Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hark Or Treat! 2015

Trick or Treat in my neighborhood was last night, and I decided to write down all of the costumes I saw.

For the record, here's the list:
  • Iron Man
  • Blue Man Group Member
  • Bear
  • Cowboy
  • Zombie x3
  • Unadorned Baby
  • PennDOT Worker
  • Bride
  • Vampire
  • Bane
  • Pumpkin Princess x2
  • Disco Queen
  • Guy In The Scream Mask
  • Referee
  • Minion
  • Hooded Spider Menace
  • Cow (Baby Version)
  • Little Bo Peep
  • Little Red Riding Hood x2
  • Witch (Elvira-style)
  • Butterfly x2
  • Spooky Skeleton
  • Doll
  • Ninja
  • Candy Corn Devil
  • Neon Sailor Baby
  • Assassins Creed Dude
  • Batgirl x2
  • Supergirl
  • Maria Von Trapp
  • Angel
  • Elsa x4
  • Princess
  • Spiderman
  • Ladybug
  • Hobo x2
  • Clown
  • Nerd
  • Skeleton x3
  • NASCAR Driver
  • SWAT Team Member
  • Ninja Turtle
  • Pajamas x2
  • Pale Cloaked Weirdo
  • Skirt-wearing Soccer Player
  • G. I. Joe
  • Vampiress
  • Doctor
  • The Flash
  • Scorpion from Mortal Kombat
  • Football Player (possibly Detroit Lions)
A few notes:
  • It was raining like Patricia's Revenge, so our turnout was on the anemic side. We usually average 100-120 or so. One year we had almost 200. One year we had 30. Inventory control is challenging, but no candy goes to waste. (Burp.) This year it looks like it's around 64.
  • It was a little touch-and-go. Because of the rain, a lot of the kids were huddled under hoodies and umbrellas and weren't screwing around. As such, I had to judge a lot of costumes based on a few seconds of panic. It's entirely possible there were less hobos and more hipsters. Not that that would matter.
  • The top costumes were: Elsa (4), Zombie, Skeleton (3 each), Pumpkin Princess, Little Red Riding Hood, Butterfly, Batgirl, Hobo, Pajamas (2 each)
  • I don't know what a Pumpkin Princess is. Basically, some girls showed up wearing an orange princess-style dress. I figured "Pumpkin Princess" looked better on a resume than "Generic Halloween Dress."
  • I asked the ninja turtle, who was probably four or five, which turtle he was. He pointed a thumb at himself and said "This one!" and confidently walked away. Well, he's not wrong.
  • A note about Elsa: I have no idea if they were actually Elsa from Frozen or not. I assumed if there were wearing blue, had a braid and/or had a pendant they were Elsa. It's possible they were simply Princesses Who Happen To Not Understand Trademark Law, but I figured I'd play the odds and chalk them up to Elsa.
  • I have separate entries for Skeleton and Spooky Skeleton, which means that one Skeleton must have really freaked me out.
  • Cow (Baby Version): Not a calf, but a baby wearing a full-grown cow costume.
  • I put down Blue Man Group Member, but it was basically Green Man only in Blue. Take that as you will.
  • When I say "Maria Von Trapp," I mean "Girl in a dress that looked vaguely Germanic and there was no evidence that they were Austrian or Julie Andrews or anything."
  • Someone, somewhere, is going to tell me 'THAT'S NOT A NASCAR DRIVER THAT'S A STOCK CAR DRIVER UNIFORM." Not only do I not know the difference, I do not care. 
  • I don't think The Flash was actually The Flash. I know it was a superhero, and he had an emblem on his chest, and there seemed to be racing stripes on him, so I'm just going to assume it was The Flash. It could have been Spiderman, I dunno.
  • Candy Corn Devil wins Best Costume. I have no idea if it was intentional or not, but her horns were little candy corn kernels and that is the best. THE BEST.
  • Neon Sailor Baby is opening at The Rex next Thursday
  • Most alarming stat of the night: Number of Sour Patch Kid Things I Opened And Consumed: Too many. (Four.)
  • Biggest surprise: only one Minion.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Some Assembly Required

OK, I'll admit it--I've drunk the Marvel Cinematic Universe Kool-Aid.

As I've mentioned before, I'm not really into comic books. No reason; it's just a nerd blind spot for me. And I don't hate them, I just never really got into them

So far I have watched all of the movies up until The Avengers, which closes out the first phase. I'm not going to claim these are classics--in fact, most of them fit the definition of big, dumb, clumsy action flicks. And that's okay.

The good news is that the MCU has done a pretty good job of weaving an interesting, thematic thread through each of the movies. Sure, you have your obvious macguffins and dialed-in personal arcs, but in the end it's all made right with a bunch of smashed-up cars in downtown Manhattan.

Still, I can't help but point out some things that just bother me:

1. Tony Stark is an asshole. I'm not taking about a lovable, snarky, sarcastic ladies' man. He's just a jerk. I know people are supposed to like his attitude, but it just screams immature adolescent. I don't find him enjoyable at all.

2. Thor (and, for that matter, Loki) seems out of place. In a world where everyone else is a superhero pretty much by superscience, here's a Norse demigod with a toolbelt. I'm sure there's some super secret comic book reason for this (and I can't fault the movies since they're just following the comics), but I just can't quite meld the two. The movies at least make an attempt to handwave this away by claiming that magic is just science that people don't understand, but still.

3. Everyone is pretty much invincible. Even amongst the Avengers, Hulk and Thor are evenly matched, and Captain America and Iron Man are also evenly matched as long as they have their toys. Hell, even ScarJo and Mayor Carmine seem indestructible even though they're just highly trained professionals with unrealistic hand-eye coordination without the benefit of a lab accident. The villains, of course, are equally invincible. There's far too much of each movie that basically boils down to two of the characters beating the ever-loving shit out of each other with little to no consequence until the audience is going to get bored and then mysteriously one of them has had enough and gives up. Without a compelling kryptonite (sorry, Marvel) to serve as an Achilles' Heel (sorry, Greek mythology), the narrative of victory and defeat basically doesn't exist.

Still, these are things that could develop--I have to get caught up in Phase Two which is still currently being created. I eagerly await.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Attention Shoppers

So one of my friends recently posited this question: why do Wal-Mart and Target have such different reputations and feel so different despite the fact that they are functionally the same?

At first glance, it seems absurd: Target and Wal-Mart and clearly different. And yet they aren't. They're still both department stores and they have roughly the same layout and floor plan. So why the marked difference?

There's a few theories, some more obvious than others:
  • Target clearly focuses on mid-to-high end communities in the suburbs. Wal-Mart focuses on rural areas and suburbs in general. Both tend to avoid the cities, but clearly Wal-Mart aims for broad volume while Target captures a smaller but more lucrative market.
  • Even though the layout is largely similar in both places, with only small differences, Target's red tends to be warmer than Wal-Mart's cold, efficient blue. Also, Target tends to pepper their endcaps with homey crafts, rounded corners, and pleasing, pretty decorations, while Wal-Mart goes straight for value. One could easily envision Target as a living room, and Wal-Mart as a warehouse.
  • Target is playing the age-old game of lower volume, higher profit. It's wildly lucrative if you can pull it off, and Target has seemed to done just that. Add a bit of genius: people are willing to pay a premium for having a low-traffic, slow-paced shopping experience. Older, established department stores have always done this, of course, except they bet too much on what people were willing to pay, and instead ended up with old-fashioned overstock.
  • To add to the last point, Wal-Mart excels in cut-to-the-bone pricing, rollbacks, and eschews sales for guaranteeing low prices as the norm--all the while offering low-price but low-quality stock as a valid option. Target, for their part, doesn't do this, still giving shoppers choices but rarely offering the lowest available option.
  • For the record, K-Mart, once the leader but long since derelict, did a kind of a fusion of the two, hitching their success on mailings and sale fliers, combined with the legendary "bluelight special" that emphasized people to take their time shopping so they wouldn't miss a sale. In a day and age of the internet, where bluelight specials are stupid and fliers largely outdated, their main advantage slowly eroded away. 
I'm not sure if this answers the question, but I think it points to the right place.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Reasons Why I'm A Hopeless Dope, Part 1 of Infinity

So over the past year or so, I have heard a song. A specific song, mind you: it's one I heard fairly often, maybe once every few weeks. What was unique about this song was that I only heard it in grocery stores.

This, of course, means that I could barely hear the song. I couldn't hear the lyrics at all, except for some snippets here and there.

I would stop in my tracks in the middle of the cereal aisle, annoying the harried moms and gray-faced teenage stockboys as I tried to make out the words so I could look it up later.

Of course, this was always a random encounter; I couldn't just look it up, I had to be wandering listlessly in a dump truck of a grocery store before I could even attempt. It's like a burglar walking down the street trying car doors and hoping to get a score. Only instead of rattling doorknobs I was buying pumpkin filling and instead of larceny I was trying to figure out a half-remembered song.

I've only been able to make out one bit of lyrics, which are "Wake me up." That's it. Standing there, cart in hand, eyes squinted towards the speakers in the ceiling, all I could come up with is "Wake me up mummmmble mummmmble."

Anyway, I heard it earlier this week and I was determined to find out what it was. I went online and asked people. I hummed it to myself, trying to translate the humming into words so I could type it up and the magic computer machine would spit out an answer.

And then, suddenly, it occurred to me. I typed in "Wake me up" in a browser and the answer immediately came up. For months, this never occured to me.

And that's a reason why I'm a dope. 

Here's the song, if you're interested, by Avicii, called "Wake Me Up." I'm not much into EDM but I'll take what I can get. (For the record, this hit #4 on the Billboard, which should tell you what I know of popular music.)

(By the way, this isn't the official video, because the official video is kinda weird and has dialogue between the stanzas. It's easy enough to find if you're interested, but Vevo stamped their name on this so I'm assuming the royalties somehow make it to Sweden in either case.)