2016-06-24

City Living 3

Sir Terence David John "Terry" Pratchett, OBE, writing about Death's unique perspective on city life. Death obviously speaks in all caps, to denote his place on the autism spectrum:
THIS IS THE CITY, BOY, said Death. WHAT DO YOU THINK? “It’s very big,” said Mort, uncertainly. “I mean, why does everyone want to live all squeezed together like this?” Death shrugged. I LIKE IT, he said. IT’S FULL OF LIFE.
 
The motto written upon Terry Pratchet's coat of arms (#OBEProblems) is:
Noli Timere Messorem
 Don't fear the reaper.

2016-03-08

Idiom Watch


  • Competence Porn - This one comes from the venerable technology site Ars Technica as a catchall for our collective admiration of every smart, innovative ass-kicker in fiction from Ulysses to Ellen Ripley. On the one hand the idiom is a good reminder that competence porn is not competency, just as pornography is not sex. On the other hand there are far worse things to fantasize about than being competent, and a generation that seeks to emulate Mark Watney over John Holmes is a generation that inspires confidence.
  • Nobody ever got fired for _____ - In the tech industry the traditional form of this idiom is "Nobody ever got fired buying IBM equipment", a recognition of the fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD)¹ created by IBM in the 1970's to enforce their monopolistic position in computer hardware. The fear of being fired for defying IBM's death grip was Very Real², as was its counterpart in the 1990's of blaspheming the Microsoft orthodoxy, and the advice was a career cautionary tale of Making It in business in that era. With the eventual decline of IBM at the hands of smaller, lither competition and the disastrous fall of many of IBM's core technology offerings, the elephant in the room was the fact that many of IBM's own employees were fired because of the decisions made by market monopolists at Big Blue who had been blinded to their internal bloat by their own FUD and by the lack of market signaling the climate of fear created. Today the idiom takes on that irony, and when spoken is (hopefully) a different cautionary tale of being overly fearful of at the prospect of losing your job when making controversial decisions that you know are right in the face of commonly accepted market dominance. Conversely, when spoken unironically the idiom serves as a handy shibboleth to inform the listener that they are speaking to a coward.
  • Choice of Protein - Had to throw in a food-related language gripe. The notion that there are more protein-rich foods out there than the usual complement of red, white, or sea-based meats is legitimate and should be captured in our fast-casual food menus (clearly Chipotle's beans and seitan are our go-tos here), but there's still something overly specific about even this generalization of food choices. Dietary fads are infantilizing in their pseudo-scientific smugness, and trifling in their desperate trendiness, with the obsession about high protein meals being no exception. Are we not adult enough, with a long enough view of history, to simply say "Choice of Ingredient"? 

  1. FUD can also be found in Eric S. Raymond's (ESR) Jargon File, between "fuck me harder" and "FUD wars", and the "idiom watch" vein of this blog, along with other topics, can clearly be seen to have drawn influence from ESR. (How's that for passive voice, MS Word 97?)
  2. So real in fact, that the AMC television show "Halt and Catch Fire" devotes their entire first season to it. 

2015-12-11

Idiom Watch

  • Checks out - Many great idioms tend to involve an irony that measures the difference between the importance of what is being said against the ephemeral nature of the topic at hand. "Checks out" is no exception, and the joke involved in suggesting that "I researched the offhanded comment you just made thoroughly, and would like add my extremely scientific evaluation of your bon mot to the discussion in order to bolster your argument," gets at least a chuckle if not a literal laugh out loud every time.
Sadly I don't have any other idioms on the radar, I just didn't want 2015 to go by without any posts going on the record. If this blog starts to look like my resume, I'm going to have to hire an archeologist to figure out what the hell I was thinking during the twenty-teens. ("Checks out.")

2014-11-24

Idiom Watch


  • You want what you want when you want it. - This phrase is often used to express sympathy to someone who may or may not be getting what they want at a given time, saying "Yes, it's understandably frustrating that you can't get what you want right now, because you want what you want when you want it and if you get it any later than that you will get what you want, but you will still be perfectly justified in being less satisfied than if you got it when you originally wanted it." Taken as such you can of course use the phrase sincerely or ironically, perhaps the person is in no way justified in their dissatisfaction, or should just suck it up and take what they want when they can get it, but the explicit or inverted meaning of the phrase is clear depending on the sarcasm leveled.

    The sideways meaning that prompted an Idiom Watch however is the implication hidden in a slightly different grammatical interpretation. What if you are the type of person who wants something when they want it, but often no longer wants it any time thereafter? What does this mean about you as a person? That your desires are entirely time-sensitive? Perhaps, which again could be a justifiable position in many cases (someone in need of a heart transplant could justifiably be said to want what they want when they want it). On the other hand, perhaps you are just the kind of person who has fleeting desires, and if you don't get what you want when you want it then the desire flees and you're not much worse for not having gotten something you wanted an hour ago.

    A third option is that you have not fleeting, but rather powerful and fluctuating desires. The desire doesn't run from you when the clock strikes another hour passed, but it looks different than it did an hour ago. Maybe the person offering something to you then has made you a new proposal, the alternative they proposed an hour ago looks more desirable with an hour's thought, or you were just downright wrong in wanting the thing and could only learn it with reflection. Getting what you want when you want it then can even pose a risk of not get what you ultimately want.

    A person who wants what they want when they want it then has three possible outcomes in descending order of satisfaction. If they have strong, temporal desires, they will often be dissapointed by delays. If they have fleeting desires, they can never experience lasting contentment. And if they have powerful but fluctuating desires, they will strongly favor things they wanted then at the expense of better things they could have gotten now.

2014-08-08

"Guardians of the Galaxy" -or- Shut The Fuck Up


I loved "Guardians". I wish I could just drop the mic right there, but so many people are saying so many stupid things about this terrific movie that now I feel obligated to bash heads and spit venom. Herewith, a list of the top 10 complaints (rights reserved to add more) about the film and why you should shut the fuck up about them:
  1. "You mean the racoon movie?"
    Yes motherfucker, the movie set in space, in a multi-species galaxy necessitating faster than light travel, implying a vast multiplicity of technology trees and their disparate outcomes including, but not limited to, genetic-cybernetic augmentation of lower life forms. This has poignant implications that they address in the fucking film directly. STFU.
  2. "Why bother casting Bradley Cooper if you aren't going to use him?"
    Motherfucker, why are you making me say this? I'm not the Defend Bradley Cooper Guy! Fine, I'll say it: Bradley Cooper is more than just a pretty face. He's a pretty decent actor, and in this movie he does a damn fine bit of voice acting. He's also the funniest fucking character in a movie starring Chris Pratt, so STFU.
  3. "The guy from Parks and Rec?"
    Yes. The funniest fucking lead actor in America right now. See also "The Lego Movie" and STFU.
  4. "Isn't he just playing Han Solo? This whole thing sounds very Star Wars."
    OMFG STFU! There can be more than one space movie! NOTHING ABOUT THIS FILM IS LIKE STAR WARS!!! Except for the bit between Rocket and Groot, I'll give you that one. But then I'm taking it right back because fuck you, it's also narratively appropriate that Rocket is hyper intelligent enough to understand Groot's inflections and speaks to their deeper bond.
  5. "And why is John C. Reilly in this?"
    Because he's fucking hilarious. Why the fuck not? I'll concede that it's odd that Vin Diesel was so excited to reprise such a limited role as the Iron Giant in tree form, but seriously STFU about the casting, it's all gravy. Karen Gillan is fully legit, Bautista held up his corner, and Michael Rooker is always a pleasure. Hell, even Zoe Saldana was strangely magnetic.
  6. "Fine, then what was up with all the music?"
    It was great, it made narrative sense, it grounded the film (which again, to remind you, was set in space, in a galaxy far the fuck away, but we already covered the Star Wars thing) for the audience, it served well as a character device and plot driver. Next question, or do I need to tell you to STFU again?
  7. "Yeah but they already used that one song in "Reservoir Dogs"."
    Shut the fuck up.
  8. "And that other song was in "Boogie Nights"."
    You are a fucking moron. Do you understand what the use of pop songs in film is for? See answers 6 and 7
  9. "Okay, okay, okay... you're right. But there's too much exposition."
    Now you're just saying "too much exposition" because you always say that about any kind of movie that isn't about two middle class white Americans of opposite sex on present day Earth being physically attracted to each other in a fashionable American city for 30 minutes, having a minor miscommunication, fighting and lying to each other about that miscommunication for 45 minutes, and then reconciling without ever resolving any of their core differences for 15 more. Was that too much exposition?
    Seriously go fuck yourself with this one. The team behind this movie trimmed down 4 decades of acid-fueled, cosmic, comic book crackpottery into 122 minutes of action packed, comedic, movie-going gold, and you're complaining about the 5 minutes they took to set up an easy to follow plotline about an errant warlord gone rogue?
  10. "Yeah, I didn't get that part. Why does Ronan hate the Nova Core? And what's an Infinity Stone? Who's Thanos? Why is that lady pink and that one blue? What's with the big skull? Who put the----"
    ARGH GHGH GHGARF SLKG HJFS:L BHOS{DA HGRBFJS SHUT THE FUCK UP!@#!%! #%$^&$ !%$&#*&!% #*$%&^ @!* #&!@^)$_
    Seriously, can you even hear yourself? Too much exposition or NOT ENOUGH? What the fuck do you want? WHO BEAT THIS MUCH STUPID INTO YOU? SHUT. THE FUCK. UP.