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By Samuel Stoddard

February 2000

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Monday, February 28, 2000

Steering this Site Journal to the topic of the RinkWorks site for a change, I'd like to talk about Things People Said for a moment. Specifically, why I personally like it so much; generally, my thoughts on why it works.

I really do like Things People Said. It kind of ticks me off that it's one of my favorite RinkWorks features, because it's not the product of my creative energy. Then again, maybe that's part of it; by not authoring it, I'm not so close to it, and I'm freed from the burden of creation to laugh at it. But whatever the reason, no matter how many times I go back to it, I simply cannot read, say, the "Accident Reports" page without dying of laughter, even though I know the quotations so well I can recite most of them from memory. It kills me every time I glance at the "Foreign Menus" section of "The Language Barrier" and see things like "Pork with fresh garbage." The movie subtitles, further down on that page, are equally rereadable. If you haven't perused Things People Said -- or even if you have -- I wholeheartedly recommend reading it. (And I don't feel bad boasting about it, as, again, all my part of that site is collecting the quotes, not writing them.)

So what makes this so undyingly funny to me? I don't know how many other people feel the same way, but I know I'm not alone. I think it's a combination of things. One, because each quote is relatively short. An awful lot of the Computer Stupidities stories crack me up as well and as often, but they're a little longer, so you can read fewer of them in as much time, and they aren't quite as easily remembered as a snappy little nugget one can readily recall in full. I think the main reason is that they're the product of unwitting perpetrators.

Deliberate humor is harder to make funny, and it's almost never as funny as the best unintentional humor. It's why I think the oblivious antics of a lot of dogs (running into walls at full speed and thinking nothing of it, as an example) are a lot funnier than practically anything a stand-up comic can come up with. The funniest part about the unwitting humor in things done by kids and animals is that they have no clue they ever did anything funny. This theory of humor carries over into another RinkWorks feature: It's a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Movie. Often the reason bad movies are funny is because the makers of the film had no idea that their attempts to make a good movie were so stupid and inane as to be hilarious. The perennial favorite bad movie of RinkWorks readers (and myself), Sinbad of the Seven Seas, certainly follows the pattern. The cast and crew of that movie certainly tried.

Saturday, February 26, 2000

Time to shift to a lighter tone. Here's one of those things that "floats around" the Internet. It's a collection of really bad analogies, apparently winners of a "worst analogies written in a high school essay" contest:

Friday, February 25, 2000

"Wolf" has more to say on the subject of the sense of taste. This information is based on a Reuters-Dallas news article reporting on a recent discovery. The original article was dumbed down for general public consumption; Wolf was so kind as to dumb it back up:


Taste research got a little meatier last week: scientists have discovered a tongue sensor for the flavour of a chemical in meat and other protein-rich foods.

While many people think of salty, sour, sweet, and bitter as the four main tastes, we've actually known since the early 1900s of a fifth taste, umami. In the same way sugar is the source of sweet sensations, the chemical glutamate is the source of umami. Glutamate -- one of the essential amino acids required by the body -- is popularly known as part of the Asian food additive monosodium glutamate, or MSG. It makes sense that people can taste MSG because glutamate is present in more nutritious foods like meat, milk, and seafood. It's especially concentrated in aged cheese.

University of Miami researchers have reported in the latest issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience that they have found the sensor for umami. The sensor -- a molecule called a G-protein-coupled receptor -- sits in the outer membrane of cells in the tongue. When glutamate hits the receptor cell, a chain reaction is triggered inside that cell. Then nerve impulses from the tongue race to the brain, signalling that glutamate has been tasted. Also, a somewhat different version of the sensor is found in the brain. That's because glutamate is an important neurotransmitter which brain cells use to communicate with each other.

Wednesday, February 16, 2000

A couple of things today. First, a continuation of of the "senses" thread:

Next, a word about the Academy Award nominations, announced yesterday morning. Here's the full list of nominees. I was glad to see Richard Farnsworth in the Best Actor category and disappointed not to see Jim Carrey there, outraged but not surprised that Reese Witherspoon wasn't in the Best Supporting Actress list (for Election), and happy to see both Michael Clarke Duncan and Haley Joel Osment in the Best Supporting Actor category.

But what I really want to do is talk about Best Picture. American Beauty was a given and really the only one. I was happy to see The Sixth Sense there; lately, the Academy has become less snooty about blockbusters, but they have a long way to go. As usual, great straight comedies are passed over, despite the fact that comedy is harder to do well drama. More outrageous (but, again, expected) is that animated films were ignored. 1999 was, I think, a relatively weak year for films overall, but it was the best year for animated movies in about forever. Tarzan, The Iron Giant, and Toy Story 2 -- all three of them -- were better than any animated movie since, at least, Beauty and the Beast. The latter two should have been Best Picture nominees, and I'm not so sure one of them shouldn't have won. I had hopes for Toy Story 2 breaking the Academy out of its rut, especially after it won at the Golden Globes, but no such luck.

For live action films, Three Kings really deserved a place on the list -- that it didn't was no surprise to me. I ran a poll yesterday that asked people what unnominated film was most conspicuously absent from the Best Picture nominee list. The winner was The Matrix, garnering just under a third of the votes. I can't agree. I loved the movie -- it's an exciting visual and visceral adventure executed with style. It's also flawed in its conclusion; Hollywood's missing third act syndrome kicks in and puts an action climax to a film of ideas when a logical wrapping up of those ideas was more appropriate.

I'll be discussing the Oscars here and in the Reader Poll sporadically over the course of the next month or so until the awards telecast.

Sunday, February 13, 2000

As many of you who hang out in RinkChat know, we've been in the process of moving to a new place in the next town for three weeks now. Yesterday, with the help of my brother, we moved all the big stuff, and last night was the first night we've spent here. There's something exciting about moving into a better place, and we're certainly excited.

"Wolfspirit" has the following to say on the subject of senses, and, if you had to lose one, which it would be. It was actually written last January, shortly after the day the question was asked.

Wednesday, February 9, 2000

The second item I'd like to revisit dates back even further: the clone thread that occurred here in the journal last November. I held this letter back, because it was about a related but different issue, and then I just forgot to post it.

Have any thoughts to contribute? Send them.

Tuesday, February 8, 2000

This journal entry and the next one will consist of stuff I forgot to post here when it was actually relevant. But better late than never, right?

The following letter is from "Dracimas," and it concerns the Reader Poll question from 1/10/00 (answers posted 1/11/00), which was, "If you were to permanently lose one of your senses, which would it be?" This letter followed on the heels of another letter "Dracimas" sent me about a poll question, and that one did get posted here, in the journal entry for January 8, 2000.

Do you have more to say about the subject? Talk to me!

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