angry box

Peoples' beefs with Big Bang Theory

There seems to have been a spate of people complaining about The Big Bang Theory recently, claiming it's making fun of nerds and smart people.

Really? We've had decades of absent-minded professors, mad scientists, and nerds complaining about their childhood treatment and taking their revenge on the world. Now that is something we might complain about.

But Big Bang Theory? Please. Most folks focus on Sheldon, so I will too. Sheldon is portrayed as a good guy. That's right, he's shown very positively. Yes, he has difficulties with social niceties. But he tries. He really wants to learn how to interact with people properly. It's not his fault he isn't very good about it, but instead of making excuses ("I can't act nicer, I'm an assburger"), he tries to learn from his mistakes, learn how to recognize sadness and sarcasm, and react appropriately. When someone needs a large amount of money, he offers to lend it to them, for whatever amount of time they need it, interest free. When someone's feeling down, he tries to comfort them, even though he doesn't really know how. It's tough to attempt something you don't know how to do. But it's the right thing to do, and he tries. Even when it involves touching other people, he does so, overcoming his aversion to doing so. That sort of thing makes the character a good one, in my opinion.

"But they portray Sheldon as a buffoon!", I hear people whine. Really? Granted, Sheldon is often portrayed as a buffoon. But so is everybody else on the series, including most of the guest stars! Everybody's a little off in this show, it's part of the show, not an insult to anybody in particular. That was part of what I liked about In Living Color: they were evenhanded, making fun of everybody. I really can't object to that, as long as it isn't mean-spirited. And if there's mean-spiritedness in Big Bang Theory, I simply don't see it.

That's a subtle difference, and hard to point to, but it's important. Anybody remember The Man Show - the original one with Adam Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel? Lots of folks objected to that, saying it mocked women and objectified them, treating them as nothing more than sex symbols. There were a lot of such shows before, during, and after it that did exactly that (and I include the reboot of The Man Show with Doug Stanhope and Joe Rogan). But the original Man Show wasn't like that. The hosts (Adam and Jimmy) love and respect women, and I can see it in the show. A lot of their gags boil down to "I don't completely understand women, but I adore them". That's why I liked that show, and didn't really enjoy any of the others of that sort.

It's the same way with The Big Bang Theory. While the jokes necessarily revolve around the characters and their personalities, they're not mockery, they're poking gentle fun. And many of the gags are simply standard sitcom fodder - they're laughing at what it is to be human. And that's always going to be funny. If you've read Alison Bechdel's Dykes To Watch Out For, it has a similar feel. Yeah, a bunch of the characters are lesbians, and a lot of the story lines hinge on things lesbians do, say, and are - including some stereotypes. But the main message I get from the comics is "we're all human, and we all have the same sorts of fun, problems, and laughs." The same with The Big Bang theory - it's a show about being human, with the wrinkle that not all humans are alike. As someone who's "not alike", it's nice to see that explored, whether it's in a humorous vein or not.

And yes, sometimes I'll do or say something nerdy (like "I like to turn the plates so they face the sprayer in the dishwisher"), my sweetie will smirk at me and say "Okay, Sheldon!" It's not mean, it just reminds me that I can be picky about minutiæ. And it makes us both smile. Originally posted at Dreamwidth.org comment count unavailable comments

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angry box

A spider

As I was taking out the trash, I saw some motion as I went through the door. At first, I was afraid it was a stinkbug, but then I got a closer look and realized that it was just a spider. A pretty one, too.

After I had put down the trash cans, I went and grabbed a camera with a macro lense to get a picture of this beastie. I'm guessing it's Platycryptus undatus, the tan jumping spider.

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angry box

Life's cusps

I was just watching a romantic comedy* (like I do), and it finally dawned on me what my faint irritation is at most of these films. There comes a scene where the protagonist finally has a chance for happily ever after. It's a weird confluence of events, unlikely in the extreme, but right then everything comes together at once, creating a fleeting chance.

And they bungle it.

Up to here, this is like real life — in reality, this also happens. Whether you realize it at the time or not, life offers up these oh-so-brief opportunities, where, if everything goes right, wonderful things can happen. Sometimes it does, and that's wonderful. But, many times, either reality doesn't coöperate (the party closes just as she was about to offer you her lips, the phone rings, the cat throws up, whatever), or you do or say the wrong thing, or freeze up, or screw up some other way. And then the moment's gone, never to be retrieved. And it socks you like a sucker-punch to the stomach. You realize what could have been.

I've gotten to the point where I occasionally recognize these cusps when they're happening. "Everything hinges on what you do at this moment", I'll realize. Unfortunately, that realization doesn't come with instructions as to what to do. Many times, it's far from obvious what would be the best thing to do. And I'll choose wrong. A lot.

"Quick!", the universe will tell me, "make the right choice — instantly — or lose out. Forever.

And that's the kicker. Many of these things, you only get the one chance. The odds were you'd never get a chance, and you're lucky to have had the one. And you blew it. And you'll never get a do-over.

And that, my friends, is my beef with romance movies. In these stories, the heroes always get another chance. Against all odds, another bizarre occurence happens, and they get another crack at it. And it's always even more hurried than the last time, and they have to deal with the repercussions of the previous disaster, but they somehow make the right choice, they don't get interrupted, and they find true love.

I admit, otherwise, it would be a depressing reminder of how dismal real life can be. But it seems hollow. The characters turn from (sort of) realistic, human people with imperfections and failings, to this blessed couple that magically gets everything right, apparently because they "deserve to" or somesuch. We're all rooting for them, they're made for each other, we're willing to suspend disbelief so they can be together.

But that just makes it sting the more that we don't have our own cheering sections, we don't get the second chances, we just get that one fleeting sliver of possibility, and have to fend off all the external things that can go wrong, as well as make a snap decision on insufficient data and act on it immediately, or spend the next few weeks/months/years second-guessing ourselves and suffering the regrets of the beautiful thing that might have been.

I'll admit that there are films that are more realistic. Chasing Amy was one such. The hero got a cusp handed to him, and it was reasonably clear what he needed to do (good job, Kevin Smith), and he choked. He blew it. And he lost out. He never got a second chance. I hated it the first time I saw it. How horrible, how cruel. I read Smith's writeup, how he felt that his cusp was tied to that film, and his take on it was he could only get the girl in real life if the make-believe character didn't. I find myself having such superstitions beliefs myself, so I can't fault him for that. And I can't blame him for sacrificing the companion cube film version of happiness for a chance of real life happiness. But it stung.

However, over the years, I've come to really like that film. It's painful, yes, but at least it's honest. Life is like that, like it or not.

I still wish I magically knew what to do in these situations. And I wish I was better at detecting them in the first place.

* The Ugly Truth, if you're curious Originally posted at Dreamwidth.org comment count unavailable comments

Kim Possible

Outsource perimenopause (or worry) naturally

Idly looking at a magazine cover, I read "Outsource perimenopause naturally". Wait, what? You can DO that?

Then I read it again, noticing that the first word was really "outsmart".

However, it's apparently possible to outsource worry! A. J. Jacobs mentions this in his article on outsourcing his life.

Then, in his new book "Drop Dead Healthy", he mentions an episode where a reader offered to trade worries with him. Apparently it worked out nicely for both of them. The idea seems to be catching on. Originally posted at Dreamwidth.org comment count unavailable comments

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Best. Weekend. Ever. The Sequel!

Remember the fellow who had won the iCarly set visit, that I ran into at the Memphis airport? I heard from him again, he'd talked with Nickelodeon and they told him the opportunity was for up to four people. He still had no friends or family who were interested, so he said if I'd chip in, I and one or two friends could come with him. He would still be paying the lion's share of the money, so it was an attractive deal. I'll call him Chris (as that's his name). Chris and I hammered out a simple contract, and I transferred the funds.

Nickelodeon offered him a few choices, and he elected to go on a day that had a long shooting schedule. The package came with 2 nights at the Roosevelt hotel in Hollywood, a visit to the Nickelodeon Animation Studios, a visit to a taping of the Ellen show, and some goodies like script excerpts and an autographed cast picture.

fizzygeek would come with me, so it would be the three of us. We'd be in the LA area more than two nights, so we needed to find somewhere to stay the other nights. As it happens, our fronds keighsie and ayasdollz had moved from Phoenix to LA since we'd seen them last, and were willing to let us stay at their place, and (better yet) get to hang out with them more. Looking forward to seeing Dan Schneider and the cast again, I rounded up the Zoey 101 key I had made (I'm such a fangirl) and made myself a "Generation Love" T-shirt in honour of cast member Jennette McCurdy's charity project.

We'd never been to LA, and we weren't quite sure what to expect. As it happens, LA is a bustling city with gorgeous weather and plenty of things to see and do. We had a fun time hanging out with our fronds, who basically let us have the run of the house when they were out at work, and play with their cat and dogs (including one grandly named PooPooButt!). We had a great conversation about how our lives just refused to be ordinary (my running into someone at an airport, resulting in a set visit to one of my favourite TV shows was a great example of this). The so-called "law of averages" simply doesn't seem to apply to us.

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angry box

Best. Weekend. Ever. (part III)

The next day, I got an early start to make sure I got to the airport on time. As it happens, I got to the airport 'way too early, and nothing was open. I found a comfortable bench, fired up my laptop, and proceeded to catch up on email.

Presently, someone wandered by and asked if I had been at the iCarly event last night. I said I had, and he shook my hand and said he thought he recognized me as a big bidder for the day on the set. It turns out he was the winning bidder, but didn't really have any friends or family who enjoyed iCarly. He said he'd try to find out if I could come with him, as I was obviously interested enough to be willing to put down major money. We exchanged contact info.

Finally the ticket windows opened up, and I went to the USAir window to try again to get my flight changed to terminate in Charlotte (where I would be catching my flight to Florida) instead of Dulles. It was still impossible. So I asked if I could just have my luggage marked to come off at Charlotte. The agent looked very flustered and asked why I would want to do such a thing. I explained that I'd be abandoning the Charlotte-Dulles segment and catching some other plane. She snapped "I don't want to hear about that!" and turned away. Hopefully there won't be anything in my luggage that I can't carry on the plane.

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Best. Weekend. Ever. (part II)

It turns out the event itself is held in a nice function space on the roof of the hotel. I took the elevator up a while before the listed start time, and found just a few folks around, hanging up decorations and so forth. I signed up for a bidder number, as I was quite interested in the auction, where they'd be selling props and memorabilia. After that, I was asked to go out on the roof and wait. I had a nice look at the city - including seeing some areas flooded by the river and I admired the Duck Palace where the ducks spend their nights.

After a bit, I wandered back inside, where there was quite a crowd waiting to get in. Occasionally cast members would exit the elevators and squeeze through the crowd into the function space. I wasn't really sure what to expect, would they be hiding behind desks, protected by handlers, or what?

Finally they let us in, to a generously sized area with several activities scattered around, big screens running clips of the shows, a big food table, and the things to be auctioned. I looked around to see if I recognized anybody. Sure enough, just a few feet away, Jerry Trainor was chatting with a couple of people. I hung around until they wandered off and went to say hi. I blurted out that I was glad to meet him, as my sweetie had told me I really should. I phrased this in a really clever way, and he said "She really said that? Wow!" I wish I could remember how I put it! I saw someone else standing nearby with a fancy camera, and asked him if he could take a picture of me with Jerry. He was happy to, if I'd return the favour. As it happened, he and I became photo buddies, taking each others' pictures with various celebrities through the night. Collapse ) Originally posted at Dreamwidth.org comment count unavailable comments

Kim Possible

Best. Weekend. Ever. (part I)

I've been a fan of some Nickelodeon shows for quite a while. The Amanda Show, Zoey 101, iCarly, and Victorious. One big thing these shows have in common is they're directed by Dan Schneider, who aims to produce good TV, not just "kid TV". This may be why I like them, or perhaps I'm just a kid at heart.

That said, [profile] fizzygeek and I were hanging around in an airport waiting for a flight, and I was browsing Dan's facebook feed when I saw an announcement: he was having a charity meet-and-greet to support St. Jude's Hospital. Dan had asked the casts of both iCarly and Victorious to participate, and they all agreed!

Hoo boy, I wanted to go to this shindig! I asked [profile] fizzygeek if I could go, and she said I should probably think about it first, see if it would be feasible. I considered it for a while, and decided that this would be a popular event and would sell out quickly. I could either pounce on it immediately, and take the chance of paying for it and not being able to go, or think about it on the plane ride and take a chance of wanting to go, but all the slots being gone. Additionally, Andrea couldn't go anyway. I pounced on it anyway, to her vague surprise.

When I got home, I started making arrangements. I booked a room at the Peabody, the hotel where the event would be held, and found an affordable flight to Memphis, connecting through Charlotte.

Then I got another notification - NASA had freed up some additional VIP tickets for the (then) final space shuttle launch. I had tried to buy tickets earlier, but they were sold out, so I got on the bus company's mailing list. This mailing included a URL to buy the tickets, but the URL was mangled in transmission. I reverse-engineered what it should have been and bought the tickets pronto. I remember Spider Robinson writing in one of his books that seeing a shuttle launch from the VIP area was an incredible experience, and it was worth going to a large amount of effort do do so. I had seen the Apollo moon shots go up from across the river, those were awesome, and I'd seen a shuttle launch from on top of the bridge, which was wonderful, but not like a Saturn V. However, a shuttle launch from close up was something I wanted to experience, and chances were running out.

Then I realized it was the same weekend! Now what am I going to do? Okay, calm down, they're not the same day. I can fly to Memphis, meet Dan and his TV show casts, then fly to Florida and catch the space shuttle launch with Andrea. So I went to the USAir web site and tried to modify my flight. Unfortunately, USAir's reservation system isn't too bright - I have to work with the complete flight between Memphis and Dulles, I can't just delete the Charlotte-Dulles segment. And I can't convert Memphis-Dulles into Memphis-Orlando, because there are no more seats on the Memphis-Charlotte segment! Even though I'd be on that plane either way, the computer simply can't accept that I'd be vacating a seat that I'd then occupy. Okay, I'll just call the airline directly and deal with a human instead. No dice - the human uses the same broken reservation system, and can't accomplish it either.

Fine, I'm not going to miss out on the shuttle launch. I went to another airline and bought a ticket from Charlotte to Orlando, and one from Orlando to Dulles. I'll just get off the USAir plane in Charlotte and board a plane to Orlando, abandoning the Charlotte-Dulles segment.

I'm not sure what I'm going to wear - I'm tempted to wear a Gibby's Ice Cream T-shirt, as one of the characters on iCarly is called Gibby. But it might be a fancy shindig, so I also pack a really nice but somewhat outrageous striped shirt that had once listed for $200, but we found on a clearance rack for $20 or so. I emailed the event coordinator asking if there's a dress code, but hadn't heard back.

I get to the hotel and unpack, and find that I have a reply to the dress code - it's supposed to be reasonably fancy, no jeans. And I somehow neglected to pack nice pants. Time to go shopping! I call a cab to the mall. The cab driver takes a phone call on the way, and speaks a language that sounds faintly familiar, but I can't place it. When he gets off the phone, I ask him about it. He explains that he's speaking Ethiopian. No wonder it sounded familiar, I love Ethiopian food, and have learned several of the terms for the dishes. He and I have a great time discussing Ethiopian food.

I get to the mall and do some power shopping, picking up a nice pair of slacks, a belt, and some cufflinks. I'm going to look good. I also scarfed down some food, as I didn't know when I'd have another opportunity to eat, as I'd be getting back to the hotel not long before the event began, and I still had to change.

I have a nice chat with another cab driver on the way back - he's curious as to why I'm in town, and I explain that I'm attending a fundraiser for St. Jude's Hospital. He says they're a wonderfully deserving place, and tells me a tale. There was a boy who'd gone to a conventional hosptial with cancer, and they told him he had maybe two months to live. His parents took him to St. Jude's instead, where he had done quite well. After a year, he was well enough for a trip to the zoo - and that cab driver had driven him and his parents to the zoo.

When I got back to the hotel, there was a huge crowd of people in the lobby. I figured the TV stars had showed up and I was missing things! Out by the elevators was mobbed, so it would be problematic to even get back to my room to change. It took a while for me to figure out what was really going on: the Peabody hotel has a tradition where a family of ducks lives in their fountain during the day, and the ducks march back to their home on the roof at night - via the elevator. Once the ducks had made their journey, the lobby cleared out and I was able to go back to my room and change into my fancy duds. Originally posted at Dreamwidth.org comment count unavailable comments

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angry box

Crunch, or a trip to the dentist

Recently, while enjoying some breadsticks, I heard a little cracking noise in my mouth. A little exploration revealed that I now had a chunk missing from the side of a molar. So I called the dentist. Even though the whole dental office had been on vacation since July 4, they made room in their schedule to see me. It turns out an old crown had failed and needed to be replaced. Amazingly, they said they could do the job then and there. Having the previous crown installed required a couple of visits, with a couple of weeks in-between for the crown itself to be custom made.

But technology marches on, and things are much improved today! It only took a little while to remove the old crown and prepare the tooth for the new one. At that point, technology took over. They puffed some blue powder on the area and took a bunch of measurements with a miniature 3D scanner, both open jaw and closed jaw. Then the computer chewed on it for a while, and generated a 3D model of the new crown, designed to fit neatly between the existing teeth, provide a good match to the attachment point, and meet the opposing teeth properly. The dentist fine-tuned the model slightly (of course, I watched), and pressed the "go" button. At that point, a little precision CNC machine carved the new crown out of a "green" ceramic blank. The green ceramic was actually lavender, amusingly enough. Then the crown was test fit, and some very fine adjustments made, as it was nearly a perfect fit to start with. Then it went into a kiln for firing, and once it had cooled, they cemented it in place, cleaned up some stray cement, and sent me on my merry way.

Yay technology! Originally posted at Dreamwidth.org comment count unavailable comments

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