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,1 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?