Friday, May 25, 2018

Over Connected

Do you remember the good (debatable) old days? When you had to actually call someone on a corded phone to arrange things?

For my younger viewers, phones used to be connected to a wall in your house. There were usually two or three in a house and your distance from the wall depended entirely on the length of the cord. So, yes, you could get a call from your friend and then have to talk to them while standing in the living room while your family watched tv. And listened to you. Always listening.

To get an example of how these corded phones worked, here’s a short bit of dialogue:

You dial Dave’s number.

Dave’s father answers. You say ‘hi, is Dave there?’

He would answer. ‘Is this that no-good piece of #$% YOURNAME? I thought I told you to never call my son again!’ He hangs up.

You call again.

‘Good evening,’ you would say in a disguised voice. ‘Might I talk to David LASTNAME?’

‘Sure,’ he would say. ‘Who’s calling?’

‘Uh, not YOURNAME.’

You get the idea.

You had to actually make plans IN ADVANCE while at home or at a payphone in order to meet up with someone and do stuff. If you got a detail wrong, such as the time or place, you had literally no way to tell them unless you had access to a phone.

Which, remember, is attached to a wall, so unless you’re in a place with payphones or someone who will let you use theirs, you’re out of luck. 

I will not bother explaining life before answering machines. Are having three tv channels. Or records/8-tracks/cassettes. Or stick-shifts.

Nowadays, everyone has a cell phone and you just call or text or Tinder or something and you can talk to whomever you want at any time.

NOTE: I am old, I no longer know these things.

Which brings me to my point. I currently have FOUR separate programs on my computer to talk to people: Skype, Discord, Slack, and WhatsApp (all of which I use for one person each). I can also be contacted via Facebook and by (at least) three email accounts. I also have a phone with which I can receive texts.

And lest I forget, you can also talk on the phone. Yes, strange, but true.

All told, there are probably nine different ways I can be contacted at any given time.
And yet, I can’t seem to get in touch with anyone is less than three days. It takes multiple chat messages, an email or two, and sometimes a text to get them to respond. What’s the point of having all these programs if no one ever seems to look at them?

In the (may or not be good) old days, a phone call was important. Now it’s just an annoyance.

Anyway, if I’ve sent you a text/email/message/thingie, please contact me back. I’ve got every possible mode of communication waiting.


Friday, May 18, 2018

A Little Bit of Luck

In honor of Deadpool 2 coming out today, I thought I’d talk a bit about Domino, who’s power is ‘luck.’ Specifically, how do you figure that out?

There are a handful of luck-powered heroes in the Marvel universe: Longshot, Black Cat, and Domino. At least, those are the ones I can think of off-hand. There might be some c-list villains or something floating around in the errata.

Longshot is a mutant (originally an alien) who is lucky as long as his motives are pure. This seems a bit tricky to define. Rescuing a kitten from a burning building is probably ‘pure.’ Rescuing a kitten from a burning building instead of rescuing, oh . . . say, a little old lady, maybe not. Pushing a politician into a burning building might also count as pure.

Black Cat is an on-again, off-again romantic interest of Spider Man. She is unusual in that she gives good luck to her allies and bad luck to her enemies. In addition, in the tradition of most comics, she is staggeringly good-looking. Which means that Peter Parker is dating Mary Jane (a model) in normal mode while being pursued by Black Cat as Spider Man. Not bad for a ‘nerdy’ science kid.

Anyway, back to Domino. She can make things happen in her favor by wanting them to, which is kind of interesting. If she has no knowledge an attack is coming, such as a hippo falling on her from out of the clear blue sky, she can’t do anything to stop it. However, if she does, then she can use her power to make the hippo miss or to cause some sort of trampoline carrying semi-truck mishap which bounces the hippo away. Regardless, it’s probably not going to be a good day for the hippo.

Why she just hasn’t walked into a casino, played one spin on the ’10 Million Dollar’ slot machine, and retired is beyond me.

NOTE: All of these definitions and such are at the whim of the writer. And you know how those guys are.

Which brings me to my next point: how do you figure out your power is luck? Shooting lasers from your eyes or being super-strong are pretty obvious. Invulnerability, though one might soil themselves the first time they figure it out, is also straight-forward.

Luck, however, can take so many possible forms that any sort of testing for it would be flawed. What if you’re only lucky in life-or-death situations? Would you want to attempt a test that will actually kill you if you’re wrong? You could only be lucky in regards to potted plants. No fern, no matter what condition, will ever die if its in your bedroom. You might be amazingly lucky, but only when wearing a red hat or affecting people wearing red hats.

It’s such a weirdly specific, yet vaguely defined ability. Yet, in Domino’s case, it seems to work for her.

Lucky that.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Law of Character Conservation

In a bit of a break today, I’m going to talk about one of my personal observations on writing/characters: the Law of Character Conservation.

It goes like this: You’re watching a tv show and the handsome detective hero is pursuing a serial killer, because that’s what tv detectives do. He is aided by his trusty female computer-geek partner, who for reasons of fiction, is in love with him and they’ll flirt a lot, because of course they will. Now, you know that the computer nerd grew up on a farm in a small town and had a hard life, etc. etc. backstory, etc.

Then, in the twist end of the season finale, you find out that the serial killer is the nerd’s long-lost brother!

This is an example of the Law of Character Conservation. In essence, because we already know the backstory of the computer geek, we ALSO know the backstory of her serial killer brother. In essence, the show then doesn’t have to explain who he is and where he comes from. That’s already been accomplished. All they have to do is explain why he’s a serial killer and it’s done. They have just used the same backstory for both characters and thus, Conserved a Character.

NOTE: Is it wrong that I keep wanting to type ‘serial killer’ as ‘cereal killer?’

You tend to see this most often on tv shows, where they have a limited budget and run time, so they can get to the exciting parts (the detective fighting the serial killer) faster, rather than spending an entire episode on backstory. Movies and books tend not to do it as much.

Now, it’s not an absolute. New characters with new backstories and no relation to the current cast will and do appear, it’s just that once you notice how often this is used, you’ll start to see it all over the place.

And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a brother or sibling to an established character. It can be a college buddy or former boyfriend/girlfriend or their next-door neighbor. They just need to have some connection.

‘But wait!’ some of you are saying. ‘Isn’t this because it’s more shocking and/or surprising to have the killer/victim/whatever be related to an existing character and not because of your weird little law?’

To which I say: maybe at first. Maybe when tv shows were a new thing it was surprising to have the killer be the brother or the babysitter or something, but does that really surprise anyone anymore? I think it’s actually more surprising nowadays to have a completely unrelated killer/whatever.

Anyway, once you get used to spotting this, it’s a great way to annoy/impress your friends and family by going ‘oh, I bet it’s his sister’s best-friend’s former babysitter’ right off the bat and then being right.