Being of sound(ish) mind and body…

Today I had a meeting with my lawyer to do some estate planning.  My family has been dealing with some of the ambiguities of my father’s estate, and I realized that there were ways to add complexity to the estate planning in order to simplify things for the heirs.  The process is fascinating, and in some ways similar to designing software.  (Everything has to be spelled out in detail; the default conditions are usually wrong; some user will screw up and blame you for not being clear, etc.)

In the process, I learned some important things that I wanted to pass on, no pun intended. (Disclaimer:  I didn’t actually go out of my way to avoid a pun.  It just sort of happened.  I have no regrets.)

  1. If you have stuff in your life (friends, family, money, classic comic books in plastic bags that you never read*), you should have a will.
  2. In North Carolina, if you kill someone to inherit their estate, you are automatically disinherited.  (Note: I am sending a copy of this statute to everybody in my family.)
  3. Apparently, in the case of foul play, you can not set up a trust to pay for someone to find your killer and avenge you.  This seems unreasonable in light of point #2 above.
  4. You cannot leave your entire fortune to your cat if you do not have a cat.
  5. You cannot instruct the executor to buy you a cat for the purposes of inheritance, because then the estate owns the cat, and you can’t leave the estate to itself.**
  6. The same provision might also be true for dogs, but I didn’t ask, because I don’t like dogs.
  7. You cannot add a section indicating what should be done with your estate if you have faked your own death.  This seems like an oversight in the law, considering how often people on TV fake their own deaths.
  8. The law does not require that the attorney assemble all the heirs in a musty drawing room for the reading of the will.  (Disclaimer: I have mixed emotions about this, as I do not have a drawing room, and I’m not sure where to rent one.)  This means that if you plan to make a video recording of your will, you will have to post it to YouTube.
  9. If you have a living will, make sure it is specific about the conditions for withdrawing life support.  Do not, for example, allow your loved ones to pull the plug if you fall asleep in front of the TV.  It won’t make you die faster, and it may take a few minutes for the TV to reset when you plug it back in.
  10. Many attorneys are reluctant to include scavenger hunts with cryptic clues as part of the will.  My lawyer indicated that she did not want to become a case study in some law textbook where the client wrote a crazy will and the lawyer screwed something up.  (Disclaimer: This was her reasoning, not mine.)  I was hoping that my legacy would include an entry in the syllabus for Estate Planning Bloopers and Practical Jokes 101, but she was adamant.

* If you have a bunch of comic books in plastic bags that you’ve never read, you may be interested to know that many comic books contain colorful pictures and words which tell a story.  These stories are in many ways reminiscent of the stories you find in Wikipedia entries for the same comic book issues.  Also, if you’re a grammar Nazi, I invite you to spend time reading the plastic bags.  There is valuable information about whether or not they are suffocation hazards for children.

** Doing so would rip a hole in the time-space continuum, which might not matter to you if you’re dead, but the rest of us are trying to live here, thank you very much.

scream baby

The Shriek

A few weeks ago I had business at my church one weekday morning.  As I was walking by the fellowship hall, I saw that the preschool kids were having races across the room.*  The kids were very quiet and well mannered until the teacher shouted “Go!”  At that moment, the kids took off running, and each of them began emitting a paint-peeling squeal that immediately stopped when they reached the other side of the room.

I don’t have children of my own, so I have never studied the phenomenon of why children scream while running.  However, this does not stop me from making up two theories about why this happens:

Theory 1: Children have small torsos.  As a result, their legs are much closer to their vocal chords than with adults.  It is possible that the vibrations of their feet hitting the floor as they run are transmitted directly to the vocal chords, causing them to vibrate at a much higher frequency than normal.

Theory 2: Children are inexperienced.  Children as young as three years of age may have been running for as little as three years.  The screaming may be a reflex reaction caused by the sudden realization, “Holy crap!  I can’t believe I’m moving this fast!  How did that happen?”

Little-Known Made-Up Fact: On the TV show Arrow, the “canary cry” sound made by the Black Canary is an actual recording of children playing tag** during recess at St. Mary’s Preschool in Vancouver, British Columbia.

*Child safety disclaimer 1: Racing is a form of competition, and may result in winners and losers.  No children experienced loss of self-esteem due to the fact that they were raised by actual grown-ups and not emotionally stunted overprotective weenies.  No participation awards were presented in the running of this race.

**Child safety disclaimer 2: Tag is a form of competition, and may result in winners or losers.  All children participating in this game were provided with juice boxes and a nap, after which they didn’t even remember playing tag, because it was time to feed the hamster.

(Trigger warning: Although Trigger was a three-year old stallion, he never screamed like a banshee on fire while running. This may be due to the fact that his feet were further away from his vocal chords.  Or possibly that his parents were not emotionally stunted overprotective weenie thoroughbreds.)


Quality communications

I’m always amused when I call some customer service place, and they start the conversation with “This call may be recorded for quality purposes.”  Since the quality of customer service never seems to improve, I assume that it is the quality of my requests that is being studied.  “Listen carefully, and you can tell riiiiight… there… that he didn’t explicitly decline the Platinum Package.  That’s just a rookie mistake that will cost him $99 a month until he’s dead.”

So I’m driving to work this morning, and my car rings.  My cell phone is connected to my car via Bluetooth, so it feels very high-tech to me when I can answer the phone with my car.  (Disclaimer: I’m old, and I still think this is cool.  Leave me alone.)  The following is the entirety of the conversation.

Me: Hello?

Synthetic voice on the other end: You have reached an invalid extension.  Please hang up and try your call again. <click>

I really wish I had recorded the call for quality purposes.  I have no idea what I did wrong.

Disclaimer: Yes, I really want to do this to someone else.

I’m of two minds

Sometimes the only thing that makes an earworm tolerable is if it’s a song you like.  My current earworm is the Proclaimers 1988 hit I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles). Part of my brain has decided that it wants to hear the refrain over and over again.  I’m fine with that.  I really like the song, and the tune is catchy.  And it’s only been a couple hours.

Unfortunately, another part of my brain has decided it wants to play too.  It’s probably angry because I made it walk on the treadmill at the gym today.  So while my secondary auditory cortex is playing the song, my left frontal lobe is singing the following lyrics:

I would walk a couple miles
And I would walk a couple more
Just to be the man who walked four miles
And stopped because his feet were sore.

I guess I just lack the commitment and the endurance to continue.


Creative creativity

In “you-can’t-make-this-up-but-we-did” news, first dates could become much less stressful and awkward thanks to an emotion detector that could tell if a person has the hots for you. If such a thing existed. Which it doesn’t.

The new device features an earpiece which measures body functions (top), and a sort of combination electric fan/death ray that attaches to the the bottom of your cellphone (below).  Neither actually do anything.


However, the plausibly real device is at this stage still pure fiction, and while not creating it has inspired imaginative use of the word “plausible”, it has been not built to convey a serious message.

The device is inspired by the Voight-Kampff machine (created by designers Jon Voight and Mine Kampff) featured in the film Blade Runner. And the new machine bears notable similarities to that machine, such as being fictional. Also, as in the movie, the prototype device causes thick billows of smoke to emanate from the wearer’s head (below), which reduces the awkwardness of first dates by giving the couple something to talk about. “Hi, Harrison, I’m Callista. It’s very nice to meet you. Why is your head on fire?”


The design team — which includes the Centre for Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London (UCL) — insists it has been (not) built created to convey a serious message.

“How many times are we going to have to keep saying this? We (not) built created this device to convey a serious message!  We know there’s an extra ‘A’ in the acronym CASA. It’s not like there’s even one A in our acronym before the S. But when we used our original acronym CSA, oversensitive campus radicals kept confusing us with Confederates for Spatial Analysis, and claimed that their hurt feelings were causing global warming. Rather than mock them mercilessly, we decided to change the acronym and leave the mockery to others.  And yes, I did say ‘built created’!”  (The design team was granted anonymity in case they ever wanted to get real jobs.)

Neat, bright, compact and totally fictional, the detector clips onto a smartphone or tablet, according to neat, bright, compact and occasionally fictional scientist Natalie Portman (below, right).


(Disclaimer: The picture above shows Ms. Portman being bright, compact, and fictional. Her appearance is also surprisingly neat, given how hard it’s raining.)

The nonexistent device comes in flaming screaming bright yellow, making it nicely inconspicuous on first dates when worn by everyone from Minions to Moe (pictured below).


Team leader Professor Paul Coulton, Lancaster University’s design fiction expert, hailed the potential of the imaginary device, which he says is attracting a lot of attention. “Not as much attention as my cancer-curing cold fusion time machine, but close. Maybe if we picked a color that wasn’t so inconspicuous.”

Design fiction is, in broad terms, a combination of Powerpoint slides and outright fraud which heralds what might come about in a future world where research grants can be generated by wishing really hard.  In narrow terms, it’s just making stuff up.

“The factor that differentiates and distinguishes design fiction from other approaches is the word ‘fiction’. By making our products 100% reality-free, we cut down on development costs and product defects.  Plus, our fantasy process is entirely eco-friendly.  Well, mostly. There’s still a lot of smoke coming from Harrison Ford’s head.”

“But this is actually a tool for creating some pretty serious discussions around the dorms at 2:30 in the morning, once we’ve decided who would win in a fight: Tris from Blade Runner or Cameron from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.” (below)

The research team presented a paper in San Jose at CHI, the world’s leading conference on Completely Hallucinatory Inventions.

Click here to read the amazing untrue story.

Editor’s Note: University College London did not respond to our queries about why the Centre for Spatial Analysis employs a design fiction expert, or what emotion detectors have to do with spatial analysis in the first place.  We hope their silence is because they’re too busy analyzing space.

panthers baby hat

Making a name for oneself (or others)

Earlier today I was at Barnes and Noble.  As I was leaving, I passed the maternity/baby section, and one title caught my eye: 100,001 Best Baby Names. I didn’t have time to stop and check,* but I’m really hoping the last name on the list was “Irrelevant”.**

Actually, I did have time to check, but the names were listed in alphabetical order, not rank order.  The last name in the book was “Zygmunt”, which while being a bad name for a baby, is certainly not worse then “Dweezil”.

** For those who don’t follow football, the last person selected in the NFL draft each year is given the nickname “Mr. Irrelevant”.  He is always cut during training camp, but as a consolation prize, his mother gets a nice picture of him in his NFL uniform.

Trigger warning: “Trigger” did not make the list of the 100,001 best baby names.  It came in at 100,003, right behind “Cruella“.

By “football”, I of course mean football.  The kind played in the United States and Canada (and London in weeks 4, 7, and 8).  You’re thinking of “fútbol” (pronounced “SOCK-er”), which is an endurance match in which a dozen men see how long they can run around a field in shorts without scoring any points or doing anything interesting.  The current record is 60 minutes, plus two 15-minute overtime periods, held by every soccer game that ever went into double overtime.

Notice of Total Justification Anecdote:  One time at the gym, I was on the treadmill, and the TV in front of me was showing a World Cup semifinal match between a European team and a Latin American team.  (I believe it was Germany vs. Argentina, but it could have been the Holy Roman Empire vs. the Incas for all it matters.)  There was about 5 minutes left in the game, and the score was tied 0-0.  I walked away as fast as I could, but as I was on a treadmill, I didn’t get far.

So I watched the rest of the game, rooting for a final score of 0-0, so that the semifinal game of the world’s most inexplicably popular competition would have to be decided on penalty kicks.  (For Americans, this would be the equivalent of having the NFC Championship game end 0-0 and be decided by a punt, pass and kick contest, or the NBA semifinals end 0-0 and be decided by a game of Horse.)  I knew little about soccer, so when they announced at the end of regulation time that there would be an overtime to break the tie, I was very disappointed, but I was still on the treadmill, so I kept on rooting.  Eventually (15 minutes later chronologically, 7 weeks later subjectively), the overtime ended at 0-0.  I was devastated to find out that there was another 15 minute overtime period, but at least it would be the last.  To my great dismay, one of the teams (either the Toltecs or Austria-Hungary, I don’t remember) scored with less than 2 minutes (subjective time: 3 months) remaining.

I remember two things that reinforced my preconceived notions of soccer (the best kind of notions):

  1. Since the purpose of soccer is to avoid scoring points, one of the important statistics they maintain is “shots on goal”, the number of times a player accidentally kicks the ball toward the goalie.  In this game, at the end of regulation time, the Mayans had 0 goals on 12 attempts, and the Merovingians had 0 goals on 13 attempts, for a combined Futility quotient of 0-25.
  2. At one point, the color commentary guy (who was British, or possibly English), made the following statement after a missed shot on goal:

That would have been a splendid goal had it occurred.

When you have been reduced to subjunctive commentary, it’s time to go watch cricket.  At least it’s confusing enough to hold one’s attention.

Public service announcement: While searching for a baby wearing Carolina Panthers gear, I stumbled upon this picture of a baby wearing a Cleveland Browns helmet:

baby browns helmet

The child is clearly waiting for the Browns to make the playoffs, or possibly got confused and is watching fútbol.  Child Protective Services has been made aware of this abuse in either case.

Author’s note: This post was written in the style of Edgar Allen Poe, who apparently didn’t like soccer either.


I write like who?

This evening, I was enjoying science trivia night at the museum with a longtime improv friend who blogs at The Flehmen Response under the name Sparky MacMillan.  (Disclaimer: This is his nom-de-plume.  I don’t call him this.  I use his name.  Partly because I’ve known him by that name for over a quarter of a century.  Mostly because having my closest friends be named Mookie and Sparky is bad for my image.  It makes people think they’re imaginary.  And I’m pretty sure they’re not.)

Anyway, we were talking about blogging, and he mentioned a website he had found a while back called I Write Like, which takes samples of prose and analyzes them against the writings of about 50 authors to determine who your writing style compares best to.

This got me intrigued, so I went and found the website.  I plugged in about two dozen or so samples from my blog.  Here’s some of the results:

  • The most common match (around 40%, I would estimate) was Edgar Allen Poe, followed by Margaret Mitchell (maybe 20%).  Poe, as every English major learns in college, was famous for his obsession with robots and Scarlett Johansson.  (He was very much ahead of his time.)
  • I got multiple responses for James Joyce, Cory Doctorow, and Dan Brown, and a few one-offs.
  • I took a series of 4 posts I wrote about my hand surgery a couple years ago. Two of the four (the first and last) came back Stephen King, indicating I guess that I ended the story badly.
  • One other sequence I did was 3 different stories to explain the “Legend of Moleskine” sign I saw at Barnes & Noble.  One came back as Douglas Adams (a particularly proud moment).  The other two came back as H.P. Lovecraft.

I don’t have nearly the ego to take any of this seriously, but I find stuff like this fascinating, the same way people on Facebook post which Harry Potter character they are most like. (Disclaimer: No, I don’t know which Harry Potter character I’m most like, unless it’s the one that doesn’t want to know what Harry Potter character he’s like.)  Douglas Adams is one of my favorite authors, so being compared to him is flattering.  I gave my friend Stephanie a couple of Dave Barry books as a baby shower present, and she told me when she read them, she kept hearing his words in my voice, which is also flattering, as he is another of my favorite humor writers.  It’s dangerous to believe stuff like that, but it’s still nice to hear.

I read the “About” section of the website, and with only 51 authors in its database to compare with, a certain amount of redundancy is expected.  The site creator describes the algorithm used to correlate the writing styles as based on a Bayesian classifier, the same algorithm that is used in spam filters.  Which I guess means that reading A Labor of Like is the equivalent of getting spam mail from Edgar Allen Poe and Margaret Mitchell.

You can read more about it in my upcoming book, Gone with the Raven.

(Disclaimer: According to I Write Like, this post was written in the style of Edgar Allen Poe*. The original e-mail that I sent to Sparky on this subject was written in the style of Vladimir Nabokov, the author of Lolita.  You’re welcome for the rewrite.)

* A critical literary deconstruction of the stylistic similarities between this post and Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart would be weird and creepy.  Hopefully in a Poe way, and not in a Nabokov way.



A taste of honeys

Recently (very recently), my friend and fellow blogger Joseph Nebus posted a tidbit on his blog about a can of pumpkin.

(Disclaimer: I have never actually met the very splendid and worthwhile Mr. Nebus.  Our interactions to date have consisted of cross-blog discussions of subjects such as the history of the color indigo, how to use tea lights as toys, the relationship between Vincent Price and St. Louis, and the connection between Robert Boyle and 3rd Century Saint Pancras.  However, I find his writing very entertaining, and I believe that should I ever find myself in Michigan or he in North Carolina, our meeting would be quite amicable, and dominated by some random aspect of our surroundings.  His blogs are quite good.  Go read them here and here while I try to remember what I was saying.)

Ah, yes, now I remember.  Joseph was doing a statistical analysis of the ingredient of 100% canned pumpkin and took great comfort in the results.  (Spoiler alert: it’s pumpkin.)

In what could only be termed synchronicity if this train of thought had been recorded by The Police in 1983, I had a similar revelation a few weeks ago.  I found a packet of honey (pictured above) in the break room at work, and I was taken by two thoughts:

  1. Honey can be graded, which means that there is an occupation called “honey grader”.  I am now considering a second career in the lucrative and prestigious honey grading industry after retirement  I wonder how much schooling is required.
  2. It’s hard to read because I am such a lousy photographer, but just below the honey-pot-obscuring glare, the following is written in tiny, friendly letters:


At the time, I was taken aback by the idea that one had to list the ingredients of pure honey, and happy that the term “pure” was apparently not a euphemism, like “natural” or “nutritious”. But after reading Joseph’s report, I now have a more important question: Why is pumpkin considered an ingredient (singular), but honey is considered “ingredients”.  Is it because that can of pumpkin all came from the same gourd, while the honey was gathered from multiple hives?

Or were the corporate lawyers for Big Honey just covering their bases.  “Let’s call it ingredients, just in case we find something else in there, like mangled bee limbs, or tungsten.  It’ll save on printing costs later.”


Making fun of leaves

Did you ever read something on the internet that was so bizarre, so outrageous, so…wrong that you just had to write something else on the internet to contradict it and set people straight?

No, of course not.  That’s just silly.  Why would anybody write unpleasant things down in public?  And why would anybody else care what someone else wrote on the internet?  If someone has a disagreeable notion they would like to share, it is much simpler to ignore them.  They don’t know any better.  They were probably raised by wolves.

Which is why I was taken aback when I read the following shocking statement. (Trigger warning: Do not try to feed Trigger.  He’s not your horse.  And he’s dead.)

There are no fun facts about arugula. Period.

The author of the statement above justifies himself by saying the following:

I need FUN facts about arugula in order to encourage others to buy it, plant it, grow it, eat it.

Now I have a motto: There are no unfun facts.  There are only facts not having fun. (Disclaimer: This is not my motto.  It’s not even on my list of mottos, which is here.  This is a stupid motto.  I wouldn’t touch that motto with a ten foot pole.)  If you don’t have fun facts, it’s important to make the facts fun yourself. To that end, I’d like to share with you some fun facts about arugula.

(Important Disclaimer: The statements below are for fun purposes only.  They should not under any circumstances be considered encouragement to buy, plant, grow, or (God forbid) eat arugula.  I’d sooner recommend a timepiece from Hammacher Schlemmer.)

Credit Where Credit is Due Announcement: All of the unfun facts below have been cribbed directly from Wikipedia. Technically, this stretches the definition of the word “fact”, but it’s still more research than I normally put into a blog post.

Fact: Arugula is commonly known as salad rocket, rucola, rucoli, rugula, colewort, and roquette.

Fun fact 1: If anything should commonly be known as salad rocket, it’s the carrot.

Fun fact 2: Despite the fact that kids will eat anything if you call it a “salad rocket”, people insist on calling this stuff “arugula”, which is not Italian for “salad rocket”.

Fun corollary 2a:  “Salad rocket” in Italian is “razza di insalata”, which in and of itself is fun to say, particularly in a comical Italian accent.  See what I mean? (You know you tried it.)

Fact: Some botanists consider it a subspecies of Eruca vesicaria.  Still others do not differentiate between the two.

Fun fact 3: There are at least 4 botanists (2 on each side) involved in this dispute. Yet you never read about it in the press. Nor is there a reality show designed to exploit this conflict. Not even on HGTV.

Fact: It is also used cooked in Apulia, in Southern Italy, to make the pasta dish cavatiéddi, “in which large amounts of coarsely chopped rocket are added to pasta seasoned with a homemade reduced tomato sauce and pecorino”, as well as in “many unpretentious recipes in which it is added, chopped, to sauces and cooked dishes” or in a sauce (made by frying it in olive oil and garlic) used a condiment for cold meats and fish.

Fun fact 4: This is all one long run-on sentence.  Trying to diagram it would kill more time than it’s worth.

Fun fact 5: If I am parsing correctly, apparently once there were many unpretentious dishes that contain arugula.  None survive to the present day.

Fact: It was listed in a decree by Charlemagne of 802 as one of the pot herbs suitable for growing in gardens.

Fun fact 6: Charlemagne, King of the Franks and first Holy Roman Emperor, issued gardening decrees.  Perhaps one of them outlawed unpretentious uses of arugula.

Fun fact 7: Arugula is no longer the most popular pot herb grown in gardens. Especially in Colorado.

Fact: The species has a chromosome number of 2n = 22

Fun fact 8: n = 11, which is prime.  (Disclaimer: this is not fun in and of itself, but is provided for the sake of people who are still diagramming that sentence above, and don’t have time to do the math themselves.  Maybe you’ll find the next fact more to your liking.)

Fact: The taxonomic name of arugula is Eruca sativa.

Fun fact 9: “Arugula” is an anagram for “aura lug”, which sounds like work.  On the other hand, “Eruca sativa” is an anagram for “active auras”, which sounds much healthier.

Fun fact 10: “Eruca sativa” is also an anagram for “caviar eat us”.  Caviar is disgusting fish eggs.  This is a subliminal message.  You should not eat the same things that fish eggs eat.

Fun corollary 10a: “Salad rocket” is an anagram for “croaked last”.  This is a thinly veiled attempt to make you think arugula is good for longevity.  Don’t fall for it.  “Salad rocket” is also an anagram for “cloaked rats”.

There you have it.  Ten fun facts and two fun corollaries about arugula.  As the kids say when they’re having fun, “Whee.”

The lady is ambivalent, but she doesn’t know it yet

This summer will mark my 30-somethingth trip to Vegas. (Disclaimer: last year I celebrated my 30-somethingth trip to Vegas.)  I first started going in 1988, when I finally got enough vacation that I didn’t use it all up going home to see my family at Christmas.  I chose Las Vegas because I had seen it so many times in movies and on TV.  For me, travel is about seeing things in person that I have seen in movies and on TV.  I’ve been to London and Los Angeles, and spent my time there looking for things I would recognize, so I would feel like I was traveling. I’ve also been to Milan, Vienna, and Vancouver.  I remember nothing about them.  (Disclaimer: I was in Vancouver in 1986. I’m sure if I went back, I would recognize stuff, since about 60% of TV shows are now shot there.)

One of the reasons I recognize Vegas is the 1964 film Viva Las Vegas, starring Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret.  (Disclaimer: Most of the landmarks in the movie has since been destroyed, and the rest have been extensively remodeled.  Do not watch this movie and then go to Vegas expecting to see stuff you recognize.)  I was only 3 when the movie came out, but I remember it being on TV a lot of Saturday afternoons in the early 1970’s.  As a result, it’s one of only two movies I really remember from my childhood.  (The other is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.)

This is the plot synopsis from IMDB:

Race car driver Lucky Jackson goes to Las Vegas to earn money to pay for a new engine for his motor car. Working as a waiter, he still finds the time to court young Rusty Martin.

This is the plot synopsis from me in the early 1970’s:

Ann-Margret wears skimpy outfits while stuff happens around her. Sometimes she goes away for a while, but then she comes back in a different skimpy outfit.

I developed a lifelong crush on Ann-Margret from this movie.  (Note to self: We actually got to see her perform in Vegas back in 1990.  When we finally have to execute my bucket list, find something else to do that day.)

The clip above is my favorite song from the movie, “The Lady Loves Me”.  1970’s me describes the scene this way:

Ann-Margret changes from a skimpy red swimsuit into skimpy yellow shorts, while stuff happens around her.  Maybe.  And I think there’s music of some sort.

To put the scene in context, earlier in the movie, Ann-Margret walked into a scene in skimpy white shorts, and stuff happened around her.  (Note to self: Shut up, 1970’s me!  I’m trying to make a point!)  Lucky (Elvis) is a race car driver/mechanic who tried to pick up Rusty (Ann-Margret) by telling her her car needed repair work when it didn’t.  She found out and is still angry.  Then he bumps into her at his hotel, where she works as a pool manager.  So he attempts to compensate for his earlier petty fraud by wooing her with song.

Anyway, as I was watching this scene, 2016 me noticed a few things that 1970’s me missed.

  1. At the beginning of the scene, Rusty steps out of the pool after helping some kids.  There is a continuous walk-and-talk shot from the pool to the dressing room.  As she closes the door behind her, you can see that she was standing in the pool in white high heels.  (She wears the same heels through the rest of the song.)
  2. Rusty dresses faster than the Flash.  She is still wearing the red swimsuit when he sings “I’m her ideal, her heart’s desire” at 0:49 in the clip.  At 0:56, seven seconds later, she tosses the swimsuit on the screen as he sings, “She’d like to cuddle up with me”, and her hair is already tied back with a yellow ribbon.  By the time she starts her verse at 1:09, she’s wearing the yellow shorts and top outfit.  That’s a complete change of wardrobe in 20 seconds, and when she comes out from behind the screen, we see she’s still wearing her sensible white pool heels.
  3. Why does the inside of a women’s dressing room (which I’ve never seen) look like the women’s department at J.C. Penney (which I have seen)?  Do they still look like that half a century later?  And who owns all those clothes?  Aren’t they worried that someone will steal them, like at J.C. Penney?  Do they have those clip-on RFID tags?  Did they even have clip-on RFID tags in 1964?
  4. Lucky is clearly sure of himself, and it appears that his assumption about her feelings is not unfounded.  He has chosen to serenade her with what is clearly a duet, and she’s clearly willing to play along.  If she truly “loathed him”, wouldn’t it make much more sense to ignore him, or call the lifeguard?  He’d look pretty foolish just walking around singing “The lady loves me, but she doesn’t know it yet.” at random intervals with no lady around.
  5. Wait a minute, isn’t she a lifeguard?  If not, it’s pretty unsafe for her to be teaching small children to swim.  The hotel is probably looking at some sort of lawsuit.
  6. Notice how there is no background noise in the pool area.  We just saw Rusty teaching small children to dive less than a minute ago.  How are their parents keeping them quiet enough for a musical interlude?  I would expect at least one overheard conversation like this:
    • Mother: Kids, gather up your things.  It’s time to go.
    • Susie: Mommy, why was Miss Martin giving us swimming lessons in high heels?
    • Mother: For the same reason your father wears a suit to change the oil — it’s the Sixties.  Now hurry up.  I have to go put on a dress and pearls and start dinner.
  7. And when did this become a lost parental art?
  8. Rusty sings, “He’s one man I could learn to hate.”  Earlier she indicated that she loathes him.  How much of a learning curve does that require?
  9. Lucky is so focused on Rusty that he fails to notice that he has walked backward onto a diving board.  1970’s me wouldn’t have noticed the diving board, either.  Or the pool.  Or the guitar.

The biggest question of all is this: HOW DOES RUSTY KNOW THE LYRICS? Lucky is apparently making the song up as he goes, and yet she knows exactly when to come in with her lines. I’ve watched my old improv group make up songs on the fly, so I know how hard that is.  This seems too effortless.  It’s almost as if Rusty knows the song already.   Hmmm, is it possible that she has already seen Viva Las Vegas?  Maybe even has a recording of the soundtrack? And if so, how does Lucky know to pick one of the songs from that LP? I believe that either Lucky or Rusty (or both of them?) are trapped in a time loop, and forced to repeat the day over and over until they end up together.*

* Or maybe not.  Maybe Ann-Margret is supposed to end up with Cesare Danova, the Italian racing count.  Or maybe learning to hate Lucky isn’t as easy as it seems given her loathing, and she’s still trying to get it right.

General trivia note: Among the uncredited background people in Viva Las Vegas are singer Toni Basil (“Mickey”), actress Teri Garr (Young Frankenstein), and actors Kent McCord (Adam-12) and Lance LeGault (you’d know him if you saw him).  If you are under 40, you have no idea who I’m talking about, do you?