Monday, January 15, 2018

And These Verizon Ads

I can't decide if this dude on the Verizon ads is supposed to be mocking Millennials or not. Maybe it's a picture of our distopian future, when we're all working for Millennial bosses who can't do anything right but think that they're totally awesome.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Oh, I Also Hate Apple Ads

Look, I'm all for a more-inclusive idea of beauty, but Apple seems to have the idea that they need to ugly up everyone before they let them in front of the camera. Or maybe it's just a result of Hipsters and Millennials uglying themselves up on their own, with Millennial Hipsters the worst offenders. I routinely see young men and young women around town that COULD be attractive if they weren't trying their best to look hideous. (Case in point: any woman in a romper.) But just about everyone in an Apple commercial makes me want to look away from the TV. Which, call me crazy, but I don't think that's the point of advertising.

I Hate These New Chevy Ads

We didn't have television for over 10 years until this past September, when our Internet provider gave us a package deal that costs less than Internet alone would cost. So now we have the basic 13 broadcast channels again. And one thing I've learned is that I completely hate these new Chevy ads.

They're the ones where the guy is standing around with a bunch of people who we're told aren't actors, and then he AMAZES them with something and we see their AMAZED reactions and then the ad ends. But here's the stupid part: he's never amazing them with some feature of a Chevrolet vehicle.

In one ad, he amazes them by opening a wall they didn't expect to open. They say, "Oh, wow!" But they aren't saying that about the CARS. In another ad, he amazes them by stacking cars in a pyramid. And in the one I've been seeing this week, he amazes people by springing long-lost relatives on them.

This seems like the ad agency is saying, "There is NOTHING special about these cars, so if we want to impress people, we're going to have to cheat." Then they show some people something they've never seen before and take advantage of good-natured people's willingness to say, "Oh, that's really something," when you show them something that you clearly think is impressive. Like when your five-year-old nephew shows you a lump of Lego bricks he's assembled.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Defending the Doers of Terrible Actions

The very idea of a YouTube celebrity is off-putting to me. I recently listened to a friend brief me on who PewDiePie is and the friend fell several levels in my estimation for knowing that crap. A few weeks ago while I was watching the video for "Handlebars" (yeah, I know it's 13 years old), I saw that another YouTube celebrity, Logan Paul, has created a song and video that is, let's just say, strikingly similar. (Here's Flobots' response.)

So I'm no fan of Logan Paul's. And you might think I'm happy to see him criticized this week for a video he uploaded that appears to show the body of a suicide victim. And I am, to an extent. But let's remain reasonable. Some critics are tweeting things like he's "a garbage person." It's that type of dehumanizing criticism that I want to oppose.

Remember when people could disagree without hinting that their opposition has no right to be alive? Let's criticize Logan Paul for his actual shortcomings (and there are PLENTY of those to keep us busy), but let's not generalize to arguments from inhumanity, especially in the supposed defense of humanity.

I saw one person tweet that they can't believe anyone is defending Logan Paul. There's a difference between defending what he DID and defending HIM. His actions might not deserve defense, but you don't have carte blanche against him as a person. The police will stop you from lynching the guilty driver who ran over a pedestrian, but that doesn't mean the police support running over pedestrians.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Not All Mormons Are Rich Mormons

Here's an article from a woman who's been wronged by a Mormon woman somewhere in her past.

The problem isn't that the things she's writing aren't real, it's that they are a subset of the overall ground, and a small subset at that. The problem with the Wasatch Front is that the share of these types of Mormons is larger there, but it's still not over 50%, unless you're in a ward of brand-new tract homes in Draper or Eagle Mountain.

When my wife was at BYU, she and her roommates talked about the types of men these girls attract as Condo Boys of America (CBAs) and the girls themselves as Condo Boys of America Girls (CBAGs). Provo was just starting to get uncomfortably full of them 20 years ago, and a big part of why BYU-Idaho is the preferred church school for some Mormons (including my family) is because of that. Rexburg is now what Provo was two generations ago.

So I get what Alice Gregory's describing and I get why it's undesirable. But nowhere in this article does she write, "A small group of Mormon women behaves this way." Instead, she basically writes, "This is what Mormon women are like."

Brigham Young said:

The worst fear that I have about [members of this Church] is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and his people, wax fat, and kick themselves out of the Church and go to hell. This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty, and all manner of persecution, and be true. But my greater fear for them is that they cannot stand wealth; and yet they have to be tried with riches.
Instagram has a lot of Mormons who cannot stand wealth, but that doesn't mean that Gregory should generalize her criticisms as much as she does. There are places in the world with higher proportions of Mormons than the Wasatch Front (like Rexburg, or Star Valley) that don't have the problems Gregory described. It's not a Mormon problem, it's a rich Mormon problem.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Christmas/Birthday/New Year's/Vacation/Medication Slow-Down

I'm just going to call a wrap on 2017 here. I've paid less attention to my blog for the past few weeks. This post's title gives the five reasons that's happened.

I have some good plans for 2018. Maybe we'll have to go back to calling this blog "A Random Stranger Is Kicking Life's Ass."

Thursday, December 28, 2017

My Take on "The Last Jedi"

Last week, I took my two oldest kids to see the new Star Wards movie. Then, having satisfied myself that it wouldn't be inappropriate for my 10-year-old son, I went back with him this week. (Tuesday matinees are half-price, and the two older kids had gift cards, so it's not like we're spending a ton of money on movie tickets.) So I've seen the movie twice, and I watched a bunch of YouTube reviews in between the two viewings. I had these thoughts after my second viewing.

Thar be spoilers ahead.

Most of the critical reviews I saw or read were focused on things like "we were promised we'd find out who Snoke is and instead he just died" or "we were promised we'd find out who Rey's parents are and instead they're nobodies." And I thought those complaints were warranted after one viewing, but now I don't feel that way. Because I think the way it took three times for us to get the truth about the Luke/Ben confrontation was priming us for an unreliable narrator. I now think we have to wait until the next movie to find out just how much of what we saw or were told in "The Last Jedi" turns out to be true.

Also, a lot of people are hung up on "The First Order is just the Empire with a different name," which was also something I thought after seeing "The Force Awakens." I thought, "It's pretty lame to just rerun the plot of 4-6, but it could have been a lot worse--they could have rerun the plot of 1-3!" But I now think that the First Order is an outside element that has conquered to Republic/Empire/Victorious Rebellion political entity. My evidence for that is the destruction of the capital in "The Force Awakens." (I thought it as Coruscant but a Reddit thread says the New Republic moved the capital off Coruscant.) Think of the difference between the barbarians that wanted to take over Rome versus those that wanted to destroy it. Those seeking to destroy were from completely outside the Roman social order, not just a segment of society that wanted to take over the structure. It would be a better explanation than "the Empire came back, but different," but it's not something we're going to get until we get an explanation of where Snoke came from, since he was leading the First Order. And I think we'll get that explanation, even if he's dead (but I don't know if he's really dead, because Darth Plagueis learned how to master death).

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Verbing of Nouns

I don't like when nouns get used as verbs, especially when there already exists a verb with an identical meaning. For instance, this Christmas season there's a television ad that says something like, "We'll give you two phones: one to gift, and one to keep." This new verb, "to gift," has no appreciable difference from the already-existing verb "to give."

In the past 10 years or so, the world of business has made a verb of the noun "task." So now, instead of "assigning" someone to do something, which sounds harsh and autocratic, we "task" someone to do something, which means the same thing, but hasn't had time yet to pick up the same negative connotations.*

The absolute worst is the verb "to utilize," which means, "I wanted to say 'to use' but I wanted to sound super smart at the same time."

Anyway, I was thinking today about the grammatical construction "I fooled you" and I realized with horror that the verb "to fool" probably began as the verbing** of the noun "fool." (Merriam-Webster's website says the noun "fool" is from the 13th century, but the verb "to fool" is from 1593, around 300-400 years later.) If we've been verbing nouns since the 1500s, I can't really get uppity about tasking someone to gift a phone and utilizing nouns to describe the action.

*: I suspect this is why we're constantly inventing new terms to refer to things like racial minorities and handicapped people. It used to be kind to call someone retarded. Now it's an insult. The problem isn't with the term, but with the mindset that wants to insult someone who is mentally handicapped. Instead of trying to change someone's mindset, which is hard, we just take the words away he's using to express himself and gain a respite until the new term carries the same connotations the old term had.

**: I'm using the noun "verb" as the verb "to verb" ironically. I would hope that's obvious, but you never know these days.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Quick Thanksgiving County Trip

The day after Thanksgiving, we drove around rural central Georgia. I got 24 new counties.

We wanted to stop for lunch, but the towns we were driving through had almost nothing. ("How DARE you?! Eat local, jackass!" Yeah, we tried that once, in Hanksville, Utah. We couldn't tell if the place was long-abandoned or currently open, the service was slower than the Chinese Internet, and the food was disgusting. Franchising allows for known quality levels, and franchisees are often local business-people, while the employees definitely are locals. So eating at a chain restaurant is eating local.) We were about to make do at a supermarket in Soperton, Georgia, but we pushed on. Eventually we ended up at a McDonald's in Louisville, Georgia. Aside from our time in China, when we ate at McDonald's about once each month, we are really not a McDonald's family. Our go-to food on driving trips is Subway or Chick-Fil-A. But all we could find in Louisville was McDonald's, so we stopped there.

I am aware that much of the following criticism of McDonald's makes me sound like an old man, but I'm going to share it, anyway.

The menu boards were all dynamic, so we had to stare at a board for 30 seconds to wait for the information we were reading to come back. Also, they were full of pictures of food, but not actually full of information needed to order said food. After several minutes of staring at the menu and not finding any useful information, we asked the clerk, "Does McDonald's not have a dollar menu anymore?" She turned and silently pointed to one of the menu boards. When it cycled around, we saw a short list of items. We asked, "It doesn't have cheeseburgers anymore?" She pointed to a picture of a cheeseburger next to the list of items. But the list didn't include a cheeseburger, and there was no indication anywhere that an item called a cheeseburger is available for purchase or how much money it costs. But aside from deficiencies such as that, the menu was LIT.

I'm not opposed to using a picture menu to order--that's how we ordered everything at McDonald's in China. But the Chinese picture menus featured everything for sale and listed prices. Also, the clerks in China spoke with us more more the clerk in America, even though (theoretically) we speak the same language as the American clerk (whether that is true in reality, sadly, we'll never know, as she maintained her vow of silence throughout our transaction).

AND...McDonald's is expensive now. If I want to pay $7 for a burger, I'm going to get a good one, not a McDonald's one.

Later, we ended up on this bridge.

Farther down the road, we stopped for gasoline in Abbeville, Georgia. The gas station attendant was a South-Asian woman who appeared to have immigrated very recently. She was very nervous about our interaction until the end, when she nailed a perfect, "Thank you, have a nice night!"

After hours of driving through the least-impressive parts of Georgia (read that again to understand just how damning the criticism it contains), we came upon the hometown of a friend of ours: Douglas, Georgia. We were prepared to be underwhelmed, but Douglas benefited heavily from the low expectations the rest of rural central Georgia had established, and we thought it was really nice.

The next day, some workers came to do something at our house. One of them saw the red mud on our car and said, "You look like you've been driving around in Georgia recently."

Desperation and Inspiration

I've been reading Revelations in Context lately, and a week or so ago I read one particular part that got me thinking. Of course, I can't find it now. It had something to do with the mother of an injured child being inspired how to care for him. When I first got to the account, I thought it was going to be about Amanda Smith and her son Alma's hip, but it wasn't. Anyway, at the time I thought, "The similarities are interesting."

A few days later, when I woke up, I was thinking about the role that desperation plays in inspiration. Unfortunately, we often don't rely on God until all our other options have been exhausted. Desperate Nephi "was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which [he] should do." Desperate Moses parted the Red Sea. Desperate Gideon, desperate Abraham, desperate Elisha, desperate Nephi (son of Nephi)--the scriptures are lousy with tales of miracles brought about by faith brought about by desperation.

I think of when Jesus told the Nephites, "Blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me.... And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words...." It seems you could blend these ideas together with the paraphrasing, "That's great when you are desperate enough to have miraculous faith, but it would be even better if you could have miraculous faith without the desperation."

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Things As They Really Are

We've had kids who take video games so seriously that they sometimes get to enjoy a video game ban. At least once, before returning to video game action the kid had to read and discuss David A. Bednar's talk "Things As They Really Are."

Our youngest seems to be on the same path. He woke up this morning and I said, "Good morning, [Screamapilar]." He said nothing in return, but he then said to our older kid's stuffed dolphin Splash, "Good morning, Splashy."

I said, "You won't say hi to your father but you'll say hi to a pretend animal?" He said, "Splash is real." I said, "No, he's a collection of fabric and stuffing fashioned by a Chinese political dissident. Relationships with real people matter. Your parents and your siblings are real. Focus on those relationships first. Then, if you still have emotional bandwidth remaining, go ahead and have a relationship with a stuffed animal."

The saddest part of this is that I think our kids are way better than other kids their age when it comes to screen time, social media, and living in the real world. The inability of other families to limit their children's digital addictions is so bad that it's made libertarian me think, "There might be some wisdom in banning children from cell phones."

Monday, December 11, 2017

Pittsburgh's Bad-Luck Charm

I'm responsible for the Steelers almost losing their game last night. Let me explain.

I know American football is terrible, but I grew up a Steelers fan, so I still take an interest when they are playing. For most of the past 16 years, I haven't had access to much live sports on television, but with the advancement of online streaming and with our ISP giving us TV access as a package deal this year, I can watch any game that's not on the NFL Network. But I also know I'm not supposed to watch football on Sundays, so I don't get to see very many Steelers games. Last week they were on Monday night*, so my sons and I got to watch a man potentially become paralyzed for life, which was a real treat for us.

Yesterday, the Steelers were the Sunday night game. After we got our kids to bed, I was sitting around, marking our recent travels on our county-tracking maps, and I thought, "I could be watching the game while doing this." Of course, I knew I shouldn't, but I'm an idiot, so I turned it on.

The Steelers had scored the first 14 points of the game. When I turned the game on, Baltimore was adding an extra point to their first touchdown. So Baltimore didn't score at all until I thought, "I should turn the game on."

Then I watched the game for two quarters. By the end of the third quarter, Baltimore was winning, 31-20. My wife asked, "How much longer are you going to stay up?" I said, "I should turn this off because while I've been watching the Steelers went from winning by 14 to losing by 11." My wife said, "Hurry up and turn it off so they can win."

My wife is a very superstitious sports fan, having been raised by a very superstitious sports fan. So she wasn't kidding or make a lame excuse to get me to turn the game off. She really wanted to influence the game, and she knew God was cursing my team for me watching the game on a Sunday.

So I turned it off. We went upstairs and got ready for bed. I checked the score on my Kindle, and the Steelers had scored nine points, and were attempting a two-point conversion to tie the game. But while I watched the update, the conversion failed, then failed again after a Baltimore penalty led to a do-over. I told my wife, "The Steelers have scored nine points and are only losing by two now." She said, "Good job, it's working." I said, "I want to go watch the rest of the game." She said, "Don't do that, they'll lose. Just go to bed."

So I went to bed. And when I woke up this morning and checked the score, the Steelers had won, 39-38.

Dividing the game into two parts, the part I watched and the part I didn't watch (or check the score), ends up like this:

While I Watched: Baltimore 25, Pittsburgh 6.

While I Didn't Watch: Pittsburgh 33, Baltimore 13.

* = "Monday night is Family Night, fool!" Yeah, except my daughter has Girl Scouts every-other Monday night, so when that happens, we have Family Night on Sunday night. Last week was a Family-Night-less Monday night because of Girl Scouts, so my sons and I started watching the game while my wife and daughter were gone for Girl Scouts. We watched until the final possession of the first half, when Cincinnati was winning 17-0. We turned it off, sent the kids to bed, and then my wife and I went to my office to make exam copies. (Unfortunately, "exam copies" is not a euphemism for "adult shenanigans.") The Steelers ended up winning that game, too, 23-20. Similarly dividing that game produces this:

While I Watched: Cincinnati 17, Pittsburgh 0.

While I Didn't Watch: Pittsburgh 23, Cincinnati 3.