This is Epth Nation

Epth is a state of mind, not a place. Reading this will give you a virtual drivers license in that state, but you'll still need to be 21 to purchase alcohol. And you can't get any there anyway, so stop asking.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Survivor Part II: Revenge of the Stupid

When the last post ended, the men were in dire straits after Bubba was voted off. They were down overall, 7-5, and they were still too dumb to throw the immunity challenge. They in fact won the next one, and Rory (the only black person on the show and also the most volatile -- under pressure, he said he was going to "burn this camp down", which gets the award for the craziest Survivor threat ever) felt the women's gun pointed directly at him. He was saved when the women decided to vote off Cueballs -- a little bit because she was "untrustworthy" (true), but mostly because the girls were getting sort of traditionally catty. Their claws were out, and the Cueball was scratched, if you will. So, the women were not really any smarter than the men. Nobody was thinking in this whole middle section of the season.

Going with that theme, the 4-2 male tribe actually managed to lose the next immunity challenge, which caused Manly Twila and Hot Julie to both make quick alliances with Sarge (the de facto leader of the men and a human who came off terribly on TV -- he was trying to be a miltary leader, and who wants that on an island when you're under duress? He was destined to fail), which Sarge inexplicably believes thanks to the council of his Wormtounge, Chris. I want to make it clear that Chris was dead set for voting off a guy, and that he effectively screwed the other members of his Alliance because of it. As I remember it, Chad and John K. maybe could have persuaded Sarge to vote off one of their enemies, thus equaling the male/female ratio at 5/5, but John K. wanted to vote Chad off and Chad wanted to not be voted off. So Sarge ended up trusting the women against his better judgement (in the move of the game IMO, Julie convinces Twila that Sarge also made an agreement with her (Julie) to get to the final 4, when in fact Sarge did not. This probably prevents Julie from being voted off here and probably dooms the men's alliance from sweeping when the tribes merged, because Twila does not trust Sarge and eventually double-crosses him) and they all agree to go with the guy's original plan of voting the young virile men off, and John K. goes home.

It's now 6-4 girls, and the tribes merge. Twila does her double-cross after promising both Sarge and Ami she was going to vote their way, and votes Sarge out. It is at this point that I will talk about Ami, because she is a bundle of interesting characteristics. First of all, she's a 30something woman who a) posed for Playboy; b) traveled Europe for like a year; c) works as a Coffee Barista (fancy name for clerk) at Starbucks. She also has hypnotic powers, apparently, because women stayed allied to her for no good reason in the middle of this game. Seriously, if they would have thought a little bit they would have figured out that when pyromaniac Rory was voted out, making it 6-3 women, 2 girls should have gone to the men and said, "hey, let's ally up and get to the final three." But they never did. And these are the hidden factors in each game that makes Survivor so interesting. But more on Ami: she openly despised the men (enough to get her booed on the Reunion Special, in fact); she openly seduced the women to her side of thinking; she treated people like underlings; she had her enormous chest covered with a shawl. This strategy of hers should have gotten her voted off almost immediately, but thanks to self-destucting girls and guys it didn't. To think she was even close to winning is so ridiculous I can barely conceive of it. It's like infinity or Gallagher.

So, Rory is voted off, and then Sarge drops the ball by not going to the two young women (Elisa and Julie, who had the least ties to the other women) and making a deal to get into the final four with he and Chad (not Chris, who was totally untrustworthy and a horrible alliance partner), and really to get into the final three because if Sarge or Chad wins immunity in the final four, who are they going to vote off -- the other strong guy or a weak girl? Sarge should have explained to them that their weakness was their strength, and that they needed to make this move to give them the best chance to win. But for some reason he never did, and they never approached him either. Eliza was too busy scowling at Twila, probably. The best part of this plan would be he could explain it to them and they would do it because it was in their best interest to do it. Oh, well. Sarge gets the double indignity of getting sung at by Scout (in the season's best scene, Scout and Sarge are sitting by the campfire, and Scout sings some crappy song at him while stroking her hair, and Sarge doesn't even look at her, he wants to kill her, and then Scout tries to make really stupid small talk and you can see Sarge's hand reach for the fork to put in his eye to end the pain. It was great) and betrayed by Twila once again.

Then next week Chad gets voted off, thus ensuring that a scum would win S9.

So Chris is the only guy at this point, and Twila and he are talking, and Twila is getting tired of all these women because she's somewhere in between a man and a woman anyway, and she lets bonehead Chris in on what I told you before -- that Eliza has no real ties to Ami's alliance, and is ripe for the switching. So Twila, Scout, and Eliza switch to Chris' side, enabling him to stay in the game and dooming Ami's gynotastic plan for world domination. Now, I didn't see this episode or the next one (where Ami actually gets the boot), but this was the fun part of the season, because Twila at some point swears on her son's life that she's going to vote with Ami but then betrays her. Her son lives on, though, so I don't know what swearing on one's son's life means anymore. It really was no more than a new way for Twila to lie. Ami should have known Twila was lying because of the over-the-top lunacy of the statement. but she just marched on down to her doom, taking shots at her fellow girls along the way. It was great. Again, I missed this but saw replays later. But with the editing, isn't this show all replays anyway?

After the poisonous Ami and her henchwoman LeAnn leave it's down to the four women and Chris. He makes alliances with all of them and they believe her. They decide to vote Julie off since she became allied with Ami and LeAnn at some point, which caused Julie to whine that Chris pretended he was her friend and in some sense went "over the line" in his deception. In the Reunion, she questioned whether he had feelings at all. Clearly, he doesn't.

The Gang of Four turned to a Gang of Three and voted off Eliza, and it was down to the traditional Challenge of Endurance that decides which Survivor gets to make the final two and choose who will go with him/her. Chris win the balancing/endurance challenge over disabled Scout and not-Manly-enough Twila, and Chris correctly assumes that he can beat Twila after she used her hick son's name in vain like that. So its Hick vs. Hick in the vote that nobody cares about. Despite the fact that his stupidity cost them a chance to win the game, Sarge and Chad vote for Chris, as does everyone but man-hating Ami and Twila-loving Scout, and Chris gets the easiest Million dollars earned ever in the history of man.

In the end, the 5 unlikelyest contestants went the furthest (6, if you count one-legged Chad), and nobody cared who won because they were all reprehensible bastards who only got that far because of the bad thinking of others. I guess that's what you have to do now -- forget reason or good play, vote off the strong, lie to the weak, and hope nobody notices what you're doing until its too late. Boston Rob won it for his wife doing this exact thing, and that makes it two in a row. Why anybody blindly trusts anybody else on Survivor, especially knaves like Rob and Chris, is beyond my comprehension. Maybe next time someone cool will win.

Survivor: Vanuat-jews (not a slam on the jews)

Last night I went to the Texas Tech/Ohio State basketball game at the AAC in Dallas. It was fun, but that's not what I want to talk about today. Today is the day I give my analysis of Survivor: Vanuatu: Island of Fire: 18 more fame seekers. You may remember it (if you even do -- this installment was particularly unmemorable, IMO) ending last Sunday in a flourish that awarded lying construction hick scum Chris his one million dollar prize over lying construction hick Twila. Seriously, there hasn't been a more loathsome last Survivor pair since the first one of Richard the Corporate Trainer (ugh) vs. Kelly the Bland Liar. Let's examine how it got to that point, shall we?

(I realize you may not watch Survivor, or even view it as acceptable entertainment, but it is a fascinating show for me because of the strategy and sociology involved...the producers trick the game up in new and exciting ways every year to break the monotony of it, and it's fun to see how this messes the contestants up and how they, somebody always ends up making a terrible decision that ends up getting them voted off. It never fails.)

The big change on this Survivor (heretofore referred to as S9, as in the 9th installment of Survivior) was the number of potential future toothpaste spokepeople involved (you know, the contestants): 18. This was technically the same number as S8, but in that one they divided them into three groups of 6 to start. In s9, it was the traditional 2 groups, but each group had 9 people. They also divided them up by gender, so it was guys vs. girls for basically the whole show (although at the end the surprise twist ending happened, which saved us from a total gynoblasting).

Having 9 people in a tribe to start gave the scum who started playing the game from the get-go an advantage right away, since all they had to do is get 5 dudes or dudettes together and they had the numbers to theoretically get to the merge.

(If you don't know what all this means, then you have my permission to skip this post right now, because I'm not going to explain it to you. One of the things about Survivor that I like is its constants, a few things that happen every year and everyone knows they're going to happen but they just don't know when -- like the merge, and (since season 3) the tribe-shuffling, and the people failing to make fire without flint, and the product placement, and the non-athletic challenge, and the reward challenge where you get to go on trip to some exotic locale and take just one other contestant with you. These thing always happen, and to read this properly you have to understand what these things mean. Otherwise, you're just a postmodernist on a classical blog. Sorry.)

So anyway, the 5 oldest and weakest men unfortunately began voting off the strongest 4. This was entirely predictable, and brings up the question of whether or not this is a good idea, this voting off of the strongest from day one because you're terrified that after the merge they will win all the challenges and make the final two that way rather than the "legitimate"way, i.e., Machiavellian deception. People are deathly afraid of this, despite the fact that it's very unlikely to happen due to the massive variety of challenges they present, and the massively different skill sets involved. In S2, Colby just happened to be stronger, more fit, and smarter than his opponents. That probably won't ever happen again. But people from day one are now convinced they need to vote off anyone who's young and able. This is a big reason why two "older" construction workers and an old woman with a bad knee comprised the final three. So maybe they were smart after all. We'll never get the chance to find out.

The 5 old guys embarked on this disastrous strategy even though it resulted in their team losing challenge after challenge due to incompetence. I knew they were in trouble the very first episode when Chris single-handedly cost his team a challenge and they kept his butt on the island and voted off the non-disabled and totally lacking in game-playing skills Brooke (yes, it was a guy. His parents got confused and added the "e"). That meant there were 5 lumps of coal and 3 workhorses, and if I were a workhorse at that point I would conserve my energy for the challenges, do no work around camp, and hope for the lineup-shuffling to happen before i was voted off. Such is S9, however -- the weak constantly beating the strong. And this is why they say it's a microcosm for life itself. It's also why they're wrong about that -- the strong usually crush the weak in life (I mean, as far as we can discern -- certainly the wise will see that its the other way around, but that's another topic entirely).

On the girls side, the 5 "younger" girls (the 4 young ones and the one with the scary fake boobs -- it looked like she was smuggling billiard balls) had the advantage over the older ones, but the story of the game was largely written by Dolly, the beautiful young shepherdess, who couldn't make up her mind on whether to stay with the young or vote with the old, and was herself voted off by that snake Eliza switching her vote to the more-than-happy-to-vote-for-a-young'un older girls' side. She then went back to the younger girls' side, and got mad when the bug-eyed and mouthy Mia, who was also a "young", was voted off the second tribal council because Cuballs switched to the "old" side. So the young girls had a 5-4 advantage turn into a 3-4 disadvantage (2-5 if you count Cueballs as an "old", which she was kinda). Eliza and her hot pal Julie were under the gun, but the Old Woman Cabal (Svengali-like Ami(about whom there is much more to be said, believe you me -- she was this season's only real "star"), Manly Twila, Literally Disabled Hippy Scout (they found out later that her artificial knee was the wrong size), Nice-seeming Wisconsinite LeAnn, and sometimes Cueballs),were not able to vote them off because the guys' team was seemingly intent on losing every immunity challenge. Thus, the biggest beneficiaries of the Old Man Cabal's early machinations were Eliza and Julie, who were saved from treachery and their own stupidity.

The guys ended up voting off 3 of the younger guys before the Mandatory Shuffling, which meant that there was one more female than male at that point, and that's going to be important to remember later on.

The shuffling produced a team that was 5-2 in favor of girls and one that was 4-2 in favor of guys. So, they should be throwing challenges and voting off the members of the opposite sex, right? It's so simple, but yet so hard to think of when you're stupid. Both groups made horrible mistakes in this critical section of the game, starting with the outnumbered Bubba trying to contact the 4-2 male tribe's Chris in order to present to him the throwing challenges plan I mentioned earlier. Chris acted like he didn't hear, and the guys won and Bubba's fate was sealed. Girls now up, 7-5. Game, set, match, right? Get ready for 10 weeks of Girl Power, right?

Well, it didn't quite work out that way. It's time for my lunch break, but stayed tuned for Part 2: Chris' Revenge, where he overcomes the greatest obstacle of all: His own stupidity.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Radio Ads I Heard Today.

As I listened this morning to my favorite radio station's wondrous programming, I heard two commercials I deemed "of interest". Now, you must realize that I absolutely hate advertisements. They are part of the consumer culture I am so beaten down by, and I will go to great lengths to avoid them whenever possible. Often it is not possible to avoid ads however, since they are everywhere. This makes me edgy. But this morning I happened to be listening to the radio and decided not to turn it off for a six-minute block of commercials. Most of them were your standard ridiculous sales pitches, but 2 stood out.

The first was an ad for jewelry, I think, where the dude actually finished with the statement, "She (referring of course to your woman, or any woman, or woman x) says it's the thought that counts, but let's face it -- it's really the present." Really. Imagine for me a marketing session, where immaculately dressed and pressed business jerks and jerkettes are going over what their ad campaign is going to be. One particular tool stands up and says, "You know what? It's not the thought that counts -- it's really the present!" And the other turds nod their head in agreement. Is this really what we've come to as a society? Where people who read the tendencies of our culture for a living think we no longer believe "it's the thought that counts"? We now say, "it doesn't matter if you think about me at all, just get me a present I'll like." Does anyone else see how sick that is? Has it really come to this? "The Thought Counting" is one of the principles we base our society on -- it's a core value, if you will, along with, "It's not whether you win or lose it's how you play the game", and, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". We are all taught these things, and when we reject them, society scowls.

And just for the record, there's no better way to separate the sheep from the goats (so to speak) than with some truth syrum and this question -- "What is more important to you -- getting a thoughtful present or getting an expensive one you can show off?" It's like the shibboleth of 21st century American women. Anyone who answers the latter better watch her bum so they don't ram it into the curb when I kick her there. She is a ridiculous person and she needs to change before she becomes a 50-year-old husk with no soul. That's just the way it is -- life's designed to shame you into good behavior, with or without societal pressures. It's called your conscience. Stop searing it, you golddigging wenches.

Whew. the other commerical I heard was for "Full Throttle" Energy Drink(Not a made-up name). Now, when I first heard it, I thought it was a comical fake product along the lines of the current Geico commericals, i.e.: "No, I just saved a lot of money on car insurance"; or, the brilliant Sprite "Jooky" ads. But it wasn't. This is apparently a real product, and the ad campaign references (it's not fair to say "parodies", because the product is real and the ad is real even though it's not serious) one of my all-time favorite Saturday Night Live skits -- the fake ad for "Happy Fun Ball". In this SNL skit, Phil Hartman voice-overs a commercial for what appears to be just a generic-looking bouncy red ball. He then goes into a long list of disclaimers, saying things like, "Do not expose Happy Fun Ball to extreme heat; or my personal favorite, "Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball." It's funny. But the ad was copying this skit, right down to the "Do not taunt..." thing. That's why I thought it was a fake product. Apparently, the immaculately dressed and pressed people who came up with this commercial wanted to have it both ways -- they wanted to reference a fake product and at the same time say their non-fake product was really, as in actually, dangerous. Set aside the issue of whether or not you want to advertise your food product, any food product, as being dangerous -- that's not what I think is interesting. What I think is interesting is that this ad campaign is referencing a rather obscure skit -- I'm guessing less than 25% of people got it. And the ones that didn't get it just thought it was a funny ad that expresses (ooo--it's on again, right now. They really lay the fake danger on thick -- "If can begins to smoke, step away.") the "extreme" nature of this crappy drink. For the 25% of us that do get it, it's rather confusing. I guess sometimes it pays to be dumb, or at least to not remember every obscure SNL skit you've seen. But the question remains: what were they trying to do? Did they think that everyone would remember that skit? Did they think that nobody would remember that skit?

I guess my real issue is why people would buy something called Full Throttle Energy Drink in the first place. Trying to fill your Jesus-shaped hole with liquid maybe?

I'll have to ask my wife if she remembers that skit, and if so does she intend to drink lots of Full Throttle Energy Drink.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Jury Duty and Business Plan

Jury duty was fun last week. I sat in a large clean white room for 3 hours and dozed off as apparently the county prosecutors did what they get paid to do and got plea agreements. Thanks, Dallas Countians, for paying your taxes. They didn't need the 120 or so of us that shouwed up to perform our public service, so we all just got a certificate and left. It's kind of interesting to see the jurors in the Scott Peterson case after they got done with 6 months of service -- the trial turned that one chick's hair pink. I would have been totally emotionally exhausted, I tell you that. But I didn't have to do any of it -- not even one day. I didn't even have to deal with a lawyer asking me questions like, "So, would you say that if a dude kills another dude it's society's fault?" in jury selection. It's a lottery I'm relieved to have lost, quite frankly. My wife would be sad to read that.

I would love to start my own business, but I have no idea how. I'm the poster child for not being resourceful, really. I have no idea how to start, what to do. I know I don't need much start-up money, since my advertising is going to be my already-acquired ISP web space ( and business cards and possibly internet ads, but that only after I make some money. I know that starting a business takes a lot of work, which Mark Cuban refers to as sweat equity. I don't know what that term means exactly, but I know it will take time and energy. I need to get to the point where I can quit one of my jobs first, then the other, then rule the world. That's my plan, more or less. Perhaps it will help you help me if I tell you about my business.

Everyone and their goat now fixes computers, right? I mean, your computer breaks down and you can take it to Circuit City or, yes, Micro Center to get it fixed for $100 plus parts, if any. You can get somebody to come out to your house and pay $85 an hour for repairs. Or you can get some guy you are acquainted with that "knows about computers" to fix it for you for free. It's that last guy I can't compete with, and there are more and more of those guys with spare time after being laid off from their jobs and replaced by supposedly cheaper and as-proficient foreign labor. But that's a topic for another day. So the prices have to go down -- there's a niche there for those people with computers that are "running slow" or "infected with pop-ups", that don't want to pay $100 bucks but still want things done quickly and professionally. That's where I come in. I'll charge, say, 40 bucks to run a virus/spyware scan, 60 for a full diag in your home, etc. I'd be cheaper and you'd never have to leave your house. Plus I can dole out free advice and not try to sell you any extended warranties while doing it. See? It makes sense to me. This is a good product, mostly because I'm really good at diagnosing computer problems. My wife would want something like this if I wasn't around, and may need it after she finishes me off.

Other things I would offer include: installation and upgrades plus no-BS advice for $50, and I'd go and get the parts from wherever so you wouldn't have to. Motherboards and real intricate stuff would cost extra, of course, but that's a good deal no matter how you slice it. I would also offer educational programs by themselves that nobody would take me up on because I'll have to charge too much for them to make them worth my while. But with all the computer problems around today, I need to take advantage of this opportunity. I mean, everybody's got computer issues, right? You, right now -- don't you want you computer to run faster? Better? Without those pop-ups?

If you're in the Dallas Metroplex, let me hear from ya.

But here's my point: I have no idea how to start this up. The seductive thing about it is, all I reall need is 10 customers a week and I'll be making more than I do now in 2 jobs. So I need to do this, but I have no idea how to start this up. I tried to look on the Texas state website to learn how I get my business "registered" (I'm not even sure of the word or the concept even -- maybe I should have worked in some business classes, eh?), but they clearly assume you already know how to do it -- they only describe the different kinds of businesses you can start (sole-proprietorship, etc.). They don't tell you the steps you need to take to become your own business owner legally. It's annoying. How do I know what I need to know? How do I peddle my services here? What if I do something illegal? Do I need lawsuit insurance? What is lawsuit insurance actually called? Do fill out a w-2? A w-3000? An Andre 3000? Do I have to give my soul to the IRS?

I just need help...