Thursday, January 31, 2008

Cactus League: 2008 Superbowl Coverage Pt 2

This morning, I was watching Mike and Mike on ESPN for the 2008 Super Bowl coverage here in Arizona and there were cactus in the background. And I'm thinking, "Where did all those cacti come from?" And I realized they were fake cactus. Plastic, I think. ESPN brought in fake cactus to put in the background of their TV broadcasts. I think it looks more ridiculous than not having cactus at all. Phoenix is known for cactus, but it's more common in the desert than the city. I would guess ninety-nine percent of the cactus in Phoenix is brought in from the desert or a cactus farm and planted there by landscapers. It's not like we're spraying weed-killer on our lawns, going, "Darn cactus! It grows everywhere! Worse than dandelions!"

Related Posts:
Cactus League: 2008 Superbowl Coverage Pt 1

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cactus League: 2008 Super Bowl Coverage-Part 1

Phoenix likes to pretend that it's a big world-class city like New York or Los Angeles, but it's still a hick town. You can tell because with the 2008 Super Bowl being held here in Phoenix, and world attention focused on Arizona, there's an inescapable attitude from the local news and population of "Look, we're on TV!" It is weird to heard national media saying "We're coming to you live from Glendale, Arizona…" Especially since it's Glendale.

For those who don't live here, let me explain what Glendale is; the middle of nowhere. I'm sure the media won't show it, but the University of Phoenix Stadium where the Super Bowl is being played is surrounded by miles and miles of farmland in all directions. Even I don't go to Glendale that often, and I've lived here for almost two decades. So seeing ESPN set up shop there is surreal.

Related Post:
Top Ten Reasons We All Hate The New Cardinals Stadium Name

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bait and Switch: Regular Food vs McDonald's Food

It's been a while since I bashed McDonald's, but there is more evidence that they are the evil empire. It seems that they did a study where they gave children food in regular bags and McDonald's bags, and children said the McDonald's food tasted better. That's despite the fact that the food was actually identical. The trick even worked with carrots. What does this mean? It means that McDonald's has so programmed children that they come to believe McDonald's is inherently better than any other food, despite all evidence. That makes it harder for parents to deny them McDonald's food, since children will believe regular food isn't as good, even if it's better.

On a side note, while it's easy to say this shows children are gullible, I wonder if the same study would work on adults. I'm not sure, but it does make me wonder if a Jack-in-the-Box Ultimate Cheeseburger would taste as good if I made it at home.

Related Posts:
* The Problem With McDonald's
* McDonalds Suffocates Children...For Safety
* Fruit Buzz?!

McDonald's Logo photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/hermansjocelyn/2073826793/

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Beautiful Lie: The Truth Behind "A Beautiful Mind"

I decided to use the format of Reel Faces to answer some questions for my most damning example of Hollywood tinkering with history, A Beautiful Mind. I offered this to Kevin Lang, the author of "Reel Faces" and he said he would "try to remember" to give me credit when it's done. Which doesn't exactly fill me with confidence. So here it is.

Q: Was John Nash as cocky and arrogant as he was in the movie?
A: Yes. In fact, many people who worked with Nash disliked him, even before his mental breakdown. They found him arrogant, egotistical, and insensitive, but tolerated him because of his mathematical genius.

Q: Was the portrayal of Nash's delusions in the movie accurate?
A: No. The storyline of a Communist conspiracy to smuggle a nuclear bomb into the U.S. was made up for the movie in order to capture the spirit of his delusions. In real-life, Nash's delusions were even less logical and more chaotic than the movie version.Nash's mental breakdown through schizophrenia didn't truly develop until the 1960s, after he had graduated from Princeton (no phantom roommate) and married Alicia Nash. At the height of his madness, Nash believed that aliens were sending him encrypted messages through the New York Times, and that any man wearing a red necktie was a member of a secret international communist organization. He claimed to colleagues that he was the Pope and the emperor of Antarctica, and feared the government was working with extraterrestrials to destroy his reputation. At some point, he developed a messianic complex and thought he was a messenger from God. Nash eventually came to believe he was on a holy mission to come up with a mystical number that would prove the existence of God.

Nash says he does not recall seeing any visual hallucinations, but heard voices that mocked and argued with him constantly. At times, Nash thought the voices were coming from aliens or angels. Nash would make phone calls to family and colleagues using false names and have rambling conversations about numerology and conspiracies that they would endure until he hung up.

Q: Did Nash stay at home after his first stay in the mental institution, trying to compose new formulas?
A: No. Nash actually left the country after his first release from the mental hospital and wandered Europe for months, declaring himself a refugee and trying to renounce his U.S. citizenship. While there, he mailed postcards containing nonsensical stories and numerical formulas to his old workmates. His wife eventually worked with the State Department to have Nash deported back to the United States.

Q: Was John Nash allowed to return to Princeton, despite his mental illness?
A: Yes. But unlike in the movie, Nash was a more mysterious and disturbing figure on campus. Nash became an almost mythical figure to the students, who called him "the Phantom." He would leave secret codes and mathematical formulas on blackboards and on papers shoved under the doors of teachers, and wander the campus in red sneakers, murmuring to himself.

Q: Was his wife's love and Nash's logic the key to his recovery?
A: No. The reasons for Nash's recovery are a matter of debate. Nash did indeed stop taking his anti-psychotic medication, and never did take any medication again. Nash claims that it was his logical mind that allowed his recovery. The truth is that many people age out of schizophrenia on their own over time.

Q: Was the love story between John Nash and his wife Alicia truly as beautiful as in the movie?
A: No. In reality, Nash was already involved with another woman and had fathered a son out of wedlock with her when he met his current wife, Alicia. She was a student in his class, and they did marry and have a son together, but his illness drove them apart. Unlike in the movie, Nash deeply resented Alicia for having him involuntarily committed. Upon his release, Nash withdrew from her emotionally and sexually. After three years of enduring his mania, Alicia divorced Nash in 1962 and began a new relationship with another man. She continued to help and support Nash as a friend rather than a husband. She even let him stay in her home to keep Nash from becoming homeless, but thought of him as a boarder; they lived separate lives under the same roof. Their romantic relationship was only restarted after Nash won the Nobel Prize. She remarried him in 2001, well after his mental illness had already subsided.

Q: Was a man sent by the Nobel Prize committee to check whether Nash was stable enough to award the prize?
A: Yes. J├Ârgen Weibull was an economics professor sent by the committee to meet with Nash. He did interview Nash and the moment when Nash initially resisted going into the Princeton faculty lounge did happen. In fact, Weibull cited Nash's hesitation as the reason he recommended Nash be given the prize; it showed an obscurity and insecurity on Nash's part that Weibull felt demanded to be corrected.

Q: Was there a moment where Nash was honored by Princeton faculty by their lying their pens in front of him at his table?
A: No. No such ceremony has ever existed at Princeton.

Q: Was John Nash's acceptance speech for his Nobel Prize the same as in the movie?
A: No. In fact, Nash was not allowed to give an acceptance speech at the Nobel award ceremony because they were afraid he was too unstable. He did give a speech afterwards at a party at Princeton, but it was not the one given in the movie. According to his biographer, Nash mainly made jokes about how he hoped the award would improve his credit rating.

SOURCES
* Lycos: John Nash
* Free Info Society: John Nash
* http://www.slate.com/id/2060110/
* John Nash's Autobiography for the Nobel Prize
* PBS: A Brilliant Madness
* CBS: Beautiful Mind No White Wash

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Bio-Hazard: The Truth Behind Movie Biographies

I hate movie biographies. Let's clarify that statement. I think it's a great and enjoyable thing to see someone's story depicted on the silver screen, and they're often fascinating and engaging. The problem is that they are often entirely fictional. I don't know what it is about Hollywood that truth isn't enough for them. Obviously, they find true stories compelling enough to make movies about them, but once they get the rights to the story, the writers feel free to make whatever changes they think will make the story better. As a result, I often finding myself watching "true" Hollywood stories and wondering how much of what I'm seeing is reality or fiction. To aid with this problem comes Reel Faces, dedicated to establishing fact versus fiction.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Rescue 911: "If this is an emergency..."

A post by glomgold reminded me of one of my pet peeves: the phrase "if this is an emergency, hang up and dial 911." Are there really that many people who get into a life-threatening situation and don't know who to call? I've heard the phrase on my doctor's line, which kind of makes sense, but what about the pharmacy? Or my auto insurance company? I imagine somebody lying on their kitchen floor, bleeding to death with a phone in their hand going, "Must...call…GEICO." I guess there must be enough stupid people in the world that at some point, someone decided to weed them out. But if you go that far, then shouldn't we make the next logical step? How about these phrases:

10. If you are looking for information, hang up and dial 411.

9. If this is about being angry, hang up until you calm down.

8. If this is about getting a job, then hang up and call a temp agency.

7. If this is about being hungry, hang up and dial Burger King.

6. If this is about dying, hang up and call your lawyer to finalize your will, then call your local mortuary to make funeral arrangements.

5. If this is about being tired, hang up and take a nap.

4. If you are looking for a mate, hang up and dial a dating service.

3. If this is about not being able to see, hang up and open your eyes or turn on the lights.

2. If this isn't an emergency, then hang up and call back when it's important.

1. If this is about chocolate chip cookies, then hang up and mix flour, butter, salt, vanilla, eggs, chocolate chips, milk, and sugar until it forms a soft dough, scoop out with a spoon, place them on a cookie sheet, and bake at 350-degrees for fifteen minutes until browned at the edges.

And if this phrase is so important, when you dial 911, shouldn't it say, "If this is an emergency, you've come to the right place. Stay on the line"?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

I'm in Your Base: 2007 Year In Review

I recently discovered the delightful meme, "I'm in ur base, killin ur doodz."
And so we proudly present some of the highlights of 2007..."in ur base"-style.