Monday, March 31, 2008

The Invisible Hand

For my academic work, I currently spend a lot of time at my computer. The school I attend puts almost every lecture given on the web to ensure that students have easy access to the material. I appreciate the ease of access and information at my fingertips. However, therein lies the problem: my fingers. I do not have a problem with keeping myself on task with an independent schedule. I have no issue studying for extended periods of time, or watching a lecture on a video screen, or feeling isolated from my classmates, or any of the myriad of other potential problems.

Instead, I will be intently listening to a lecture on internuclear opthalmoplegia and my fingers start to wander. My mind is still focused, but the next thing I know, I am no longer staring at a fuzzy video rendition of a powerpoint slide, but at my open inbox with 25 new e-mails. I look down, and find my fingers typing away a reply to a message I haven't even consciously read. I hate facebook, but about twenty minutes in to every lecture, I find my fingers reading the wall posts of kids I went to fifth grade camp with. How did I get here? I always wonder.

The computer streaming is not the problem, but it clearly amplifies the problem. In a lecture hall with notes, I can only play with my pencil, draw random shapes, and count the number of bricks on the wall for so long. Each of those tasks is only a slight improvement from listening to a lecturer drone on. However, writing, checking, replying, wall-posting, poking, fantasy baseball managing, newspaper reading, and financial institution check-ups are all quite more engaging than a lecture, and like a reflex, when my mind tires of engaging information, my fingers wander.

A new phenomena has also manifested itself in my graduate studies, which is not coincidental to my wandering hands. After studying for so many hours, my mind actually feels sore. As ridiculous as it sounds, after a day of studying, a stack of notes look like two sixty-five pound barbells at the end of my bicep workout. I can feel my mind cringe. When this pain starts to creep in to my lecture watching is when my fingers start to wander. Although, I suppose it is better than the alternative, because, as they say, "idle hands are the devil's workshop."

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Moot Article

Don't tell me that the title above isn't awkward. I'm not sure if it even makes sense, but I know because the word point isn't in the above following "moot" my visual ear grates when reading that title. However, I think the word moot is too good a word to be used in just one way. Even the phrase, "moot point" is being slowly degraded. For example, I have a friend who says that things are "mute points." I am always tempted to look around for the mime making an argument, or a very silent sharp edge. However, albeit not how he intended it, the phrase "mute point" does reflect the truth of the idiom that silence speaks louder than words. Rick Springfield tried an interesting variation in Jessie's Girl saying "The point is probably moot." Still, although the reversal is syntax, moot isn't used to modify anything but a point.

However, "moot" isn't alone in idiomatic isonation. "Fell," for example, only functions as an adjective in the phrase "one fell swoop." I have literally no idea what it means, I'm just glad I found out it was supposed to be "fell" instead of "foul" which I used to say. I still think that "foul swoop" makes more sense because I like to imagine a very efficient bird making just one pass at something. Saying "I fell down" is common enough, but I have never heard of anyone used the variant "felled" to describe knocking down anything but trees (as in "I felled five trees last night). I suppose, I have heard it used in boxing, as in "he felled him with one punch," but the word still sounds like an vestige of another era.

The problem with isolating these words to stock phrases, is that they become instantly cliched. Is there any other way of saying that a comment or argument someone makes doesn't matter other than saying it is a "moot point?" After finishing dinner and being stuffed, I'd like to respond that the desert menu is moot, but alas, I cannot. Unless of course, someone somehow tries to transform the desert menu into some sort of point. Likewise, I can't even comprehend how to use "fell" in the same way as one "fell" swoop because I have no idea what it means outside of that phrase. I guess that is the beauty of the cliche, though. The hearer doesn't even have to imagine what is meant by the language because the phrase implies one singular meaning. Unless of course, the point is mute.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Captain Planet and the Moral Decline of Cartoon Nation

I'm not sure that a more cliched childhood television show exists than Captain Planet. It seems to be oft-cited as the predictor of our green conscious generation and television show with sound, albeit cheesy, moral standards. However, I disagree donkey kong was a very good video . . .err, Captain Planet was a horrible television show. Heart, Wind, Earth, and whatever horrifying attempt at unifiable super-powers were not good television. The first time I saw the show, I think I thought it was an infomercial for something. Now, I wonder if I wasn't right. I am all for environmentally conscious television, but not at the expense of quality. The storylines didn't hold a candle to Thundercats, Police Academy, Woody the Woodpecker, or most importantly, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Captain Planet was a receptacle for poor ideas with good intentions.

I recognize that I haven't seen Captain Planet in at least a decade. However, my animosity toward the show is fueled less by its poor quality and my childhood disinterest, than the frequency its mentioned and/or displayed on t-shirts of my generation. Captain Planet was bad tv when good tv existed. I nearly broke into fist-fights with people over whether or not Michaelangelo was better than Donatello. I can sing Bobby's World's anthems with disturbing accuracy to this day (i.e. Animals don't wear underpants, which is not only a fact, but uses the term underpants which is a huge bonus). Darkwing Duck's theme song still gives me shivers. However, when Tiny Toons gave way to the Animaniacs, and Power Rangers stepped into the televisions world, broadcast children's programs began its swift decline.

I know it may seem that the great fall of children's programming took place at a time eerily coincidental with my growth into a burgeoning teenager, but I assure you it is coincidental. I don't mean to be a fundamentalist spouting on about the decline of society, but can someone please explain to me what has happened in any storyline of Spongebob Square Pants? I even am partial to Spongebob based simply on aesthetics, but its plots are worse than those of the Planeteers. And do teletubbies even talk? I turned on tv the other day and I am pretty sure I saw a sloth as a lead character? What happened to the classic turtle? Or Arthur the . . .what was he? Ardvark. Anteater? The point is, I am not sure what is going on in the television world these days. I hate to hear the old-timers talk about the good old days, but what happened to the good old days?

And its not only true of cartoons. I want to turn on my television and see Belki, Urkel, the young goddess Tapenga (she got smoking in the later years), Tim Allen in some obscure Michigan college sweat shirt, or either of the Olson twins no strung out. I want opening credits featuring Suzanne Somers getting smoked by a Ceader Pointe-esque water-ride, San Fransisco streets and lyrics about newspaper boys, Eddie working on a car, and/or Mr. Feeney in any capacity. What happened? Now I turn on the television and their are B-list celebrities getting reamed out by Donald Trump, B-list celebrities dancing with nobodies, or my favorite, C-list reality superstars returning triumphantly to the show that made them famous (see any obscure American Idol fifth place finisher, Survivor faves versus fans, or anything on that cultural anthropological fungus they call Road Rules v. Real World).

Okay, my rant is done. I realize that I may be viewing the past through Rose color glasses, but at least I can admit that Captain Planet always sucked.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


I was once taking on online quiz about Starbucks* and received a personality profile based on my standard small black coffee that read something to the effect of: you are the type of person who watches America's Funniest Home Videos (or AFV as I like to call it, with or without acknowledging that there should be an H there) and thinks it is a great show. Initially, I resented the classification, not because it tried to imply that my simple coffee taste meant I was simply simple. I simply resented the classification because it attempted to use AFV as an insult. You can insult my coffee taste, but don't insult one of the hallmarks of American culture (unless you are referring to the years when Daisy Fuentes was a co-host).

I may have written something similar to this column (I like to avoid the word blog for posterity's sake) (and no I have no idea what the last parenthetical means), so for those of you who have been reading the daily doyle for some time, I apologize (to both of you). However, I recently rediscovered the show and witnessed the host claim that many American's still refer to AFV as a guilty pleasure. I found that to be a woeful, if accurate, description of American culture. Desperate Housewife's and Grey's Anatomy are guilty pleasures, AFV is the pinnacle of American art.

If you beg to differ, consider the following indisputable syllogism (or linear logical argument:
-People actually do (most) everything you see on the show
-People actually have a video recorder present at the time of the action
-The people that have a video recorder present, are present in mind just enough to capture it on video
-The people who complete the act, have a video recorder present, and capture the act, somehow are capable of finding the address to AFV which means: When someone somewhere utters "I'm going to send that into America's Funniest Home Videos," they actually follow through with it
-People actually fly to San Fransisco (or whever the show is, I assume SF, only because Bob Saget definitely still lives somewhere on the set, even if he is the dirtiest American alive), to sit on what appear to be disproportionate building blocks in hopes that they can identify themselves as the moron on the video
-And finally, people getting hit in the nuts, is and forever will be, extremely funny, with the obvious caveat that it is not you receiving the death blow to your battlestar gallactica**

To quote smiling Jack Ross, these are the facts of the case and they are undisputed. If you are not impressed by this feat, you are the same kind of person who likes to state that an infinite number of monkeys typing on an infinite number of typewritters could compose Shakespeare. To you, I pose one final convincing question, "could monkeys and/or Shakespeare use a camcorder?"

*I tried to think of a way of starting this column without acknowledging I took on online quiz about my Starbuck's preference. Alas, there was none and I am duly embarrased

**The irony here is that attributing the name battlestar gallactica is the type of quality humor that AFV fans rightly appreciate

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Latest and Greatest

Question: Does anyone know what the metal rack about mid-level in my microwave is supposed to do?

Answer: Keep my popcorn bag from spinning.

But seriously (or rather, maybe just slightly seriously), When did it occur to the good people at GE, Kenmore, and LG that I needed a metal rack in the middle of my microwave oven. I can only assume there is some unforseen purpose I just don't understand. I mean, I wish my dryer came with a rack so I could place tennis shoes upon it so they didn't tumble. My oven and grill come with a rack so the food doesn't just lay on the heat source. Maybe they were just trying to get the microwaves to fit in with the other appliances. Really all it does is require me to remove it every time I put something in the microwave taller than a shot glass (no, I haven't recently been doing many warm lemon drops or anything).

I think somewhere, someone wanted to dehydrate meat in the microwave and thought, wouldn't it be great if I could just set it on a metal rack that came with every microwave ever made. Unfortunately for you and me, this person was an engineering mastermind and slipped it into every microwave made in the last 5 years.

This is the same guy, who owns a laptop that takes three hours to load because of widget that gives him the daily headlines, weather, stock quotes, recipes, trendy cocktail, obscure holidays, translations, latest Chinese tattoos, celebrity blunders, stopwatch, post-it notes, calculator, dancing hula girl, credit score, savings account balance, and a smattering of other features which no one in their right mind would ever use. Trouble is, whoever puts the metal rack in my microwave is not in their right mind. They also put all the random advertisements in my credit card bills. You know how when you open up the paper bill about fifteen slips of magazine like paper advertising reclining massaging chairs and customizable transformer's checks (I like the truck guy personally).

However, for them to spend the money for that shiny paper some sucker must be sitting out there buying up Dilbert checks and stamps with their name and address like hot cakes. On a side note, when did you ever feel a compelling urge to purchase copious amounts of round, hot, delicious, griddled breakfast morsels from heaven. Other than right now, that is. If you'll excuse me I'm going to find me some bisquick like its going out of style. Further tangentially, when did anyone buy anything because it was going out of style. Like in 1995 were people racing to the stores to by MC Hammer pants?

Yet, I digress entirely and comprehensively. Point is (I think) is that there comes a time when less, is more (hence the conclusion of this meandering column). That is, I have removed the rack from my oven until I find the need to microwave my socks. Although, toasty feet do sound pretty compelling right now . . .