TODAY’S RANT: Viral Video Advertising

I recently saw this posted on Facebook. I, being a doofus, believed I had stumbled upon the black box recording that would show archaeologists the moment it all went sour for the human race– the dawn of the rise of the apes. As soon as our self-aware brethren learn to take our technology and use it against us, we are surely doomed. Being damned dirty, the apes will own humans. [Participle dangle intended.]

Of course, I felt compelled to do a Snopes check because– believe it or not– sometimes people put things on the internet which are fake. I know, I know, hard to believe.

It turns out the video is a piece of viral advertising for the next Planet of the Apes movie. “Lesser” primate use of technology is still about right here:

Viral advertising is the latest craze. One leaks intriguing footage onto YouTube and doesn’t label it or say what it is.  Then you hope a bunch of schmucks fall for it, and they will– because that’s the defining characteristic of we schmucks. It’s tautological.  This kind of video will stick in one’s mind and get more media attention than would a regular trailer.

The problem is that movie-makers have the ability to make really convincing fakes. (That’s what they do.) My well-read reader will certainly have heard of the Orson Welles War of the Worlds incident. People who didn’t hear the beginning of the broadcast, which was formatted like a news bulletin, freaked out about the alien invasion. Some people jumped out windows (why, I have no idea. I don’t think they thought the value of that through.) Some people fled to Canada (assuming, of course, that the aliens wouldn’t be interested in that icy wasteland.)

My problem with all this isn’t that people are duped; it’s the “boy who cried wolf” effect. One day when we’re under attack by aliens, apes, or artificial intelligence, people are going to be like, “Dude, that’s a really convincing looking ray-gun… NOT!”

TODAY’S RANT: Stupid is as Cupid Does

Attribution: Ricardo André Frantz Nothing says lovin' like  a prepubescent archer.

Attribution: Ricardo André Frantz
Nothing says lovin’ like a prepubescent archer.

This isn’t a generic rant about Valentine’s Day. I am not the curmudgeon of ardor or the Grinch of St. Valentine’s Day. All I’m saying is that nothing is less sexy than a naked baby archer.

I guarantee that if you polled paramedics who’ve responded to bow-hunting accidents, none would say that their patients reported sexual arousal as a symptom of arrows sticking out of thighs. How being impaled with a razor-sharp implement came to be associated with the transmission of love, I’ll never know. Yes, little boys have been known to sock a girl they like in the deltoid, but breaking out the device single-handedly responsible for Mongol hordes sweeping across Eurasia is taking that dysfunction up a notch.

I have no problem with nudity. Nudity and erotic love is like getting your chocolate in her peanut butter– so to speak. My problem is with prepubescent nudity. All that does is remind one of the end product of amour, and that’s terrifying, not arousing. No one needs that kind of pressure in a budding relationship.

I know I said this wasn’t a blanket condemnation of the holiday, but I’ve got one more sub-rant. What is with flowers and chocolate as the iconic gifts of the holiday? Is it that nothing says everlasting love like a bouquet that will be shedding wilted petals by day’s end. And chocolate says, “I love you so much that I’ll even love you if you get fat. Furthermore, I’m willing to prove it by doing my damnedest to make you fat.”

I won’t even get into the jewelry ads. “Show her you love her by implying that you think she’s in it just for the swag.”

TODAY’S RANT: Continuity Gaffes

For those unfamiliar, a continuity gaffe is a mistake in a movie in which something that shouldn’t change from one instant to the next does. They result from movies being shot over many days in an order unrelated to how the film unfurls before the viewer. Take an example, say a brawler is wearing a green shirt, they cut away to the other fighter, but when they flash back he’s an orangutan in a bikini. If it’s still not clear what I’m talking about, the YouTube clip below shows a horde of gaffes from the first Star Wars trilogy.

Now, from the title of this post, you probably think that I’m some sort of obsessive-compulsive nerd who catches every little niggling mistake in a movie. To this I say, I wish! I’m a not-the-least-bit-compulsive nerd. I don’t catch any movie continuity gaffes– not a single one. Sure, I can see them when they’re circled and the film is run in slow motion, but otherwise I’m clueless. This has made me wonder if there isn’t something defective with my brain. When they are pointed out they seem pretty glaring.

What really bothers me is not that I never catch a continuity gaffe in a movie, but rather that I catch them in my real life all the time. I’ll distinctly remember setting my keys down on the valet, but after a thorough search I’ll find them in the freezer. I’ll remember having written a paragraph, but when I come back to my laptop I find nothing but the cryptic message, “xzsawrwddd&&ppPPP.” I’ll put down Shakespeare’s Sonnets and when I pick the book back up, it’s a James Patterson novel.

I’ve developed two competing hypotheses to explain these gaffes. First, I’m in the Matrix, and Mr. Smith is corrupting the code. Second, my secretly super-intelligent cat is fucking with me.

5 Minefields of Armageddon for 2013

National Land Image Information, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation & Tourism, Japan

National Land Image Information, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation & Tourism, Japan

1.) Ever heard of the Senkakus? What about Diaoyus? If not, you should look them up. When you’ve been wearing a gas mask for the 33rd day straight, you may want to know about the chunks of rock in the East China Sea that we tripped into nuclear winter over. Simmering tensions between Japan and China have been flaring up over these islands of late. So you’re probably wondering who lives there who’s so important that it’s worth wandering through a minefield that could trigger World War III. If you answered, “absolutely no one,” give yourself a prize.  They’re uninhabited. It’s not the islands themselves that anyone gives a rat’s as about, it’s the ramification they have for underwater drilling rights.

The reader may accuse me of hyperbole. (Shh! Dont tell anyone, but– of course– that’s what I do.) After all, China has a boldly stated “No First Use” policy. That is, they claim they will not use nukes in a first strike. Given that Japan isn’t a nuclear weapons state (NWS), there doesn’t seem to be much risk. Except that a.) Japan lives under the U.S. nuclear umbrella;  b.) Japan is the non-NWS that could develop nuclear weapons in the shortest time imaginable — they have the material, infrastructure, and technical know-how (okay, Germany is in the same bag); and c.) see #2

KimJongUn3

2.) North Korea conducted its third nuclear test. This presents a risk because: a.) it provides an incentive for Japan to build its own nukes (particularly if faith in the US umbrella wanes.) b.) [and more importantly] Kim Jong Un has too many yes-men, and no one to slap him in his chubby face and say, “are you smoking powdered unicorn horn?” In other words, he doesn’t have a good idea of what he can get away with before the world unleashes a crate of whoop-ass on his sad country. So he wanders in the minefield.

3.) Europe is getting depressed. Fat and happy Europeans are productive and polite. Downtrodden Europeans have been known to swallow some pretty despicable narratives, and– in doing so– drag the world into war. At the moment this seems really far-fetched. These political movements are at best in the political fringe of countries on Europe’s fringe, right? Maybe so. Time will tell.

4.) If America’s economy is crash-landed, everyone is going to be hit by the debris. This will be depressing, see #3 and then multiply globally. Times like these  echo Churchill’s comment, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Any person, company, or government that sees the train coming in the distance but can’t find its way off the tracks can’t be expected to thrive for long.

5.) India and Pakistan, enough said…

TODAY’S RANT: Hyper-relativistic Mathematical Zones: or, When Will my Car be Done?

Albert Einstein theorized that distance and time are relative depending upon one’s speed. In everyday life we rarely notice this because of a little-known tenet of General Relativity that says, “Whenever one attempts to approach the speed  of light, there will be an octogenarian in the left-hand lane.”

Since the early 20th century, physicists have thought they were this close (author holds up hand with thumb and index fingers about 3/4 of a centimeter apart) to being able to explain the whole shebang. Figure out why very small things behave differently from very big things, and, Bob’s your uncle, we’ve got your Eureka moment.

I, however, think physicists will find that they have yet another hurdle to solve (mixed metaphor intended, smartypants.) This has to do with certain zones in which conventional measurements of space and time break down even when one is only moving at the speed the planet is revolving (24 hours/day, I think, no that sounds wrong somehow.)

I don’t think physics is quite prepared to explain why an hour in a mechanic’s shop is equal to about 4.33 hours on the outside. We’ve all experienced the inverted time-dilation effect of the Department of Motor Vehicles. According to Einsteinian relativity, time slows as one approaches the speed of light. However, time slows even more when one is in the slowest state of movement possible, the DMV line.

I won’t go into the distance contraction effects localized to the crotch region of men who wear wife-beaters and gold hood ornaments around their necks.

Are these just zones in which bistromathics trump mathematics (Sorry only readers of Douglas Adams’s Life, the Universe, and Everything will get that reference.)

Any Unified Field Theory must explain these phenomenon before I can accept it.

TODAY’S RANT: Invisible Conversants

Proposed addition

Proposed addition

A few years back, I was leaving an office building when I saw a man ranting full-bore. He was gesticulating wildly, delivering karate chops to the air with vicious intent, pulling at his hair. What was even more disconcerting was the potty mouth on this guy; he weaved together a chain of expletives that would make a mafia don blush. Yet, I could recognize his words as one half of a conversation, though there was no one else to be seen. He would pause and respond, and I could vaguely imagine what the invisible conversant would have said to invoke such a response.

I, of course, concluded that this poor soul should be committed to an asylum.  I was wondering if I should call the guys with the straight jackets to bring their rubber-lined van when the man swung around to pace the pavement in the other direction and I saw the BlueTooth headset clinging to the side of his head.

I then realized that this man was not certifiable.  He was just a rude douche-bag with a bad temper.

In the good old days, when someone was talking to an invisible conversant, you knew that they had an imaginary friend speaking in their ear. While this didn’t necessarily make them a danger, it did put one on notice that voice in their head might just be saying, “Get stabby.”

Today, I think we are being desensitized by miniature wireless headset technology. Now instead of assuming the someone chatting up an invisible conversant has gone around the bend, we assume that they are communicating with a real, live, flesh-and-blood person. This may be to our own peril.

What I’m suggesting is that Bluetooth headsets be made more conspicuous. They should be in bright neon colors, and should have a flag viewable by people from all directions. The flag would indicate that they aren’t hearing the voice of Beelzebub in their ear telling them to have a nice killing spree.

Just a suggestion.

It’s only going to get worse, when the first people start getting surgically grafted cell phones.

TODAY’S RANT: TMI in Advertising

I was reading the label of a bottled tea this morning. It said something like:

To offer you the fullest flavor, our leaves are not washed prior to steeping. The first time they experience water is when boiling spring-water is poured over them for brewing. This is why it’s so important that we use organic farming methods. This ensures the product you get is only tea… and water… and trace amounts of poop.

Sometimes I think big advertising is out of control. Nowhere is this more readily apparent than on Sesame Street. Big money letters like “M” get all the play and “Q” ends up being the stumbling block letter in the road-trip “ABC” game. No one wants to make more words starting with “X” or “Z” any more. Sure there’s a grassroots counter-culture movement, such as Ernest Vincent Wright’s short novel called Gadsby. Wright’s book was written entirely without the letter “e.” To be sure, “e” is a big money letter; it’s made more money off of Wheel of Fortune than any other vowel. Vanna turns the “e”s and the whole puzzle becomes clear. I heard e’s manager wanted to make its purchase value higher than the other vowels, but Pat Sajak showed his ugly side and “e” backed down.

You probably thought this post was going to be about the Super Bowl ads. I didn’t get past the first Go Daddy ad, which creeped me out. I still don’t know who Go Daddy is and what he does. (His name sounds a little like a pimp.) Which, by the way, is just like the medicine commercials. They have these ads for medicine that leave me like, “I don’t know whether your product will give me a boner or loosen my bowels, why are you advertising to me– especially if you’re going to end by telling me that, ‘Side effects may include a bleeding rectum?'”

Here’s said Go Daddy ad. Bon appetit.

TODAY’S MINI-RANT: On Groundhog Day

Attribution: Marumari (through Wikipedia)ALL HAIL, GREAT GROUNDHOG

Attribution: Marumari (through Wikipedia)
ALL HAIL, OH WISE GROUNDHOG

Today is the one day each year that I hope for first contact with an alien race, because I want their first report back to their home world to be: “Earthlings anxiously await the weather prediction of a large rodent.”

Furthermore, when the aliens ask to be, “taken to our leader”, they will be stunned to find that it isn’t the chubby omniscient rodent. They will be dismayed to learn that our political leadership not only isn’t omniscient, but isn’t even that “scient.”

On the other hand, perhaps they will back the rodents in an overthrow of  our kind. I’m not saying this will happen, but have your varmint rifles at the ready.

TODAY’S RANT: Preferred Customer Cards

Today at the grocery store, the cashier asked whether I had a preferred customer card.

To which I, of course, replied, “No. Do you have one of my preferred cashier cards?”

I thought that she would be devastated when she realized that she didn’t have my card, but she apparently thought I was joking — which saddened me a little.

I don’t sign up for such cards for a number of reasons, most of which have to do with being a dude.

1.) Wallet real estate premium: As a man, any extra card has to be wedged under one of my butt cheeks where it will sit all day trying to cause scoliosis. While your firm’s card may seem thin, they add up. Therefore, the card had better offer great perqs, such as an option to cut to the front of the line any time I so choose or the knowledge that –should there be a maniac on the loose in the store– lesser favored customers will be shoveled in front of me as human shields.

2.) Commitment limitations: One idea behind these cards is to build customer loyalty. I’m a man who has been happily married coming up on 19 years. Every ounce of my capacity for commitment is spoken for. I have no excess loyalty to spare on a brand of canned corn or on a particular store (you all sell the same stuff.) Sorry Keebler Elves, but I am not above a midnight rendezvous with some freaky Nabisco Oreos. Don’t make me perpetrate a lie.

3.) The Fudgesicle Dossier: When thinking about who to confess my moments of greatest weakness to (as reflected in buying a gallon of “Chunky Monkey” ice cream): a friend, a loved one, a priest; oddly enough Acxiom Incorporated does not spring to mind. Acxiom is one of the big companies that collects information about when you buy tampons or condoms or gas station sushi. Somewhere in a massive server farm sits an e-file, an indelible record of a lifetime of bad decisions as reflected in my consumer purchasing history. I’m not going to feed that monster.

Any way, getting back to my story. The cashier said that without the card my total would come to $21.70, but with one it would only be $12.95. She then proceeded to “blip” a card that she had stored next to the register. It saved me a bundle, so I felt obligated to give her one of my preferred cashier cards.

How to Kill a Rogue Yard Gnome, Part 2

[Don't overthink the symbolism]Attribution: loannes.baptista

[Don’t overthink the symbolism]
Attribution: loannes.baptista

[Part I can be read here.]

Five nights ago, as the sun sank below the horizon and the glow of vibrant colors faded, we three were visited by a fourth from our world. It was the Hargo Chetti. Like us, he had a long flowing beard and a pointy hat, but, unlike us, his face was twisted into a menacing glower. His shell was monotone brown, it was just a temporary husk pulled together from the earth for our meeting. There was no point in a permanent shell; Master Hargo couldn’t stay in the world of humans for long. (Humans thought of the gnome’s shell as the gnome, but to us it was just a container for our noncorporeal selves.)  It’s the scowl. The shell must reflect the gnome’s nature, and no one wants a scowling gnome in their garden. Well, there may be demented people who would like such a gnome, but those people are already beyond our assistance.

In gnomish, a language that doesn’t register in human hearing organs, Hargo said, “I come bearing orders from the Council. They want you to be more active in your man’s dream state.”

I was impressed by Hargo’s ability to project his voice to us, given our wide spacing. We three can only communicate in close proximity, or in the man’s dream state. I was less pleased with the content of his message. I bristled in my response, “I assure you that we are intervening when necessary to keep the man’s dream world from falling into darkness.”

Hargo huffed, “The Council’s orders go beyond maintaining the status quo.”

I said, “We’ve seen nothing suggesting the man needs an injection of cheer into his dream state. Surely, you’ve read our reports.”

Hargo replied, “The Council, which I needn’t remind you has more vision and wisdom than a mere worker gnome, isn’t requesting an injection of good cheer. They desire shadow-mares.” Shadowmares were like nightmares but the ones that cannot be remembered in the waking state. Humans imagine that a nightmare that they can’t remember is inconsequential and has no impact on their waking lives. They are wrong.

Furk, one of my peers, just said, “Yes.” Furk was bored. He thought three gnomes for one man was excessive, particularly when that one man wasn’t important. I suspect because one of the neighborhood cats liked to wee on his shell, Furk had soured on our assignment. Though correlation not being causation, I couldn’t eliminate the possibility that the cats peed on him because he was such a jerk.

I was momentarily speechless. Hookl was also speechless, but that was his usual state.

After a long pause, I said, “I would like confirmation that this is the will of the Council.”

Hargo’s scowl seemed to tighten. Icily, he said, “Are you calling me a liar?”

I felt a shudder rise up through me, but still managed to reply, “No. I just think such a rare and unusual order demands great care.”

“You have your orders.” Hargo said, and then his shell collapsed into a pile of dirt, which was then caught up in the breeze and spread over the lawn. By morning there would be no trace of him.

I didn’t trust the Hargo Chetti. He looked like Santa, sans the jolly. What screams lie more than a scowling Santa. Yet, he is our only point of contact with gnome world while we are on assignment. I’ve always thought that was a weakness in our system.

As Furk began to plan and Hookl resumed being Hooklish (which is to say disinterested), I strained to propel my shell toward the driveway. I moved as swiftly as I could, but it was still a pace that would make a turtle proud by comparison.

A few hours later, I noticed lights stretching down the road toward the drive, the twin beams — with the car— decelerated. The car swung into the drive nearly crushing my shell. Had the shell been crushed, I would have been evicted back to our home world. Gnomes required a shell. I wasn’t powerful enough to summon a shell from the dirt, like Hargo had, not even for a short time. My plan had been to get onto the driveway and block access to the garage. In retrospect, it was not a well-thought plan, but it was the only warning I could give the man in his waking state. Once he went to sleep, it might be too late.

The man seemed to take note of my changed position, but he didn’t return my shell to its original position. He just shrugged and walked into the house.

I wanted to persuade Furk to hold off on obeying the order for now. Silently screaming gnomish across the lawn wouldn’t work, I didn’t have Hargo’s power of projection. The distance between us was too great.

I would have to subvert Furk in the man’s dream state. It would be difficult; Furk would have a plan by now, and I would have to improvise, injecting characters into the dream as needed to counter the shadowmare. In the dream state, I wouldn’t look dwarfish – unless that was called for. I could morph into any character that I could imagine. If you’ve ever had a dream and seen a face that looks totally unfamiliar, you’ve had a gnome dream. If you aren’t sure if you were the lead character in your dream, a gnome has probably been monkeying around in your noggin.

*

Four nights ago, I convened a meeting to the side yard. I wanted to be out of sight. Humans often won’t miss a gnome if it’s gone, but seeing three cavorting draws undue attention. I migrated across in front of the house, a two bedroom ranch, and nudged Hookl, who was positioned midway between my usual position and Furk’s. We then proceeded to meet up with Furk. This would put me at a disadvantage. Moving the gnome shell by force of consciousness is exhausting, and if I had to battle it out with Furk in the man’s dream state that night I would be weaker than usual.

For Furk, who was positioned near the corner of the house, the journey to the side yard and back would short. This was probably why he agreed.

I said, “As you well know, I want to hold off on initiating shadowmares.”

Furk said, “An order has been given by the Council. It may be unusual, but I’m sure they have a good reason, and it is not ours to challenge.”

Hookl said nothing.

I replied, “Maybe they do, and if they confirm their order I will comply. But this is serious, and if there is not an explicit order from the Council, then it is high crime against the Gnome Code of Conduct. You know what shadowmares can do to humans after a time. The humans might not consciously recognize the effects, but we know them well.”

Furk retorted, “If the Council didn’t give the order, then the Hargo Chetti is a liar. Are you prepared to make that accusation, because I’m not?”

Hookl said nothing.

I said, “I’m not calling anyone a liar. I’m just saying this is an extremely rare order and since there is only one gnome linking the Council to us, the possibility for miscommunication exists. If it were a less risky order it might not justify my concern. What if the man does something disastrous because of our mental mischief?” I was lying. I did think Hargo was a liar, but saying that would serve nothing.

Furk said, “It’s like Hargo said, you can’t see the whole picture.”

Before we could even begin our retreat back to our proper positions, we heard the car slow and turn into the drive. There was no use in moving now.

I said, “The man is home. Furk, it is clear that we will not be able to persuade each other. I want to hear where Hookl stands, and we will decide by majority.”

Hookl was not happy to be put in the role of tie-breaker. Making decisions was not his strong suit. “Gee, I’ll get back with you tomorrow.”

We three were well-attuned to the man’s brainwaves. We knew when he went into the house. We all knew that he noticed we were missing. We knew when he was about to come back outside with his flashlight. Soon he was shining the light on us. His forehead was crinkled and his lips pursed. It was an expression of puzzlement. He was trying to figure out how we had gotten into the side yard.

*

Three nights ago, one of us was ejected from this world. As darkness fell, in the feeble light, I approached Hookl to inquire about how he intended to vote. I had no intention of reconvening the group. Furk could come to us if he wanted. He did so.

Hookl said, “I mean, I don’t think we should be hasty. We should take our time, and figure things out. Rushing now won’t help any…” He just went on like that, noncommittally, for some time.

It must have sounded to Furk like Hookl was siding with me because Furk kept migrating, pushing into Hookl’s side. I don’t know if Furk just wanted to persuasively intimidate Hookl, or if his intentions were more nefarious. At any rate, there is a slope to the land in the front yard, and many loose rocks. This contributed to Hookl’s shell begining to tip; Furk did not let up. There was nothing I could do but watch as Hookl’s shell tipped.

There was a hole in the bottom of Hookl’s shell from the manufacturing process. It didn’t matter as long as the hole was sitting on the ground. If the shell tipped over, Hookl could maintain himself inside as long as there was only on hole in the container. It was the same principle as a bucket being inverted and pushed down into water. The bucket captures air inside. Add a second hole, and the water plunges in to push the air out. When Hookl’s shell tipped, its shoulder landed on a rock and the ceramic cracked. In a whoosh, Hookl was ejected and forced back to our world, to our dimension.

There would be at least one more night of battling it out with Furk

*

Two nights ago, my fight with Furk continued beyond the dream state and into the physical world. It ended with a gnome sumo match, and Furk was sent home much as Hookl had been.

I didn’t know how long it would be before someone showed up, Hargo or someone on the Council’s behalf. If I was right, and Hargo had gone rogue, it might be never. He might cut his losses.

I began to rest easy in the belief that I could protect this man’s dream state. And then the putz put a baseball bat through the side of my head.

TO BE CONCLUDED