Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Best Brittle Blonde Girl Who Might Look Sexy But Is Probably Kind Of Mean... (My Dad Can Beat Up Your Dad!)

What's this? Click here for an explanation.

Today's Fight:

Sara Paxton


Reese Witherspoon

Explaining the matchup: For a long time, it's been generally known that Hollywood, once it hits on a good thing, simply clones that good thing over and over. Most people thought that applied only to action movies, remakes done by Drew Barrymore, and sitcoms in which an annoyingly good-looking group of people appear to have inherited tons of money and consequently have nothing to do but sit around.

(Seriously: The Kardashians work harder than anyone on Happy Endings! or Friends ever did.)

Who knew, though, that Hollywood applied that also to blondes? It doesn't really matter is Sarah Paxton actually is genetically identical to Reese Witherspoon, just as it doesn't matter if somewhere in or around LA there is a giant warehouse filled with vats of as-yet-sleeping sexy blond young ingenues all of whom look like Reese Witherspoon...

... wait, where was I?

What matters is that as of now, there are two Reese Witherspoons on the pop culture scene, and one of them can kill a shark.

So which one is better? Which one is The Best? Let's examine them:

The Backgrounds: As I've pointed out on here time and time again, actors are not acting at all. They're playing themselves. (Or trying out versions of themselves.) That's why my past habits of assuming that actors' roles defined their life stories actually made sense. So to determine the relative strengths of each of these woman, I look no further than to their movie/TV resumes.

As the challenger, Sarah Paxton goes first:

Sara is obviously a master of deception -- her first role was as a child at school in Liar, Liar, but her powers don't stop there. She's got some kind of Welsh occult background as a result of doing the voice of Charlotte in "Koudelka," a videogame that revolves around someone burning prostitutes' bodies in a monastery in Wales, which makes it pretty much the exact opposite of "Frogger," (in that Frogger had nothing to do with prostitution, burning corpses, or Wales.)

Sara may be a shapechanger -- she's played several fish on SpongeBob Squarepants, but was revealed to be a mermaid in 2006's Aquamarine, a kids' movie in which a prostitute's dead body... wait, wrong notes... in which Emma Roberts found Sara living in the family swimming pool, and ultimately had to make the decision to let Sara go by urging her to jump over the promontory and swim out to sea as a stirring Michael Jackson song played. (I'm hypothesizing, here, as 42-year-old men who rent movies like Aquamarine end up on all the wrong kinds of lists.)

In case there was any doubt that Sara is really AquaGirl, there's this latest:

In which Sara takes on Intelligent Lake Sharks and wins. (I'm assuming, as 42-year-old men who have access to bootleg copies of movies before they're released end up getting sued.)

So, to sum up: Sara Paxton is half-shark.


Then there's Reese Witherspoon's strengths. Although she began as a possibly-meek girl who faced trouble when she broke up with a psychotic Marky Mark in Fear, Reese soon moved into her own by developing supernatural powers -- she was able to enter TV sets in Pleasantville -- and also is deceptively intelligent, having worked for both the government in some capacity (Election) and graduated law school (Legally Blond) and the government again (Legally Blond II.)

Her life as some sort of X-Files-ish government agent took a twist when Reese died (Just Like Heaven) and came back first as someone who dates monsters (Four Christmases) and then as an actual monster (Monsters v. Aliens)

Now, Reese is wandering the world in the company of other supernatural monsters.

To sum up: Reese Witherspoon is an undead government agent with supernatural abilities.


How do we know they're really not the same person?

We don't. Given that both of them are either shapeshifters or supernatural beings, there's no guarantee of that. Especially when you consider this ominous entry from Sara Paxton's IMDB entry:

Lizzie McGuire (TV series)
Election (2001) … Holly

Secret hidden weapons:

You would think that neither a mermaid nor a ghost would need a secret hidden weapon, but you'd think wrong (as usual; you're not very good at thinking, are you?)

Reese's hidden secret weapon is:

She once did a topless scene:

Can Sara beat that? She can try:

Sorry, Sara. This round goes to Reese Witherspoon.

My Dad Can Beat Up Your Dad! The Return! (Table Of Contents/Explanation)

The Best Hot Girl In A Red Bikini.

The Best Brittle Blond Girl Who Might Look Sexy But Is Probably Kind Of Mean.

What this is all about:

A while back, I had a blog named "My Dad Can Beat Up Your Dad", in which I hypothesized what would happen if two pop culture icons met in a fight. I let that lapse because it's a bit awkward to have 33 billion blogs you're trying to run. But I liked the idea, and so I'm bringing it back, with a nod towards another great site that also is no longer active, Fametracker.

had a category called "2 Stars, 1 Slot," which I also liked, and since Fametracker's not doing it anymore, and since I kind of did the same thing on my own even before I knew what Fametracker was (The Best Olsen Twin, The Best Simpson Sister) I figured I could bring this old concept back and revive it here, where it fits in pretty well.

So from time to time be treated to My Dad Can Beat Up Your Dad, in which I'll decide who would... and should win in a face off of two identical, or nearly-identical, pop culture icons.

Hope you enjoy them.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The 8 Hottest Moms (Currently) On TV Shows #1 (MiniBest!)

Hopefully I'll finish this one...

"Dino Dan" is a show about a schizophrenic little boy who spends most of his time ignoring other little children, and his family, while wandering through a world filled with terrible, horrifying monsters that often approach him and sometimes threaten him.

And it's a kid's show.

Not making any of that up. Here's the promo:

"I'm a regular kid...it helps that I can actually see dinosaurs, even though no one else can. Some people say I have an active imagination, but from where I see things, dinosaurs are everywhere."

Watching the show -- which Mr Bunches, our youngest, loves -- is an exercise in sadness, as "Dino" Dan contorts reality to account for the fact that only he sees the dinosaurs around him. I imagine that the final episode is going to find "Dino" Dan standing in a bloody room, the corpses of his family around him, as police look on in horror and "Dino" Dan says "I'm telling you, it was the Corythosaurus!" Then they'll play those tapes of his on Nancy Grace.

What Dino Dan does have going for it is Dan's mom, whose character is called "Mom." That's her off to the right, there.

Here's how Mom is described on the official Dino Dan site:

Dan's mom is one cool lady. She's a police officer who loves doing physical activities. Weekends, she likes to make sure Dan and Trek get outside for outings like hiking, bike riding, and horseback riding. Dan gets his irrepressible energy from his Mom and she's very proud of him. But she can be a disciplinarian when she needs to be. Dan's mom will occasionally stand in the way of his dino adventures but that's because she wants him to do his homework, eat his broccoli, and get ready to go to Grandma's.

I added the emphasis; Nickelodeon does not emphasize the sexiness of its show's moms.

Mom is played by Allana Harkin, who has a blog, "Things Yelled Out In Public," and who, before she was a mom trying hard not to notice that she's going to have to medicate her son, was in a variety of TV shows, a sketch comedian, and who appears to know me, because she's got this picture:

On her website (where she's very funny), and I couldn't help but notice that the astronaut there is the same one that graces my Eclipse book trailer:

So I can only assume that Allana Harkin is a fan of mine, which is going to make Sweetie pretty jealous.

Here's Allana in costume from the play "First Hand Woman":

She played "Acceptance."

And I really do recommend reading her blog, which features "Movie Reviews By My Kid" and other very funny stuff.

And then, maybe give a little to help out "Dino" Dan. Just twenty cents a day can save a little kid.

On another note: I've watched about 15 episodes of Dino Dan with Mr Bunches so far-- like I said, hot cop mom -- and that is a scientifically representative sample, so what I am about to say has the cold hard feel of fact. You know what's missing from "Dino" Dan's imagination?


Further proof that they're made up and never existed. Velociraptors are the biggest lie ever foisted on a dinosaur-loving public.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

In Billionaire City, children will be seen, and not heard. (POP!Best!)

I'm going to turn POP!Best! from a random assortment of pop culture thoughts to a roundup of themes brought out in pop culture this week. Let's see how that works! Look for POP!Best! every Saturday from here on out.

This week on POP!Best!:

How you're failing your kids, no matter what you do, according to pop culture.

As a parent of several kids -- I'm too busy to count them -- I am of course, concerned about many things that have to do, almost tangentially, with those kids, things like:

1. Are they on drugs?
2. Do I really care, so long as they get home on time and don't eat the leftover pizza?

The answer to those questions came this week, from whence the answer to all good questions comes: pop culture, and specifically, economists. Who are part of pop culture the way your toes are part of your body: they're there, over on the one side, and people assume they're good for something, but nobody's sure quite what.

And yet, nobody's willing to just get rid of them. (Toes, I mean. Everyone's willing to get rid of economists.)

But not yet! Because they first have to free you from parenting, and also from vices. This week, I listened to a Freakonomics podcast called "An Economist's Guide To Parenting," in which the Freakonomics crew talked to a bunch of economists who also had children, and therefore were raising their children, economist-style.

Which in this case means "by being very mean, but not in the best-selling (but entirely made-up for purposes of putting into a book) Tiger Mommy way". Which is to say, one of the sets of economist parents they interviewed were not really being economists so much as being mean. They were raising their daughter, who I'll call "Mathilda" because that's what they said her name was, not really economist-style, which I'll get to in a moment, but mean-style. They feed her only organic food, and don't allow her sugar, or candy, or anything, really; it sounded as though she eats only bulgur wheat and goes to the Smithsonian on the weekends.

Which wouldn't be bad, except that one of the Economist Parents then said "Well, if we go to a restaurant and they don't have organic, she eats off our plates."

Think about that: That means that the parents will eat nonorganic foods -- but the only time Mathilda gets to do that is if she's fed table scraps at a restaurant.

From that I surmised that they're mean to Mathilda in a lot of ways. The parents don't apply their own rules to themselves that they do to their kids -- which is okay, if you're talking about curfews and watching Anna Paquin topless on True Blood, but not okay if you're eating a Snickers and your kid gets Barley Cakes.

The rest of the Economist's Parenting amounted to what all economists' theories amount to: Don't do anything, really, and don't account in any way for human variability. The economists, almost en masse, concluded that parents don't really have much of an impact on their children, one way or the other, citing studies done on Korean adoptees and twins from Sweden (if I were an economist, I would much rather study Swedish twins than Korean adoptees; wouldn't you?)

The conclusion was based on statistical effects they measured that showed, for example, upbringing was only about 1/6 as important as genetics when it came to determining whether kids went to college: the study found that Korean post-war adoptees given to parents with college educations were 16% more likely to go on to college themselves -- but that the genetic children of those same parents were 75% more likely to go on to college than the Koreans.

Which the economists attributed to genetics -- that is, they said "well, it must be the genes, because everything else is the same" but it's not, is it?

Let's list things that are different between those Korean kids and their adoptive siblings:

1. The Korean kids are Korean.
2. The Korean kids are either younger, or older, than their siblings.

Now think about that: First of all, the Korean kids were brought to a different culture, with no reference in the podcast to how old they were when they were brought here. Did they have to learn a new language? A new society?

Also, the Korean kids were minorities -- I assume, nobody said, but we don't really have many areas of America where Asian postwar adoptees are in the majority, do we? And so isn't it likely that minorities were less likely to go on to college?

(Nobody said, either, whether they adjusted for race - -and what the races of the adoptive parents were.)

Maybe they adjusted for that; maybe they didn't. But they didn't say they adjusted for that. They just said two kids, same parents, biological child goes on to college more often, genes rule! Huzzah! and went off to be mean to Mathilda.

(Poor Mathilda! I want to send her a Milky Way. It's the least threatening of all candy bars, so it's a good starter for her.)

Then there's birth order or in this case adoption order. Everyone knows that the more kids in the family, the more differently parents treat them, if only because less time with each kid. If you have one kid, that kid gets all the attention and all the experimentation and rules. Two kids = divided attention, plus the second time around, the parents know what didn't work the first time, and so they don't try that, they do some other stupid thing.

So without knowing the birth order of the Korean/genetic kids -- their ages and the like -- saying "this kid more likely than that kid to do X" is useless.

And again, maybe they controlled for that, but how? They didn't say -- and they didn't comment on what effect birth order had on the likelihood of going to college, period.

Which may be a major problem for Freakonomics, as the hidden side of everything in this case might be "the hidden side of studies that show having more kids might screw over the middle kid."

Which is to say: studies have shown that only children are way more likely to go to college than kids from larger families, and that the effect goes away if you have more than two kids -- but it only goes away a little, and only for the first and last kids.

I'll put it this way: Only children are far more likely to go to college. Then, when you get into multiple-child families, the first- and last-born are equally likely to go to college (but less likely to go than only children), while kids in the middle are the least likely to go.

Whither now, Economist Parents? The podcast's point was that parents have very little impact on their kids' upbringing, but it turns out that parents have a major impact on their kids' upbringing by having another kid -- and then a third, and so on.

I had assumed, as I listened to the podcast, that someone, somewhere, was selling a book as a counterpoint to Fake "I Made It Up To Sell Books" Tiger Mommy story, and I was right: there's a book that says having more kids is better, which, economist-style, presumably ignores studies that say the exact opposite, like the one I quoted above, and, which, economist-style, ignores that human behavior, on a macro scale, is predictable, but that nobody anywhere can say that human behavior on an individual scale is predictable.

All of which means: you can't read Fake Tiger Mommy, or Economists Say Lazy Parents Are Great! and apply that to your kid. Your kid -- and you-- are different and need an individual style.

But if I were to write a book titled "You're going to have to work at this, after all, you had kids, and now you'll likely have to think through and respond to a great many situations that you didn't predict, and it can't all be boiled down to a simple slogan, it's work, that's what parenting is all about," I doubt it would sell very well, if only because putting the title into a review would use most of the space for the review.

So, SLOGANS it is! And Freakonomics helps out: Not only does overparenting your kid not work, it wrecks your kid by making you unhappy.

You may have read studies that said that parents are desperately unhappy people -- that becoming a parent robs you of happiness along with sleep and leftover pizza. I read those studies, and I thought:

"I don't know who those parents are. I'm happy, and in fact happier than I was when I was a single guy who spent his nights watching Apollo 13 on videotape and sleeping on that old green couch I bought from the thrift store for $5."

Those studies, I imagine, measured the general unhappiness that I assume most people feel, because most people I run into are unhappy in one or more ways -- almost all of which are attributable not to their kids, but to them. People don't like their jobs, or their wives, or their car, or their neighborhood, or their dad, or their lives -- but they don't want to admit that they might be the reason. Settling for a job at Hardee's instead of going off to try to be an actor makes one unhappy, but who wants to tell a pollster "Yeah, I settled and gave up on my dreams. I'm the one who made me unhappy." So instead, parents who are unhappy with their lives blame the kids, or their wives, or their bosses -- not themselves.

Kids can probably make you unhappy -- but I suspect the roots of unhappiness are somewhere else and that the person wasn't happy before kids, either.

(I haven't read the studies, and don't want to. I don't have time for whiners.)

But it doesn't matter why you're unhappy: It matters that you're unhappy, because the Freakonomics podcast came out and said that you being unhappy is wrecking kids: kids, they say, learn primarily three things from parents: smoking, drinking, and being nice to waitresses.

(Not making that up at all. It's what they said.)

So if you're a surly drunk smoker of a parent, your kids are going to be surly, drunk smokers of kids. And worse: if you're unhappy, you're wrecking your life and changing your kids' disposition.

The economists' solution: Don't smoke, don't drink, be nice to waitresses, and don't make your kids do stuff.

That last one is important: Don't make your kids play soccer, or go to the Smithsonian, or eat Barley Cakes, or be in a band, because they don't like it, and that'll make them unhappy, which'll make you unhappy, which will make the New York Times happy because now they can run another poll about Sad Parents, but which in the long run will make your kid even less likely than a Korean Postwar Orphan to go on to college.

So, got it? No band lessons -- because it'll make you sad, and it's your duty as a parent to make yourself happy.

(I think I'm on to an entirely different book here... wait for it: I'm Happy, My Kids Are Happy: Why Parents Must Put Themselves First For The Good Of The Family.)

(I'll see you in Billionaire City: Population, Me. And Bill Gates. And Warren Buffett. Man, Billionaire City is getting a little crowded, isn't it?)

The part of the Freakonomics podcast that said never make kids do stuff really hit home with me, not least because my parents made me take piano lessons, and, yeah, I wasn't crazy about it, but I did learn music and did go on to college and also along the way learned to play guitar and took a bunch of other arts classes and generally expanded my mind to the point where I also learned Japanese and Arabic, so I think things turned out pretty well and I also can still play both "Music Box Dancer" and "Chariots of Fire" and "Toccata In D Minor" by heart, even 26 years later.

You know Toccata In D Minor, by the way, even though you don't think you do. It's this song:

Learning those things may have led to some stress in my life, and fights with my parents, but they also made me a better person -- I'm taking for granted that liking music and knowing how to play an instrument makes me a better person, because everything I do makes me a better person -- so isn't that a net gain?

Or is parenting supposed to only be about not fighting? Because if so, what about making kids do homework? If fighting and stress are bad for families, and kids don't want to do homework, then shouldn't parents not stress out about it and let kids not even go to school if they don't want to?

That's the end result of "Parent Like An Economist: Don't Give Your Kids Candy While You Eat It In Front Of Them", right? Nothing you do matters, so don't make your kid do anything.

Seems problematic to me. And also, if teaching kids music is so problematic, what is one to make of Videogames Live! ?

Have you heard of Videogames Live? I have -- I drove by a sign advertising that it was coming to town, and I got very excited because I have long wanted Live Action Video Games to be a thing, and so I thought "Oh, man, I am going to get to play Live Videogames! I hope I can be the guy in Berserker!" (I then only later thought of my kids, because I am a Good Parent who knows that It's Me First, since, after I quit smoking, my happiness is the only thing I can pass on to my kids.)

But Videogames Live isn't anything of the sort: It's... well, let them explain it. From the web site:

Video Games Live™ is an immersive concert event featuring music from the most popular video games of all time. Top orchestras & choirs perform along with exclusive video footage and music arrangements, synchronized lighting, solo performers, electronic percussionists, live action and unique interactive segments to create an explosive entertainment experience!

I did not add that exclamation point. But I do respect that they used that ampersand in the second sentence. Gives it a touch of class, doesn't it?

That doesn't really give you a flavor for it, though, so check this out:

That seems both immersive & explosive. Or neither. It's still early.

But Videogames Live (which could be seen, also, as a statement that videogames are living organisms, think about it) poses a larger problem than simply "Who thought that was a good idea?" It also poses a problem for a parent -- because if you take your kid to that show, you are exposing them to culture and trying to get them to do something, and thereby making them unhappy, which will make you unhappy, and you'll probably be rude to the waitress on the way home, which will make your kids marry an uneducated Korean Postwar Adoptee and liven an unhappy life. (Not because he married a Korean; because he didn't go to college.)

So what are you to do? Go to Videogames Live by yourself and tell your kids about it? Probably, except that doesn't seem very fun for you, does it? Sitting at a classical music concert, not drinking or smoking, being polite to the waitress... what's in it for you? Isn't parenting supposed to be about you?

That's the catch: If you do something with or for your kids, you're wrecking them, so you've got to do this stuff on your own -- and maybe not enjoy it all on your own, but that's what parenting is all about these days: Not doing anything with your kids for fear that you'll screw them up.

Another thing that messes up kids? Jogging. And being perfect, or trying to be. Over at TODAYMoms, a new study found that of all the parents who are saddened by their kids, nobody is more saddened than Supermoms.

What's a Supermom, you might ask? It's someone who

has, in a single day: run 3 miles, gotten the kids up, fed and off to school, made it to work, skipped lunch, juggled meetings, driven carpool, watched a soccer game, gone to the grocery store, fixed dinner, helped with homework and put the kids to bed.

Which I thought was just a mom. But what separates moms -- you loser-y, slackers wastes of human life who are engaged only in ordinary parenting -- from Supermoms is this: Supermoms try to "have it all."

You know, as opposed to regular moms (those losers!) who just want some of it all, or maybe even a little piece of it all, if there's any leftover after the Supermoms hoover it up.

Supermoms are more depressed than anyone -- Super Depression?-- because they've been misled. Says an expert in a field that cannot possibly require expertise:

Women today are raised being told they can have it all, though rarely are they let in on the way this charming slogan translates to the real world–as if through an evil game of telephone–that, more than likely, they’ll have to do it all, that what they’ll really have “all” of is the work.
Who is it that's telling "Women today" that they "can have it all"? That expert doesn't come right out and say it, but it's parents -- the "Women today" "are raised" believing in the world that doesn't exist -- a world where nobody works and that 3 miles is easy to run and kids' spaghetti dinners prepare themselves and soccer games are never held.

So parents wrecked "Women today" and now those "Women today" are all SuperDepressed and unable to take joy in even the simple pleasures of an orchestral Zelda-theme medley, which we know from Freakonomics is going to destroy the Supermoms' kids, so what are you supposed to do?

The answer is simple: just give your kids away entirely.

But not to those families that adopted those Korean Postwar Orphans. They really messed up those kids, from what I half-listened to on the podcast.

If you can't give your kids away entirely, then it's best to just scare them to death while placing them at greater risk of real threats while warning them of virtually non-existent threats. By, say, not warning them about the dangers of talking to strangers, while making sure they are prepared for earthquakes.

In the Freakonomics podcast, see, the economists recommended not bothering telling your kids about strangers, because stranger-abductions are actually pretty rare -- as rare as being struck by lightning. Which, by economists' viewpoints, should mean that you also ought not to warn your kids about lightning, because being struck by lightning is so rare that it's the standard by which we measure rarity.

What the economists didn't get into was whether stranger-abductions, and lightning strikes, are rare because we take precautions against them: warning our kids, not golfing with Bill Murray in the rain, etc. They just said "Oh, those things are rare, so don't bother warning your kids about them."

(Again: Not making it up.)

So if you shouldn't bother telling your kids not to take candy from strangers or stand near live wires in a hurricane, what should you warn your kids about?

Earthquakes in Washington D.C. As everybody knows, there was an extremely minor earthquake on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States this week - -a minor occasion that no doubt will make the Republicans insist that we now take away Third Amendment rights, too, because every national emergency is met by eliminating one item from the Bill Of Rights, and "No quartering of troops" is all that's left -- and parenting blogs leaped into action with tips on how to prepare your kids for an earthquake.

Or, um, not so much. That particular blog just asked if you had a plan, and wanted to share it. Which will be my next parenting book: "What Would You Do?" It'll be a book in which I set out various horrible things that can happen to kids, offer no tips, and ask parents to write to me with their suggestions. It'll lead naturally to a sequel, "Here's What You'd Do," and so I'll be the Mayor of Billionaire City, and they'll eventually make a movie about those books that's at least as ill-conceived as the Cameron Diaz movie based on "What To Expect When You're Expecting," a/k/a "Didn't they JUST MAKE 'Knocked Up' and 'The Back-Up Plan" and That One Tina Fey Movie About How She's A Great Mom?"

That blog post asking people to For God's Sake Tell Me How To Protect My Kids From An Earthquake Because I'M FREAKING OUT! generated exactly one comment, from Nuke41:
I refer to the neighbors in family emergency planning sessions as “meat on the hoof”.

Now, there's a guy to take parenting tips from.

Or this guy:

I don't know who that is, but if you Google-Image-Search "movies about parenting" you'll get that picture. I imagine that's how Mathilda's going to turn out.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Turns out, if you know science, Han Solo really DID take a short cut? (Star Wars References)

Can it possibly be true that I was wrong?

No. But hear me out.

About four months ago, I noted a Star Wars Reference from XKCD, and mentioned the oft-repeated claim that George Lucas messed up on Han Solo's dialogue about parsecs--

-- because obviously everything in the movie Star Wars was intended to be perfectly scientifically accurate, right down to the unnecessary presence of a monster in a trash compactor --

but now I've been told -- by Anonymous -- that in fact my knowledge is the one that's deficient. Said Anonymous:

The Kessel Run is a smuggling route that passes a cluster of black holes. The Falcon was able to fly closer to the black holes than other ships, thus shortening the journey it made from 18 to 12 parsecs. To fly closer to the black holes required enough power to escape their gravity. Speed comes from power. The Falcon is a fast ship. QED.
So was I wrong?

No. I know it looks that way, but hear me out. When I first read that comment, I thought "Huh, I guess I was wrong." But then I thought about it a second, and realized that it smacked to me of after-the-factism -- what happens when true believers in a story or movie or book fill in the gaps and problems in stories, like the way Harry Potterites claimed that there's an actual spell protecting Harry, a spell cast by his mother as she died at Voldemort's hand*

*Um, Spoiler Alert?

even though that's clearly bunk and is something readers made up because they don't want there to be unanswered questions about stories they love; readers want to think that authors had some sort of grand plan going into writing the story, as opposed to just making it up. But authors don't.**

**Rogue Mutt excepted

Authors -- screen writers, literary authors, all the rest are, I'm convinced, just making it up as they go along and then hoping it all makes sense. They're not going back over the manuscript over and over to make sure that what they wrote the first time around has not a single plot gap in it. They just write what they write and hope that it all makes sense as you go along.

That results in holes in stories, and unfortunate language-usage, at times -- like Harry Potter somehow surviving a curse that nobody can survive, or Han Solo not knowing the difference between space and time. But frankly, that doesn't matter: After all, all these holes blown into the stories of movies after the fact are just that: Ex post facto holes people pick at when they have time to do so -- usually about stuff that didn't really matter in the first place, like whether Han Solo, a space pilot, should know what a parsec is.

There are two kinds of plot holes or problem points in stories, then -- those that are real plot holes that pose real problems, and those that just don't matter. If it's a real problem, then the author or director should have caught it and made it work. If it just doesn't matter, if it's the equivalent of seeing a gladiator with a wristwatch on, a glitch that's no big deal, then it may be fun to talk about, but nobody should sweat filling in the gaps.

That is, there's no need to explain why that gladiator had a watch on; nobody needs to say "well, see, it wasn't really a wristwatch, it was a metal band that was invented by Claudius as a sort of rudimentary sundial...". It's just a glitch.

In that sense, it's dumb that people bothered coming up with an explanation for why Harry Potter lived, or why Han Solo said parsecs; it didn't really matter at all.

Here's the real test for whether something's a plot hole or just doesn't matter: If you caught it when you were watching the movie, or reading the book, it's a plot hole. If you only caught it after the fact, then it just doesn't matter. It may be fun to pick at, but that's all you're doing -- you're picking at something that you didn't notice in the first place.

So Han Solo's parsecs?

Just doesn't matter.

The fact that Commissioner Gordon's fake death***

***Seriously, can I get a spoiler alert here?
In The Dark Knight made no sense in the plot?

Just doesn't matter.

The "solution" to The Lincoln Lawyer's case being in a parking ticket?*4

*4 now, come ON. This is ridiculous
Plot hole.

So while I appreciate Anonymous (I know it's you, Timothy Zahn) and his efforts to make it clear that there are no holes in George Lucas' universe, it's also completely unnecessary to do, and that is why I have not put forth any effort into clarifying whether that was something Lucas claimed to have been his intention all along, or whether it was something that someone tacked on later.

And also why I wasn't wrong about Solo.

Besides --everyone knows that Lucas lied about his intentions, anyway, when he claimed that he always intended that Star Wars be a series of movies. Nobody starts a series of movies 67% of the way through the story, and nobody puts the big climax in the 4th movie, for Pete's sake. That's why he had to have a second Death Star: because he made it up as he went along, with no grand plan.

Now, on to more important things for the day, like why is Carrie Fisher trending 6th on Yahoo!?

It's because she dropped 50 pounds -- quite an achievement, and to celebrate, Carrie Fisher, who has been in movies going back to 1975, and who has written 11 different Hollywood productions, and has written five books and two plays, Carrie Fisher is celebrating by: saying she's going to try on her metal bikini again.

That's right: Given a chance to celebrate her many contributions to pop culture, Carrie Fisher went to the One True Source Of All References.

And why, when she could've gone with saying "I'm going to go back and wear that slip I wore in "Over the Rainbow?" Isn't that just as culturally significant?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Wouldn't the giant TOASTERS be a dead giveaway? (THIS is a THING?!)

So there's really no news organization you can trust anymore. That's the downside to this new media Internet everyone's online all the time Twitter Facebook generation or whatever it is we're calling it this week: News organizations, which are typically not your best revenue generators, are increasingly resorting to generating the news in a weird sort of synergy that, while boosting the bottom line, means that you can't trust them at all to accurately report the news.

Put another way: News organizations need to make money, and how they're making money is by lying to you, but they're doing it subtly, and they're doing it with the help of a new breed of people who desperately want to be interviewed about how they desperately don't want to be interviewed.

The problem with news organizations, of course, is that what they have to sell is a hot commodity for about 0.0000000000001 seconds. Let's take a hypothetical news event, which I will make up for the sake of this example:

Giant Semi-Intelligent Pieces Of Toast Attack Bismarck, North Dakota!

Leave aside for the moment that nothing happening in North Dakota, which is technically not even a place, is really news, and leave aside for the moment the fact that I just broke the news, accidentally, that the government has been hiding the existence of Giant Semi-Intelligent Pieces Of Toast from you, the gullible public. When you read that headline, of the story I just broke, it was news to you.

And it was also news to the 10,000,000 other people who read this blog on a daily basis (don't bother checking the site counter, that stat is accurate) and who just went and posted that piece of news on their Twitter or Facebook or other account, and the 10,000,000 people who read their stuff then clicked the link and posted that story to a blog which was read by 10,000,000 other people, and so all that news value dropped faster than prices for tech stocks picked by a hot sophomore venture capitalist who I'm sure didn't get her job just because she managed to exactly match the fantasies of the 10 guys who hired her:

This is Ernestine Fu. She is a sophomore in college.
She just got hired by a venture capital
firm, and was given authority to give
$1.3 million in funding to a tech startup
your day going?

Where was I?

Oh, yeah: News organizations and how you can't trust them. The fact is, news organizations break news at their own expense, only to then have the Huffington Post go and reprint it all so that people like me will read HuffPo for free and never bother going to the original site for the news, and because of that, news organizations are going broke.

So they have to resort to increasingly desperate tactics like getting their news anchors to write books (which they sell on the air) or getting their news anchors to record albums (which they sell on the air) or other publicity stunts that will help cross-collateralize the news world and keep selling media, like today's THING, which is THIS:

Faking a Walkout on an Interview.

You might have recently heard that Christine O'Donnell, who is a person you will not remember 10 months from now, "walked out" on an interview by Piers Morgan, who is a person I suspect might be more involved in the Rupert Murdoch Phone Hacking Scandal than we are being told. Link

And if you follow me on Twitter, which you should because I frequently Tweet-While-Jogging and I am fascinating while I am jogging, then you know that I think the whole thing was a setup -- not just because I'm secretly a closet-conspiracist who instantly thinks everything up to and including the weird guy in my parking garage who's always getting dressed in his car is part of some giant conspiracy, but also because the O'Donnell walkout was so clearly a B.S. walkout, as judged by

(A) The fact that CNN couldn't possibly hype that walkout enough, and
(B) Christine O'Donnell mistook her cue for when she was supposed to walk out, thereby tipping her hand that this was a fake walkout.

Both of which, as we'll see, show that not only did CNN and O'Donnell likely conspire to fake a walkout for ratings, but also help prove that all interview walkouts are fake.

Let's delve into this further with some information:

What THIS THING is, in a nutshell:
The Fake Walkout is the modest person's version of a celebrity sex-tape. Now that it's no longer possible to kick-start a career simply by making a sex-tape, people have to do something else to attract attention, and one way to do that is to walk out on an interview.

Why is that, you might ask? Let's use the example of the Christine O'Donnell interview walkout to see, in "real life", as it were, why people think the Fake Walkout works to generate publicity.

O'Donnell, remember, gained notoriety by being a pro-witchcraft/anti-masturbation Racist Tea Party candidate for U.S. Senate, proving that in this great country of ours, one need not be sane or qualified to get 20% of the racists in a state to think you're worth electing. When enough sensible Delawareans made it to the polls to derail O'Donnell's ability to derail our government, that should have, but did not, spell the end of the public's paying attention to O'Donnell.

It did not end the public paying attention to O'Donnell for one reason: O'Donnell wasn't done being paid attention to -- as you'd expect, from someone who had so little filter on her need to be paid attention to that she would happily spout off whatever garbage popped into her head ("I went to a satanic mass! I hate masturbation! I'm not a witch! I'm a Tea Partier!") -- but, O'Donnell had a problem: she wanted attention paid to her, but nothing she was doing anymore was worth paying attention to.

So she wrote a book.

Writing a book is not hard. I've already written five, and I can almost never find my keys in the morning. Snooki wrote a book. So did that one boring girl from The Hills. And Ethan Hawke wrote one or two, even though technically speaking he's really grimy looking.

The fact that O'Donnell wrote a book doesn't impress me at all, especially because she likely didn't write it herself anyway but had a ghost writer do it. It was just the next stage of the life cycle of the modern celebrity -- get noticed, then stay noticed.

O'Donnell then got what she wanted: people were paying attention to her, in that she was booked onto shows to talk about her book. And that's when she ran into Piers Morgan.

In recent weeks, Piers Morgan's ratings have been bad. A sampling of recent days shows Piers finished, in his time slot, among cable news shows consistently third or fourth out of five. Not good.

So what's a poor talk-show host to do, when he's being trumped over and over by the likes of Dr. Drew? Stage a ratings gamble, that's what.

Here's the video:

The walk-off occurs rather early on, and you can see, at 2:50, O'Donnell says "Are we off?" and looks to someone off camera, while Piers gamely tries to act as though she did not just blow it. (You can also hear O'Donnell giggle once she's off camera.)

That's not the only evidence of the Fake Walk-Off, though. Consider O'Donnell's poorly-phrased argument for why she won't talk about what's in her book:

"Because I don't think it's relevant."

That is, it's not relevant to talk about what's in her book... the book she's there to talk about. Nobody thought beforehand to talk about why she'd walk off. They just thought to have her walk off, and assumed that things would take care of themselves.

Want more evidence?

Piers Morgan released tape of the walk-off in advance -- on his blog and to other sites, to hype the walk-off.

Want more evidence? After she walked off his show, Piers tried to help sell her book!

Want more evidence? CNN ran with this story -- featuring it on Showbiz Tonight, among other shows that I saw cover the Piers Morgan walk-off, and got tons of news coverage for Piers Morgan not only on its own shows, but on other shows, with O'Donnell going on to other news organizations and not walking off -- but talking about the walk-off.

Piers kept up the hype, too, having professional something-or-other Gloria Allred (why does she turn up in every single story?) come on his show to declare that Piers had not sexually harassed O'Donnell, and another guest on the show was quoted on Piers' blog as describing the walk-off thusly:

"this controversy that apparently everyone is talking about. Piers Morgan: he's dangerous, he's cheeky, who's going to walk out next?"Link

Morgan worked this walk-off for all it was worth: He got Jimmy Carter's speechwriter (that being indicative of the high-powered guests Morgan can command, absent fake walk-offs) to comment on it, too -- the speechwriter being one of two guests invited on the next night to talk about the (pre-planned)(fake) walkoff -- and got one of his staffers to do a post-mortem on walking out O'Donnell after the walkout, posted clips of the show on his blog (again), did a show on how not to walk out on an interview, and got his CNN coworker Jeanne Moos to do a whole report highlighting the (Fake) Walkout:

O'Donnell, meanwhile, was milking it just as much: she quickly rose to the top of Google trends, probably the first time she'd been on top since Dan Savage declared the final 42 days before the election to be "Masturbate to Christine O'Donnell Day(s)" . (Slate said she got 200 articles on Google News about the walk-off alone.)

And because of that, people are still talking about O'Donnell a week later. And while Slate says her book isn't selling, 2,300th in the nation for a minor political tract from a failed one-time candidate isn't too shabby. (The book is, as of today, 19 in "state and local government" books, ahead of Fareed Zakaria's book, among others. Fareed didn't walk out of any interviews lately, though.)(The book is curiously, ALSO 34th, making me question Amazon's sales rankings.)

So the Fake Walkoff is a publicity stunt. It consists of:

(A) doing something noteworthy enough to get interviewed, then
(B) taking offense at something in the interview, and then
(C) walking off,
(D) ideally onto the set of the coLinkmpanion show, where you'll discuss the walk-off.

When Did THIS THING start?

With Dan Rather, of all people.

Rather, back in 1987, was miffed that CBS decided to shorten the evening news by six minutes to finish up covering a tennis match, and so he walked off the set of the Evening News. While it's understandable that people would be driven to distraction by other people paying attention to tennis, Rather's reaction is the earliest known walk-off I can find, and I even went so far as to google the phrase "Did Lincoln ever walk out of an interview" because everyone knows that Lincoln did a lot of stuff, so maybe he walked out of an interview, too, leaving his interviewer sitting there with a shovel and a chunk of coal, waiting to finish the interview.

But no dice. If Lincoln walked out of an interview, historians have thus far managed to cover it up as effectively as the Obama Administration did that Giant Toast.

You haven't forgotten about the Giant Toast, have you? You know it's Semi-Intelligent, don't you?

When did THIS THING officially pass into pop culture?

Probably not before Dan Rather passed out of pop culture -- Rather's kind of faded from our mindset, nowadays, hasn't he? A sad end for the man who was the inspiration, via a pistol-whipping, for the REM song "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?"

I'm going to go with this year. While it's true that in 2010, the Fake Walk-Off reached global proportions, with Russell Crowe walking out of an interview, some other foreign guy doing the same thing, and even Julian Assange pulled the Fake Walk-Off last year, it wasn't until this year that the Fake Walk-Off hit full swing, with Marc Anthony, Kat Von D, and Paris Hilton serving as your "entertainment" contingent of Fake Walk-Offs, while Rahm Emanuel and Congressman Jim Moran brought the Fake Walk-Off to politics before O'Donnell faked her way through it.

If there was any doubt that 2011 was the year of the Fake Walk-Off, consider that not only are there more of them this year than any prior year, but it wasn't until 2011 that we, as a culture, got to see this actual sentence in print:

Ilyasah Shabazz, third daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz, walked out of an interview with NPR's Michel Martin.

That comes from an NPR story, covering the Fake Walk-Off (from an interview on NPR!) by Malcolm X's daughter over questions of whether Malcolm X may have sometimes been gay. And it's the combination of gay rights, NPR, Malcolm X, civil rights, and Fake Walkoffs that makes me say that's the pinnacle of the Fake Walk-Off.

Is THIS THING still going on? Obviously, it is. But not for long because, remember, when Republicans do a THING, that THING dies. Christine O'Donnell-- antimasturbation Witch that she is -- is a Republican. THIS THING is dead.

Can You Sum Up The Fake Walk-Off For People Who Skimmed Through This Post and Just Want a Quick Takeaway?

I can't believe you asked me that. Honestly, I find this kind of insulting. I don't have to sit here and take this. [Picks up keyboard, puts under arm, storms off.]

Okay, see what I did there?

Nice, right?

Oh, and before I forget, I was going to give you your picture of January Jones, to go with that post-leading picture of Martin Henderson, but I have, instead, decided to give you this picture of Giant, Semi-Intelligent Pieces of Toast Attacking Bismarck, North Dakota:

Oh, what the heck. You stuck it out this far. You earned this:

The 15... Make That The FOUR... Best Summer Movies.

Boy, I blew that one, didn't I? All summer long and I only managed to post four of the Best Summer Movies?

Ah, well -- ignoring one's blogging duties is what summer is all about. Anyway, here's the list of the four I did get to:

1. Weekend At Bernie's.

2. One Crazy Summer

3. National Lampoon's Vacation.

4. What About Bob?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

This is the world that could have been. (Star Wars References)

The other day, I volunteered at a fundraiser for autism, and for the first 2 hours or so, I helped people out on the mini-golf course (making rulings on drops, making sure they went to the right hole, that sort of thing.)

The 18th hole was called "Hollywood" and had a red carpet that you had to putt on. Standing over it was this:

Notice anything missing?

Hint: That guy on the left is not a Jedi.

Score so far:

Exception that proves the rule: 1

Star Wars References: 3,752,475.

The saying "the exception that proves the rule" not making sense: 1

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I'll just say it: The video made me cry (Autism Works)

This time around:

-- Project Lifesaver may be having problems,

-- the Autism Society of Greater Madison golfs,

-- college for people on the spectrum,

-- and a review of a semi-autism-friendly business,

but first this:

That's from "Lou's Land," and I had to stop watching it halfway through and then watch it in pieces because it hit home, especially the part about "discovering a new normal." I won't take away from Lou's story by telling my own here; I'll just say that I understand exactly what he means and I've bookmarked his blog. You should, too. You can't help someone unless you try to understand what they've going through, and blogs like Lou's can assist you in knowing what it's like to live with autism.

On to happier, more hopeful things, like college for autistic people. The Autism Speaks official blog has a post on helping students on the spectrum achieve in college, pointing out something that I didn't know -- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that colleges make reasonable accommodations to people with learning disabilities, including (but not limited t0) autism spectrum disorders. The protections and services aren't as aggressive as those for kids in high school and lower (provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA]) but they're there and may help kids on the spectrum get into and through college. Autism Speaks has some pointers and links for more information, but the school counselors can provide information, as well.

Update on Project Lifesaver: On August 7, I mentioned elopement and wandering and recommended "Project Lifesaver," a program that fits wanderers with GPS-enabled bracelets.

On August 16, we got a letter from the Dane County Sheriff's Office that raised concerns about this program. The letter says the office "has been experiencing significant equipment failures with many of our Project Lifesaver clients" including the "lack of any transmitted signal," which, of course is the whole point of the bracelet. The letter concluded that:

Without reliable and operating equipment in addition to the lack of support from Project Lifesaver International, the program does not meet the standards of the Dane County Sheriff's Office... the Dane County Sheriff's Office will not longer implement the program.
The Dane County Sheriff's Office will try to find a substitute program; if you have a friend or relative on Project Lifesaver, please pass this on to him or her, and don't trust the equipment. (We haven't; Mr F still doesn't get to go outside alone and we keep all our windows and doors double-locked.)

Business Review: We took our kids to get their annual photos -- Sweetie starts planning her Christmas cards around June, and the annual Christmas card photo is usually taken in August. We don't go anywhere fancy -- just to the Sears Photo Studio at the West Towne Mall in Madison, Wisconsin, and they're generally pretty good there.

It's hard to get some kids on the spectrum to sit still for anything, let alone pictures taken by a strange person. When we took the twins for haircuts last spring, for a week before their teachers played "hair cut" with them, telling them social stories about getting hair cut (social stories are stories designed to teach autistic kids social skills) and pretending to cut their hair, and it worked great; the boys sat still during their hair cuts and Mr Bunches actually enjoyed it. (Mr F still cried, but quietly and sitting, instead of hollering and trying to escape like he used to.)

We tried the same thing with pictures -- for two weeks before, each therapy session ended with the therapists posing the boys and taking their picture with our camera, just like a photo studio, and those sessions went well. The actual day of the photos, we had a bit more trouble.

We arrived about 10 minutes early, and had to wait about 15 minutes later than our appointment, which was problematic. While no business can entirely control their schedule, waiting with autistic kids is trouble, because we'd taken the time to have the boys tired out a bit by playing (another strategy the therapists had recommended), but that doesn't work so well if they then rest up.

Mr F was also upset because -- something you never think about until you're with an autistic kid -- we'd walked through the store to get to the studio, and the store was full of clothing hangers, which Mr F likes. I try to discourage him from simply taking a hanger as we walk through the store, so by the time we reached the pictures, he was disgruntled and getting upset.

(The worker didn't mind that we then borrowed a hanger from a nearby department, which helped calm him down.)

Once we actually got the pictures going, the photographer was great -- she followed our instructions on what order to take the pictures in (get the little ones done first) and followed our instructions to just start snapping pictures, not worrying about whether kids were sitting correctly or facing the camera or smiling.

About 10 minutes of photos later, we had some of the best ones yet. So other than making us wait (even though we'd reminded the woman when we made the appointment that the boys were autistic) the trip went reasonably well.

Golf Outing: If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I began volunteering with the Autism Society of Greater Madison (ASGM) last night; my first volunteer effort was helping out at their annual golf outing, "Golf FORE Autism" at the George Vitense Golfland:

I was there from 6-8:30 p.m., helping people navigate the mini-golf course and then helping move tables around. Several area businesses including NBC 15 sent teams out to play in the par-3 midnight golf outing, and while I had to leave before the night was over, it seemed like everyone was having a great time.

ASGM is the oldest autism chapter in the country, and chaired by David George of NBC 15; if you are interested in the many events they sponsor or are looking for help beginning to navigate the world of autism, go to their site.

Autism Works is an across-all-my-blogs post that attempts to spread information about resources, businesses, apps, and other things of interest to people who have autism or have a relative who is autistic. If you have information to share, leave a comment or Email me ; please put "autism works" in the subject line.