Friday, August 30, 2013

Say Hi To Your Mom For Me

To be a fan of the "Back to the Future" trilogy is to be forever pondering. Take all the questions you would have after watching one standard scifi movie about time travel and then multiply it by three. There are just so many complexities and "what if"s that come along with Doc and Marty's adventures through the time space continuum that you just have to raise your hands up, admit it's just a movie and allow for its fair share of plot holes and ambiguities (though I still don't know why Doc couldn't have written another letter to Marty to bring along a spare gas canister to 1885...but I digress).

Issues of time and space aside, one thing I did start thinking about recently as I was re-watching the films was about the background of the trilogy's main antagonist, all world mega bully, Biff Tannen. Throughout the films Marty encounters Tannen at various ages, various alternative states of existence, and even deals with his ancestors and descendants. During all these encounters with the latter I started to wonder, what are the Tannen women like?

As horrible and despicable as Biff and his male family line are, apparently they all found women (whether through marriage or other means) and managed to pass down their Tannen asshole genes through the decades. Who are these Ava Brauns? What kind of women are drawn to these uniformly awful Tannen men. They seam to lack any redeeming quality that would make a rational woman say "I want to start a family with that guy". And clearly these Tannens aren't adapted, they share a disturbing amount of genetic similarities.

In the series there is only one brief instance of a female Tannen, in "Back to the Future 2" when Marty, spying on Biff's house, overhears the voice of Tannen's grandmother arguing with him as he leaves. I always thought this scene humanized Biff just a little bit. I imagined him as an unhappy teenager without parents, being raised by his mean (perhaps even abusive) grandmother; this in turn fueled his bullying in school.

According to this totally unscientific Tannen family tree from a BTTF wiki, Biff's grandma is listed as the daughter of Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen from the third film. So somewhere in his life as a notorious outlaw and murderer of at least 12 men (not including Indians or Chinamen) he managed to pass on the family name. I would think it must have been before the events of BTTF 3 since he ends up going to jail at the end for robbing the Pine City Stage. As for Biff himself, he must have gotten over the heartbreak of being rejected by Lorraine and the humiliation of being knocked out at the dance by George to find someone to settle down with which eventually leads to his doppelganger grandson Griff.

The family tree gets even more complicated as you can see when you throw in other BTTF media like the 90's cartoon and the recent PC game. The cartoon series is especially ridiculous since nearly every episode Marty or the Brown family would travel through time and meet a different past relative of the Tannen family from Roman era Bifficus Antanneny all the way to Ziff Tannen of the year 2091. In the series, the Tannens' are less a family line than an eternal fixture of time itself. Maybe that's how we should view Biff and the rest of the Tannens as the constant corporeal manifestations of man's inescapable dark side. Perhaps there never was a time and, until man can overcome his inhumanity to man, there will never be a time without a Tannen in the world.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Eight Is Enough

I had a random thought recently. It was awkwardly too big for a quick tweet but not quite big enough for a real blog post. Still I'll just write about it here before I forget.

As anyone who has seen even a modest amount of cartoons will know, most cartoon characters share the common trait of having only four fingers. Apparently this practice grew out of the plain fact that four fingered hands were easier and simpler to draw than five fingered hands. That made me wonder: in a world where everyone has only eight fingers and toes, shouldn't that world's number system be a base-8 system? I mean, our base-10 system has to be influenced to some degree by what we can count on our fingers, right? Asking a cartoon to count in a system of 10's would seem as awkward as us only counting in a system of 8's.

Oddly enough according to Wikipedia this base-8 system, called octal, and has been used sporadically by people and cultures throughout history. Apparently the Na'vi in "Avatar" use an octal system due to the fact that they only have four fingers on each hand.

This is probably the most math I will ever get into on this blog. And no I am not high.