Quays to the Lough, Part I: First Impressions of Lough Hyne

[Apparently, if you make ecology puns on porpoise about taking shellfies (selfies with shellfish), people who aren’t a fan of such jokes don’t lichen you very much.]

            Céad mile fáilte, or, a hundred thousand welcomes.  This is the first Gaelic I learned, something I saw on a little souvenir sign.  When I asked an Irish girl in the crafts shop what it meant and how you say it, the words sounded so beautiful coming out of her mouth that I blacked out and probably didn’t get much past “thank you” before scurrying away.  You see, I didn’t want her large father to get the wrong idea from my speechlessness, as she appeared to be at least a few years younger than me.

            Anyway, a note about the title: The phrase “Quays to the Lough” is pronounced “Keys to the Lock,” as I later found out, when an Englishman (currently living in Ireland)—pointing to an area with both an island and a pier—corrected my Florida bias by clarifying that in Ireland, a “quay” (pronounced “key”) refers to a point or promontory and not a small, often tropical island.  This humorously enlightening instance was one of many such lessons I have since learned concerning the surprising amount of differences between American English and, well, English English.  Just for good measure, here is a list of such translations I have picked up in just six days in the country:

  • “Canoe”—a kayak that you sit in;
  • “Kayak”—a kayak that you sit on top of;
  • “Dug-out tree canoe”—canoe;
  • “Tomato puree”—tomato paste;
  • “Roll”—sandwich;
  • “Chemist”—pharmacist;
  • “Quay”—a type of pier or peninsula (pronounced “key);
  • “Half nine”—9:30, the time;
  • “J-Os”—a generic, store-brand Oreo cookie (and not an abbreviation of a much more lewd activity); and
  • “Digestives”—a type of cookie, still not sure what the name is all about.

Other than that, I find myself disoriented simply by the general word choice used here.  Ironically, I have yet to do work with any real Irish people—just Englishmen, Englishmen living in Ireland, English/Scottish/Irishmen, an Englishman who has lived in most, if not all, parts of the UK and now works in Ireland, and pretty much every other combination except for a Guinness-blooded Irishman.  But all of that is neither here nor there.  I imagine the variations in vocabulary are equally jarring no matter what part of the English-speaking North Atlantic an American may be.

            In a truly Shakespearean turn of events, I found that keeping a tight seal on the face with snorkeling goggles is quite a pain when one has a thick mustache.  Because this is the longest and thus most sentimental beard I’ve ever had, it was difficult coming to terms with the fact that the mustache, if not the whole beard, would have to go if I wanted to keep this 17-degree centigrade saltwater out of my nose.  Finally, I made the decision to get rid of the mustache and see if the rest was salvageable—perhaps in the form of some Civil War-esque sideburns.  Being too long for just the razor, I reached for the beard trimmer, only to find that it wouldn’t hold a charge and was thus effectively broken.  And since neither the Fields of Skibbereen grocery store nor the local chemist had a beard trimmer to buy, my beard is intact and strong as ever.  My nose remains a bit cold, though.

            I guess I should speak on the area of Lough Hyne or what sort of work I’m doing here, instead of selfishly rambling about my verbal curiosities and trivial beardly matters.  Although really, blogging in and of itself is a very selfish thing, so I’ll see what I can do to make it still explicitly about me.  I will soon begin my research project on marine fish communities in this saltwater body of water known as Lough Hyne.  **For more in-depth information on my and other science done here, see the internship blog: http://oimbucc.weebly.com/ires-blog.** 

View of the majority of the lough

View of the majority of the lough

Whirlpool Cliffs

Whirlpool Cliffs

The Rapids+Barloge Creek, which connects Lough Hyne to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Rapids+Barloge Creek, which connects Lough Hyne to the Atlantic Ocean.

Until then, I’ll be helping other students with their research and continuing long-term monitoring work, since this is the oldest marine reserve in Europe.  I recently found out that a survey I’m doing—which involves turning over rocks and looking at the animals that live under such rocks—is one that was started in the 1950s.  And being from Phillipsburg (or as I sometimes from here on out call it: the greatest town in the greatest state in the greatest nation on Earth), you know I appreciate tradition.  I’ve seen starfish, sea squirts, anemones, crabs, and various other primitive forms of animals like sponges—some of which remind me of flattened gum, some of Slimetime Live.  Either way, the color and complexity of these isolated communities is darn-near incredible to me.  As the narrator of Spongebob once said, “Yes, genius can be found, even under a rock.”

Until next time, sincerely yours,

The Lorax

That's me.

That’s me.

In memory of Ryan McGuinness, 1992-2014.  Undoubtedly one of the biggest fans of the blog, may you continue to help guide the thoughts of my mind and keep my humor fresh.  Rest in peace, mang.


The Ostensible Curse

[There's no "I" in "happy," but that's a faulty premise for making any assumptions on what leads to being happy.  After all, there is an "I" in "happiness."]

            I don’t know how anyone could have missed it—a peach tree that was practically unpicked.  Somehow, every other patron of this peach picking farm must have missed it.

            Wait, maybe not every other patron.

            On the other side of the tree, but about the same distance away, was an elderly woman.  She was modestly dressed, hunched over, but definitely—and I mean definitely—eyeing up this pristine peach paradise. 

            I started to sprint over, initially because I was afraid she’d beat me to the punch (or the pick).  Then I realized:

1)      She was way too short to reach any of the peaches on this particular peach tree;

2)      There was no way that hag was faster than me; and

3)      Where were my wife and kids?

None of these things—not even when taken together—ended up detering me from continuing my ridiculous pace over to the peach tree.  Naturally I beat her to the site by about thirty seconds and starting picking the fruit.  I reached high, I reached low.  I felt superhuman at this point.  By the time the old lady had waddled over, I must have plucked twenty peaches.  She fell to her knees.

“Where is it,” she shrieked, pointing to an arbitrary location on the peach tree.

“The tree?” I asked.  “It’s still here, it’s just not as bountiful anymore.”

“No, the peach, the peach,” still wagging her finger at the same spot.  “It was right there.”

“Well, I probably picked it.”

“Where is it then?  Please give it to me immediately.”

I looked down into my packed parcel and frowned.  “Which one?”

The lady sighed.  “If you can’t bestow on me the correct peach, I’ll have to take the whole bag and decide which one it is when I get home.”

“What?  No way, that’s totally unfair.  I got here and picked them first.  It’s not my fault I was the better peach-picker on this day.”  She started reaching madly, at which point I simply held the basket high above my head, like some schoolyard bully who hit his growth spurt way before anyone else.

The lady stepped back, breathing heavily.  “Very well,” she croaked as her eyes narrowed until her eyelids were but one atom apart.  “If you wish to be so attached to these peaches, I’ll do you a favor and ensure you never have to be parted from them.”

“Attached?  You’re the one demanding a particular peach, off a particular peach tree.  I’d give it to you if I knew which one you were talking about.”  But it must have been too late.  The gargoylette pulled a round, shiny stone from one of her pockets and rubbed it, chanting:

Love you have for these peaches round,

Hording them all in your basket.

So I’ll anchor you to their ground

Until they build your casket.

At that moment, gnarled wooden roots popped from the ground and wrapped around my feet.  Or maybe my feet became gnarled wooden roots—it happened so fast I couldn’t tell.  What I could tell was that my body was now intertwined with that of the peach tree.  Whether I’d start to sprout peaches was something I could only speculate at this point.

The wooden transformation stopped at my ankles, causing me to fall onto my face.  I’m sure the old hag had been cackling at me already, but now she was definitely howling with laughter.  “Could you at least make the wood go up to my waist so I can stand?”  I quickly checked myself, thinking of my wife.  “Errr, maybe like, just below the waist?  Or at the knees?  Hmmm, well whatever, I’ll make do.”

“This is a curse, you selfish moron; you don’t get to choose your fate.”  With that, she shuffled away and—bless her heart—poached my peaches, too. 

I was perplexed at this moment, though probably not as perplexed as most other people would have been in this situation.  As much as I wanted to get out, or at least see my family, I kept my cool.  You may not think it is possible to yell calmly, but that’s what I did.  “Honey?  …Honey?  Carol?”  When that didn’t work, I resorted to singing her name, throwing in random phrases of affection, which is what ultimately inspired me to begin my now successful music career.

Now I no longer wondered why this peach tree was as pristine as it was: no one ever ventured this far into the orchard…or farm, not sure.  It was a good two hours before anyone responded to my hit song “Carol.”  It wasn’t my wife, but he went and got her pretty quickly, given the unique nature of my situation. 

My wife was—understandably so—petrified when she saw my interesting state.  “Pentley, what happened?  How?”

“I beat an old witch to this productive peach tree and got all the sweet goods, so she cursed me.  Real sore loser.  But don’t worry, I have a plan.  Go build me a casket, like one you could legitimately bury me in.”  See, I was thinking; I told you I kept calm.

“Pentley!  What are you saying?  Don’t die on me.”

“No, no, I’m fine, honey.  It’s hard to explain, I think there’s a loophole here.”  To make a long story short, my wife dropped four hundred dollars on a casket and brought it all the way out to the fated peach tree/me.  Turns out there is no loophole.  I think the wording of her curse was more figurative, and I was in fact stuck here for life.  It took a week or two to get past that fact, but once I did, I got calm and started thinking again.  My hands and head were getting cut up and sore from me falling over so much, so I had Carol buy me a nice stake to lean on.  The owner of the farm even agreed to let my wife have a small house built on the property next to me, once a team of botanists, doctors, and psychic mediums determined I couldn’t be separated from the peach tree without passing on.  In exchange, I served as some money-making sideshow for his farm, which was ultimately fine with me.  I enjoyed the attention.

I must say the only truly unfortunate consequence of my situation was that, once I started sprouting peaches from the top of my head, my appetite for them was ruined.  Could you imagine eating your own kind?  I tried strawberries, oranges, and apples, but that just felt like what I imagined eating primates would be like.  On the bright side, now I could grow peaches, which everyone seemed to like. 

That brings me to the one thing I never really understood.  A curse is only a curse if you really understand the person you’re cursing, right?  There are very few universally deplorable things, if you ask me, and getting planted into the ground and having peaches poking out of your head is certainly not one of those pitiable “punishments.”  Why didn’t the witch think it over?  She only knew me for three minutes and based her curse off of something I clearly loved. 

I told her all of this the one day she returned.  Judging by her defense of the peach tree hex, it sounded like she was trying to make me eat my words, instead of my peaches.  Speaking of which, she tried to get smart and pull a peach off me, so I made it go rotten by the time she grabbed it.  I told her I was just kidding and let her take another one.  She really seemed to appreciate that.  I never found out why she needed that specific peach many years ago, but she bought one of my CDs, so I think I won this one after all.


Hip Hop’s most Important Emcee

[If you surround yourself with like-minded people, you’ll find yourself stagnant.  The only prerequisite for compatibility is kindness, so go out and make friends with people who aren’t at all like you; that creates potential for true growth for both yourself and your relationships.]

            I can only call myself a casual Wu Tang Clan listener, but that is not to say I don’t really care for them.  In fact, I love what they’ve done, and the only problem is that between rock, R&B, punk, metal, bluegrass, and rap, I can’t give the amount of attention that all these wonderful artists deserve for their work.  Honestly, Wu Tang remains one of the most influential groups in the history of the industry, which doesn’t even begin to include its members’ individual contributions.  I thoroughly enjoyed RZA’s The Man with the Iron Fists, I have multiple Ghostface and Method Man albums, and everything else I’ve heard from the rest of them is just as good.  But in my opinion, the most significant Wu Tang member—and right now, the most significant emcee period—is the GZA.  What he’s doing transcends just the realm of hip hop.  What he’s doing is something people merely talk about but never really do.  What he’s doing is delivering education to kids in a way that actually engages them.

The GZA (left) and Dr. Chris Emdin (right)

The GZA (left) and Dr. Chris Emdin (right)

Together with Dr. Chris Emdin, an Assistant Professor at the University of Columbia, the GZA has partnered with RapGenius.com to pilot a project that uses hip hop to teach math and science to kids in NYC’s public schools (you can learn more about it here).  The above article does a great job of summarizing the program’s foundation and goals, but there are so many other reasons why this is such an awesome idea.  In a world that raises children in a manner radically different from those that grew up thirty years ago, we need to bypass these tiny changes in teaching practices and adopt a system that is consistent with the way they grow up and challenges students of all ability levels.

We are learning every minute of every day.  When we talk with our friends, we learn what they are going through and how different people view the world.  When we stare out the window, we learn (even if only subconsciously), about the nature of our universe.  When we watch TV or surf the web, we absorb whatever it is we are viewing and listening to.  The point: we are being lectured less and less as we interact more and more.  Maybe there was a time when kids were accustomed to being spoken to, but that is far from the truth now.  Teaching is not about talking to, it is about talking with, and what the GZA and Dr. Emdin are doing now is the closest approach to that belief as I’ve ever seen.  If kids grow up listening predominantly to the language of hip hop, then educate that in that same language or else you won’t reach them at all.  Likewise, if a kid identifies with cartoons, then find a way to incorporate that into his or her learning.  Music and the rest of the arts are here to stay, so you can’t realistically expect to cut kids off from them and force them to grow up in a way that makes them more fit for our current schooling practices.  Instead, we need to figure out what these kids like the most and convince them that those interests can help them excel to a level of knowledge and wisdom they never thought possible.

Perhaps equally as important to adopting a new system is ensuring that this system keeps kids challenged and focused.  My mom teaches kindergarten, and although you won’t find the most mind-boggling material in that classroom, it is the perfect environment for figuring out the best way to teach kids.  For the most part, they’re inattentive, lacking in manners, and aren’t yet familiar with the actual process of learning.  The problem is that some kids are attentive and are ready to learn, and that discrepancy never goes away.  Some kids are simply smarter than others, but that doesn’t mean the kids on the lower end have no chance.  It’s only that we haven’t found the best way to engage them.  The other side of that story is that we don’t have the means for keeping the smartest kids in check.  One of the most evident problems at any grade level is that intelligent kids get bored too easily during school.  And when they get bored, they get into trouble.  Whether you approve of his lyrical content or not, you have to respect Biggie as a truly brilliant man.  His rhymes were so complex at such a young age that I can’t help but wonder how boring grammar and algebra must have been to him.  It’s no surprise that he wasn’t interested in school.

This example highlights a monumental implication that the GZA and Dr. Emdin realize: hip hop represents a medium through which kids can constantly rethink everything they know and express complex emotions and concepts in a cool sixteen bars.  In other words, the boundaries of hip hop, as in science, are endless.  You can always get better, you can always learn more, and thus you can always accomplish more.  And that’s a great way to keep bright kids driven and out of trouble.  Give them an interesting topic like outer space or evolution—with all of its mysteries and unsolved phenomena—and a form of expression like hip hop—that is constantly evolving itself—and the results will be astounding.  At this point, I can only imagine how successful some of these rappers would also be if they had chosen to become scientists.  Their work ethic and attention to detail is nearly unmatched.  If this project can convince these kids that the opportunities for achievement and enjoyment in the sciences are both real and feasible, there’s no doubt that they would be well-represented in those fields.

As a former physics major and current graduate student in conservation biology and fisheries science, I’ve been impatiently awaiting the release of the GZA’s album Dark Matter, and hoping that the rumors of an album about the ocean are true.  But now I realize why it’s so important that he’s taking his time.  With the proper support and execution, the plan he and Dr. Emdin have developed has the potential to change the way we educate kids.  This project is far bigger than the albums he plans to release, and the fact that he’s physically going around and visiting these schools literally made me tear up.  He truly cares about hip hop, he truly cares about education, and he truly cares about these kids.  The GZA is no more deserving of his title as “The Genius” as he is right now.  This is one of the most inspiring projects I’ve seen in a long time, and it concerns one of the most important issues our culture faces today.  If you don’t believe me, watch this video; it says much more than I could ever hope to in this small essay.

 

Photo Credits:

GZA: http://first-avenue.com/event/2012/09/gza

Dr. Chris Emdin: http://news.rapgenius.com/Gza-science-genius-121212-speech-lyrics#note-1436722


Yeah, Everyone’s on Drugs, all the Time

[Next time you run out of milk and want to have some cereal, just pour applesauce in there instead.  It’s not nearly the same, but it’s an option if you have applesauce.]

            It’s finally time to tackle one of the issues closest to my heart—that’s right, kids’ cartoons and trying to enjoy both the old and the new.  I may be twenty-one years old (almost twenty-two), but ten years ago I was already having my mid-life crisis in dog-years, so I don’t want to hear your age-related arguments about “being too old” to watch cartoons.  And one day, I hope to have kids, and I sure as shrimp don’t want to be out of the loop when they get into that phase.  So I stay tuned in because I still like them and have enough free time to do so.  Naturally, that leads to me trying to watch them in the company of people who aren’t as familiar as I am—people, presumably, who think they’re too old or mature for that kind of stuff.  In that case, someone inevitably brings up one of my least favorite comments: “Man, cartoons are so weird these days.  These writers are clearly on drugs.  They were so much better when we were younger, right, Ryan?” (For a mention of other entertainment-related comments that bother me, read my last post, specifically, about professional wrestling).

Now before I go on with the deconstruction of that criticism, this illustrates an important, more general point worth making.  Obviously the world around us changes as we get older, but we of course change as we get older, too.  When you’re a little kid, you read stories about monsters under your bed ignorantly attempting to put on clothes and pigs running around building houses.

Still one of my favorite kids' books

Still one of my favorite kids’ books

Combine that with cartoons and neon-colored food, and you’re practically bathing in a kiddie pool of imagination.  Your brain is so overloaded with absurdity that sex references in your kids show can’t possibly get through to you as being creepy or “off” (plus you just didn’t know about that stuff yet).  Of course when you get older, people try to force reality down your throat and up your ass simultaneously, so anything colorful or fantastical is too sweet for your big boy taste buds.

OK, now for some explanation of why I believe current cartoons aren’t any weirder than they were ten or fifteen years ago, and if writers are on drugs now, they were definitely snortin’ the same stuff back then, too.  Overall, cartoons were always about being unrealistic and silly while containing a heavy dose of social commentary lurking in the background.  So to think that cartoons are more risqué than back in the day is wrong.  Go back to the very beginning (not counting Steamboat Willie): if you can picture all the cross-dressing and lipstick marks in the Looney Tunes cartoons, you probably know what I mean…not to mention the very explicit gun, bomb, and piano-related violence.

This happens in so many episodes it's not even funny...oh wait, yes it is.

This happens in so many episodes it’s not even funny…oh wait, yes it is.

Or to go with something that hits a bit closer to home, consider this video as anecdotal evidence: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=xbNEhezUfVE#!  .  If you take out Adventure Time and Spongebob, those are all clips from shows we would have watched as little kids.  Admittedly, not everyone would argue that cartoons never had sexual content or material that was meant to make the parents chuckle, but I didn’t want to leave that unattended.

The more common issue I hear is that cartoons have gotten weirder in a more broad sense—that they have outlandish premises or ridiculous animation.  Now keep in mind I don’t have any problems with the old shows I’m using as examples; I just want to defend some of the newer shows that I really find enjoyable.  Three of my favorite cartoons—Spongebob Squarepants, Regular Show, and Adventure Time—come under heavy fire for being silly, stupid, and disgusting.  Yet the same people who rag on them would talk about how great Aaahh!!! Real Monsters or Ren and Stimpy was.

I'll give it to you: Adventure Time (right) is weirder, but not by much.  You gotta consider context, anyway.

I’ll give it to you: Adventure Time (right) is weirder, but not by much. You gotta consider context, anyway.

I understand that some people have their innate nostalgic sense of loyalty to the cartoons that were bumping when they were younger, but I feel like there’s no need to trash the new stuff.  It’s not like newer cartoons are threatening the classics or stealing airtime—the reason those shows aren’t on anymore is because people you stopped watching them.  Using the excuse that they’re not on air anymore because they’re old is nonsense; not even Bill Cosby could keep Looney Tunes off TV.  Look, you don’t have to follow Adventure Time or Spongebob; I get it if you think they’re stupid, because they are stupid.  I just happen to still find “stupid” funny these days.  Just understand that they’re fundamentally similar to what was around in the 90s.  As Method Man once said, “Before you play the game know the rules//Cuz still ain’t nothing changed but the jewels.”  All cartoons are gems of an idea; they’re just coming in different shapes, sizes, and colors now.

Photo URLs:

Huggly: http://www.betterworldbooks.com/huggly-gets-dressed-id-0439102685.aspx

Bugs Bunny: http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/node/21928?page=1227

Krumm (left): http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/51244/aaahh-real-monsters-season-one/

Adventure Time (right): http://adventuretime.wikia.com/wiki/Talk:Nightosphere_(location)


The Bible and Professional Wrestling, and how to Approach them

[People rush way too much to attend to trivial matters while they hesitate to act on the things that are actually pressing.]

            Chances are I’m a pretty bizarre dude.  Please don’t think sexual; that’s not what I’m talking about.  I put the water in my mouth before taking a pill, instead of the other way around.  I’ve been known to rock a Civil-War era pair of mutton chops.  I prefer to wear a crew neck sweatshirt over top a flannel, as opposed to the analogous dress shirt-sweater combo.  But to my knowledge, I don’t take much heat for that stuff.  Rather, the least understood things about me might be my faith and my love of professional wrestling.  I’m not sure if any other human in the history of mankind has ever (or would have) made this marriage of concepts, but I promise a connection—however tenuous. 

Image

DISCLAIMER: This is not in any way what I believe about the “Rapture.” Jesus would in fact beat Macho Man in a wrestling match. Yes, even Macho Man.

            I recently attended a youth ministry discussion about Faith and Doubt—the undeniable fact that all Christians have doubts about what appears in the Bible and how we deal with these concerns.  People are constantly tempted to label all Christians as anti-big bang, anti-evolution, anti-gay.  Well I once was a physics major, I’m now a biology major, and I simply don’t have a problem with gay marriage.  I have resolved all these apparent contradictions because such beliefs are determined by how you view the Bible: do you see it as the words of God, or the Word or God?  In other words, how literally do you take the Bible?  I tend not to think of it as a textbook, so I don’t get my science from there.  Nor do I think of it as an unblemished, perfectly translated account of historical events, so I am cautious before I take it literally.  The Bible may not be a textbook, but it is meant to teach.  And when we learn from a piece of literature or a movie, we don’t look at specific scenes or chapters without considering the overall message, certain themes, and historical context.  Am I labeling the Bible as fiction?  No, but I am suggesting that the way we study other forms of art and media can be applied to one’s faith.  In the end, it’s all meant to express and to learn. 

            Now I never thought I’d have to work harder to defend anything other than my belief in Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior, but here I am trying to sell you professional wrestling.  Just as much as the Bible is about learning how to live a loving and disciplined life, professional wrestling is about enjoyment.  People get so caught up in whether or not it’s “real” that they forget the whole point.  Ever since the feud with the World Wildlife Fund, we’ve known it as the WWE—or World Wrestling Entertainment.  First and foremost, it is entertainment. 

Image

Heel move by the World Wildlife Fund

[Allow a slight digression here, because everyone asks me this question: “But it’s not real, is it?”  Well that’s a hard question to answer.  It is not real in the sense that the results of matches are scripted.  It is real in the sense that they really do get slammed on their backs, hit with metal chairs, and fall from many, many feet in the air.  You can’t avoid these things; physics doesn’t care about entertainment.  Wrestlers break bones, tear muscles, and on the rarest occasions, even die.  Many of them have worse post-career lives than professional football or baseball players.  Please do not assume that what they do is easy or painless.]

Anyway, if you have a problem with fighting mixed with soap opera-esque plotlines, then you have every right to hate on pro wrestling (even though it is America’s only self-developed form of theater).  But if you are against it on the premise that much of it is staged, please consider this analogy.  When you walk out of a movie like Inception or Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, do you complain to your friends, “Man, that story was so fake, that fight scene would never happen in real life”? 

Image

You can tell those Oliphants are fake; this is dumb.

I’d like to think not, because you know that movie isn’t meant to be some realistic depiction of life.  It’s fiction, and we all know it, but we enjoy it because we view it as entertainment.  That’s essentially what professional wrestling is to me: a series of action-packed fight scenes, except the players are charged with doing these extremely impressive stunts live.

            So if those aren’t the reasons why people find fault with Christianity and professional wrestling, then I don’t know what they are.  But it seems to me that the critics of such lifestyles would rather see them in a way that makes them easy to reject or ridicule.  Those who have beef with the Bible don’t want to see it as a giant metaphorical teaching because the literal interpretation is the only thing they have a problem with.  If they acknowledged a more liberal view of the Bible, then they might just have to become a Christian or be a hypocrite.  And those who have beef with professional wrestling don’t want to see it as entertainment.  If they can’t maintain the illusion that its writers are trying to fool us with a “real” show, then nothing separates it from the sports and movies they love.  Christianity and professional wrestling: I see them as suffering from similar forms of criticism.  People try to ascribe to them purposes that their creators never intended.  You don’t have to believe and enjoy the same things that I do, but I do ask that you truly understand why I love them so.

 

Photo Credits:

Macho Man: http://www.rantsreviewsrock.com/2011/05/well-not-what-everyone-was-expecting.html

Pandas: http://perfectpandas.com/2010/07/02/wwf-panda/

Oliphants: http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/Mumakil


There’s a Time and Place for Everything, Including Never and Nowhere

[I was never worried about the Earth running out of resources, and then I saw that my 32-gigabyte iPod had only 4 gigabytes of space left.  Don’t think it can’t happen!]

            Almost 100% of the time, a person wants to know what happened.  And I mean that in the most general sense.  All of us want to feel informed when it comes to politics, music, and celebrity news.  But for most of us, the desire stops at just that.  Or, I can say with confidence, “That’s where it stops for me.”  Of course I want to know what people think about the content of a Youtube video or a sports article. The absolutely last thing I want to know is what one commenter thinks of another comment.  Few things in existence make me lose faith in the world like a bunch of people snapping back and forth at each other under a comment board for a music video.  Sometimes I just want to know how the general public feels about a new rule being instituted in the MLB or how to decode what a politician is actually saying in a decidedly nebulous speech.  But those rare comments quickly get washed away and buried under pages of, “It’s clear that your parents beat you over the head with the lid of a trash can and that you should just go crawl in a hole and have someone bury you alive.”  I just want to know when Football Player X is going to come back from his injury.  If I wanted to know how many ways the Internet community could devise for you to kill yourself, I would go…well, I guess I can go pretty much anywhere on the Internet.  Here’s a recent example  (The comments may change, but boy were they bad when I read them)

(Time for a digression) And that’s the sad point: I don’t want to know any ways for you to kill yourself.  No matter who the reader of this blog is—whether black or white; male, female, or other identifications; good or evil—I don’t want you to kill yourself.  EVER.  Now you can question my patriotism all you want, but my faith as a Christian trumps everything.  So when I found out Osama Bin Laden was killed, I wasn’t sluggin’ beers and singing “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”  (Although it is a good song, one I haven’t sung since my days at Andover Morris School.)  Sure I was happy to see some sort of closure on such a horrific matter.  But deep down, you know what I wanted?  I wanted Bin Laden to have this insane change of heart where he repents all the bad things he had done.  And using his family’s money, he opens up a huge network of sustainable schools to educate impoverished Afghan children.  If you’re going to hope and pray for something that you essentially have no control over, you might as well think positive, right?  Killing him gave Obama and the rest of us something to brag about, but it didn’t bring anyone back from the dead.  But in my ideal fantasy world, the best case scenario is some super evil dude turning over a new leaf and saving lives for the future.

Anyway, I have this vision about Internet comment sections.  I have a feeling some of you reading this are also sick of seeing the comments for a Snoop Dogg song devolve into petty arguments about existentialism or the existence of a higher power.  This vision I have, I don’t know how possible it is.  But I’m thinking positive, you know?  The idea is as follows.  There are monitors—automatic if possible—that scan through the comments of an online video or news article.  If the comment is directed at another person and (using some algorithm) has below a certain threshold of relevance to the webpage, it is redirected to some faraway forum somewhere else on the World Wide Web.

This guy looks like he’s got it under control.

All the senseless and irrelevant comments can go to the same place because, in the end, it doesn’t matter where the comments came from.  They’re all about people being sacks of shit or being retarded (I don’t think that word should be used in a derogatory manner; I’m trying to fix myself, too).  If the World Wide Web was a bathroom, this forum for unnecessary comments would be that dark corner behind the toilet—with pubes, Q-tips, pads, and the like.

A corollary of this vision is that I hope some really adept programmer/hacker reads this entry.  Then he or she or ze will be inspired to make this happen.  There was a tweet some girl sent out about how Obama needs to be assassinated.  First of all, no he doesn’t.  Nobody should ever be assassinated.  But the other thing that struck me as frustrating was that people were responding to that tweet by saying that she needs to die.  I hope I’m not the only one who sees a problem in this logic.  I also hope there are people out there more driven than I am.  I miss seeing comments that praise musicians and suggest to the world other artists who they think are even better.  Or something that’s relevant to the topic but extremely silly.  Both of those get thumbs-ups from me.

Photo Credits

Robot: http://redgage-photos.s3.amazonaws.com/kronobot/kronobotworkinginoffice1.jpg

Like: http://www.mikogo.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/youtube-thumbs-up.jpg


The Work-to-Enjoyment Ratio

[“RAW AND UNCUT” is something we always want in our extended edition movies but never with our chicken.]

            “Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to work so hard for things that I like to do.”

-Ryan Jiorle

            It can be really powerful to start off a paper with a relevant quotation and use its interpretation as a means for a thought-provoking and alluring introduction.  Unfortunately, this was the only truly relevant one I could find, and there’s not much to interpret.  This self-proclaimed aphorism expresses a sentiment that many share, especially when it comes to food.  For barbarous animals, eating is necessary for survival and likely does not imply a relaxing sense of enjoyment.  For 1st-world humans, who I guess can still be a bit barbarous at times, eating has evolved, perhaps just as much as our species has.  Not only does the act of consuming food often engender a feeling of ecstasy, but also that we’ve come to expect it to do so.  I like to imagine that, on an instinctual level, animals eat certain things and have a primal feeling along the lines of, “This isn’t providing nearly enough proteins for my body’s daily functions.  I’d rather not eat that again.”  But once again, we humans are different.  Our complaints are generally more like, “I ordered the Italian wedding soup, not some sort of gazpacho!  Heat it up next time!”  Or perhaps, “I really like the taste of this chicken, but the texture of the sauce is all off.  I’d rather not eat that again.”

It really is crazy to see how far we’ve come.

Despite the show-stopping nature of these matters, they all become trivial in the face of our most important concern:  How much work do I have to go through to eat this food?  Even that question is considered (not in a “thinking” way, more of a natural reaction) by Earth’s other species when hunting or foraging.  Only, as usual, we’ve managed to allow it to devolve into trifling details such as picking food off of a bone or how hard it is to chew something.  Nevertheless, I am a victim of this laziness and thus define the Work-to-Enjoyment Ratio as

Assumptions are that one has healthy jaws, taste buds, and hands, while any preparation of the food is excluded from the measure of work.  In other words, the meal is sitting on a plate, ready to be eaten.  This should make sense intuitively, and many will have clear examples of this phenomenon at work in their minds.  Regardless, I will delve into the two components of this formula to show how they apply to real-life meals.

To start with the numerator, “work” is something everyone should, in theory, hate.  Jobs are usually irritating, no one likes doing homework, and housework is something men made an effort to avoid for centuries.  So why should we, as an extremely advanced (or “derived,” for you biologists) race of creatures, have to work so hard to eat certain foods?  Eating, by all accounts, is meant to give us energy, and any work required to peel, cut, or pick is counterproductive to the ultimate goal (let’s ignore the fact that I often eat so much that I’m pretty sure I’ve lost energy).  And being in the numerator, work acts to increase the value of the WTE and, just as with Calories, the lower the number, the better.  As previously hinted at, work is determined by any act of cutting, peeling, or picking around bones.  Also, the number of napkins required to clean up oneself and the need to use a wet nap or water (for sticky foods) are also accounted for.

This one gets confusing and frustrating, just like real-life work.

Of course, there are different ways of serving certain foods, so just imagine the food in its most common state.  For example, fruit is unpeeled, vegetables are ready to eat if cooked in as part of a meal (but not so if you’re weird and eating a vegetable by itself), meat is not cut, unless in a salad, and bread is not buttered.

The denominator, “enjoyment,” has only one coefficient and one variable: the volume of food being consumed and how much you enjoy its taste, respectively.

Well, DUH! Of course enjoyment equals TV!

Obviously, volume is not up for debate and taste preferences most certainly are.  It is intuitive that more food equals a larger denominator and thus a smaller value for the WTE and, just as with Calories, the lower the number, the better.

Some of the classic cases of the WTE will be analyzed here, such as pasta, salads and sandwiches, hot wings (ribs are analogous with this example), and crab legs.

  1. Pasta generally receives one of the lower (better) values, provided that the consumer likes the taste of pasta.  Many different sauces are possible and thus can change the taste value.  More importantly, very little work is required to eat pasta.  There is usually no cutting, and one can virtually shovel the food in.  At the end, hands are usually clean and a quick wipe of the napkin around the mouth gets rid of “tomato sauce lipstick.”
  2. Salads and sandwiches are swing foods.  A swing food, by definition, is whether or not the consumer will take into consideration the amount of work required to prepare the food (these foods take a lot of preparation).  The classic definition of WTE excludes this factor, but some people must make their own food, and the WTE has been revised in light of that.  The undeniably redeeming quality of salads and sandwiches is their versatility, which almost always results in a high enjoyment value, no matter who the consumer is.  The different combinations of ingredients are essentially endless, so look for a large denominator (this is also the case with chili).  And the work is next to nothing if preparation is excluded.  The only deal-breaker comes in the form of a messy sandwich that requires multiple napkins and sometimes even extensive hand-washing.
  3. Hot wings will often have a rather unappealingly high WTE because of the work required.  Enjoyment values have been maximized with the introduction of new sauces (such as honey BBQ, sweet Thai chili, teriyaki, etc.), but the amount of work tends to turn off everyone except those people who really love spicy food.  Hot wings are usually record-setters in terms of napkins, and wet napkins/soap and water is required for cleanup of both hands and mouth.  Finally, extensive work (and skill) is needed to be able to clean all of the meat off without wasting too much.  Thank goodness for the boneless wing.
  4. Not many people eat crab legs.

Photo Credits

Dog: http://cdn.uproxx.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/tumblr_ll21u7wZzK1qk3h3co1_400.jpg

Person: http://howstuffworks.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/man-eating-pasta.jpg


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