Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Memory Science Part 4: The Analysis - AKA Spring Break '91 Wooohooo!

This is the conclusion to our four part memory experiment series. If you haven’t already, you should read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. I don’t really remember why -  I just have a sticky note here that says I should mention that.  

In summary, we are testing a memory theory that Pat heard on the radio that stated the more you recall a memory the more you are apt to alter said memory. Each of us wrote up a synopsis of a spring break trip we took our freshman year in college to see if we have any conflicting recollections.

In this post we will discuss the results of our experiment to see what we have discovered and learned about how our memories function. And more importantly, who won.

Christian: First off, there is no way Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game” or Queensryche’s “Silent Lucidity” were on any mix tape of mine. Not then, not now, not ever. I’m appalled that you are even suggesting that they may have been on one my tapes. Your memory is obviously severely deranged.

Pat:  I think if you were to check with one of our two car-mates (or maybe both of them) they would have a very vivid memory of bringing those two songs along. And c’mon man, they may not hold up so well today, but those songs were good for their time. The video that accompanied that Chris Isaak song? WICKED sexy!

So that was an interesting experiment. Nothing too conflicting, it appears. More complimentary than anything I think. It’s funny...kind of makes me think you need at least two people to accurately remember something you’ve experienced. Which, of course, means trouble if you’re a loner. Looks like their lives are simply going to be re-created every time they try to remember something.

Still, complimentary as they were, I have this dreadful feeling we’ve forgotten something of vital importance. Like did we see Nicholas Cage somewhere in there somewhere? Or am I just confusing my Vegas memories with my Nicholas-Cage-IN-Vegas-Movies memories?

Christian:  No, I’m pretty sure we didn’t see Nicholas Cage during the trip. I would have remembered that. But I think the results of this experiment of ours shows that your memory theory is indeed shit-crap. Like you, I didn’t see any major conflicts between our recollections either. If anything, it just shows that each individual tends to remember different events more than others. Although to be fair, I just barely skimmed yours while playing Mario Kart.

(*few minutes go by*)

OK, I decided to go back and really read yours this time and I do believe I found a couple statements that were incorrect with regards to being factual. First, in your comparisons of our skiing abilities; I was a very good skier back then so I do believe I was like the blonde guys from Hot Dog. However you are correct that you were more like the guys from Better Off Dead. Second, when we first arrived at Reno we stayed at some random motel the first night, as I described in my synopsis, and not at Circus Circus. It’s like you weren’t even on this trip.

I do find it interesting that neither of us remember anything about the trip back. We must have stopped and stayed somewhere on the way back. I know for sure we didn’t make the whole trip from Vegas to Eugene in one day. But I’m guessing Frodo and Sam don’t remember the trip back from Mordor too much either. It was probably just a lot of the two of them talking about how boring it’s going to be getting back to their normal lives doing all that gardening. Or how they wished they had gotten more souvenirs from the Mount Doom gift shop.        

It’s funny how even with combining both of our memories of this epic trip, we still can’t recall everything. Not funny ha ha but funny oh dear god we’re old.   

Pat:  Yeah, I have absolutely NO memory of that other hotel. So I think that means I have remembered our trip too much, to the point where I am starting to un-remember it, or dis-remember it, or dismember it...

So science triumphs yet again!

And I recall that Lane Meyer was a pretty good skier (down the hill on one ski?), so THANK YOU for the compliment, sir! A tip of my hat right back at you!

Christian: I think you might be dis-remembering the memory theory we were testing. It was that each time you remember something you alter it. I’m not seeing any alterations in our stories, just parts missing. I have told that cop pulling me over story many many times and it is just as accurate now as it was when it happened.  

Perhaps we haven’t recalled this spring break trip enough for the theory to kick in. Maybe if I start telling that cop story even more, over and over, it will eventually morph into me fighting the cop, using nothing but my fists and the purple velvet cape I was wearing.

And as I turned the officer’s car over onto it’s roof and jumped on top of it, I pointed down to him with my sword and said “From the power within me, that’s the last time you ever embezzel tax payer’s money from those orphans that were helping build that kitten hospital that they raised all that money for that you also embezzled.”  

Then lightning struck and thunder echoed off the valley walls, as I shouted  “YOU SHALL BE BANISHED!”  

As I was carried off on that chariot, and the crowd cheered, I told myself, I want to remember this moment forever.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Memory Science Part 3: AKA Spring Break '91 Wooohooo! (Pat's Version)

This is part three of PCPPP’s Science Fortnight, where we are testing the theory that the more you recall a memory the more likely you are to alter said memory. Pat and I have agreed to recall a spring break road trip we took our freshman year in college to see if we have any conflicting memories. If so, this may be evidence that this theory is indeed valid. In Part 1, we discuss the theory. Part 2 contains my recollection of the trip. In this post Pat will be recalling his version of the trip. In the final installment, which will be posted later this week, we will analyze our findings. Without further ado, Pat’s version.

The Preparation
My memory begins with “Song 11” (officially known as the untitled song) from the R.E.M. album Green. I had just finished my last final on a Friday in March-- it felt like I was the last person on campus to have to take a final-- and I was walking back to the dorm when the song popped on my Walkman™. The day had a supremely sweet spring feel to it (mildly warm, flowery one of those soft-tissue commercials) and I smiled and glided down the street like Julie Andrews as she descends the green hillside of Austria singing to her heart’s content.

I made it back to my dorm room and made sure I was prepared for the next day-- skis and ski clothes packed, a sensible number of socks and underwear, some pants and shirts, and the store of food from Costco™ that my parents had taken me to get the day before. Good road trip food-- a tray of muffins, a bag of Gardetto’s™ Snack Mix, a case of mineral water. Then I checked to see that the three mix tapes I made were in order. Two ninety minute mixes and one sixty minute. TDK tapes, I believe.  I think the first one-- “Driving Toons” [sic]-- started off with “Should I Stay or Should I Go”. Still have those tapes somewhere in my basement. I remember being nervous about them because you had said a few weeks earlier, after I had started crafting mine, that you were making a mix as well, and that it was going to have a killer surprise song at the end. I think it ended up being “In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry. Good song. It was spring, remember that part, right? Anyway, I was nervous because we were taking your car, thus making you the Alpha Male, and I was worried that my tapes might be seen as a threat to your dominance. And then I was worried that you might not play mine, feeling as they were not worthy, but I knew that they were ass-kicking mixes. Ah, the agony!

Anyway...all checked out, and I anxiously awaited the four of us-- you, me, Zan and Melissa-- getting together and leaving the next morning. Can’t remember what I did that night...I think my roommate was already gone somewhere and I don’t think I did anything worth remembering, but who knows. Did we get together to watch “L.A. Law” or “Thirtysomething”?  I remember those two being shows we watched in your dorm room, as you were one of the only people I knew who had a TV. that’s it for the kickoff to the memory-fest. We haven’t actually started the trip yet, but the stage has been set.  

Day 1

I guess it must have been a Saturday, but that’s just logic kicking in...nothing about the actual day comes back to mind. I think we left in the morning, and aside from a bit of geeky mix-tape fascination (on our part, that is. I remember distinctly feeling as though Melissa and Zan were seriously unimpressed with our masterpieces) and a few necessary rest-stop stops-- don’t forget that case of mineral water--my next memory involves stopping at a cafĂ© in Shasta City where I got a bowl of chili and fries. I don’t remember what you ate. Sorry.

Prior to the chili, I remember we laughed a bit at the town of Weed. Not at the actual town, but at the name. I think that, as well as we knew each other, there was some innate notion in each of us that, being college students-- at the University of Ganja--we were obliged to give some bonehead chuckle at a town with such a drug-referenced name. If we didn’t, we might lose our cred.

Anyway...we turned onto state route 89 and made our way toward Reno. I remember two things about that stretch, but I’m not sure about the order they appear. This first was a podunk general store the name of which I absolutely fell in love with-- the Hat Creek Mah-Coo-Atche General Store. I think I was tempted to get out of the Subaru, give up my mixed European heritage and become a small town Indian. Seemed cool somehow. The second was a snowstorm that caught us off-guard. Lots of snow. Alarming amounts of snow. I remember that largely because I think it’s the first time I seriously contemplated my own death. I dug your car, as it was much cooler than the car I didn’t have,  but I was not convinced that it would spare my life in the case of a spin-out. And I had the most vivid awareness that of all the ways to go, I was not ready to have mine be in a snowstorm on some backwoods California state route. Don’t get me wrong. If you and I were driving today, I’d be perfectly happy to go down in flames with you. I’m more content that way. I just wasn’t back then.

So...we made it through, had effectively run through all of the mix-tapes (the thought did occur to me, as I pondered the next six days of our trip and the many more miles we had to travel, “Well...what are we going to listen to now?”), and ended up in Reno, where I believe my dad had booked us a room at the fine establishment of Circus Circus. Did we try to sneak into the casino to blow or double our spring tuition? Did we play video games and skee-ball in efforts to win tickets we could trade in for cheap stuffed animals or tongue-staining candy? Did we head straight to the buffet to gorge on low-grade meats and slightly congealed sauces? I’m not fill in the blanks, man.

Day 2, and 3, and 4... (apparently my memory is too detailed, so here is the abridged version)

Alright, so we’re in Reno. I think we walked around the town...a lot. We were four underage and timid college kids stuck in a cheap-and-corny hotel with no way to get out of town due to car troubles--what was it that happened to your car and how did we (you?) pay for it? There were a few times we snuck in to play slots, and I remember playing some random drinking games in our hotel room, getting kinda’ sloppy drunk on whatever cheap booze we could get our hands on (was Melissa the one brave enough to enter the mini-mart and buy for us?) and then passing out. Finally, three days into our adventure, we made it to Squaw Valley for a killer day of skiing. At the beginning of the day, I remember thinking we were going to be like the cool blonde guys (except for our hair) from Hot Dog, but by the end of the day I feared we more closely resembled Lane and Charles from Better Off Dead. Oh was fun, and we finally got to use our skis. Not sure what Zan and Melissa did other than drop us off and pick us up. Maybe they re-enacted one of those steamy hot tub scenes that seemed to be required of any 80s ski movie.

Next day we packed up and headed to Vegas. Ever since that trip, I have imagined the road to hell looking a lot like the highway from Reno to Las Vegas. I vaguely remember a lake, a few towns, a cop and a passing lane. I distinctly remember, though, passing by the nuclear weapon test area somewhere near Tonopah, and then promptly freaking out because it was snowing and I’d seen enough of The Day After to know that we were as good as dead. Mistaking the far-off saguaro cacti for wandering irradiated nomads didn’t help. Nuclear snow scared the shit out of me.

Vegas is a bit of a haze, probably for the better. We pulled in towards evening, I think, with Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game” and Queensryche’s “Silent Lucidity” carrying us into town (not my mix tapes, by the way...not sure how those ditties slipped in there). We stayed at Erin’s dorm, met her new boyfriend Greg, walked around the strip a bit, checking out the fountain at the Mirage and staring in amazement at the historical re-enaction taking pace inside the Excalibur. UNLV’s basketball team was the shit back then and I walked through the campus looking for really tall guys. We watched a movie or three I think, and slept in really uncomfortable quarters. There was a mall in there somewhere. I bought something there and took it back with me. I think it was a plant that lived on air.

Oddly, I don’t remember anything about the trip back up, except that when we reached the Oregon border, the color green seemed to scream out at me. I think that was when I first realized that the rest of the world exists in various hues of brown, and that I never wanted to leave the lush comfort of my home state. Were there more of us in the car than on the way down? Did we stop somewhere on the way up to break the trip into two days? Ashland? Were we sick of each other by then? Had we eaten all of the Costco™ muffins and drank all of the mineral water?

That was a good trip.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Memory Science Part 2: AKA Spring Break '91 Wooohooo! (Christian's Version)

This is part two of PCPPP’s Science Fortnight, where we are testing the theory that the more you recall a memory the more likely you are to alter said memory. Part one can be found Here. The skinny is that Pat and I have agreed to recall a spring break road trip we took our freshman year in college to see if we have any conflicting memories. If so, this may be evidence that this theory is indeed valid. In this installment, I will recall my version of the trip. Next week we will post Pat’s version and our conclusions. What an exciting time to be alive!

Ah, spring break freshman year of college. Back in the day when invading Iraq was a novel and fresh idea. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have the greatest memory but I’ll do my best to recall what I can. Here we go.

The lead of my yellow Sanford American HB #2 pencil broke as I was finishing the last problem on my Physics 252 final, inside room 203 of Willamette Hall. As I pulled out my spare red Dixon 2H #4, I noticed Professor Wilkes was reading a 2nd addition of “The Russia House” by John Le Carre. He adjusted his blue and black pin striped tie as he turned the page of his battered paperback, which wore obvious signs of multiple readings and much water damage. I finished off calculating the distance a 4.8 kg block slides up a 30° incline with 118 J of kinetic energy with a coefficient of friction of 0.30, and bolted out the silver rustic doors with venetian bronze handles, of Willamette Hall. The slight drizzle, with 77% humidity, didn’t damper my excitement as I knew we would be leaving for our spring break trip the next day.

The rest of the trip is more of a blur. I do remember that Pat and I had decided to drive to Reno for a week long ski vacation to get away from the constant toga parties, panty-raiding, and prank pulling on that evil Dean. Meanwhile our two friends Melissa and Zan were trying to plan a trip to Las Vegas to visit another mutual friend of ours, Erin. To protect their identities we’ll change Melissa’s name to Margery and we’ll change Zan’s gender to male and call her Stephon. We’ll change Erin to being a parakeet and change her name to Mr. Crackers. Pat’s name will be Pierre Lefebufe. Wait... we don’t need to change Pat’s name. So I guess we’ll just call him Pat.

So anyways, Melissa and Zan were trying to plan a trip to Vegas to visit Erin. I came up with the brilliant idea of combining the two, and I remember that Pat, Melissa, Zan, and Mr. Crackers were all in agreement that I continued to demonstrate unsurpassed intellect and impeccable fashion sense.      

The plan was to spend a few days in Reno, ski, and then head to Las Vegas. We headed south in my jet-fighter blue Subaru action wagon (the official color was baby blue but I had convinced everyone the color was called jet-fighter blue. I also added the “action” to the model). On the way there the action wagon started to show signs that something was amiss, and as we pulled into our hotel parking lot, after a 10+ hour drive, it literally died on us coasting into a parking spot. Phew! We were staying at some random hotel the first night but were changing locations the next night to the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino for the remainder of our stay in Reno.  

The next morning we called for a tow truck to tow us to the nearest mechanic. The Reno Gods were looking out for us that day because the closest mechanic happen to be a 76 Station/Garage directly across the street from Circus Circus (the 76 Station isn’t there anymore if you happen to be looking for it while reading this). The four of us packed ourselves into the front seat of the tow truck and were chauffeured like rock stars over to the 76 Station. We then walked across the street dragging our luggage to the hotel. Later that day the Reno Gods stopped looking out for us (stupid Reno Gods!) as we found out the car was going to be in the shop for a couple of days which meant less days for skiing. In fact it left just one day for skiing.  

In the meantime, we piddled around Reno and enjoyed its spoils which included a sign stating that Reno was some kind of big small city and more pawn shops than anyone could humanly imagine. Circus Circus itself had all the class and glamor of an Arby’s but we made the most of it. I recall one night we played some drinking game called One Up or One Down or something like that. The whole goal of the game was to figure out the rules of the game so it was rather fun. I ended up drinking a lot because I did very poorly at it (or did I?). I don’t remember how we got the alcohol since we were all under age at the time, so I’m assuming we transported it there from Oregon, Smokey and the Bandit style.

After the car was fixed we did our one day of skiing up at Squaw Valley. The four of us drove up to the mountain (On the drive up we passed some guy that was driving while drinking a can of Budweiser. How shameful. Really, a Budweiser?) but only Pat and I skied. I remember that everyone up on the mountain seemed very impressed with my alpine skills and unsurpassed intellect. I have no idea what Zan and Melissa did during that day but they did pick us up afterwards which must have been a huge amount of excitement for them.

Then it was onto phase two of the vacation: Destination Vegas.  On the long drive there, we were in the middle of one of those Nevada driving stretches where the road remains entirely straight for as far as you can see for about 10 to 14 hours. I had just woken up from napping to find myself driving the car. Now that I was feeling refreshed, I really started to enjoy being out on the open road, until....  

I eventually came up on some slow traffic due to some obviously deranged lunatic driving 35 in a 55 mph zone. Around this time I had also noticed that there was a police car or what I call a “smokey”, a couple of cars behind us. But since I wasn’t currently being framed for a crime I didn’t commit, I thought nothing of it. One by one the cars in front of me passed this certifiable menace of a dawdling driver. It was now my turn. I waited for the oncoming lane to clear and executed an absolutely perfect pass, with proper blinker usage and all. Seconds later the cop car was behind us with lights flashing. He couldn’t be pulling me over to compliment me on my exquisite passing skills and unsurpassed intellect could he?  No.

“Hello Mr. Officer”, I said with as much fake cheer as I could muster.

“You’re lucky I’m not pulling your mangled bodies out of some burning wreckage,”  he said.  

Wow, these Nevada state police troopers have an odd sense of humor, I thought. Turns out they don’t. He was completely serious and quite the ass. Apparently, while I was passing that mentally unbalanced lethargic driver, I drove past a dirt farm road that was perpendicular to the highway. Turns out the police officer considered this an “intersection” even though there wasn’t any stop signs or any signs at all for that matter. And it’s illegal to pass someone while going through an “intersection”, as I had just learned (in Nevada the word intersection must be one of those words that have different meanings for different people, like homage, chippy or homonym).

We eventually did make it to Las Vegas without suffering any fiery deaths. Erin was attending UNLV so we were able to stay in the dorms with her. Melissa and Zan were in her room while Pat and I got to stay in the room across the hall which belonged to a couple of Erin’s friends who were just heading out of town for their spring break. I remember Erin’s friends being very impressed with my story telling capabilities and unsurpassed intellect.   

We spent our time in Vegas touring UNLV’s campus and visiting all the cool casinos, which I remember hardly any of. But for some reason I do have a very vivid memory of watching the movie “Quick Change” starring Bill Murray, Geena Davis, and Randy Quaid, in the lounge area of Erin’s dorm, during one afternoon. So as you can see, it was a very wild time in Vegas.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Memory Science Part 1: The Theory - AKA Spring Break '91 Wooohooo!

So Christian and I have known each other for a long time, and with that long friendship has come a plethora of memories, all good of course. Well, as we’ve mentioned here on PCPPP, we loves us some science. Awhile back, I was listening to a favorite podcast--Radiolab for you curious folks--which seemed to suggest that the more I remembered those fond memories with my buddy Kristian, the less accurately I actually remembered them (and that has something to do with neuroscience). In fact, it implied that every time I remembered a specific experience that Chris and I shared, I was remembering them more wrongly than the last time. Fearful that I may altogether one day forget all of the fun times I had with my friend Steve, I decided to STOP trying to remember those things for good!

I remained steadfast in that commitment until he and I got together over a beer or four (memory gets fuzzy, y’know) and decided to test that old Radiolab theory. We challenged each other to remember a trip we took whilst in college, to a then little known town called Las Vegas (this was before what happened there had to stay there). What follows is a four-part attempt to re-create the past. That’s right loyal readers, this is the first PCPPP mini-series! Enjoy (and sorry you have to witness the degeneration of our minds).

ps-  if you want to check out that podcast, listen here.

Pat:  You up for this one buddy? A little trip down, as they say, “memory lane” (which was really Interstate 5 and State highways 89 and 95)?

Christian: My memory is like a steel trap. A steel trap that has been left open or possibly never set, so I don’t know how I’ll do on this.   

I’m not going to blame my poor memory on alcohol or anything because that would be making excuses and I don’t remember what we’re talking about just now. However, Alzheimer's is a dangerous game buddy. One that you don’t want take lightly. You can take that to the bank. Just don’t take it lightly to the bank.  

Ah! I remember what we’re talking about - science! I think I have asked you this before but is Radiolab an NPR show? Actually, don’t tell me, I want to just believe that it is. Back to the science. The answer to your question is that, yes, I am OBVIOUSLY up for this one. Despite what I might have just said a few seconds ago.  

And for our kindly readers’ information (FKRI?), this was a spring break trip that occurred in 1991. Way before we even had science. So as you can imagine there is a good chance our memories may conflict on this.  

But in my professional science opinion this memory theory they are hypothesizing is a bunch of shit-crap. I’m not buying it. Do you really think the more you recall something the more you distort it? I say the more you think about it the more you cement the facts into your brain’s storage places.   

Pat:  Don’t let me get in the way of your steadfast beliefs, Christian...I’m all for the cementing of ideas into our brains. That whole “keep an open mind” initiative is a load of hogwash!

But try to think of it this’s like the game of “Operator”. The more you try to pass on a phrase (or, if you’ve already lost the analogy, a memory) the more likely it is to get distorted, convoluted and misinterpreted. Kinda’ like an old mix tape too, I guess. In essence, the further you get away from the original, the more apt you are to be wrong.

This could have wonderful implications! Imagine the next time your spouse lures you into an argument about you paying attention to what she was saying or doing:

Spouse: Hey, did you hear what I said?

You: Yes, of course I did.

Spouse: Really? Prove it! What did I say?

You: I know, but I can’t tell you. If I tell you it will be based on my memory, and according to the theory-that-Pat-likes, I will likely get it wrong. So please just trust that I am with you here, now, in the moment, and that I will take care of whatever your needs are.

Spouse:  Damn, that Pat sure knows his science. I love you, dear.

You:  (smiling a knowingly satisfied smile) Yep.

See, if we have totally different memories of our Spring Break Trip from 1993, then science is RIGHT, and you, my friend, might get some lovin’!

Christian:  I’m not buying your “Operator” analogy and where I came from we called it “Elephant Telephone” not “Operator”.  But for simplicity’s sake, we can call it “Elephant Operator Telephone”.

Anyways, what “Elephant Operator Telephone” demonstrates is that information is lost through communication. As information, or an idea, is passed from one individual to another the individual subconsciously applies his or her preconceptions to the information with the potential side effect that said information may be slightly altered.  

This memory theory of yours is stating that as one individual recalls their own information they are themselves altering it. It’s like comparing Walla Walla apples to Granny Smith apples. Totally different.

As a side note, “Duck, Duck, Goose” which we called “Marsupial, Marsupial, Kangaroo”,  demonstrates how a wireless router works.

But enough about debating silly analogies. Let’s get to some hardcore science!  

Here’s what we’re going to do, our dear agile readers; We have both agreed to write out a synopsis of our trips without consulting or reading each other’s. Mine will be posted later this week, while Pat’s will be posted next week along with our conclusions and analysis of the findings. We’re going to science the hell out of this memory theory!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Grocery Store Greeters: Cheery or Death Plaguey?

I grocery shop in the same manner as I would rob a bank. I try to get in and out as fast as I can with having as little human interaction as possible and I just pray that I don’t have to shoot anyone. So having a store greeter say “Hi welcome to blah blah blah” as I walk in is like having the bank guard yell “FREEZE MOTHERFUCKER!” as you enter the bank. Startling. And it really breaks my concentration. I’m also concerned that one of these days my natural Karate Fu instincts are going to kick in and I’m going to kick that store greeter right in the ear before I realize what’s happening.

Pat, what’s your take on grocery store greeters? Cheery gesturers of kindness or a black death plague on society?

Pat:  Don’t like ‘em. Period. I’m glad that your parent corporation is generous enough to pay you to stand and act in a friendly manner, but just let me do my shopping and stay the hell out of my way.

Christian: Exactly! Wow, it looks like we are on the same side of this issue. Weird. Makes me think that I might be wrong on this one. Yes, maybe I need to think about this some more.  

I guess there’s the argument that it creates jobs, which might make them a good thing. But you can’t tell me that there aren’t other things these people could be doing besides sitting at the door and accosting people with their “Hellos” and “Welcomes.” For example, it seems like every time I go to the grocery store the ice cream section is always in complete disarray after I go through it. It really annoys me. Wouldn’t it be a better use of their time to have them go around tidying things up than having them threaten people to have a nice day as they leave? Yes it would. Which means I am still not a fan of them.

So just to make sure I’m not misunderstanding something here, you feel the same way I do about grocery store greeters? You don’t like them either?

Pat:  Right, don’t like ‘em. And it’s nothing’s not that I don’t like the people, I just have issue with the profession. Although, if you think about it, they are likely the kind of person who thinks the world is a better place BECAUSE of grocery store greeters*, so I bet that, given the chance to get to know them, I wouldn’t like them as people either. So I guess it is personal.

Christian: Agreed.

Pat: And you know what? You’re right about there being other things--BETTER things--they could do. Having worked in a grocery store, I know for a fact that they could spend endless hours doing what’s called “fronting” (don’t confuse this with urban youth slang, as in, “Hey man, you be frontin’?!”, which means, I think, “Let’s jump that white boy over there who looks like he’s lost!”). Fronting makes the store look pleasing to the shopper’s eye, especially after shoppers like yourself have ravaged the aisles, by bringing the depleted product to the front of the shelf. This is done during busy shopping times, when stockers can’t replenish the shelves, so they use the remaining product to create the illusion of a fully stocked store. Like MAGIC!

I started thinking about another possibility--why not have those greeters stay in the isle with toys and have them watch our kids so that we can shop in peace and buy things we actually need instead of just quickly filling the cart with what we hope are foodstuffs so we can get out of the goddamn store before our kids ask us one more goddamn question?! I’d be down with that.

Christian:  Yes it seems like there should be plenty of other things they could be doing. Like running my groceries through the self checkout line for me. Or how about getting my car after I’m done shopping? And washing it? And now that I think about it, my house really needs cleaning. And I could really go for a good stiff drink.  

Therefore, yes, there a lot of things they could be doing besides harassing me. So it looks like we are in total agreement on this one. What do we do now then?

Pat:  I don’t know...seen any good movies? I made my first official omelet yesterday. Basic cheddar. Turned out really well though.

I don’t think I’m very good at talking with you when we don’t disagree.

Christian: Agreed.

*This totally assumes that we live in a world/country where every single person GETS to pick their dream job, and where a downturned economy does not necessitate crappy-ass jobs that people have to take just to make ends meet. I wanted to add this caveat because I know that humor is one of the first resources to go during tough economic times, and I don’t want our loyal followers to start turning on us like angry villagers because we haven’t been sensitive to their situations in life.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

OK, For Reals This Time - Should Snuffleupagus be Seen?

Last week we attempted to discuss the disputatious issue of whether it is better that everyone on Sesame Street can now see Snuffleupagus. It can be found HERE. As one would expect this quickly turned into a heated discourse on the ramifications to Hawaii’s tour industry by bringing them into the United States’ union. These things happen.

I still stand by my opinion that... no wait... I still stand by the FACT, that it is better that everyone can now see Snuffleupagus. Big Bird is no longer the village idiot - although the mental hardship from this decade long ordeal will obviously stay with him forever -  and kids across the world no longer fear that they too are a village idiot because only they and a giant yellow bird can see Snuffleupagus.

Pat, how say you?

Pat:  I’m down with that.

(note to blaudience: is it just me, or is it pretty clear that we’re dealing with some of Christian’s childhood insecurities here? HE was once that village idiot, right? Just checking).

Perhaps when the Children’s Television Workshop started their venture, they thought that a giant mammoth thing visible only to a giant bird thing would prompt creative thought and imagination among the young viewers. But in the more modern era, one in which we’re more sensitive to the real challenges people face, like depression, mental illness and the hysteria only women face as a result of owning a uterus ( ), I bet the CTW thought it more sensitive to not be perceived as making fun of people who see people who aren’t there (freaks, if you ask me, but that’s probably why I have not been recruited to write for the show). This is where my conservative relatives would make a plug for the Tea Party, because they have no problem spotlighting the crazies, which is good for ‘Merica!

So, wait. Did you want me to disagree with you on this one so that you can yet again tell me I’m wrong? Let me know and I can totally change my views. Anything for my friend, the former village idiot who talked to things that weren’t there.

Christian: You’re wrong! It has nothing to do with childhood insecurities. OK fine, I admit I had a few imaginary friends when I was young. OK, there were 14 of them. But at some point I noticed that they had started to hang out with each other on their own without me. I suspected that they had gotten into imaginary drugs so I kind of tried to distance myself from them. OK fine, they claimed I was too clingy and felt it best that I find some “real human” friends.  

Since then, I’ve looked a few of them up on imaginary Facebook but don’t worry I haven’t try to friend any of them. Just sort of occasionally check out their imaginary profiles to see what they’re up to. Totally harmless. I know it sounds like I‘m dangerously close to stalking my former imaginary friends but, come on, they’re the ones that filed for that imaginary restraining order.     

Anyways, as I said, my preference for everyone to see Snuffleupagus has nothing to do with former insecurities. When watching TV at that age you aren’t aware that shows are written and recorded ahead of time. You think everything is real and is happening right then and there. Even when watching re-runs. So every time Snuffleupagus appeared I would be praying that this would finally be the time. The time he is finally, finally, seen by everyone.

With the TV set glowing rays of hope at the young child me, the young me would be telling the me-self: These coincidences that call him away at the last second have got to stop at some point, right? I mean what are the odds that it’s going to happen yet again? It’s not statistically possible for it to happen again. Right? Right. This time it’s going to happen. It has to happen. I just know it!

It was maddening. I believe this is what led to my heavy addiction to scotch at age six.  

Pat:  I’ve thought a lot lately about the impact that television had on me as a child. I’ve thought about it largely because I watched A LOT of TV as a youth, so much so that I have trouble picturing what my family members look like, but I can describe in precise detail the faces of Jack, Janet and Chrissy (and Cindy and Terri), as well as the Ropers, Mr. Furley and Larry.  

Fearing that our kids will similarly forget what we look like (inconsiderate little turds!), we have gone the opposite route and forbid them from watching any TV. Instead, we let them play with paper dolls of our family (each one of “us” has a complete wardrobe of felt clothing), and they act out skits and plays by taping “us” to the blank TV screen. Then when they go to bed the missus and I put the dolls away, sit on the couch for three hours, and neglect to talk to each other as we watch Law & Order re-runs.

Oh yeah, but the impact it had on me as a kid! To be honest, the unseen Snuffleupagus never troubled me much. Too bad for the people who couldn’t see him. Their loss, y’know. You know what was really traumatic though? I never wanted to visit the American southwest because of the damned Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner! Did you ever notice how the background behind them just kept repeating? The same mesa, followed by the same arroyo, followed by the same cactus...over and over. Who the hell would want to go there, and where the hell were the two of them running? THAT will mess a kid up!

Christian: I just always assumed they were running in a circle with the camera that was “filming” them, being in the center of the circle. That’s why the background appeared to constantly repeat itself.  

But funny that you mention Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner because I also found them frustrating but more along the lines with what I was saying above about Snuffleupagaus. Again as I kid I always thought that at some point Wile E. Coyote had to catch the Roadrunner. It’s just simple laws of averages. Plus I always thought the Roadrunner was kind of a cocky prick and a little too righteous for my taste so I often found myself rooting for the the coyote to finally show that roadrunner what’s what. Plus it was hard not to feel sorry for the guy after getting one defective product after another from that ACME corporation. But each time the Roadrunner narrowly escaped the Coyote, often by breaking several laws of physics I might add, the six year old me would just toss back another lowball of Johnnie Walker.

I do have a final thought on this Snuffleupagus debate though. You said “Too bad for the people who couldn’t see him. Their loss, y’know.” This is true, it was their loss. But you know who the real loser in all this was? Big Bird. He’s definitely a loser.