All posts by SethBlog

THE BEST BLOG POST EVER!… (CAN BE FOUND ELSEWHERE)

There’s a chef-school advertising on TV presently (I won’t advertise them by naming them) who boasts that it is taught by:

“…experienced chef!… instructors.”

It’s really quite funny to listen to the line as the announcer voice-punches the “experienced chef!” part of the sentence so forcefully that you are briefly left with the impression that the teachers are, in fact, experienced chefs, but then, just a tiny moment later, you hear the muffled “instructors” slipped in, and suddenly your mind does a double take:

“Oh, that’s something quite different, isn’t it?”

For the contrast between the well-emphasized “chef” and the under-noted “instructors” is so distinct that it stands out like a grape juice stain on a white carpet, and so the listener can’t help, but inquire:

“Oh, so you were trying to hide that they’re chef-instructors instead of actual chefs?”

Truth be told, if they’d just called them “chef-instructors” without playing emphasis games, I wouldn’t have known that “chef-instructors” aren’t as good as “chefs who instruct.” But now I do. Thanks, unnamed-chef-school for your helpful emphasis in advertising: it allowed me to clearly see this as a weakness, and so, if I ever decide to get my chef’s licence, I’ll certainly know where not to look.

Just kidding: I will attend your school!… (if you pay me a million dollars).

INTOXICATING OSCAR WILDE

I’ve just started re-reading a book, Oscar Wilde: His Life and Wit from 1946 by Hesketh Pearson, that I didn’t finish previously because it fell apart (literally—its binding came undone and it’s now a six-piece book), and I didn’t want to damage it further. But the call of the Wilde (oops :)) has proven too much: I must find out what happened to him!

I’m only a prologue in, but I’m already having a great time once again.

The book was published, forty-six years after Wilde’s death, by a man who interviewed friends of the great wit (“Oscar,” to us) who, in turn, could remember specific conversations with the hero of the phrase:

“[I find] that alcohol, taken in sufficient quantities, can produce all the effects of intoxication.”

Wow: it’s intoxicating to be reading the second-hand account of real-life interactions with such a significant conversational figure. Indeed, many situations and anecdotes that provoked some of Oscar’s great lines are provided. (I recall from my previous reading of this book that I will get to learn the provocation for Oscar’s, “I have nothing to declare except my genius.” I assure you that the moment I re-discover it, SethBlogs will be the second to know.)

But the book is not just great because of Oscar Wilde: his story is told by Mr. Pearson with charm and wit deserving of his subject. Consider his description of Oscar Wilde’s father, and lady-charmer, Dr. William Wilde:

“He was taken up by society and especially liked by women, which pleased him well… But accidents will happen, even to doctors, and in due course several children appeared without the advantage of their father’s name.”

I’ll keep you posted on this developing story.

HOW I MET YOUR INDEPENDENT HUMOUR

I’ve been giving the sitcom How I met Your Mother a chance lately and I like it so far.

(Of course, the premise is a wee bit troubled: the idea of dedicating a plot to explaining to one’s future children how one discovered their mom is nice, I think, for a defined timeline such as a movie, but in the case of an open-ended TV series, it seems too difficult for the writers to keep each episode on point considering they don’t know when exactly to bring the mother in, and so in turn they don’t know how exactly to relate each show to her eventual arrival. Instead, as far as I can tell from my few initial viewings, the show has quickly become just as much about following and laughing at the surrounding characters as it is worrying about the initial basis for the show.)

But, as my sisterly advisor to HIMYM explained to me, if you don’t worry about the loose-premise-connection, it’s a decent sitcom.

To that end, I would like to compliment some writing I enjoyed in a recently-viewed episode, wherein one of the characters (I believe it was Lily) was explaining to another character why her friends Robin and Barney might have difficultly dating. The dialogue (I’m paraphrasing) went a little something like this:

LILY: The problem is they’re both… honey, what’s the nice word for “selfish”?

MARSHALL: “Independent”.

LILY: Yes, they’re both independent.

Hee, hee, well played, HIMYM.

I think it’s a well-delivered point that one person’s criticism can with, slight re-wording, become another person’s compliment. Let me try coming up with some other words that could be “HIMY-Mothered” into compliments:

MeanAssertive
Loud and ObnoxiousGregarious
WeirdQuirky
Off-puttingProvocative
LazyRelaxed
ArrogantConfident
IgnorantFan of The Matrix  (Okay, I guess that one was a lateral move, hee, hee.)
Slow-wittedIntrospective
ForgetfulAbsentminded (professor)
IrritatingStimulating
ChildishYouthful
Homicidal Over-population-reducing

It’s harder than I imagined: my favourite is still the original “selfish” to “independent”: so my humbled compliments to the HIMYM writing staff. In fact, double that, because I am reminded of News Radio (one of the top 5 sitcoms of all time until Phil Hartman’s departure), and its wordplay regarding the different versions of pretty.

LISA: …I did not ask for this stupid award.

BETH: If I were you I would be upset, too, I mean, you? Cute? Come on.

LISA: Well… I’m not entirely… uncute. I… why are you being nasty about this?

BETH: I’m not being nasty. You’re pretty. You’re very pretty, in fact. But cute? I don’t think so.

LISA: Well, I wasn’t aware that there was a difference.

BETH: Of course there’s a difference. Pretty means pretty. Cute means pretty, but short and/or hyperactive, like me.

LISA: Ahuh. Well, what’s beautiful?

BETH: Beautiful means pretty and tall.

LISA: Gorgeous?

BETH: Pretty with great hair.

LISA: Striking?

BETH: Pretty with a big nose.

And so on for my amusement (see the video below for the full scene).


Note: A portal to the future that takes place after I finally finish viewing HIMYM is now available! Will I support my above assessment, or will there be a SethBlogs vs. SethBlogs battle. Tune into this link to find out!

THE MATRICKS

No Seth-rant collective would be complete without a charge against The Matrix.

This movie (I only saw the first one) may be a decent action-flick, so you are forgiven if you simply find it entertaining; my objection is to those who describe it as “philosophical.”

Yes, the movie’s premise is based on a standard philosophical contemplation (that the world, as we know it, may not be real, but instead some projection in our minds). However, in its treatment of this notion, The Matrix quickly sidesteps any philosophical obligations. Given, for instance, that The Matrix-universe is one in which the dark and dreary real world has been replaced with a cheerier matrix, an interesting question could be provoked: is it better to be happy in a fake world or unhappy in a real one?

Some of us at this keyboard believe experience is the most important part of sentient existence, and so we may want to argue that The Matrix-world was worth keeping up in lieu of the dreadful real world. It wasn’t as though the fake-offering was put up to cover up crimes against humanity; instead, all inhabitants lay peacefully in their projected-upon slumbers. But I’m happy to be wrong: maybe truth in existence is more important than contentment, and so, if philosophers were writing the movie, they may have tried to make an argument for why the matrix was a flawed existence (maybe it limits human potential, or leaves us helpless against sudden environmental changes). I would have liked that.

Instead, The Matrix writers (the Wachowskis) forwent argument and simply announced that the correct answer was that truth is always the most important; this they did very efficiently by simply designing the character who disagreed with them to be a raving murderer. Yup, instead of a genuine investigation as to which side would be the better way to exist (perhaps with a consequence that demonstrated why they thought their way was superior), the writers simply announced that good guys, by definition, would be on their side (pro-truth), while bad guys would be on the other (anti-truth). And that solved that.

Now, of course, action movies often need good guys and bad guys, so I can understand the need to have them pick sides, but, if the movie is meant to be philosophical, then shouldn’t it offer more than just a philosophical landscape with heroes and villains at either end? Shouldn’t the story also attempt to ask a few questions whose answers are comprised of more material than simply “white hat for ‘good’ and black hat for ‘bad’”?

But perhaps I’m being too restrictive about what qualifies as philosophical. In that case, I suppose the following subjects have also been sufficiently captured in the corresponding films:

Marine Biology: Jaws
Einstein’s Theory of relativity: Timecop
History (i.e. “a long time ago”): Star Wars
Brain surgery: The Man with Two Brains
Dentistry: Austin Powers

I’m a fan of several of these movies, but I don’t watch Die Hard for an analysis of modern policing methods: I just go there to be entertained. Similarly, if The Matrix weren’t so self-satisfied in its tone (and publicity interviews), it could be an entertaining adventure, but please don’t expect to be watching philosophy in action.


If you are looking for an entertaining, yet philosophical film (of similar subject), consider The Thirteenth Floor. At least, it made me think without diagnosing me as good or evil based on my responses to its questions.

ESCALATOR STANDING: AN INVESTIGATIVE RANT

In the interest of full disclosure—and Seth-promotion—the spirt of this rant, and other works of Sethiquette, is now available in my book, How to Cure Yourself of Narcissism.


Anyone who’s had the good fortune to share an escalator with me is likely familiar with this rant: and so, for their nostalgia and everyone else’s first-time enjoyment, I would like to officially announce:

I reverse-heart escalator-standers.

Why would a healthy individual interrupt their day (in which, I’m told, time is precious) to wait for a slow machine to carry them to their destination, when the device offers the option to move at double its speed by simply walking?


Note of rant sanctuary: If an escalator-stander has a health condition (sore knees, sore heart, maybe escatripaphobia), or is simply tired and not in the mood to climb moving stairs, they are excused from the ire of this rant.

Note of excommunication from rant sanctuary: The tired stander will be returned to the rant’s scope, however, if they are one of a pair of standers, who—instead of standing one after the other to allow safe passage of those behind—block both lanes of escalator travel so that those who would prefer to kill calories (instead of time) cannot proceed.


My primary objection is to those who stand because of what I can only surmise is habit: I watch 20 year-olds arrive at the escalator and, without apparently pausing to ask, “Do we feel like adding a tiny bit of exercise to our diet?” they stop and stare ahead. I suppose they could have a good reason for the slow-down: maybe it’s their first time on an escalator, and so they want to savour the experience; or perhaps they’re trying to conserve calories: why waste energy that they could store for later?

But I think the most reasonable explanation for why most people stop on an escalator without considering walking is that they are in some sort of trance, a temporary off-button that has suddenly made time not matter to them.

I spend most of my escalator time en route to catching Skytrains, which arrive approximately every five minutes, and so, if I’m forced to I slow down just enough (often because of an escalator-standing-blockade), I often narrowly miss a just-arriving train, thus causing me to get to my destination five minutes later. It’s rare that my hope is to be five minutes later for anything. Yes, Alabama, I realize that we shouldn’t “rush and rush until life’s no fun,” but, if it’s easy, and you happen to be in a hurry, why not step up?

For instance, I’m convinced that the people standing on the escalator to go to the movies would like to get into the ticket-buying lineup as soon as possible to secure goods seats, and yet—with knees capable of speedily climbing to the back of the theatre—they inexplicably freeze the moment their feet hit the escalator.

Indeed, I have been late with friends to a movie, and have felt the “Kumbaya” of our mutual rush only to arrive at an escalator to witness the sudden suspension of my companions’ movement as though the matter is out of their feet’s hands: the escalator, after all, speeds up for no one—what are they supposed to do?

This behaviour seems so irrational to me that I must find a cause to blame. Perhaps it is the fault of our oft-described “sedentary” modern western society and our tendency to avoid unnecessary movement? But I suspect something more sinister: I suspect it is our brains that are sedentary, and that it simply doesn’t occur to people to keep moving on a machine that will get them there eventually.

Evidence for this hypothesis can be found in the aforemocked people who stand two-by-two on the escalator such that they become a obstruction for any would-be non-lazy-people behind them. Surely, if it even occurred to them that someone might like to get by, they wouldn’t be so selfish as to stand in the way, would they?

If I’m right that people stand on escalators because they never thought to use the steps for climbing, then I have replaced one baffling question with another: why the heck wouldn’t it occur to them? I can understand the inclination to let the vehicle do all the moving in the case of cars or buses, but to stop, without thinking, on a device that offers you the option of safely doubling your speed of travel is, to me, a kin to riding one’s bike and discovering a slight decline and so deciding to stop pedaling so as to allow gravity to do all the work for you. If you’re tired, or in the mood to relax and look around, then you have my warmest blessings, but if you stop your exercise simply because you see no point in doing otherwise then I don’t get it.

Similarly, I guess if the sun’s bugging your eyes, then there’s no need to walk to a shadier spot: after all, the earth will eventually transport you out of the sun’s gaze. So, yeah, just sit there and wait.

All poignant exaggeration-sarcasm aside, clearly escaltor-standing is a mystery that I’m not able to solve here, but, if you are a career escalator-stander with no health reasons to justify this habit, I’d like to make a tiny suggestion: try escalator-walking just once. You may be surprised to discover that motorized-inclines aren’t as daunting as they look from the bottom.

If, however, you still see no point in walk-riding when you could just ride, I request that you at least not stand in the way of those who would choose to stroll freely. Stay in your lane, and nobody gets glared at on my way by.


P.S. If I were artistically inclined, I would create a cartoon of a couple standing on an escalator with no one in front of them, a crowd behind them, and a thought bubble above them that simply states, “Where does all the time go?”

P.P.S. Even brillianter, I refer you below to Becel’s heart health commercial, the most profound advert in television history. It deals with the mystery of the escalator stander with grace and impeccable honesty.

LAW & WANDER

I love the television show, Law & Order (the original). SVU’s okay, and Criminal Intent’s annoying, but gimme the straight-up Law & Order, and you’ve got a fan in me.

My mom discovered it for me in the early 90s: I remember her commenting that it was a different kind of cops-and-law-show because the characters behaved much more like real people than usual.

Upon adopting the show myself a couple years later, I was riveted, especially by the legal battles, which seemed to focus on the nitty gritty details of the American legal system that must be navigated in order to prove a villain guilty. (I can’t prove that the show is legally accurate, but I can suspect it on the basis that, when I took a community college law course for interest’s sake, the lawyer-instructor claimed it was the most realistic law show on television.)

So, when it was announced that Law & Order: UK was coming to a television near me, I was intrigued: all the law and order I wanted, plus cool accents (and hairstyles) on the barristers. But then I learned that, as with the transition of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s The Office from Slough, Britain, to Scranton, USA, the first several episodes of the citizenship-changing show would have scripts that would mirror almost exactly plots of the original show. This displeased me because:

(A) to my taste, it didn’t work out for The Office as the characters behaved differently in those first few episodes than their true original natures once the brilliant writers were free to give them original thoughts;

(B) I was craving new L&O adventures instead of redos of previous adventures (after all, those beloved re-runs are already always available when I need them); and

(C) my suspension of disbelief would be damaged by parallel universes wherein the characters had identical stories (and so, instead of following a plot for turns of law, I would simply be comparing it to its clone story).

So I lost interest in Law & Order: UK.

But, yesterday, on a random of strike of my remote, I happened across the show and I decided to honour it with a few minutes of my time (it was near the episode’s conclusion, anyway). It was indeed a familiar plot, and a very good one, too, and so I watched to what I thought was the signature Law & Order final comment.

(Usually, at the end of each show, one of the good guys says something pithy or profound to leave us pondering as the haunting credit “Executive Producer Dick Wolf” arrives on a dark background. For instance, there was the time that Assistant District Attorney, Ben Stone, was asked if he’d accept a dinner invitation from his recently beaten, but always condescending rival, and Ben (my hero) retorted, “Only if he orders crow”.)

But, on this episode of Law & Order: UK, the grand concluding line was not followed by an executive producing boast! Instead, we spent a good minute watching one of the characters wander around London with music playing in her background. Um, no, Law & Order is not a music video. I’m sure the character had some interesting thoughts about the case she’d recently lost, but since I couldn’t read her mind, watching her stoic face was not useful to me.

Moreover, and more importantly, given that this was a copy of an original Law & Order episode, they must have had to cut some of the brilliant details of the parent show in order to add in the walk of the pensive! No!

I may give L&O: UK another chance (I might even consider a full episode), but they’ll have to eat crow first. (Hmm, it sounded better when Ben said it).

Executive Producer Seth McDonough

CAPTAIN’S BLOG

Welcome to SethBlogs. I’m your host and leading-Seth-expert, Seth.

I am not embarrassed to admit—although you may be embarrassed to hear—that it only occurred to me now, as I prepare to set sail on this online journal, that the term “blog” sounds a lot like a (ship captain’s) “log.” Indeed, I’ve just checked with Wikipedia, and it has politely confirmed that “blog” is short for “web log.”

Who knew? (I’m guessing not more than 90% of the web-going population.)

This news delights me because it’s a perfect justification for what I’d already planned to do: I intend to offer this blog as a log, not only for my current thoughts and adventures, but also for my previous ones, which I don’t think should be punished for their author’s delay in learning to blog them.

And, for those who would object that blog entries should arrive fresh and topical to the internet, the following conversation can take place:

WISE SETH: So how do you like my blog?

CYNICAL CATHY: Um, your last entry seemed like it featured an event of more than ten years ago.

WISE SETH: Very observant: yes, my millennium party story is not particularly current.

CYNICAL CATHY: Then why are you putting it on your blog today?

WISE SETH: Because I think it’s a good story.

CYNICAL CATHY: But it’s out of date.

WISE SETH: Yes, well, when you find a shipwreck, and the attached captain’s log, are you going to care if the captain posted his or her log entries ten years after the events, or are you going to be glad just to have the log?

CYNICAL CATHY: You make a good point. I could learn a lot from you.

WISE SETH: Yes, you could: I recommend SethBlogs.

And we all read happily ever after.