Monday, February 28, 2011

Meme Girls

For some, the thirst for knowledge can be a great character trait. Not so much for me. Mostly because I tend to thirst for knowledge about stupid things.

Like memes. I hate it when someone brings up a meme and I don’t know about it. Can you think of something less important to know about than an internet meme? An internet meme is never going to save somebody’s life. It’s never going to make the world a better place. It’s never going to imbue your soul with a quintessential truth about the universe. But I get annoyed when I don’t know them. Memes are like internet gossip and fashion and inside jokes rolled into one, and I must be in on it.

I was at Matsuri yesterday, which is Phoenix’s Japanese festival. It was successful in that I went with a girl and I added eel to my list of animals I’ve eaten list. It was not successful in that everyone knew a meme that I didn’t know. Admittedly, there’s no way you’re going to keep up with a cosplaying otaku on knowledge of internet culture. But the fact that everyone except Integral and I knew to start doing this stupid dance when a stupid song played was disappointing to me. The dance was the following:

And no, I wouldn’t have started doing the dance if I knew it. And yes, it is one of the more ridiculous things that I could possibly conceive of. But still, everyone knew but me! Embarrassing. More embarrassing though is the fact that I spent 30 minutes last night investigating the dance. But really, how was I supposed to find it in less than 30 minutes when my only clues on what to google was “Japanese dance.”

One of my favorite memes of the last month or so is Hipster Ariel. I’ve included some of my favorites below:

Sunday, February 27, 2011

And best picture goes to . . .

Come on Academy Awards. You can’t expect me to see 10 movies by show-time tonight. Especially considering the fact that I’m at the hospital. I had a hard enough time seeing the top 5 in years past, and 10 is just out of the question.

Earlier this week I invited some folk over and we watched The King’s Speech, seeing as it had such Oscar buzz around it. For months, every single person I’ve talked to about it has had nothing but praise. And honestly, I don’t have anything very critical to say about it. Other than there are 4 movies, only counting the ones that were nominated, that I think are more deserving of being named the best picture of the year.

Black Swan was simultaneously beautiful and horrifying. It kept you guessing and thoroughly invested for the entire time. It had great acting all around. It was filmed in a great claustrophobic, surreal style. It was a much much more interesting movie than The King’s Speech.

The Social Network was an incredibly clever movie. I didn’t get around to seeing 127 Hours (again, 10 movies?) and I hear Boyle does a great job of keeping you glued to a guy that’s glued in one place. But The Social Network does a great job of keeping you riveted by facebook. It’s a commentary of life now. My roommate thinks this movie won’t matter in ten years, but if that’s your argument, The King’s Speech doesn’t matter either. The movie is ostensibly about facebook, but the plot isn’t really what it’s about. It’s about geniuses and narcissists and loneliness and greed and those things aren’t going anywhere. The writing and acting were excellent as well.

The King’s Speech was a great feel-good movie. Do you know what was a better one? The Fighter. I don’t care about boxing, I don’t care about Lowell , I don’t care about crack. But I cared about the characters in this movie because they were so well realized. And it’s predictable, but who cares? It makes you feel good.

True Grit was one of the most fun movie experiences I’ve had this year. It’s hilarious. Much funnier than most comedies I’ve seen this year, or any other. Add to that the Coen’s attention to detail, the terrific acting and the strong character studies, and it’s just a gem all around.

It’s not that The King’s Speech was bad. It was in fact very very good. I’d love to see Helena Bonham Carter and Colin Firth win some awards. But I just can’t say it’s the best from the list of movies, and I didn’t even see Toy Story, Winter’s Bone or the Kids Are Alright. And if you think Inception is the best movie of the year, well, you’re wrong. It was an interesting concept, admirably translated into a competent blockbuster, but it’s not a great work of film. In any case, I wouldn’t pick The King’s Speech. I’d have a hard time choosing, but for me it would come down to Black Swan and The Social Network. Emotion and art or intellect and import? It’s hard to pick, but sadly The Academy didn’t ask me to.

Post script Post
Movies that are excellent that didn’t get best pictures nominations:

Never Let Me Go
Let Me In
Shutter Island
Get Low
Scott Pilgrim
Animal Kingdom
And of course, Burlesque

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I'm a neurologist. Psych.

I tend not to talk about work when it’s something I dislike (eg ED) to keep from sounding like the male equivalent of a negative Nancy. But I sometimes forget to talk about the work that I like. Perhaps that’s because I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about work when I’m not at work, which is when I blog. Because blogging at work is discouraged. But as it so happens, I’m currently blogging at work.

I’m able to do this because I’m on a Neurology rotation. Neurology isn’t inherently easy, in fact it’s inherently kind of complicated, but this particular rotation is pretty laid back. The doctor I work with likes to dictate all his notes, so doesn’t need me to write any notes for him to use for his notes. And since there are 3-5 residents and students working with him, we each have relatively few patients to see. Which makes this a pretty sweet month. When you can blog at work, you can’t complain too much.

But even if I saw more than 3-4 patients a day, which I don’t, neurology would still be great. To be honest, I’m probably a better neurologist than a psychiatrist. When I first told people that I was thinking about psychiatry, I often got “Really?” as a response. Some of this is probably due to the general view of psychiatry as quackery. But some was undoubtedly because I’m a bit Aspergers. I’m not terribly good at reading emotions, which you might imagine is a good skill to have in psychiatry. But I am a good listener, pretty good abstract thinker and am generally good at being objective. So I’m not a complete loss as a psychiatrist, but I’m probably better at Neurology. I did a fair amount of neurology as a neuroscientist major, I did an above average amount at med school, and I took some neuro electives. The brain is kind of a squishy mishmash of shapish blobs, but it still makes a certain amount of sense to me.

But I didn't go into neurology. Although I'm probably a better neurologist than a psychiatrist, I don't enjoy it as much. There is a near infinite number of strokes you could have, but I don't find one much more interesting than the next. But psychotic people, they're all different and all interesting. Both fields have pretty poor outcomes; you don't cure schizophrenia, and you don't cure seizures, you just treat them as best you can. But of the two, I feel like successfully treating psychiatric conditions is more rewarding.

So if you've seen me in the last month you may have noticed I'm liking my job. But more likely, you didn't notice any difference. I'm greatly enjoying my neurology vacation, but it will be nice to get back to psych in a couple months.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Normally I like to watch the Oscar nominated films before the Academy Awards. But I'm busy, and there are 10 of them now, which makes everything much harder. A friend told me about a local theater is showing all 10 movies for one ticket price the day before the Oscars and if I'm feeling insane then maybe I'll do that. But more likely I'll just watch The King's Speech and call it good.

But last night I found a theater that's showing all the Oscar nominated short films. How cool is that? Who ever gets to see the short films? So Shawty and I grabbed some Greek (with flaming Feta cheese!) and hit the theater. Turns out half the showings were the live action shorts and half were the animated ones, and we were there in time for the animated ones.

The best one was The Lost Thing. It won't win, but it was the best. Whereas a number of the pieces were very heavy-handed or simplistic with their messages, The Lost Thing was a little more subtle. It wasn't exactly obscure, but at least it wasn't patronizing like Let's Pollute!. It had a hint of Douglas Adams to it, with just a hint of snark and a dab of wonder.

The best visuals were Madagascar, A Journey Diary. It was like a living scrapbook. I don't really understand everything that it depicted, but it all looked fantastic. The artistic style changed from second to second, with sketches, watercolors, rotoscopes, CG etc all used to great effect. The whole thing is available online:

Pixar's Day and Night was entered. It'll probably win because the world is infatuated with all things Pixar like a 12 year old Bieber groupie. But, I must say that this was the most interesting thing I've ever seen Pixar do, so I'll rank it third.

I think Shawty's favorite was The Gruffalo. Other than the Pixar contribution this was the biggest production. It features a variety of British actors (Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Wilkinson, Rob Brydon, James Corden etc) voicing the roles. Evidently this is a popular book among children, and it seems like it's probably an exact adaptation. It was well done, just aimed at 6 year-olds.

We got two bonus films that didn't make it into the top 5, both of which I'd place above the actual 5th choice. One was called URS and was a typically German German film. It was pretty good, if a bit depressing. The other was called The Cow that Wanted to Be a Hamburger, and it was pretty great. I'd include a clip but the only I can find is of a calf sucking on an animated teat, which doesn't do the film justice.

Finally, Let's Pollute! It was fine, just kind of dumb. And not because it was environmentalist, but because it was environmentalist and had nothing to say. Being satirical and saying the opposite of what you mean isn't clever unless you include some actual content.

So rather than see all the Oscar noms, I took the shortcut and just watched the shorts. Maybe next year I'll take the scenic route.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy VD!

I’m sure that last year was my oddest Valentine’s Day. I met a bunch of AIDS orphans, wandered an African casino drooling over Indian girls, culminating in a romantic devil’s threesome dinner at a restaurant decorated with pinups and meat hooks. Hard to beat.

This year was an odd mix of appropriate and inappropriate activities, along with appropriate activities done out of context.

On Friday I participated in a Battle of the Sexes. As I have thrown a couple BotS before, I offered the use of my trivia bank. But as I knew all the answers to the gender trivia, I couldn’t participate on the men’s team. So I was appropriated into the activities committee for the evening and became a judge/scorekeeper. I got bored and started writing jokes on the scoreboard, which eventually resulted in the girl’s protesting my credentials. Evidently they didn’t like it when I vandalized Ladies, changing it to Rabies, and when I posted the comment “Haven’t scored in a while” after they hadn’t scored for 15 minutes. So half the girls in my ward don’t like me anymore, but realistically they wouldn’t have liked me if they knew me better anyway. And the other half gave me some compliments on my shirt and some beard rubs so it all evens out in the end.

Saturday, well I may have drunk myself into a stupor because I don’t really know what I did on Saturday. But I know I did decide to watch a movie and it happened to be Forgetting Sarah Marshall. And only afterwards did I realize I’d selected a movie about a painful breakup for my Valentine’s weekend. Apropos. As always, a fine film.

Sunday, I had intended to throw a Pal-antine’s Day movie night. Unfortunately due to roommates’ illness, absence and disinterest, my little movie night became a very little one as it was just The Historian and myself. But since I like The Historian more than most people, it all worked out fine. We watched (500) Days of Summer, which was an intentional choice of a movie about a painful breakup, so was again appropriate. In addition to our bittersweet movie, we made some bittersweet Frozen Lemon Cream, which I hadn’t had in a decade or two. It is as good as I remembered.

On Valentine’s Day itself, I had pre-arranged to have a girlfriend. Months ago I had been discussing my Love Sucks Party tradition with the Dirty Lunchlady (before she protests, it’s only a temporary pseudonym) and we decided we’d be a couple for Valentine’s Day. So after I presented her with a lovely bouquet of pickles, we went to get some Thai food. Partially this was in preparation for my trip to Thailand, and partially to try to satisfy her insatiable lust for spicy food. It was a pleasant evening with fine conversation, far too many old white Scottsdalians for an ethnic restaurant and an overly loud jazz band. After some discussion of our mutual love for NPH we ended up watching Dr. Horrible. Turns out I had selected yet another movie about a painful breakup, proving that my subconscious and/or my movie collection is highly fatalistic. But despite this, it was great evening, made even better because I didn’t have to go to work until noon today.

I’m not saying that there won’t be a Love Sucks VII next year, but turns out there are lots of other ways to celebrate the birth/death/existence of Saint Valentine.

The time of the week when I rank some neo-divas

At trivia a couple weeks back they asked which artist had 4 #1 Singles in 2010. After a bit of lively debate we narrowed it down to Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Keisha, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj as the contenders. And I figured that you wanted to know my opinion of these “artists.” So I’ll rank them.

1. Lady Gaga. I non-ironically love Lady Gaga. I don’t love all her music (I wasn’t a big fan of Telephone, but it did grow on me a bit) but I really like her presentation. Yes, I think her weirdness is prefabricated, but that makes it even better to me. It’s a bit fake, but she has to figure out how to be fake in the right ways. Anyway, she’s great. Bad Romance remains my favorite song of hers, as well as my favorite video of the last few years. She’s the only artist of the 5 that I could really say is good at this point.

2. Katy Perry. I like Katy, but I’m not sure why. I absolutely hate, California Gurls, with a passion. So the fact that I still feel positively towards her is an impressive achievement by her marketing team. Also she doesn’t interview well, which is usually a big negative for me. And she did pretty horribly on How I Met Your Mother last week. Yet, I still like her! Amazing. I’m not even overly attracted to her, which would be the normal explanation for ignoring her other faults. Positives though: she’s married to Russell Brand, who I like in small doses, and I think she has an interesting non-pop voice.

3. Nicki Minaj. I like Nicki, but I do think she’s a bit of a novelty. I think ten years from now if you hear a track with Nicki on you’ll be able to say “Oh, that must have been from 2010-11.” But I’d be happy to be proven wrong. She’s not a great lyricist, but she has some fun voice inflection that makes her mundane rhymes more interesting. Kind of like doing impersonations while rapping. Plus she held her own on a couple SNL sketches a couple weeks back, which gives her points. Her guest work is still stronger than her solo work, and I suspect it will always stay that way. Check out Monster and Bottoms Up for my favorite Nicki bits.

4. Rihanna. I’m not big on hip hop generally, but I like Rihanna well enough. I wandered into a Rihanna concert on OSU campus once. True story. Her music is very hit or miss for me. Even though I think everyone on this list has dozens of people crafting their music and presentation, I feel like Rihanna doesn’t really have a personality. She just gets put into songs, and some are huge hits. Her favorite of mine at the moment is Cheers, which I don’t think has been a single yet.

5. Keisha. Not surprisingly, Keisha is last on my list. I don’t feel like anyone really likes or respects Keisha, and I don’t feel like anyone should. There’s no denying that her songs are uber-catchy, but they’re just gibberish.

So our group answered Lady Gaga. My personal vote was Rihanna. Katy and Keisha pretty well split the difference and no one really thought Nicki had been in 4 #1s. Turns out I was right; Rihanna had Rude Boy, Love the Way You Lie, What’s My Name and Only Girl (In the World.) Props to her, but I still think she’s kind of boring.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Spring cleaning

I realize that 90% of you read this on facebook or on Google Reader. But if you're one of the remaining people, you've already noticed that I changed the format of my blog.

Maybe you'll like a picture of me on a horse better than me at the Cape of Good Hope. I very nearly put a picture of Kristen Bell there instead, but decided a picture of me was more accurate given the blog's content. But you can vote for a picture of Kristen Bell if you want.

Maybe your blog appears along the side now. Kudos. If not, update it more often.

I got rid of the fish. Sorry if that's why you came here.


I don't endorse things lightly, but I'm going to endorse Myq Kaplan.

I like his delivery and wit, if not always his subject matter.

And in case you are too lazy to look up another video to double check whether you like him, here's another one:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Stronger (sorry if that put Britney in your head)

Yesterday you got a teaser for today's post. The actual story is that I tried to be fancy and set a timer for my post like some of my more blog-savvy friends, and then became too busy to finish the post. In any case, the graphic included the quote from Gauguin:

"One must be strong to endure solitude, and to work alone."

Now many of you may have an issue with 18 year-olds getting married. Not me. Admittedly, an 18 year-old is hardly a person. As a general rule anything with teen in the title is not a person. So you might think that it's not responsible for an almost-person to get married. Because chances are good that they will eventually become a person, say 5 years or 5 babies in the future. And that person 5 somethings later may not like the spouse they picked out back when they were a person-in-training. So while I certainly don't think it's ideal for an 18 year old to get married, I'm not willing to say this is always, 100%, most definitely a bad decision. But, honestly, it probably is.

I point this out, because I'm about to report one of the few advantages to not being married at 28, and I don't want it to seem that I advocate staying single until you're 28 always, 100% for everyone. I don't.

However, if through circumstance, location, personality or hairline you are single at 28, you've experienced a decade that those love-stricken 18 year-olds will never experience. A decade. Apart from my own stupid field of medicine, where else do you set aside 10 years to train for something? You've spent your 20s with only yourself to learn, analyze, train and improve. Sure there are friends and family and potential beaus that you work on along the way; but the time and effort you spend on others isn't nearly as encompassing as when you're married. You have only yourself to grow.

And often, it sucks. Some spend this decade in solitude out of personal choice, but mostly we don't. But the fact that it often sucks is why it's strengthening. As Gauguin said, you're enduring the solitude, but you're also working. And the happily-marrieds certainly get a decade of training as well, and from the whining they do I'm sure it's hard as well. You'll get their decade of training a little later, but they'll never get this one.

Happy Valentine's Day.

(And no, I didn't try to time this post to pop up on Valentine's Day; I'm just leaving my weekend open for a surprise elopement. Hope springs eternal.)

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Monday, February 07, 2011

Must See TV

For twenty-some years people have been harshing on Saturday Night Live. Dana Carvey was on this week and did a facetious song about how his years were the best years. For at least the last ten years have complained about the decline of The Simpsons. For the last three or four people have done the same about The Office. It’s true, The Office isn’t what it used to be. But it’s also true that The Office is something else entirely.

I love the original UK Office. Its one-two punch of cringing and laughing was something to behold. And I greatly enjoyed the US Office following suit in their early seasons. But as the years have gone by the cringing has gone. One of the unique elements of the show, the awkward humor, has taken a back seat, only popping up once in a great while. And while I liked the awkwardness, I like the characters more. I think the main reason the cringing had to go is the writers couldn’t make us pity Michael Scott the same way we pitied David Brent. Because we don’t pity Michael, we like him; and we don’t want to see him go through what we wanted to see David go through.

The same is true for everyone else. Dwight is a creep, but he’s not Gareth. We wanted Tim and Dawn to get together, but it would’ve been much worse if Jim and Pam hadn’t. We root for pretty much every character in The Office. Many characters started out as punching bags, but have become lovable. Michael is the best example, but think how annoying Andy was at first. Dwight has come a long way. Gabe is currently getting punched but even he is fairly likable. Old minor characters are now likable (Daryl and Oscar) newer characters have jumped right into likable (Holly and Erin), even characters like Angela are as often likable as not now. In short, they’ve taken a mean show and made everyone so likable that any real meanness is unpleasant.

And while that makes the show less edgy, I can’t really say it’s worse. I thought watching Michael and Holly on the roof last week was very rewarding, more so than if there had been some intractable foot-in-mouth situation. If I ran The Office, I would end the show this season when Steve Carell leaves. But if they keep up the consistent charm, I’ll keep watching The Office.

Post Script

I shouldn’t encourage you to watch more television, but here are some reasons to watch the other members of NBC’s Thursday lineup.
30 Rock – the best show of the evening, if not the week. The characters are surreal caricatures, but they’re very entertaining ones. You can’t predict what will happen next on 30 Rock, and the interconnection between diverse comedic elements is downright literary.

Community – this show jumps the shark every week. Is it jumping the shark if you do it every single time? Whereas 30 Rock throws 30 kinds of jokes at you every episode, Community picks one topic/genre/theme to skewer and sticks with it for 22 minutes. It’s nearly as inventive, and sometimes more funny.

Parks and Recreation – Season 2 was roughly 30 times better than Season 1. Season 3 looks even better. Adam Scott has become the new straight man, allowing Rashida Jones to become more interesting. Aziz is still hilarious, Andy has become extremely watchable rather than painful, and Amy Poehler, though still handicapped by her character, is more enjoyable. But the real reason to watch is Nick Offerman, who deserves his own show, or even his own network.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Party Philosophy

I threw a Provo Party the other night. I was talking to Turkish Delight about it beforehand, and she wanted to know what you do at a Mormon party. My answer: talk mostly.

I have in the past planned parties with elaborate activities. Costume contests, croquet tournaments etc. And I've found that people tend to enjoy the pre-activity and post-activity portions of the evening most. It's possible that all my activities have been bad, so the non-activity portion of the night is the highlight. But I suspect it's mostly that they activity is unnecessary. What people want is a time and a place where they know they'll see people they like. That is the essence of a good party.

So now when I throw a party, I plan relatively little. I need the following: time, place, theme, decorations, music, food, people. Generally I wouldn't say 7 ingredients makes a simple recipe, but these 7 get sorted out pretty quickly.

Time and place - Hard to have a party without these. But there are things to consider (central location, parking, space, lack of conflicts etc).
Theme - I am a strong believer in themes. It doesn't need to be a good one, eg Provo Party, but I don't just like Party.
Decorations - Ultimately, optional. But it is nice if there's some indication it's not a typical Thursday morning.
Music - Sometimes tricky. You want quality music, but also music people are familiar with. You should also match to your theme as much as possible. Music is really the main decoration for a party.
Food - Again, match to theme. For Mormon parties food also has to double as the replacement for alcohol, so don't ignore this category and don't skimp.
People - Pick the right number for your activity and venue. Dance parties need more than potlucks. Movie nights get crowded. Know who is likely to actually come versus just say they will.

For instance, the Provo Party was planned thusly:
Time and place - My place, as it's a reasonable space, centrally located, and generally I want people to know where it is. I purposely picked a time when little else was going on.
Theme - We have a lot of BYU grads in Arizona, so I thought it would be fun to reminisce a bit. It works equally well if you liked or disliked BYU.
Decorations - I printed out the dozen most recent Police Beats and layed them throughout the apartment as conversation pieces. I threw together a slide show of Provo landmarks to play on loop on the TV. I put up some BYU hats, ties etc around the apartment.
Music - Admittedly, people didn't really get the subtleties of my mix. 1/3 was corny BYU-centric material (Singles Ward soundtrack, Rise and Shout, swing music, a capella), 1/3 was ironic music about drinking and 1/3 was the least objectionable selections from the Top 40. But really once we had a couple dozen people in the apartment the music was drowned out so it didn't matter much.
Food - We made J-Dawgs, drank Apple Beer and Martinellis, had fries with fry sauce, had some jello shots, mint brownies, ice cream and M&Ms. It was very Provo.
People - We ended up with a good mix of people that had spent time in Provo and those that just wanted to get together on a Friday night. Kickoff for the party was a little later than anticipated, but we met critical mass quick enough and held it until the end.

So, that was by far the least fun way to describe a party ever. Point being, throwing a party is relatively easy and you should do it more often. Also, Provo Party was successful in my eyes, but I do have a lot of J-Dawg sauce to use up so you should come by and help deplete it.