Sunday, September 20, 2015

You don't know what 'aarp' should mean

Commercials for the American Association of Retired Persons have included the slogan "You don't know 'aarp'" for a while now, and in the ad that ran during tonight's Emmy telecast still had that in the voiceover, bringing this to mind again.

Turning the initials into an acronym (so rather than it being pronounced by the individual letters in "A.A.R.P." it turns into a single-syllable term that rhymes with "harp") is in keeping with the clear push to make the organization seem not just for old fuddy-duddies.

However, to my ear, that pronunciation makes it one slight exaggeration away from being the acronym for the American Association of Retired Pirates.


(Perhaps it's in part from yesterday being Talk Like a Pirate Day yesterday.

No, it's just me. I know.)

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Splitting the alphabet

Looking at TV for young children where they list the alphabet I've noticed they struggle with how to split up the lines of letters when there isn't room all on one or two. Given that 26 is not divisible by three or four or any whole number until one gets to 13 the lines end up unbalanced.

But it occurred to me that five lines would be closer to equal (with one leftover) than other possible splits. Then I had the thought that the five vowels could make for another way of separating the lines, putting each vowel at the start of one of the five lines; those letters hold a distinction so having the notice from being at the front of the lines made a certain sense.

And while working out each remaining line (with the set of consonants after each vowel) I realized that gave an unexpected sort of quasi-symmetry:


Thursday, August 13, 2015

More outdated children's shows observations: Daniel Tiger wears no pants!

On Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood the eponymous lead character is an anthropomorphic tiger living in a Mr. Rogers-inspired town with other anthropomorphic animals—Katarina Kittycat, O the Owl—and with human characters. The stories give lessons with little songs about topics like compromise and dealing with frustration. As previously noted, Our son finds it enjoyable.

One of Daniel's friends is Miss Elena, who it's shown has mixed race parents. So the show seems progressive in ways like that.

However, there is something that I notice that seems less congruous with that sort of theme. Now, I concede analysis of a show with such a clear distance from verisimilitude is utterly futile, but if nothing else we live in the era of utterly futile analysis so here goes:

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Music soothes the fussy toddler (thanks, Doc McStuffins)

We don't let our son watch a lot of TV (to appease the Parenting-Industrial Complex I must note that) but we have put on some shows for short periods when we need to keep him occupied (like when we're getting ready to go to work in the morning). We have recorded some episodes of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, Yo Gabba Gabba, and Doc McStuffins to be able to play when necessary.

What he particularly likes are the songs. Sure, all kids like music but he really responds to it. He started dancing almost as soon as he could stand up. At daycare when they have the "music man" come in on Fridays he's always the most excited of all the children.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


On the walk to the station one evening I found myself briefly behind a young woman proceeding at a slower pace and her head pointed toward something in her hand. Oh great, I thought, another smart phone shuffler, not looking where she's going and enrapt in whatever email or text cannot wait.

However, when the opportunity to get around her presented itself and I stepped up beside her I discovered her hands held not a phone but an actual book.

The quaint nature of her old school distraction made my slight delay while stuck behind her somewhat less annoying for no reason other than it being unexpected.

I guess there's something to be said for novelty in one's inconsiderate behavior.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Giving in to the Dark Side (you know you would)

The more I think about the mythology of Star Wars the most unrealistic aspect of The Force is that any Jedi could keep from turning to the Dark Side. Look at what Vader does in Episode IV (better known as Star Wars, the first movie from 1977, subtitled "A New Hope") when an Imperial officer dismisses the importance of The Force: He uses telekinesis to lift and choke the man (and clearly could have killed the officer) with nothing more than a gesture.

If most of us had that power in our daily lives, how would everyone we encountered who pissed us off not find themselves hoisted by invisible hands and struggling for breath?

Obviously the tale told in Episodes I through III (as Anakin Skywalker transforms into Darth Vader) show the appeal of the Dark Side to underscore how impressive the Jedi are to stay on the good side of The Force, but how can we empathize with these better-than-thou types?

Monday, April 13, 2015


Parenting reality:

On more than one occasion I've changed our son's diaper, only to have him poop in that fresh diaper only a few minutes later, necessitating another (stinkier) diaper change.

The initial reaction used to be: Well, what I just did five minutes ago was kind of a waste.

The reaction now is: Hey, at least he didn't poop on me in the middle of me changing him.

Changing two diapers where nothing is actively being expelled from your child is always far easier than cleaning up what gets expelled in that window after the dirty diaper is removed and before the clean diaper is applied.

Nothing done is a waste of effort if the outcome could have been much worse, especially when it comes to baby poop.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Woof, woof

A few months ago, as my mother-in-law was watching our toddler son (while he was home from daycare due to a fever), she taught him the sound dogs make. Presumably this was from a book we have that also has buttons corresponding to animal sounds, where the dog sound is one of them.

Now when he sees a dog on TV he (at least some of the time) says "woof, woof" (or more accurately, "wuhf, wuhf"). Given that we don't have any pets it was particularly interesting he could identify them and remember that.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Why Super Bowl XLIX lingers

From the department of things only interesting to me:

Although it has been two months since the Super Bowl I find any allusion to pro football makes me think back to this most recent "Big Game"—specifically to the end, when the Seahawks were on the verge of victory, and due to what one either considers a phenomenal defensive play by the Patriots or a ridiculously stupid call by Seattle's coaches it was New England who took home the Lombardi Trophy.

I wrote about the specifics more than sufficiently back after the game; we don't need to re-hash those details again. What holds any worth at this point is pondering: Had Seattle scored the winning touchdown (as seemed very likely before gave up an interception) would I still find the game popping to mind in this way?

I must conclude I would not. If the Seahawks simply scored from the one-yard line and, as they clearly intended, did not leave the Patriots time to mount a drive to at least tie with a field goal, it would be something that faded from active thought as the previous year's trouncing of the Broncos did. When Seattle was up by a large margin against Denver there was no drama, no consequence to any drive they had in the entire second half. There was nothing to consider again.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Vanna White Keeps It Spinning on 'Wheel of Fortune' After All These Years

I'm not one who would consider himself a fan of Wheel of Fortune, but I have seen the show on and off since I was a child; these days I tend to see because it comes on after Jeopardy (when I see that) and it's perfectly acceptable to leave the TV on that channel as background while washing dishes or some such activity where I'm not actively paying that much attention. Its longevity undoubtedly stems from that passive involvement capacity (and the fact it doesn't involve the same level of actual knowledge as the show preceding it in syndication); you can watch it without the sound and still be able to play along.

Over my decades of experience with the show I've seen it transform from when the dollar amounts on the wheel were much lower, where the contestants had to "spend" their winnings from the round on a bunch of cheesy prizes, and where the tiles on the board were triangular and needed to be spun by Vanna. But while much has advanced—the dollar amounts have increased significantly, the contestants win the cash or trips or cars, and the tiles have gone to digital screens mimicking the old look—there is one part of the show that has not progressed as one might expect: Vanna is still by the board.

So let's acknowledge one thing:

If Wheel of Fortune were created as a new game show today, with the same technological capabilities that the existing show demonstrates (where the "tiles" can light up and display any letter, rather than need to be turned as was the case in earlier decades), it seems there would be no need for Vanna White. That's not a knock on her; it's merely the truth.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Attention shoppers: It's the Ramones

I understand that everything three decades old or older is considered pretty anodyne from a cultural standpoint, regardless of how controversial it may have seemed in its heyday.

Still, to hear (as I did on a recent evening) the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" playing in a Vons grocery store seems like something that should hold at least a tinge of being a tiny bit taboo.

There are other Ramones' songs where the lyrics are such that your grandmother wouldn't balk while shopping ("I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend"—another of their "I Wanna…" tracks), but "Sedated" is not sedate enough to be acceptable for all contexts.

I'm not suggesting that most people are actually paying any sort of attention to the music playing over the public address while shopping; it's merely filling in the background sound so it isn't eerily quiet. I get that. I'm among the tiny minority who notices such things at all. I know.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Getting grungy with 'Fresh Off the Boat'

In a recent episode of the new sitcom Fresh Off the Boat ("Success Perm"), the main character, Eddie, sees his cousin when the family visited. This cousin had turned him on to N.W.A. years earlier (the show takes place in 1995), which led to Eddie's love of rap. So when the cousin showed up, now into grunge, puts in a CD by Live and plays "Lightning Crashes," Eddie thought it was crap. (Eddie was right.)

The cousin dismissed Eddie's criticism as him being too immature to appreciate the emotion of grunge.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Pondering the sexism in the Oscars (and other awards)

As we made it through this recent "awards season" I was struck by the thought: Is not the notion of men and women being segregated into categories by gender a holdover from a much more sexist era? In the so-called progressive twenty-first century were equality of the sexes is supposedly the aim, is it condescending to suggest that women would not be able to compete were they in the same category as me for the acting roles? There aren't gender distinctions when it comes to directing or writing or sound editing, but for those who appear on-screen the fact a century ago it was the case women were separate seems to suggest they still require that special status in order to get any awards.

It is the case that Hollywood is still as much an old boy's club—and a white old boys club at that—where if "the fairer sex" didn't have a separate category for the acting awards the trophies would still be largely doled out to those with the XY chromosomal alignment—and not because men are inherently better actors but (let's face it) because men would have a harder time voting for women over men. Not all men, of course, but enough who have the vote who remember those days when a dame was a dame.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Saying goodbye to Jon Stewart (so we both can spend more time with our kids)

It was announced yesterday that Jon Stewart will not be staying on with The Daily Show after this year. Having seen every episode except one of the sixteen years of his tenure and an avowed fan (I've mentioned it in posts more than a few times) I will miss him, but I understand the desire to move on.

But I'm not as sad as I would be were I not a parent.

As it stands, since our son came along, I have found myself often recording a week's worth of episodes and having to squeeze them in on the weekend. When Stephen Colbert stepped away from "the Report" last year I was sad, but that was time I would need to devote to other pursuits.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Useless Super Bowl XLIX thoughts

Yesterday's Super Bowl pitted the established dynasty of the Patriots versus the emerging potential dynasty of the Seahawks. The latter got to the big game with a remarkable and improbable comeback over the Packers, where they really didn't play that well until the last five minutes.

So if you heard Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson didn't complete a pass until well into the second quarter, that they lost one of their starting cornerback to injury in the first half, and a starting defensive lineman had to leave in the second half due to concussion, you'd think the Seahawks would be well behind when the fourth quarter started. However, they actually had a ten-point lead at that point, and their vaunted defense had not given up more than seven points in the fourth during their past eight games.

So when you hear they surrendered 14 points to New England in that quarter you'd think it was pretty much over, but through a remarkable catch they were in a 2nd-and-goal position at the Patriot's 1-yard-line with about 30 seconds left, where punching it in for a touchdown would almost certainly guarantee back-to-back Super Bowl victories. They were in another improbable situation where they had not played as well as the other team but with last-minute heroics (or dumb luck) they could win.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Born Day

As my toddler had me up at the wee hours one recent morning, and we were due to attend our first birthday party of his best buddy at daycare, the following occurred to me about the term "birthday."

On the anniversary of people's birth we call that their "birthday," but generally I don't hear people refer to it as the day they were "birthed"; it's the day they were born. Giving birth is more what their mother did (and probably for many hours prior to the actual emergence out into the world which is considered the moment of birth, as though all that traveling through the birth canal up to that point was unimportant).

So conceivably the expression instead should be "Happy Born Day," with "Happy Birthday" being what you would direct toward the person who actually did the birthing.

This is why I shouldn't think at such an hour.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Oh, those Eighties

A few weeks back I was up somewhere around 1 a.m., and flipped around channels in those wee hours. On VH1 Classic they had somewhat resurrected 120 Minutes—which is to say they programmed old alternative rock videos for two hours in the same midnight to 2 a.m. slot that was the spotlight for such videos back when it was an MTV show in its heyday.

As one who well over two decades ago used to videotape (yes, set the VCR) to watch that, I paused on the channel for a few minutes. Coming back from commercial the first one was the Psychedelic Furs' "Heaven." It was fascinating to be reminded of the production values that sometimes were applied back in the mid-80's, especially given the extremes to which the medium would eventually go.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Great, just great (fun with pronunciation)

A while back the site Grammarly's Facebook page had a post about the inconsistencies of English, and the following came to mind (probably for unrelated reasons; I'm just grasping at any connection to justify spending time on it). It regards how the same letter construction can have different pronunciations.

"Eat" rhymes with "beat" (and "beet") and "feat" (and "feet") and "meat" (and "meet") but not with "great" (but it does with "greet"). Or, put another way, "great" does not rhyme with most other words having its same last three letters (in fact, I'm not sure there is another English word ending in "eat" with which it rhymes); it rhymes with "ate" (the past tense of "eat") and "fate" and "mate" and "grate" (most words where the e moves from before the a to after the t).