Saturday, April 19, 2014

Weekend Radio Theater: Burns & Allen

"George Attracts Cats"

"Gracie Cons George"

"Gracie Wants George To Become A Doctor"

Friday, April 18, 2014

I got to be a guest at a Sirlesque photoshoot the other day. Well, I say 'guest'. What I mean is, I was working my shift at the dance studio when the guys came storming up the stairs carrying giant bins of clothes. Dexter sidled over to the desk and made giant puppy-dog eyes at me -- against the majestic backdrop of most of the rest of the troupe whipping their shirts off right in the middle of my lobby -- and asked if I could possibly let them stay a leeeeetle past closing? Because Dex is one of the designated adults, and he had done enough math to realize that there was no way they were going to get through a six-man promo shoot in the hour they had booked.

I'd shown up to work vaguely discouraged with the world. I was hoping to get through two hours of telling people where the yoga classes were before I took the late bus home and went the fuck to sleep to make the day end. I wound up spending my evening with half a dozen highly-attractive, half-dressed guys, who were steadily getting more and more naked for the photographer. Whenever they ran out of things to take off, they changed outfits and repeated the process. Nothing makes you re-think the dreariness of the universe quite like watching a grown man run around a dance studio in an ensemble composed entirely of red underpants, a luchador mask, enameled scale mail gauntlets, and a makeshift cape tied around his neck. That wasn't even part of the shoot -- Ricky just got bored while in wardrobe. This is apparently such a common occurrence with him that nobody else even looked up when he tore past.

Such is my life.

I told them that if someone gave me a lift home instead of making me walk back to Somerville in the middle of the night, I didn't care when they left. This immediately made me everyone's favorite person. I was showered with thanks and what I think was the promise of dinner, although I'm not entirely sure that was serious or collectable. Some men shout 'I love you' in the middle of sex; Dexter may just offer Italian food when in the throes of the kind of joy that comes with the realization that he doesn't have to herd the other five cats around at Warp 9. Not a clue.

I have absolutely no idea why the lot of them like me. Don't get me wrong, I've got the basic self-esteem stuff covered -- I'm a worthwhile human, I have a number of personality traits that are often seen as friendly and interesting, &c. I'm just the one thing I'm far too invested in and know far too much about to ever accurately see from a stranger's viewpoint. I find this irritating at the best of times, and it's especially annoying here, because I spend about half of my time with them prodding them in the brains with a stick to see what comes out. You can't just flail wildly at that sort of thing, piñata-style. It's rude. You're trying to precision-poke out the bits of candy you want, missing all the crap gumballs, with the stick held behind your back. And your eyes closed. While not hitting the other partygoers. Doing this with social interaction without necessarily having a clear idea of how the other person perceives you is difficult, is what I'm saying.

Two of them think my efforts are entertaining, and I'm betting a third would if he thought about it for five seconds, which he probably hasn't, as he is often busy fighting crime boredom as El Armadillo. It's an interesting situation. I do this stuff constantly, but most of the time, nobody has any idea what I'm up to, much less that I'm doing any of it on purpose. I've learned the hard way that it's not usually a good idea to just flat-out tell them, either; once you've told people that you're watching what they do, they tend to implode in a cloud of self-consciousness.

I'd say Dale figured out what I was up to without being told, but 'figured it out' implies that he had to sit down and slot together clues until it became clear; I think he just recognized the pattern on sight. Dale is exceptionally good at this, quite possibly better than I am, and he'd be frightening if he weren't also one of the most forthright people I've ever met in my life. He's even more blunt than I am. I find it charming. He must make narcissists piss themselves in terror.

(Note that I have no idea if any of them read this thing. Possibly; it's linked to from my Facebook. In that case: Hi, Dale! I'm taking your advice, although probably not in the way you intended.)

My working hypothesis is that Dale and Ricky ended up friends because at some point Dale sat down and did the same thing to Ricky that he's been doing to me lately -- which is to say, in the friendliest possible fashion, "That's a lovely public personality you have! What's underneath it?" I've told Ricky a number of things about the insides of his own brain by this point, and not only is he intriguingly unsurprised that I'm guessing, he's also unsurprised that I'm guessing right. If this isn't a novel thing to Ricky, then either he does it himself, or he's had it done to him a lot. That's an OR, not an XOR; it could well be both.

Given that Ricky has a whacking great case of both genius and attention deficit OMG SQUIRREL!, I can't imagine that most people track him very well without extensive explanations. And indeed, for all that he can be very loudly social most of the time, he is also rather quiet about what he's actually thinking unless specifically asked. It is the kind of strategic silence I associate with people who have been given an extensive collection of blank looks over the course of their lives. I have no idea if I'm any better at following him than anyone else is, but I'm probably better equipped than most to do it by paying attention and piecing it together, rather than having to wait around until I could guess from history. I've also no idea what he thinks of my efforts, although I assume if I annoyed him he'd quit telling me things.

I got to watch some of them rehearse choreography while others were finishing their photos. Quite fascinating; I wish I had video footage. Their dance and theater experience varies pretty widely. Dexter actually can dance, to the point where I must conclude that either he's had formal training, or he spent his entire adolescence standing in front of his bedroom mirror pretending to be Lance Bass. The rest of them are awesomely idiosyncratic in how they pick it up.

Dale watches the mirror and steals body language from the leader, which is also how he does his acting -- there's a Buffy-themed number in one of their geek shows where he does a shockingly good James-Marsters-as-Spike. His face is fully visible in that one, and it still took me a minute to figure out which one it was. God help me if he ever does any character pieces involving a mask.

Ricky has spent the past twenty-odd years of his life teaching himself how to fidget in elaborate patterns without stepping on other people, so while he can't always keep track of his brain, he can almost always locate all of his hands and feet. Plus he can count to eight.

Jack has to get the basic flow down and then add all the stop-lock steps. He doesn't want to let go of his momentum, which makes total sense now that I know he's an aerialist. You want to keep your angular velocity up when you're working on trapeze, or you fall, or at least you fail to flip yourself all the way around and look like kind of a doof when you end up dangling upside down.

If you're curious as to what my precious idjit friends look like, they do have a YouTube channel. They're unfairly hilarious people even when they're wearing their pants.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

State of the Blog Address

The AC jack on the ASUS is finally (almost) broken. There is now no way to lean, wedge, prop, or otherwise jigger the cord so that the computer will charge/run off wall current while I'm using it. All the graphic design software is on that thing, so I've been doing my ad work in 2 hour chunks.

I'm trying to do a pamphlet right now. Take my advice: If you know how to do typesetting and desktop publishing, never ever let anyone know that. Boss Lady's not a picky client, but I have nightmares about doing all this for one of those people who has no idea what they want, except that it's not what I spent six hours laying out in Scribus.

Boss Lady was also kind enough to lend me a spare Macbook (actually, what she did was ask politely if I wanted to borrow it about half a dozen times until I was smart enough to agree) while I got someone to patch the ASUS together long enough for me to get my hands on another indestructible Toshiba. So now I'm sitting on the bed, in my pajamas, surrounded by laptops and a nest of external backup HDDs and jumpdrives, and I've officially run out of places to plug things in. Unless I give up the lamp. With three 400cd/m2 monitors staring at me, I probably don't actually need that.

It will never cease to amaze me that other people keep casually offering to let me wander home with one of their computers. I'm getting a much better grade of jobs out here, where the people I work for assume I'm computer literate by default, and trust that I won't try to clean grime off the keyboard by propping the notebook open on the top rack of the dishwasher.

The Macbook touchpad is slowly driving me insane. You can't tap-click. You have to click-click, and the switch will only throw on the bottom half of the pad. It also has no idea what I'm talking about when I ask it to do multi-finger gestures. This one only recognizes two-finger flick scrolling and it feels like I have to really Hulk-smash to get the clicks to register. This is especially aggravating after having hammered the Wintel and Lintel laptops into acknowledging zoom-pinches and two-finger clicks for omnidirectional scroll lock.

I would like to thank Google once again for keeping my entire life in the cloud. Chrome sync now propagates correctly to Chromium installations as well, which has kept me from stopping every thirty seconds to look for a search macro or a bookmark that isn't there, and saved me from having to remember passwords that the browser has been auto-populating for me for the past three years. Amusingly enough, I realized last night I don't have to be careful about not leaving things in the browser cache on this loaner, either. If I happen across any particularly good fanfic smut, I should probably leave a link on the desktop, for the benefit of the next intern who borrows this thing.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Tonight, I rant.

I see the hashtag #notyourgoodfatty is making the rounds on Twitter. Good. Surprisingly, most of the people using it seem to have got the idea -- it's for venting about the idiocy that gets flung at fat people, not about sniping at not-fat people for being not-fat, which is what some of these things turn into. It is an unfortunate truth that assholes come in all shapes and sizes, and ruin everything for everyone else; I'm glad this one's being run by sane people, so I can support it without also wanting to bonk my head against the wall the whole time.

I am in fact on y'all's side on this. I'm shaped how I'm shaped because I am, just like you. I'm not a very good thin person, either, for the record.

I do not have any of this mythical "willpower" stuff. I'm perfectly capable of putting away most of a pizza by myself, if someone makes it for me and brings it to my door. I don't do it more often because I see cooking as an annoying interruption. I have to get up, go into a completely different room where the computer isn't, dig out pots and pans and utensils, chop or peel or mix or stir or whatever until ingredients turn into a meal, plate it, eat it, and then clean up after myself. Apparently some people find this a soothing ritual; I find it irritating and would rather be doing something I consider less boring, which is almost anything. I've recently discovered that the grocery store across the street carries tuna canned in olive oil with garlic and sun-dried tomatoes, so about 50% of my meals for the past month have been one of those dumped over a bowl of pasta. If I had more money in the food budget, I'd just buy a bigger stack of cans.

I have no idea how many servings of vegetables I'm supposed to have per day, and I couldn't draw you a food pyramid if you paid me. I like plant-based food just fine, but fresh salad stuff is expensive and wilts quickly. Mostly I buy fruit I can eat with my hands, and vegetables that come in cans or freezer bags. That way, when I've bought seven packages of broccoli and get sick of it after going through three, I can safely ignore the rest of them where they are until I feel like eating them, too. I've never come down with scurvy or Wernecke's encephalopathy because I live in a society that has invented these wonderful pills that ward those things away using magic, and maybe zinc. In accordance with municipal building codes, no point in the Greater Boston Area is more than 12 minutes from a CVS, and in three consecutive years I don't think I've ever seen them take the BOGO sale sign off the multivitamin shelf.

(The rats probably eat better than I do. They're tiny, and since their native diet is mostly seeds, grains, and grasses, supplemented by almost literally anything they can catch and stuff into their wee little mouths, it's cheaper to do it right the first time. I'm sure someone, somewhere, is selling rat multivitamins; I'm equally sure they're selling them at a 40,000% markup, and that the rats -- who will eat wooden chopsticks, corrugated cardboard, and plain oatmeal -- will mysteriously refuse to go near them.)

I could give a shit if my food is "organic". All food is organic. Organic just means it has carbon in it. If you're routinely buying "food" items that contain no carbon, you might want to check to make sure you're not accidentally doing your shopping at the Jiffy Lube. I think DuPont had the right idea with 'better living through chemistry', even if they were somewhat lacking in the execution. I am thrilled by the advent of sucralose, because that means I can now get flavored vitamin water mix that won't grow fuzz if I leave it in the cabinet for a few weeks, and doesn't taste like ass. I think that people who assign a moral value to the source or content of food are mainly inventing reasons to be upset. If you don't have celiac disease and you insist on going gluten-free because you believe the snake-oil salesmen who tell you it's the root of all modern ills, you are making your life insanely difficult for absolutely no reason whatsoever. It's perfectly acceptable to not eat stuff because you just don't want to, without starting an argument about mysterious unverifiable allergies and that quack Wakefield. I think aspartame tastes absolutely terrible (saccharin is worse -- if you've not had the pleasure, TaB tastes pretty much like the can it comes in), and that one's a real bitch to avoid.

Jazmin seems to be under the impression that I have a "workout" schedule. What I actually have is a "get dressed and leave the house like a goddamn grown-up on a regular basis" schedule. It just so happens that there are a limited number of things you can do with your time that don't cost any money, and most of the ones I can get to involve using up my free rehearsal time at the dance studio. If I had access to zillions of skeins of free yarn, I'd be sitting on my ass doing endless macramé instead. I walk long distances because I'm broke enough that the subway seems like a waste of cash. Plus the MBTA transit schedules are, at best, a work of impolite fiction. Whenever I attempt to take the bus somewhere I end up half an hour late.

I have been heavier than I am now, although not by all that much. I unintentionally dropped a ton of weight right before I moved to Boston, and never have gotten it all back. If you want to slim down in a hurry and aren't concerned about the side effects -- which is the direction many of the more insane fad diets are going -- then my suggestion is to have a complete nervous breakdown and spend a year unemployed and terrified that if you leave your apartment and venture out into the tiny shitty town you live in, you'll run into the unmedicated crazy person who prompted the nervous breakdown in the first place. Worked for me. I still catch my reflection in mirrors and train windows and wonder where the rest of my thighs went.

Also for the record, I feel this way about most of the health scares they're trying to convert into moral panics, which is what they're trying to do with obesity. I wasn't that impressed when I tried pot, but I think it's insane to keep it illegal on the basis that it's dangerous. The LD50 of tetrahydrocannabinol is so high, there's no practical way to reach it. It's about 1.3g per kg of body mass, at least in rats; I'm unaware of any human studies that ever managed to establish toxicity. The 'standard human' used in calculations is 55kg, so 1.3 x 55 = 71.5 grams of pure THC for a human that weighed about 110lbs. THC content varies according to strain, but I see 5% quoted a lot; if that's accurate, then you'd need to toke your way through 1.43kg (something over three pounds) without any help, in order to stand a 50% chance of killing yourself with the psychoactive drug. You'd do yourself in from smoke inhalation long before you got there, if you could even concentrate long enough to try. The active dose of THC is on the order of milligrams, which means the therapeutic index has a good couple of zeroes in it. The therapeutic index of acetaminophen (paracetamol, for the rest of the world), in contrast, is about 10 -- single doses should be no more than 1g, but hepatotoxicity kicks in by 10g, if not sooner. This is down with opiates and benzodiazepines, and rather alarmingly low for something you can buy in 500-ct bottles at Walgreens. It's just that nobody cares, because Tylenol isn't fun.

I'm also quite tired of being told that everything in the universe "causes" cancer. No it doesn't. Nothing "causes" cancer the same way that inhaling water "causes" drowning, or even the same way the common rhinovirus "causes" colds. Cancer is the result of cell division going haywire, and although some things can damage DNA and increase the chances of that happening, so far as I know, nothing has been found that specifically goes into your cells and flips the "grow a dangerous tumor now" switch. And even if it did, I'm rather tired of having it insinuated that not only is exposure to it completely under my control, but that I'm an irresponsible sinner if I don't spend every moment of every day micromanaging my life in order to avoid it. The last straw was really when they spent my entire life telling me to wear sunscreen because sun exposure causes cancer, and then turned around and told me that sunscreen also causes cancer. I already wear long sleeves and pants all year long; I considered never going outside again, but I don't have the kind of delivery budget that you'd need to be a successful agoraphobic, and someone would inevitably yell at me that I'm destroying my immune system by not getting enough vitamin D. I have to die of something at some point, and if all of my options are going to result in horrible skin cancer, I'm going with the one that enables me to also avoid the uncomfortable sunburns.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

One of the highlights of any Supernatural convention is, of course, seeing the actors live on stage. They generally do panels, which is con-speak for sitting there with a mic and answering audience questions.

In theory, anyway. Some of these people should not be allowed to run a panel by themselves. A show, sure; a panel, no. Sebastian Roché has the attention span of a fruit fly on meth, and without a babysitter will bounce around and produce a stream of early-Robin-Williams-esque comedy monologue. You can remind him that he's supposed to be doing a Q&A, but unless you're standing right next to him the whole time, it'll go in one ear and out the other.

(Not having a sitter also deprives Roché of one of his favorite things, which is a friend to cheerfully molest. There's a running joke to the effect that the main difference between Roché and Balthasar, the character he plays, is that Roché already speaks French and wouldn't have to ask how you say ménage à 'twelve'. He speaks a bunch of languages, in fact, and is notorious for doing things like teaching the audience how you say 'orgy' en français, which is why his panel was noted in the schedule as being unsuitable for children.)

Vegascon was wedged in between shooting blocks for season nine. Jared and Jensen had evidently finished shooting Friday night, hopped a plane to Nevada, and turned up for autographs, panel, and photo ops on Saturday on what may have been zero hours of sleep. This might explain why Jensen is so entertained by things like a cowbell and a slightly wobbly chair.

(Perhaps I should explain the cowbell. And also possibly why Rob Benedict is wearing what appears to be a blue polyester tuxedo and aviator glasses. See, Rob Benedict also fronts what turns out to be a perfectly functional rock band -- I expected to be able to compliment them mainly on the sheer volume of noise they produce, but they're actually quite good. So naturally they spent the entire weekend cosplaying as the kind of band that would make Spinal Tap piss themselves laughing. A cowbell is involved for the usual Christopher Walken-related reasons.)

Because of timing, we didn't get a panel with Jared, Jensen, and Misha together. Which is kind of a shame. If you've never seen the three of them together out of character, this bit at Dallascon in 2013 just about sums it up. Misha comes on stage with a small pig, because why not? Nothing in his body language indicates that it has crossed his mind that this might be odd. I am unclear on where he's acquired said pig, but he does at one point refer to its handler as if she's out in the audience, so presumably it's a local critter. Jared sees this and promptly goes hey! pig! cool! can I hold it? like an enormous mischievous 12-year-old. Then they both immediately pass it off to Jensen, who sits there dumbfounded for a moment before asking reasonable questions like, "Why is there a pig in my lap?" followed by, "Why is this happening to me?"

The high point -- or the nadir, depending on how you look at it -- of the J2 panel at Vegascon was when a young lady asked them, if Sam and Dean were the sorts of pagan gods they deal with on the show, what kind of altar or sacrifices would summon them forth? Except she didn't phrase it particularly carefully. A word to the wise: English is littered with words and phrases that have a secondary, euphemistic sexual meaning. If you're going to ask questions of a pair of guys who have been up all night and are well aware that they are speaking to the kind of audience who shows up to fan conventions in Sin City already carrying their 32 oz plastic flutes of alcoholic smoothie, you might want to avoid any phrasing that involves the verb "to come".

(Fan: *flustered* No, I mean, what would make you arrive--

The entire room died.

Jensen, I might add, was rather more talkative than he normally is, probably because he'd swapped out sleep for about nine cups of coffee by that point. Ordinarily he's pretty quiet and responds to Jared's antics mostly with funny looks.

There are other amusing bits. A lady from South Carolina asked them something near the end, and the both of them decided they were way more interested in her accent than in the query. Jensen's pretty good at it -- and his demonstration ("You are just as stupid as your father, God bless his heart.") is in fact an accurate dialectical use of the phrase. It's not in particularly common use in Texas, where he's from, but it's widespread in the rest of the Deep South.