Saturday, December 15, 2007

The History of Animation

For whatever reason, my animation history posts draw a number of readers who otherwise don't normally come here, even animation historians and pros (including Clay Kaytis of the marvelous Animation Podcast). I have all of my animation history links in the sidebar, but I think some people don't scroll down very far because of the amount of nudity and such that I have here. So, I'm creating this page, which has the same links. I'm going to put this image up towards the top of the sidebar, so visitors can click on it and get the links to my various posts on animation history. And hey, thanks for reading them. It's a passion for me.

* Evaluating Disney: An Introduction
* Prehistory of Animation
* Cultural Interlude: 1901-1910
* Cultural Interlude: 1911-1920
* Masters of Animation: Bray & Barre
* Masters of Animation: Disney & Iwerks Before 1929
* It All Started with a Rabbit
* Evaluating Disney: 1928-1929
* Masters of Animation 1911-1929
* 1920s Cultural Interlude
* Evaluating Disney: 1930
* Masters of Animation: Ub Iwerks
* Evaluating Disney: 1931
* Masters of Animation: The Fleischer Brothers
* Evaluating Disney: 1932
* Evaluating Disney: 1933
* Evaluating Disney: 1934
* Some More Masters of Animation
* Masters of Animation: Walter Lantz
* Evaluating Disney: 1935
* Evaluating Disney: 1936
* Evaluating Disney: 1937
* Disney's Folly: Notes on Snow White
* Evaluating Disney: 1938
* Evaluating Disney: 1939
* The Tale of a Puppet: Notes on Pinocchio
* Evaluating Disney: 1940
* The Concert Feature: Notes on Fantasia
* Masters of Animation: Warner Bros. 1929-1940
* Masters of Animation: Friz Freleng
* Masters of Animation: Bob Clampett
* Masters of Animation: Tex Avery
* Unmade Disney: The 1930s
* 1930s Cultural Interlude
* Evaluating Disney: 1941
* A Life in the Woods: Notes on Bambi
* Evaluating Disney: 1942
* Evaluating Disney: 1943
* Evaluating Disney: 1944
* Evaluating Disney: 1945
* Masters of Animation: Warner Bros. 1941-1945
* Private Snafu
* Everything Is Satisfactual: Notes on Song of the South
* Evaluating Disney: 1946
* Evaluating Disney: 1947
* Evaluating Disney: 1948
* Evaluating Disney: 1949
* A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes: Notes on Cinderella
* Evaluating Disney: 1950
* Unmade Disney: The 1940s
* 1940s Cultural Interlude
* Masters of Animation: The Prehistory of UPA
*Masters of Animation: UPA
* Masters of Animation: John Hubley
* Masters of Animation: Warner Bros. 1946-1953
* Masters of Animation: Chuck Jones
* Evaluating Disney: 1951
* Evaluating Disney: 1952
* Evaluating Disney: 1953
* The End of Warner Bros. Animation
* Evaluating Disney: 1954
* Evaluating Disney: 1955
* Masters of Animation: Studio Ghibli
* Stain Boy
* Note on Tim Burton
* John Canemaker on Animation
* Winnie the Pooh Reloaded
* Gumby Anniversary Post
* Fantasmagorie: The Hundredth Anniversary of Animation

With lots, lots more to come!

Because the Whole Concept of a Chipmunks Movie Wasn't Idiotic Enough

Seriously? That ass clown Justin Long is the voice of Alvin? Great; now it's the kind of stupid that irritates the living shit out of me. When, Lord? When will this man just die?

More Dark Knight Teasers

Does it seem kind of sad that the only movie I'm truly xazzed about right now doesn't hit theaters until next summer? Do better, Hollywood.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Private Snafu

During World War II, Walt Disney Studios was not the only animation house doing contract work for the military. All of the major studios did. At Warner Brothers, a series of cartoons was produced for the U.S. Army Signal Corps called Private Snafu. The title character was a sort of cartoon version of the American soldier, meant to stand in as the average (G.I.) Joe, but with his incompetence humorously exaggerated. He does everything wrong and is a mediocre mess of a soldier; and with the American military as an audience, an example of how not to be a soldier.

In 1942, the Army's Information and Education Division had started producing the Why We Fight series of information/propaganda films for military personnel. Still, it was felt by some that the Why We Fight films were generally indoctrinating lectures, and that another type of film was needed to be educationally instructive. A number of these educational films were done by Disney (including Four Methods of Flush Riveting or Stop That Tank). The office was inspired by the animation work done by Disney and how easily it could be used to both instruct and entertain. Other animated films, such as John Hubley's Flat-Hatting, were used to demonstrate correct and incorrect military behavior. These films were more successful, more popular, and so Private Snafu came into being.

Leon Schlesinger was approached to produce the series with his regular animators. His cartoons had demonstrated the kind of touches needed for Snafu: personality, character, a raucous sense of humor, and an ease with subtext and mildly adult humor. Besides that, Warner Bros. had been the first studio to attack the Nazis, even before such sentiment was common in Hollywood (starting with the film Storm Over America in 1938; they were even criticized by Paramount for taking an anti-Nazi stance).

Each Private Snafu films ran about three or four minutes long and were directed by the main Schlesinger directors at the time: Frank Tashlin, Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, and Bob Clampett. Mel Blanc voiced Snafu. The main writers were Phil Eastman (later the main writer of UPA's Mr. Magoo series) and Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss); supposedly, Munro Leaf also did some writing. Carl Stalling did the music. Some of the work was spread to other studios, but they were mainly done by Schlesinger's guys and the films all have the mark and flavor of a Looney Tunes film.

Snafu's name, of course, comes from the popular military acronym "Situation Normal--All Fouled Up" (or "Fucked Up," natch). In the series, Snafu also has two brothers: Tarfu ("Things Are Really Fouled Up") and Fubar ("Fouled Up Beyond All Recovery"). The main thrust of the series is simply that Snafu makes a mistake and learns the consequences of those mistakes. Simple, straightforward, effective. But they're also quite fun, well-animated and full of great character animation. They're also very racy and risque for the 1940s!

Here, in brief, an evaluation of these cartoons (dates are month and year):

6/43: Coming!! Snafu
Right away, the series gets off to a more adult start. It's terrifically funny, directed by Chuck Jones, and some of the humor has double-entendres and downright sexy chicks (at one point, Snafu fantasizes about a burlesque dancer who does a striptease; someone had fun animating that one). This really serves as a sort of preview for the upcoming Snafu cartoons, setting the tone immediately: Snafu screws things up, and he pays for it. The message is simply: be a model soldier. Also, in this film, Blanc gives Snafu a voice like Porky Pig; in the rest of the films, he sounds more like Bugs Bunny.

7/43: Gripes
Snafu is upset about all the menial chores he has to perform and dreams that a "Technical Fairy First Class" puts him in charge of the military. Of course, everyone goldbricks and they're unprepared when the Nazis attack. I don't know for sure, but it seems like Ted Geisel did the story here; it's all in verse similar to his Dr. Seuss books.

8/43: Spies
More great verse. In this cartoon, loose lips literally sink ships, as information passed on to a spy while drunk spells the end of Private Snafu. Great sequence in hell at the end, with some mildly rough language for the cartoons of the time. There's some great imagery in this one, with spies popping up around every corner.

9/43: The Goldbrick
The Goldbrick has a real downer ending; Snafu's slack attitude results in death on the battlefield. Good stuff, but man, they really go for it. The Private Snafu cartoons do a good job of depicting the enemy as intelligent and formidable, rather than dumb and sloppy, as some of the other Looney Tunes (Herr Meets Hare is a good example) did to rouse the home audience.

9/43: The Infantry Blues
Once again, Snafu is dissatisfied with his place in the infantry, and assumes that tank drivers, sailors, and pilots have a better time of it. So Technical Fairy First Class comes in and gives Snafu the chance to experience all of these, and he realizes the difficulty (and value) of each and every position in the military effort.

10/43: Fighting Tools
Snafu learns to always keep his weapons and other equipments in good working order, or else. The Nazi officer reminds me of some of the Nazis in Looney Tunes cartoons. Great Bob Clampett smartassery.

11/43: The Home Front
Snafu, stationed someplace "cold enough to freeze the nuts off a jeep" (hey, I thought it was funny), imagines his family and friends have easier lives at home. Then Technical Fairy First Class shows him that everyone is actually working like hell for the war effort. We're all in this together, mind.

12/43: Rumors
This one has some real messed-up Friz Freleng imagery (for example, the talking hot dog in the picture). Snafu starts a rumor about a bombing, which quickly grows and grows until he's convinced the war has been lost. This one is very much the kind of cartoon most people think of when they think of Looney Tunes.

1/44: Booby Traps
Snafu learns--the hard way--not to get lured into death traps because "If you are a boob, you WILL get trapped." There's a great sequence with Snafu trying to milk a camel (the "udders" are really part of a sea mine) and a sequence at a haremn that plays with expectations. One of my favorite of the Private Snafu cartoons.

3/44: Snafuperman
Snafu refuses to read his technical manuals because he already knows what he needs to in order to fight the Axis, so Technical Fairy First Class gives him his wish and gives him superpowers to carry on the fight. Of course, Snafuperman can't tell the good guys from the bad guys and fouls everything up. Me being the kind of animation nerd I am, my favorite moment is when Fairy turns Snafu into Snafuperman, and the music that swells up is the theme music from the Fleischer Superman cartoons.

3/44: Private Snafu vs. Malaria Mike
Mike is a malaria-carrying mosquito who drinks from careless Snafu's flask. Snafu, not paying attention to regulations for preventing malaria, ends up with his head mounted on Mike's wall.

4/44: A Lecture on Camouflage
Technical Fairy First Class teaches Snafu the intelligent and unintelligent way to cover yourself with camouflage and hide from the enemy. There's a funny bit at the end with two sexy mermaids. Not to imply that this is a bad cartoon; there really aren't any bad Private Snafu cartoons.

5/44: Gas
Similar to Fighting Tools, in this cartoon Snafu is lax about taking care of his gas mask. Naturally, he winds up regreting it.

6/44: The Chow Hound
A wonderfully bizarre cartoon featuring a cow narrating in that great Geisel verse (I assume its Geisel; a bull cattle narrates--is this the one Munro Leaf worked on?). Great design on the bull, too. Disturbingly, the bull joins up with the Army to provide food for the soldiers, but comes to regret the decision when he, as a ghost, sees Snafu's wastefulness. Message clear: it's wrong to waste food, especially food for soldiers.

7/44: Censored
Snafu learns why his letters back home are censored when his girl, sexy Sally Lou, lets slip his unit's location while on the phone. Watch what you write. Sally Lou is awesome; she looks like she could have been designed by Bill Ward. There's a sequence I loved where a homing pigeon is chased by the censor's hawk.

8/44: Outpost
Snafu has to deal with the enemy presence when he files an incomplete, inaccurate report. Great animation in another typically crazy Chuck Jones cartoon.

9/44: Pay Day
Snafu imagines how he'll spend his money, wondering if he should save for the future (clearly the message of the film) and provide a home for a future wife and baby... Of course, he makes the wrong decision and buys a car, which eventually degrades all the way down to a pair of skates. Some great imagery, especially the wife storming off after the house and baby disappear.

9/44: Three Brothers
Yet again, Snafu is dissatisfied with his assignment (in this case, shoe detail). Again, he learns the value of hard work and that every job in the military is important. What's fun here is the appearance of Snafu's brothers, Tarfu and Fubar, as well as a cameo by Bugs Bunny.

10/44: Target Snafu
The mosquitos return, this time because Snafu won't wear his repellent or put up his netting. This kind of reminded me a little of the Mickey Mouse cartoon The Picnic, only more frenetic and, thanks to director Friz Freleng, much weirder.

2/45: In the Aleutians - Isles of Enchantment
Snafu really only has a cameo in this one, which is a very short (two and a half minutes) parody of the crappy conditions in the Aleutian Islands. Very funny, but slight. Love the Jimmy Durante walrus.

5/45: It's Murder, She Says
Mosquitos again; there's less Snafu in this one. The mosquito complains about how tough life is because the military is doing such a good job protecting itself from malaria.

7/45: Hot Spot
The Devil hears that Iran is hotter than Hell, so he goes to check it out. He watches Snafu and the men establish a supply line to Russia while giving out a surprising amount of information about Iran.

10/45: Operation Snafu
There's no real lesson in this, the last released Snafu cartoon. Snafu goes on a mission to Tokyo to steal enemy war plans. There's no dialogue, except for gibberish that's meant to sound Japanese. There's some pretty racist Japanese characters, but hey, that's propaganda.

There are also some unreleased cartoons: No Buddy Atoll, Seaman Tarfu (apparently a Harman-Ising cartoon), Secrets of the Caribbean, and Coming Home, this last of which was shelved because of a casual reference to the atomic bomb, then still top secret. There were also two UPA cartoons featuring the character. I think all of these are available on the Complete, Uncensored Private Snafu DVD, but I've not seen them.

Part of the genius of the Private Snafu cartoons is the way they are sympathetic to the soldier's hard life without being condescending or lecturing. Snafu is a loner in constant danger. In his way, he embodies not just the abstract of Army life, but the reality of it. His fear is palpable. And so the cartoons are not clever in a confrontational way; they don't ridicule the soldier. Snafu is clearly an abberation; a bad soldier who could be an effective part of the machine if he just learned to perform his duties correctly. Even the Technical Fairy First Class is a sergeant, a noncommissioned officer, meaning he rises from the ranks and is not an officer.

As the war came to a close, so did the Private Snafu series, which was then put aside and neglected. For many years, only collectors had copies of them; they were rare and hard to find. Somehow, because they were produced exclusively for a military audience and never released to the public, a legend arose that the cartoons were either banned or full of military secrets. Though Chuck Jones mentioned later that the government made little or no effort to interfere with Snafu, some of the people who worked on them said the opposite. I once saw a documentary on war cartoons in which woman from the Ink & Paint department complained that every move they made had to be approved by some functionary or other--and that, on seeing some of the cartoons years later, they had no idea what the big deal was! And watching them today, it seems like less of a deal. The spicy humor was probably more of a concern for releasing them to general audiences--and the racism and sexism--than anything to do with the military.

But at least we get to watch them today. Because they are among the funniest cartoons that came from the Schlesinger Studios.

Hannukah's Over

Time for ScarJo to stop being good so we can have some really nasty, adult fun.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

ODGMI: Spiegelberg Stadium

I found this meme and decided to run with it. What can I say: I'm bored.

1. Go to the Wikipedia home page and click random article. That is your band's name.
2. Click random article again; that is your album name.
3. Click random article 15 more times; those are the tracks on your album.

Band: Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries
Long, unwieldy, nonsensical, and vaguely pretentious. Huh. Must be a psychedelic band. Or art rock. I guess the tracks will tell.

Album Name: Spiegelberg Stadium
Funnily enough, a multipurpose high school sports stadium in Medford, Oregon. I imagine a cover with a high school cheerleader in the bleachers. But then, I imagine a lot of things with a high school cheerleader in the bleachers.

1. "Corrour Bothy" -- Inspired by the band's warm reception in Scotland, particularly in Aberdeen, as Corrour Bothy is a 19th century stone building there.
2. "Yelabuga North" -- Further inspired by the minor airfield in Russia. Apparently, ODGMI is interested in the smaller, simpler aspects of life inside this big, big world.
3. "Maurice Foster" -- A Kinks-like, bouncy song about the legendary English cricketer.
4. "Furnarchy" -- A proxy client for the creepy online Furcadia game, which is satirized here, even as the band reaffirms its message of technology bringing the world together.
5. "Woodall, Oklahoma" -- A census-created town of 741 people in 2000; again, ODGMI sings about the smaller places we neglect to remember.
6. "World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fish Workers" -- A message song about the need for sustainable fishing and how it can only happen when the world comes together to do it.
7. "Waheed Zaman" -- A serious song about the 2006 transatlantic aircraft terrorist plot in the UK, and terrorism in a larger context.
8. "Norepinephrine Transporter" -- Three minutes of adrenaline-fueled guitars and loose drums.
9. "George Samuel" -- Another historical song about the first man to lead the Evangelical Alliance Mission in Northern India. Good use of exotic instruments here.
10. "Daniel Goode" -- A tribute to the composer with heavy clarinet and a gamelan ensemble.
11. "Stryza" -- A small town in Poland. Rather dreamy, with some autoharp thrown in.
12. "Conroy Road" -- Obviously inspired by the band's relaxing week in Ottawa.
13. "Order (Ring Theory)" -- A study in deconstruction and reconstruction, with a full band playing a piece, losing a little at a time, and then building it back up in a ring. A little heady and atonal at times, but occasionally exciting.
14. "Santa Bárbara, Suchitepéquez" -- The band always has one Latin-flavored song on the album (the lead singer is obsessed with Latinas); this one is about a weekend in a Guatemalan city.
15. "Whiskey Run Township, Crawford County, Indiana" -- The final track is a raucous honkytonk number that ends on a somewhat melancholy note.

In the end, Spiegelberg Stadium is a unified reflection on a world made of small towns and the way that the gap between communities is closing and merging because of technology. It may not be The Village Green Preservation Society, but it does have something to say about the value of cultures and crossing the divide.

Fuck Christmas, Fuck Winter, Fuck Everything

I can't get my car out of the parking lot right now, and I'm really fucking pissed. I haven't been able to get my car out for a couple of days. There's a quarter to a half inch of ice around all four of the tires, and since I can't get out, I don't know how to fix it. The ever-wonderful management here barely ever plows, much less does anything to get rid of the ice in the parking lot (or on everyone's steps). I fucking hate fucking winter and anyone who fucking loves it. I am actually about to go insane with rage. All I want is to get breakfast and go to fucking work!

My mom had one of her credit cards stolen. My sister's ex-fiance was a victim of identity theft that involved both his email and his bank account. Someone's stepfather's cancer has come back. A friend's grandmother died over the weekend. Everything on the news is fucking bomb threats; one was at a friend's office building.

Fuck Christmas. I'm staying home this year and trying not to kill everyone in sight.

UPDATE 11:54: I finally got my car out! Took forever, but I finally just went down with a hammer and beat the shit out of the ice until I cleared enough of it to pull out of the space. In some places, the ice was about an inch thick. Everything's on a fucking incline. Front-wheel drive my ass.

Still, I'm glad to have my sister's Honda Civic (which I renamed Fantasma). If I'd still had Flynn, my 1996 Ford Escort, I might've had to just put the old girl down. Now I can actually drive to and from work again. I went out to get some fries. I'm trying to dry out from the crappy food, but I needed something junky. No more for a while. A long while.

Damn, my legs hurt. And my arms. I'm going to just take, like, a long, long bath or something.

Still, fuck Christmas.

More Stuff I Can't Afford But Must Have

I love this. Chris Sanders has put out two exquisite sketchbooks, and has now put out a statue based on his work. You can get it, of course, at Bud Plant, the greatest place in the universe.

If Sanders's work looks a little familiar, it's because he's the designer and co-director of Disney's Lilo & Stitch (as well as the voice of Stitch). He's got a new website up here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

Excellent adapatation of the Jack London novel, starring Clark Gable as the potential prospector who saves a dog and a woman from death, and finds that to keep both of them, he has to let them go. It's a great adventure yarn, with Loretta Young as the woman Gable wants and Jack Oakie as his partner. I love this kind of movie; this would make a good double feature with the great 1934 version of Treasure Island. **** stars.

THE BOOB (1926)
A movie so generic for 1926 that I had to look it up just now so I could remember what it's about. George K. Arthur is one of those twenties milquetoasts who wishes he could be manly and get the girl he loves, then actually does it by accident. He's helped by his heroic dog, a wide-eyed black boy, a drunken cowboy, and a bunch of other stereotypes. Seen it all before. Joan Crawford has a small role, and William Wellman directed, of all people. ** stars.

When you're sick, some nights seem to stretch on forever. When you're up at 2 in the morning in a cold sweat and watching a movie like this to waste time, it seems even longer. Complete idiocy, but mildly funnier than some movies that actually don't go straight to video (like Accepted, for example). Whomever is body doubling for Boti Bliss has really nice tits. *1/2 stars.

I love Mira Nair and I love Jhumpa Lahiri, and I love them both together. I thought this was a powerful film about an Indian family in America. The film starts in India where, after an accident, a man marries a woman and brings her to New York. There is the inevitable culture clash, but they find one another and find a marriage that works, and have two children, one of whom decides he wants to change his unusual name without realizing what that name means to his father. The son (Kal Penn, doing well in a dramatic performance), Gogol, finds his own sort of culture clash, both in relationships and in his heart. I thought it was excellent, though the parents' story was the best part of the movie. Irfan Khan and Tabu are excellent as the parents. Kal Penn does well, and Zuleikha Robinson, from Rome, is very, very good. I still don't know why Jacinda Barrett needs an acting career. It doesn't help that her character is icky. Hard to describe, but marvelous to see it unfold. It only starts to falter near the end, where a little too much is crammed in. Still, **** stars, one of the best films of 2006 that barely anyone saw. The studio sure mishandled the release.

As I said before, it's so bad that it should star Denise Richards and go straight to ABC Family. How is this movie so awful and dumb? It's got some excellent actors--Scarlett Johansson, Laura Linney, Paul Giamatti--and it's directed by the people who made American Splendor, one of my favorite films of all time. It's even based on a pretty good book. But oh my God is it just bad. And not even bad in a special way. Bad in a generic way. * star.

Hilarious, arch musical based on the 1936 scare film/"documentary." Kristen Bell was especially funny as one of the all-American teens whose life is ruined by dope. And Jesus has a musical number. It's that kind of movie, and it's fucking hilarious. Loved it. ***1/2 stars.

Irene Dunne disappeared in a shipwreck seven years ago, and now returns only to find that her husband, Cary Grant, has had her declared legally dead and gotten remarried. The movie is a bit awkward until it comes to light that Dunne was on the island with a man--what's worse, Randolph Scott, a perfect specimen of Tarzanian humanity--and he wants to marry her! A tad predictable, but breezy and fun. I liked Irene Dunne in this movie a lot, and I usually don't like her at all. *** stars.

I like Katie Morgan. I like porn. I like watching Katie Morgan talk about porn. It's a little condescending, but I like that Katie keeps doing these HBO specials. *** stars.

I talked about my political feelings yesterday. As a documentary, it's well-made, allowing Newkirk her own say, and providing a frustrating portrait of her. The documentary is surprisingly neutral, opening the floor to her critics as well. ***1/2 stars.

Dear Star Wars Fans

It's time for you to get over the Ewoks now. Seriously, it's been 24 years. Get over it. The rest of us think you're idiots for being far, far too old to keep talking endlessly about how upset you are that your over-serious children's movie had teddy bears in it. It wasn't a betrayal and it certainly wasn't out of keeping with the overly cute, overly precious tone of all the rest of the Star Wars movies. There is never going to suddenly, magically be an Ewokless version of Return of the Jedi. Stop holding on to this and stop bringing it up. Accept the movie for what it is; you don't have to like it, you just have to stop bothering the rest of us with it. Please just move on with your lives.


Jessica Should Keep Her Clothes On

I caught this online this morning:

"Jessica is in the running for a role that, if she gets it, will put her right on the map in terms of acting. The only hitch is that the script requires a number of quite graphic scenes including a full-frontal nude scene. Jessica is so desperate to land the role and get the industry's respect that she's ready to go against her better judgement, and her family, by agreeing to bare all."

I know this may sound weird coming from a tireless advocate of movie nudity like me, but Jessica Simpson should keep her clothes on. I know, I know, I've said in the past that actresses who worry about getting nude aren't real actors, but let's face it, Jessica Simpson's not a real actor. And she really shouldn't try to be. It's unfortunate enough that Blonde Ambition went straight to DVD, and Major Movie Star probably will, too. But I don't think Jessica's going to be served well by trying to make her career harder-edged with nudity. Didn't she turn a role down earlier this year because she didn't want to take her clothes off?

Look, I know that no one out there agrees with me--I KNOW that I'm the only one out here who has this kind of faith in Jessica's talent, so I don't need to hear in the comments, the way I always do, that I'm totally wrong on this--but I still think that Jessica Simpson has the talent to be a Dolly Parton. I've heard her sing when the record companies aren't compromising on her voice and second-guessing her because they think only the Britney model will work. I've heard her on her Christmas album and on her concert DVD: the woman can sing. She has an amazing voice when it isn't being pigeonholed into a club and pop artist that she's obviously not comfortable being. She really is. What happened to that nice, likeable girl she used to be? Why didn't they jump on her when she still had her show and still had her sexy-but-family-friendly image and put her in actual vehicles?

Again, I know I'm the only person left, but I really like Jessica Simpson. And it annoys me being a fan of hers and seeing her and her father make terrible decisions about her career. Rehabilitate the image, guys. Stop setting her up with athletes, who are all spoiled idiots. Go and do country music. Get yourself in another commercial with the Muppets. Stop pining over unworthy douchebags like John Mayer. Find a sitcom that can be a vehicle. Don't take your clothes off; it's not going to get you anywhere.

Why is this so hard to figure out?

Donald Duck: The Secret Dark Side

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ingrid Newkirk and PETA

I just watched the documentary I Am an Animal: Ingrid Newkirk and the Story of PETA, and now I have less respect for her and her organization than I ever did. I'm writing this out now to separate my political feelings from the feelings I had about the film itself for when I do my Film Week tomorrow.

Ingrid Newkirk is just an awful subject to spend an hour with. She's an emotional child who absolutely revels in her self-imposed role as the patron saint of all animals, and she's desperate to be a martyr. For all her talk of wanting to help animals, she talks much more about herself and how important her feelings are and how important her work is. She's rude and obnoxious. When confronted with the fact that many people felt her ad campaign comparing factory farming to the Holocaust trivialized human suffering, her retort essentially boils down to: "Get over the past."

PETA does absolutely nothing in its great campaign to advance ethics; it doesn't educate or inspire or try to raise awareness to change people's attitudes. Instead, PETA and Newkirk want to shame everyone and force them to abide by the rules they want. She is extremely petulant and cannot explain her own position. She can't understand that wanting to solve world hunger and wanting to stop people from eating animals, or doing research on them, or breeding them in an effort to prevent extinction, or even owning a pet, are not the same thing. She doesn't want people to go hungry, but she doesn't want them to eat animals? She says at one point that people "shouldn't be allowed to get away with" having turkeys at Thanksgiving.

Newkirk and the PETA co-founder, Alex TrustFundBaby, have no idea of what a poor person's life is. Alex TrustFundBaby says that "normal people" wouldn't want to work in a slaughterhouse and torture animals all day, which says a lot about the types of jobs he's had to take to survive and feed a family. They support the Animal Liberation Front, with which PETA may or may not be aligned, a domestic terrorist organization that seeks to advance ethics through theft, breaking and entering, destruction of property, and death threats. How possible is it that PETA and the ALF are aligned? Alex TrustFundBaby can barely contain his glee when he says: "Where there's smoke there's fire...but you'd have to be a fool to go around admitting that you'd done something illegal." Moron.

PETA is good at making money and shocking people, but not much else. Well, there is one thing they're good at: alienating people from the idea of treating animals humanely. They're not like genuinely helpful organizations, like the ASPCA or the Humane Society. Don't get me wrong here: I am against animal cruelty. But I'm also for the ethical treatment of other people, even if they don't share your views. I'm against extremism. I think PETA trivializes an issue more people would like to support, except they don't want to support a bunch of idiots like PETA.

In Ingrid Newkirk, I did not see someone who cares. I did not see someone who wants to make people aware of cruelty towards animals. I saw someone who craves attention, and will say and do anything she has to so she can get it. I saw someone who thinks that having her flesh barbecued upon her death will finally make people believe what she's said, because she's so important that it will give the world pause. I saw a child who is so angry with her parents for not giving her enough attention and leaving her with only a dog to grow up alongside that she now places animals above human beings in importance.

At one point in the film, Ingrid Newkirk is being honored and poses for a picture alongside Bono. It's a perfect moment because, like Bono, Ingrid Newkirk is not interested in trying to get you to care. She simply wants you to know how much better than you she is because she already does.

The Health Report: Week 52

This embarrassing picture is me, one year ago, when I started this Health Report. And yes, I am standing up straight. There are some superficial differences now--my hair is much, much shorter and I shave more often. I still have the goatee, but it's short and clipped. I have a different pair of glasses. But there are also some structural differences now, too. I don't know how weight is distributed exactly, but most of that fat in my back is gone. I'm still soft, it's just closer to the bone. My belly doesn't stick out so far. That jacket's not so tight. I'm not so, I don't know, 360 degrees around, if you catch my meaning.

The progress I've made has not cheered me in any way.

I know what people say; it's a slow process, you don't get instant results, etc. But I'm also my own worst enemy. I keep falling off the wagon. I keep going back to soda; I've been drinking Coke for a couple of weeks now. I eat too much sugary food. I eat too much salty food. I've been sick for the past month, and my blood pressure feels like it's been fluctuating wildly. I broke a blood vessel in my eye, again--everytime it happens, I wonder when one is finally going to snap in my brain.

The truth is, for all I know that actually losing weight makes me feel good about myself, and for all I know that eating healthier makes me feel good inside, I just don't seem to care too much about making myself better. It's a shitty thing to say, but I often wonder why I'm even bothering with it. My heart's not in it. I don't care anymore.

But at the same time, I've gotten so much better this year. So much more self-confident and so much more outgoing. There have been times this year when I've actually enjoyed leaving the cave and being in the world, which is kind of unusual. I even teach now, and being among children all day is actually nice instead of irritating. The sexy librarian flirts with me. The hot redhead across the hall comes over and asks me to open jars for her.

And as bad as my money situation is, the hospital saw my lack of income and decided I was entitled to 100% charity and zeroed out my bill. And I got another deferment on my student loans. So I can save enough to actually start paying the damn things.

So what is my fucking problem? I'm doing okay, I almost have a social life, I actually have a job I enjoy, and my money problems are temporarily lessened. Why am I so fucking unhappy? It's like being in a Billy Joel song--I'm successful, but unsatisfied.

I don't know what it is. But I also know that, until I figure it out, the stress of it remains. And the stress is hard to lose, so everything else is unimportant to me. Especially, for some fucked up reason, my health. What the hell do I do with this?

Camel Toe

Monday, December 10, 2007

Liveblogging a Day in the Life of SamuraiFrog

I was going to go to work today, but my never-ending, ever-mutating illness has turned into pink eye, and I'm not going to be the guy who infects an entire elementary school with one of the Big Three (conjunctivits, meningitis, head lice) and never get to sub again, so's I'm a-stayin' home. Since I'm bored and creatively bankrupt right now, I'm going to liveblog my entire day today, so that you, sir or madam, can share in the total boredom and lack of motivation that is an average day in my life. And now you'll know why, when people ask what I do, I tell them that I'm just killing time until I finally kick off this planet.

2:34 AM: I wake up to use the bathroom.

2:45 AM: Guess I wasn't done; back into the bathroom.

4:34 AM: I wake up again; I've mostly been waking up around this time of the day, and I don't know why. I can't stop it. Ever since I got sick last month, my sleep schedule is just off, and I haven't slept all the way through the night in some time. I wake up this time because I'm coughing; in fact, I cough so hard that it triggers my gag reflex and I nearly vomit. After that bit of joy, I lay back on the couch (futon, classy--also, it's breaking down) and turn on the TV. It's nearly five, so the news is about to start on WGN, but it doesn't matter, because I fall asleep.

7:18 AM: Woke up because I heard Becca in the kitchen, getting breakfast ready for Thumper. Every morning he gets some more pellets, a tiny bit of Cheerios (he loves Cheerios), two apple slices, and a generous helping of kale and lettuce.

I was sleeping hard, and it was hard to wake up. I was having some sort of complicated dream about driving through Chicago to get to a meeting. After the meeting, a decided I wanted to keep the wheeled office chair that I was sitting in, so I just slid it all the way to my car. And then I was at Scott Baio's wedding reception with a ton of celebrities. I was looking for someone, but I can't remember who. Oddly, celebrities at the reception included Kermit the Frog, Popeye, and Al Roker. Why Al Roker is in my dreams, I don't know. Scott Baio isn't; I didn't see him at all. I drank some kind of green, creamy soda that Mary-Kate Olsen was too wimpy to try.

7:22 AM: My school is on the news! Apparently they shut down NIU today (the first day of finals) because somebody found "cryptic graffiti" in one of the bathrooms. The graffiti mentions Virginia Tech, the Holmes Student Center (where I was working in September and October), bombs, and a bunch of other stuff. They shut down the school and rescheduled today's finals for Friday. I bet a lot of students are pissed off about having to stick around until Friday. I wonder if this is a real threat, or if someone needed an extra day to study.

7:50 AM: What's with the Subway commercial with Peter Griffin on it? Gee, who's going to make fun of The Simpsons for losing their edge and selling out to do Butterfinger commercials now? Idiot.

8:01 AM: Al Gore accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. Will that make it harder now for the climate change naysayers to poke holes in his warnings? He said: "It is time to make peace with the planet. We must quickly mobilize our civilization with the urgency and resolve that has previously been seen only when nations mobilized for war." Do we even need to elect him? I think we should just forcibly appoint him president. I know that's not in the spirit of democracy, but still. It's not like we have a democracy, anyway. Distributorcap has a very enlightening post about the Electoral College that reminds me that your vote doesn't matter. I mean, it really doesn't. What's the point of even having an election anymore if the College can do whatever the hell it wants?

8:23 AM: Why is it that sports gets more time than anything else on the news? This is the frustration of being a geek. They want to convince me that being the kind of person I was in high school, who likes Star Trek and Star Wars, is somehow freakish and outcasty because it's so weird and inside, but that it's mainstream to be into sports. Same geek, different obsession. Yeah, I'll never fly in space, but half of the sports idiots I've ever known never played sports. But at least they dressed up in uniforms and obsessed over number and statistics irrelevant to the real world and went to big gatherings to be with other people who shared their interest. God knows no geek ever did that, right?

8:31 AM: Apparently, Becca felt I deserved an award.

An irritable panda bear

I don't really know what it means, but I'm a whore for recognition so, like Bob Dole with a check from a Satanist group, I've got no problems accepting it.

8:38 AM: According to an email I've received, I've won the Global International Lottery. Doesn't the fact that it's global automatically make it international?

8:42 AM: These coffee cookies are really bad for me. So, naturally, I'm eating two of them right now instead of an actual breakfast.

8:44 AM: Yesterday, Becca and I caught Return of the Jedi on cable. Of course, they only show the special editions now, because only they exist, etc. Whenever a Star Wars movie is on, I have to listen to the score over the end credits, because whatever the many and massive faults of those movies, the scores are some of the best ever written. At the very end of the credits, there's the THX logo and a phone number you can call if anything detracted from your viewing experience. Becca, who had been talking about how pissed off she is every time she gets to the end of Jedi and that Ewok song isn't there anymore, said: "We should call that number and tell them that the entire idea of a special edition detracted from our viewing experience."

8:58 AM: Dean Richards (who is oddly egg-shaped) interviewed Queen Latifah about her new Christmas movie on the news this morning. She loves Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which leads me to this post I found about serious questions raised by the famous, overrated special. My favorite line: "The best thing to do was to get the women folk back to Christmas town."

9:02 AM: Remember when Kelly Ripa used to be kind of soft? It was nice. She was so dern cute. The hardness and lack of fat has made her look prematurely old. She still has that smile, though, and she's kind of neat. I don't get the sense of evil that I get from so many other TV talk show hosts. Anyway, I know it's not a compliment, but Kelly looks deliciously molestable this morning.

Anyway, Live with Regis and Kelly is on now, so I need to either find something else to watch or turn off the television.

9:07 AM: My TiVo has taken it upon itself to record How Stella Got Her Groove Back on some movie channel. I'm not sure why it thinks I would like it, but I do like Angela Bassett and Taye Diggs. Should I let it finish recording and watch the movie sometime, or should I just stop it now?

9:18 AM: I just caught the Speed Racer trailer over on Mob's blog, and it just confirmed my suspicion that it's a movie I don't need to see. I figured I wouldn't be seeing it anyway, since it's a Wachowski Brothers thing and I fucking hated those Matrix non-movies. Seriously, people like the Wachowskis and Bryan Singer and far, far too many others need to realize that there are ways to bring cartoons and comic books to the screen besides precious and cynical. An angsty Speed Racer? Okay, but does it have to be so pretentious? I blame comic book writers. Far too many of them got so pretentious about the darkness and cynicism of their work in the nineties, and that's what's ending up on movie screens now. Give me a break. It looks worse than Thunderbirds. Of course, the fact that I hate that little bitch Emily Hirsch doesn't help.

9:23 AM: It occurs to me that "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is the most popular holiday song about date rape.

9:33 AM: First creditor phone call of the day. When are they going to get it that I'm not answering the phone for them?

9:34 AM: It kind of makes me sad that, of all the causes an organization could be giving money to, Disney has partnered with some company to give grants out to schools who want to put on their own production of High School Musical. It all goes to the important cause of raising awareness of High School Musical. I think, if I were a parent and had (as I probably will, given my life's course) kids who were into Disney, I'd really fucking hate them for High School Musical.

9:55 AM: Not that I'm the first to make this point, but directly selling medication to people via TV commercials and telling you to check with your dealer--er, doctor--is a damnable evil. Notice how they always list coma and death as possible side effects? How bad do you have to be feeling to want to take a pill that might kill you? Get some perspective, man.

9:57 AM: Basically, I'm just reading other peoples' blogs right now.

9:59 AM: Every time I say Giada DeLaurentiis is hot, Becca starts defending Nigella Lawson, as if it has to be one or the other. I like both. Yesterday she gave me a dirty look because I told her that Giada is Italian for "Woman who is so fucking sexy I literally want to drink out of her pussy." Too far?

10:10 AM: Victory! I just checked in on my football team, the Time Lords, over at Hattrick, and the boys won last night's match, 6-0. Definitely makes up for losing last week; so far, I've only lost one match this season. Doing good; fourth in my series, even with my best player out on injury for the next month. I love this game. Hattrick is an online game where you are a football club owner; MC graciously introduced me to it, and I'm so glad he did.

10:33 AM: Netflix is about to send me the final disc of series three of Cold Feet. I've really been enjoying this show, but there are five series and only three on DVD in America. The third series of Cold Feet was released in 2005, and I can't find anything that says any more are going to be released. So, as a consumer, I ask: what am I supposed to do to see the rest of the show? Fucking trade bullshit. Is it any wonder people steal these things from the internet? Thanks for nothing, ITV.

10:39 AM: J.D., seriously, is this site ever moving forward again, or did my inclusion of Sandra Dee just bring everything to a halt?

10:44 AM: I'm watching the second half of Walk the Line on HBO right now, and I have to say, I know a little too well what Johnny Cash is going through emotionally. The way he kept getting pecked at by his parents, the way no one's really there for him, the way he keeps reaching out only to be destroyed, the way he keeps destroying himself so no one else can, the way nothing's ever good enough for some people, and the way his parents keep apologizing for him to other people... damn, I'm surprised he didn't take a lot more drugs. Just watching this movie makes me remember and feel so much of the shit that's happened to me involving my parents and my sisters and friends and other people, I want to take a bunch of drugs. Damn. Sometimes it really does feel like no one's on your side, so why even bother?

10:49 AM: So, would it be too creepy for me, a man of 31, to go and see this movie, being a fan of Miley and actually liking her music and all? I have a 12 year-old sister, maybe I can take her to see it...

10:52 AM: I can't believe, after the way The Village sucked and so many critics fucking hated Lady in the Water, they're still, STILL selling M. Night Shyamalan's movies on their mystery aspect. Does anyone care anymore? Here's the poster for his new movie.Yes, something happening in an M. Night Shyamlan movie would be a good change of pace. And pick a more generic title, jeez. I can't wait for the sequel: The Sequence of Events with a Predictable Twist Ending and No Character Development.

11:02 AM: Fanboys has been officially delayed indefinitely. Man, is it that bad?

11:15 AM: I don't know if it's breakfast or a late lunch, but I just had a dry bowl of Cheerios and washed it down with some Dasani. I didn't realize Dasani is a mineral water. It's really good, but only when cold. I love it; it's almost gourmet compared to the Ice Mountain I've been drinking. I like Ice Mountain (which does taste good at room temperature), but I love Dasani much more. I need to keep drinking this stuff.

11:21 AM: I full expect lady Miss PJ, who called me a "sweet geek," reminded me that geeks are the most attentive lovers, and found me do this quiz.

71% Geek
PJ is someone I'd consider a very good friend of Electronic Cerebrectomy.

11:47 AM: I'm watching Field of Dreams on my TiVo right now. I recorded it the other day because I hadn't seen it in a long time and it's one of my favorite movies ever. It's one of the few movies I've ever seen that I would label as perfect. It's a perfect movie. I was just noticing today how economic it is in its storytelling, and I do believe that economy and brevity counts for a lot in storytelling. I'm one of those people who believes that more talented writers tell shorter stories, because they know better what they want to say and how to say it.

Anyway, Field of Dreams. Within the first five minutes, Kevin Costner hears the voice. By the first fifteen minutes, he's built the field. And it's inside the first 20 to 25 minutes that Shoeless Joe Jackson shows up. Just think about that; within 25 minutes, the movie's entire conflict is established and the plot is set in motion. I cringe to think that, if Field of Dreams were made today, it would take 45 minutes to get to the field being built, because the movie would have to pedantically establish every single relationship and hardship the Kinsellas have before actually getting to the damn story. Field of Dreams is a story where character, relationship, and conflict are revealed as the story is told. There's none of the painful set up that you see in nearly every American movie today. Plus, it's one of the few American movies where magic realism works as a plot device.

Who says eighties movies were terrible? There are a lot of good ones.

11:58 AM: I think I'm going to have another bowl of Cheerios.

12:35 PM: I wish I lived in a place where I could own a baby elephant, a dromedary camel, and a New World monkey as pets. Monkeys are outstanding. Did you know that the difference between New World and Old World monkeys is that New World monkeys have prehensile tails?

I'd like to live closer to more animals. I'd like to have a widespread garden with exotic flowers and exotic birds. But then there are other times when I'd like to live in an apartment and never have to go out for anything. So, either a recluse or some kind of naturist, I guess.

12:44 PM: My dad told me recently that he was looking at some old home movies, converting them to digital, and was disappointed to see how happy and full of life I used to be, and that in comparison now I just seem to have sort of given up on ever being happy again. That's the most depressing thing I've ever heard. Is the change really so marked?

Actually, it is. I was just looking at some old pictures of myself. Man, I used to smile more. I was a really happy kid, probably until my parents got divorced. Except that I used to get made fun of every day for being the fat kid, which isn't so good. Speaking of being the fat kid, I took a look at the pictures of me from prom. I went to prom in my junior year; I was invited by one of the foreign exchange students, Lenka from the Czech Republic. She wanted to go, and we were very friendly, so she asked me if I'd take her, and I said yes. Looking at myself in the tuxedo, I don't look so heavy for a high school student. Especially compared to how goddamn heavy I am now. What were those asshole kids talking about? Fucking assholes. I'd give real money to be as "overweight" as I was then. I think I weighed something like 130 pounds less than I do now.

1:01 PM: I just checked out my StatCounter; yesterday, there were 2,436 page loads. All week, I've been averaging between 500 and 1000 unique visitors a day. Why?

1:05 PM: God, I love Dean Yeagle's artwork, especially when his character Mandy is involved. An open question that he should consider (and he's seen this blog before, so who knows?): why isn't there a series of Mandy cartoons? Seriously, I think that would be incredible. Mandy's such a neat character, and Yeagle is such a good cartoonist; Mandy already looks animated, doesn't she? There should be a series of short Mandy cartoons, something sexy but not sleazy, something with music and good animation. Sort of like the Betty Boop cartoons, but more modern and just as sweet and fun. That would be very cool.

I love, love, LOVE Dean Yeagle's work. And I need to catch up on it a bit. I could never afford that cooler than cool Mandy statue, but I see that there's a new art book and DVD and Mandy book that I need. Damn, I need to catch up. Frigging money situation.

1:23 PM: Has anyone out there actually watched this Frank TV? TBS advertised it forever and ever, and they're still pushing it pretty hard. I don't know the guy who stars on the show, Frank whatever, but I think his skill is outdated. Basically, all he does on the commercials are impressions of famous people. Now, I don't have anything against impressions per se, but is that all this guy does? And his impressions aren't bad; actually, they're really good. But they're impressions that every single guy in the world thinks he can do incredibly well: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, George W. Bush, Robin Williams, John Madden, Christopher Walken... If I have to hear one more douche do what he thinks is a spot-on perfect impression of Walken, I'm punching him in the throat. Even if Frank's impressions are excellent, who cares? I've heard so many people do impressions of those guys, I don't know how I'm supposed to care. Being good at impressions is like being a superstar in vaudeville. In the year 2007, who's buying anymore?

1:31 PM: Did anyone watch this miniseries Tin Man on SCIFI? Oh, wow, did I hate it. Lots of ripping off of Star Wars and Terry Gilliam movies, all while winking at the audience and practically shouting: "This is The Wizard of Oz but not really! We're too cool and self-conscious and modern and cynical to be The Wizard of Oz!" I just really, really thought it was fucking stupid. I could take The Wiz more seriously as a re-imagining of the Oz world. This... wow, this sucked. Why is everything so lame and self-important now? Why is The Wizard of Oz being treated like it's Dune?

1:33 PM: I'm addicted to this game Zuma. I'm going to play that for a while.

1:58 PM: Yay, Becca's home! Thanks to holiday hours, she had to work an extra five hours today, but now that she's home, we can have something to eat and hang out a bit.

2:03 PM: Is anyone out there still watching The Fresh Prince of Bel Air? And if so, why? This show is still on so damn much, meanwhile there's nowhere I can watch Family Ties anymore.

2:25 PM: No offense intended, but why do black people think conversate is a word?

2:26 PM: I ate a twisty donut that had the shit glazed out of it. It was so good. Actually, my eating habits are pretty bad again. And, actually, I ate two of those glazed twisty donuts.

2:30 PM: If I designed a tee shirt to be sold on Cafepress, would anyone be interested in it? I only ask because I want to make myself a shirt with a slogan I've had in my head for months now. But if anyone's interested, I could post about it online when I'm done. When I can actually afford to do it, I'm going to do it. It's a geek shirt, of course.

2:33 PM: Oh, man, that's cool! All that picture needs is a Muppet and a Dalek, and I'm really at the happiest place on Earth.

3:12 PM: Fell asleep for a little while; my head hurt a bit there. I think it might have been the donuts. I'm starting to get really sensitive to sugars again. Becca's been cooking, and the smell is driving me kee-razy. She's making chicken, carrots, and mashed potatoes, and I am hungry for an actual meal. I also just realized that I haven't had my pills yet today. I take four--metaprolol and enalapril for my blood pressure, prilosec for my acid reflux, and a multi-vitamin. I take them every day, but usually when I get left alone in the morning I forget to take them until late in the day. I don't know why I'm so bad about that.

Mmm, food's ready.

3:43 PM: Damn, that was good. I had a little too much, actually. We put on one of our Netflix movies, and I'm sucked into The Namesake. I'm going to log off for a bit so Becca can update her blog. Be back in a while.

5:12 PM: Back online. I'm going to go over and check Becca's blog.

5:19 PM: Neat! Barbie pinups!

5:36 PM: I just caught the trailer for Dedication; is Billy Crudup ever going to make a movie where he doesn't wander around looking manic, nervous, and drugged out? Not that he's not good at it, but is there anything else in the bag? It's another one of those romantic comedies that looks all indie so it's okay to like it, I guess.

5:53 PM: It pains me to say this, but The Nanny Diaries is so bad that it should star Denise Richards and be making its premiere on ABC Family.

6:08 PM: Dear ComEd,How many incredibly irritating ad campaigns does it take to make a man not care about saving energy anymore? Turns out it's just one.

6:17 PM: And yes, I know CFLs are important and saving energy is important. It doesn't mean I can't find an ad campaign incredibly irritating.

6:53 PM: ME: I watched a really good movie online on the Netflix website on Saturday.

MOM: You're lucky. I can't do that because it doesn't work on the Mac OS.

ME: Oh, but Mom, I thought Macs were so much easier to use and so much more wonderful than PCs. Aren't they pure sources of magic and love?

MOM: Shut up! It seems like every time they do something cool like offer you the chance to watch movies online, they only write it for Windows and not for the Mac. I'm tired of being punished for having a Mac!

ME: But I thought Macs were a pure bionic extension of all that once was good and could be again! I mean, you're always telling me how they automatically turn people into geniuses and allow them to perform feats of colossal, outstanding superpower!

MOM: Alright, alright! I just wish someone would write the same programs for the Mac OS is all!

ME: Maybe if Apple didn't insist on putting that ass clown Justin Long on TV to tell us Windows users constantly that we're all fucking idiots for using PCs, then people who use Windows might be more charitable about making their programs Mac-accessible.

MOM: OKAY! Are you done?!

ME: There will be no peace while Justin Long lives!

6:58 PM: PJ's going to steal my girlfriend for writing that.

7:07 PM: Huh. To my surprise, I haven't had any boobs up yet.If I were British, I'd want that on the flag. Nicely done. You should see Mrs. Henderson Presents.

7:23 PM: So, Al Gore's just biding his time until everyone's been discredited in the press, right? I mean, aren't people disillusioned with Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama by now? There's so much nothing to both of them.

7:55 PM: Regarding something Semaj said, why do people who smoke get more breaks at work than people who don't? If someone was addicted to heroin or meth they wouldn't be allowed to go outside and shoot up or whatever whenever they felt they had to, so why should smokers be able to? When I worked at Barnes & Noble, one of my assistant managers used to come in back (where I worked) once or twice an hour to take a smoke break. One time, we actually kept track and calculated that he lost around 90 or 100 minutes a day to smoking. So I started taking little breaks in the back to drink soda, claiming that I was addicted to caffeine, so I needed the breaks. Suddenly, people weren't allowed to go through receiving to smoke anymore. But they still went out front. It looked bad, but there they went.

8:06 PM: I'm already yawning like crazy. Why has my sleep schedule been so fucked? Maybe I should stay up late and try to sleep in. I already want to go to bed. Shit. I need to stay up until, like, 11 or something.

Going to play more Zuma.

8:39 PM: I'm watching I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown, the special which first aired a few years ago and got mostly trashed by critics. Seeing it for the first time, I'm not really sure why. I think it's charming. Yes, it doesn't reach the brilliance of A Charlie Brown Christmas or any of the Charlie Brown specials and movies from the sixties and the seventies, but what could? I think part of the reaction is that this special feels a little less universal and more specific to today's children, but I think it's only in a superficial way. The story is about Linus and Lucy's little brother, ReRun, and how badly he wants a dog for Christmas. It's nice, really. I like that it focuses more on ReRun and Snoopy, and puts Charlie Brown, Sally, Linus, and Lucy a little more into the background. It feels like Peanuts for a new generation, and I like that a hell of a lot more than some abomination like Shrek the Halls. Screw DreamWorks.

9:04 PM: I just tried a peanut butter sandwich on wheat bread for the first time. I've been eating peanut butter sandwiches all my life, but for the last few years it's been iffy. About four or five years ago, I just couldn't eat Wonder Bread anymore. I switched over to whatever that generic brand is they have at Wal-Mart, but you can smell bleach or benzoate or some kind of chemical all over it--gross! I switched over to some kind of wheat bread a while back for toast purposes, and stopped eating peanut butter sandwiches (I like my beef bologna and Swiss sandwiches on a wheat bun). But I've been craving peanut butter sandwiches over the last couple of nights, so I took a chance, even though I expected it to taste weird. I think this theory was based on having had one as a child and thinking it tasted weird and gross, but when you're a kid, you hate anything out of the ordinary that isn't exactly the same way as it always is. Anyway, it tastes pretty damn good. So I have another option out there. Cool.

9:09 PM: An ice storm warning from midnight tonight to midnight tomorrow. Wondrous. Usually it takes until mid-January for winter to suck this awfully.

9:53 PM: Man, I'm tired. I'm already starting to kind of fade out and run out of anything remotely interesting to say. Of course, some could say that I ran out of interesting things to say before even starting this whole thing. And they might be right. But here we are. And you're still reading. Nyah-nyah!

9:57 PM: Sorry. That was jerky.

10:10 PM: I can't believe that the slogan for the unnecessary Alvin & the Chipmunks movie is "Get Munk'd." It just sounds so, so wrong.

10:12 PM: Well, tired and irritable, with the spectre of an ice storm hanging over my head and a dull ache in my infected eye, I'm going to sign off and go to bed now. Thanks for bearing with me today, assuming anyone actually read this entire thing and stuck with it this long. I especially want to say hey, hey, PJ for checking in several times. It was fun to do, anyway. I like to keep it different.

Still, ScarJo's ready for bed, and so am I. Hopefully, I can sleep through the night instead of tossing and turning like I've been for the past month.

'Night, all.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Happy Birthday, Kirk Douglas

One of my personal heroes and one of my two most favorite actors. He's 91 years old today.

Song of the Week: "Your Roots Are Phony"

Brian Woodbury & His Popular Musical Group, 1992. Perhaps more true today than it was 15 years ago. Or maybe I'm just more cynical about America than I was in high school. Pay attention to the lyrics; that's not just a protest song, that's a complete vilification.

Not Enough Bah

'Tis the Season to Be Meme-ing

1. Favorite traditional Christmas song: "O Holy Night," specifically the Nat "King" Cole version. I also like "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "Silent Night," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," and especially "Good King Wenceslas." This year ended my long search for the Ames Brothers recording of "Wenceslas."

2. Favorite contemporary or modern Christmas song:I'm not sure what counts as modern by 2007, but I have had trouble convincing people that "The Chipmunk Song" is a Christmas tradition. It is for me, anyway. I like to hear it at Christmas. I don't need anything else Chipmunk-related ever in my life (especially not a movie, thank you).

I also love "All I Want for Christmas Is You" by Mariah Carey. Very Phil Spector-y, and that Phil Spector album is the tops.

3. Christmas song that makes you cry: Oh, lots of them. I'm a soft touch with Christmas music.

4. Real or artificial tree:I prefer artificial trees, honestly. We always had an artificial tree growing up, and I was fine with it. I don't like the sticky, pointy real ones and the hassle that comes with them. I'm much too lazy to go out into the world for the purpose of transporting a tree around.

5. Favorite Christmas edible treat: I don't know that I have one. I like anything chocolate at any time of the year. And I also hate sugar cookies.

6. White lights or multi-colored:Both, though I think blue lights are my favorite. One year, instead of putting up all of the ornaments, my mom did the tree with blue lights, a little bit of tinsel, some fake apple ornaments, and a couple of those realistic-looking birds. It looked really pretty.

7. How many Christmas parties will you go to this year: Probably none.

8. Favorite act of kindness to perform during this season: I have no idea. I don't like to be around the crowds, and I don't do very much. I don't give to the people ringing the bells very often, mostly because I give my spare change to childhood cancer charities.

9. Favorite sounds of Christmas:The music and the silence. The only use I have for snow is on the deep nights before Christmas, looking out at a blanket of white and listening to either soft Christmas music or my CD of Patrick Stewart performing A Christmas Carol by candlelight. The world is so still and quiet then.

10. Favorite things to wear: I don't wear anything different at Christmas time. I used to have a Santa hat, but I think one of my sisters took it and I never got it back. I'd like one of those again.

11. Favorite Christmas movie/TV special: I like watching A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Mickey's Christmas Carol, but my favorite Christmas movie ever is Miracle on 34th Street.I also love to watch The Snowman, one of the warmest Christmas specials I've ever seen. Absolutely beautiful. Here's my favorite scene from it:

12. Eggnog or hot chocolate: Hot chocolate. Egg nog's really good for making French toast, though.

13. Favorite Christmas book: Still A Christmas Carol. It's so perfectly written.I also love the Mutts book The Gift of Nothing.

14. Christmas books on my "to read" list: I don't know that there are any, actually.

15. Peppermint or cinnamon: I don't care much for either, but I hate peppermint.

16. What's on the top of your tree:Santa Claus; I love the Santas that look like Wotan (like they're supposed to really) or Teutonic nature figures, so this Santa is perfect for me. The whole tree and Santa tradition come from the North, anyway, Christ fandom is just ripping it off.

17. Traditional Christmas meal growing up: I'm not sure we had one, really. My dad likes to make pancakes for breakfast, and my mom has an irritating "Let's just see what happens" attitude. I remember one Christmas where I literally did not eat because my mom assumed some place would be open to get food from.

18. Online shopping or traditional "go to the store" shopping:Both, but as I get older I'd rather just shop online and not deal with the crowds of idiots. This past Black Friday, I went out with Becca and, annoyed with her meandering lack of direction, I loudly yelled: "This is why Black Friday is so annoying, because no woman ever knows where the hell she's going any time she's anywhere!!!" LOTS of women stopped and gave me dirty looks. Still...

19. Something you received as a Christmas gift as a child that you still have: I still have a stuffed Garfield I got in the third or fourth grade. I have a lot of my childhood stuffed animals. Not sure why, but they're still there.

20. How many Christmas cards you have mailed so far: We just mailed about ten of them or so on Friday.Becca designed it.

21. Favorite source for Christmas ideas: Wah?

22. Coordinated/themed or hodge-podge tree decorations:My whole style is hodge-podge, and I like it that way. Our Christmas ornaments include Santa Claus, Rudolph, and snowmen, but also Kermit the Frog, Snoopy, Disney characters, superheroes, and Betty Boop. I guess I like things from my childhood especially at Christmas.

23. What's on the top of YOUR Christmas wishlist: As I said earlier, I don't ask for Christmas presents very much anymore. If I had to pick something, I'd remind the right people that there's a new wave of Disney Treasures DVDs coming out this month. And since I can't do any more Evaluating Disney posts until I get the new Donald Duck set...And I love gift cards.

24. Roles you've played in Christmas plays/programs: I don't remember a one. Actually, I did star in two Christmas promos Carl directed for television; in one, I played Charles Dickens trying to decide if Tiny Tim should live or not, and in another, I controlled a puppet frog popping up out of a Christmas box. So, there is that.

25. Wrapping paper or gift bags: I love to wrap presents, even though my entire ingrate family makes fun of the way I do so.

26. When do you put up the tree:Usually a week or so before Thanksgiving, maybe earlier. Last year, we put the tree up the day after Halloween. I worked in retail for years, and Becca's worked in retail since high school, and when you work in retail, Christmas merchandise starts coming in around the middle of September. You get tired of Christmas in a hurry, so if we don't put things up early, we won't do it.

27. When do you take the tree down: Last year, 26 December. We don't linger with it too long. Canadians, isn't that part of the point of Boxing Day?

28. Do you have a nativity scene:Becca has one, but she doesn't put it out very often anymore. Myself, I don't make it a priority, not being a Christian.

29. Hardest person to buy for: My dad. "You know what I like" is not an answer, because I have no idea.

30. Easiest person to buy for: My sisters. They tell me exactly what they want.

31. Worst Christmas gift you ever received: I can't think of anything egregious. I'm sure I've gotten some ugly sweaters or clothes that didn't fit, but I'm a gracious person and I don't make a big deal out of it.

32. When do you start shopping for Christmas: Late; I'm broke.

33. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present: No.

34. Travel at Christmas or stay home: As I said before, I'd rather be in a hole. But I'll be out at my mom's and my dad's.

35. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer: When I was a kid, I thought it was Donder. Then I found out that, in the original text of A Visit from St. Nicholas, the names are Dunder and Blixem, not Donner and Blitzen. And when C. Clement Moore corrected the text, it actually was Donder. Donner is incorrect. The names show the Dutch origin of Santa Claus: Donder and Bliksem are Dutch for Thunder and Lightning.Anyway: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, Blitzen. And Rudolph, I guess.

36. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning: Christmas morning.

37. Most annoying thing about this time of year: Crowds are worse than usual; so is traffic. And you know I hate the fucking snow.

38. What I love most about Christmas: I'm not even sure at this point anymore. Usually, I'm just relieved when Christmas is over. I can't relax until then.