Sunday, September 10, 2017

Of All My Monkey Memories ...

I don’t really have time for a full post this week, as we’re in the midst of another Virgo birthday season—my eldest is now 19, which is always a bit of a brainfuck.  Realizing you have a kid old enough to go to college when you were just in college yourself, like, yesterday, can feel surreal in a very fundamental way.  But, as Twain once said: “It is sad to go to pieces like this, but we all have to do it.”

But I feel like I need to leave you with something to read this week.1  So let me tell you a story, then I’ll drop you a link.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a technogeek, and you’ve probably been able to work out that I’m a bit, shall we say, older.  And while I haven’t had the most interesting technogeek career or anything, I’ve had my fair share of interesting jobs throughout the roughly three decades I’ve been at this.  And one of my favorites was working for ThnkGeek.

Now, I don’t want to get into whether ThinkGeek is still as cool these days as it used to be.2  But I don’t think there can be much argument that it was the height of cool back in the day.  And, just to be clear, I’m not trying to take any credit for that: it was already plenty cool when I got there, and that’s primarily thanks to the four founders,3 who put in the mental effort and sweat equity to make it so.  It was as a wonderful a place to work as it was a wonderful place to shop, and I loved almost all of my time there.  And, while I’m not making any claim that I made any major contributions to the great and storied history of ThinkGeek, there are a couple of things I could brag about.  You know, if I were so inclined.

You probably already know that the creature most in charge of ThinkGeek is a monkey named Timmy.  And you may know (or at least suspect) that a geek-centered company like TG gets all sorts of wacky emails from customers.  And I bet you can easily guess that wacky customer emails often get forwarded around so that all the employees can share in the wackiness.  At some point, I started “responding” to some of these emails (internally only, of course!) as Timmy.  This was strictly to entertain my fellow employees, and, at that time, there were few enough of those that I knew them all personally and knew what they would find amusing.4  After a few rounds of that, somebody came up with the bright idea to turn this into something we could put on the website.5  I always referred to it as “Ask Timmy”—still do, whenever I talk about it—but I guess it was technically called “Dear Timmy” on the site.6  It didn’t last long: I did 7 installments of the column over the course of perhaps a year.  Somebody else picked the questions, and I answered them, using the “voice” of Timmy.  Timmy was wise and knew just about everything, and he was always right, even when he was wrong.  Since it was pretty much a marketing tool, I did take a few opportunities in there to do some product placement, but mainly I was just having fun.  Let me give you a taste:

Dear Timmy,

I was watching Star Wars the other night, and began to wonder something. Stormtroopers are clones of Jango Fett. Boba Fett is also a clone of him. Given that, why is it that stormtroopers can’t manage to hit anything when they shoot, but Boba can?

Woodend, Victoria, Australia, Earth

Dear Mat,

This is simply a case of good-guy-physics vs. bad-guy-physics. Good guys always hit what they aim at, often with a minimum number of shots, and bad guys can’t hit the broad side of a barn (particularly if the barn contains good guys). To demonstrate the truth of this, take a look at Attack of the Clones. In this movie, the stormtroopers are good guys, and they hit large quantities of Count Dooku’s allies. Once they have been co-opted by Sidious and Vader, however, they immediately begin to suck, and by the time they get around to chasing Luke and Han down the corridors of the Deathstar, they regularly have difficulty hitting the walls.

Now, Boba Fett is a different case, which requires the application of an entirely separate branch of bad-guy-physics. This branch is roughly equivalent to fluid dynamics in that chaos theory is a factor. Bad guys who have proper names can sometimes hit what they aim at, depending on complex laws governed by butterfly wings in China, which side of a paleobotanist’s hand a drop of water will roll down, and most importantly, the desired plot outcome. Just as apparently random events can be mapped to form beautiful patterns known as fractals, the hit ratio of bad guys with proper names will, when viewed from far enough away, form a pattern (in this case, George Lucas’ scripts, which may or may not be considered a beautiful thing, depending on your age at the time Episode IV was released and how you feel about Jar Jar Binks).

As an interesting side note, the Star Wars movies demonstrate several other principles of bad-guy-physics, including the Law of Conservation of Evil (which is why one Sith Lord always has to die before you can get another one), and temporal anomalies (cf. Han Shot First).

Hope that clears it up!

    — Timmy

So, it was a lot of fun, and I probably would have kept on doing it for a while if I hadn’t left the company.  Of all the geeky things I’ve done, this may be the one I’m proudest of.

The column archive is no longer on the ThinkGeek site, but, since the Internet is forever, you can find all the old Ask Timmy installments on the Wayback Machine.  So hop on over and read the rest of the columns ... hopefully you’ll enjoy reading them as much as I did writing them.


1 Honestly, I’m not sure why.  Normally I don’t care that much.  But I’m feeling generous today.  Or something.

2 Although I have a definite opinion about that.

3 That would be Willie, Jen, Scott, and Jon.

4 Which I suppose is my way of saying, don’t try this at home kids, especially if your company has more than a couple dozen employees.  Nobody likes that guy who hits reply-all on the company emails and spams a few hundred people, no matter how funny they think they are.

5 Probably Willie.  He was TG’s primary idea machine at the time.

6 Again, I blame Willie.  But then again I blame Willie like Matt Stone and Trey Parker blame Canada.

No comments:

Post a Comment