bodger: (What terrible problems you have)
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.

bodger: girls in photo booth (photobooth girls)
Back in 2009, I discovered I had some video editing software on my computer and used the "find video" function to find any video I had happened to shoot with my camera. I just stuck 'em together and tacked on some music, and chopped it off when I ran out of video. It was amusing, but awfully rough. In the intervening time, I've learnt how to actually use the software, so now I have things right side up, cropped, brightness and colour tweaked, audio ducked appropriately, have a semi-coherent arrangement, and even have some semblance of sound synchronization.

As before, several of you appear.

157MB of clippy goodness @ 960×540

Vimeo version.

bodger: (What terrible problems you have)
When I was watching The Dark Knight, I figured the description in the movie of a purported CIA invention called "Skyhook" wherein a person is yanked up into the air by a cable held aloft by a balloon and grabbed by a passing airplane was simply a Hollywood invention that made for a good stunt. But then I was reading a book about declassified CIA technologies, only to find that Skyhook really existed! There was even a tale where a high-ranking official wanted to give it a go, but the pilot figured he'd give a less rough ride by going slower, resulting in the poor guy getting dragged along the ground instead of yanked up into the air.

Another time, I was watching The Sarah Conner Chronicles and one plot point was that cyborgs had been sent back to the past to stockpile "coltan", a material used in making said cyborgs, which was hard to obtain in the future. I hadn't heard of coltan, so I figured it was just a Mineral MacGuffin. Again, I was mistaken. While reading up on a company that sells metals internationally, I saw a disclaimer on their web page, explaining that their coltan was obtained in a humane, legal, free trade fashion. Reading further, I discovered that coltan was an industrial shorthand for "columbite-tantalite", an ore containing columbium (an earlier term for niobium) and tantalum. Further research revealed a large, nasty underground trade supplying high-tech industries. Somewhat disconcertingly, one paper on the subject actually contains links to a site hosted at a skynet.be domain.

More recently, I read about a new treatment that could theoretically eliminate any virus from the body, by causing those cells hosting viral genetic material to destroy themselves by triggering apoptosis. This is an intriguing approach, but it also sounded all too much like the opening scenes of a "science gone bad" disaster flick. And, thinking about it, I realized that prime targets for this treatment are viruses that are difficult to eradicate, such as herpes and HIV. And these, it turns out, like to hide out in nervous tissue. Which, given the horror movie frame of mind I was in, got me to thinking. The result would be the selective removal of parts of the human nervous system. And when you selectively delete parts of the human nervous system, you get ... zombies.

bodger: down with this sort of thing banner from $scientology protest (down with)
For a while, movies were made on celluloid, duplicated, and send out to the theatres. Then movies were made, digitized, and the discs sent out. Various gimmicks (such as 3-D) came out, but there would just be a second set of discs for the second projector. However, as processor power became faster and cheaper, it became possible to just put the models and soundtrack on disc, and have the projectors render the film.

As time went by, less and less data was required, as the projectors could handle more and more of the task. Movies were delivered by wire, resulting in near-instant distribution (as most of the production and post production was now done on-the-fly by the projection equipment).

Then Sony's habit of buying up weird small innovation companies bore fruit once again, resulting in mindreading video game controllers. This technology was (of course) deployed by Sony Pictures as well, so audiences could influence the course of the film, as they watched it. People would see movies over and over, because they could be different every time.

But while some people were happy with this, others weren't. It turns out that movies made by — effectively — democracy tended to be a little shallow. And if you didn't want to see the movie everybody else did, tough luck — the same complaint people had been making about Hollywood since the beginning of film. But processing power continued to get cheaper, and soon people could watch their own customized movies in their own houses.

However, when movie-watching became a one-on-one experience, it became clear that there were no surprises, and you'd be all too aware of the effort you were expending to move the plot forward yourself. So the mindreading interface was extended to harness the power of your subconscious, so it was still your movie, but effortless and with (usually) pleasant surprises.

People really enjoyed this, and would watch a movie or two every night, which tended to really cut into their free time. People wanted a way to experience this and still have time for everything else in their lives. So the next step was taken, and people could watch their own self-made movies in their sleep. Being able to take your entertainment while you slept, leaving all day free for everything else was an incredible achievement, the pinnacle of civilization.

And that is where we are today.

April 2016

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