Thursday, December 2 2021

jurassic park, a wellness check, and bad christmas movies

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everybody. Happy Thursday. The page turn into December happened quickly. I noticed today that we're already two days into the last month of the year. How does that make you feel? Does it feel too soon, or are you feeling the early kindling of your holiday spirit?

In beautiful Madison Wisconsin there's no snow on the ground yet, but they recently swapped out our Bud Light billboard with one for a local radio station. All Christmas Music Thanksgiving Thru Christmas it reads.

Marissa put the final touches on our house yesterday. She replaced the single burnt out strand of bulbs on our tree, and she threw together a painting for above our mantle. "I wanted something cute and dog-themed, but everything at the store was so cheesy," she explained. Yesterday she borrowed me to hold three apple slices in front of the dogs while she photographed them from the back.


A few hours later, I saw this painting on full display.


And to think I was starting to get a big head about the silly napkin doodles I make for Rodney's lunch. This is a good reminder of what a real artist can do.

One earlier draft of the painting had the words "O come all ye faithful" written in cursive, but Marissa was already on the fence about it. "I don't think I have good enough cursive to write anything," she sighed.

I nodded. "Why don't you just write, What the heck is that?, or ARF?."

Sip. It's good to be here today, and I'm feeling grateful we've almost earned a weekend. I have some of my own presents to wrap and other things to catch up on, but I'd make no progress on any of that yesterday. Work was so busy, I could barely pull away from the keyboard. To help contain our growing slack support channel, I proposed this new triage system to the team, and with their blessing I am guinea-pigging it during my on-call shift this week. I'm the first point of contact for all questions, problems, and requests. It feels good to finally dig into the type of specialized networking knowledge that actually helps people, but it's equally exhausting.

After the work day, Rodney kindly volunteered to play video games with me to help snap me out of work mode. We booted up good old LEGO Jurassic Park.

Yes - we're still playing through the game. It's a massive game. The creators managed to cram four entire movies into individual storylines. Yesterday Rodney and I completed the second movie - The Lost World, and after an unceremonious cut scene in a LEGO helicopter, we were on to the third movie.

The LEGO-fied version of these movies makes it much easier to see the Jurassic park formula. There's a disillusioned entrepreneur who wants to open the park. The T-rex breaks everything and disappears. They spend the rest of the movie running away from raptors, and then the T-rex swoops in at the end and beats the hell out of the raptors while everyone escapes. All this considered, I have a pitch for you. I think I figured it out. The problem is simply the T-rex. What if we were to re-open Jurassic Park, but just skip the T-rex? We'd still have all the smaller dinosaurs that people are less enthusiastic about, but without a T-rex to bust down the gate and screw everything up, I project we'd be able to run our slightly less fun version of Jurassic Park for decades. Welcome to Jurassic Park 4: everything you want, except for your favorite dinosaur. Jurassic Park 4: the T-rex isn't feasible. Jurassic Park 4: Compromise.

In other news, I'm pleased to report that I still have six living spiders in my care. For the last few weeks, my periodic bug sacrifices to Spiker have gone untouched through the night. I finally made the call to perform a quick wellness check. I used a paint brush to gently move the tuft of dirt away from his hide. His cave was much darker, and much deeper since I'd last seen it. I used my phone flashlight to illuminate the back corner. Bobbing our heads around the light, we could faintly make out some fuzzy curled legs in the back crevice.

"I think I saw him move," said Marissa.

"Really? OK, I'll put him back," I said, beginning to scoop dirt.

"No don't do that," she laughed. "I don't want that to be the only reason you close it up for months."

"Yeah you're right," I chuckled. "I had better get a more definitive confirmation."

Carefully, slowly, I tickled one of his toes with a paint brush. Spiker stirred. The wellness check was complete, and with that simple test, Spiker earned himself another six months of dark, undisturbed peace if he needs it.

Here's a challenge for you. Do you know any bad Christmas movies? We all can quote our favorite Christmas movies. We come back to the classics like A Christmas Story, It's a Wonderful Life, and Jingle All the Way every year. But does anyone remember the bad ones?

I submit The Family Man made in the year 2000. It's sort of a re-imagining of A Christmas Carol featuring Jack - the cold, workaholic finance broker from New York. He's visited by a mysterious character who transports him into another version of his life where he married Kate, his old flame that he left in the airport a decade earlier.

For starters, it's a Nicolas Cage movie, and being a heartfelt movie we have plenty of time to stare directly into Nicolas Cage's sad eyes while he pours his heart out and tries to figure out how to love again. We even get to hear him sing accapella. Is there anything Nicolas Cage can't do?

In the two hour running time, Jack finally learns to see the value in his humble, suburban dad life, and after another mysterious encounter with Don Cheadle, he wakes up in his own luxury condo in his real life. But instead of traveling to Aspen for an urgent Christmas day rendezvous with an important client, Jack instead makes a mysterious phone call to a "source" who finds the whereabouts of his old girlfriend Kate. He knocks on her door and tries to convince her to give him another chance. In the climax of the movie, he speeds to the airport and loudly proclaims everything he saw in his "glimpse" of their life together - the name of their kids, their dog, their house, their money problems, but above all their love for each other.

The movie ends with the two of them talking over coffee - presumably their first date. But heading to bed last night I thought of a good fan theory for the movie. Maybe Kate, his old girlfriend, just agreed to get coffee so she could let him down easy, and while the credits rolled over soft piano music she was actually saying "Jack, I think you need to get some help. You can't just chase women down and harass them in the airport. If you come after me again, I'm filing a restraining order."

If you're already all out of Christmas movies and you want to beef up your Nicolas Cage knowledge, or just in the mood for something a little weird, do look up The Family Man.

That's what I got today. Thanks for stopping by, I hope you have a great Thursday.