Laugh Tracks

This weekend I got into a heated discussion with a friend about Laugh Tracks. I hate them. For me, they ruin a viewing experience. Take the acclaimed ‘Big Bang Theory’. Even though technically it’s not a track since they have a live studio audience, the laughter feels like an emotional crutch. It’s as if the jokes aren’t good enough on their own, so they cue everyone: “hey! this is where you’re suppose to laugh!”

The result is awkward pauses in flow of the script as the group waits for the laughter to subside. Through the magic of technology others have skillfully edited out laugh tracks in such shows as the Big Bang Theory. The result is awkward.

“But Wait!” you interject, “That’s a tendentious example, it’s not always awkward!”

Actually you’re right. This article does a good job at making the argument that laugh tracks aren’t the problem: The attempt at saving a failed joke is the problem. When laugh tracks or laugh cues are used when there isn’t actually anything funny… perhaps that is where it fails. In fact, I get that same distaste from stand-up comedy when I have a disagreement with the crowd’s appreciation for a joke. It makes me pause and wonder why the crowd guffaws. Ultimately, I become detached from the show. Maybe it’s the show’s resulting lack of sincerity from mistimed laughter that causes my distaste.

To me a laugh track seems as bizarre of an idea as a sob track for a sad film or a fear track (the crowd gasps!) for a horror film. These ideas seem so ridiculous; but conceptually they don’t differ at all from the idea of a laugh track.

But perhaps if laugh tracks or sob tracks were used in perfect harmony with the viewer’s genuinely experienced emotion, they would enhance the viewing experience. Perhaps people who love shows with laugh tracks just have a more welcoming sense of humor.

Maybe I’m just a dud.

The Cheese Files Vol V

Hold onto your faces: Midnight Moon cheese is lick-your-cutting-board delicious.

On Saturday we visited Fromage to try yet another cheese. We asked our server what her favorite was and she pointed us in the direction of Midnight Moon.

Midnight Moon is a hard aged goat cheese and, while the official website of the cheesemaker (Cypress Grove) does not explicitly say it, I’m pretty certain that prior to being milked each goat is dipped by a cherub into a pool of shimmering dew collected from the mountains of Valhalla.

Midnight Moon headquarters is based out of Humboldt county California, but unexpectedly this cheese is made in Holland and then provided exclusively to the cheesemaker Cypress Grove Chevre. I’m not sure how this business arrangement works, but it doesn’t matter; the cheese is ambrosial.

Cheese.

With stark contrast between the shadowy casing and the brilliant white flesh, Midnight Moon almost looks like it was inked in a graphic novel. The texture is a buttery creamy softness and the taste is quiet and comforting. The cheesemaker reports flavorful undertones of nuts and caramel, but I won’t pretend that my unschooled pallet can find these flavors without cliff’s notes.

Midnight Moon won third place in the 2014 World Champion Cheese for Hard Aged Goat Cheese and I completely understand why. This cheese is my favorite so far from the Cheese Files. Shockingly, it’s not the highest rated cheese from Cypress Grove! Their website describes another cheese, The Humbert Fog, as their flagship cheese. We will make sure to try this in the coming weeks.

Taste: 4/4
Price: $$ (25/lb)
Independence: High

Verdict: Buy this cheese.

A Surplus of Wonderful

There seem to be way too many seven wonders of the world.

From a quick internet search:
Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (AW)
Seven Natural Wonders of the World (NW)
Seven Wonders of the Underwater World (UW)
Seven Wonders of the Industrial World (IW)
New Seven Wonders of the World (N7)
USA New Seven Wonders of the World (UN7)
The New Seven Natural Wonders of the World (NN7)
Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages (MA – weirdly there are more than seven here)

Let’s list out all the wonders from the lists above and see if we can filter out the best of the best.

The list!

Great Pyramid of Giza (AW & N7)
Hanging Gardens of Babylon (AW)
Temple of Artemis (AW)
Statue of Zeus at Olympia (AW)
Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (AW)
Colossus of Rhodes (AW)
Lighthouse of Alexandria (AW)
SS Great Eastern (IW)
Bell Rock Lighthouse (IW)
London Sewerage System (IW)
Brooklyn Bridge (IW)
First Transcontinental Railroad (IW)
Panama Canal (IW & MW)
Hoover Dam (IW)
Palau (UW)
Beliz Barrier Reef (UW)
Great Barrier Reef (UW & NW)
Deep-Sea Vents (UW)
Galapagos Islands (UW)
Lake Vaikal (UW)
Northern REd Sea (UW)
Iguazu Falls (NN7)
Jeju Island (NN7)
Komodo Island (NN7)
Puerto Princesa Underground River (NN7)
Table Mountain (NN7)
Halong Bay (NN7)
Amazon Rainforest (NN7)
Grand Canyon (NW & UN7)
Harbor of Rio de Janeiro (NW)
Mount Everest (NW)
Aurora (NW)
Paricutin volcano (NW)
Victoria Falls (NW)
Potala Palace (UN7)
Old City of Jerusalem (UN7)
Polar Ice caps (UN7)
Papahanaumokaukea (UN7)
The Internet (UN7)
Mayan Ruins (UN7)
Great Migration of Serengeti (UN7)
Channel Tunnel (MW)
CN Tower (MW)
Empire State Building (MW)
Golden Gate Bridge (MW)
Itaipu Dam (MW)
Delta Works (MW)
Great Wall of China (N7 & MA)
Petra (N7)
Christ the Redeemer (N7)
Machu Picchu (N7)
Chichen Itza (N7)
Colosseum (N7)
Taj Mahal (N7 & MA)
Stonehenge (MA)
Colosseum (MA)
Catacombs (MA)
Porcelain Tower of Nanjin (MA)
Hagia Sophia (MA)
Leaning Tower of Pisa (MA)
Cairo Citadel (MA)
Ely Cathedral (MA)
Cluny Abbey (MA)

Some of the wonders above appear on multiple lists. Let’s consider this a vote of confidence for these wonders. I wish my filter had naturally worked out to a list of seven, but alas… only six. So I hereby present to you…

MIKE D’s SIX WONDERS OF THE WONDERS

Great Pyramid of Giza
Panama Canal
Great Barrier Reef
Grand Canyon
Great Wall of China
Taj Majal

I love that five of the six items on this list have adjectives of grandeur (taj means ‘crown’)! How wonderful!

A Question of Social Acceptability

In early Novemeber I was at a work event and someone casually asked how old I was. I promptly replied “Thirty Three.” When the person left moments later I was struck with confusion. “Wait a minute, I’m not 33,” my brain befuddled, “I’m 32.” It was bizarre.

Reminder: This was in November.

Yesterday, I was thinking about age and I suddenly realized that I AM 33. For a solid month I had wrongly believed I was a year younger than I am.

I submit to you that perhaps the impoliteness of asking someone his or her age is not at all a social faux pas because of age stereotype or capability stereotype, but instead it puts someone on the spot and challenges them to do calendar math (the most annoying type of math).

Challenge #2

Have you tried GeoGuessr? It’s kinda like a pictorial geographic version of Carmen Sandiego with difficulty levels of FUN to IMPOSSIBLE. Yesterday I found myself on a backroad in Northern Brazil. I walked for about 4 miles along a dirt road before I found a sign that hinted at a local town. For me, successful sleuthing of this kind is deeply rewarding.

I’ve always thought it would be awesome if you could playback a memory at random. You could passively watch the events and try and guess the time and place of the memory. GeoGuessr is an enjoyable substitute for my idea with the obvious shortfall of not including timeline positioning. With a timeline component you’d have to find tiny clues from common items surrounding you to guide you.

With this in mind, I’ve been working on a reverse timeline positioning challenge. I provide the dates, you try and guess the object in question.

Clue format will start with the year of invention or successful proof of concept and follow it with the decade when the item became prevalent in a common American household (or if its not a household item, common enough prevalence such that usage is no longer novelty)

For example:

1876:1950-60
Answer – the telephone.

There will be controversy with each of these items. In the case of the telephone there was a long development period. 1876 marks the first public demonstration of a bi-directional transmission, so that’s the date I chose. Further, the decade of commonality was tough to gauge for this one as well as most of the following challenges… In the 60’s according to the US census 80% of homes had a telephone… but data before then is hard to find.

Give these a shot! I’ll post the answers tomorrow. Good luck!

Question 1 Easy
1903:1944-54

Question 2 Medium
1945:1976-86

Question 3 Medium
1928:1955-1965

Question 4 Hard
1902:1947-1957

Question 5 Easy
1992:2007

Question 6 Extremely Hard
1756:1907-1917

Green Bay Packers

Yesterday in my morning news feeds I stumbled across this article about Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Actually, it’s not so much about Aaron Rodgers as his girlfriend Olivia Munn.

The article speculated that perhaps Rodgers’ dating an attractive woman subconsciously boosts his masculinity, thus giving him a slight edge in a sport that rewards masculine tasks. I discussed this with Sander this morning in our carpool ride to work. Sander agreed wholeheartedly taking causation to the next level:

“Dude, if I were dating Olivia Munn I could be an NFL quarterback.”

The article counters with various quarterback companions that were considered by fans to be negative influences to performance… but per Sander’s point, all those guys? NFL quarterbacks.

The comic biting undertone to the article is that the psychologist who suggested the connection is a geek writing about the jock and his girlfriend. High school social strata in the adult world.