Friday, April 30, 2010

"Rockin' the Suburbs"

Title courtesy of Ben Folds's song from Over the Hedge.

Live, tonight, in College Park, Maryland, Ben Folds and Weezer. Expect a boring, disjointed review tomorrow.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mailbag, Followers Edition

First, a note on the previous introductions: in older blog posts Super-Hot 111 was known as Persephone. Not because she's the queen of the underworld or because she's always portrayed as robed (in fact, I like her best when she's unrobed), but because it was the first non-real name I came up with one day when I was typing about her. I changed her blog name a few weeks ago in this post.

Tiffany asks:

Does it ever bother you that random people like me read about your life and family? Does it cause you to censor what you write about?

I like having stranger followers. My wife is a little more leery of it, and her slight paranoia is the reason for the blog nicknames. But unlike people who use their blog to stay in contact with friends and family, I actually try to keep my friends and family away from my blog.

I'd say I'm more likely to censor my blog content due to people I know in real life reading my blog. Just this week I've been thinking about a blog post that I'd like to write that would probably seem slightly interesting to my stranger followers but embarrassing or awkward to my real-life followers.

One thing I do tone down a bit, I think, is religion talk. God and I have a sometimes-strained relationship, and I think my family and friends understand that, but strangers might not get what I'm trying to say. For the most part, I just steer clear of the topic entirely.

But, on the whole, stranger followers allow me to believe I really am as exciting of a person as I'd like to think I am.

Family Introduction

For the first long time I had this blog, I only had about four readers (Angela, Cristin, Leslie, and my wife), all of whom knew my family well. However, I've recently picked up a bunch of followers from who-knows-where, and some introductions might be in order.

I'm A Random Stranger. I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and that's why my blog sidebar tells you about the Pirates, Steelers, and Penguins. I moved to Los Angeles when I was very young, and met my wife when I was six. We got married (not right away), had two kids, moved to Kansas, had another, and now live in Virginia. I'm a doctoral student in economics. I've been a city planner, a GIS analyst, a teacher, a phone surveyor, a stock boy, a landscaper, an editorialist, and a paper boy.

My wife is Super-Hot 111. She was born and raised in California, went to college, Dear-Johned me when I was a missionary, then realized I was the best of her remaining options and agreed to marry me. She homeschools our kids and has her own blog here.

Our daughter is Crazy Jane. She's completely nuts. She's almost eight and really enjoys reading. Since my wife and I keep records of the books we read, she started her own list this week. She's already closing in on 1,000 pages, which means in a year she'll been around 40,000 pages. (My wife and I only reached 21,000 in our best years.)

Our oldest son is Articulate Joe. He was born on our three-year wedding anniversary. His first blog nickname was Mumbly Joe because he had delayed speech issues, but after some speech therapy he started talking pretty well, so I upgraded his moniker. He loves sports of all kinds and is learning to read right now. He turned six this week.

Our youngest son is Jerome Jerome the Metronome. He had heart surgery when he was three weeks old to widen a narrow aortic valve, and his heart has been working pretty well ever since then. He talks pretty well (in between Crazy Jane's full conversations when she was two years old, and Articulate Joe's grunts and shrieks when he was two) and loves many of the same things his older brother loves, like trains, planes, cars, dogs, and sports.

Our entire family loves sports. Through strange happenings that would bore nearly all of you, we've picked up quite disparate allegiances. In baseball our hierarchy runs like this:

  1. Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Red Sox
  2. Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, and Kansas City Royals
  3. Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves
In football it's:
  1. Pittsburgh Steelers
  2. New England Patriots
In hockey it's:
  1. Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings
  2. Anaheim Ducks
  3. Vancouver Canucks
In basketball it's just the Los Angeles Clippers. In college sports, it's:
  1. Super-Hot 111's undergraduate university
  2. A Random Stranger's graduate university
  3. Super-Hot 111's father's graduate university
  4. A Random Stranger's father's university
Of course some of these sports teams are on the list because my wife likes them, even though I hate them (Atlanta Braves and her father's graduate university, for instance).

We keep track of the states, counties, state capitols, and state high points we visit. Currently I've been to 34 states, 1,182 counties, 23 capitols, and 2 state high points.

That's all I can think of. If you have any additional questions, feel free to leave them in the comments (in non-foreign characters with no links) and I'll answer them.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"I Grab a Dog, And I Choke Him"

Title courtesy of the cinematic tour de force Friday (coming soon to TCM!).

Today is my oldest son's birthday, and for his party last weekend we tried to combine two things he loves, sports and dogs, so he got...


The piñata was inside because it was raining, but the kids still got to beat a dog with a baseball bat.

Why Any Coming Republican Majority Is Still Going to Suck Ass

Congressional Republicans remain afraid to oppose Democrats on substantive ideas. Democrats come up with horrible ideas and Republicans show their opposition by calling for 75% of the horrible idea over twice as long of a period.


  • "Health "care "reform,""" where no nationally-prominent Republican challenged the notion that Congress needed to pass a regulatory bill.
  • Tax "reform," where Republicans are all starting from the first principle of revenue generation instead of fairness and freedom.
  • The Goldman Sachs show trial, where senators from both sides of the aisle are grandstanding at the expense of a company that did nothing illegal, or even wrong. What Goldman Sachs did, basically, was think the 2007 financial system was out of whack, find people who disagreed, and enter contracts with those dissenters wherein each party would make money if he turned out to be right.
  • Financial regulation, where both parties agree that of all parties involved in the 2008 meltdown only government was blameless. There is no discussion of the fact that government gave everyone their incentives (and often mandates) to originate irresponsible mortgages. Of the two parties involved (government and Wall Street), the appropriate oversight bill would increase Wall Street's regulation of government, but instead we're going to get something going the other way.

Why is this happening? Because Republicans are so completely afraid of being branded the Party of No. As if "no" is never an appropriate response. When friends suggest a game of Russian roulette, is it better to refuse, or to propose playing the game for half as long using a revolver with more chambers?

Half-measures serve the Democrat agenda because they create instability that can only be solved by either repudiation of the measure or implementation of the missing half. Guess which direction the arrow of government points? Remember that the first problem in health care costs was the creation of HMOs. How many of this year's "reform" proposals suggested ending HMOs?

This was the reality that the Tea Party movement wanted to oppose. Instead, the Tea Party has been coopted into being either the grass-roots branch of the Republican Party (macro view), or Sarah Palin's personal political action committee (micro view).

The 2012 Republican campaign is going to be between Sarah Palin (sucks), Mitt Romney (sucks), and Mike Huckabee (sucks it hard). I'm not a big Ron Paul supporter, but I think the Republican Party would do well to stop trying to drive him out for making uncomfortable observations. My current political man-crush is on Rep. Paul Ryan. But before the presidential election is a congressional election that is not going to change a thing, no matter which party comes to power.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Grammar-Related Pun Goes Here

I'm just not putting in the effort these days. I wanted to come up with a fun play on words regarding grammar and all I could think of before giving up was "Grambo," for "Grammar Rambo." And although I've never seen a Rambo movie, I memorized all their ads to make myself conversant in all things Rambo with my classmates who DID see Rambo movies, in theaters, even though we were only in FIRST GRADE, and I remember one scene where someone asks Rambo on the phone, "Who are you?!" and Rambo coolly croaks, "I'm your worst nightmare."

Speaking of worst grammar nightmares, what the hell is the deal with people saying "try and"? As in:

KIP: Try and hit me, Napoleon.


KIP: I said come down here and see what happens if you try and hit me.

Contrast that to:

TOM JONES: Try to remember the kind of September / When life was slow and oh, so mellow.

Which one makes more sense? Tom Jones is asking you to try to do something, while Kip Dynamite's inclusion of "try" is meaningless because it's followed up with "and do something." Well, of course anything I do I tried to do first, so why not just ask Napoleon to hit him? Why include "try" at all?

The important part is that you want the person to try. Kip is telling Napoleon that his trying will be unsuccessful, but his sentence construction indicates the trying will be followed by the actual doing; that is, the trying will meet with success.

In closing, from the grammar mailbag (yes, we sort our mail here at A Random Stranger), Gayle suggests another noun/verb stress-shifting word: project. What is weird is that I had that word on my list when typing it up, but when I looked at it I couldn't imagine the difference, so I ignored it. Then I read Gayle's comment and it made immediate sense to me. So kudos to Gayle for not being thrown off by the wily ways of English words.

project (noun) -- PRA-ject

project (verb) -- pro-JECT

I used the screen to project the project for the class.

This is another word that stresses the first syllable for the noun and the second syllable for the verb. And I'm sure it's just a coincidence, but half of these words start with the letter P.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Language Lessons

"Inspired words form a man who knows how to ski."

But seriously, I pay attention to things like this, and then I make small notes to myself, which I then find lying all over, so even though I've blogged about some of these words before, I'm still including them here in an attempt to clean up my desk's "incoming mail" box (which is really just a junk box). These words are those that change stress or pronunciation when used as different parts of speech.

coordinate (noun) -- co-ORD-i-net

coordinate (verb) -- co-ORD-i-nate

We need to coordinate when we type in the coordinate.

subject (noun) -- SUB-ject

subject (verb) -- sub-JECT

I would like to subject you to further blog posts on this subject.

permit (noun) -- PER-mit

permit (verb) -- per-MIT

My parents will not permit me to drive without my learner's permit.

proceed (noun) -- PRO-ceed

proceed (verb) -- pro-CEED

You should proceed to give the unsuccessful fundraiser's lone proceed to charity.

alternate (noun) -- AL-ter-net

alternate (verb) -- AL-ter-nate

Since both team members were named as alternate, they will alternate.

present (noun) -- PRE-sent

present (verb) -- pre-SENT

I will present you with a present.

object (noun) -- OB-ject

object (verb) -- ob-JECT

I object to that object.

Aside from the two that end in "-ate," they all have stressed first syllables when nouns and stressed last syllables when verbs.

One that isn't a noun/verb change is the noun/adjective change of the word "invalid." The invalid had an invalid hall pass. If you come across any others, I'd be more than happy to hear about them.

While I'm at it, I'm also fascinated by the words "prophesy" and "prophecy." The difference is the pronunciation of the final VOWEL noise, but the spelling change is the final CONSONANT. Those two consonants, though, are pronounced the same in both words.

Also of note is the word "polish," which changes pronunciation when the first letter is capitalized. Totally nuts.

Finally, I have a question for you. My great-uncle was named Theodore, and as a nickname people would just call him by the first syllable of that name. However, in English we no longer have separate letters for the voiced and unvoiced "TH" noises (voiced: "eth" đ; unvoiced: "thorn" þ), so there is no way to spell this name. THE and THEE are already used for words with voiced "TH" sounds. So how would you spell that if it were your name? (If it were me, I would totally start rockin' the thorn again, and since it's now my youngest son's middle name, I might get to live vicariously through him.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tea Party: Born 2009, Died 2010

I went to the Tea Party Tax Day rally in Washington DC tonight. I took Articulate Joe with me because he wanted to ride the Metro.

I had never been to a Tea Party event before, and it looks like I missed my window. What was once a grass-roots movement of Americans frustrated with BOTH major parties has been co-opted by Republicans. Some of tonight's speakers were former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (who was majority leader of the house that starts all spending bills during a time that government spending grew by 50 percent), and some crazy lady from a political action committee who told us we needed to contribute money to Republican campaigns, then she led the crowd in singing "God Bless America" (and trust me, this lady had NO business singing within 400 yards of an open microphone).

The absolutely worst speaker in the history of America, though, had to be Andrew Breitbart. I'd been to his website before as the result of other people linking to news stories there. It turns out that, in person, he is:

  • either incredibly drunk or incredibly high
  • given to moving the microphone around for no reason at all
  • unconcerned with such formalities as coherence
  • unafraid to bring the profanity to a family-friendly event
Ron Paul came out and made me smile when he suggested, "We should just repeal the year 1913." He made the case for a commodity-backed currency, a policy for which I'll always have a soft spot in my heart. But Paul's foreign policy seems to ignore the reality of September 11th. I came away wanting to learn more about his foreign policy ideas, mainly to see if they are as nuts as they seem.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Freaky Uterus

Ladies talk all the time about whether or not a pregnant lady is showing. "Oh, you're barely showing! You're so lucky!" Like it's some sort of indication that the lady isn't fat or something.

Really it's an indication that she has a misformed uterus. Last week we bought a cheapo atlas of the human body at Borders (visit your local Borders while you still can!) and I learned this:

Regardless of the uterine position it will normally bend forwards as it expands in pregnancy. A pregnant retroverted uterus, however, may take longer to reach the pelvic brim, at which point it becomes palpable abdominally.
Translation: "All you ladies who don't show until your eighth month have freaky uterii." But you don't hear ladies going around saying, "Congrats on your deformed uterus! You're so lucky!"

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Dropped From a Dream, I Don't Know What I Know"

Title courtesy of Superdrag's "Garmonbozia".

I woke up this morning and my brain was already contrasting two things:

  • 1. The scene in Summer School when Dave and Chainsaw write their 100-word essay on "Who We Admire Most in the World and Why" (starting at 3:55 here)
  • 2. The chorus to Bryan Adams's "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Calling the Cops

So it turns out I'm the kind of dick who calls the police when his neighbors have a party. HOWEVER, comma, that was not my first option.

First time: I opened the window and said, "It's two o'clock. Will you guys be quiet?" One of them said, "We's just talkin' 'bout the swine flu."

Second time: I opened the window and said, "It's two o'clock on a Monday morning." The swine flu guy said, "Is it really? I didn't know." I said, "Yeah, I can tell you're a real responsible, contributing member of society."

Third time: I opened the window and said, "It's two o'clock." One of the guys said, "We're sorry," while the swine flu guy said, "This guy did this same thing to me last week." I said, "A reasonable person would learn something from that." He said, "Shut up." I said, "If you won't be quiet for me, do I need to call someone else?" His friend said they'd be quiet.

After that, it was an issue for the cops. We've lived next to a lot of inconsiderate neighbors, and I always try to talk to them on my own. (When we moved into this place, the rental lady made a huge deal about how we were never supposed to confront a neighbor about his behavior, to always call the police instead.) The only times I've called the police is when they told me they weren't going to change their behavior.

Last week it was at 3:30, and last night it was at 2:30. A little later, the K-9 unit showed up. I was hoping it would smell drugs and they'd all get taken away in the paddy wagon, but sadly, that didn't happen.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Old People Are Old Because God Is Trying to Kill Them

He's just not being fast enough about it.

Tyler Cowen has a blog post with a link to this news story which highlights the absolute demographic nightmare our social democracies now face. How can you give pensions to people who don't have children? Where do they think the money comes from?

Most people would probably say it comes from what they paid in while they were working. That's ridiculous. The "Social Security trust fund" is nothing but Treasury bonds left when Treasury took the money. Now Social Security needs to start cashing the bonds, but Treasury isn't exactly awash in cash. (A professor of mine made the point a few weeks ago, "We used to call it the treasury because that was where the king kept his treasure." Maybe now we should call it the Debtury.)

In a previous post about Bernanke's three choices--1) higher taxes 2) lower benefits 3) less government spending, to which I added 4) death squads, and Justin added 5) Soylent Green--I didn't even bother to mention how each is politically untenable. There are two ways to respond to government austerity: suck it up like Lithuania (where they were prepared for government failure by 50 years of communism), or riot while yelling, "No sacrifices!" like Greece. Any guess how privileged Baby Boomers will respond?

Maybe just in time, Soylent Green is being remade. I sure hope old people are tasty.

It's time to tell old people that, if they can go on a cruise, they can go to an office.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Pretty Soon You're Talking About Real Money

Is there anyone in America who still needs convincing that their elected officials are all parasites? (According to this poll, about 18.5% still do, I guess.) An infamous "quote" from Senator Everett Dirksen says, "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money." (While it is unproved Dirksen ever said this, he has been quoted as saying he liked the quote enough to not clear up the mistake.)

On Bryan Caplan's blog he quotes Ronald Coase with a startling example of just how these "paltry" government sums relate to real-world figures:

An economist who, by his efforts, is able to postpone by a week a government program which wastes $100 million a year (what I would consider a modest success) has, by his action, earned his salary for the whole of his life.

The common argument for why we have things like sugar tariffs is that the sugar tariff costs us each only a few dollars each year, while it enriches domestic sugar (and corn) producers by billions. Who has more incentive to fight over it? But I don't understand why all waste and graft can't be fought as one package. Surely the sum of all government corruption does impact us each enough to make the fight worthwhile. I read this week about Indians giving "zero rupee" notes in response to bribe solicitation, and how it is reducing the instances of bribery. Assuming a similar "grass-roots-level" campaign against government spending is necessary in the US (since electing a "low-spending candidate" does no good when he takes office and is lobbied by entrenched interests), what can we do to fight not just low-priority costs like the sugar tariff, but the high-priority cost of government profligacy?

I stole this picture from the PowerPoint presentation of one of my professors, who steals his pictures with reckless abandon, so its original source could be anywhere. The point is, the president's 2010 budget projects a 2011 deficit of 101% of GDP. Built into this projection is

  • GDP growth of 3.8% (well above our historical average, and double CBO's prediction)
  • a deficit-neutral health care bill (which is only so by deceitful accounting, not by actually spending less money)
Forgive me when I expect the projected 101% number to actually be much higher next year. As a reminder, the Greek debt-to-GDP percentage is 113%. There's just something about owing more money than you make in a year that gives your creditors the heebie-jeebies. It looks like we in America will soon find that out first-hand.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

There're Just So Many Options

Ben Bernanke, our nation's sole bearded public official, said in Dallas this week: "To avoid large and unsustainable budget deficits, the nation will ultimately have to choose among higher taxes, modifications to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, less spending on everything else from education to defense, or some combination of the above."

Well, duh. Was he conducting a mic check, or was he hoping to tell people something they didn't already know? As president of the anti-AARP, I would like to remind you of my organization's central tenet, which is that old people will destroy this country.

Where I disagree with Bernanke is in his lack of vision. He only gives us three options. Personally, I advocate a fourth option: liquidate the old people with roving death squads. (Hey, I told you I was president of the anti-AARP.)

The standard old-people blog-post ending applies: It's time to tell old people that, if they can go on a cruise, they can go to an office.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Police Action on Terror Becomes the War on Citizens

So non-citizen terrorists get trials, but citizen terrorists get assassinated?

Poll question: does President Obama govern by drawing slips of paper out of a hat?

Poll Question

The question: do I look as goofy as the guy across from me in the library right now?

I realize many of you don't know what I look like (although I have a pretty standard bust shot in my sidebar), and NONE of you know what the guy in the library looks like, but I can't really take his picture without it being pretty obvious, so just answer the question, "Is A Random Stranger a below-average or above-average goofy-looking guy?"

Seriously, leave a comment with your vote.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Secret to a Successful Blog

I gathered more followers in March than ever before. Is it coincidence that March was the month where I phoned it in for two weeks, running "greatest hits" posts because I was too busy/depressed/vacationing to write new material?

The secret to successful blogging is obvious: don't provide new material. And so tomorrow I will begin writing blog posts consisting solely of expired Craigslist ads.

Monday, April 05, 2010

In the Ghetto

When we were living in Kansas, unsure where we were moving, we researched a lot of cities on Most of the city pages had at least one discussion thread where people argued about whether a particular neighborhood is dangerous or just filled with minorities. The back-and-forth usually went like this:

First Commenter: Don't live in [neighborhood] or you'll get shot.

Second Commenter: That's not true. I live in [said neighborhood] and feel perfectly safe.

First Commenter: A buddy of mine almost died in [said neighborhood].

Second Commenter: You're only saying that because you think [said neighborhood] is filled with [racial minorities] and you're racist.

Of course, it is this type of neighborhood that is attractive to me, because it's the type we can afford to live in. When we finally knew where we were moving, we read the appropriate city-data discussion page and learned that we would either 1) be shot dead within weeks, or 2) be living next to Hispanics.

The Hispanic part has turned out to be true, but not the shooting. In fact, the biggest problem in our neighborhood is the young unmarried white people who treat their porches and balconies like stages for the production of their life drama. The people behind us wait until 2:30 am (half an hour after our bedtime) to smoke and argue on their balcony. Yesterday afternoon we had to close our back windows because the people under them were having an argument that included the line, "She said I had sex with Leah, but I didn't!" Our neighbors have midnight life-coaching sessions on their back patio which feature advice such as, "When he gonna act like he don't see you, you gotsta act the same way back. Thas how it's played." A few months ago I yelled at some people who were yelling in their backyard at 3 am and their defense was, "We was just talking about the swine flu." (For the proper inflection, imagine "swine flu" said like Allen Iverson says "Practice.")

I should update our neighborhood's city-data page to reflect the fact that it's the white trash contingent that is really dragging the place down.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Staying Awake During Conference

This morning, during the Sunday Morning session of the 180th General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, told what he said was a traditional Jewish story. I'm paraphrasing here, since the transcript won't be available until Thursday, but he said two relatives decided to split a harvest. One felt the other deserved more, so he snuck out in the night and moved a third of his own pile to that of his relative. Then the relative felt the same way, so he did the same. President Uchtdorf said in the morning, they were both surprised to see their piles about the same as before, so they decided to do it again the next night, when they ran into each other and understood what was happening.

While my wife (who I decided is getting a new blog name of Super-Hot 111) was peacefully dozing, I thought, "The first pile would be bigger." So I spent the rest of the session working on the math problem, and here's what I got.

If each starts with 1, after the first night the first guy has 1.11 and the second has 0.88. As this continues, the first guy's share is the infinite sum:

This series converges to 1.2, so the first fellow ends up with 1.2 and the second 0.8.

This did such a good job helping me stay awake that I'm thinking of giving Super-Hot 111 some math problems to work on during the final session.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

A Boarding School Book I Can Get Behind

Last week I read Looking for Alaska, a book set at a boarding school in Alabama. It was all right, I guess. I wrote a bit of a longer review on Hardcore Literature, my book review blog, but lately I've been trying to do some other things with my time, so instead of a longer review for each book, I recently put up a single post covering all the books I've read this past quarter.

Yesterday in the library when I should have been studying monetary disequilibrium, I browsed through the literature section. I saw A Separate Peace by John Knowles and I thought, "I've heard of that book and I think I've heard it was good," so I checked it out. I started it today and, even though I'm only a third of the way finished, I've got to say I think it's really good. If you've been thinking about reading a book set at a boarding school and you couldn't decide which one to go with, take my advice and read A Separate Peace.

Friday, April 02, 2010


This is Gay Pride week at my school. Small signs have been posted along the sidewalks as a sort of Gay Walk of Fame. Each sign begins "We're proud of" and then names an accomplished homosexual, giving an outline of his achievements.

I know there's a debate about whether gayness is a trait or a choice. I think it can be both. Looking at my own life, I can see plenty of things that were not of my own choosing, but I choose how to respond.

For instance, when my internal calibration of attractiveness is assigning women a score on a 100-point scale, it spots redheaded women 10 points. Sort of like a Ginger Affirmative Action, I guess. I didn't decide to do it. I didn't even notice it at first. In 7th grade I like I redhead named Marta. In 10th grade I liked one named Sara. By the time I dated a redhead in college, I realized her hair was part of what I liked.

Now I'm married to a non-redhead, and I have to choose how I respond to this trait I've been stuck with. How I don't respond is by making this trait the central feature of my persona, erecting memorial signs lauding the tastes of Desi Arnaz and Roger Rabbit.

(NOTE: spotting redheads 10 points doesn't make any difference when your wife is a super-hot 111. Just so everyone is clear on that.)

Maybe there's something to feting those who "follow their gay dreams," so to speak, and don't let Society (represented by Billy in Chrissy Taylor's book The Puppy Who Lost His Way) keep them down. But why don't we celebrate those who follow their heterosexual dreams, like Wilt Chamberlain, Tiger Woods, or Geraldo Rivera? Society keeps down a lot of people, some for good reason.

It seems to me there are two types of gay men: Perez Hilton (Mario Lavandeira) and Neal Patrick Harris. Lavandeira makes gayness a critical component of a persona, while Harris lives a life while being gay. Those are very different things, in my book. I worked with a gay guy of the Harris variety, and we got along great. Probably because there was something there to get along with, but strip Lavandeira of his gayness and what's left?

I remember a scene on The Simpsons when Homer gets a phone call from Julio and says, "The gay guy?" Julio says, "Hey, that's not all I am! Well, that's a lot of who I am." Things like Gay Pride week and the Gay Walk of Fame seem to be designed by gay men like Julio. If they made an effort to be something other than just gay, they might actually have something to be proud about.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Nerd Drama

All dramatic entertainment seems to involve a race against the clock. Otherwise, the drama would be never ending? "Is he going to beat the bad guys today? If not, maybe tomorrow."

There are two basic types of activity that the good guy has to accomplish before time runs out. One is physical, the other is mental.

A way to tell if you're watching physical drama or mental drama is to ask yourself, "Is the main character going to have to think his way out of a problem?" If the answer is, "Yes," you're watching mental drama, and if the answer is, "No, he's going to have to math his way out," you're watching nerd drama.

Think of Walker, Texas Ranger, where the central question every week was, "How much time does Walker have to kick some ass?" (Answer: always enough.) Now compare that to an episode of Bones I watched recently with the Mrs., wherein Hodgins had to encode a soil sample in a text message which Zach (who I always hated) had to decode before Hodgins and Brennan DIED. Nerd drama, cleverly disguised at the end by Booth running to dig the car out of the quarry.

I think the amount of nerd drama I've been watching lately has increased. Is this because I'm becoming more nerdy? Probably, given that my criticisms of nerd drama has become nerdier. (Not like Liz Lemon's future husband criticizing the thermal properties of the eponymous hot tub in Hot Tub Time Machine, but close.) For instance, nerd drama always includes characters saying some smart-speak that really just means "we're not done nerding it up yet." This increases exponentially with the number of characters possessing PhDs.

I noticed this tendency early in my life. When my younger brother was little he watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which had a character named Donatello who needed weekly to "reverse the polarity" of stuff. Whatever the problem, Donatello beat it by reversing the polarity. You'd think the turtles lived on a planet made of magnets. (You'd be wrong: they lived in a sewer with a rat sensei.)

Last weekend, as an indication of just how badly I want to fail out of my program, I spent two hours watching 2012. During the climactic nerding scene, the main character (a geologist PhD) tells one of his nerd underlings, "I need to re-analyze the data."

Seriously? That's all you've got? In the world of geologic cataclysm the nerdiest thing you can say is "re-analyze the data"? Why not something like, "I need to check for intrusive igneous bodies in the lithosphere"? Of all the reasons to hate 2012, the patent phoning-in of the nerd-speak is my most cherished.