no point will anyone actually drink from their glass. (See: Mother, How I Met Your).

EXIT STRATEGY: The scene simply ends, the alcohol is just a prop. Note: Sometimes a character raises their glass to their lips... this is an indication the camera will cut soon, as we will never actually see that drink make it all the way to their face. EXCEPTION: People drank their faces off on CHEERS.

The Perfect Changer
There's at least one empty on the table at the start of the scene, and they probably order another one before it's done. It will be served with less than 10 seconds left in the scene and they will never touch it.

EXIT STRATEGY: The perfect changer somehow is always able to finish the scene by reaching into their wallet, pulling out two crisp bills, and walking away. This guy is either the most generous tipper on the planet or a massive jerk. Note: Nobody in the history of film has ever paid for a drink using a credit or debit card except in the following scenarios: a) They are absolutely cranked and angry that their card has been declined, or b) They got cranked last night and left their card at the bar, then they go to retrieve it and adventures ensue.


The Non-Drinker
This person – generally a woman – "doesn't usually go out", but some stressful event (usually involving the workplace or an ex-lover) causes them to go out with their friends in an opening scene of the movie, wherein they finish their drinks. As a result they get way too drunk and make "a huge mistake", generally meaning they met the love of their life but don't realize it yet.

EXIT STRATEGY: Camera fades to black, immediately followed by them waking up with a raging hangover and not remembering what happened the night before. Note: Within 5 minutes their hangover will be a non-issue. This is forgivable, since otherwise the rest of the movie would be them shaking on their couch and wondering whether sticking their head into a cold bathtub would allow them to absorb the water straight into their brain.

The Alcoholic
Almost always a guy, he finishes his drink in every scene. Only alcoholics finish their drinks.

EXIT STRATEGY: Doesn't have one. Every scene ends with them having "another one", or with another character dragging them away against their will. Note: This person will either look like a hobo or a millionaire, there are no in-betweens. If they look like a regular person they'll have a drug problem, not an alcohol problem. EXCEPTION: Regular people can be recovering alcoholics, just not active alcoholics.

I actually don't care about the Canucks this year. Thanks NHL, for destroying 25 years of passion for my team.

Heeeeyyy... how you doing Whitecaps? You're looking mighty fine this evening...