Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

At last, the day is here. Although I don't know why I'm saying "at last," since October seems to have just flown by! I'm going to spend the day enjoying it instead of being here online. I hope you enjoy it too!

As is my custom, here are the links to all of the Halloween posts I did this year:

It's... It's So Beautiful
Spooks starring Flip the Frog
Jeepers Creepers starring Porky Pig
Halloween McNuggets Commercial
Iron Maiden: "The Number of the Beast"
Lindsay Lohan Five Years Later (Not really a Halloween post, but still terrifying.)
Halloween Creatures in LEGO
Halloween Heineken Ads
Where the Wild Things Are/Gremlins 2 Trailer Mash-Up
Not-Strictly-Halloween Kit Kat Ad
The Office/Halloween Trailer Mash-Up
Chuck and Beans, Part 1
Dio: "Holy Diver"
Evil Dead 2 Pumpkin
Screamfest Ad
The Comedy of Terrors Trailer
Headless Horseman M&Ms Commercial
Walrus Man Pumpkin Carving
Jack Chop!
Siouxsie & the Banshees: "Halloween"
Geek Pumpkins Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5
The Horror Photography of Joshua Hoffine
Chuck and Beans, Part 2
Vincent Price Sings "Monster Mash"
Hair-Raising Hare
My 15 Favorite "Treehouse of Horror" Segments
It's the End Times, Charlie Brown
"The Headless Horseman"
New Muppet Halloween Videos
Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space

And for my final Halloween post, here's a fan-made video for the song "This Is Halloween" from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Actually, it's the recent Marilyn Manson version from the Nightmare Revisited album, which is much better than that wussy version by Panic at the Disco. Someone put clips of Disney villains to this music, and it rocks.

This is the fifth Halloween since I've been doing this blog. Have a happy and safe one!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space

Someone's got the Monsters vs. Aliens Halloween special that aired the day before yesterday on YouTube. Watch it while you still can.

I still haven't seen Monsters vs. Aliens, but I enjoyed this special. It was cute, and I'm so glad that someone is still doing Halloween specials. They really need more animation in primetime the week leading up to the orange day.

(This video has the link to the second part, and ultimately the third.)

Random Thoughts

I loved watching Ashley Tisdale perform at the Latin VMAs. I don’t like her music, but I just love her as a performer. Especially now that she’s getting more mature and more comfortable with her singing career (and dropping the faux-bad girl shtick, I hope). It’s like she’s fucking the entire audience with music, just commanding attention, without resorting to Lady Gaga-style attention whoring. I wish better things for Tis.

:: The revelation that Christian Bale based his portrayal of American Psycho Patrick Bateman on Tom Cruise’s totally vacuous energy makes perfect sense. I can totally see it now. Plus, it seems like a short hop from jumping on Oprah’s couch in faked faux-hetero joy to killing a couple of hookers.

:: Some girl out there is threatening to kill, cook, and eat her own pet cat if Miley Cyrus doesn’t come back to Twitter. I think that girl is a really good indicator of why Miley Cyrus should never go back to Twitter. Part of the responsibility of being famous is that you don’t reward psychotic behavior by giving irresponsible people what they demand of you. Yes, it sucks that a million of her fans have lost their access to her on Twitter, but Christ, it’s just Twitter. Killing something because you’re a fan of Miley’s is not an act of love, it’s an act of desperate insanity. I hope this girl is just doing this for attention, but that doesn’t make it less disgusting.

:: Check out the Japanese trailer for A Christmas Carol. I still don’t want to see the movie (although I know I will, eventually), but this trailer is much, much better than the slapsticky American commercials. It actually looks like a ghost story, which is what it’s supposed to be.

:: Someone finally figured out which science fiction story James Cameron is ripping off for Avatar. I knew it was only a matter of time. He’s a good filmmaker, but he hasn’t had one remotely original movie. Even Titanic is just a huge remake of A Night to Remember (right down to some of the dialogue) and, oddly enough, the 1943 film Titanic that was made under the Nazis.

:: I’d love to see Mac come up with an ad that isn’t just “Microsoft sucks and you’re an idiot for using a PC.” Hate to break it to the Mac zombies, but not every Apple product works flawlessly, either.

:: We’ve discovered 32 planets outside of our solar system. Too bad we’ll never get there.

:: I resent being told I’m not liking something in the right way.

:: TV Land is making original sitcoms now. Insert my usual rant about why specialty cable channels suck here.

:: I don’t want to see another teenage girl with a music video where she “defiantly” goes out on the town and dances with guys to prove how much being broken up with doesn’t affect her. Acting out to show your ex how emotionally cold you can be is nothing more than proving you can be as big an asshole as a guy. That’s not progress. And defining yourself by how much you don’t define yourself by your relationships is still defining yourself by your relationships. Unfortunately, 98% of girl singers have made this their entire act.

:: Doctors have created a robotic replacement hand that can actually feel. That’s more than God ever did to help an amputee. Science is amazing.

:: Justice of the Peace Keith Bardwell wouldn’t “allow” an interracial couple to get married, but he swears he’s not a racist. It’s an amazing phenomenon these days how many racists swear that trying to keep “the races” from “mixing” doesn’t make them racists at all. Except, of course, if you go by definitions of actual words.

:: There’s a plan going around Congress which would end the subsidization of the private student lending market and use the savings to provide direct loans and increase the Pell Grant in order to make college more affordable. (Here in Illinois, they nearly did away entirely with the MAP Grant, so I can feel the need for this.) This would redirect $87 billion over the next decade to students. Of course, since education (just like health care) is something important that ultimately goes towards making our nation stronger, Republicans and ConservaDems are opposed to it. Senator Tom Harkin is talking about using reconciliation rules to push it through, provided they don’t have to use it for health care. The reconciliation would overpower the opposition.

I will never understand in America the way some people think the duty of the government is to protect corporations. Especially when, as in the case of private student loans, it’s subsidized by the federal government through tax money, anyway. How is it wrong to subsidize student loans but okay to subsidize private companies?

:: The new defense budget has money set aside to bribe Taliban leaders not to fight in Afghanistan. We've been using bribery for the last decade as a tactic in the Middle East, but is there any more clear indication that we have no strategy in Afghanistan? And what are we even fighting for at this point? The Taliban's going to take back over, anyway, we've made it a question of when, not if. It's not like the government we're defending is really legitimate, anyway. Do we even have a goal in mind over there? What does success mean in Afghanistan? All we can think of to do is pay people not to fight? And how long is this going to last? Two years? Ten? A hundred?

And remember, there's money for this, but not for health care.

:: The report issued by the American Health Insurance Providers is nothing more than a naked threat. They’re admitting they’re going to raise their premiums by 60% over the next nine years, and basically telling us that if a public option passes, they’ll raise those premiums even higher. This is what corporate politics have come to in America. Our country is broken, and all the political discourse is just arguing over who wants to appear to fix it as opposed to how it’s actually going to get fixed.

:: Some of Obama’s recent talk indicates to me that he’s trying to break the news gently to progressives and pragmatists that the final health reform bill is going to be widely hated. You’re never going to see Obama going after trusts and corporation the way Theodore Roosevelt did. Instead, he’s rushing headlong into a bill that’s going to financially penalize people for not buying private insurance, proving exactly whose interests he serves. He’s dealing with this the same way he’s dealt with every crisis—to take more money from the American taxpayers and make certain that they get nothing out of it, once again robbing from us to nationalize all the risk of a privatized profit system. Thanks for nothing.

:: Jane Hamsher has a very good piece on the House's farce of a health care bill that starts like this: "Nancy Pelosi made a choice with regard to the lifesaving biologic drugs I took when I was in chemotherapy-drugs that will cost many of my fellow breast cancer survivors everything they own, and quite possibly their lives." You should read it. It's an interesting perspective.

:: Is the Republican Party actually saying that it’s okay for government contractors to rape a girl? Seriously? These inhuman war profiteers we have permanently encamped in Baghdad raped not only Iraq, but also 21 year-old Jamie Leigh Jones, an American girl. Seven man drugged her and gang-raped her. She required surgery afterwards. And the evidence “disappeared” and now 30 Republican senators have voted to deny her justice in order to, of course, protect the sovereign rights of the almighty corporations. This is just unforgivably inhuman. Understand, America: you have been locked out of the courtroom. No one is interested in justice or human rights or the law. The Republican Party (with Democratic help, both through ConservaDem support and the complete ineffectualness of fake progressives) is orchestrating a push to place corporations above the law and completely bypass democracy. No one is looking out for you; certainly not the people you elect. We are now in an era when Republican senators can argue, without shame, that rape should be overlooked to protect corporations. That’s who they work for: government against the people, by the privileged, for the corporations. We should just tear this all down and start over again.

I can’t believe people will get so worked up about Roman Polanski’s case from 30 years ago (seriously, it took 25 fucking days to formally extradite him?) and the news that Republicans are fighting to keep it an American policy that government contractors can rape whomever they want with impunity causes no outrage whatsoever. America: who says your priorities are ridiculous?

:: And if you check with insurance companies, you’ll see that being raped is a pre-existing condition. Just like being beaten by your husband.

:: George Will predicted a Republican tidal wave in 2010, so it’s hilarious that the Washington Post, his own paper, shows only 19% have any confidence in the GOP to make the right decisions for this country’s future. They’re evenly divided on Obama. Among those who identified themselves as Republicans, only 40% have confidence in GOP leadership. It also showed that 57% support the public option. A majority also supported a plan with a public option and no Republican support. Message clear: people in the places Sarah Palin likes to call “the real America” don’t give a shit about bipartisanship. No one outside of the Beltway cares. They’d rather be able to take care of their sick relatives. And the Republican response to this has just been to lie and say the numbers mean the opposite of what they mean.

(It’s also worth pointing out that a CNN poll found that more than 70% of Palin’s “real America” doesn’t think she’s fit to be president.)

Yeah, keep up those teabagging parties, Becktards. You’ve got Obama on the ropes, for sure. (Obama: what the fuck is your problem? Run with this and get us some damn results. We didn’t elect you to play nice with everyone. We elected you to fix the goddamn country.)

:: 47 Congressional Democrats are fighting against a robust public option that would save American families $1400 a year on their health premiums in favor of a bill that would give them less financial assistance to help them afford insurance. They don’t care what happens to you. Seriously. The Republicans are bad, but the Democrats are no better. They only care about who pays them. Dismantle this system and start over. Or just let Canada run things from now on.

:: Saudi Arabia is trying to get other oil-producing countries to support a plan where wealthy countries that reduce their oil compensation should pay a penalty to the oil producers. My offer to those companies would be to go and fuck themselves. I am so sick of Saudi Arabia jerking us around by a chain. Shit, Saudi nationals can attack the US and destroy the World Trade Center, and we go and invade Iraq instead. Our government is terrified of Saudi Arabia, as if we would be nothing without their oil. And Saudi Arabia likes to act like we’d better pay whatever they want or the world will come to a standstill. I say bullshit. Remember when America used to be about technological progress? We need to move on from oil, not because we need to save the planet’s resources, but because Saudi Arabia would be nothing without American money, and they know it. We should be setting the prices, not them. What do they do with the money, anyway? It’s not like the Saudi economy depends on our money; the royal family keeps it for themselves and fuck the rest of the country. They’re just trying to manipulate the West, as they always have, in order to widen their cash flow. Just cut these assholes loose and let’s fend for ourselves, god damn it.

Worth mentioning.

:: UPDATE 11:46 PM: When did we get to the point as a society where we started believing the words "no offense" automatically erases an offensive remark? This is why I try not to engage some people. No offense, but you're a jackass.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween: New Muppet Viral Videos!

I'm always excited by new Muppet material, and here are two new viral videos just for Halloween.

Pippity Poppity, Give Me the Zoppity

On my most recent TV Report, I mentioned that I really enjoyed last week's episode of The Office and chided people who were whining about the wedding episode jumping the shark. Today, Jaquandor responded with a post of his own about the issue of strained believability on the show: "The problem, for me, is that the absurdity has usually been still believable on some level. The least successful episodes have all involved incidents in which Michael, or someone else, did something that I'm pretty confident would get them fired in nearly any real-life workplace [...] My problem this year is that so far it feels like the air of plausibility around The Office is feeling strained."

(Jaquandor recently wondered if the show wasn't reaching a tipping point on the issue of believability, which he feels--and I agree--was one of the show's greatest strengths.)

I agree with what my Esteemed Blog Neighbor says in his post, but felt the need to comment on it. My comments on the earlier post were not directed at what he said about the show, but towards a number of people online who were so weirdly pissed off about the wedding episode ending with an internet meme and the terrible episode that followed the week after, citing this as definitive proof that the show had jumped the shark.

Personally, I liked the wedding episode. Maybe it was a little too cute and a tad indulgent, but the ending seemed totally in character for Michael Scott. We've seen him hijack a wedding before in his endless bid to be beloved and popular, and I loved the way Jim revealed he'd already bought tickets for the Maid of the Mist because he knew Michael would do something to take away from their ceremony. One of my favorite things about this show has always been the way Jim is able to deal with a lot of the stranger office behavior by anticipating it and going around it and even attempting to spare the feelings of those involved (which is why episodes like the one where he tries to consolidate the birthdays into a single party are so hilarious--he should've guessed by now that everyone in the office was a childish pig in their own ways, but assumes the best of them and gets burned for it; never assume people err on the side of being reasonable).

So I thought it was premature for people to say The Office had jumped the shark just because they didn't like two episodes of the show.

But reading Jaquandor's post this morning, I started thinking about what he said about plausibility and the direction the characters are going in, particularly Dwight. I've been thinking about those issues recently because The Office hit syndication this fall and I've been seeing a lot of reruns of old episodes. And I came to a conclusion.

I think The Office has already jumped the shark.

I think last year's post-Superbowl episode was a clear indicator of that, and I even brought it up at the time. That whole opening with the office on fire and Angela throwing her cat into the ceiling, all of the wacky, slapstick hijinks, Dwight's weird sociopathy, and just the general cynicism of that episode (which felt like a plea to non-viewers to please just stick around for an episode) made it feel like the show had thrown believability out of the window. And that's what shark-jumping is. It's the moment when the lack of believability goes too far.

(And I'm not talking about being realistic. No sitcom is realistic. I'm talking about when a show abandons its own interior plausibility, which every show spends time building up, only to ignore later when it goes for more than three or four seasons and ends up on autopilot and needs to do more and more outlandish things to get the audience's--and the media's--attention. Expect ratings stunts in the future.)

So I think we're already in the post-shark jump period. Sure, there have been some great episodes since the post-Superbowl episode. I think the Michael Scott Paper Company stuff was brilliant. No show goes immediately into the dregs just because it jumped the shark. Declines have their moments of rises, but it always goes back to falling. I think those episodes were bright spots in a decline. It happens.

One of the reruns that aired recently was the episode where Dwight has to pick the branch's new health plan while Michael hides in his office because he doesn't want to make an unpopular choice. He promises everyone a surprise, and in the end, he doesn't have anything, and everyone walks away, frustrated, with their anger completely unresolved. That's the kind of believability that the show used to have.

Today, and for the last season or two, I think there's been a real push to get away from the kind of uncomfortableness they so often worked into the earlier seasons. The kind of tension that used to be on the show used to drive people away from it. I knew a surprising number of people who just couldn't take it; it hit too close to home for them to enjoy it. Nowadays, the tension is usually resolved by something wacky or something magical or something pat, and the show enjoys tremendous ratings. That's quite a turnaround for a show that was always flirting with cancellation in its first two seasons.

Frankly, by now a wizard could appear in the office and send Dwight on a quest, or Oscar could have a floating alien that only he can see and hear hanging around him, and it wouldn't seem too outlandish for this show. And because I still like the characters, I still watch. I think Jaquandor has a point about believability, but I also think believability is something the show abandoned some time ago. It doesn't make The Office bad, necessarily, but it does make it a different show.

(As for his contention on my contention that most of the people who dumped on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull were being ridiculous, I won't get into it. We Prequel-lovers need to stick together.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halloween: The Headless Horseman

One of Disney's best moments from the 1940s: Bing Crosby singing about the Headless Horseman. It's a Halloween necessity for me.

It's the End Times, Charlie Brown

My 15 Favorite Treehouse of Horror Segments

Mightygodking recently compiled a ranking of all twenty of the Treehouse of Horror episodes of The Simpsons. And although there are some points where I totally disagree (I don't think any episode past "Treehouse of Horror XII" deserves to be in the top 10, since they've gotten progressively worse ever since), mostly I thought it was spot-on. And, just because I'm a repetitive bastard, it inspired me to make my own list of my favorite actual segments. (The parenthetical number indicates which Treehouse of Horror the segment is from.)

15. Desperately Xeeking Xena (X)
I know this loses some points with some people for being about superheroes and not really having much to do with Halloween, but it always makes me laugh my ass off. Great geek humor, culminating in one of my favorite lines, when Lucy Lawless picks up Bart and Lisa and flies away with them. ("Xena can't fly." "I told you, I'm not Xena, I'm Lucy Lawless." "Oh.") One of the greatest celebrity cameos on The Simpsons, which could be a whole other list.

14. In the Belly of the Boss (XV)
A great riff on Fantastic Voyage, and Marge in her skimpy swimsuit ("That's what turns a regular voyage into a fantastic voyage") has become weirdly iconic. We only have two Simpsons action figures--a Hans Moleman figure, and Homer and Marge floating over Burns' intestine from this episode.

13. The Thing and I (VII)
"But where to put Hugo? Too crazy for Boys' Town. Too much of a boy for Crazy Town." We all know who the evil twin really is. I'm kind of surprised this segment doesn't get more mention, except that it probably gets overshadowed by the other two segments from this episode (one of the strongest ever Treehouse of Horror episodes).

12. Night of the Dolphin (XI)
Except for one brief moment (at some point, the writers really, really--and mistakenly--thought it was amazingly hilarious to have a character look at the screen and yell "Whaaaaaaaa?"), I can't think of a single dud joke in here. It's perfectly paced and a joy to watch.

11. House of Whacks (XII)
It's Pierce Brosnan as the voice of a smart house trying to kill Homer that sells this one for me, but the whole thing is hilarious. I always look forward to seeing this segment, but I don't watch the rest of the episode.

10. The Devil and Homer Simpson (IV)
Homer sells his soul for a donut. A classic.

9. Dial Z for Zombies (III)
"Treehouse of Horror III" is another of the most solid episodes, and one of the most endlessly quotable. This would be on this list for the "Dad, you killed the zombie Flanders?" "He was a zombie?" exchange alone. But there's so much more that's very funny without overstaying its welcome. Back when zombies were still funny and cool. Not like now. Stupid internet.

8. Life's a Glitch and Then You Die (X)
I really needed this one in 1999 when I kept hearing all sorts of otherwise-reasonable people push the Y2K panic. The one that said that the year digits on a computer would switch over to "00" and, apparently, all computers would gain sentience and say to themselves "Wait a moment, there are no computers in 1900!" and then die. The planes literally dropping straight out of the sky ("Who's going to clean up all of those planes?") kills me every time. And one of the best endings ever. I relish the idea that, even with the planet being abandoned, the most annoying celebrities are still being shot into the sun.

7. The Monkey's Paw (II)
A good example of how to keep piling on circumstance after circumstance and keep making it bigger without actually losing the joke.

6. The Genesis Tub (VII)
I love this segment, but it seems like I never get to see it the whole way through (it gets cut down in syndication for some reason). Not a true horror story, maybe, but I'm way more into science fiction, so this works for me.

5. Send in the Clones (XIII)
As the Treehouse of Horror episodes started to get sucky, this was a real bright spot. One of the few times where the violence is actually creatively funny, and it has a great central concept on which to hang gags and throwaways (including the Peter Griffin reference, which caused Seth MacFarlane to strike back at the show by pointing out that Matt Groening had sold out by using the characters in Butterfinger ads, which--considering that they'd already done a Butterfinger joke on The Simpsons, just shows you how "fresh" and "insightful" Family Guy generally tends to be. Oh, and then Peter Griffin did Subway ads, so there's MacFarlane's integrity for you.).

4. Hell Toupee (IX)
Sublime silliness. The gun-wielding toupee is one of my favorite things ever on The Simpsons.

3. Clown Without Pity (III)
As funny as the first two episodes genuinely were, this segment was the moment where the whole concept clicked and it became clear that (for the next couple of years, anyway) Treehouse of Horror was going to be a special annual event. But that's not to take away from this segment, with a Krusty doll trying to kill Homer, which is terrifically funny. Even the joke twist ("Someone set this doll to evil!") is funny and not a cop-out, as it so easily could have been.

2. Nightmare Café (V)
I agree with MGK that "Treehouse of Horror V" is the funniest single episode; both this and my number one are from it, and it was really hard to choose between them both. They're both the funniest segment, but I had to pick only one, so this gets to come in second.

1. Time and Punishment (V)
And here's number one. I guess the science fiction will tend to win out with me. But this time travel odyssey is one of the most clever and laugh out loud funny things I've ever seen on a show that used to be incredibly clever and laugh out loud funny.

Honorable Mentions: Citizen Kang (VII); Attack of the Fifty-Foot Eyesores (VI); The Shinning (V); The Bart Zone (II); I Know What You Diddily-Iddily-Did (X); King Homer (III); The Homega Man (VIII); You Gotta Know When to Golem (XVII); It's the Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse (XIX)

The 5 I Hate the Most:
1. There’s No Business Like Moe Business (XX)
Overlong, self-indulgent, completely unfunny. One of the things that has murdered The Simpsons has been their awful, awful musical episodes.

2. Mr. and Mrs. Simpson (XVIII)
What does parodying a terrible movie like Mr. and Mrs. Smith have to do with Halloween?

3. Wiz Kids (XII)
This Harry Potter parody feels perfunctory, obligatory, and completely unnecessary. Worst of all, it's not funny.

4. Bartificial Intelligence (XVI)
Just stupid, and with a terrible ending. Maybe it's just hard to parody bad movies; A.I. is one of the worst feature-length NAMBLA ads I've ever seen, even from Steven Spielberg.

5. Four Beheadings and a Funeral (XV)
I hate it when TV writers mistake ridiculous British accents for actually being funny.

Mr. Villain's Class of 1983

Via The Beast Is Back

Film Week

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

Another winner in the AIP Corman-Price-Matheson Edgar Allan Poe series. It's a bit uneven, as anthology movies tend to be, but not to the film's serious detriment (and Vincent Price stars in all three segments, which makes up for a lot of deficiencies, none of which are fatal, anyway). The first segment, "Morella," is moody but also drags. The final third, "The Case of M. Valdemar," stretches its concept about as far as it can, and is helped tremendously by Basil Rathbone as a selfish hypnotist and a wonderfully terrifying ending. But the middle segment, "The Black Cat" (which adds a liberal dose of "The Cask of Amontillado"), is what makes the movie. Peter Lorre is tremendously fun as a drunkard who ends up in a wine-tasting challenge with foppish Fortunato (a joyously hammy Price) and soon finds himself cuckolded and revenge-minded. The contest between the two men, with Lorre so casual and Price so over-serious, is the best scene in the movie. Watching these two act opposite each other is never dull; they were two very special and very talented actors, and watching a scene like this, played for just the right kind of laughs, is one of the real joys in life for me. ***1/2 stars.

An observation of an escort building her business during an economic crisis. That's about it. There's nothing monumental to it, but it also doesn't try to shock the audience simply for the sake of shock. What's more interesting than the story, if I can call it that, is the way the film is made. Steven Soderbergh is obviously a fan of the French New Wave, but he puts a sort of postmodern aesthetic to it, pulling scenes out of order and letting the actors improvise. Sasha Grey is an interesting casting choice; she's the one character who is almost never herself, and Soderbergh uses that kind of chilly, unreadable exterior she has to make her an enigma to the audience. It's a well-constructed and sophisticated film, it's just not always very interesting or compelling. *** stars.

So, You're Telling Me Simplified Fairy Tales Aren't Realistic?

I admit, I bristle when people go after Disney with that old chestnut that it gives children an unrealistic idea of what women are capable of, as if Disney movies are somehow damaging to the psyche of little girls.

It's not just Disney movies, either. It's Barbie dolls and old sitcoms, and all kinds of stuff. I will grant you that I take a rather grim view of the well-adjustment of American society, but I don't think what's causing sexual imbalance today is that a bunch of people grew up watching Gilligan's Island. Yes, children are impressionable, but sexism goes back much further and deeper than a 70 year-old Disney movie, and women who define themselves by their sex appeal certainly pre-date Barbie.

So, I was a little irritated when I saw this going around on the internet yesterday:

It's not like it's inaccurate, but it's also Psych 101 stuff. It's basic, and it's not the deconstruction people claim it is so much as an oversimplification. Plus, you can't really prove that those "messages" are meaningful unless you can produce evidence and examples that those "messages" affected anyone's psyche ever anywhere.

So I was glad to see a rebuttal of sorts come out yesterday afternoon:

See, I think it's too easy to see sexism in everything. Sure, there is a genuine case to be made for sexism in pop culture, but it's also about as lazy as finding Christ figures or racism everywhere. That is to say: it's not really a criticism. You can use it to make a point, but it's not the point in and of itself. And as you can see, the Disney men are kind of in the same boat; it's not like they're exactly nuanced, either.

So what's the point here? Well, first that Disney deals in fairy tales, and fairy tales have always been simplified allegories where the main characters are left purposely vague. So is Barbie, actually. It's up to your child's imagination (and your parental encouragement) to turn Barbie into "just" a homemaker (like being a homemaker is a free ride) or something else. And that's the second point, as usual: if parents really think their children are being bombarded with some kind of message that women only matter if they're pretty, they have a responsibility to teach that child something different. It's not Disney's, Barbie's, or Ginger Grant's fault if you abdicate that responsibility.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Halloween: Hair-Raising Hare

Always a classic.

By the way, someone pointed out to me recently that Gossamer, the red monster, is being completely ripped off by Weight Watchers. And although I love the Muppet-ish Hunger Monster, it's pretty hard to deny.

(I still want one of those stuffed Hunger Monsters, though.)

Beam Up My Eggo

I bought a couple of boxes of these Star Trek waffles because they're hitting clearance, they were out of the kind I like, and I'm a big pop culture skiffy dweeb. I find the art on these pretty neato--they're based on the recent movie, but they look so much like the animated series. I keep waiting to find one with M'Ress on it or something. Neat stuff.

TV Report: What I'm Watching

Wow, my viewing schedule is fuller than it's ever been. Here's what I've been watching.

:: How I Met Your Mother is off to a slow start, but the most recent episode was hilarious. I like the whole Barney-Robin plot, but now everyone's paired off except for Ted, and Ted can be too much of a douche when he's off in his own plot. He needs someone to play off of.

:: The Big Bang Theory. Now that Penny and Leonard as a couple are taken for granted, I can live with it. I get sick of sitcoms when one of the main plotlines is someone's relationship not working. I still think Howard Wolowitz is the least-funny character on the show, but the last episode did a great job with him, getting shot down by a seemingly disinterested girl because she was a wet blanket, not because he was such a lame-o sleaze. (The actor who plays Wolowitz isn't bad, it's just that the character is basically Larry from Three's Company--a character I've seen in so many sitcoms and movies that I'm sick of it.)

:: Heroes. I'm one of the last few, I guess. Even with the lesbian kiss ratings stunt, the show is still fourth in its time slot. I've resigned myself to the fact that this will most likely be its final half-season, so I'll just enjoy what's left and then lament that the writers never got the show 100% right.

:: Castle just gets more and more awesome. Last night's Halloween episode was a hoot, especially when Nathan Fillion put on the Mal Reynolds costume and his daughter said "Isn't that what you wore five years ago? Don't you think you should just move on?" Nice. Firefly sucked. I never get tired of saying it.

:: Well, nothing now. I was watching Hell's Kitchen. I think the right chef won out on that one. The guy literally went through hell and proved he could fight as long as it took to come out on top. Can't wait for the next one.

:: Modern Family continues to be the best new show on television. Not a single dud episode yet.

:: I also still enjoy Cougar Town, even though critic after blogger tells me I'm supposed to hate a show with a title like Cougar Town. I don't care; I think it's a funny show, and this is the most I've ever enjoyed Courteney Cox in anything. What a lot of critics seem to see as desperation, I just see as high energy. It's pitched at a hyper level, but even if it tried to be serious and sensitive, critics would still hate it, as they hate anything about women aging. If this were the 22nd season of Entourage (itself just a Sex and the City clone with the genders reversed), they would be falling over themselves to praise it.

:: South Park is back. So... there's that. I don't know, I still watch it, but I haven't been excited about it in years. It's just there. Sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's too gimmicky for its own good, sometimes Trey Parker doesn't even bother to hide the fact that he's just ranting about something in the media that's pissed him off this week. Remember when he said this show wasn't going to go on forever?

:: Except for Community, a show which insists upon its own cleverness without actually demonstrating any, NBC still has it sewn up for me.

:: Parks and Recreation had a terrible episode a couple of weeks ago (the one with Fred Armisen as a visiting Venezuelan dignitary), but last week's was awesome. Some critics gave it a hard time for being too much like Arrested Development, but those people have this mistaken idea that Parks and Recreation is supposed to be realistic somehow. This show has been so much sharper this season, so much more sure of who its characters are, and last week's really (I hope) kicked it into gear. They only hitch I have is getting Rashida Jones and Paul Schneider together; they're both so straight and bland that there's not a lot of humor being generated there. Thankfully, much of their relationship takes place offscreen. (Besides, Ann and Leslie are destined to end up together. All the signals are there.) Also, love that Louis CK has been sticking around. I'm one of the tiny minority of Lucky Louie fans.

:: Last week's episode of The Office was the best this season. I liked the wedding episode, but the "mafia" episode was a real dud. There were a lot of people out there screaming about shark-jumping, which I thought was premature. Besides, you can't even claim a show jumped the shark at a certain point until at least a half-season has gone by: the phrase is about the overall effect, not immediate bitching about something that pissed you off. There's a new phrase for that: "nuking the fridge." That's when you idiotically whine about how a series that features Nazis being melted by the power of God, a man surviving a fall from a plane in a raft, a guy having his heart ripped out of his chest and continuing to live, and a man simply walking off a gunshot wound after drinking from the Holy Grail is suddenly unrealistic because a guy survives a nuclear blast inside of a lead-lined refrigerator.

:: 30 Rock is off to a slow start. Some great moments, but nothing exciting so far.

:: Holy crap, did anyone else see the Music Meister episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold? It was amazing.

:: Also still enjoying Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

:: Wizards of Waverly Place is back for its third season, and by now they've got everything locked down and firing. I used to complain during its first season that this show went for cute over funny. Then it started going for funny. And now it manages the feat (always a Herculean one on Disney Channel) of being funny and being a sweet show about family. And thank the gods for Selena Gomez; I can't decide if she or Demi Lovato is the most talented Disney star, but they're easily the most talented young ladies Disney Channel has ever had.

:: They really ordered a third season of The Suite Life on Deck? I still watch this show (which, really, is the fifth season of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody) because Brenda Song is funny, but they don't know what to do with her without Ashley Tisdale. I miss the actors like Kim Rhodes and Brian Stepanek who were genuinely funny; now it's all just flailing about while Disney desperately pretends that the Sprouse twins were ever charming, let alone funny, talented, or didn't make me want to stuff a gasoline-soaked sock down each of their throats.

:: Phineas and Ferb is awesome. That is all.

:: And Ugly Betty is back. I'm still watching it, but the momentum is long gone. The show still loves to give Betty opportunities to succeed and then sadistically make her fail. I'm pretty sick of that. At one time, this was my favorite show on television. Now I'm just... tired of the routine. I fully expect this is going to be the last season, and when it's gone I won't even be upset, because it's really been gone a long time.

:: Meh. Just Saturday Night Live, and all the burners haven't been lighting this season. Plus, I am so sick of Kristen Wiig that I just want to rip all of my hair out.

:: Well, Hannah Montana keeps going and I keep not getting tired of it. That's just me. It's a fun show.

:: Jonas has gotten a lot better since they embraced the silliness. I genuinely like these kids, and it's kind of a kick watching them improve. They were so bad in Camp Rock, and that was just last year. They've improved scads since then.

:: Sonny with a Chance is, at its best, one of the funniest comedies on television, aimed at kids or no. Hell, it's been funnier than 30 Rock has been so far this season; and it's way funnier than Community will ever be. Demi Lovato, Tiffany Thornton, and especially Sterling Knight are always pitch-perfect hilarious. I was very pleased to read that the second season starts taping in November; I really need another season of this.

:: Last week's Curb Your Enthusiasm was the funniest episode in a long time. There's really only one joke on this show--Larry gets upset about something reasonable, and everyone jumps down his throat as though he were some kind of unreasonable asshole--but Larry David gets a lot of mileage out of it. Sometimes it can be a bit too much, especially if it doesn't really go anywhere, but just watching Larry and Jerry Seinfeld bounce off of each other this week, along with outlandish fantasy sequences and a very silly (but nicely so) ending... this is one of my all time favorite shows.

:: The last episode of Bored to Death was magnificent--all of the character finally came together, and it turns out that watching Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis play off of one another was funnier than I ever thought it could be. I really enjoy this show; it's a sort of absurdist fantasia on boredom--boredom with your life, boredom with your relationship, boredom with yourself--that has never not worked for me.

:: Californication. I don't like this show, but I've been watching it for Eva Amurri this season, and she's everything I always knew she could be.

:: Has anyone else watched Titan Maximum on Adult Swim? I really enjoy it. The only person I know who has actually seen it--Becca--hates it.

:: Thank God The Venture Bros. is back. Still genius. I don't like to throw that word around, but The Venture Bros. is genius.

:: I've been catching a lot of old reruns lately, with surprising results. For example, I watched a couple of episodes of I Dream of Jeannie and was bored out of my mind. I don't remember it being that boring, but I haven't seen it since I was, like, 10 or something. I've seen a number of episodes of Bewitched, and the switching of the Darrins really is a tipping point for me. Dick York? Hilarious. A snappy, funny sitcom. Dick Sargent? Awful. And the show suddenly becomes turgid and boring and Elizabeth Montgomery just seems to stop trying altogether. It's strange to watch shows develop over the years, long after the fact.

Happy 70th Birthday, John Cleese!

"He who laughs most, learns best."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Halloween: Monster Mash

Sung by Vincent Price in Monster Club, a movie I've not seen but would certainly like to. The costumes are crazy!

Kristen Bell Mondays

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Song of the Week: "Much Better"

Today is my lovely wife's birthday, and this is the first of her birthdays as a married couple, so this song is for her. This is the Jonas Brothers, her obsession of the moment, and their best song (and it's fantastic), performed at this year's Teen Choice Awards. Why hasn't this become a single? Because Hollywood Records doesn't know what they're doing. Anyway, even though I know the biggest event in your life this year was not marrying me but meeting Gil Gerard (;), Happy Birthday, Becca!

A Couple More Halloween Strips

This one is so my mom.

A Blissfully Twilight-less Week

I came home from my sleep study in no mood to sit with Stephenie Meyer's bullshit for the day. I'll get to the doubtless absurd world of vampire baseball next week.

Click to make large.

Lou Jacobi 1913-2009

I don't have anything else to say about him other than that he was always funny and always great.