high-minded drivel

high-minded (adjective) - refined; cultured; particularly civilized. drivel (noun) - senseless talk; nonsense.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wake me up, before you go-go

Classes have started again for fall quarter, so the weekly busyness will pick up a bit over the coming few weeks.  However, this quarter shouldn't be quite as busy as quarters past.  The classes this quarter don't involve group projects (in the sense of projects that culminate in a Powerpoint presentation), or lengthy term papers, or extensive research, or contacting an organization to assess their business model.  Instead, these classes will mostly consist of some readings, lectures, exams, and a few short papers.  Should be a good quarter.

Since classes won't be a huge time commitment, relatively speaking, I decided to sit down last night and go over some activities that could occupy my time in the coming weeks.  Here are just a few...

Hanging drywall.  Bedroom #2 upstairs is coming along nicely, and we're now about half-way through the drywalling.  This is exciting not because of the new drywall, but because of the new insulation behind the drywall, which brings hope of not freezing through the winter any longer.  Maybe we should even pick a "warm color" to paint the walls to further enhance the change in the room.

There are a few standard tools you need for a good drywalling job: A screwdriver, screws, a knife, a straight edge, a measuring tape, and a pencil.  Now, for the sake of having some fun, let's play a little game here.  Have you ever been given one of those hypothetical "lost in the desert" scenarios where you've had to rank your available resources in order of importance?  I think the most common one is where you've crash landed, and you have a parachute, a map, some water, some salt tablets, a mirror, a knife, and some other stuff.  Well, let's do the same thing, only the resources we have are limited to the drywall tools!  Take a minute to come up with your list, and then I'll give you the correct answers, along with the rationale for the order.


Okay, now that you've not bothered to take a minute and actually create your own ranking, here's the correct order (according to most survival guides):

1. The pencil
2. The screws
3. The screwdriver
4. The straight edge
5. The measuring tape
6. The knife

Now, the rationale...

The pencil is most important for a simple reason: It allows you to mark off the days you've been in the desert thus far.  While this may seem unimportant as you sit in your comfortable chair reading from your computer screen, it will be vitally important when you're wandering the desert, trying to maintain sanity as the days blend together.  Seriously, have you ever seen a desert/wilderness/island strandee who doesn't make hash marks for the days that have gone by?  It's critical.

The screws are important for a related but slightly different reason.  Keeping track of the days is important for maintaining sanity, but so is a sense of humor.  Feeling worn out from a long day of treading the sands?  Screws are guaranteed to give you a laugh and get you back in the right frame of mind.  How?  Through pure irony.  Just when you think you're really "screwed," you reach in your pocket only to find.....some screws!  How ironic!  How funny!  You've got another ten miles in you, at least!

The screwdriver comes third because it represents the most technologically advanced item you have.  Everyone knows that technology impresses natives, so it will be important to have at least one "techy" item to barter with in case you come across some indigenous desert people.  You may be thinking "Why wouldn't I just tag along with the indigenous people to survive or get out of the desert?" But that just shows how little you know about surviving in the desert.

Number four: The straight edge.  In the desert, you will sweat, and you will not be able to shower.  You will get some grime on you, and inevitably you will start to itch.  Nothing is more annoying when you're seeking an oasis than an itchy back, so there will be few things more satisfying than a straight edge to reach over your shoulder and give a good scratch.  It's like a mini-spa treatment in the desert.  Sure, go ahead!  After having blistered feet and scorched skin for two weeks (according to your pencil marks), you deserve a little luxury! (before you die)  The straight edge can also serve as a makeshift splint. 

Next to last is the measuring tape.  According to most survival experts, the primary usefulness of a measuring tape when stranded in the desert is for luring in food.  Think of it as a fishing rod for the sand.  You fully extend the measuring tape, wait for an unsuspecting animal to come along, then slowly start to retract the measuring tape, causing the animal to follow along.  Once the animal is within reach, you strike, kill, and eat the animal raw.  A few modern-day survivors have used this tactic, and they recount the exhilaration of luring the animal closer and closer, never imagining in their wildest dreams that the trick would actually be successful.  Of course, the best bait for luring in an animal with the end of your measuring tape is a piece of food stuck on the tape.  This is what makes it so unlikely that you'll ever use the measuring tape: you'll probably never come across a piece of food to use for the bait.

Last, and certainly least, is the knife.  Without going into a lot of detail, I'll just say that the knife is last on the list because it seems to be the most useful item.  Once you've done enough of these "survival list" games, you know that the thing which seems most useful on the surface is actually the least useful in reality.  Therefore the knife, which could be used for cutting strips of cloth, cutting open plants, killing animals for food, warding off enemies, and a host of other things, falls to the bottom of the list.  You may as well just throw it away.

Another activity I've got on my agenda for the coming weeks is watching films.  Movies worth seeing in theaters are hard to come by, but right now there are two that may warrant the investment: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and The Town.  If you haven't seen the trailers, let me give you a brief overview of what to expect from these two films...  

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is a movie about Gordon Gecko, who was a big-shot executive at one time. The movie portrays how Gecko made lots of money on Wall Street, then went to jail, then got out of jail, then continued doing the exact same things that landed him in jail in the first place.  Actually, that's just my wild guess about the nature of the film, but I'm pretty sure it's not that far off.  The directors of the film supposedly took a few artistic licenses, but for the most part stuck to the facts.  For example, scenes near the beginning of the film will show how Gecko, rather than having his behavior reformed in jail, spends most of his time in the slammer doling out wisdom to the other inmates in a croaky voice (which everyone knows reveals an untrustworthy character).  Michael Douglas, who plays the part of Gecko in WS: MNS, spent hours each day practicing the voice to get it right.  The film also shows how Gecko got a giant tattoo of a dollar sign on his chest while in jail.  Many movie-goers have eagerly anticipated the release of the film just because of one scene which will portray the famed "Today Show incident."  The basic details of this occurrence are as follows:  

Upon departing from jail, Gecko was invited to appear on the Today Show to talk about his experience.  Gecko, rather than demonstrating any semblance of reflection and humility, chose the moment as his platform to disclose that he now sported the giant dollar sign tattoo.  However, despite repeated attempts by Matt Lauer to get Gecko to reveal the tattoo, Gecko steadfastly refused.  Then, just as Lauer kicked it over to Al Roker for the weather, Gecko stormed the blue screen where Al Roker was doing the weather and, in a crazy moment of spontaneity, ripped off his shirt and displayed the tattoo for all to see.  Roker, understandably perturbed, stormed off the set, while Gecko, left in front of the blue screen, began screaming "IT'S RAINING MONEY!  IT'S RAINING MONEEEEY!!!" until finally the camera cut back to a stunned Lauer.  

In addition to perfecting the croaky voice, Michael Douglas also got a real jailhouse tat on his chest for the role, creating a great deal of hype.  

Besides Douglas, the film features up-and-coming actor Shia LaBeouf as an ambitious young undercover cop set on busting Gecko back to the big house.  In the movie, LaBeouf will stop at nothing in his mission, going so far as to woo and marry Gecko's daughter to get closer to Gecko.  The movie reportedly concludes with a suspenseful climactic scene in which LaBeouf chases Douglas across an airport field, eventually sees his shadow in the lights from an incoming plane, and turns just in time to shoot and inflict a fatal chest wound.  The screen fades to black as Gecko/Douglas reaches out his hand for LaBeouf/LaBeouf's character while rasping "I told you I was never going back..."

The Town is a more fast-paced film set in Boston in the mid-90's.  The movie is notable because the actors reportedly perfected the oft-imitated-but-never-duplicated (until now) Bostonian accent.  Many films have attempted this feat, but The Town actually succeeded.  However, some current Boston residents have protested the movie, claiming that although the actors do the accent right, they repeatedly refer to Boston as "Bean Town," which is a nickname never used by real people living in Boston.  In an effort to appease the protestors, the makers of the movie (which was actually titled Bean Town originallyoffered a private screening to anyone who could produce a valid id showing that their last name started with "Mc."  This did little to quell the furor.

The bank robbers portrayed in the film are based on the real-life Boston criminals known as "The Halloween Gang."  The Halloween Gang's calling card was to only commit their heists on Halloween, when they could walk into a bank in goblin masks or other costumes without attracting attention and then make off with the cash.  Bean Town/The Town was intended to be Ben Affleck's come-back film, but he ends up getting overshadowed by up-and-coming actor Shia LaBeouf, playing the role of an inner city cop who will stop at nothing to bust the bad guys.  LaBeouf not only steals away Affleck's girlfriend in the movie, but also stole his girlfriend in real life during filming.  Shortly after this, however, Michael Douglas (pretending to be Gordon Gecko), stole the girlfriend away from LaBeouf.  There are rumors that this odd series of events will be made into a 2011 film featuring Douglas as himself (as Gecko, sort of), Affleck as himself, and Will Smith's son as LaBeouf.

The final activity I'll mention in this post is the activity of acclimating to the change of seasons.  It seems like all of a sudden it's significantly colder outside and the mornings are pitch black on the way to work.  In the past I remember noticing the mornings being a bit grayer gradually, and the air getting slightly chillier over the course of several weeks, but this year we seem to have gone from 90-degree days to 65-degree days in the space of a weekend, and everyone said "Fah!" and joined in a nation-wide movement to reset their clocks and "spring ahead" in the fall rather than "falling back."  I'm a good, daylight-savings citizen, and Fall Back Day is my second favorite holiday after Easter, so I definitely didn't volunteer for this spring-ahead-at-the-wrong-time movement.  I expect someone (Nate?) must have reset my clock without my permission.  All this is just to say that the darker mornings and colder weather are taking their toll, as evidenced by my sluggishness in the morning.  The lack of light plays tricks on your psyche, which is saying "I should still be in bed!"  It's like my brain is misfiring for the first 90 minutes at work each morning until I break down and spend $1.06 on a cup of Columbian Supremo from the cafe.

Spending this daily dollar-six is a real moral dilemma for me.  We have a coffee maker in our office, so it's seems crazy to spend the money to buy coffee in the cafe.  But half the time the pot in the office is empty because nobody has bothered to make a new pot after taking the last cup, and the rest of the time I can't bring myself to drink the sludge that comes out of our coffee maker.  It's tolerable with cream and sugar, but remember I'm trying to kick-start ole' brainy, and black is best for that task.  I start to walk toward the cafe, but then turn back and think "Weakness!  Coffee is a drug!"  The fact that I can barely formulate this thought through the fog of my brain momentarily sways me the other way, but then I become conflicted again because I think of those studies that reveal facts like "If you saved the dollar you spend every day on your morning coffee, by the time you're 30 you'll be able to retire," or "The average American spends more on Starbucks each year than they'll spend on home improvement, college, and traveling the world!  Combined!  In their lifetime!" Whenever I start to have these thoughts, and I'm trying to rationalize walking out to the cafe to make a purchase, I find it very helpful to think of sayings like "You've got to spend money to make money" and other things that Gordon Gecko might say.

Don't forget about my other blockbuster this fall, Transformers 3: The Next Transformation.

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