“Look at That!” Part 1

This begins a multipart series about facts and images that really grab my attention (thus the title). These happen to be scattered far and wide across the vast jungle of the Internet, so I thought I’d collect some of them into one place. Here goes!

I love this picture (and no, not because my mind is in the gutter). It so grabs the attention that it’s practically impossible to simply pass it by. And once it’s grabbed your attention, you have no choice but to consider its message: the fundamental entanglement of liberty and justice. (Credit: http://www.mindpollen.com)

Mother nature takes revenge.

I’m willing to have a drink with whoever did this.

I generally hate advertising, but I have to admit, this is really creative.

I’ll post Part 2 as soon as I can collect enough images. Any uncredited images were found through http://thefunniest.info.

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Asymptote’s Stories

While I was sitting around reading someone’s blog this morning, the thought occurred to me that it might be fun to create a sort of “story-blog”: a collection of random short stories written for no particular reason, and stuck out there for the public to have a look at. After all, I’ve certainly enjoyed writing posts for this blog, so I give you: Asymptote’s Stories. If you’ve read Kurt Vonnegut’s excellent book Breakfast of Champions, then you’ll understand what I mean when I say that I want to write Kilgore Trout-style fiction.

Enjoy!

Windows of Lucidity, Again

In a previous post, I pondered what caused some people suffering from degenerative brain diseases (such as Alzheimer’s and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease) to suddenly, for short periods of time, regain their lost faculties, and even their ravaged short-term memories. Well now, having read Norman Doidge’s excellent book The Brain that Changes Itself, I believe that I may have an answer.

Doidge’s book discusses the rapidly-growing field of neuroplasticity, the study of how the brain can “re-wire” itself. It’s been shown that stroke patients who are left with minimal muscle control on one side of their body can, over time, re-train their brains, through long and arduous practice, to use that side again. After long hours of daily training, they begin to recover use of their affected limbs. That’s neuroplasticity at work.

Therefore, couldn’t this idea also be applied to the kind of brain damage that results from, say, Alzheimer’s? Over time, as the brain attempts to work around the damage caused by the disease, might it not discover a “hidden pathway” that allows it to function normally, if only for a while? It certainly seems possible. This might also go some way to explain why windows of lucidity are so painfully transient: the damage accumulating from the disease process rapidly wipes out these newfound pathways.

Just food for thought.

Movie Land III: Return to Movie Land

Today, as I was idly flipping through the channels on television (something I find I’m forced to do quite frequently, just to escape the worst of the modern advertisements), I stumbled across a TV edit of The Lost World, sequel to Jurassic Park. As I watched the film unfold, I got some more ideas for my continuing “Movie Land” series.

In Movie Land…

  • …the black guy dies first.
  • …if a black guy is unavailable or has already bought the farm, the valley girl dies next.
  • …after she’s taken care of, the bald white guy dies.
  • …next comes the bespectacled guy with two lines in the entire film.
  • …then it’s the South American guy’s turn.
  • …then the African guy.
  • …and finally, the comic relief guy.
  • …if anybody is killed near a river, the water will always flow dramatically red moments later.
  • …the hero drives a classic car, almost inevitably a muscle car. No exceptions.
  • …any intellectuals still manage to be cool somehow. None of them are ever pasty, physically frail or unfit, or any of the things intellectuals often are.
  • …the fat guy will always be stuffing his face. It’s never a glandular thing.
  • …a black guy with an afro is there for comic relief. No serious black character ever sports a ‘fro.
  • …if you’re in a city, and a disaster breaks out, expect a sudden rash of fender-benders, most often involving police cars and taxicabs.
  • …if the heroes are being pursued by the police, somehow, they will coax the squad cars into running into one another.
  • …though the hidden traitor amongst the heroes’ ranks is always very obvious (often sporting a sinister moustache, or inciting ominous music whenever he enters a room), the heroes remain oblivious to his/her presence.
  • …the villain gets his/her just desserts. No exceptions.
  • …in the same vein, white-collar criminals usually meet their demise in flames, no matter how sheltered their corporate lives.
  • …these same white collar criminals usually die this way because they also have a passion for high-tech weaponry/high-powered rifles/dangerous chemicals/fast cars/helicopters.
  • …nobody ever has a heart attack while running from the bad guys. Not even the middle-aged “mature hunk.”
  • …Elvis impersonators live very brief lives and meet very painful ends.
  • …the hero will have his/her revenge against the villain, even if this requires an impractical or impossible plan.
  • …impractical and impossible plans are the only ones ever considered. Nobody ever says anything like “I don’t think it’s a good idea to go out there…it’s swarming with ninjas. Perhaps if we wait a while they’ll go away. Or maybe we could negotiate with the ninjas?” Even if such a plan is proposed, nobody ever listens, and the person who proposed the plan dies in short order.
  • …the “prophet of doom” at the beginning of the film will always be right, especially if they are predicting a disaster.
  • …the “prophet of doom” will never be believed until it is too late.
  • …and the people who did not believe the “prophet of doom” are the first to die. Apparently one can survive even the worst natural disaster simply by agreeing with the hero.
  • …in a jungle, at least one person will fall down a very long slope, tumbling until they slam into the ground below. This slope will usually conveniently deliver them to the baddies’ feet.
  • …the Evil Overlord’s minions are expendable. You never hear “Taps” playing in the baddies’ camp.
  • …when attacking a very large ship/plane/spacecraft, there will always been one of the hero’s number who sees it wise to make a noble Kamikaze sacrifice. Often, their death is in vain, since the heroes end up having to save the day with their own dramatic scheme.
  • …gangsters (especially black and Hispanic ones) usually have intimidating nicknames like “Julio the Killer” or “Skin-Eatin’ Travis.” You never see the hero walk into the gangster’s establishment and say “Hey! I need to speak to Charles.”
  • …a cut never gets infected, unless this would in some way be “challenging” or “dramatic” for the affected character.
  • …it’s not really a disaster until a hundred-foot wall of water washes through New York, overturning taxicabs.
  • …an Asian character is usually the villain, and usually has either a very cheesy fake accent, or sounds like a professor of economics.
  • …any female villain’s heart can be melted by a suitably studly male hero.
  • …if you hear a sound, don’t walk up to the window. The source of the sound will usually smash through it in short order.

This one was so big I had to give it its own list:

…nobody — especially the hero — ever considers the long-term implications of their actions:

  • …no amount of radiation exposure is cause for alarm. Don’t even bother getting checked for cancer or leukemia, especially if you’re a main character.
  • …if you contract a virus, don’t worry, the hero will find a vaccine just in time to save you and/or the man/woman he/she loves. And don’t worry about long-term effects.
  • …even though a long-term coma requires some kind of brain damage, don’t worry, as long as you’re in Movie Land, waking up entails instantaneous recovery.
  • …the hero can blow up half the city in an attempt to stop the supervillain, and will still be commended for his/her actions.
  • …disaster recovery is always very quick. There’s never any looting or anything like that. I mean, come on, that’s just not human nature, right?
  • …you can breathe in all the dust and smoke you want and not so much as cough.
  • …being shot, stabbed, burned, shocked, thrown out of a car, hit by a car, beaten to within an inch of your life, hit with a baseball bat, or any other such injury requires only a few weeks’ recovery, and there are no lingering effects. Cane shops in Movie Land tend to got out of business rather quickly.
  • …whatever caused that menacing scar on the villain’s face, he/she suffers no long-lasting effects from it.

More later.

AT&T: The Evil Empire

Since earlier this year, the telecommunications company AT&T has been expanding at an alarming rate. First, they absorbed Bell South. Next, they assimilated Cingular. Now, they hold the exclusive rights to the iPhone’s network. And yet, even though I listen to enough liberal radio to kill a horse, I haven’t heard a single outcry about this. Somebody has to say something. I guess that’s me, now.

Now, I don’t know just how far AT&T is planning to take this, and perhaps I’m just being paranoid, but it certainly seems that “The Evil Empire” — as I call it — is heading very quickly for monopoly territory. This makes me quite nervous.

First of all, in a monopoly, there is no competition, so there is no reason to set prices at a competitive rate. After all. in a monopoly situation, there is no competition. And since the only viable telecom network is the one that covers a majority of the service area, even if AT&T doesn’t take over every other provider, they’ll still have an effective monopoly, being the only ones that can provide broad-ranging coverage.

Secondly, if AT&T goes monopolistic, then there will be no reason for them to maintain any standard of quality. After all, with no real competition, they have no reason to spare the expense. Who else could their customers go to?

But perhaps the most frightening — and admittedly most paranoid — of the possibilities, should AT&T consume the whole market, is the potential for the abuse of democracy. The Internet is one of the most democratic media of exchange on Earth, and has been since its inception. However, who’s to say how this might change if one company has control over all the Internet access routes? I myself access the Web through a DSL modem now run by AT&T (it wasn’t my idea; when I signed up it was still Bell South). Suppose they didn’t like what I was writing about them. “Oops, Mr. Asymptote, it looks like your phone line has suffered some sort of inexplicable catastrophic failure.”

Think about it.

Products I Won’t Buy/Shows and Movies I Won’t Watch/Miscellaneous things I Won’t Be Associated With Because of the Odiousness of their Advertising

Long title, I know. Sorry. That was, believe it or not, the most concise way I could think of putting it.

This list has been festering in the back of my mind for a while. I thought it’d be a good time to air it out; it was starting to stink up up my hindbrain. So, here it is:

  • Dr. Scholl’s: An irritating series of forced rhymes does not an amusing advert make.
  • Zwinky: I don’t know what it is, but I’ve seen enough banner ads for it to hate it with all my heart.
  • Jack in the Box food: Just because you say every other fast food chain sucks does not make it true. Also, that angus-anus thing was kind of transparent. Better luck next time.
  • The Transformers Movie: Flooding all channels with hyped-up ads only annoys me, it has never gotten me to see a movie.
  • Chevrolet automobiles: Their poor fuel-efficiency notwithstanding, the fact that they’ve formed an evil union with the above movie has made me hate them. Also, when you go Toyota, you don’t go back. (I know, that doesn’t rhyme…I’m not very good at such witticisms.)
  • Skechers shoes: Sure, life is easier when you ignore the world’s problems and concentrate on shoes, but that doesn’t make for a very satisfying life.
  • Old Navy: First came the irritating ads, then the nonsensical ads, and now it seems the age of the irritating ads has returned.
  • Suzuki automobiles/motorcycles: A woman in a leather jacket only entices the more simple-minded members of my gender (which happen to be the majority, but still).
  • That patty melt sandwich: I didn’t even want to risk seeing it again, so I didn’t bother finding out who made it. Sexist advertising is not the wave of the future, but apparently they still think it works.
  • Diet Pepsi: Fifty-six percent is not that much greater than fifty percent. This is not an election. Get a sharp pin and deflate your ego.
  • VisionWorks eyeglasses: I don’t know what you think you’re accomplishing with twitchy, strangely composed animations.
  • The iPhone: I must admit, general hype made me jaded, but the ads, with their plinky, pretty music, did not help.
  • AT&T: Okay, since they seem to be moving to take over the entire world, I may have trouble avoiding them, but the fact that they seemed to have formed an evil conglomerate, then advertised it widely, kind of turned me off. Try a striptease next time. (Only kidding. All the members of the Evil Conglomerate are fifty-year-old, fat, rich, white men who don’t get enough sun).
  • Reality Television: Okay, you know what, I’m gonna need an entire separate post for this one. More on this later.
  • That free-text-messaging phone: Whichever advertiser created that irritating “IDK my BFF Jill” commercial should be beaten into a coma, allowed to recover, and beaten into a coma again. I repeat, and for the last time: media saturation does not a successful/good product make!
  • Welch’s Grape Juice: Getting creepy, annoying, Dakota-fanning-esque little girls to say canned lines without a hint of real sincerity is just creepy. It’s like that scene in the horror movie where you see the former sidekick standing up and waving, but you know it’s just the alien tentacles shoved up his rectum and into his brain making him do it. (Hmm…my similes seem to be rather peculiar today).
  • Glomobi: Who the hell wants a crying baby ringtone for a cell phone? Odds are, in the same restaurant as the twerp with the loud phone will be a real crying baby. And get an announcer with a less annoying voice while you’re at it.
  • Subway sandwiches: Okay, I still eat there, but only because the sandwiches are good. Next time, though, take a hint: nobody wants to see a grossly overweight man or the pale, skinny corporate sock puppet he evolved into. And why must you always follow up “Subway” with “Restaurants”? Everybody knows it’s a restaurant! Subway might be one of the most easily-recognizable restaurant names on the planet!
  • McDonalds: Not only does their food have a tendency to make me ill, and not only does it tend to contain more than the FDA’s legal maximum concentration of livestock excrement, but trying to make a really shitty chain of restaurants sound glamorous while continuing to serve up low-quality, high-fat, dangerous food is not a good idea. Also, everybody can tell that you have produced one set of adverts to attract white people, and a totally separate set for black people. Neither group is so stupid as not to notice that.

Well, it certainly feels good to get all that off my chest! More ranting later!

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