[Note: There are some video clips at the end of this post from the shows I’m talking about.]
Lately you and I have enjoyed watching the Powerpuff Girls together. It’s good common ground. I like it because I always kind of have. It’s one of those shows that Cartoon Network came out with in the late 90’s that were more or less for grownups, and which were as much about cartoon tropes as about superhero crimefighters. And you like it because… well, who knows why you like anything.
I recently learned that there is a separate Japanese series called “Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z” in which three middle-school girls are exposed to Chemical Z (a compound of Chemical X and some kind of rice cake) and gain super powers. I got a copy of some of these (was there ever a time when region codes and format differences were an effective deterrent to international DVD sales?), and you absolutely love it.
I don’t love it. I love that it exists, but the American original is so much better. Not only is it so much cleverer (see the Rashomon-style episode where the story unwinds retrospectively in jumps between their various points of view). But it’s also a refreshing change from the usual superhero schtick (in which women can be strong and capable, but only if they have a DD rack and a bondage wardrobe). As one paper’s synopsis puts it: “‘The Powerpuff Girls,’ despite its violent nature, appeals to the vast majority of its viewers because it provides positive female media images that are not based on sex appeal.”
By contrast, the Japanese version is not so clever, or at least isn’t a standout. Worse, the girls’ value as feminist role models is seriously compromised by their vapidity (they have to be reminded to return to a pitched battle with the bad guys after they are distracted by ice cream).
Anyway, this is all interesting to me because, while it’s clear where my allegiances lie, you seem to prefer “Demashita!” to the originals. It’s possible that this is just because it’s new. I’ve had a hard time getting you to explain the differences between the two shows as you see them, but you have mentioned that the new PPGZ have better hair and clothes.
There’s a trend of late where little girl icons are getting makeovers to make them more fashionable and “tweeny”. This has been much discussed on the internets, with Strawberry Shortcake and Dora the Explorer being the prime examples. See:
This seems odd to me. Tweens existed in the ’80s and ’00s when Strawberry Shortcake and Dora, respectively, were developed into licensing phenomena (even if the word “tween” didn’t). And the marketing industry was no less sophisticated then than now. If the real money was in tween icons, then these characters would have been born tweens, like Bratz. I’m really curious to know what happened in our culture or in the market that enabled these makeovers. I suspect that your Powerpuff preference would be a correlated data point in whatever that trend is, but my insight doesn’t go beyond that hunch.
Appendix: Powerpuff Video.
Here are the original Powerpuff Girls. This clip from an early episode gives a pretty good idea of the show’s tone and introduces the characters.
Now here are the Japanese Powerpuff Girls Z, from the first episode, in which the girls are hit with Chemical Z fallout. Note that their transformations occupy a space almost exactly between a typical superhero transformation and a Eurovision also-ran’s act.
So let me give you some pointers for next time. Specifically, it may help you to know that, when Olive pees in the house:
She does it in the hallway, not the office;
The puddle is nearly always contiguous, and it never takes the form of a splatter pattern that covers several square feet of carpet;
Said puddle’s wettest spot does not usually lie under a capsized drinking glass; and
It doesn’t smell like cranberry juice.
Finally, changing your story under pressure never looks good (unless you’re changing it to the truth), and you should only try to improve your lie when: (a) it’s really necessary; and (b) the new lie offers clear and substantial benefits that outweigh the credibility cost of inconsistency. In connection with this point, I’ll just point out that neither of the cats pees cranberry juice and cups all over the office like a busted cranberry pee water balloon.
Now it sounds like you’re about done crying in your room, which means it’s time for a chat about personal responsibility.
We took these recently before you left the house to go to a fairy-themed dress-up birthday party. You had a really good time at the party.
There are a couple of things to know before watching these videos. First, in the first video, when you say “give away fairies with my wand”, you meant something like “drive fairies away with my wand” (maybe you meant to say “get fairies away with my wand”). I didn’t figure this out until later.
Second, in the second video, I regret sounding so enthusiastic about your leading an army of (reformed?) evil fairies. Daddy does not approve of evil armies and I’m sorry if I gave the impression that I find the idea of my daughter at the head of an invincible magical horde to be completely fricking awesome.
Interview with a Fairy (Episode 1: “The Problem With Fairies”)
For most of the week at school, you have been going by the name ‘Mildred’. You claim that Mr. Tony came up with it, but he says it’s all you. I like the name Mildred - I think it’s a pretty good fit. The whole episode reminds me that I’ve been meaning for years now to explain why we named you after the universe’s most famous troublemaker.
‘Sophia’ was a popular name around the time that you were born. This chart from Baby Name Voyager (click the image to enlarge) shows how the name kind of went dormant for the first two-thirds of the last century before blowing up like a swarm of 17-year cicadas. In absolute terms, it’s not as big as ‘Heather’ was in the 70s (here’s that chart), when there was period when three of every 500 babies were being Heathered. In 2006, Sophias were occurring fewer than 2 times per 500. If Baby Name Voyager is to be believed (and why would it lie?), ‘Sophia’ was the 9th most popular name for girls in ‘06, and had become 4th most popular by 2009. You kind of got the shit end of the stick in the distinctive name department.
Hey, do you think the percentage of Sophia’s born to Heathers in the past few years would be higher or lower than the percentage born to mothers of all names?
In our defense, it didn’t even occur to us to check on the popularity of the name until you were nigh upon us, and by then we’d been thinking of you as ‘Sophia’ for months. And I, for one, really like the name Sophia. It extremely vowely, with two of its three consonants forming a single sound to make more room for melody. And there’s the whole “It’s Greek for Wisdom” thing. Wisdom is good; everybody likes wisdom.
But that’s not what I’ve been meaning to tell you. What I’ve been meaning to tell you is the biggest reason that I really like the name Sophia. It’s going to take a few paragraphs, but the short version is ‘Sophia’, to me, means something closer to ‘Pandora’ than ‘Wisdom’.
You know Pandora — the first woman, created by the Greek male sky gods to punish men for receipt of stolen goods, to wit the fire of the gods. And the gods gave her this jar and said “don’t open it”, and Pandora is curious — not bad, mind you, but curious — and opens it anyway and lo! and behold! it is full of all manner of woe and all of the things that make life painful and short, and these things all fly out and all of humankind suffers throughout the whole of recorded history from war, disease, envy, guile, etc. And I think this is awesome. Not that I like woe — I am decidedly anti-woe. But I don’t see how beauty can exist without it.
So here is the connection between Sophia and Pandora.
During yesterday’s lazy Sunday morning, I several times teased you that it was really still night time. “See how it’s dark outside?” I said at 11:00am. “Don’t you hear the crickets chirping in the trees?” There were no crickets. “Look, there’s the moon! You better get back in bed.” You thought this was pretty funny (by lazy Sunday morning standards, anyway, I guess).
So at lunch I took a ball that has one green and one pink hemisphere (and thus a marked equator) and I turned on the LED flash on the back of my phone and turned off the dining room lights. I tried to explain how there really were places on the earth where it was daytime all summer long (whether it was bedtime or not) and where it was nighttime all winter long. I marked the ball’s north pole with a Sharpie and showed you how the earth sort of wobbles relative to the angle of the sun’s rays. I showed you how the poles pass in and out of darkness on a schedule that has little to do with our concepts of “day” and “night”. And I wasn’t sure how much of what I was saying was getting through.
Which is why I got all excited this morning in the car when you said “Dad, when you have my ball and it’s the earth…” I thought a synthesis question was coming. But then your tone turned remonstrative, and you said: “…don’t write on it with a marker, okay?”
Fair enough. It all makes me wonder how long you spent trying to erase the North Pole while cursing my presumption.
I listened to a backlog of podcasts on a log drive to Kentucky this evening, and was treated to quite a collection of weird and wonderful tales. Like the one about the guy in the 80’s who figured out that the “random” pattern of lights on the game show Press Your Luck wasn’t random at all, and won more than $100,000, which he converted into $1 bills in an effort to win a “match the dollar bill serial number” radio contest, all before he went a little nuts and ended up dying on the lam from federal agents who were chasing him because he had bilked people out of a lot of money in a ponzi scheme and become a pioneer in the world of Internet fraud.
Or the one about the guy who cut down an old tree to analyze its rings for climate change research and then counted the rings and realized: (a) that the tree was nearly 5,000 years old; and (b) that he had just killed he oldest living organism on the planet.
Or the one about Bristol and Levi getting back together. (Mama grizzly’s little cub is all grown up.)
Or the one about how one of the students who was subjected to horrifying and degrading psychological experimentation by a Harvard professor who had been cut loose by the C.I.A. grew up to become one of the most famous domestic terrorists to ever don a hoodie and aviators.
But my favorite, bar none, was about an abandoned copper mine outside of Butte, Montana that slowly filled with water after the mining company split in the early 80’s. The resulting lake was the color of rust and full of sulfuric acid. It was so toxic that all of the geese that landed there in a storm were found dead the next day. The story is really about these two scientists who were studying the slimes that somehow lived in the lake, and who found one that absorbed metals from the surrounding water at an amazing rate – something on the order of 6 times more efficiently than the microorganisms then being used in environmental cleanup. When the scientists had the key ingredient analyzed, they learned that it was a yeast that had only ever been identified in the digestive tracts of geese.
…when I realize after dropping Arica off at work and you at daycare that I have left something important at home:
View “Forgot something at home” in a larger map
My phone says I traveled more than 15 miles, averaged 22.4 mph (while I was moving, anyway; 12.7 overall) and had a net elevation loss of about 85 feet (though the overall range covered about 270 ft; it may be interesting to note that I was ultimately traveling between two points within feet of the continental divide). All of that makes it sound like I accomplished something.
Since getting an iPad for father’s day, I’ve checked a couple of times on what information is out there on gaining root access to the device’s software. Skip ahead if you know what I’m talking about.
“Rooting” a device means gaining access to the underpinnings of the operating system and acquiring the necessary permissions to muck around. Without root access, there is much about the OS that can be used, but not modified. By analogy, it’s like buying a house you have been renting. Before the purchase, you couldn’t knock out a wall or install hardwood flooring. But once you own it, you’re king.
Device manufacturers don’t give us root access for a number of reasons, well-intentioned (protecting the device from malicious hacks, protecting us from ourselves) to less-so (keeping us from activating features they plan to charge us for, like tethering). Still, the result is that you end up living like a tenant in the house you just bought.
I rooted my Android handset a while back after spending some time reading up on blogs and in forums. In the Apple community, as with Android, contains those who have reasons not to root. In the Android community, the reasons are most often nervousness about voiding warranties or fear of “bricking” the device. I’ve noticed over the past few days that in the Apple community, users’ statements about why they don’t want to root contain a moral element I don’t recall seeing with Android users. For example, in a comment in a post about rooting the iPad:
And ? Can be done/should be done do not equate. I’ve yet to see a freelance app that’s worth jailbreaking for. Stick with the pros, everyone — there’s an App Store approval process for a reason ….
this amuses me because it confirms my stereotype of Apple users as being motivated in part by a cult-like devotion to something intangible about the brand. But there are some good reasons for advising against rooting an Apple device. Unlike Android, the Apple mobile OS is not open source. So “modders” who want to modify that OS (maybe to add some usability features for lefties, or to add support for a custom kernel that permits overclocking the CPU) are working in the dark. They can’t download and work from the existing source code.
For another matter, Apple has a reputation for taking quick and sometimes aggressive legal action against those who could possibly be perceived as a threat to the brand. Google doesn’t have that reputation, nor do Motorola, HTC, Verizon or T-Mobile. The result is that communities of Android modders can work in the open and collaborate on ever-improving iterations of custom releases of the OS, while there’s still only one flavor of Apple.
So, about that flavor: not that anyone asked or cares, here are my impressions after a couple of days wih the iPad. First, the good:
It is hard to be sure until you have had a device for a while, but battery life seems to be great.
The screen looks better than the pixel density would lead you to expect, and it’s a great size for email and web browsing. And games!
The App Store has a bunch of really polished offerings. All of a sudden, I have access to all those apps by companies who have been saying “and we have an Android app in the works, too”.
The apps are expensive compared to Android offerings, and a smaller percentage seem to be free. I’m don’t think I’m getting a better value proposition with the App Store.
What’s with all the letters on the keyboard being capitals, even when pressing them gives lower-case? Why does the OS only give me one word suggestion at a time, and then only once I’m most of the way through typing the word? And I miss Swype.
this is my biggest complaint: the device badly needs a dedicated “back” button. You need one in almost every program, but on the iPad, you have to hunt for where each program’s developer saw fit to place it. I will get along eventually without Android’s dedicated “menu” button (though the foregoing reasoning applies here as well), and I already don’t miss Android’s dedicated “search” button. But the “back” button is sorely missed. (Blackberry also gets this one right.)
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a wicked jones on for a game of Angry Birds.