Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bosses From The Eighth Circle Of Hell: The Flyer

Throughout my career I've prided myself on working hard, performing what's asked of me to the best of my ability and being an all-around good employee. I've also done my best to get along with my various bosses.

Alas, sometimes that's just not possible. Sometimes you end up with a Boss From The Eighth Circle Of Hell.

Back in the 1990s I worked at a marketing agency for a rather colorful Boss.


One day the Boss called everyone in for a lunch meeting (his favorite kind) and told us that in all the time the company had existed, it never had its own promotional brochure. I guess they were always too busy doing client work to promote themselves. He said it was past time we had our own brochure.

I worked on brochure concepts for a week or so and came up with some that the writers and other designers thought were pretty good. The only one I can remember now had sort of a drive-in movie theme. We were even going to include a little bag of popcorn inside the brochure, something to help us stand out in the mind of the clients.


Right before we were going to meet with the Boss to show him my ideas, he came running into the designer's room and said to stop working on it immediately. He was scrapping the brochure project (yet again). According to him he had a much better idea.


Not the real promo (or the real name of the Agency), but an incredible simulation.*

Instead of a tasteful promotional brochure he said all he wanted was a single 8.5" x 11" piece of paper to pass out to potential clients. The paper would have a large image of his face on it along with the company logo and the slogan, "Advertising isn't pretty" below. The topper came when he said he didn't want to use a regular photo of himself, but instead stick his face in the copy machine and use that image.

He stood there looking at us all, his hands in sort of a "Ta-da" big finish position, waiting for the applause and cheers to begin. We all just sat there with our mouths agape, not really sure if we'd heard correctly.

Finally when the shock wore off we all spoke up at once, pointing out that a single sheet of cheap copy paper with a xeroxed image on it didn't exactly shout class or quality, or that his choice of subject matter left something to be desired. Most importantly, what the hell did that "Advertising isn't pretty" slogan even mean? 

He got all petulant when we shot down his brilliant idea and said, "Fine, I guess we just won't ever have our own brochure then!" and stormed away into his office.

I left the company for greener pastures not long after that, so I don't know if they ever managed to put out a promotional brochure or not. I have a feeling they didn't, and never will.

* It occurs to me that I've probably made the fake promo look far better than it would have in reality. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Tales From The Grocery: The Two Dollar Bill

A year ago I got a job as a cashier at a grocery store in order to pay off some bills. It was a miserable, humiliating and demoralizing experience in every measurable sense, and I got the hell out of there as soon as my bills were paid. I feel genuinely sorry for anyone who has to work in such a place.

Here is another terrifying Tale From The Grocery. All Tales are 100% true.

I was busily ringing up a customer when I noticed the 18 year old cashier next to me desperately trying to get my attention. When I looked over at her she was all distraught, upset that the customer in her line had handed her a fresh, crisp $2 bill.

"Yeah," I said. "What about it?

She whispered to me that it was obviously a fake bill because it said $2. She thought it was some kind of scam and that the customer had printed it at home (!).

I suddenly realized that this high school student, whom the store was trusting to run a cash register, had never in her young life encountered a $2 bill.

Also, she apparently believed that by whispering, the customer who was standing two feet away couldn't hear this exchange.

I did everything in my power to assure her that $2 bills, while rare, are indeed real and have been around for many years. She wouldn't believe me and said she'd be fired if she took "fake money."

She was becoming more agitated by the minute, so I finally popped open my cash drawer, grabbed two $1 bills from my register and exchanged them for her $2 bill, which finally calmed her down. Cheezus. 

God forbid anyone ever gave her a $50! She'd probably taser them on the spot. 

It's the American Educational System at work, ladies and gentlemen!

Doctor Who Season 7, Episode 10: Journey To The Center Of The TARDIS

Wow, awesome episode this week! So far the second half of the season is a big improvement over the first half (in my opinion, of course). Maybe Steven Moffit's too busy with the 50th Anniversary to muddle up this batch of episodes?

For 50 years now fans have been wanting a good look at the interior of the TARDIS, apart from the control room. There've been a few brief glimpses of it throughout the history of the show: scenes of various companions' bedrooms, alternate control rooms, gardens and wardrobes. And we got a look at some corridors last season in The Doctor's Wife. But never anything on a truly grand scale.

The vastness of the TARDIS interior has always been indicated through dialog only. The Doctor's always talking about the various areas the way Snoopy talks about all the rooms inside his doghouse. It's always been tell, not show. Finally we get to see most of the stuff they've been going on about all these years.

There was a lot going on in this episode-- a rescue mission, creepy monsters roaming the TARIDS' halls, time travel, Clara discovering the Doctor's name, the Doctor finally telling Clara about her fractured lives... but somehow it all came together and never felt rushed. Well done, writers! 

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
The TARDIS is accidentally damaged and captured by a space salvage team. Unfortunately Clara is trapped somewhere inside the TARDIS' infinite space. The Doctor then enlists the help of the salvage team to enter the vessel and rescue her from the disturbing creatures roaming the corridors.

Thoughts: 
• Tricky was supposedly the smartest of the three Baalen brothers before the accident that erased his memory. Afterward he believes he's an android due to his artificial eyes and voice box, but mostly because his brothers tell him he is.

Did he never once become suspicious of the fact that he looks just like his brothers and needs a respirator and hazmat suit like a human? Seems like he ought to be able to figure out that he's not really a robot. An android that breathes, sleeps, bleeds, eats, poops and pees? Now that's attention to detail!

And does he never notice that their family photo has a big hunk of the left side (the hunk containing him) torn off of it? Did he never think to ask, "Hey guys, who else was in this picture that you obviously don't want me to see?"

Lastly, Gregor said that after Tricky's accident they replaced his eyes and voice box with bionic parts "as a joke." Who exactly performed this procedure? Did Gregor repair him? If so, salvage crews of the future must be quite versatile!

• I really liked the design of the salvage ship. It reminded me of the Sulaco from ALIENS. In a good way of course. 

• The Doctor turns a key to dial the TARDIS down to basic mode so that Clara can fly it. The key is emblazoned with the name "Smiths." A nod to Matt Smith perhaps, or is Smiths a well-known brand of key in England?


• The way the TARDIS travels through space has always been kind of vague. 99% of the time we see it simply materialize or dematerialize on a planet's surface. We never see it physically land or take off. But every once in a while, as in this episode, we see it spinning through the depths of space. So which is it? Does it fly or fade? Does it dematerialize from a planet's surface and then materialize in space, where it then starts flying? That seems like a lot of extra effort. As I said, it's all pretty vague.


• I'm a little puzzled as to how the magno-grab (the grenade-looking thing) got inside the TARDIS. The Doctor said the shields were down, yes, but... did the grenade punch a hole in the side? Did it teleport in?


At the end the future Doctor sticks his head through the time rift in the wall and tosses in the grenade-- is that how it got in? Through time-travel shenanigans?


• Notice when Bram is trying to smash open the TARDIS with his sledgehammer, we never actually see him connect. Can't afford to smash our one and only TARDIS prop, dontcha know!


• More vagueness: How'd the Doctor get outside the TARDIS and into the scrap heap beneath it?


• Wow, for the second week in a row we hear the Cloister Bell!


• "Hmm. A red flashing light. I'd better open the door!" Oy. I thought you were better than that, Clara.


• A couple of years ago I was on a Who related message board and had my ears boxed soundly (figuratively speaking) for the grievous crime of saying the TARDIS' interior was infinitely large. My anal-retentive fanboy opponent told me in no uncertain terms that the inside of the TARDIS is indeed huge, but is most definitely not infinite.

Cut to this episode, in which the Doctor says, "Picture the biggest ship you've ever seen. Are you picturing it? Good. Now forget it. Because this ship is infinite."

So when did that happen? Is this a new development? A ret-con, if you will? Or did the fanboy not know what the hell he was talking about?

• While exploring, Clara finds a storeroom and idly looks through it. She picks up a little model TARDIS and smiles as she spins it in her hands. Was that one that Amy Pond made during her "Raggedy Man" phase? 


Clara also picks up an umbrella and I'll bet you a week's pay that we're supposed to think it's the one carried by the Seventh Doctor. However it appears to have a normal hooked handle. The Seventh Doctor always carried one with a handle shaped like (ugh) a red question mark. I freely admit I am not an expert on the Seventh Doctor-- did he ever carry a normal umbrella like this one?

• After being mentioned for several seasons we finally get a glimpse of the TARDIS' swimming pool!

• Someone needs to make a first-person video game based on this episode. You could explore the endless interior of the TARDIS, looking for Clara while using your sonic to zap the lava creatures. What a cool game that would be. Somebody get on that right away!

• I loved the vast, multi-storied football-field sized library. Showing off indeed!

• Bram sneaks off from the group and heads back to the control room where he begins dismantling the TARDIS console. As he does so, various voices from the past filter out. I was able to make out a few, but most were too muddled. The internet to the rescue! According to tardis.wikia.comthe voices are as follows:
Susan Foreman says, "I made up the name TARDIS from the initials: Time and Relative Dimension In Space." From An Unearthly Child (I definitely heard this one).

The Third Doctor says, "The TARDIS is dimensionally transcendental" and his companion Jo Grant asks "What does that mean?"

The Eleventh Doctor says, "You sexy thing!" and then Idris (the TARDIS in human form) replies, "See, you do call me that! Is it my name?" followed by the Doctor's exclamation of "You bet it's your name!" From The Doctor's Wife.

The Fourth Doctor says, "That's trans-dimensional engineering. A key Time Lord discovery." From The Robots Of Death.

The Ninth Doctor says, "The assembled hordes of Genghis Khan couldn't get through that door, and believe me they've tried." From Rose (another one I was able to make out clearly).

Martha Jones says, "It's just a box with that room crammed in!" From Smith And Jones.

Amy Pond says, "We're in space!". From The Beast Below.

Ian Chesterton says, "It can move anywhere in time and space?" From An Unearthly Child again.

The Fifth Doctor saying, "You've changed the desktop theme, haven't you?" From Time Crash.    
This is twice now in the second half of the season that a Susan Foreman reference has popped up. Coincidence? Is she going to be in the 50th Anniversary and they're trying to promote Susan Awareness? Or is it a clue as to Clara's true identity?

I wouldn't mind if Clara is somehow a regenerated Susan. As long as she doesn't turn out to be River Song. If that happens, I will personally reach through the screen and throttle Steven Moffat with my bare hands.

•  While in the TARDIS library, Clara finds a book titled The History Of The Time War. For those who came in late, that's the war between the Time Lords and the Daleks that the Doctor ended by destroying both sides (they got better). 

Clara turns one page of the book and apparently sees the Doctor's true name and utters "So that's who!" Groan! I'm counting that as a variation of the dreaded "Doctor Who?" joke. You owe me another $100, Steven Moffat.

• At one point Clara walks by what appears to be an observatory. Is that the telescope from Tooth And Claw inside? It sure looked like it to me.

• The TARDIS maze effect-- in which it shuffles rooms to keep the characters walking in circles-- was very well done.

• For a minute there I really thought Clara was going to die again. Glad she didn't!


• The Eye Of Harmony room was pretty cool. An entire exploding star, which powers the TARDIS, contained in one unimaginably vast room. 

The Doctor warns that if they enter the room they can only stay inside for "a minute or two" before their flesh melts and they're incinerated. Naturally whenever there's some kind of deadly time limit in an episode like this, it's then completely ignored. The characters spend a good five minutes inside, even stopping for a minute to have an argument before the damaging effects begin to be felt.

• I thought exposure to the Heart Of The TARDIS was a bad thing? Way back in The Parting Of The Ways Rose Tyler looked into it and was infused with so much energy that she became like unto a god. The Ninth Doctor absorbed the power from her body and the strain was so great it caused him to regenerate. We were shown in no uncertain terms that the Heart was nothing to mess with.

So why then in this episode are the Doctor and Clara able to walk right into it with no ill effects? Is it because it's "locked itself down" and frozen in the middle of exploding?

• Is it a coincidence that the time rift looks a lot like the crack in the universe from a couple of seasons ago?


• So Clara knows the Doctor's name. River Song knows it too. Yet the whole deal with the Silence last season was to keep the keep the Question That Must Not Be Asked (What is the Doctor's name?) from being answered.


So I guess it's OK to KNOW the Doctor's name, as long as you don't SAY it? 
What about when the Doctor was a boy on Gallifrey? Surely his parents used his real name then and didn't call their infant son "Doctor." I guess we'll find out for sure in a couple of weeks.


By the way, we're supposed to learn the Doctor's true name in the final episode of the season. I predict his name will turn out to be... Cosmo (if you're a Seinfeld fan you're no doubt rolling on the floor with laughter about now). 

If his name turns out to be "God," once again I will reach through the screen and throttle Steven Moffat. And then I'll get mad!

• Normally I'm not a fan of "reset button" episodes (I'm lookin' at you, Star Trek: Voyager), but in this case it worked out pretty well and actually made sense. Well, as much sense as anything ever makes on Doctor Who.

• Once time is reset, Gregor seems to retain just enough of his memory to be nice to his Not-Really-An-Android brother. So does that mean Clara retains her memory of the Doctor's name? Will she remember the Doctor telling her that he's met two other versions of her?

Next week: More Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax!
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