12.03.2011

Excerpts from an Undergraduate Psychology Survey

Every year, literally dozens of psychology experiments and surveys are designed and carried out by undergraduate Psychology majors. And just as surely as these tests are designed, there are plenty of students who will volunteer to participate in them…either because the girl with the clipboard standing in the middle of the quad is cute, or because they are failing Psych 101 and need some extra credit points. But whether you are filling out a form in the middle of the cafeteria or typing in endless answers on an ancient computer in a forgotten corner of campus, these tests almost always consist of five to one hundred questions about basic morality and they are always boring. So, because I was talking to an old Psych major last night about this crap, I decided to write my own survey.

Here are some excerpts.

Question 1: Let’s just get this out of the way right now. Are you going to answer these questions honestly? Because a lot of people don’t. I mean, a lot of people. And they really shouldn’t, because this is part of our grade, okay? We worked really hard on these questions and if our results come back all screwed up again, Professor Halloran is probably going to fail us and we’ll never get to go to the Rat Lab. So are you? Based on how big of a douche you feel like being this afternoon, please answer “Yes” or “No” below.

Question 10: Hey man, you’re taking Psych 101, right? Dude, how cool was Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment? So awesome. We’re circulating a petition to get the department to let us stage a recreation next semester, so please answer “Yes,” “No,” or “Indifferent” below based on your support for this idea. Okay, back to the test.

Question 17: You are walking in the Mojave Desert and you find five dollars. A nearby jack-rabbit watches you pick up the money, and--though he does not say anything--you suspect that it might be his. In fifty words or less, please describe how you deal with this moral conundrum.

Question 25: This test has been going on for quite a while now. Depending on how quickly you are answering the questions, we predict that you have been alone in this room for anywhere between fifteen minutes to an hour. In that time, the temperature has not changed, the lights have not flickered, and there has been no high-pitched buzzing designed to trigger your rage centers. On a scale of one to five, how disappointed are you by the absence of each of these classic movie psychology test elements?

Question 34: A psychology student administering a survey has just asked you a deeply personal question about that time when you were five and your mother yelled at you and left you crying in the middle of the frozen food aisle at the grocery store. She does not give any indication as to how she knows about this incident. On a scale of Cyan to Crimson (where Cyan equals “Placid,” Crimson equals “Wrathful,” and the entire intervening color spectrum equates to the corresponding range of emotions) how does this invasion of childhood trauma and your innermost shameful moments make you feel?

Question 55: Now that the test is nearly complete, please think back to Question One. On a scale of one to eight, where One equals “Extremely Truthful” and Eight equals “Highly Duplicitous” please evaluate your adherence to your earlier answer. If you do not remember what Question One was, or cannot recall your answer, please enter “Do Not Know” to restart this test.

Question 79: When you signed up for this experiment you expected the test to be administered by a real person, didn’t you? Maybe they had one of those sweet Voight-Kampff machines from Blade Runner? Please roll the provided six sided die and input your answer where 1-3 equal “Yes” and 4-6 equal “No.” If your answer does not correspond with your die roll, you are permitted to reroll once. If your answer still does not correspond upon rerolling, please contact a member of the testing staff so that they may administer an Opinion Shift and bring your thinking more in line with that of your die.

6.11.2011

I Think Too Much About Things

I went and saw Super 8 today and would like the opportunity to talk about it at some length (short version: it was okay), but that isn’t what I’m here to talk about right now. I want to talk about the trailer for the Kevin James vehicle Zookeeper, because something about it stuck in my craw and I kind of just want to get the thoughts down on paper.

Now, you may have seen this trailer. Or maybe you haven’t. Or maybe you saw the first couple of seconds and then stuck your fingers in your ears and closed your eyes until it went away because you’ve got a thing about Kevin James. If you’re interested, the trailer can be found here, or you can proceed knowing simply that it is a movie about a rotund zookeeper whose girlfriend dumps him for being a zookeeper. He then fights to get her back with the help of a bunch of gravelly voiced, vaguely Hispanic sounding talking zoo animals. Oh, also, Rosario Dawson is in it as his coworker.

So, here’s my problem: In the trailer, Kevin James’s character takes his girl out to ride horses on the beach and do all sorts of movie-romantic shit. He proposes to her, and she rejects him citing that she is uncomfortable with the idea of being married to a zookeeper. So…what? She’s willing to date the guy. Presumably go out in public with him. Introduce him to her family. Go bowling. Share mutual friends. Have awkward sex. Whatever, all that crap. NO PROBLEM AT ALL. But MARRIAGE? To a ZOOKEEPER? SCANDALOUS! Let’s ignore for a moment that any ranking zoo staffer is a dedicated professional who likely holds a doctorate or other high educational award. Let’s ignore the fact that, even though he probably doesn’t make much money, he’s still likely to function as an excellent provider and caregiver as a circumstance of his progression. Let’s even ignore the fact that the people who wrote this movie likely have little to no idea what a zookeeper actually is or does.

Instead let’s focus on this: She has engaged this man in a long term, serious relationship, and when confronted with the prospect of continuing that relationship she rejects it because she’s too shallow to deal with his profession. AND AFTERWARDS HE WANTS HER BACK.

HE WANTS HER BACK AND PINES FOR HER FOR FIVE YEARS. There is no joke here. This is actually how things are presented in the trailer. We are supposed to take this shit seriously. The movie is about a man trying to get a woman back, five years after she uses him and then rejects him.

Way to not even try to present a healthy relationship, screenwriters.

But that’s really only the first problem that I have with this, and from it stems my major problem: Rosario Dawson. This is not to say that I have a problem with Rosario Dawson. She’s a beautiful woman and a wonderful actress, and I really enjoyed the comic book that she helped create; Image’s Occult Crimes Taskforce. What I have a problem with is the character that she seems to play in this film. She’s not really in the trailer but for a couple of shots, but she’s shown to play a coworker of James’s character who agrees to help him win back his ex by posing as his new, jealously inducing girlfriend.

So what’s the problem here? Well, that comes from the relationship that she has with James as well. She’s gorgeous and they get along and they’re on friendly terms and they share a profession, and she’s into him enough that she’ll agree to go out with him—even on terms that demean her as a human being. So why aren’t they dating already? For all intents and purposes (unless James is playing a closeted White Supremacist) the two are movie-perfect for one another. The easy answer is that there would be no movie if the two of them were in a happy relationship, but I think the issue runs deeper than that.

American film still seems to have a pretty serious hang up when it comes to brown people. I’m not sure that it’s racism, really. I think it has more to do with the fact that Hollywood is afraid that if they push Middle America’s comfort zone too far, Middle America is going to break up with them and go start hanging out more with Television and Netflix. It’s the reason why we still see remakes of “White” films retailored for Black audiences, and remakes of “Black” films retailored for White audiences. They’re paranoid that certain cultural groups won’t go see something if they perceive it as being for a different cultural group. And while this is certainly true in some areas, there isn’t any good excuse for it to seep out into film as a whole. Zookeeper is being presented as a broad, all ages/races/creeds comedy, so why is it that the interracial relationship has to be turned into a demeaning sham? Why is it that the White protagonist has to use his perfectly nice non-White friend so he can finally get with a generic, shallow, skinny blonde White chick? Hell, for that matter, why would a dude even think about doing that with Rosario Dawson throwing herself at him?

I’d really like an answer. I know that I won’t get one, but I’d like it all the same. Regardless, we still live in the 21st century now, Hollywood, and this is what you’re giving us? Try to stand up straight and have some dignity.

-Sean

6.04.2011

CASSINI MISSION

I’d like to share a little something with anyone reading this. I love space. I love the everloving crap out of it. Getting out there had been one of my greatest ambitions for as long as I can remember, even in the face of physical shortcomings that make such a dream prohibitive. With that in mind, I will leave you now with Chris Abbas’s breathtaking abstract short CASSINI MISSION. Constructed of countless still images captured and sent back to the Earth by NASA’s Cassini Probe, this is a beautiful piece of work—whether you’re looking to reaffirm the dream, find some phenomenal editing, or just trance out. If you like it, please leave some positive words on Mr. Abbas’s Vimeo page. Good evening to you all.

 

CASSINI MISSION from Chris Abbas on Vimeo.

 

-Sean

4.14.2011

Horrors of Food

So I was out on some errands today when lunch rolled around, and just as I began to become hungry I came upon a Smokey Bones. Now, depending on where you live, you either do or don’t know what that is so I’ll explain: Smokey Bones is kind of a cheese-ball barbeque chain that seems to run through most of the American South. It’s really nothing special, nor anything overly healthy, but they do a pretty good beef brisket sandwich and I’m not the kind of person who easily says no to a pretty good beef brisket sandwich.

Well, it had been a while since I had stepped into one of their branches, and apparently the days of the Pretty Good Beef Brisket Sandwich are long gone. These places used to be fairly quiet and understated; sort of a rustic mountain lodge thing run through the filter of tidy, modern architecture. Now they’re loud and smart-alecky with club cards and a lot of televisions showing music videos and hunting/fishing videos and a channel that seems to be a perpetually shifting mash-up of trivia, America’s Funniest Home Videos entries, and scenes from the Jim Varney Ernest movies. The walls are covered in pictures incorporating the restaurant’s logo and graphics portraying memetic slogans termed “boneisms” that accompany crude Photoshop tracings of Frat Bros eating the restaurant’s food and ogling women. It’s all of the tastelessness of an Applebee's buried under an extra layer of tastelessness supplied by the internet. The saving grace of the place is that their music loop contains a Stray Cats song.

And the sandwich? That’s not anywhere on the menu these days. By the time I’ve realized this though, I’m sitting at a booth at the farthest corner from the door and the waitress has already brought me my drink. I’m committed. So I settle on a hamburger that sounds nice and when the waitress asks what kind of side I want I opt up a dollar for the kettle chips because the picture of the appetizer portion made them look crisp and half-way healthy and I’m trying to work on this whole “not eating my own weight in butter every day” thing lately. This will be a nice meal, I tell myself. I am a smart person who has done a smart thing.

Sweet mother, how wrong I was. Here is a rough timeline of my first ten seconds with the meal:

00:00 – Food arrives. Waitress is unsmiling and grim, as though delivering final meal to dying man.

00:01 – Burger looks good, if not sloppily presented. Lettuce is chopped and on top-half of bun with onion. Getting it on top of the rest of the sandwich intact will be a challenge. Mayonnaise is served on side, in small cup: fair sentiment.

00:05 – First bite. Notice with dismay that there are three forms of onion on burger: 1) Standard red onion circles in lettuce. 2) Fried onion tangles on top of cheese/bacon layer. 3) Butter softened chunks swimming in barbeque sauce under cheese. Type One is expected and type Two is advertised in item description. Type Three is a complete surprise and completely overpowering in flavor and consistency. I dislike the consistency of bare, softened onions and sauce has already been unwittingly added. Slight feeling of upset.

00:08 – Attention turned to chips. Double take taken. Chips appear greasy and gritty, as though freshly fried and heavily over-seasoned. Large chunks of sea salt adorn. Pick one up and shake. Noting comes up. Could it be?

00:09 – Simultaneously delicious and revolting. The chips have been battered, deep fried, and salted. Mouth confirms like large piece of forensic machinery on CSI set. Most of the little, golden hills of chips on the plate are welded together with breading.

00:10 – Look around. Waitress is gone. Nobody is watching. There is no prank. Southern chefs have reached their ultimate triumph and deep fried a thing that was already fried. There was no fanfare or victory parade. They didn’t even serve it at a State Fair. This is something that can be had in a chain restaurant. I turn back to my plate.

So here’s the thing: I’ve written this so far as though it were all incredibly, oppressively bad. It really wasn’t. The atmosphere was incredibly, oppressively bad, I’ll grant. The food was pretty good though. I mean, not great. No better than I would have expected, and also no worse. It was perfectly fair and I can see why the place was packed with day-wagers on group lunches. The restaurant cultivates a a strongly over-done feeling of casual fun, and the menu is diverse enough to reflect that. Prices were also reasonable, especially for the portion sizes that I observed.

I did have a problem with the way that the food was advertised though. The things that I mentioned as being off or odd with my food were features of it that had gone completely undescribed in the menu. We are not talking about a “served with seasonal greens” kind of thing where you can reasonably assume that you are going to get fresh, seasonal greens, we are talking about the “Oh, yeah, also: this whole thing is fried and served on a bed of clarified butter and poutine” kind of discrepancy that you get when your waitress brings you your food and your first impulse is to say, “This is not at all what I ordered.” When you order what—under almost any circumstances—would be a more healthy side alternative and it comes out three times less healthy than an order of french-fries, you are entering a whole new realm of menu item false advertising.

It’s not a comment on anyone’s eating habits, it’s just an observation on something that’s been happening more and more often to me lately. Despite our supposedly increased awareness of health issues in this country, we seem to be moving ever and ever closer to the most extreme culinary excesses of the ‘90s. Something that I thought we were actually doing a good job of getting away from for a while.

For god’s sake, I stopped into a McDonald’s for breakfast while on the road the other day, and the girl asked me if I wanted to order a slice of apple pie or a milkshake at 9:30 in the morning. Why? Because the company is now running a promotion which says that cashiers have to ask if the customer wants a dessert, because they are otherwise eligible for a free dessert at any time of day. This is patently ridiculous given both the obesity problem that we face as a nation, and the average IQ of a McDonald’s cashier.

Whatever, though. Who am I to complain about this kind of stuff? For lunch I ate a burger that probably weighted in at half a pound and a serving of deep fried things that had already been fried. And I didn’t once question my sullen, chubby waitress about any of the discrepancies in my order.

I’ve felt absolutely god awful since then. Probably will all day. I think a salad is in order for dinner.


BONUS OBSERVATION(!) : While I was on my way out of the restaurant, I saw a funny little fat kid standing up in a booth. He was funny in the way of funny little fat kids: about eight, with a bad haircut, ill dressed and awkwardly clumsy. As I got closer though, I noticed the barbed-wire tattoo that ran across the front of his throat, and the large rose bloom that crawled out of the stretched out collar of his shirt and up the side of his neck. I thought they were strange choices for temporary tattoos, and a lot larger than anything I remember seeing as a kid, but then I looked at the mother and noticed what a disaster of piercings and cheap ink she was. The quality of the kid's stuff didn't look too great from five feet away either. The more I think about it, the more I feel as though the the marks on the little chunk weren't temporary at all.

1.18.2011

Unless I Don't

So the list thing kind of fell apart in a big way last week. Despite the best of intentions I didn't have the time or proper internet access in England to put those posts together. Now though, having returned, I begin preparations to move in a month and will likely be unable to post as frequently as I would otherwise like. I'm going to try to get going on those lists though, and hopefully have them coming at a steady rate starting tomorrow or this evening. I'm also going to try and find the time to do some minor site maintenance and get things up and running the way that I had always intended. Thank you for your continued patience, and please console yourselves with the fact that I can't get any worse about posting than I already am.

1.06.2011

So...

Heya, Internet. It's been a while, hasn't it? I don't want to make it sound like we broke up, but I guess we kind of did and then we just kept on using each other in entirely unproductive ways for a couple of months. I want to move beyond that though, because this is a new year and I want to try new things, and one of those new things is going back to the old things that I was doing before I lost interest in blogging, namely: blogging.

And I'm going to embrace this new attitude by falling in line with the second oldest and most time-honored of blogging traditions (vocally hating things being the first) and produce a series of lists that encapsulate what I liked in the year of 2010. In the interest of bucking tradition though I am not going to have a set number of things that I will put into each of these lists (because, honestly, it wasn't that great of a year for some things) and will be doing individual lists for books, comics, film/television, the internet, and Real Life.

So look for the first of those tomorrow, won't you?