Archive for category Through the Commentator’s Glasses

Rogue Love

Nerd time: I’m sure a fair number of you remember the scene in SW: The Empire Strikes Back where Leia tells Han she loves him, and he responds with “I know.”

From what I can tell, that’s supposed to be taken as a classic and in-character scoundrel’s response. (Google “Leia I love you” and look at the comments under the primary video if you want.) She tells him she loves him; his response carries a general attitude of “Of course, how could you not love me?”

But what if that wasn’t how it was meant? (It was) So instead, what if life worked that way more often? Put yourself in Han’s place: What if you heard those words, and genuinely knew that was the case, because you had seen it demonstrated by the other person’s character and actions over and over again?

That’d be–to put it mildly–pretty cool.

I know I’m a few weeks late for May 4th, and a few -months- late for Valentine’s Day, but whatevs. Food for thought.


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Not for Human Consumption

“And now look at me.  Don’t take this the wrong way, but understand me when I tell you that you–all of you–are unique.  Where I’m from, guys your size don’t communicate, they spend their days soaking up the sun and watching the world pass by from the branch of a tree.”
Virrn tilted his head.  “You are the first I have seen alive who was not watching us from behind the clear walls.  Excuse us for not knowing how to respond.”
“Look,” Kate said, shifting her weight to accommodate her bad arm.  “Let’s just agree to give each other a little leeway.  I guarantee you protocol for me is going to be a lot different than what you’re used to.  I forgive you.  And I promise I’ll try to behave.”
“You are willing to concede much.”
Kate let out part of a breath.  “Story of my life.  There’s a lot more where that came from.”  She peered back toward the tear in the hull and the scattering rays of light that broke through the trees and found their way down to the metal walls.  “Do you mind if I ask what you have to eat around here?  It’s been at least three days since I had something filling.”
Virrn leapt from his perch on the haptic display and leapt onto Kate’s arm.  Their eyes locked.
She recoiled momentarily.  “Is that a no?  I wasn’t intending to take your food.”
“You are sad.”
You are observant,” she said, unsure how to respond.  “And blunt.  This is me giving you leeway, by the way.  You’re a little more forward in your speech than I’m accustomed to.”
“What did you do to become sad?” Virrn asked, crawling farther up her arm.
“What did I do?” Kate wanted to brush him back down her arm, but decided against it.   “I didn’t ask for it, if that’s what you’re implying.”
“It found you?” Virrn opened his mouth wide.  “What did you do?”
“I–Nothing everyone else I know hadn’t already done.  I played the game and lost.”
Virrn tilted his head.
“A metaphor.  Sorry.  Relationships.  You’ve most likely seen them in some form if you were paying any attention at all during your education.”
Virrn crawled past her elbow and turned back.  “What was it like?”
“While it lasted, there’s nothing that can compare to it.  Now that it’s over?  I’ve spent the last four months wishing I could remove my heart and eat it.”
“A metaphor?” Virrn said.
“I think so,” Kate replied.  “Most days, anyway.  You catch on quickly.”

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Toned Down

What the actual junk, Facebook.  You have a problem.  You have a lot of problems.

Something that’s been making the rounds: “Share this if you’d stay up all night just to stop someone you love from committing suicide!”

There are so many things wrong with that statement I don’t know where to start.  My original plan was to throw sarcasm at it.

Forget the interim plan.  Plan A was good enough.

Truly you are a paragon of unwavering selflessness to sacrifice six whole hours of sleep to prevent someone from ending their life!  If everyone on earth exhibited the same unsurpassed love you show, WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IN THE EVENT YOU WERE ACTUALLY CALLED TO DO SOMETHING TOUGH.

‘Just’ to stop them from ending it all?  ‘Just’ is used when you say you’d drive 80 miles ‘just’ to buy doughnuts, because they’re so good and who cares if I get fat.  ‘Just’ is used when the object of your assessment is trivial and ultimately meaningless.

I don’t claim a history of demonstrating or great ability to demonstrate true sacrificial love, but I hope to the uttermost that I would stand up and do something to change the situation, regardless of whether I thought I loved that hypothetical person or not.  And I don’t even remember the last time I genuinely sacrificed to prove my love for anyone.  I’ve done things I don’t like for folks I care deeply about, but I don’t know if I’ve ever truly forfeited my own interests to serve someone else in a major way.

Love is far more than a vapid pledge to give up an eminently replaceable commodity to prevent an irreversible tragedy.  Love is sacrifice. Love is placing another’s good completely and interminably above your own.  Love is long hours caring for someone who can’t care for herself, because you promised you would in sickness and in health. Love is knowing when to let go despite every fiber of your being wanting to hold on.  Love is getting two hours of sleep each night because you’re working two jobs and are trying to give your kids a decent life.

Written by a hypocrite.  But blast it all, if the hypocrites can’t speak, the world will forever be a very quiet place.

Whatever the heck kind of disease that site is spreading, it’s hardly a shadow of the real thing.  Facebook, you wouldn’t recognize love if it backed over your head with a truck.  You’re dabbling in things you don’t understand, and I’m fairly convinced you never will.

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Make a Million Bucks

If someone can come up with a functional reverse dictionary, I think they could make a great deal of money on the ads they would no doubt coat their webpage with, since that’s how it’s done these days.

For example, take a word like homunculus.  Say you want a similar word, but with a non-person meaning.  (If it were a math equation imagine Homunculus – person + thing)  As in a perfectly formed tiny version of a thing.  Maybe it’d give you simulacrum or something similar as a result, even though it doesn’t quite match the parameters.

My point being that English has a metric stuffload of words and it’d be nice if it came with a manual to navigate from word to word so you could fall back upon it when your mental reference materials inevitably came up short.

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I Think It’s Done.

I think it’s done.

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Of Pirates and Blurred Borders

Have you ever thought about how improbable the global system of air travel is?

Nearly every country on the planet allows fully loaded jets to enter its airspace multiple times a day, and–even more improbably– land before checking the passengers (I don’t know what the alternative would be), trusting the previous country’s TSA to have done the job.   And some of these transfers involve countries who wouldn’t hesitate to stab each other given the chance.

It just strikes me that any country with the desire to do so could stuff a nuclear weapon in the cargo hold of an international flight and set it off upon landing.  Sure, there have been stories (and movies) where said weapon is sent in by container ship (probably easier) but air travel opens up a great multitude of non-coastal/non-port locations.  And finger pointing would be difficult, though I think it’s possible to fingerprint the country of origin by sampling the fallout.  (The whole reason I’m speculating here is because I’m not in the mood to start googling things like “is it possible to trace nuclear weapons” or “what’s stopping governments from sticking nukes on planes.”)

By the way, if you’re paranoid, don’t read the previous three paragraphs.  If you aren’t, carry on.

In other alternate universes, can you imagine if yesterday’s pirates operated on the same principles today’s do?  Near as I can tell, there would be a giant island outside territorial waters filled with gold, food, rum, silver, and what-have-you, where ships would pull in, fill up on all of it, and leave.  The island’s stockpile would remain completely unchanged.

Mind you, if today’s pirates operated on the same principles as yesterday’s, Disney would be forced to spend part of its operating budget combating raiding parties, Paramount would be resting on the bottom of the sea, and Shawn Fanning would be imprisoned, having murdered a great number of musicians.

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A Series of Rather Terrible Decisions

I applied for (and was chosen for) the sugar beet draft this year.

All in all, it’s a very bizarre business seemingly predicated on a whole bunch of people with terrible judgment being allowed to make decisions.

Step one: Someone has to decide to farm.
Farming itself isn’t a terrible idea; it’s a great way to get outdoors and wake up at four and end up tan and fairly well-muscled and the owner of machinery that is either larger than or more expensive than the average house–possibly both.  It’s just–aside from subsidies and all that–your returns are dependent upon the weather.  It can’t be too hot, it can’t be too cold, too wet, too dry, too bugs or hail or tornado.  You’ve probably noticed a theme.

Poor decision Step two: This person must farm sugar beets.  Sugar beets are ugly, occasionally football-sized mutant cousins of regular beets that taste pretty much exactly how you would expect them to taste.  (Yes, I did.  No, it wasn’t a dare.)

Step three, and here is where it gets tricky: Said person must be willing to entrust these rotund little rooted fellows to, in some cases, complete strangers or people who know their friends who may never have driven either a truck or a manual transmission before.  (My secret shame!  But what do you want?  It’s not as if I had a spare car.)

So here’s where I come in, and where we switch perspectives.

Step four:  I show up at a field with a truck, and for reasons that I don’t want to explain, get an unstoppable urge to take beets from someone, letting some poor unsuspecting tractor driver fill the truck up with more beets than I could possibly want or use.  (If you’re keeping count, that’s at least one beet.)

Step five:  After driving about a mile, I begin to regret my actions.

Step six:  What in the name of Pete Sampras am I going to do with 20,000 pounds of beets?

Step seven:  I drive half a dozen miles into town, following antlike beet-truck trails toward the hive, where I and hundreds of other misguided truckers are fortunate enough to find people who will take the world’s ugliest crop off our hands.  In return, I receive a slip of paper.  Some less-fortunate drivers simply give up, cut their losses, head home, and end up with ten tons of awful brown lumps on their lawn.

Step eight:  Leave.  Probably the most rational decision I’ve made all week.

Step nine: Contract Chronic Beetlust again.  Discard rational thought once more.  Repeat steps four through nine for approximately two weeks.

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St. Ives from an Outsider’s Perspective

I’m sure most, if not all of you have heard the St. Ives riddle.  To those who are the exception:

As I was going to St. Ives,
I met a man with seven wives.
Each wife had seven sacks.
Each sack had seven cats.
Each cat had seven kits.
Kits, cats, sacks, and wives,
how many were going to St. Ives?

I don’t have time to argue the math or the reasoning behind it, but it’s safe to say the answer is a number.  I’d imagine it somehow relates the questioner, a man, seven women, and 49 bags filled with 343 adult cats and 2401 kittens total.  (Evenly distributed into the sacks, of course.)

It bothers me that whoever is asking the question is so bloomin’ vague.  The fact that you can argue seventeen different answers (YOU were going to St. Ives!  2800 wives, sacks, cats, and kittens were going to St. Ives!  The St. Ives Bureau of Random Economic Statistics gives a figure of 48,439,000 incoming cat units for fiscal year 2007!) means the question itself needs work.

It seems to me the lack of specificity is a symptom of a much deeper problem, however.  And it’s not as if the questioner can’t be specific.  He or she is quite certain about the number of cats per bag.  In fact, the certainty about the contents of these undoubtedly massive sacks seems to imply that there was a conversation with these mysterious cat transporters:

“Hello, travelers, what’s up?”

“My seven wives and I are making our biweekly cat delivery.”

“Oh!  I can’t imagine any logistical or social problems arising in a career like that!   I myself am a dentist; the one out of five who never agrees with the others for plot-driven reasons that are never completely explained.  How many cats are in each bag?”

“These are sacks, my contentious dentist acquaintance.  There are 7 cats and 49 kittens in each sack.  How did you know the cats were in the sacks?”

“I must confess the hissing and shrieking as the sacks scraped along the ground gave your secret away.  Also, it says ‘CATS’ on the side.”

It begs the question why this person was talking to the cat people in the first place.  Do you have any idea how much feline biomass was packed into those containers?  A reasonable weight for an adult cat is approximately 10 pounds.  Given seven sacks per wife and 7 cats per bag, we have a total of 490 pounds of Adult Cat Weight alone.

Clearly, these women are not to be trifled with.

But we aren’t finished.  Now for the kittens.  While we aren’t given the exact location of St. Ives, (I suspect it’s Utah) in America they seem to suggest splitting cat families no earlier than ten weeks, an age that would give the kittens a weight of somewhere around two pounds each.  Of course, the people we’re talking about don’t seem to be the type to follow reasonable suggestions, but I imagine any cat rancher would rather not spend more money on cat food than is necessary, and would likely sell the cats at this time.  (If these people were ranching said cats and kittens to be used as food, it’s possible age isn’t a factor to them at all.  I find this somewhat absurd, even by polygamist cat-rancher standards.)

343 kittens per woman at 2 pounds each gives us 686 pounds of Kitten Weight.
490 lbs. ACW
+ 686 lbs. KW= 1176 pounds of cats per wife.

To put that in perspective, these women are lugging around a third of a Buick over their shoulders, except instead of hauling harmless, relatively inert hunks of automobile, they’ve packed 56 cats into a cramped space, and they’ve done it seven times over.  Each.

I have a hard time imagining two cats shoved into a bag together for any length of time.  Shoot, even one cat.

Of course, it is nowhere stated that the cats are alive…
Take out one of the logistical problems and suddenly the riddle becomes ever so much more disturbing.  Assuming the police are not eaten for sustenance by the Seven Strongest Women on Earth, I can see the headlines:


If you meet this walking catastrophe on the way to town and your only concern is mathematics, your garden is most likely short a few vegetables.

…Kits, cats, sacks, and wives,
Don’t bother with math, just flee for your lives.

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We Three or Four Things

This man is was an artistic wizard.

How in the name of Willy Wonka does Mr. Slugworth find out that Charlie has a ticket so fast?  Was he hiding in the back of the store?  (More Likely: He’s a demon with the ability to teleport)

3A–To the multitudes of news organizations, and most importantly, your editors:
Please stop using the word An before words that begin with a hard H.  (If you’ve ever said An hard H aloud without cringing, you are either deaf or actively seek the downfall of the English language, and your help in bringing about said downfall is completely unnecessary)
The point of adding a consonant to the article A is to break up what would otherwise be an awkward diaeresis. (Notice the flow: an anchor, an order, anathema, versus “Hey guys, let’s go to a Arby’s and get a order of curly fries from that A. Athema girl!”(Just call her Ann!))

It sounds like your dinner plans are being made by Porky Pig.   Adding the consonant before another consonant is backtracking into the realm of awkward phonetics again, and you’re more likely to start tripping over words, which is a shame.   An honor is correct.  An historic event is not, unless you talk like a British maid and pronounce it ‘istoric.  If you are a British maid, carry on.

3B–You guys again:
Please stop abusing the construction Everything is not.  I don’t know if using it to mean Not everything is has been labeled Grammatically Incorrect yet, but if it hasn’t, it certainly should be.

Shakespeare–and his All that glitters is not–is able to get away with it, because he has the excuse of being poetic, and possibly because that kind of thing was completely kosher among Elizabethans.  Unless you’re trying to say “Nothing is,” which you hardly ever are, don’t do it.

The construction works with gerunds, because there’s no ambiguity.
“Running is good.”  Not ambiguous.  The speaker is expressing positive feelings about the act of running.
“Not running is good.”   Not ambiguous.  Similar to number one, except focused on the act of not running.
“Running is not good.”  Not ambiguous.  Same as number one, only with negative feelings toward running.

“Everything is awesome.”  Not ambiguous.
(Debate the mistreatment use of that poor word as you wish.  I’m sorry if a certain song gets lodged in your head.)
“Not everything is awesome.”  Also not ambiguous.
Nobody would assume the use of Not everything as a substitute for Nothing, because saying Not everything when you mean Nothing is needlessly confusing, (not to mention that the two are logically unequal*) so it’s safe to say the speaker was making the point that out of the many things that are, there are some that the speaker would find to be not awesome.
“Everything is not awesome.”  Apparently ambiguous, although it really shouldn’t be.
If the phrase is read correctly (in a reasonable manner) the not is modifying the following word, awesome, just as it did with good in the running example above, indicating the speaker believes that out of all of the things, none of them are awesome.  It does not mean that some things are awesome and some are not.  There is an unambiguous way to express that some things are awesome.  Not everything is awesome.  (Or, even better, Some things are awesome.)
Conveniently, this frees up Everything is not awesome to do its job explaining a sentiment similar to nothing is awesome.

Ideally, (and I am quite guilty of not doing this) you would use a completely different word.


*Take a set A containing a tray of biscuits and a Tibetan Mastiff.  If one were to say that out of set A “Nothing is a Tibetan Mastiff,” that would be completely different from saying “Not everything is a Tibetan Mastiff.”  (Not to mention that it would be untrue.)

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Rollin’ Hogwarts Like a Wizard.

Or: Sorting Your Way to a More Successful Tomorrow

So you got your acceptance letter to magic school.  Congratulations.  You may think the program is so easy a kid with no prior knowledge of the subject could just roll in there and become the best at everything.

You’re probably right.  But with that road comes angst and pain and constant mockery from a smarmy kid who had Miley Cyrus’ look down pat long before Miley Cyrus got into whatever the heck she’s been doing for the past few years.

Real wizards plan ahead.  And there’s really only one subject in which you must be well-versed.


There are four of them.  Slytherin, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Gryffindor.  And when you arrive, you will be assigned to one by a hat.

That’s right, your future rests with a piece of clothing, and if you’re not prepared, you could end up doomed to seven years (or eight movies) of studies with the wizard equivalent of Scrappy Doo, or the kids from Full House.  As you can tell, this is a serious matter.  But if you play the game correctly, you could win the easiest seven years of your life.

“How?” you ask, in your squeaky, ten-year-old voice.  Simple.  Go Slytherin, and look socially acceptable by comparison.

Here’s what you face in each of the four houses.

Ravenclaw: Emos and goths.  Too broody, plus you could probably use the sun.
Hufflepuff:  Theater majors.  This is not Rent.  You are an aspiring wizard.
Gryffindor:  Brown nosers and nerds.  Their life is school.  Memorizing herbology to stay even with everyone else is lame.  And do you really want coursework in sycophancy?
Slytherin:  Sociopaths and morons–the brown ring of scum around the fixture that is Hogwarts.

Essentially, if you choose Slytherin, you commit yourself to a popularity contest against a bunch of disgruntled miscreants who would struggle to match wits with Marmaduke were they allowed an extra seventy or eighty IQ points and a favorable wind.

So go for it.  You can thank me later when you’re Minister of Magic.

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