Tag: YouTube

Snap, Crackle, Pop.

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The story of how I ended up with my very own college computer after years of sharing one at home is a long one that begins with my brother winning an athletic prize and buying a computer. It then immediately ends with him joining the Air Force. Exactly one twist and turn later, it passed on to me.

Hey. I didn’t say it was a very interesting story.

The story of how that same computer ended up exploding, if nothing else, is more interesting by virtue of it having at least one more explosion than the one just before it.

I’d like to begin that story by saying that the events that transpired were in large part not due to my actions and ineptitude. Any rational person who was very impatient and not all that aware of how to fix computers would have very likely probably made similar decisions to the one I had. I really can’t stress that enough, especially given that this is a super weak defense in the first place.

Allow me to set the scene…

The first thing you have to know, aside from the fact that this definitely wasn’t my fault, is that this was back in a time when people used to turn their computers off when they weren’t using them. The current system of just leaving them on indefinitely so we could hop on and off the Internet hadn’t yet been invented, mostly due to neither Facebook nor YouTube having existed yet.

I came home from a day of classes eager to peruse one of the seven or eight decent websites that existed at the time. So, as I had hundreds of times before, I pressed the big green button on the front of the computer. And like exactly zero times before, literally nothing happened.

(Note: I realize you were probably expecting an explosion there, but trust me. As much as you think you see it coming now, you’ll know when it’s coming later.)

I was flabbergasted. In fact, my state of mind was so intense that I was forced to run downstairs, find a computer in the library and look up a word that summed up how I felt. The word, if it wasn’t entirely clear, was flabbergasted.

(Though “flummoxed” came in a close second.)

From there, I went through my mental checklist of potential solutions. I don’t claim that it’s a great list, but it’s probably more than 90% of people would have done before calling the IT help desk. Then again, it loses some points for being the same checklist I use for cars that won’t start, printers that won’t print and boring conversations.

  1. Try turning it off and on again, on the off chance that you missed the button with your first attempt.
  2. Try turning the power strip off and on again.
  3. Plug something else into the power strip and turn it off and on again after forgetting which way is the “off” position.
  4. Remove all cords from your computer. Reattach all cords. Try turning the computer off and on again.
  5. Remove all cords from your computer again. This time, take each cord aside and offer it immunity from prosecution if it reveals the identity of the faulty connection.
  6. Give the computer a hard smack. Repeat several times. Begin saying, “Whatsamatteryou!?” every time you smack it. Lament that casual racism has become a part of your everyday life.
  7. Try turning it off and on again, seeing as this is the last possible thing you can do that won’t involve talking to a human being about how inept you are with technology.

Snap. It was on this, the ninth or tenth time I’d tried pressing the power button that I heard the telltale sound of rigid plastic breaking. Naturally curious, I went to work removing the front face of my computer using the saddest collection of tools any human being has ever assembled for the purpose of computer repair.

I made surprisingly quick work of the front face, exposing it – likely permanently, as I’d broken quite a few more pieces of plastic in the process – for a better look at the inner workings of the power button.

I can’t adequately describe what I saw there in any sort of useful detail. It wasn’t complicated, but I should be clear that my knowledge of computers at the time was leaps and bounds beyond my understanding of electrical circuits. And that wasn’t a good thing.

The short version, however, is that the power button used a tiny sliver of metal to connect two other pieces of metal together. Unfortunately, the power button had broken in such a way that it could no longer achieve said function. And, with the day quickly passing me by and nothing even resembling foresight entering my mind, I pressed a metal coin against both bits.

Crackle. I was, to the surprise of no electrical engineer anywhere, given quite a nasty shock for my efforts. This is probably why circuits are rarely connected with a coin clutched between one’s bare fingers. In fact, I’m sure this is exactly why circuits are never connected with a coin clutched between one’s bare fingers.

On the other hand (the one I hadn’t used to complete a live electrical circuit), my computer had actually started.

I went about my business for some time after this rather blissfully unaware of the small doom cloud hovering just slightly above my computer from then on. The second worst thing that can happen to someone is for their bad idea to actually work, since it gives them ample incentive to try it again. The first is the constant wave of movie reboots. That’s not related to this story. I’m just sayin’…

That said, my life went on surprisingly normally for the next seven days or so.

Sure, my computer had been running a week straight without rest. Sure, it’s front panel was so broken that it was impossible to reattach. And sure, it’s private parts were on display for the whole world to see, like some two-bit hussy.

(Or thirty-two-bit hussy. I’ll…see myself out.)

But, aside from the fact that I’d been completely unwilling to risk shutting down my system, things were going smoothly. Of course, even I was aware that leaving the computer on indefinitely was a problem that was going to need to be addressed at some point. Then again, I figured that by the time it became a real issue, I’d need to buy a new computer anyway.

I mean, in my defense, I was technically right about needing to buy a new one.

For whatever reason, my computer had gone off while I was at class. I’m still not sure why. Maybe it was part of the existing problem. Maybe it had just gotten overworked and overheated. For whatever reason, though, I found myself once again clutching a coin in a questionable attempt to “hot-wire” my personal computer.

“This is a really good idea,” I noted, mere inches from duplicating my previous electrocution. “When I turn on the computer I’m going to write a list of all the things I don’t regret about doing this.”

The computer hummed to life. And, in a moment of surprise that would almost immediately be topped, the coin wedged into place. As a stream of sparks discouraged me from pulling it out of place (which was a brief moment of intelligent thought in a veritable stormy sea of stupidity), I absentmindedly noticed the hum grow louder and louder until it closely resembled a circular saw. To the surprise of absolutely no one, this turned out not to be a good sign.

Then…

Pop. To this day, I have no better word to describe it. There was a sound like stepping on a full bag of cooked microwave popcorn. Then my computer case deformed into a piece of outsider art.

I watched a cloud of dense black smoke rise lazily to the ceiling where it (mercifully) never found a smoke detector. Small mercies, I suppose.

After the initial shock wore off, I surveyed the damage without much optimism. As it turned out, I’d managed to turn my computer’s power supply into a small bomb. The only saving grace was that I was as good at accidentally making bombs as I was at fixing computers, meaning that there was surprisingly minimal damage to the area immediately surrounding the computer. It was, for lack of a better description, a 100% unintended precision strike.

The computer itself, of course, had been reduced a paperweight. Its outer casing had stretched into odd shapes while its innards became a mixture of blackened confetti. It was more or less the computer equivalent of eating at Arby’s.

I still remember spending the rest of that day gaping at the destruction. I’d never seen a piece of technology fail so badly. And it brought back the bitter taste of every time I’d insulted an older relative for not being able to find the proper input on their television or set the clock on their microwave. At least they hadn’t turned their television or microwave into something that might land them on a government watch list.

When it was all said and done, I simply replaced the front plate as best as I could, sighed and turned off the power button.

Better safe than sorry.

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Fortune Favors the Old

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I mostly take it for granted now that I’m a bitter, bitter old man, but being younger wasn’t easy. For those of you who’ve never been young, in fact, I can tell you that it made almost everything harder. And…wait. What?

How is that even possible? How were some of you not young? I feel like this is a far more interesting story than the one I’m about to tell.

Anyway…

All that aside, it’s only in hindsight that I sort of see the benefits of going to college later on in life. Of course, it wouldn’t be all that useful since it wouldn’t help you get a good job. And if you go late enough you’re the old person in class that people whisper about finishing a degree as part of your bucket list. Not to mention that waiting fifty years to go to college probably means paying about four to five thousand percent of what you would have right out of high school…

You know what? I take it back. College isn’t easy for anyone of any age.

But I’ve never been an old person at college. (Though I was starting to get close by the time my fifth year rolled around.) So let’s focus on what I’m familiar with – how hard it was for young people to do almost anything.

Everything from setting up a back account to getting a first job to avoiding credit card scams is a learning process. Luckily, I’m sure you learned all about that in hypothetical fantasy senior year in high school. You know, the one where you actually learned how to find work or do taxes instead of learning the math where they ran out of numbers and letters so they just started using made-up symbols.

“Couldn’t you just look online?” you ask, about ten years too late to be helpful. “Wasn’t there a YouTube video on it or something? Maybe a Facebook discussion group to ask for advice?”

It would be about there that I’d cut you off in the middle of your list of things that didn’t exist in 2002 by saying that, well, those things didn’t exist in 2002. The Internet in general wasn’t nearly as helpful as it is today. (Though there were a lot fewer advertisements.) For the most part it was just random blogs and personal pages where people complained about not having a unified social media platform where their complaints could reach all their family and friends at once.

But, as I do so often it may as well be the title of this story, I digress…

I at least had the foresight to have a bank account set up in advance. Unfortunately, the bank I’d been using since I was a teenager was located about a mile and a half off campus. Since walking that far even to be handed money was out of the question, this meant finding one on the main street where – and I wish there were more context to this story – a man in a clown costume ushered me into a PNC Bank.

Say what you will about their pitch, but that account had no fees and no minimum balance. Plus it came with a free savings account. I’m still using that account to this day. And in the case of the savings account, I even have money to put in it now.

A lot of other students weren’t so lucky.

I want to give people a little more credit. I really do. But far too many conversations began by someone pointing out they’d just gotten a free shirt. This was generally followed by a sly grin and a comment along the lines of, “All I had to do was sign up for a credit card for three years!”

Yeah. Score.

The talk would generally trend downhill from there when they explained the terms of the agreement. “Well, all I have to do is make purchases with it once a month. The rate is 11.97%. APB? APR? I think they said something about APR. Is that bad?”

I didn’t fall for the college credit card scam. In fact, I’ve never had one. Why? Because they somehow prey on the assumption that your poverty is a situation temporary enough that it’ll probably end in the next 30 days so you can pay off the balance interest-free. But not so temporary that you shouldn’t just wait to make the purchase with real, actual money that belongs to you.

I only learned sometime later that, yes, “APR” is bad. APR is the financial equivalent of writing “jk” after a text. “Your interest rate is 0%! Just kidding. It’s actually 17.99%.”

Or, in the case of “variable APR,” “Jk and sometimes I’m jk-ing more than others.”

And sure, it’s easy to judge those students. (I certainly did.) But how were they to know any better? Like your older relative who just can’t grasp that they need to stop opening e-mails from senders they don’t know to avoid viruses, this was entirely new information to them.

You could argue that anyone should have the common sense to stay away from questionable people giving away free shirts in exchange for signing financial agreements. Then again, if I hadn’t taken financial advice from an actual clown – who I can only assume worked for the bank in some capacity – I’d have been walking a mile and a half every time I wanted to deposit a check.

Okay. I’m rereading it again now. And part of me thinks that maybe there is something more to that clown story.

But it’ll have to wait, since my last point segues nicely into the last hard part of being young. Well, not the last point. The last non-clown point…you know what I mean. I speak, of course, of getting your first job.

Which, now that I think about it, is a topic so large I couldn’t possibly cover it in a separate section about being young only tangentially related to it.

On the Merits of Understanding Movies

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I was watching YouTube the other day (amid the controversy surrounding their latest cock-up, but that’s a story for another time). While I refuse to watch commercials for actual products, I tend to watch the movie previews all the way through just to stay up to date on things. And as I watched some girl pull herself through a narrow tunnel while being chased by a scary voodoo witch or something, I came to a sudden realization.

Movie studios don’t understand movies.

Let me clarify a few things here, because there’s a lot to unpack in that statement. I’ll grant that they know the basic mechanics. They seem to know how to put moving images on film. Or maybe it’s all digital now? I don’t know. I’m not a movie studio.

No, what I’m saying is that if you asked anyone what made any classic or great or even good movie deserving of its title, they would probably know. Not all the answers would be identical. People relate to movies in their own way. But it’s safe to say that most of their answers would be well outside the range of “completely missing the point.”

For movie studios, it’s harder to say what they get and don’t get, because they don’t directly comment on movies (except their own, usually to say that they’re amazing). So to get an idea, it’s actually best to look at sequels, prequels, reboots, remakes and whatever other word they’ve come up with to disguise blatant cash grabs these days. I honestly think I heard “requel” somewhere along the way.

You’d be surprised at how often they completely miss the point. (Or maybe you wouldn’t, depending how many “Star Trek” movies you’ve seen.) It’s the sort of thinking that comes up with, “Hey! Let’s make a sequel to Caddyshack…but less funny. Just make sure there’s still some golf in it. And that gopher.”

And, repeatedly, “Hey! Let’s take the character people could barely stand for a few minutes from this movie and put them on screen for 92 minutes.”

Let’s take a look at a few case studies.

The Star Wars prequels. This may as well be the archetype example of movie makers not understanding the follow-up movies that need to be made. And while most of the blame falls on George Lucas and his dashing salt and pepper beard (albeit with less pepper in recent years), the problem wasn’t that his ideas were¬† stupid.

Or rather, that wasn’t the only problem.

No, the fault came when Lucas decided to tell the story of the failing Republic, Boba Fett, C-3P0, the Trade Federation, Clone Wars and basically everything and everyone in Episode 4 old enough to have shown up a few decades earlier. Why? Because the prequels had one story to tell – the fall of Anakin Skywalker and his friendship with Obi-Wan. And it completely failed at it.

Sure, there was a lot of other stuff going on. And I like a good space battle as much as the rest of you. But from the moment Episode 1 began, everyone already knew that the Republic and Jedi would fall, Palpatine would seize control, Padme would die but be in no real danger until after she had her kids and that Anakin was going to get absolutely destroyed in a fight somewhere near the end of it all.

What those movies needed to talk about was what we didn’t know and maybe throw in a few twists. Specifically, focusing on things anyone cared about. (e.g. Not who built C-3PO.)

I still remember sitting in the theater to see Episode 3 when a random stranger turned to me and said, “Oh, my God. If Lucas throws a curveball and makes Leia and Luke the children of Obi-Wan, I will (and I’m quoting word for word here) shit out my dick.”

Inevitably, Lucas didn’t have the balls, and that stranger would continue excreting solid and liquid waste from all the proper holes (so far as I know, anyway).

Star Wars: Episode 7. Now, let’s take things in the opposite direction. Let’s look at someone making a movie who knows exactly what the movie needs to be about. And given that it had a lot of bases to cover, I’m surprised this movie turned out half as well as it did.

Okay. So you need your nods to the original so people don’t just think they’re watching an entirely different series. Old, vaguely grizzled characters? Check. Only…as much as you’d like them to do everything and be the heroes, they can’t do everything. Otherwise we’ll be in Episode 9 wondering why we’re sending in the fresh meat to blow up the fourth Death Star when Han and Lando could just do it. New, interesting faces? Check.

Be familiar but give the audience something new? Check. Have classic hero-mentor relationships but add in new elements to the formula? Check. Put in Daniel Craig but find a way that I don’t want to look at his smug face? Miraculously, check.

I won’t belabor the point here because I want to focus on two upcoming movies that I think sort of missed the boat. Before you lose all interest and start playing games on your phone or something. This article has gone on long enough already.

The “It” Remake. Yes, I realize there’s been no official trailers yet. And I realize that thus far they’ve only released two actual production photos for a movie coming out in late 2017. But I’ve got my reasons for being worried. And to be fair, if history has taught us one thing, it’s that it’s never too early to start calling a Stephen King movie adaptation doomed.

My main beef is with the photo they released (the second, total) of Pennywise – the terrifying, sometimes-clown, sometimes-giant space spider that feeds on fear.

First off, who releases a picture of the horror movie villain a year before the movie comes out? This isn’t just revealing a monster in the first act. This is a monster walking around in the theater and greeting guests before the show.

(And no, the fact that he’s terribly designed didn’t help matters much. Ahem.)

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“If we all float down here, then nobody does!”

Second off, the design suggests they’re trying to make him look all Gothic and scary. And that would be fine. Except that “It” wasn’t a movie about an evil space clown going around scaring and killing people. It was a movie about people being scared and getting killed that just so happened to feature a clown in it.

The distinction here was that there wasn’t a clown running around stabbing people to death. He waited in the shadows and gave children nightmares and made eyeballs appear in their drinks or whatever to feed on their fear. If you want a movie about killer clowns from outer space, they made a movie about that already.

You know, “Under Siege 2: Dark Territory.”

“Blair Witch.” I feel like the people making the “Blair Witch” kind-of-reboot-more-a-sequel are in a contest with the people who made “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2” to prove who understood the first movie the least.

Which is really a pointless contest. It’s like getting in a dunking contest with Superman. “Book of Shadows” is going to the most terrible anything in most contests it enters.

Now, does that automatically mean it’s going to be a bad movie? No. In fact, if the original proved anything (aside from running with a shaking camera being a recipe for disaster), it’s that ideas out of left field can be surprisingly good.

In fact, most of the early reviews seem to be very positive. I think I’m just just naturally skeptical of sequels that look entirely different than the original – a fear cultivated by watching “Book of Shadows” and the hours afterward I sat wondering why a just God would allow this to happen.

Still, if it’s trying to be a non-found-footage movie, it’s a weird way to continue the original plot. And I’m not sure the audience has the suspension of disbelief necessary to believe that it’s more found-footage when all the original actors have done their rounds on the late night talk show circuit. In short, this is one of those cases where it could be a good movie and a bad sequel at the same time.

Like “The Chronicles of Riddick” was a very passable movie but a strange follow-up to “Pitch Black.” A counterpoint to this is the bad movie that’s more or less the sequel you’d expect, in the vein of “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.”

No Comments for Old Men

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Okay. So I’m in my very early thirties and more or less grew up with the Internet, social media, YouTube, Facebook (and to a far lesser degree, Myspace) and, as the children call it, electronic mail. Strictly speaking, I’m not exactly an old man.

But the comments section is starting to confuse me.

I understand why people wouldn’t even bother scrolling down these days. (“I just watched this insightful video. Now what does the Internet’s asshole think about it?”) There’s quite a bit there not to like, and it can be off-putting to some. (“That was a really cute baby video. Let’s see how many comments it takes before I see a racial slur.”) In short, I started this paragraph defending why I even look, and I’ve already forgotten.

The best I can say is that you’ll occasionally find a diamond in the rough, as it were. While 99.9% of what you read is the waste material that’s accumulated from the worst parts of human nature, sometimes you’ll see, you know, a funny joke or something.

The only trouble is, outside all the racism, offensive hate speech and other, more horrifying kinds of racism, it’s starting to get weird down here.

Here are few of the weirdest examples:

Why are people posting comments as celebrities? Every now and then I’ll watch a video and find Joss Whedon posting about how much he loves a particular Nightcore song. And that’s all well and good. Joss Whedon is free to enjoy any sort of music he likes. Only, it isn’t him. (I refuse to believe the real Joss Whedon has only two subscribers and a channel consisting of techno music played over anime fight scenes.)

Some random guy is just using that name and picture. Sometimes they’ll say something like, “This is a great song! Almost as good as Firefly! Lol!” Other times, it’s more along the lines of, “I’m Joss Whedon, and I approve.”

Is this some new, lame form of live action role-laying, or what? I don’t get it. And Joss Whedon wouldn’t explain it to me.

Why are people posting comments as random characters? It’s sort of the same as the last one. Only, someone is just posting as Naruto. No explanation as to what he’s doing there. No backstory. It’s just Naruto…commenting on a video about Boko Haram.

The weirdest part is that these people randomly show up to respond to comments about their show or character. How do they find these? Is there a hidden comment search function I don’t know about? Or is someone really just reading the comments on every single video ever made looking for mentions. You know, between educating himself on militant groups in Nigeria and stuff.

Okay. And here’s just a comment from the show “Knight Rider.” Seriously? The show is commenting? Sigh. You know what? Let’s just move on…

(Note: I stopped it here, but I honestly found someone commenting as the memory expansion pack from the Nintendo 64 shortly thereafter.)

If your only contribution is a picture or GIF, could you not? I realize that not everyone has anything insightful to add to a conversation. That’s okay. What’s not okay is saying nothing at all but putting in a random meme that’s only vaguely related.

“I don’t think the Hunger Games was a good adaptation. They should reboot it.”
“Ugh. Enough with these three-year gaps between reboots. There are too many as it is.”
And then some genius comes in with:

Meme

The only thing worse is the person that does the same, except every captioned picture is an attempt to sway the conversation to politics. I get that you think you’re being insightful when you post a picture that says, “Vote Hillary – And You’ll be Seeing the Hunger Games up Close in Two Years.” But you have to understand that this sort of behavior in the real world is literally the reason our species developed throat punching in the first place.

If anyone could explain this to me, I’d appreciate it. Then again, it would require using the comments section. And then people might start getting clever.

For now, I’ll just keep private messaging Joss Whedon.