Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Ahhh... Turkey Day

I'll be winging it on Wednesday morning for Austin, Texas. Sounds like it's going to be a humdinger of a good time at THe House of the Red Door. Mum has already purchased our turkey, and I understand I am responsible for locating some other goods once I am on the ground in Austin.

Last year a student from Taiwan asked me "So what is Thanksgiving?"

And I tried to give the elementary school version and explain how the Pilgrims wanted to give thanks after a terribly crappy first year, and wanted to celebrate the harvest, and invited some of their new pals from the Native American village over the hill.

"And then we killed all of the Indians!" my helpful classmate piped up.

"Well, that's the longer version of the story--" I began. By now the poor Taiwanese student was a bit horrified.

"We gave them diseases and shot them all," concluded my classmate.

"American history is..." I was searching for a word. "Complicated. But the basic gist is that it's about coming together to give thanks for the year."

"What is a pilgrim?"

"They were these guys from England who felt they weren't free enough in England to, uh... well, they were seeking religious freedom. They wanted to be more religiously strict, and got kicked out of England. And then they went to Holland, and I think they more or less got kicked out of Holland. So they bought some land and sailed to the US."

"So the holiday is religious?"

"Yes. No. Yes. No. Well, it can be."

"So what do you do on Thanksgiving?"

"You eat a turkey and potatos and stuffing, watch football and argue with family."


"That's what we do at my house."

"Me too," my classmate replied.

"Sometimes," I added, "We play catch in the front yard."

The Taiwanese classmate's expression said it all. Not much of a Holiday.

But it is, and it's ours and it's groovy.

Enjoy your family. Enjoy your friends. Remember to stop and give thanks to God or Allah, or cosmic coincidence or whomever you give thanks to.

I'm thankful for

a decent job
Superman comics
a dog who never fails to make me laugh
a cat who never fails to entertain
and, as always, I'm thankful for Jamie

You guys go out there and have a nice Turkey Day
Any ideas what to get my brother for Christmas?

He's a 31 year old lawyer, he enjoys B-movies, playing in a band and Tex-mex.

Anyone? Anyone?

Monday, November 22, 2004

Isn't Superman dead?

Okay, so I had assumed/ hoped that this article would remain below the radar of The League's readership. But the Leaguers are a wily lot, and as such, Jeff Shoemaker has thrown down the gauntlet.

Here is the gist of the article, stated in the opening paragraph:

Superman is too good a role model. Fans of the man from Krypton unwittingly compare themselves to the superhero, and realise they do not measure up. And as a result, they are less likely to help other people.

Strong words. So how does the League defend the indefensible?

To begin with, the general populace lumps Superman in with Chefboyardee and Mr. Potato Head as a sort of universal pop-culture constant. Superman is okay, but he's a boyscout and boring (he's no XXX, stickin' it to The Man!). People basically know who Superman is, and can make general assumptions about the character, so, obviously the researchers were able to wrangle up an excellent sample of Superman fans for their study. Or, you know, sorority girls with Superman emblems on their halter tops.

The article is sketchy with details of the research or the purpose of the actual research. One part of the study basically asked people (the article doesn't define the population outside of "students") to list characteristics of either superheroes in general or Superman in particular.

Then, three months later, the subjects were asked to appear for a volunteer program. Apparently fewer of the Superman "primed" people appeared and judged "less likely to help people."

I just don't feel like there's much information here to go by.

The author's posit: Superman is an impossible imaginary figure to live up to, so instead of trying, fans interested in Superman, or who identify with Superman, cannot get over the psychological trauma of being human, and thusly, cannot summon the will to help others.

But here's the important part: Despite the opening paragraph, note that the article doesn't state that the folks who didn't show up to volunteer are actually fans of Superman. The subjects of the study were average "students" who were "primed" with Superman one way or another instead of a more generic ideal of superheroes. Not once does the article indicate that anyone involved was predisposed to enjoying Superman comics, cartoons, movies, etc... Not even those sorority girls in their Superman halters.

The conclusion drawn by researchers relating to the actual study is as follows:

The reason (ed. insert: Superman fans didn't show), believes Nelson, is that asking people to compare themselves to an exceptional individual makes them realise their shortcomings. Whereas thinking about a general category encourages people to identify the strengths they have in common.

I can't disagree with what the researchers said in the above statement.

Point to the Founding Fathers instead of superheroes. In general, we think of those bewigged patriots as noble, if eccentric, men of destiny. We know as a group that they had foibles and shortcomings. But once you mention George Washington or Ben Franklin, unless you're an historian or take more than a Gov't 101 passing interest in history, you shine a divine light upon these people. It's much easier to imagine being one of many patriotic minded folks in a general powdered wig sort of way than to imagine being the same guy who won fought in the French-Indian Wars, crossed the Delaware and stuck it out at Valley Forge. Founding the world's greatest Republic is tough marker to measure up to for Joe and Jane Public.

But does it affect whether or not people show up to volunteer?

The article is in short supply as to details. Of those people who made it to the volunteer event, were there 80% fewer Superman primed folks, or 1%? What were the people asked to volunteer for as the mock follow up? How many people were asked in total to participate? What was the expected standard deviation? Did any of the Superman primed folks have an excuse why they didn't show? Was it raining that day? Did the semester end? Were Superman primed and superhero primed people asked to appear for separate events? Were any other superheroes included in the list? What was the control of the study? What would have happened with, say... Groucho Marx or The Bangles versus Superman? What if more people showed up who volunteered and were given "Groucho" to describe? And wasn't the volunteering for the experiment in the first place a sign that the Superman populace was willing to volunteer?

I obviously am missing something about the experiment and the journalist's conclusions. However, it's not to hard to imagine the journalist getting a full report of the experiment and saying "Oh, so Superman fans won't help people? That IS interesting! Man DOES bite dog!" It's lazy journalism.

Imagine an article on a "scientific" study being published reading "Fans of Basketball are unable to assist others because they can never be Karl Malone." Or, to make an exact parallel regarding what the hero figure DOES versus what the fans feel they cannot DO: "Fans of the Beatles are unable to play the drums because they feel that their greatest effort shall never surpass that of Ringo." Or "Lawyers feel Clarence Darrow too good of an attorney for them to compare selves to. Lawyers less likely to do jobs adequately."

The most irritating aspect is, of course, that you can't argue with something once it's in print. There's now conclusive scientific proof that Superman fans are losers. Hurray. If I received this article already a few times today, it's going to be one of those things relatives bring up for the next few years at Thanksgiving dinner when they see my Superman watch. "I heard that people who like Superman won't help people."

It's going to be the new "Isn't Superman dead?"

Sunday, November 21, 2004

The League Takes The Pepsi (Holiday Spice) Challenge!!!

Not so long ago, Jamie and The League were watching some prime-time television, as is our habit. During the commercial break, a lively Pepsi add appeared in which several magical elves were trying to drive a delivery truck, but, amusingly, the elves were too small to drive a truck, and their team work wasn't really working to help them park the truck.

The League was filled with Holiday Mirth.

Mrs. League announced loudly: That stuff looks so gross.

Bear in mind, they had not actually even SHOWN the product.

BULLSHIT! declared the League. I'm going to buy some!

A quick editor's note: Mrs. League is reading over my shoulder (and being a Spelling-Nazi) and wants to clarify that she had read a description of Pepsi Holiday Spice online, and so she KNEW Holiday Spice was not going to be the flavor explosion it was being advertised to be. This concerns me as I wonder why Mrs. League is going to web pages discussing the flavors of new sodas. Ah, well. Maybe I should spend more time at home.

And then, just last week, Jim D. posted an inquiry regarding Pepsi Holiday Spice.

You can read Jim's post here.

This morning I awoke with a craving for waffles, and so I ventured out to the neighborhood Basha's in order to procure some eggs.

Making my way from eggs to check-out, I stumbled across the Pepsi Holiday Spice endcap display, and decided then and there, I was taking on The 2004 Jim D. Pepsi Holiday Spice Pepsi Challenge!

The League recongizes the value of scientific inquiry, and is also willing to put it on the line for his readership, and thusly, the League decided to go for it with no concern for personal safety.

I tasted the the Pepsi Holiday SPice IMMEDIATELY upon returning home. Unfortunately, my glass was SOAPY, and it distorted my impressions. SO, well after breakfast, I took up the Challenge again under a more controlled scientific environment.

The Pepsi Challenge begins

First, note that the Pepsi Holiday Spice (or PHS, as it shall henceforth be referred to) is sort of reddish. It looks a bit like other drinks, such as black cherry soda. Not red like Big Red, but not exactly cola colored, either. I guess it's Holidayish to be a ruddy red.

Jeff steps in to investigate.

So what DID Jamie's little online friends have to say about PHS? Jamie claimed it would taste like cinnamon, which, I'll be honest, wasn't much of a turn-off. Who doesn't like cinnamon?

(editor's note: Jamie is being sort of a Snooty Sally while I try to report on the FACTS, here Leaguers. She keeps telling me to change things here in my summary of events. Well, Leaguers, The League will NOT STAND FOR CENSORSHIP. Even when kicked. She says "it wasn't my little online friends; it was in a review I read somewhere!" A review of WHAT Ms. Snooty Sally? Now she's calling me a jerk. I am proud to say that intimidation does little to sway The League.)

(editor's editor's note: I am now being harassed and being told I "sit on a throne of lies". Apparently she has no online friends. Which is sad, because she has no other friends I know of.)

Anyway, I like cinnamon, and I was intrigued by Pepsi with a splash of cinnamon.

Jeff seemed to like the smell, so I gave it a shot myself.

The PHS smelled mostly like regular old Pepsi. Sort of like sweet sugar water with chemicals. What's not to like? I shook it about like a fine wine, releasing the hidden subtleties, and getting a good feeling for the bouquet.

mmmmmmmmm... smells like chemicals

Then I went ahead and went for the taste. The TRUE Pepsi Challenge.

note optimistically skeptical expression

The flavor was okay going down. Sort of soda-ish, hint of Pepsi. Hold on, let me go taste it again to get this right.

Okay. It tastes sort of like Pepsi with nutmeg and a dash of cinnamon. But that's the soda going DOWN.

shock and dismay

Immediately after passing the tongue, a new flavor arises from the residue resting upon the tongue. It's sort of a weird "I've had too much candy and now my tongue tastes like cough medicine" kind of vibe.

Alas, I have to report NOT being filled with Holiday Mirth upon drinking my PHS. I think I gave it a good shot, gave it a few samples, but without a little booze in it to add some extra "spice", I'm not really sure how excited I would be about PHS. In fact, I can say that with a hint of The Captain, PHS might be made significantly more tolerable.

Unfortunately, I had none of The Captain on hand, and thus...

adios, Christmas cheer...

I'm not really sure what to do with the 1.7 liters left. I suppose eventually I'll drink it.

We had ourselves a Ballon Festival in Chandler.

Woke up yesterday at 6:50am in order to be up when the ballons launched. Mel and I saw them when they first popped up over the fenceline. I went and woke up Jamie and watched the beginnings of the balloon race beginning from Tumbleweed Park.

Last night we went down to the park to see the balloons. Every few minutes the balloons would all light up simultaneously after a 10-count.

We saw the lit skydivers from the road as we were leaving, and watched the fireworks from over the same fenceline.

I'm thinking that balloon day will get better in coming years. This was, after all, the first time they tried it. No sign of balloons today, I might add.