Photo Credit: iamhannah

Let us begin with the defining features of a soap opera: 1) it tells the tale of a group of entities and their interactions, 2) the story continues ad infinitum with no clear purpose or resolution, 3) the audience has an unusually strong emotional reaction to it, 4) the audience lives vicariously the triumphs and defeats of actors playing characters which have nothing to do with the audience members, 5) it is purely for entertainment, but taken far too seriously i.e. special magazines detailing the plot twists. The plots of soap operas generally involve domestic affairs such as family, relationships, illness, career, and evil twins. Their target audience is housewives for whom these things are also major concerns. How would one create a soap operas for the average man who cares about beer, physical violence, tits, beer, and the dominance of the alpha male? The answer is obviously sports. However, watching sports need not be this way. Here’s how to tell if a person treats sports like a soap.

  1. They care about the journey of a team, the different cities that hosted it, how many championship games it has played, when it changed management, etc.
  2. They know a lot of trivia about individual players to the point of arguing with other fans about it.
  3. They get overly excited or disappointed and express it invariably with violence.
  4. They are not athletic enough to play, but they wear athletic gear with team logos and talk constantly about how they used to play.
  5. They listen to or watch sports talkshows where other people talk about watching a game.
  6. They read ostensible autobiographies of semi-illiterate sports stars ghostwritten by some nobody.
  7. They care about the score of a game even if they don’t watch it.
  8. They are fans of a specific team or player because that team or player lives near them.

This last point deserves some further comment. All sports teams have a region from which they are based. If it is a franchise, that region is chosen because it has the most potential for profit. Being a fan of the Titans because you live in Nashville is stupid. It’s like celebrating Starbucks and hating Pete’s because Starbucks opened a franchise location on your block. They’re there to get your money, they don’t represent you and have nothing to do with you. National teams are no different; a group of manchildren playing ball and arguing with the ref does not represent the country they are from. A legitimate reason to follow someone specific might be a black American living under segregation who is a fan of Jackie Robinson. Another is a person, such as myself, who is proud of the US Women’s soccer team because they believe that the team’s success demonstrates the strength, independence, and equality of our women as superior to other countries’ cultures. Or perhaps one player plays the game with extraordinary honor and maturity and we wish to laud them for it. In short, if one cares about the game for the game’s sake then it’s sports. If one cares about the players or the teams or the stats or the score or which high school the back-up pitcher for Toronto got drafted from then it’s a soap opera for men.

Having just marathoned through six seasons of Lost in nine days, I’ve begun noticing odd behavior quirks. Though I’m not typically a fan of self-diagnosing psychological neuroses, I have what can best be described as “Lost Paranoia.” When you spend days at a time with nothing much besides that volcano of a show spewing conspiracy theories and plot twists, you start to get a little schizophrenic. I completely lost track of time in the “real world,” forgetting what day of the week it was and forgetting whether events happened yesterday or the day before. Considering most of Lost is told in flashbacks and out-0f-time sequences, my own sense of the linear world was disintegrating.

It got even worse during the few times I left my apartment in the last week. I started to see things and people. Recurrent themes from a TV show were actually recurring in my own life…or so I thought. I started seeing characters from the show wandering around the streets. A bald man sitting across the table from me became Locke and warranted a double-take before my rational mind took over. I started seeing the familiar numbers everywhere (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42). Every mundane object or action in my life seemed to be imbued with hidden meaning. Though I wouldn’t say I was really in danger of losing my touch with reality, my mind was constantly racing, searching for answers and clues to common threads.

Now that I’ve finished the show and had a few hours to recuperate, I believe I’ll make a full recovery. I’ve made my peace with the show’s constant plot twists, jerking the audience around like the passengers on Flight 815. I am almost absolutely certain that I would not have been able to stand the anticipation waiting weeks or months between episodes. I still think watching all of Lost all at once is the best way to experience it. Just note the danger in coming too close to total immersion.

What do you do when you encounter a bathroom sign like this? At the very least, I could make out that WC meant restroom, but for which gender was this designated?

Now you may ask whether I could determine gender by comparing the image of the androgynous  child to the image on the other door, but there is no other door. The two restrooms at this restaurant were in separate sides of the building. With no reference point, I could only try to translate “Vomini.” I was at an Italian restaurant, so I figured maybe “men” would be something like the Spanish hombre, but my meager experience in Romance languages proved unhelpful. A Google search for “vomini” only turned up oddly gender-neutral results.

Well, when in doubt, just do the visual spot check. I peaked inside looking for the familiar urinal for confirmation. Instead, I find another unique feature. There was one enclosed stall with a toilet, and next to it was another toilet with no stall or door at all. What do you make of that? Well this didn’t look like a single-occupancy, after all, there are two toilets. But who would sit on the toilet with no door with a clear view to the sink?

I acknowledge that classier places don’t like to have the clear and ambiguous stick figure with the caption “MEN.” But there are plenty of ways to indicate which gender belongs in this bathroom without the familiar blue sign. If it’s a unisex bathroom, then might as well invite everyone. Either label it plainly “RESTROOM” or put up one of these amusing signs to invite the whole family.

And as far as the poor quality photo, the restaurant was also exceedingly dark, which made the gender confusion all the more prominent.


Edit: My co-editor has brought to my attention that I had an Indiana Jones moment. ”Dammit, in Latin, Jehovah starts with an ‘Y’.”
Uomini means men, but they spelled it with a ‘v’ because, well, it’s Latin.

I’ll be the first to admit that advertising often isn’t logical. It appeals to the consumer’s emotions, hopefully in a positive way. Having walked past the above pictured trash bins for the last two years and seeing these signs have only elicited my confusion and frustration.

We’ve already examined the fallacy of correlation = causation before. What have I proven by looking at the sign?

  1. The sign is placed in a conspicuous location at the eye level of many pedestrians.

That’s it. All Creative Outdoor Advertising has proven is that the sign is placed somewhere that is trafficked. Advertising is not just about eyeballs. There’s a concept in marketing called conversion. Advertising is only as effective as its ability to induce behavior. For Creative to prove anything, it has to show that the use of its own advertising has actually convinced people to buy advertising space from them. A successful conversion for Creative would be a purchase of space; a failed conversion would be a blog entry negatively criticizing its tactics.

But wait, perhaps the concept of conversion is more important in the online realm and isn’t that vital a measurement in real world advertising. That is just ludicrous. What is the point of advertising that does not induce action or awareness? It’s not like Creative is benefiting from brand awareness.

I especially like this other fallacy of causation in their FAQ:

Why should I advertise on a bench/recycling unit?
Street furniture advertising has seen high success rates in reaching potential customers. Many of our clients have been with us for over 7 years and with a 75% contract renewal rate it just further reaffirms that street furniture advertising is a proven, cost effective means for communicating to your current and future clients.

They measure their success rate by the evidence that their clients haven’t decided to pull their ads. The longevity of the contracts is questionable. I imagine that those companies that choose to advertise on trash cans aren’t too devoted to cutting edge advertising techniques. They probably have never heard of social networking. The products or services that these clients advertise are also probably local to the community. Also, a high contract renewal rate only reveals that the marginal cost of continuing the ad is less than the marginal benefit of associating your product/brand with trash. It doesn’t mean that the initial cost would be worth it for new clients. A more convincing statistic would be some statistic about the success of clients’ ad campaigns after the introduction of garbage advertising. Of course, Creative doesn’t have these numbers so it must rely on the imprecise measure of contract renewals. That would entail actually proving that the ad works.

Perhaps Creative Outdoor wins after all; they got me to write about the stupidity of their campaign.

Slim Slow

Riding the bus I overheard a conversation between a man and a woman about which movie was the scariest. Predictably the man said Saw and the woman said The Exorcist with the addendum, “because Saw is just a movie, but The Exorcist could really happen.” Needless to say fourteen ellipses paraded through my brain in succession at this utterance. “Psychotic killers are not real, but demon possession is” was the basis of her opinion. We can only hope she was sterile. Nevertheless, we should suspend our sense of reality and accept as fact her delusion that we may examine on equal footing these two positions. Saw’s terror lies in physical and psychological torment inflicted on a victim in a more or less arbitrary fashion. The victim suffers pain as a direct and indirect response to the self-preservation instinct. In The Exorcist the characters fear having their soul corrupted by sin. Here we are again deforming the shape of truth to fit “sin” loosely over “immoral actions” by ignoring the troublesome oxymoron, “religious morality.”


The reason this is significant is that one may tell a lot about a person by their greatest fear and a film can invoke that fear in ways that are experienced similarly by all viewers. One generally fears losing that which is valuable to them, therefore reaction to horror films is a window of insight into someone’s values. Those who fear Saw most value their physical and mental comfort; those who fear The Exorcist most value spiritual integrity. While I cannot agree with her choice of movie, I do agree with her in principle so that for me the scariest movie is The Machinist. There can be many other possibilities: insanity, dishonor, confinement (i.e. Virginia Woolf), emotional pain, the afflictions of loved ones, chaos or the unknown, permanent destruction of something sacred. A good experiment in personal discovery might be to watch well made horror films which use different fears and observe your experience of them.


Chief Digressor

The scariest movies for me are not the ones that are most realistic. Psychotic killers do not bother me because they are still confined by the rules of the physical world. Whereas paranormal events and entities are not constrained in the same way. I know what it takes to stop a serial killer, a vicious dog, or a school or piranha (get out of the water), but I don’t know what it takes to stop a ghost, a vampire, or a demon. Contrast that with a zombie apocalypse, for which I am overprepared. It is the unexplainable that I fear the most, hence my childhood fear of the dark. You can’t prepare for what you don’t know, or worse, can’t stop.

Every That’s What She Said – watch more funny videos

Everyone should know by now the joke “that’s what she said,” used in retort to any type of sexual double entendre. Importantly, “that’s what she said” is used when the phrase immediately prior could be construed as something a woman would say in a sexual context. The following are some examples of statements that can properly be followed with “that’s what she said.”

  • You really think you could go all day long?
  • Why is this so hard?
  • You already did me.
  • I can’t stay on top of you twenty-four seven.

What these have in common is that each phrase can conceivably be said by a woman in a typical heterosexual context. They are double entendres, phrases that could be construed in more than one meaning, often with a risque, inappropriate or ironic secondary meaning.

Given its spread to popular culture, everyone think they are Steve Carrell and overuse the joke. “That’s what she said” certainly lends itself to many situations considering numerous euphemisms for sex and sexual situations. However, this doesn’t mean “that’s what she said” can be used in every instance of something sexual. Keep in mind what it actually means. It has to be a spoken phrase that a female partner could conceivably say in a sexual encounter. Therefore, not every semi-sexual phrase can be followed by “that’s what she said.” Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense. Examples of improper use of “that’s what she said” are as follows:

  • This sucks.
  • They did it on the roof.
  • You’re all a bunch of dicks.

You get the picture. They just aren’t things that “she” would say. So don’t use an already-played out joke improperly.

Anytime a product is named by its intended function, it should be able to satisfactorily perform said function. That’s a simple concept, one I feel few people would reject. Case in point: the toothpick. Granted, I did not do any research into the history of toothpicks besides a cursory glance at Wikipedia, but I think it’s fairly safe to say that toothpicks were invented with one specific function. At the very least, the toothpicks marketed now are sold with some expectation that they will be used to pick teeth. Hence, my frustration at having to grab a handful of these toothpicks every time I want to remove one bit of detritus from my teeth.

I grew up believing all toothpicks came in those shakers they have at each table at Chinese restaurants. Up until I moved to New York, I have never bought a box of toothpicks that weren’t Chinese made. Strangely enough, Chinese made toothpicks seem to be higher quality than the American Penley brand I bought this time. Maybe it’s because these toothpicks are flat instead of round, but the quality of the manufacturing is truly sub-par. The above pictured are just a random sample I pulled from the box. Splinters, broken tips and uneven shaping were common. Worst yet, not one of the toothpicks have the structural integrity to remove anything from my teeth.

I acknowledge that there are alternative uses to toothpicks. But at the very least, it should be able to do the one thing it was meant to do.


There are three types of people in this world: ones with a nice ass, ones with a huge ass, and ones with no ass at all. Only this last kind should be wearing belts. Those of the second kind clearly should not be wearing belts because to be effective they would have to tighten them somewhere around the armpit or risk a muffin top that can kill at thirty paces. The gorgeous people already look fantastic in jeans and skirts and shorts that no one else can wear so must they really claim the belt as well? They can afford to leave some wardrobe scraps for the less fortunate. I admit I am one of the assless and prefer to stick to the timeless standby of the knotted rope but have in the past few years added a variant, knotted vinyl tubing, for the reason that it is waterproof and more elastic. And working around fish tanks with a boss who remarked pointedly that I should stop yanking my pants up, there seemed no other recourse. But enough about my pants coming off, let’s talk about your pants coming off. Prurient, I know, but we’re all adults here and hopefully at least one of us has a nice ass.

Belt loops (yes, indeed, they are not carabiner loops you slobbering, stutter-brained hipsters!) are an inspired invention that a lady at a club once attempted to use to get me to dance which despite her being very attractive resulted in one ripped pair of slacks, one red-faced girl and a whole lot of unnecessary sniggering from nearby patrons. Nevertheless they require some skill to manage as the tail of the belt will never make it to the second loop and will instead flop around giving the impression that you are more interested in her than is actually the case when in fact you are only mildly embarrassed and wishing you could change into sweatpants. Any efforts to remedy this by losing weight, gaining weight, buying new clothes, or learning to sew, will avail you nothing as can be seen by a direct application of Murphy’s Law to your pants followed by a palm to your face. Duct tape here, as always, is your best friend. A quality leather belt with duct tape might seem a bit tacky so I recommend making the entire belt out of duct tape and saving 90 bucks. Or just taping the waistband directly to your crotch. I cannot imagine any negative consequences to such an action. The alternative is wood staples which are fine for formal gatherings so long as you don’t intend on removing your clothing for a few days. Keep in mind this is how World War I started.

Taking a belt off is just as important as putting it on. Careful, systematic removal interspersed with sighs will not do. You’ll want to rip it from your body in one motion and hurl it into the closet all with the dramatic style of Charleton Heston parting the Red Sea. If you can’t get it the first time, don’t be discouraged; practice makes perfect. Remember, you’re compensating for a humiliating lack of gluteal muscles. When done correctly, any witnessing party will be alternately grasping their sides in wonder and using both hands to stifle spontaneous cheering.

I want to close on a serious note. Asslessness affects millions of people: from sufferers and their disappointed lovers, to dented chairs. To combat this devastating condition we need to be supportive: more supportive than standing next to someone and holding their pockets while they make a call. We all know someone who is suffering silently and if we can create a safe, loving environment they will someday have the courage to say to you, “My name is Frank, and I have no ass.” On that day I hope that you will open your heart and your arms and present them with a belt of their very own.

I’m a comic book fan and a musical fan. When the Spider-Man musical was announced, I couldn’t help but get excited. As all the bad press accumulated, I knew that there was no way the show could surpass my expectations. Yet, there was no way I could miss the show either. In writing this review, I was torn between evaluating the musical as a fanboy and as a typical musical audience member. Although the fanboy may begin immediately cynical, I thought it was a much-needed perspective, perhaps to balance out the mainstream media’s theatrical bias.

First, let me address how stupid I think the title is. I guess it speaks to the blackout that New York City faces through the second act, but it is counterintuitive and not in a “makes you think” kind of way. In fact, there wasn’t much to think about in the musical. It’s another origin story, slightly modified. For non-comic book fans, I suppose that Spider-man’s origin story is the only one worth telling.

There were several glaring character omissions. Since this is a retcon of sorts, I don’t mind director Julie Taymor leaving out Harry Osborn altogether, though his friendship with Peter Parker is rife with dramatic conflict. In fact, I would have actually preferred for more villains to be left out of the musical altogether. But I suppose that having Green Goblin, a newly created Arachne, and an entire Sinister Six does allow for suffficiently pagentry that Lion King alumna Taymore needed. Yet the inclusion of her version of the “Sinister Six” was problematic for me. Sure, the Sinister Six’s line up is fluid, characters drop in and out all the time. However, there was no reason that Taymor had to create an awful new villain Swiss Miss, a garish silver transvestite reminiscent of Silver Samurai, especially when Mysterio and Doctor Octopus are the very definitions of theatricality. Mysterio is a special effects artists obsessed with illusion! The chorus even acknowledges that Swiss Miss was made up on the spot.

How can you leave this guy out of a Spider-Man musical?

Speaking of the chorus, yes, there is a Greek chorus, renamed the Geek chorus. They serve the dual function of narrating and interacting with the characters from time to time, existing partly within the production and outside of it at once. I thought this was a nice touch. The major draw of the musical is the high-flying trapeze that occurs over the orchestra seating. Hence, I probably had one of the best seats in the house, front row on the balcony. There were enough times that Spider-Man swung up to the platform next to me before running into the exit in the back. Though impressive the first time, it quickly gets old and I stopped appreciating the complexity of the wire flying. In any other dramatic production, it would be the climax, done to great effect. In Turn Off the Dark, it simply got boring. In terms of special effects, I would’ve loved to see more web effects or even some exploding pumpkin bombs. Otherwise put, the Spider-Man musical has nothing much else to offer except the web-swinging and once you’ve seen it, you’ve got little incentive to see anything else.

Now as a musical, songs are typically critical to the performance. I judge my initial impressions on whether I leave the show with a tune on my brain. Maybe I’m just not a fan of rock musicals, but Bono and The Edge should stay out of theater. Many of the songs fizzled, and there were more than a few cringe-worthy lyrics. Perhaps I prefer showtunes for my musical shows; I’m just old-fashioned like that. But rock operas can be done to great effect, as in Rent. Since the songs were nothing special, the performances were also nothing spectacular. There was little opportunity to showcase the talent, with the exception of Arachne, played by T.V. Carpio who has some scene-stealing numbers. Patrick Page, performing as The Green Goblin also added some dramatic flair.

I think my biggest complaint was the lack of comedy or wit. There weren’t enough one-line zingers delivered by Spidey. A song consisting of Spider-Man teasing his opponents would’ve been a perfect. It makes me question whether Taymor or Bono have sufficient exposure to Spider-Man. They sadly missed the essence of Peter Parker’s character and their portrayal is superficial at best. I wonder if writing a review would actually affect the show. People would see it no matter how bad it actually is. Even I went in expecting the worst. Given that we can get all the special effects Spider-Man from movies and other media, what should the musical vehicle offer? Aerial trapeze, check and overdone. But the music is such a big component of a musical that it needed to be the high note of the performance, and that was certainly lacking.

Ah, the almighty dodge roll. How many times have you saved my avatar’s sorry ass from annihilation? The dodge roll is such a vital action adventure game convention that playing a game without that function is oddly restricting. In fact, when I start a game without the ability to dodge roll, I instinctively think that it must be unlockable somehow. This weekend, I played indie 3-d action fighter Lugaru, a deceptively simple interface that is frustratingly hard. Sure enough, one of the first tasks in the tutorial was to learn how to dodge roll (and its equally valuable cousin, the handspring).

It makes sense that some sort of emergency evasive maneuver lends itself well to the genre, where fast reflexes often mean life or death for the player. In certain games, intelligence may not amount to much if you have the finger dexterity and timing down (I’m calling you out God of War). From Zelda to Castlevania, Metal Gear Solid to Kingdom Hearts, a fast roll to one side or the other exists in all these games. It is however, notably absent from games where the character is purposefully encumbered. I’m thinking Resident Evil, where many times I could’ve survived a zombie rush if only I could roll out of the way. Gamers pride ourselves on many things, amongst them is our reflexes. Among the things we’re not so proud of is our physical fitness level. Being able to translate our fast moving fingers to our slow moving bodies is cathartic to say the least.

From a gamer’s perspective, I’m starting to worry how the prevalence of dodge rolls is affecting my real life. An FPS will never convince me to shoot innocent people. Grand Theft Auto doesn’t breed a disrespect for the law for me. My concern is how these nimble gymnasts in the form of video game characters are boosting my confidence in my own abilities. I can say that I walk across the street with heightened confidence that if a runaway car comes my way, I’ll be able to roll to safety. I wouldn’t be shocked if at the precise moment some on-screen prompt at the bottom of my field of vision would tell me precisely which button combination to press.

Acknowledging the importance of the dodge roll, I will also add some caveats for the incorporation of dodge rolls in games.

  1. A dodge roll should move the character at a faster rate than the regular movement. This is so essential as to be almost definitional of a dodge roll.
  2. A dodge roll should have an appropriate recovery period. In other words, characters should not be able to substitute rolling for running. That would be absurd.
  3. Aforementioned recovery should occur after completion of the maneuver. Dodge rolls should be instantaneousness at the press of a button.
  4. Dodge rolls should be unlimited. As mentioned before, it is so necessary that it should not be restricted in use.
  5. If the character does not start out with the dodge roll, it should earn the ability soon. Given it’s usefulness, I don’t want the reward of something so foundational so late in the game.
  6. Of course, all action adventure games must have a dodge roll (or evasive equivalent like handsprings, short-range teleportation, etc.).