Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween from the four legged set

As I've noted once or twice here in the past - Halloween is the best Holiday by a country mile.  No obligations, no schedules, no endless shopping requirements.  It's a day devoted entirely to two things and two things only - Wearing ridiculous outfits and making little kids happy by giving them candy.

And while dogs- Stanley notwithstanding- are not usually huge into the whole costume scene, if there's one group that is solidly behind the concept of 'treats' it is dogs.

So, on behalf of dog-kind everywhere, here's to having a great Halloween.  Now go have a treat. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wither Thou, Frute Brute?

Back in my day, before anybody cared about feeding kids a ton of sugar because we were just going to run around outside unsupervised burning it off*, General Mills produced a range of 'Monster' themed kids cereals that were really just a thinly veiled excuse to cram as many marshmallows as possible into a cereal bowl.

*Often until well after dark.  This is of course when we weren't busy bicycling without a helmet or standing up on the front bench seat of the car while it was being driven down the freeway.  The 70s were a magical time.

The main three monster cereals that everyone remembers are of course Count Chocula (chocolate, obviously), Franken-Berry (Strawberry), and Boo Berry* (Blueberry).

*This subject was broached on a friends Facebook Feed where Boo Berry prompted some curiously impassioned hostile responses in the comment thread.  I feel sure there was a back story behind them but was kind of afraid to ask.

What is less widely remembered (until recently, for reasons that we'll get to in a moment) are the lesser two monster cereals.  The marshmallow laced bastard children of the General Mills Product family.  I refer of course to Yummy Mummy and its immediate predecessor, Fruit Brute (as it was then spelled)

A bit of history - Count Chocula came first (although he was originally Dr. Count Chocula - apparently he had his credentials stripped from him at some point in the early 70s, although no information is readily forthcoming as to what academic scandal precipitated this.)  Then FrankenBerry, Then BooBerry.  Then they branched out from single flavor marshmallows and attempted a fruity blend of flavors all in the same bowl.  Having already tapped the iconography of Vampires, Frankenstein's Monster*, and Ghosts they went to the next obvious monster The Werewolf.  I'm guessing however that 'Fruity Werewolf' didn't test market well as a name and so they instead went for a picture of a werewolf with a cereal name of 'Fruit Brute'.  A few years later they decided this wasn't really making a killing in the market (see what I did there?) so they discontinued it and replaced it with 'Fruity Yummy Mummy'.  This also didn't do well (despite the slightly desperate inclusion of the clarifying adjective in the title) and so they gave up on it as well and focused instead on the big three.

*not Frankenstein himself, as that was the scientist.  Seriously people, it's not that hard to keep straight.

Eventually the 80s happened, some jerk pointed out that stuffing kids full of marshmallows at breakfast might not be the healthiest option, and the line was cancelled.*

*This is roughly the same time that 'Sugar Bear' encountered his own significant PR problem from which he never recovered.  I believe he can be currently found in the parking lot adjacent to the Chinese Theater offering to go 'around the world' for 13 dollars.  Sad.

A couple of years ago, however, nostalgia for the 70s happened (curiously at around the time that Gen-Xers were settling down to a nice paycheck and a bit of disposable income.) and they Monster cereals were brought out of the vault. 

However, as I only recently discovered, they didn't actually come out entirely (insert joke here).  Instead, General Mills dodged the whole 'My isn't that a bowl of marshmallows' issue very cleverly by only producing the monster cereals for the three months before Halloween, thus getting them grandfathered in on the loosened sugar intake standards of the Halloween season AND making it look like that was a mere coincidence as 'honest, we're just celebrating our beloved Monster Characters in the spirit of the season. 

Well Played, marketing department of General Mills.  Well Played.

This went so well for the first couple of Halloween seasons with just the big three that THIS year they went whole hog and included both Yummy Mummy AND Fruit Brute.  (Because -  What the Hell.  How much sustained loyalty do they need to have to cover a three month window?)

Here they encountered a problem, however.  It turns out that since 1973 the FDA had gotten a little pickier about labeling something as 'Fruit'.  It turns out that just having a picture of an orange on the box wasn't enough.  And so, the re-release was rechristened 'Frute Brute'.*

*The label of Fruity Yummy Mummy was allowed to remain unchanged, which is an interesting distinction. 

Fruit loops underwent a similar issue a fair while back and is now 'Froot Loops'.  What I'd like to draw your attention to here is that through the necessity of having to deliberately misspell the word 'Fruit' in order to avoid accidentally fooling anyone into thinking there was any actual 'fruit' in the content', both cereals chose to adopt a visual rhyme to the spelling - in many ways making the new name feel much more fundamentally 'right' than the correct spelling had been.  To illustrate what I mean just try flipping the misspellings and see how discordant it feels in comparison.

So, for at least the next week and as long as supplies last, enjoy your daily serving of frute.  Remember - at the end of the day Werewolves are always cooler than any other monster.  Always.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

C-3P0 and Diminishing Returns

<I promise - this actually comes around to a relevant point.  Eventually.  >

Around 4 AM this morning I became vitally concerned with an essential truth.

Like most essential truths discovered at that hour, this was Star Wars related.

I should preface this by saying that I have absolutely no idea what I was dreaming about prior to this, nor do I know what brought the thought to mind.  Nonetheless, there - in the wee hours of the night - the unvarnished truth of it became clear.

C-3P0 works in Episode 4 (A New Hope (or simply Star Wars if you're not terribly pedantic about these things)) largely due to the fact that George Lucas never intended him to be like that. 

(This is where I traditionally would include a photo of C-3P0 with some sort of snappy caption.  But have you seen Lucasfilm's legal team?  No thank you.)

I'll explain (again for the non-pedants among you.*) 

* No, it means 'overly concerned with the small details at the expense of the larger picture'.  Yes, I'm sure.  No, you're thinking of either 'Pederast' or 'Pedophile'.  Yes, those are very different.
In the script for the Original Star Wars (1977) the character of C-3P0 is very different from how he ended up being portrayed on screen.  George Lucas' original intention was that C-3P0 had the personality of a sleazy used car dealer (this is how he himself describes his original plan for the character.

Anthony Daniels was hired to play only the body of C-3P0 - largely because he was skinny enough to fit in the suit and had at one time been trained to move properly.  Because the voice was going to be dubbed in later, Tony was just speaking the lines on set so that others had something to react to.  It was only later that the decision was taken that Tony should be the voice as well, once George Lucas had been won over by Anthony Daniels' take on the character (and, one supposes, Anthony as a human being, as the two do seem to be genuinely fond of each other in a way that - say - he and Harrison Ford do not.)

What makes this relevant is that none of the scripted lines changed, only the way that they were said.  If you go back and actually read the lines themselves you'll see that in that first film 3P0 is a gigantic prick for pretty much most of the film.  He calls R2-D2 names, Blames R2 for his own earlier mistakes, and sucks up in the most obsequious way possible to every human being he comes into contact with.  If you imagine the part as Joe Pesci would have played it you pretty much have what George originally wanted the character to be.

It's only at the end of the movie when 3P0 (if I might use the familiar) comes around and volunteers to donate his own parts to R2-D2 after he gets shot by crossfire during the end run sequence in the Death Star trench.  One imagines that George originally wanted this to be played terribly earnestly, making the crux of the story 'Little C-3P0 grows a heart'

Not a subtle writer, George.

In the finished product, that offer of spare parts comes across as one more example of character fussiness, and an expression of the genuine affection the two droids have had for one another all along under the surface rather than the sort of ham-fisted 'What is this thing... 'love'...?' moment so beloved by a certain thread of science fiction.

My point is - for this one film and one film only there in a beautiful dissonance between the words being spoken and the character being played and it makes him a billion times more interesting than the straightforward C-3P0 who was scripted in every Star Wars film after this point.

It's a mistake to get too much of your own way too often.  Quite often the most wonderful things are the result of somebody unexpected coming along and completely screwing up your plan.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Halloween down in the Lab

Long term readers may recall that I've mentioned my friend Stanley once or twice.

Stanley's a black lab, which is a pretty solid thing to be.  If you can't be a Vizsla you should totally be a lab.  or Batman.  Or a lab dressed as Batman.

Which brings me to Halloween.

Now, Vizslas aren't huge supporters of Halloween as far as costuming goes.  I have a pirate costume that I may put on on Thursday.  The Shelties have costumes that they do no enjoy (Dinosaur and Princess, respectively) and the last time anyone tried to put a costume (reindeer antlers specifically) on Jake he peed on them and then hid under a desk for the rest of the day, so I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it's unlikely anyone will attempt to costume him again anytime soon.

Treats I'm all for, it should go without saying.

Stanley, on the other hand...  Well, Stanley's Mom is enthusiastic on the subject of costuming.

See below - Stanley's new costume for this year-

Yes.  It's the tiniest and most adorable Headless Horseman you have ever seen.  And I think I speak for all of us when I say that if the Headless Horseman's steed was that adorable he would have been far more successful picking people off on that covered bridge.  Ichabod Crane would have been so busy scritching ears and rubbing bellies that he probably wouldn't even have noticed his own imminent decapitation.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Vizsla Flashback - The Elephant Seal thing is probably going to have a negative impact on tourism...

Back on the Halcyon days of July 12th, I posted the following in response to the previous days discussion (17 Limericks about Orthography)


The Elephant Seal thing is probably going to have a negative impact on tourism...

The original intention for today was to do 17 orthographic thoughts about Limerick (The City), but I soon discovered that I didn't really have 17 orthographically themed thoughts about Limerick (The City) outside of the fact that in Irish it's name is Luimneach, and thanks to The Lord of the Rings everything written out in Irish looks like it's supposed to be sung by magical elves.

"Poguuuuuue MaHONE.....Ta lourahlourahlourah!"

*It's also apparently in the province of Munster, which is just neat

What I did however discover in my admittedly sparce  research, is that the center portion of the city is actually an Island (the river cuts around it on either side) which is now known as Kings Island.

But originally it was called Inis an Ghaill Duibh (insert singing elves here) which translates to 'The Dark Haired Foreigner's Island', which I'm choosing to interpret as evidence that at some point around 812 AD the island was visited by the Second Doctor.

The point that I'm trying to circle in on here - Before we started thinking about the naming of things as a formalized process, people just called things by whatever reference that they had on hand and everyone else was sort of ok with it.  And so you ended up with place names along the lines of 'The smallish hill next to that mean ladies house', or 'The beach where Joe got raped by that Elephant Seal'

Which reminds me a time a few years ago where someone was trying to publish a map of Olde London Towne circa the time of the Great Fire (That would be September 1666 for those Americans in the audience who might be forgiven for never having heard of the event as it didn't happen to us so why would we bother knowing about it.)

The problem that they ran into while putting the map together is that there were a number of streets whose names were a little more on the 'colorful' side than we modern folk are used to seeing.  'Shithouse Street' being one of the tamer examples that they actually were able to get away with printing.

In the Continental US things are a little different.  We don't have a thousand odd years of living here to have gotten used to the old names just sticking around.  Place names in the US are typically a zesty mixture of ridiculously optimistic praise selected by settlers who were just happy to have finally freakin' arrived at the damn place ( 'Eden Prairie', 'Golden Valley', 'New Hope', etc.), and adopted titles from the Athapaskan of Algonquin names for the region ('Shakopee', 'Keewatin', et al., which by and large probably are along the lines of 'the smallish hill by that mean woman's house', but since we don't speak the languages in question we simply don't notice.  That said, Shakopee could equally well be Ojibwe for 'Look at me, I'm a stupid pale moron who like to eat butt' and they just told the settlers it was someone's name as some sort of elaborate practical joke.  In fact, I kind of hope it does, now that I think of it.)

Look out for those elephant seals

-Vizsla Out

Friday, October 25, 2013

Big Yellow Hat: Redux

So as I've mentioned prior: For Halloween this year I'm going as The Man in the Big Yellow Hat from Curious George.

By a curious coincidence, we're also having an event at a local movie theater where we're showing a Curious George film and I was asked if I would wear the costume to the event.

I am, however, sadly unable to actually speak to the children.  (Go ahead, get the jokes out of your system.  I'll wait.)

Review here the two relevant conversations that I've had this week regarding the issue-

Me: (In a deep and Manly Baritone)  So what does the Man in the Big Yellow Hat sound like?

Someone else:  Oh, I don't think you should talk.  Your voice doesn't sound anything even remotely like his.

Me: Ok.

Then - Later

Me:  I'm trying to track down some video of Curious George to see what The Man in the Big Yellow Hat sounds like.

A Different Someone Else:  Oh, he has kind of a real 'guy' voice.  You know, just kind of generically manly.

Seriously, Universe?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

10 thoughts on Day 1 of no carbs/no sugar

As long term readers are probably aware (and 'hi' to both of you, again) I'm officially beginning what might be the most poorly thought out plan in my life.  And again, for those who've known me for a while you'll be aware of the enormity of that statement.

To recap, a couple weeks ago I got my weekly email workout tip from the gym that I belong to but almost never get to. (Although to be fair, 694 has been completely impassable for months now so the State of Minnesota Highway Department should probably shoulder some of the blame on this issue.)  It advised - as a method of getting ready pre-holiday season - to challenge yourself to go 30 days working out 5 times a week and taking in as few as possible of carbs and sugar.

Watch the gut just melt away, they said.

Well, nearing the end of Day 1 of this thing, here are my 10 uppermost immediate responses.

1:  You know what has sugar and carbs in it?  Everything.  Sorry, I should be more specific.  Everything that makes life worth living.

2:  I had a whole thing planned today to discuss how SteamPunk has arguably become too popular and how I would like it to go back to being a pleasant little niche interest.  But to be honest, I am far too busy hallucinating about Toast to care about that right now.  We'll circle back to the idea later on.

3:  What's great about drinking your coffee black?  Nothing.  Not a goddamn thing.

4:  It turns out that one thing that has a lot of sugar and empty calories in it is in point of fact alcohol.  See Item #1.

5:  At what point did I not realize that FREAKIN' HALLOWEEN is smack dab in the middle of my 30 days without sugar?

6:  Lots of Thai food is perfectly fine for a low sugar/low carbs diet.  The big bowl of rice that accompanies your curry with chicken and coconut milk... not on that list.

7:  Seriously.  Halloween.

8:  I did build into the plan a subclause that I am referring to as 'The Omaha Exemption' based on a likely trip there around November 9th.  What happens in Omaha stays in Omaha.

9:  Even as we speak I am eating tuna fish directly out of the can with a fork.  This is how close we are to reverting to animals, people.  By day 10 I fully expecting to be lurking in a cave, hunched over a lemon pepper chicken breast to which I will only refer as 'My Precious...'

10: I've probably already saved 3 bucks in Soda Expenses.  Once you factor in the scotch budget for the 30 days you almost start to come up with a compelling case for the experiment.  Almost.

That's all for now.  If you'll excuse me I'm off to the basement to search the deep freeze for frozen vegetables.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Totally Legitimate Excuses. Totally.

By way of addressing the couple of days that have gone by without Vizsla content (and Vizsla Content is the most important content there can be) here is a list of some handy and occasionally rational excuses for you to have handy for future use.

I know.  You're welcome.

Some of them are even applicable to why there's been no posts for two days

Are you sitting comfortably?

Then we'll begin.

1:  I was making Pants.

I refer you to the article about the Halloween Costume for an explanation of why it was important to focus on this.  Besides - check how the work was totally worth it...
Big.  Yellow.  Pants.

2: I've been resonating concrete

This is actually more useful than it looks at first blush

3: Government Shutdown.  Sorry.

After collectively taking it from behind as a country to the tune of 24 billion without the courtesy of a reach around (and thanks again for that, Tea Party.) the least they can do is allow us to blame everything and anything on them.  It's.  just.  fair.  (and for some reason I totally just pictured myself as Helen Slater in the Legend of Billie Jean as I typed that.  Troubling.)

4: I was in Phuket unexpectedly.

When it doubt, distract them by offering up a tasty cheap laugh primarily fueled by America's continued insistence on knowing as little as possible about world geography.

5: I was Pooping.

True story - I knew a guy in High School who was constantly running late to classes (no, I'm not talking about me, although I was also consistently late).  One day he discovered that if a teacher asks you why you're late and you reply 'I had Diarrhea' it abruptly ends the conversation.  Take this knowledge and use it wisely.

6:  There's a chance I may have been drunk for a week or so.  

What day is it?  And where are my pants?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Vizsla Flashback - As Regards my Application to the X-Men

If it wasn't for the Adam Baldwin/Manatee thing this would probably still be my favorite column ever...

As Regards my Application to the X-Men

I confess, I was somewhat disappointed with my letter of response from the X-Men regarding my application.

I mean, it's not even from Professor X himself- just some stupid temp.

Ah Well.  Next Year.  There's always next year.

Here's the text of the letter I received, as picture above.  As a side note I quite like their stationary.  Understated and classy.

Dear Mr. Vizsla,
Thank you very much for your application.  We regret to inform you however that due to the reasons listed below we are unable to accept you for admittance to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters at this time.
In response to Question 1 – 
Describe your super power highlighting the circumstances under which it first manifested.
Your Answer – While lying in bed yesterday morning I looked at the clock and it was time to get up.  I stretched and looked again and it was suddenly an hour before I had to get up.  I can only conclude that I successfully turned back my relative time by one hour for the sake of being better rested.  No data as to whether the rest of the world experienced the same hour over again or If I traveled relative to the common timeframe solo.
Question 1b:  What name would your power lead you to adopt should you be made a member of the X-Men
Your Answer – The Snooze.
Mr. Vizsla, I am honestly unsure where to even begin responding to this answer.  Disregarding, for the moment, the fact that the most likely explanation of your experience was that you simply misread the clock at first glance; it’s unclear to our admissions committee how such a power might be useful in the battle against Evil.  Or against crime.  Or against anything except the occasional difficulty really getting going in the morning before that first cup of coffee.
Furthermore, we regret to point out that the name ‘The Snooze’ is not terribly likely to inspire fear in the heart of the aforementioned Evil and/or Crime.  For one thing it’s been used on at least two occasions on the show Cougar Town as a slang word for a certain portion of female anatomy and we at the School for the Gifted really don’t have time for the sort of schoolboy shenanigans to which throwing it out there as a nom-du-guerre would inevitably lead.   
One shudders to imagine your ideas on costuming.
We thank you for your interest in our organization, and wish you the best in your future crimefighting efforts
Milton Tompkins
Senior Intern
Xavier’s School for the Gifted
OK - First off, being well rested is TOTALLY necessary for fighting crime and/or evil.  But whatever.  No big deal.  
And my costume would have been awesome.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Who would you even report that to?

It goes without saying that the Internet is evil.  By and large.

The specific evil I'm currently thinking about is the software that allows ads to make note of something that you've looked at on the Internet and then follows you around forever throwing ads at you for things that are sort of in that same ballpark. 

Also known as - that stupid software that means I'm being bombarded with ads for Sarah Freakin' Brightman every freakin' time I turn around.  (I had to look up some info about her for work, I swear)

Less explicibly - Somehow Facebook has decided that I need to buy underwear.

Snicker all you like, I have absolutely no idea how it got this idea.  I can assure you that I have not spent any significant (i.e. any) time at work cruising for underwear.  And yet, it seems that every third ad Facebook pops at me (and my but they sure have a lot of ads these days...) is for some sort of trendy (and one assumes expensive) underthings.

Today's ad took things slightly farther and advertised the britches in question with the line - 'Find out why we're the most stolen underwear in the world'

Sweet fuzzy Jesus on a mizzenmast, WHAT???

Just for starters - If you're not Tom Jones (as most of us are not) who the Hell wants someone else's underwear?

And if - as the ad suggests - it's the quality of the underwear itself that urges thieves to come out of the woodwork just to run off with them then one assumes the thieves intent is to wear the aforementioned underwear themselves.  Which brings us neatly to the question 'Who in their right mind goes out of their way to wear someone else's underwear???  I don't even understand why Ragstock has a second hand underwear bin, let alone a criminal underground trafficking the stuff.

And as suggested by the post title - who exactly is compiling this underwear theft data?  Is there a bureau of underwear statistics that I was previously, mercifully, unaware of?

And who says to themselves, 'Self, your underwear has been stolen!  You'd better file a police report!'

Perhaps they are supporting their claim on the foundation that one person one time reporting a pair of their brand of underwear stolen (probably after a case of Miller High Life) and since no one else has ever, in the history of time, reported a pair of underwear stolen that makes them the most stolen just by default.

I demand a stolen underwear probe to clear this matter up.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Ballad of Adam Baldwin and the Manatee

<Sung to the tune of the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald>

A. Baldwin went down
to the south side of town
cause for port waters he was a'yearning

When he got to the quay
he was shocked as good be
by a voice he heard while he was turning

It said 'pardon me sir
but I must know for sure
You're a Baldwin, but not Alec's brother

In that movie years back, it
was Full Metal Jacket
I believe you played Animal Mother...'

<Music break>

Said Adam, 'tis true
and in 2002
I played Jayne on the starship Seren'ty

But what seems much less clear
if there's no one else here
who is there?  Am I going dement-y?  <I am so sorry about that...>

<music break>

'Heaven's no!' said the call
'have no worries at all,
just look off of the pier and you'll see me.'

And when Adam looked out
he exclaimed with a shout
'Holy Crap, are you that big Manatee?'

And he saw it was true
in the sea deep and blue
this was much more than just a plain rubric

there a manatee, gazing,
but much more amazing
this sea cow, he sure knew his Kubrick!

<music break>

'I'm so sorry, how rude',
Adam said, like a dude 
I sure hope that did not sound offensive

I'm just all of a twitter
at such a sea critter'
The manatee looked at him, pensive

 Adam felt like a jerk
'I've just enjoyed your work'
said the Manatee - just a bit bitter

All his hope Adam seized
if this fan could be pleased
he might not trash talk 'bout him on Twitter

<Really long musical break>

'I'm so sorry,' said Adam
and thought that he had him
when he asked what to do for apology

'Well', the Manatee said,
I have got this friend Fred
And I'm sure he would never forgive all of me   <Well YOU come up with a rhyme>

If I didn't just ask
It's not much of a task
but if you could sign this picture

Adam said with a grin
let me hop right on in
and I'll sign it without any stricture

<One last musical break>

And he jumped in the water
but he shouldn't aughter
Cause when he swam up with his Sharpie

The Manatee reared,
knocked him ass over ear 
And he sank 'neath the waves like a carp-ie

Now when Autumn's winds howl
and the manatee's prowl
and they swim just as fast as they can race

Whether fish or a whale,
think of Adam's sad tale
and do NOT ever piss off your fanbase.....

<Vamp out...>

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I may regret this...

For those who don't suffer from chronic obsession on the subject, November 23rd is the 50th Anniversary of the very first broadcast of the first episode of Doctor Who.

On an unrelated note, I've been noticing lately that I've been getting a bit of a gut.

On a further unrelated note, I belong to a gym that I very rarely actually get to (I prefer to work out at home - the traffic and the drinking policy are both much more relaxed).  Despite the fact that I rarely get there, I do regularly receive emails from their trainer with useful tips.

Hang with me, this is all about to come together.

The other day I received an email from the gym outlining tips for getting in shape prior to the holidays (standard gym fare at this time of year.)  It stated a general plan of giving up sugar (alcohol included) and most if not all carbs for just 30 days and seeing what kind of impact that might make on your gut.

To reiterate-

1-  I have been getting a gut
2- it's just over 30 days until a huge anniversary, and I have been unsure how to commemorate it.
3- there is no three.

I hear you, Universe.

And so - I'm throwing this out there.  As of October 23rd I'm officially attempting to go without sugar and bread for 30 days in mutual celebration of Doctor Who and having pants that fit again.

We'll keep you posted as to how this works out.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Way to set the bar low, humanity

Whoever picks out the music for the show Cougar Town has a really good ear.  That you must understand if anything that follows is to be understood.

For those not in the know, the TV show Cougar Town (Courtney Cox' post-Friends vehicle) follows what is rapidly becoming the standard pattern for American Half Hour Comedy.  Which is to say 27 minutes of wacky jokes culminating in some sort of 'touching' montage which ties together the themes of the week in some sentimental way accompanied by a melancholy-ish tune by some band just not-quite-known enough to be affordable.

Whoever it is on the Cougar Town crew that selects the songs to be used for these has a taste in music amazingly close to my own, because I pretty much like all of their choices.  Which brings me circling around to my point.

One of the songs they've used on the show is 'Give a Little Love' by Noah and the Whale.

First off, yes - the reference should be Jonah, not Noah.  But Noah, being ark-bound, probably saw a whale or two as well so we'll let that slide.

Having looked up what the song was I tracked it down on line so that I could hear the entire thing (the show tends to just use a minute or so of them.)  I found the following video here.

If you have not just watched the video, let me fill you in on the salient point- The basic setup is one of those 'pay it forward' things, where one person does something nice for someone else, another person witnesses this act of unexpected human decency and they then are shown doing something above and beyond for some other stranger.  This is seen by someone else who is inspired... and so on and so forth.  Rinse, Lather and smugly repeat.

This is all well and good, and I am not at all opposed to occasionally having it pointed out to the world that it might actually be pleasant if we stopped being completely shitty to each other all the time, just for a change.

The problem sets in at approximately the three minute 2 second mark.

Having witnessed a litany of incidents along the line of helping a kid up after bullies push him down, assisting an elderly man to get his luggage off an airport luggage carousel, and walking next door to help the neighbor rake their yard - all things that genuinely qualify as having gone a bit above and beyond for someone else - we see a woman who - after witnessing the aforementioned luggage incident - shows what an awesome person she is by stopping a guy from walking directly in front of an oncoming truck that passes by less than 2 seconds later and would certainly have killed him.

Let's take a moment here.

Stopping someone from stepping directly in front of an oncoming truck IS NOT GOING ABOVE AND BEYOND.  This is entry level decent human behavior, people, not a merit badge opportunity.

It is not- and I can not stress this enough NOT - OK to let somebody get creamed by an oncoming pickup just because you're having a crappy day.

Letting somebody walk under a bus does not make you someone who just 'failed to go above and beyond',  it makes you a freakin' inhuman monster.  In the same way that it is not OK to apply for the Nobel Peace Prize on the grounds that you did not get around to committing any genocide this year.

Still a good song though.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Chip Davis had it going on! Anyone...? Hello...?

So earlier today I was overtaken by the need to hear the theme from Convoy (which I thoughtfully link you to here, because I know you now need to hear it tooCome onGive inListen to the Theme from ConvoyDo itYou know you want toAll the cool kids are doing it.)

Yes, in case you were wondering, all of those links direct you to the same YouTube video for the Theme from Convoy - except the last one which leads to the first YouTube response to the search criteria 'People having sex and smoking', which seemed more appropriate for the sentence about what the cool kids are doing.  You can go ahead and click on it, but I warn you that it isn't anywhere as interesting as you're expecting it to be.

YouTube-  so often a disappointment.

In any case, Convoy was a movie made in 1978 about long haul truckers being generally rowdy and taking what we might describe as a casual attitude toward interstate highway law.  It had a distinctive theme song (Theme from Convoy) which was written (if that's the word) by Chip Davis.

This is a fun fact to know and share, because Chip Davis has spent every other non-Convoy-Related moment of his career being the majority of Mannheim Steamroller - which is about as far from Smoking and Having Sex as it's possible to get

Another fun fact to know and share is if you just type in 'Theme from' into the YouTube search box, its first three autofill suggestions are 'Theme from Convoy, Theme from a Summer Place, and Theme from Shaft - which sounds like the most mind-blowingly messed up triple feature that he word has ever seen and SOMEone must immediately go out and watch the three back to back and report back.  (the Original Shaft, of course.  Not the remake.)

Bonus points if you manage to sit through all three without drinking.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Vizsla Flashback - Well, that explains a lot about Angela Merkel

So the other day I caught a story on NPR* about how what language you speak affects your ability to plan financially for the long term.

*yes, the Vizsla is one of those folks that listen to Public Radio. There is a reason why Vizsla = Knowledge you know.

Now, at first blush you might think, 'Huh. What a random and not particularly interesting topic. Must have been a slow news day'. But you would in fact be wrong. Because as it turns out it's kind of a fascinating topic. Plus it was clearly just added to pad out the last 60 seconds or so of the market report in the morning.


Now it might be worth mentioning at this stage that Vizslas - or at least this Vizsla - are huge students of linguistics. Because the interrelation between how you speak and how it affects your ability to conceptualize the world around you is just about the most interesting thing ever.* The classic example (that I am legally obligated to mention at this time) is George Orwell's 1984, where the people are controlled in large part by simply not having words for things like 'revolution' or 'overthrow' or 'Hey, aren't we all kind of getting screwed over?'

*The most interesting branch of this is Orthography, which is the study of how a spoken language gets translated into a written language, but that's another talk for another day.

1984 is an irritating example actually, because it tends to get cited a lot by people like those at Fox news who have never actually bothered to read the book, don't understand what they're talking about, and draw exactly the wrong conclusions because at the end of the day they just don't care and are too stupid to know better.*

So, just like everything else on the network then.

*See Also: People who think Don Quixote is all about windmills, despite that occurring relatively early on in the first of two books.

I'm sorry, where was I before I got distracted by my poncy intellectual diatribe about Fox news...

Ah right. Language.

So, according to this particular item on MPR, the language that most lends itself to prudent and responsible long term financial planning is German.* The reason behind this being that German doesn't really do 'future tense' in the way that your romance languages tend to understand the term.

*To the surprise of no one, but not for the reason you're thinking

Therefore, the German words for 'I read' are 'I read'*, whether you're doing it now, next week, or three years from now. The fact that they don't - through language - separate 'now' from 'not now but later' means that they don't really think of the two things as being separate from each other. It's all just one big vast expanse of 'sort of now'

* Just assume the TARDIS translated it for you there.

Therefore, when you're future retirement is just as real to you as the current moment you're more likely to actually - you know - actually plan for it. As opposed to the most common current American viewpoint of 'Oh, that's the future. I'll just buy a lottery ticket next week or something.'

Now, the most rational response to this information is obviously 'What are the implications of this for Doctor Who'? And I have to admit I'm not sure on that point. More research must be done on this issue.

I should mention, I have spent the last few years attempting to learn German through a CD course for a variety of reasons, despite the fact that Vizslas are clearly Hungarian, and the history of relations between Hungary and Germany could be accurately described as lying somewhere between 'Not Awesome' and 'Well, things could be worse*'

*We are not, for example, France.

Anyway, a few fun facts have arisen over the course of Vizsla German Study

1: If you learn a language by CD it leaves you with no capacity to read the language. Particularly if, like German, that language involves lots of fun accent marks and in a couple cases entirely new letters just for funsies.

2: When learning German you are taught the word for 'Wine'* several lessons before you are taught the word for 'Water'.

*In fact you are taught not only the word for wine, ,you're also taught how to differentiate white wine from red, how to order either and roughly how many Euros you might expect to pay for a glass. In this respect at least the Vizsla must applaud their priorities.

3: Before you are taught the word for 'brother', you are first thoroughly briefed on the term for 'Bank Branch Manager'*

*it's Bankfiliale-Geschäftsstellenleiter, if you were wondering.

So, Auf Wiedersehen fürs Erste
Das Vizlsa muss viele Weißwein trinken

-Vizsla heraus

Friday, October 11, 2013

I don't need your weird mixed signals, Facebook. I have Faith for that.

So today a friend of mine posted on Facebook about witnessing a car accident where the person who caused it sped away without stopping.  And as I was about to click 'Like' I stopped to wonder - could that be somehow construed that I 'Like' the fact that this woman was forced into a car accident?  Am I supporting the hit and runner?

And this is yet another problem with Facebook.  If someone posts 'My relative died', 'I have Cancer of the Puppy', 'Today the repressed memories of my abuse at the hands of the St. Pail Diocese resurfaced', the only click response offered is 'like'.  And I don't particularly want to 'Like' any of those things.

Maybe we should just give up and revert to actual human interactions.

I'm just kidding.  That's crazy talk.

If this gets 10,000 likes I'll totally repress those memories again.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Now that I think about it, Narwhal's probably WOULD make great firefighters.

This morning I was giving a talk to a bunch of first graders as part of National Fire Prevention Week.

Because part of my personal remit always has and always will be to throw a few jokes in solely to please myself, during the portion of the program where we were demonstrating the PPE (That's Personal Protective Equipment to those not in the know) I mentioned that just having an SCBA on your back (that's Self Contained Breathing Apparatus ttnink) would not help you breathe unless you were some sort of Narwhal.

The Narwhal is, of course, a medium sized toothed whale that lives in the arctic.  It's notable for the fact that two of its top teeth actually grow out of the top of its head and intertwine to form a horn.  Much like if a beluga whale and a unicorn had fallen in love and made a beautiful child.  (This may or may not be the origin of the Narwhal.  I would have to cut one and see if it bleeds glitter to be sure.)

Since I made the throwaway comment, it occurs to me how useful a narwhal would actually be in firefighting.  First off they could hook their SCBA tank directly up to their blowhole, sure.  But that horn and it's commiserate ramming power would be useful as hell in a structural fire

Of course, they probably would be limited by the whole 'having to be immersed in water' thing, but it's not as if there aren't plenty of substances that can burn underwater.

Get on this, Arctic Fire Brigade!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Tall Drink of Water in a Big Yellow Hat

Last year, about this time, I learned a couple valuable lessons about Halloween.

I should preface - Halloween is, as all right thinking people acknowledge, the only good holiday.  No shopping, no obligations, no stress.  Just dressing up in ridiculous costumes and making little kids happy by giving them candy*.  That's my idea of a good time.

*I also make it a practice to give the surly teenagers who don't even bother dressing up candy, as life is really too short to clean eggs off the front door.

Last year I decided, well in advance of Halloween, to go as The Man in the Big Yellow Hat from Curious George.  This was largely because I work at public TV and that's a show we broadcast, so it was sort of a theme. 

So, on the night before the Halloween party at work I stopped off at the fabric store to pick up a pattern and some yellow cloth to make such a thing.

*LESSON 1 -  This should not have been occurring the night before I needed to have the thing finished.  Sure, it's easy to spot in hindsight.

*LESSON 2 - If you ARE trying to sew a Halloween costume the night before you need to have it ready, under no circumstances should you begin with 'Step One: Open a bottle of Wine'*

*I know, I know.  This goes against everything I've ever stated or believed.  But it turns out that getting hammered on a reasonably priced Cab is not, in point of fact, a productive thing to do while trying to get some sewing done.  Yes, we were all shocked.

Needless to say, by 1 in the morning it all crashed and burned into tears and recriminations (cit. Dawn Summers) and perhaps a glass or two of single malt before going to bed.

And so it is, this year I stand, pattern in hand.  New fabric purchased, and a large glass of refreshing ice water on deck.

I probably won't open a bottle of wine for at least an hour.

Maybe two.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fire Dog, Interrupted

First of all, Happy Day 2 of Fire Prevention week, which to me is functionally Day 1 of Fire Prevention Week, as I was otherwise occupied yesterday

Schedule of the day:

7:40 AM - Drag Carcass out of bed.  Find duty pants.  Find underpants.  Realize that you've put them on in the wrong order.  Briefly toy with the idea of being a superhero.  Change.

8:00 AM - Arrive fire station.  Begin set-up.  START COFFEE (Important)

8:10 AM on going to insert VHS (circa 1994) of Sparky the Firehouse Dog, discover that new AV upgrade system has no VHS player.

8:20 AM Find alternate Sparky DVD

8:30 AM - Put new batteries in Smoke Detector for child frightening (KEY moment in safety speech)

8:35 AM Pour smoke fluid in all appropriate areas of hazard house for home fire demo- dollhouse version

8:40 AM - First class arrives.  Discover that there is no sound on Sparky DVD, because you do not understand the new AV system enough to accomplish something as simple as making sound happen

8:45 AM - Launch directly into safety talk after failing to resolve DVD sound issue, thus being unable to get cup of coffee during this interval.

8:50 AM - Reach Smoke Detector part of safety lecture.  Press test button on detector without children seeing.  No Sound.  WHY IS THERE NO SOUND TODAY?

8:55 AM - Still no Coffee.

9:05 AM - Reach portion of hazard house demo requiring smoke fluid to start creating smoke effect in model house.  Nothing happens, despite repeated button pressing  Also no sound.

9:05 AM - Although at least there isn't supposed to be at this stage.

9:15 AM - Escort children to vehicle bay - let them loose to climb on fire trucks.

9:17 AM - Smoke fluid ignites in hazard house.  Sadly, no one in room to notice.

9:30 AM - Farewell to first class of kids.

9:40 AM - Donut.  Nap. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

An Epic Love Story - The Maggie Smith/Sir Mix-A-Lot Letters.

Recently unearthed, at long last we can provide you with the full details of the greatest love story the world has ever known.

As told in Epistolary format*

*It means a story told through letters or other 'real world sources, such as news clippings, tweets, etc.  You know, like Dracula.  No, not the movie, the book.


Dame Maggie Smith. dbe

C/O <Redacted>

May 10th, 2010

My Dear Dame Maggie,

I hope that it's not too presumptuous writing you out of the blue like this.  I recently discovered that my handlers were acquainted socially with some of your 'people', and the opportunity was simply too good to pass by for me to tell you how much I've enjoyed your work over the years.  Not just Downton Abbey (although that's been nothing but charming, and a long overdue platform for your ample talents) but also The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Harry Potter films, and - my personal favorite - Tea with Mussolini.

Wishing you all the best in your continued success,

Sir Mix-A-Lot, og

Sir Mix-A-Lot

C/O <redacted

May 15th, 2010

My Dearest Sir Mix-A-Lot,

It was with the greatest delight that I received your epistle of May the 10th, Year of our Lord 2010.  I am so pleased that you've enjoyed my work over the years and I must confess to being more than a passing fan of your body of work as well.

It is my sincerest hope that our mutual admiration will lead to a full and vibrant friendship.


Dame Maggie

p.s. I note that you will be touring in the west counties shortly.  Might I be so bold as to suggest a formal introduction where me may perhaps compare thoughts on our art over a glass of port?

Dame Maggie Smith. dbe

C/O <Redacted>

May 30th, 2010


Dear Maggie,

I would be only too happy to accept your very gracious invitation and look forward to receiving details of a suitable location and time from your agency

Yours in companionship,


Sir Mix-A-Lot

C/O <redacted

June 13th, 2010

My Dearest Mixie,

Ever since our all-too-brief night together at the Crown and Bell I find myself unable to tear my thoughts away from the memories of your sweet embrace, your loving words, and your anaconda.  Please tell me that my hopes are not in vain an that there can possibly be a future for two such star crossed souls as we, for I have seen your heart, and it truly has more junk in its trunk than a dame of the British Empire could ever have hoped to access,

Yours with flushed loins,


Dame Maggie Smith. dbe

C/O <Redacted>

July 4th, 2010

My one and only Mags,

My junk must be India, because you have colonized it completely.  Counting the moments until we can meet again,

Big M-a-L

Sir Mix-A-Lot

C/O <redacted

May 15th, 2010

Big Daddy M,

The countless tedious hours filming Downton are but a whack rhyme to your dope beats.  Say that you will meet me at the manor window at midnight and steal me away

Counting the moments,

Sistah MS

Dame Maggie Smith. dbe

C/O <Redacted>

August 5th, 2010

My Dearest Dame Smith

It is with sincere sorrow that we must report to you that your beloved, Sgt. Major Mix-A-Lot, was lost in heavy storms while flying a dangerous solo mission over the channel. 

We're sure you appreciate the importance of our continued struggle against Gerry and the depth of gratitude that we feel to our brave airmen fighting back their menace from English Soil.

The British War Office
And totally not Sir Mix-A-Lot

Because he is dead now.

Peace out.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Future - Now More Sexier

Actual Conversation at work today (via phone)

Me: Hello Vivian (Not her real name) you have a guest in the lobby.  It's your future.

Vivian(Still not her real name): Ooo, how exciting!

Me: Well, I didn't say it was a positive future.

Vivian: Oh.  But you said it in the sexy voice.

Me:  True.

Vivian:  I thought my future was going to be all sexy

Me:  It could still be sexy.  Just not positive and sexy.

Vivian:  I suppose that would be OK.

Me:  Honestly, it's probably better that your future be sexy than good, isn't it?

Vivian:  I think so.

Me:  I'm glad we've shared this time.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

To Be is to Be Perceived on BBC1 on Saturday Evenings

I wrote the following about a year ago for a project that never ended up happening and it seems like a shame for it to never have really found a home anywhere.

This is the article that got my the job at WhatCulture, for those interested in such things.

So, let's open the vaults...

As Observed by Yours Faithfully, Steven Moffat


To Be is To Be Perceived on BBC1 on Saturday Evenings


It's an interesting truth that the act of writing inevitably causes the writer to reveal information about themselves to the reader.  Often information that they themselves may not know.  Phrasing, word choice, the way the lines follow one another, all of these inevitably contain a kernel of the writer’s worldview.  And so, not unlike those situations where you get halfway through telling a coworker about the dream you had where you were riding a gigantic train through a donut before you realize what the implications of that are, any decently told story (and most indecent ones as well) can tell you more than a little about the teller’s point of view..

Which leads me to the conclusion that there is something working away in Steven Moffat’s subconscious about the relationship of existence and perception.

He may well be aware of it.  I couldn’t say for certain that he’s read the work of George Berkely, but I’d probably bet a finger or two that he has.  At the very least, we can be certain that he did a little research back in the day to find out what the hell Peter Davison was talking about in Timeflight.  But whatever the level of research or even interest he has in the subject, it is demonstrably there in just about all of his work.  For the sake of this discussion I’ll keep the examples Who-related, but it’s there in Sherlock as well.  Probably also in Coupling and Press Gang, if I had them available to review, but that’s neither here nor there.

Putting it very, very simply- and as Peter mentioned in Timeflight- the basic premise is that To Be is To Be Perceived, i.e. the existence of any being or phenomena is entirely dependent on its being observed by another.  This is what all those pale theater undergraduates were talking about when they discussed the play Salome, albeit in far more pretentious terms and with clove cigarettes.  Of course, George Berkely squared the circle by bringing God into the issue and thus concluded more or less that since God was perceiving all things we could be reasonably comfortable that we weren’t about to vanish in a puff of universal indifference.

(This is, of course, oversimplifying not just one but several branches of study to the point of nonsense, but I stand behind it on the grounds that:

A: Things are interesting and complicated enough without bringing God into the discussion at this stage, and so for the moment He can happily remain watching the tree on the quad while we get on with things. 


B:  George Berkely was a student of John Locke, which means that you are totally allowed to throw his name around in online discussions of Lost and then bask in the glow of your superiority)

But to go further than that, it seems that what’s worrying away at Mr. Moffat’s creative processes isn’t so much the fear of things only existing when we perceive them.  Indeed, he seems – as I’ll discuss in a bit – to find that the natural order of things.  What really seems to worry him is the profound wrongness of things that don’t fit into that category.  The things that only exist when we can’t perceive them.  The things under the bed.  The things that actively keep us from perceiving them.  But yet keep existing anyway.
Are You My Mummy?

Back in the Halcyon days of 2005, as we devoured The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances, we could have been excused for missing the theme.  In fact, there were three very distinct examples of Mr. Moffat working away at the issue in the script, but at that time, in that first series, this looked as much like a theme of the story as it did a recurring hobby horse of the writer.

                The Boy – What’s really terrifying about the boy himself is the gasmask, as most of us have observed before.  But what is less commonly remarked upon is why the gasmask is terrifying.  And the reason why the image of a little boy in a gasmask is terrifying is precisely the point.   It’s a little boy, and they’ve removed his face.  We can perceive that he’s there, but we can’t really see him.  And that’s why gasmasks are unnerving.  As the contagion spreads, he takes away the personal identities of everyone he infects.  He takes away our ability to see them and in doing so removes the soul of who they are.  This is, incidentally, the exact same concern that is at the heart of most of the sci-fi output of the ‘50s and ‘60s; the fear of individuality and personality being stolen or removed.  But to top that-

                Where is Mummy? – Ask any child and they… well, they won’t actually tell you because they probably wouldn’t be able to verbalize it properly, BUT… any child’s greatest fear is that Mummy will simply disappear.  No understanding, no explanation, simply Mummy Is Gone.  The real fear for children watching these episodes isn’t based on identifying with the grownups being menaced by this strange figure.  It’s that it’s all too easy to associate with the child.

                The Nanites- Now, it’s true that it’s possible to trace to one specific day in late autumn in the mid ‘90s the exact moment when ‘nanotechnology is responsible for everything’ became the rule of thumb.  And so, true, it would have been remarkable if nanotechnology hadn’t made an appearance in new-Who, even if they were fashionably late.  However, the real point is this: the entire twist of the story relies on Captain Jack mistaking a ship to be empty, just because he can’t see anything in it.  i.e that he assumed lack of perceiving to automatically mean absence of being.   That something can exist without being perceived is what causes the entire situation to occur.  And even though the Nanites are benign, and ‘everybody lives’, it is the subversion of the natural order of perception=being that caused the problem.

Hey, isn’t that Madame De Pompedour over there?

                In The Girl in the Fireplace, there is an entire spaceship devoted to having windows through which you can watch a young girl live out all the significant events in her life.  Seriously, think about that.  Even leaving aside the ‘monsters are lurking under your bed where you can’t see them’ scenes, this couldn’t be a clearer example of someone’s existence being defined by being watched by others.  They even go whole hog and mention that there’s a ‘fast path’ by which you can jump over the boring, non-perceived bits.  Forget Salome, this is the ultimate example of ‘woman only existing by virtue of The Gaze’  (No, I’m sorry, you’re going to have to google it).

The Weeping Angels

                It’s not, however, until we get to Blink that Mr. Moffat’s writing seems to address the point directly through the introduction of the Weeping Angels: an enemy entirely defined by their being the opposite of what the author’s assumed natural order should be.  Not that I think Stephen Moffat thinks of them that way.  I’m quite certain that he merely thinks of them as something that’s really scary to kids, and good on him, because they are, and that is after all at least partly what the show is here for.

                But at the end of the day, the Angels’ logline is still this – they exist only when they aren’t being perceived.  And that’s terrifying.  Because it’s the opposite of how things should be.

When we first meet them in Blink the angels are living in an old forgotten, UNobserved house.  Sally Sparrow encounters them specifically because she chooses to go looking at things that other people don’t.  In the Blink version, when the Angels get you they throw you back in time, out of sight of all of your friends and family.  They essentially remove you from being perceived as well and in doing so use up the rest of your life.  Indeed, according to The Doctor, they ‘feed’ on this energy.

Now, there’s a fair bit to say at this juncture about collapsing waveforms, and Heisenberg, and cats in boxes and all that.  And that’s all well and good, I hope there’s another essay in here somewhere that goes into that in depth, because it’s a rich field of discussion that I’m going to gloss right over and boil it all down to one word – ‘Potential’. 

Before you’ve looked at something, it has the potential to be anything.  Once you’ve looked at it, you essentially eliminate all other possibilities except the one that you’re observing.  That’s more or less the reality that we’ve all learned to live with.  It’s at the heart of what quantum physicists are getting at, and it’s why so many of us don’t open reply letters from colleges we applied to right away.  (NOTE: This is an almost unforgivable oversimplification.  If you are a theoretical physicist reading this I totally owe you a drink.)

Before you look, the thing you haven’t observed yet could be anything.

But the Angels do it differently.  They cheat.  They make all the choices when we’re not looking.  They steal the potential while our backs are turned, and then they eat all the potential of what our lives could have been.  In essence, they get to make the final move before we even open the game.  They embody To Be Perceived=To not exist.   To that extent they are the embodiment of loneliness simply because they are not defined by their ability to be perceived by others.  The Lonely Assassins. 

By the Time of Flesh and Stone they’ve upped the ante.  We’ve ditched the ‘sending people to the past’ bit and settled for just snapping necks (which I can only assume means that they no longer need to eat the energy of collapsing waveforms what with all that yummy radiation on hand), but that’s not really the important part.  The important part is that now, by the very act of perceiving them, you become one of them.  This is fundamentally a combination of the angels as the embodiment of unseen loneliness with the primal fear embodied in the contagious gasmask.  They only exist when you’re not looking at them, during which time they can be doing anything, and if you do look at them you become like them.  “That which holds the image of an angel, becomes an angel.”  That might be the most genuinely unsettling concept ever introduced in a children’s television program.

The Vashta Nerada Make Terrible Babysitters

                The Vashta Nerada ARE the darkness.  Sure, there’s the fig leaf explanation in the dialogue about how they live in shadows, not every shadow, but any shadow, blah blah blah.  But at the end of the day its clear; they are the darkness itself.  The shadows.  The thing that blots out our ability to see.  While the Angels represent the opposite of our accepted way of things, the Vashta Nerada  represent forces that attempt to prevent us from accomplishing the fairly straightforward task of perceiving things so that they can exist.  And indeed, as poor Ms. Evangelista discovered – once you wander into the shadows where you can’t be seen, you do indeed stop existing pretty damn forthwith.

                But on top of that, we also get the… oh lets just be bold and actually call it virtual reality (the other great hobby horse of ‘90s science fiction making its guest appearance).  A world defined entirely by perception in which there is no reality.  So in the real world of the library, we have one half of the equation (existing without perceiving thanks to the animate darkness) while in the non-real world of the virtual reality we have the other half of the equation (perceiving without existing.)  And look at what we discover- that there’s no way forward for either world without combining the two so that you have the full equation.  Those who exist can only do so in the real world where they can be perceived, and those who have died can only exists in the false world where perceiving doesn’t equal reality.  Interestingly enough, Steven Moffat, who doesn’t believe in the afterlife (for the sake of full disclosure, neither do I.  ) refers to this existence of being able to be perceived without existing – or perhaps more accurately, existing entirely by being perceived – as being as close to heaven as he can envision.  Which is a point worth pondering.

                And then there are the children.

                ‘When you stop looking at us we don’t exist.’

                For my money, this is the most heartbreaking scene of the entirety of the new series: Donna, desperately trying to reassure her nonexistent children that she will observe them into reality forever  and then failing.  And then losing them.  And then… ‘Am I real…?”  Everything Berkely questioned, wrapped up in one scene.

                And then there was River Song.  Now, I’m not so concerned with River Song as a character – indeed, it’s an interesting story arc to have a character whose life is running chronologically opposed to the Doctor’s and actually pull it off over the length of time that they have without contradicting themselves or having it run completely off the rails.  But that’s really just a matter of craftsmanship and forward planning.  Laudable, but not relevant to the discussion at hand.

No, I want to talk about her diary.

Her diary, which sits there as a physical manifestation of one’s personal future – the thing that no one can know until they experience it.  It comes to exist as it is perceived.  Or does it….?  Because clearly it HAS happened from River’s perspective, which means that it exists as she has perceived it.  Except that for the Doctor it hasn’t.  And round and round in circles. 

The important thing to remember here is that it’s all about perception, at some level, in the Moffat brain.  River CAN see what’s in the journal.  And the Doctor can’t.  For her it is perceived and exists.  For him it isn’t, and doesn’t.  Yet.  Again, it’s all back to the collapsing waveforms and potential and those other bits of quantum physics that I chose not to go into earlier.  But at its simplest form, it still comes down to what you perceive yourself is real for you, which is an interesting change from the earlier discussion because it defines the act of perception itself as a choice.  I can look at the Angels, but you might not.  They still won’t move.  Whereas you can read the diary and the things in it are fixed, but I choose not to and my future is still unwritten.  It’s a far more active and self-directed form of determinism. 

And this is why I feel like the issue is something that Mr. Moffat is working out subconsciously in his writing.  Because he keeps approaching the same territory from different angles.  Looking at it, wrestling with it, making it part of his plot structure, but never actually addressing it directly. 

Prisoner Zero Will Vacate the Human Residence

It’s The Eleventh Hour.  Look.  Where you never want to look.  In the corner of your eye. Again, the transgression on Prisoner Zero’s part seems to be not so much that he’s moved into a young girls house and watched the crack in her wall eat her entire family, as much as that he has deliberately removed himself from being perceived and yet still exists.  And it’s by The Doctor’s act of making someone actually notice him that he ends up being destroyed.  By an enormous eyeball.  It would be hard to think of a less subtle visual metaphor than that.  Again, a reversal of the To Be Perceived is To Be paradigm, and I think deliberately so.

Silence Will Fall

When we finally do meet the Silence properly, we learn that they are defined by one thing – that you forget them the moment you stop looking at them (which, once you pass the age of 40 and start forgetting things on a daily basis, is a terrifying thought).  But the interesting thing about it is that they are also the purest example in the Moffat canon of the rule being completely and utterly adhered to.  They exist when you perceive them.  And when you stop perceiving them, they don’t.  At least not for you.

They are in many ways the mirror image of the Angels in that one stops existing if you perceive them; whereas the other only exists when you perceive them. 

Except of course that the Silents do continue existing, and happily wander around doing unspeakable things to otherwise amiable orphanage caretakers while you’ve forgotten about them.  Which means we’ve opened up the question – Do things only exist if I perceive them?  If I’m unaware of 6 million people in China (for an example) does that mean they don’t exist?  Obviously it doesn’t, but the question has now been opened.  Whose perception is it that matters?  And if my perception can be rewritten as easily as all that, is it really that good a determiner of what’s real?

Again, this feels like someone wrestling with an idea, rather than someone trying to espouse a clear vision of how the world works. 

A Few Other Notable Mentions

The titular Beast Below survives in its present (tormented) state specifically because everyone chooses to not see it.  The Daleks can’t open their race bank because it doesn’t recognize them. (Yes, I know, not his script, but under his watch so I’m calling it fair game.) The Pandorica is a trap for a wizard or a trickster, who can say which until they see him.   The Doctor is dead because They Saw Him Die, except did they see what they thought they saw?

Doors can pretend to be walls.  Mirrors can pretend to be windows.  Is what we see what is reality?  Do we see it because it is reality, or does it become reality because we perceive it to be?

Ultimately, it comes down to River.  More specifically it comes down to the End of River.  We end where we begin with the River story: with her death and placement in the virtual reality world.  And it occurs to me that we’ve had the answer to the question all along, because of one interesting thing

There really, fundamentally, isn’t any difference between a puddle of River-data in the sonic screwdriver and a puddle of River-data in the CAL network.  Except for one thing.

Her Friends are there in the CAL network.  She wakes up in the virtual world (where existence is entirely a matter of perception), and she is surrounded by her friends.  Forever.  And maybe that’s the point.  We look at the equation of To Be=To Bo Perceived, and we think that it refers to what we perceive and make real.  But maybe, perhaps, we’ve got it the wrong way around.  Maybe that’s what’s important.

Maybe it’s how we’re perceived by other people that matters.  And more than that, maybe it’s simply that we’re perceived by others that, in Moffat’s subconscious worldview, gives our lives shape and meaning, making us real.  That puts us as near to Heaven as he can imagine.

Maybe it’s that simple.