Can’t take much more of this

I was in the back­seat of a car maybe a month ago when the new X-Files (2016) came up. None of us had heard whether the series was com­ing back for a per­ma­nent run or what. Some­one looked it up on their phone and found it would only be six episodes.

Oh, thank good­ness,” I sighed.

My response baf­fled the front-seat occu­pants, one of whom asked what I had against the The X-Files. I explained bad­ly, as I often do on the spot, how age has shown me that more isn’t always bet­ter, and my already loaded media diet means I just don’t have time or ener­gy for that much new stuff.1 Few­er episodes equals bet­ter.

A lot of times I’d rather appeal­ing stuff just not exist than have to exert the willpow­er need­ed to not to care about it. Everett today is thank­ful Sein­feld quit ear­ly. Everett today was pissed when 99% Invis­i­ble went week­ly. Everett sighed and stared out the win­dow at the news of Blade Run­ner 2. Everett is way too good at find­ing stuff he cares about, and real­ly bad at ignor­ing stuff that sounds like it might be cool.

Tom Chan­dler has this prob­lem with pod­casts. I, um, also have this prob­lem with pod­casts.

(P.S. If you’re David Lynch, make all the new Twin Peaks you want. I’ll accom­mo­date.)

  1. I want­ed to add, but didn’t, that I always thought Milen­ni­um was bet­ter than The X-Files, because that would just con­fuse them and might make them think I real­ly did secret­ly hate The X-Files but wouldn’t own up to it. I’m get­ting bet­ter about stay­ing focused while talk­ing, keep­ing the extra­ne­ous details I’m just dying to share to myself.

Deliciously clever dessert marketing

dessert

I went to a restau­rant recent­ly, one that could be placed com­fort­ably in the same genre as Cheese­cake Fac­to­ry. Nice atmos­phere, food’s great. But what stood out most to me was the way they mar­ket­ed desserts.

What would you think the top rea­son is that peo­ple don’t order dessert? I’d guess that the first or sec­ond (the oth­er being health/weight con­cerns) is that their entrée leaves them too full to eat more. How do you sell a dessert to some­one who’s too stuffed to eat one? Get them to order it before they’re stuffed.

Our serv­er ini­tial­ly men­tioned, then remind­ed us on almost every appear­ance she made at our table, that all of their desserts are deli­cious, made-to-order and take up to 30 min­utes to pre­pare, so my din­ing com­pan­ion and I should get our dessert order in ear­ly if we don’t want to wait.

This might not give a non-critical thinker pause, but — you know — I tend to notice when someone’s reach­ing for my wal­let. I also under­stand that restau­rants tend to run at pret­ty slim prof­it mar­gins, and how impor­tant attach rates of desserts, drinks and appe­tiz­ers are to their busi­ness.

They real­ly want you to have that slice of cheese­cake, even if they’re prob­a­bly going to be box­ing it up to-go. Clever, huh?

The word calamity makes me smile (and now I know why)

Words are spe­cial things to me, and when I was a small­er geek and would try to fig­ure out the mean­ing of unknown words, I would often form a men­tal image of a word’s mean­ing based on, often times, anoth­er word it sound­ed like (regard­less of whether the two words actu­al­ly had any­thing to do with each oth­er). Some­times, I’d actu­al­ly use con­text to help deci­pher the mean­ing of the mys­tery word, but that wouldn’t always lead me to the right answer.

From time to time, I’d be unable to shed this first impres­sion of a word, which would stick with me even after I would learn the word’s actu­al mean­ing. I’d have these false images some­times pop into my mind when I’d hear the word itself used else­where, even know­ing full well what it real­ly means.

So when I found myself, in more recent years, find­ing the word calami­ty to be, of all things, bizarrely amus­ing, I began to seri­ous­ly ques­tion how this could be. It’s not like I find calami­ties them­selves fun­ny. And the word is not one I hear used much on a day-to-day basis, and it cer­tain­ly isn’t one used to describe things that are sup­posed to be fun­ny. It’s not near­ly as well-used as its syn­onyms cat­a­stro­phe, dis­as­ter, or even tragedy. So why would I find it dif­fi­cult to sup­press a smirk when hear­ing or read­ing about some­thing that some­one described as calami­tous?

Here’s what tru­ly brought my strange rela­tion­ship with the word to a head: I used to work for a com­pa­ny with pret­ty strong ties to the Philip­pines, so when the rather dead­ly Typhoon Ondoy (a.k.a. Ket­sana) rolled through the coun­try dur­ing my time employed there, the storm, and its effects, were more than just the head­line or two that they may have been to most Amer­i­cans. Read­ing pret­ty exten­sive­ly about the storm, both through news reports and first­hand accounts from many of our cus­tomers, I noticed, a hand­ful of times, many pinoys using calami­ty to describe what had hap­pened there. To what we owe their word choice is not some­thing I under­stand or am real­ly con­cerned with, actu­al­ly. More impor­tant was the invol­un­tary smirk­ing effect the word had on me.

That I could find myself amused by some­thing so strange, in the face of tales and pho­tos of death and destruc­tion, was some­thing I found unset­tling, so I lat­er thought hard about where this feel­ing like­ly came from. I can’t quite remem­ber how I made the con­nec­tion, but it even­tu­al­ly hit me.

That cute lit­tle guy to the right is Calami­ty Coy­ote, a char­ac­ter from the early-90s ani­mat­ed tele­vi­sion series Tiny Toon Adven­tures, a show that may not have made as last­ing an impres­sion on me as oth­ers from the era did, but is one I def­i­nite­ly remem­ber watch­ing. (I remem­ber the theme song very well, for what that’s worth.) Calami­ty is also a rel­a­tive of Wile E. Coy­ote, or some­thing.

Lack­ing any oth­er con­text to explain to my single-digit-aged self the mean­ing of the word calami­ty, I must have assumed that it meant… well, some­thing fun­ny! Because, you know, the show was made up of fun­ny char­ac­ters doing fun­ny things, so this unknown word must mean some­thing fun­ny.

It makes per­fect sense to me, and feels like the expla­na­tion, the true cre­ation myth I’ve been look­ing for. I can’t imag­ine where else a younger Everett would have come across that word, and it’s not one I’ve seen enough times in the inter­ven­ing years, mak­ing this one of those wrong def­i­n­i­tions I still just can’t for­get.

Do you have any words that have a spe­cial mean­ing to you, one that’s com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent than what the word real­ly means? Or per­haps that even tick­le your fun­ny bone in an equal­ly irra­tional way? (I real­ly do want to know.)

Warmth, fuzz at 60 MPH

Last Fri­day evening I was alone, dri­ving south on one of South Florida’s fine express­ways, when I had the strangest moment of, for lack of a bet­ter term, empa­thy.

(This is notable because the word with which I would expect myself to have end­ed that sen­tence is “con­tempt.”)

The dri­ver in front of me, pilot­ing a Mit­subishi that was either sil­ver or gold (dif­fi­cult to tell which in the half-light of the expressway’s over­heard street­lights), wasn’t dri­ving at a pace that was to my lik­ing, so I decid­ed I would pass them. I engaged my turn sig­nal and began merg­ing over to the next lane. They must have sensed, from the amount of time I had spent behind them, that they were not dri­ving at a pace that was to my lik­ing, so at the exact moment I start­ed mov­ing over, they too start­ed mov­ing over in the same direc­tion I was. (Of course, they did so with­out sig­nal­ing, which is the South Flori­da Stan­dard.) Just as simul­ta­ne­ous­ly as we began them, we abort­ed our lane changes, as we each noticed the other’s attempt.

It was at this moment that I felt a warm, fuzzy feel­ing, the likes of which I almost nev­er expe­ri­ence while dri­ving down here. In that moment, I became quite aware that there was a per­son dri­ving that Mit­subishi. It’s easy to for­get that the oth­er cars on the road are dri­ven by peo­ple, espe­cial­ly at night when it’s not so easy to see them through their win­dows. But in that driver’s moment of obvi­ous self-correction, it could not be clear­er.

Also, I will not let it go unsaid: the events that unfold­ed made it clear that the per­son in front of me actu­al­ly looked in their mir­ror before attempt­ing to change lanes! Their care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion only makes me aware that they were at least a bit like me.

Around here, that’s say­ing some­thing.

  1. That’s fine, real­ly. Had they sig­naled and done the oth­er not­ed things, I would not be writ­ing this post, because I would have died that night, from some sort of shock.

How to kick your own ass

So last night I was let­ting my mind wan­der while sit­ting around play­ing some Cave Sto­ry,1 try­ing to decide whether I should blog the sto­ry of how I learned the word “res­i­dence” (yes, these are the things you think about when you are me), when I had a fun­ny thought. Yes, a sec­ond one.

It went a bit like “Everett, you could share bits like that on your blog, but you do real­ize that in doing so, you’re can­ni­bal­iz­ing con­tent that you could be sav­ing up for the mem­oir you may one day write, right?”

I chuck­led at the thought and con­clud­ed that the sto­ry of how I learned the word “res­i­dence” may not, after all, make for that great a blog post. But in anoth­er moment of insight, I took my sec­ondary thought to its log­i­cal con­clu­sion: if I were seri­ous about con­sid­er­ing writ­ing a mem­oir (and I wasn’t), per­haps at this point in my life I should wor­ry more about who would even want to read such a book.

That’s not to put down my life and those who have played a role in shap­ing it, but… sor­ry you guys, I just don’t think it would make a com­pelling book. And a life spent sit­ting around won­der­ing if I should write a book about my life seems even fur­ther away from a life worth writ­ing about.

I won­dered if maybe this prin­ci­ple (one wor­ry­ing more about some poten­tial future, at the expense of the present, which could be bet­ter used to get one to their desired future) is some­thing that a lot of peo­ple do, some­thing that has broad­er impli­ca­tions than some hypo­thet­i­cal, self-indulgent tome. Con­sid­er the exam­ple of rel­a­tive­ly not-well-off peo­ple who oppose that which would be ben­e­fi­cial to them, by, say, hav­ing polit­i­cal lean­ings that do more for those who are much bet­ter off than they are. Why would they do this? Do they actu­al­ly think they’re like­ly to be in that oth­er class some­day? Plan­ning on win­ning the lot­tery, much?

It’s one thing to plan for the future. But it’s anoth­er to fetishize some out­come that, be real with your­self, is unlike­ly to hap­pen… and is all the less like­ly, yet, if you sit around day­dream­ing about it.

  1. Awe­some, awe­some game. Free down­load here for Windows/Mac/Linux/etc. or buy it for $12 on Wii­Ware.

Corporate logos, visual puns and the juvenile brain that just didn’t get it

When I was young, I just didn’t get it.

See, I was locat­ed square­ly in Piaget’s pre-operational stage of devel­op­ment, and some­thing fun­ny seems to hap­pen there: you’re only able to take things at face val­ue, miss­ing out on sub­tle­ty, double-meanings, sar­casm… and all that good stuff that isn’t stat­ed blunt­ly. Once you’re a ful­ly cog­nizant indi­vid­ual, you can appre­ci­ate all of that.

As a teen, or per­haps slight­ly ear­li­er, I was sud­den­ly able to see these sorts of things for what they real­ly were. Well, most things. But for a cer­tain class of things that I first expe­ri­enced dur­ing my pre-op stage, I con­tin­ued hav­ing trou­ble see­ing them for what they tru­ly rep­re­sent­ed. Here’s an exam­ple:

the classic Burger King logoWhen I was grow­ing up, this was the Burg­er King logo. (I also walked uphill to school in the South Flori­da snow, both ways. Kids these days.) It’s pret­ty sim­ple, right? The words rep­re­sent­ed the meat, between a cou­ple of buns. To whom was that not abun­dant­ly clear that the logo is a burg­er?

To me.

I didn’t real­ize that until I was a bit old­er (high school, maybe), at which point it just hit me. It was not for lack of expo­sure; I had been eat­ing at Burg­er King prac­ti­cal­ly since birth. I had a birth­day par­ty there in ele­men­tary school. I was in the god­damn Burg­er King Kids Club!

The fact that I was exposed to this logo so ear­ly in life is pre­cise­ly why I took it for grant­ed. I missed the visu­al pun; as far as I was con­cerned, the logo looked the way it did because that was just what the Burg­er King logo looked like. I sim­ply couldn’t imag­ine it any oth­er way, or hav­ing any oth­er pur­pose than telling peo­ple who see it on the side of a build­ing that they’re look­ing at a Burg­er King loca­tion.

I had no such dif­fi­cul­ty with the stupid-simple McDonald’s arch­es. It’s just a big “M.”

old-school Milwaukee Brewers logoHere’s anoth­er exam­ple of a logo I didn’t ful­ly under­stand or appre­ci­ate. For the record, I wasn’t a Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers fan, but at the age of four or five (and thanks to a friend’s father) I found myself with a huge col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary base­ball cards. Again, until I was much old­er, all I saw in this logo was a styl­ized base­ball and glove… which to a child, seems a per­fect­ly appro­pri­ate logo for a base­ball team. And your aver­age sports-team logo is on the lit­er­al side.

I believe it was at some point in col­lege that I noticed the sub­tle let­ter­ing in the Brew­ers’ logo. What a bril­liant design!

There’s a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent class of logos that are more sub­tle, with some­thing inten­tion­al­ly hid­den with­in. You don’t need to be a young­ster to miss it.

These tend to be great:

the Goodwill logothe FedEx logoAmazon.com logo

The FedEx logo is wide­ly cel­e­brat­ed, its pun mas­ter­ful­ly sub­tle. It only occurred to me it a few years ago, while dri­ving to work one day. I was behind a FedEx truck. Then it hit me. (Thank you, I will be here all week.)

As for the Good­will logo, this blog com­ment made me see the light, or rather, the huge “g” in neg­a­tive space. I had always just seen it as a face.

The day I real­ized that the Ama­zon logo wasn’t mean to be a smirk was the day I saw the A -> Z.

Can you think of any oth­er good exam­ples?