Wednesday, April 27, 2016

CDC: Game of Thrones and Sweeney Todd

I woke up with an odd tune in my head. 

My dreams were fragmented and medieval, I was watching a host of men laying about with sword and shield.  The dream shifted and I was zooming in on a large rowboat approaching land.  In the boat I saw Roose Bolton, Sansa Stark, and Ramsay Snow in a boat travelling into a port in the north of Westeros, I knew I was looking at White Harbor, and that maybe I need to lay off the Game of Thrones a little.

After floating through a lock, the rowboat was connected to a winch by another Hodor-type person, and then pulled violently up a hill by the winch like some sort of Westerosi carnival ride.  As the Boltons and Sansa mounted horses and rode off, I heard the voice of the Red Woman recite a strange prophecy to the Brotherhood without Banners.  The Brotherhood was slipping between trees and wearing lots of green as the shadowed the Bolton army on the way to the Dreadfort.  I think the Brotherhood was singing something, and Grenn was with them.  He kicked some serious ass when the BWB snuck into a Bolton holdfast for the night.

The prophecy involved finding a special boar and feeding to a specific dog so they could get a specific stirring stick and some other ingredients to make some sort of potion.  It was very convoluted, as prophecies are, and I woke up mostly because I kept thinking, "well, that's just confusing, how do we know we have the right stick?"

As I woke up, I realized that the Brotherhood without Banners had been singing a mucked up version of the Sweeney Todd theme:

Attend the tale of Ramsay Snow,
His face was sweet and his hobbies were odd.
Attend the tale of Ramsay Snow,
The demon butcher of DREAD


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The eXercise Files: Season 1, Pilot

I have struggled with maintaining an active enough lifestyle to balance out my diet since high school.  In high school, we were required to take some sort of exercise-requiring class every semester.  I made it onto the cross country skiing team in junior year, by nature of showing up and buying the necessary equipment, but mostly I took classes like Archery, Conditioning, Ultimate Frisbee, and Introduction to the Outdoors.  Looking back, it seems like I was training for the Hunger Games.

I like the freedom that biking allows me, I can bike to Mount Vernon from my apartment with only about 100-150 yards of street biking.  I can bike up to see my brother and his family in posh Bethesda.  DC has a few neighborhoods with decent access to bike paths, and I'm lucky to live in one.  I also like the freedom to eat whatever I damn please and douse it in butter that being fit allows me.  That may not be completely medically accurate, but it is close enough for horseshoes and heart attacks.

During the winter, biking is horrible so I set up my bike on an old stationary setup my dad gave me.  Staring at a wall while biking gets pretty old pretty fast, but with modern technology I can watch just about anything I want with my unlimited data cellular plan.  I bent a metal hanger into a cradle for my phone, and I can bike until I can't anymore.  I have a few goals for this fitness adventure: I want to watch the X-Files from start to finish because I missed a lot of episodes over the years and this is better than just sitting on my ass watching...hundreds? of hours of phelevision,* I want to be ripped again like I was when I was on the cross country skiing team and like when I had to chop wood for four hours a day to heat my house, I want to fit into the suits my father gave me that he had tailored for himself in Romania when he was in his mid to late forties, and I want to be able to ride RAGBRAI without collapsing at the end of every day's ride.

That's the background on what I'm hoping I'll have the endurance to complete as a series on exercising and science fiction.

After watching season 4 of Continuum, most of The Clone Wars, some of Lost Girl, and a couple movies, I decided that The X-Files would be my next exercise show.  While discussing the new X-Files with my ladyfriend, I realized that I couldn't remember much of The Conspiracy, or anything about the seasons involving their kid.  Mostly because I kinda stopped watching in the second half of college.  I don't think I could be more primed to watch this show with the new series, and the amount of X-Com: Enemy Within (Long War) that I've been playing over the last week or so.

Pilot: On Monday, I watched the Pilot while pedaling away, and I was struck by a couple things: they look so young, and you can do a lot with a dessicated ape corpse.  I remember watching this show in high school, and I only remember two impressions: redheads would forever be on my mind, and you can be pretty scary/creepy if you stand around frowning at people without saying anything.  Clearly, the plot was not necessarily what kept me watching, but the combination of these two might lead you to think that I was a pretty creepy kid.  You might not be wrong, I always a bit of an odd little rock.

Knowing now what I know of Scully and Mulder's characters, it was almost comforting to see that they were pretty exactly that way from the beginning. Some pilots are still working out how things are going to work in the show, but Scully and Mulder, and even the plot, were pretty much exactly the same as they were when they showed up in the first episode of the resurrected series, skeptic and believer with all of their evidence on fire.  The Conspiracy gets off to a slow burn of a start, but it is the right kind of start, the Smoking Man is mysterious, and the Pentagon Vault is also mysterious.  JJ Abrams could learn a lot about setting up a story from Chris Carter. 

Biggest question: Why the hell did they back down when the Sheriff threatened them off the crime scene?  As I understood it, the FBI had jurisdiction and he had a gruff voice, they should have forced him off.

Favorite scene: the autopsy of the dessicated ape corpse.  Why? Scully gets tired of Mulder's blatant unprofessionalism, she's curious and proceeding scientifically, and he's acting like a sugar-high kid.  I suspect this is a recurring dynamic.

How does it fit in with the new series: the pilot does not contradict the new series at all, the identities and motives of the abductors remain unknown.  I have developed a convoluted explanation for how the revelations of the new series fits in with the old series, but I will refrain from discussing that until after this season of the new series has finished airing.

Scully's suit: Grey plaid is not a good look for her.

Mulder's hair: Almost sported a pompadour in one scene, skirting the edge of acceptability for a representative of the FBI, agent.

Final thoughts: So when are they restarting Space: Above and Beyond?

* That's mine, I made it up just now and you have to credit me when you use it.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Liquid Diets

For 71% of all days, I'm on a 30% liquid diet. In the morning, I drink an instant breakfast with almond milk, then most of a French press of coffee, and then some water. I don't know if I'm losing weight, but I'm certainly suffering for my goals.  Well, not really, I actually enjoy the various fluids I'm ingesting and I get right to going about my day which mostly consists of crawling through the ruins of the imaginary wasteland of Boston.*

My bike is once again set up as a stationary exercise bike in the hopes that I will actually get some exercise this winter.  So far, I know I've changed a little since I last tried this because I've been on the bike more than once.  I'm going for three days on and one day off, and my duration keeps improving.  I'm training to bike across Iowa again with my father this summer.  My brothers all suggest that maybe we both go on a slightly less intimidating ride, like the 38 minute round trip circuit my father makes from his front door to his front door with a stop for a bear claw in the middle.

To my brothers, I say: have you ever tried to tell our father to cut it out?  I haven't had any success with this, but I'm still alive after arguing with him about Chelsea Manning/Edward Snowden and how they are not at all different from the Pentagon Papers and the various Vietnam War era protests except in one way: I haven't programmed Chelsea Manning's VCR, nor have I programmed Edward Snowden's VCR.  Not like either of them would have a VCR anymore, even if they weren't in their respective situations.

The point is that my father is an intimidating man, even when he isn't trying to be, and that is mostly due to his RDVF, Resting Darth Vader Face.  As such, he needs an equally intimidating challenge for a bicycle trip, and this is why he trains for RAGBRAI.  He has said the same thing each year, "I think this will be my last trip, it's not as much fun" or "this is an actual pain in my ass" or "I haven't trained as much, so I probably won't register for the ride" or "your mother would prefer if I didn't go" or "I'm busy teaching this kid advanced algebra with trigonometry so she can go to college to be a homeschooled kid who is a chemical engineer" or "Call The Midwife is on, call me back tomorrow."

When I spoke to him a couple days ago, Father Genius said that he had been on the bike for the last couple days, and didn't think he would be in shape to register, which is exactly what he said last year, and then he registered and only notified me of this on the last possible day to register.  

You can understand my frustrations.  These are twofold: one, my father could be better about letting me know in time that he is actually going, and, two, he is not a thirtysomething, mustachioed genius but he can still ride across Iowa every year while I barely survived the same trip, and, three, my brothers leave it to me to try and convince him to bail on the ride, and, four, that they just don't seem to grasp that it is happening no matter what they say.

So...I guess I'm saying happy new year, cobags!

* As opposed to the actual wasteland of Boston, HAYOO.**

** I havent' been to Boston since 2006, I imagine it has gotten a little better.***

*** Double burn, bro.****

**** Wait, why am I congratulating myself on making fun of Boston?*****

***** You've fallen into old, dumb habits, like excessive asterisk use.******

****** Oh, shit.  You're right.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Event Horizon of Anxiety

There aren't any personal-level events that strike me with an existential terror.  As an adult male human of the large, imposing, American, hairy sub-types, I don't worry about physical violence, accidental death, accidental maiming, or much else.  I don't worry about these because should they happen, I will not be the initiator and thus these events will be out of my control.  There's nothing to worry about in events I can't control for what I think are obvious reasons, and need no explaining. 

There are a few impersonal-level events that do strike with an existential terror, on a fairly regular basis and while I recognize the irrationality of this fear since the events will be far outside of my ability to help or control, I still think about them.  Surviving a nuclear exchange is one such event, and I agree with my father's words to 8 year old me, "if there is going to be a nuclear war, I would prefer that you and your brothers not live to see the world after."  That was an interesting trip to the guidance counselor after a duck and cover drill.

One of my favorite movies details the after effects of another sort of event that wakes me up at night.  The simple premise is this: sometimes humans are too smart for their own good, and sometimes we experiment with shit that could result in a bad event, the sort of bad event that instantly causes us, our planet, or possibly even the universe to just go away.  I'm smart enough to have gone further with my education but as a young genius I was unmotivated and that might be for the best because I'd probably treat the LHC as the biggest Nerf gun and mini black holes as foam darts.  In other words, I'm smart enough to know exactly how crazy I am for worrying about this, but I'm still just a genius who worries about one or two things. 

I was reading about some ideas some other smart people have for detecting the presence of other dimensions through the detection of mini black holes using the LHC and science to do sciencey things when the anxious voice in my head said, "this is how the universe ends, if you can bend or break a fundamental rule of the universe and then everything goes blip."  I thought about this for a minute, my mouth full of coffee and my brain full of stupid.  Then I remembered that the universe is really big.  Like, really really really big.  We know that the universe is big because look up at night, that just goes on for effectively forever.  If that alone isn't enough to remind you that no matter how smart you are, you're still just a bag of meat on a rock, then you're probably a priest who is utterly confident of your place in some imaginary plan.  The fucking arrogance of thought that the idea of a greater plan to life just irritates the ever-loving shit right of me.  Seriously, if I'm constipated I'll just think about "God's plan for you" and then I'm destroying porcelain.  That's the worst type of consolation, there's a plan for all suffering so that makes it ok because you're meant to experience life this way, starving orphan or crack-addicted newborn or mildly inconvenienced middle-aged person.  I'll be right back.

Anyway, I was describing how I logiced my way out of anxiety.  The point is that the universe is big, there millions or billions of galaxies, and those galaxies have lots of stars, and some of those stars must have planets, and some of those planets will have life, and some of that life will be multi-cellular, and some of that multi-cellular life will be investigating the universe just as we are.  Since the universe is around 18 billion years old as far as we can tell, and our planet is only about 4 billion years old (suck it, creationists), and since there may be very old black holes which may or may not have started as stars, there exists the possibility that there is a much older civilization of intelligent enough creatures to build a Large Hadron Collider-equivalent.  The universe is so vast, ooo you are so big, that this possibility is really more of a certainty.  So my fears of some genius like me who wants to play Nerf tag with a particle accelerator and some micro black holes accidentally destroying this existence are stupid because if that were possible someone would have done it by now. 

Now all I have to worry about is some sort of localized disruption of the time-space continuum rendering this section of time-space so wibbly-wobbly that we can not exist within it.  That is much more comforting.

Of course the unlikeliest event of all would be the arrival of an alien super-intelligence and the co-opting of all life on this planet, but that's probably not going to happen and would be essentially the same as the events of the previous paragraph.  I am so relieved.