Sunday, August 29, 2004

Heuristic Squelch Issue Review - Sept 2004

I don't feel as intense a need to critique the newest issue of the Heuristic Squelch as I usually do, which means either it's getting better or I'm growing accustomed to mediocrity. Let's assume it's the former.

FRONT COVER: Excellent. It warms my heart to see the familiar faces of editors emeritus gracing the cover, suggesting that this is a cover that could have, nay, should have existed during my own tenure at the Squelch. Thing is, even if we had thought of it, we probably wouldn't have created Mario costumes simply to use for a cover shoot. No, the costume party had to come first, then the natural progression into a cover photo. Boback's unintentional misspelling of "EXTRA" captures the charming, drug-addled dyslexia of an authentic street person. I'd heard rumors that the dull Oakland backdrop was to be replaced by game graphics, but it's just as well that this did not happen; I like the gritty realism on display. (Although really, was there not a more interesting wall to be found?)

PAGE 2: Words From the Top is too long. Cut a few words and you could have had a Yahoo Serious picture big enough to actually see, and not a postage stamp that accidentally got dropped into the layout. Aside from that it's decent. Loker really sets the tone for the issue, and presumably the year, with his brash mixture of high and low comedy. "A snowboarding midget with a sign strapped to his head that says 'Learning'" is impressively out-there, but let's watch out for the easy midget references. That makes one so far.

The Staff Box Theme suggests that at least one member of the staff did not miss out on VH1's I Love the '90s this summer. Careful, guys--early '90s nostalgia is dangerously close be being so over. Don't follow the crowd to Lewinsky-era nostalgia--leap ahead to the nostalgia of the 2010s. We'll catch up faster than you'd think.

This Month's Cover: Oops, hello there, Midget Joke #2. Didn't see you there. This one is appropriate, though, framed as a joke on non-super Mario.

Rick James Crack Pipe small text: No comment.

PAGE 3: "President Killed by Useless Jigaboos." Here's a test: Does a newsflash refer to the writer or "reporter" by name or otherwise? Does the writer explicitly draw attention to his own headline or make any other self-reference of any kind? If so, throw the writer out the window. After the defenestration, pin the newsflash on the wall and draw a sad face on it.

"New Cola" - This essentially a compilation of sarcastic statements taking the commercial at face value. Pros: The commercial in question is especially ludicrous in its depiction of C2 bringing universal euphoria, and as such is deserving of ridicule. Cons: Tearing down cheesy commercials is fish-in-a-barrel as far as satire is concerned. Could you write a newsflash like this for virtually any commercial on TV? Yes, in about the time it would take to watch one. You cleared the bar, Mark--just be aware you didn't set it very high.

"Man Successfully Programs VCR" - I initially feared this would actually be about the difficulty of programming a VCR. Congratulations, Aaron Brownstein, you had me going. I like that this turns into a vicious rant about how easy VCR programming actually is. On the downside, the run-on sentence is not as funny as it could be if it were a more readable sentence. It makes me say, "Oh, I get it," and then I skip to the end. In the spirit of Fornaca's wordiness-policing, I'll point out that "daintily" adds nothing to the last line. Also, the allegedly cruel assertion that stupid people shouldn't breed is T-shirt trite, and you can do better as far as anti-stupid ranting goes.

PAGE 4: The first headline in active voice would be "Cosmo Deems Voting "Out." What do you think? I like it better. Active voice will cull a lot of the pretentious wordiness that plagues current Squelch writers. As for the Newsflash, funny idea, but the middle two paragraphs don't actually provide any laughs to flesh it out. The first and last paragraphs are good, though.

"Aaron Sorkin" - Funny newsflash, and good Sorkin parody dialogue. I think the headline and the lead should say Sorkin "actually" talks that way, rather than "always"--since his speech is being compared to his shows, rather than a specific instance where we heard him personally talking in a strange way and wondered if it were a rare occurence. No need for "Report:" in the headline, either.

"Kerry...Kill Babies" - I like Dan Freedman's stuff better and better. One reason might be that he can't write well enough to show off with bad sentences and meaningless words, and his spare prose gets right to business. That directness ironically creates good writing that works in favor of this piece, and it highlights the satirical point on mudslinging campaigning. To be fair, I'm sure some editors did noble cleanup work on Dan's original chicken scratches and they are to be commended for making him presentable.

Check this out: "Student's Mind Literally Blown." I did it again. "Has" is a weak verb. Chuck it out the window with Aaron Brownstein. This is another trip back to the intellectual snob well of pointing out how people say "literally" while making figurative statements. I laughed at that a lot...when Sean pointed it out three years ago. Since then I've heard it from many people. I guess if you haven't, this newsflash would be clever. Let me propose that when people say "literally" when the mean "figuratively," the are actually using "literally" in a figurative manner to strengthen their figurative exaggeration. They don't know they're being meta-figurative, but essentially that's what's understood by the average listener. Whatever. Keep fighting the good fight, and people will learn to speak correctly.

"Students Rewarded for Showing Up" - Is the Certificate of Attendance part true, and the rest making fun of it? That's what I'm guessing. Or is it all made up, and the target is the exam? It's not clear, guys. Maybe that's my fault for not keeping up with this news. But even so, what's the point? Is it that the Certificate is an undeserved reward for poor students? Or is it that the Certificate is a pointless empty gesture (and not a reward at all)? Does Laura even know?

"Michael Moore Decides to Run" - I feel like this headline could have been phrased in a way that would strengthen the joke by sounding more political, like "Moore Announces Intent to Run" or something like that. Even so, short, simple, funny. The tag with the Feldspar man laughing is weak, and the phrase "hilariously noting" oversells the joke. The "less of Moore" line is a good bad joke that might have worked had it been better used.

PAGE 5: Bob Birgenaeu News Page. Too many Newflashes on one topic? Way to own it, guys.

"Not Yet Hardened." Eh. Boring.

"Mass E-Mail" - I imagine this is very funny to those who endured more Berdahl emails than I did. Even so, it could lose the second and especially the fourth paragraph without dropping a laugh.

"Crack Pizzo" - How Loker is this, honestly?! I hate "heck of" and "hell of" with their labored and unsuccessful attempts at proper grammar (Why not stick with the genuinely made-up word "hella" and announce your disregard for grammar proudly?). But they are utterly appropriate here. BAMN slam is theoretically funny, but the "reports unconfirmed at press time" construction fails to tickle me. Cut last paragraph and strengthen piece.

PAGE 6 - "Top Ten Porno Movies Starring Celebrities and Secretly Sponsored by Car Companies." Thank you. I'm pleased to see another list in the spirit of "Porno Movies About Cereal," dogpiling premises in a comedy gang bang, if you will, reducing the Porno Movies Premise to nonsensical tatters. 10 and 6 are the only okay jokes in it, but I really like the idea.

"Oscar Contention" list is pretty solid, especially 4 and 1.

"University Speech Codes" - It's all shock value, but I like the grammar nitpicks. It forces the magazine to not make those mistakes accidentally. And okay, it's pretty funny. But the dolphin line is weak and by then the piece wears out its welcome. Gook joke #1.

PAGE 7 - "Welcome Week" - I swear Sean wrote this piece three years ago, and only just published it now. I remember him reading it off of Post-Its. Or maybe it was in his blog. I guess if you miss out on that first issue, you've just got to hang on to it for one more year. It's still sharp, except for the dated-sounding joke. Why do I get the sense that this joke originally had a address. Oh, right, because it's three years old.

Short Conversations - Didn't there used to be at least a couple real conversations in these? Anyway, Bruce Wayne's age at the time of his parents death varies in the comics. Eight, ten, and twelve are the most common ages used, but it never went into the teens.
And more Birgenau! It's weird to start off this running gag with an ad. Shouldn't we see a joke first?

PAGE 8 - Health Care for the Streets - Solid. I liked it. Very Monica. I don't have as much to say when I like things.

PAGE 9 - I'm unqualified to judge this, as I know nothing of sports. Gargamel and the Smurfs is the funniest section to me, the way it's written totally straight except for including Gargamel and the Smurfs. Sean is an old pro--maybe the oldest, ever, where the Squelch is concerned--but I think this piece would read better on his blog, where it no doubt originally appeared. It's an odd fit for the magazine, though I can't say exactly why.

CENTER SPREAD - Not very visual, and in general spreads should be, but it's fine to change it up sometimes. This would have been a great MAD piece (toned down a bit, of course), especially in the '70s, when they did more text-heavy features. Are they really written by the three writers specified? "Pincushion for Dicks" seems crasser than the Mark Thomas I know, but then, I don't know Mark Thomas that well. Not that a different side can't come out in writing; after all, Fornaca was writing about girls' pee-holes and love-slots before he knew the difference between them, and Deenihan's ignorance of the female anatomy was legendary. Whatever.

PAGE 12 - Three Investigators: The Adventure of the Dead Pope - Who are the Three Investigators? This sounds vaguely familiar, but as a nostalgia-based piece its obscurity rivals Turbo Teen. The comedy hinges largely on the assumption that the word "Pope" is automatically funny, which it is, but beware: Once you realize a word is always funny it's only a matter of weeks before it's not funny at all. The style is suitably cheesy, but aside from that, I don't get much out of this. Maybe I would if I knew the Three Investigators. Nice art, though.

PAGE 13 - The title could do without O! and the ellipses, which I find more obnoxious than funny. Or it could acknowledge the mold from which it springs by simply calling itself "Bureaucracy Over Time."

Rome is the best, then Cairo (but only the "Write a hieroglyphic message to someone who cares" line). The Aztec one could use less of the self-conscious references to the future, which could be integrated more elegantly ("What if invaders bring disease?" "That will never happen!" for example. Clumsy, yes, but funnier than repeated self-reference). Any William Henry Harrison joke now makes me think of the "Caretaker Presidents" song from the Simpsons, and I always assume that the writer was also thinking of that song when they wrote their joke.

Birgeneau quote: Funny.

PAGE 14 - T.S.M.I.T.W. - Excellent. Very strong. Consistent and laugh-worthy all the way through. The Girl segment drags a little, but not enough to hurt the piece. Top Five Morally Ambiguous Acts is also very good. Top Ten Most Important Questions Answered by the Internet sucks. It's basically a list of specific references to funny or curious websites, and might as well just say, "Hey, have you seen this? Me too! Funny, isn't it? Isn't it cool how we both recognize this?" Well, okay, that's really only 6 and 3, as far as I know, but it still makes the list lame.

PAGE 15 - Like the art. Monica's right, the Holocaust joke is really bad. I like the spilling salt joke, and the line "He will still be your enemy, but now the stakes are higher." Otherwise the piece doesn't to much for me.

SCAP!: Ugh.

PAGE 16 - The jumping spider line is fun. Other than that, this piece feels pointless. What's with the "Asian Immigration Office" joke, you racist? Good Birgeneau quote again.

PAGE 19 - Hey, it's easy to make the parties look the same! All you have to do is ignore the single most divisive issue in the world today! If you wanted, you could have played off the Democrats' inability to reconcile their anti-war sentiments with their desire to not look soft on defense. But the parties still might have seemed too different, so you covered your ears and shut your eyes, and the piece feels like it's written by someone in 2000, back when everyone claimed there was no difference between Bush and Gore. You didn't want this to be, you know, relevant or anything, did you?

The gay marriage comparison is very sharp. The money bags are nonsense, but funny. The last two are a waste of time.

The Spanish part is nice and subtle--I didn't read it at first, and missed the joke. And while it's kind of funny, the piece fails to make clear why poor or colored people are disenfranchised or why whites would want them to stay that way. The Spanish is still funny in a purely mean-spirited way. It's shallow, that's all.

BACK COVER - Nice design. The yellowish color and plain fonts really capture the right feel. The art is good too, especially the X-Ray Specs art--is that actually from a real ad? I like this cover piece. The comedy feels smooth and effortless, not labored like many of the features within. I like pretty much every gag on this page. The baby is the weakest one.

Whoa, I just noticed that Zack is back in his Design Editor post. So he's there, up all night, doing thankless layout chores, surrounded by the new staff? I didn't know that until just now. Does that include creative influence? Does that mean he won't be doing his own brutal issue critique? I hope not. That would make me sad.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Very Scary

The chicks in Scary Go Round were hot before, but as Mafia girls--Yowza!

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Sell Out

I signed up for a site stat service so I can see if anyone reads this besides the people whose blogs I link to. So now there's an ad at the bottom of the page, and I just wanted to give you all a heads up to watch out and not click on it. It's for a stupid computer clock adjuster (at least right now that's what it is) and it's from Gator, also known as The Worst Company In The World.

If their junk installs itself on your computer--and it will without the slightest warning, after as little as one click--it's really tough to get rid of. A month or so ago, I nearly drove to Mountain View for the sole purpose of brutally murdering Gator's entire workforce. What I'm trying to say is, be careful and please don't support my advertiser. They suck ass, balls, and anything and everything else in the genital region.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Action!: The Film School Chronicles

No doubt many are curious about what it is like to attend one of the nation's most prestigious film schools. It is like this:

Day One: The majority of Day One is spent trudging back and forth between a building on campus and the car, to add money to the one-hour-limit meter a block away from campus where Stephanie parked because the Parking Center (which we paid a large sum of money for the privilege to use) is full.

Let me clarify: Stephanie and I share a parking pass, so on this day she drops me off in the morning and plans to come back and park in the Parking Center, a big garage. But it is full when she arrives, so she parks at a meter near my building (a block off campus) and goes to her meeting. By the time I get out of my class, she's in her meeting and I can't reach her. I add money and go to find her, but can't. After waiting and searching for an hour, I return to the car to add more money to the meter, at which point she finally gets out of her meeting and calls. I still must finish the trek to the meter, add money, and go all the way back to pick up the keys (once we agree on a drop-off point, since she has another class), then back to the car yet again to drive it to the garage, away from that hellish curse of a parking space.

All this walking wouldn't be a big deal if my increasingly heavy laptop bag weren't digging into my shoulder the whole time. Bringing the laptop turns out to be pointless anyway, since the downtime I had expected to use the laptop to fill is being eaten up by the walking-back-and-forth business. This totals about an hour and fifteen minutes of time, or two and a half laps. I pep-talk myself with reminders that carrying a heavy laptop is nothing compared to what Olympic athletes go through.

Also, I went to some classes.

Day Two: A skateboard is preferable to a computer, I decide. But my wish to navigate campus unfettered by heavy objects is once again thwarted when I am the first to take home an expensive video camera and tripod, with which I must shoot something within the next two days before passing it on to a classmate.

Fortunately, Stephanie arrives at exactly the right time for me to load the stuff right into the car. Of course, I cannot leave this stuff unattended, so today my downtime consists of me driving home to put the camera away, then driving back to campus. While I am at home I eat the lunch that Stephanie packed and brought for me to eat at school.

Also, there is much homework.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Worth a Go Round

Tycho of Penny Arcade plugged Scary Go Round a few weeks ago, calling it something like "as good as comics get." I don't know if that's true, but it is very good. It's taken me a few sittings to really get into the swing of things, given the multitude of characters and complex continuity, but now it's sucked me in and wasted pretty much my whole evening.

At first the art seems kind of stiff and the rhythms of the humor feel a bit odd. It helps to realize that the strip is British, and you should read the characters' lines with an English accent in your head, with that dryness that the English bring to absurd situations. In some ways it's reminiscent of South Park with its brightly colored, flat-looking art style, as well as its casual use of supernatural elements and cartoonish violence for comic effect. The characters, however, are not only older and cuter, but much more on the likable and charming side.

When you go to the site, you'll find fourteen boxes at the bottom of the page, each of which represent a different story arc in the series. I recommend starting with a couple of early ones ("Fair" is a particularly good jumping-off point), and giving yourself a couple of story arcs to get used to it. The cuteness and the Britishness make me think that Lydia and Sarah especially would like this (assuming Sarah's not reading it already, either through the same Penny Arcade connection that introduced me to the strip or her own extensive webcomic reading).

If you do like it, you can eventually explore the less-pleasantly-drawn origins of the characters in the Ur-Scary-Go-Round strip, Bobbins. Seriously, though, the art is pretty ugly, so don't go until you already love the characters for their personalities.

Sunday, August 22, 2004


Stephanie and I start classes at USC this week; Stephanie starts her second year and I start my first. This weekend we took our only vacation of the summer. Stephanie has been wanting to go to Hearst Castle since school got out in the spring, and we've been too busy to ever go. We set aside this, our last free weekend, to make the dream a reality.

On Saturday we drove up to San Simeon to check out the castle. A large-format movie (IMAX without the trademark) did a good job of making Hearst seem like a decent fellow despite its cast of laughable actors. Nice photography of Hearst Castle, but much more of the California coastline and European sights that inspired Julia Morgan's architecture. The place was impressive, but I don't want to write about it. If rich men's houses full of centuries-old art treasures turn you on, check it out. Also, amazing swimming pools no one will ever get to swim in again. I wonder if the tour guides ever go after hours. They should. If they don't, it's a waste.

We stayed the night at the Days Inn in Morro Bay, where they had a lukewarm hot tub that holds about five people, provided those people are trim and do not demand reasonable amounts of personal space. Essentially, it's not so much a hotel spa as the kind of hot tub you install in your backyard, if you have a small backyard. We were soon joined in the spa by Barry Livingston and his family. Livingston plays the press secretary in the upcoming Katie Holmes film First Daughter, which we discussed. However, he didn't mention that he was also a child actor on My Three Sons, a role that no doubt led to his role as "Himself" in Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star.

Stephanie and I bought toy cars with Morro Bay surfboards on top of them. The cars have magnets glued onto them so they stick to the refrigerator. Stephanie got a New Mini Cooper and I got a white VW Beetle. We also bought little dishes for soy sauce, and I got a cool new jacket that I look awesome in. And new shoes at the outlet stores on the way back. Okay, this is stupid boring now.


Newlyweds used to be a marginally enjoyable guilty pleasure, as we saw for the first time that Jessica Simpson was even dumber than we suspected (if we'd ever even given it a thought), and how funny it was when Nick would have to deal with his wife's staggering idiocy.

As heavily edited as it always was, at least there used to be gems the editors could pick out to show us. Now the show seems constructed out of editing and absolutely nothing else. Every episode sees Nick and Jessica split up and dealing with their own storylines. Nick goes to a surfing invitational in Fiji (even though he's never surfed before) and Jessica goes to a video shoot in New Orleans. Exciting, huh?

Nick listens to the heavily-accented ramblings of his Fijian guide, and the soundtrack clues us in that the guy is creepy on account of his dark skin and jungle tools. Nick falls down a lot surfing but eventually stays on his surfboard. Jessica struggles to stay calm as her crew releases doves around her. She gets pooped on. This is worth half an hour of airtime by what standard? Watching marital quibbles was amusing, but now MTV splits the pair up and sends them on solo jaunts that play like home movies with fast cuts and music. Come to think of it, these days, home movies do have those things. Why is this a TV show?

As boring as it is, the fakeness still shows through. We cut back and forth from an angle inside Nick's white-water raft to an angle outside, where the cameraman who must have been in the raft has disappeared. Slick! It's like watching a movie! This makes the show feel more constructed, not less.

To make up for splitting up the "newlyweds" (How long have they been married now, anyway?) of the title, Nick is constantly paired up with his brother and Jessica has been given a friend who lives in her house for no perceptible reason besides the fact that having a fellow dumb blonde along worked awfully well on Paris Hilton's reality show (which in turn, cribbed its dumb rich blonde act from Newlyweds in the first place). Boring boring boring, and fake. Why do reality shows have to be so obvious about their fakeness? Seinfeld plays like a documentary compared to this.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Four Swords

If you click on only one link from Lydia this summer, make it this one. Apparently Matt originally sent this around. What's the story with these? Where do they come from? I want to know more.

Also if anyone reading the essays neglected to go one level back on that website, you're missing out on this bizarre item. I can't quite endorse it as being "great," or even "good," but as a curiosity it's worth checking out. I expect that the inappropriateness of some of the sound effects will pain Zack even more than they do me.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Links to the Past

Maybe everyone saw these already, but Cynthia's cat restaurant news story also had links to this and this.

Ah, the strange news section.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004


Apparently Blogger replaced the ads at the top of the page with the Blogger NavBar, to make it easier to post. Hm.

These ads during the Olympics for the cop show Hawaii are really awful.

Some cops inspect a body.
Some guy with an accent: This head was chopped off!
Smug Cop 1: That's a homicide.
Smug Cop 2: [smiling brightly] That's a homicide.

I'm sure I'm missing some context here, but I don't want my TV cops to be that cheerful about homicide.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Early Sport

It makes sense that the early Olympics included discus, javelin, and shotput. They were really trying hard to come up with new sports, and it showed.

"I've got a new one. You take this thing, and you throw it as far as you can, and then you see who threw it the farthest."

"We've got that one already."

"This is different. Are you ready for this? It's not a spear. It's not a disc. You throw a ball."

"A ball? Anyone can throw a ball."

"Yeah, but this one will be really heavy."


Do all countries just come up with a national anthem on their own? Like, they all just knew, at some point, "We should have a song for our country"?

The first time countries all got together, was it like, "Hey, what's your anthem? Oh, cool, this is ours [sings anthem]. Hey, how about you guys, what's your anthem?"

"Um... our anthem... um."

"What, seriously? You don't have an anthem?"

"We never really thought about it..."

"Dude, everyone's got one."

"No one told us. Shit."

Monday, August 16, 2004

Okay, okay...

The Olympics are kind of cool.

"This is pretty much the worst video ever made."

Napoleon Dynamite is funny and full of highly quotable lines. I normally can't stand when other people quote movies, but even I can't resist doing Napoleon's monotone. It's fun. Even though the movie is just as shallow as the critics say--there's not much to it beyond laughing at the characters and how silly they look and act--it's funny stuff since it's all played so deadpan. The only weak spot is perhaps the numerous scenes in which we hear flies buzzing around in the silence, as if to highlight their rural-America slowness. It kind of belabors the point.

I think the reason it works, even though the jokes are mostly at the Napoleon's expense, is that his dorky behavior rings true. No one actually looks as extreme as Napoleon, but you recognize traces of his behavior in people you've known, or maybe even yourself. He talks like we did in elementary school, answering questions with an annoyed "What do you think?!" or punctuating his frustration with a clipped utterance of "Idiot!"--all with a specifically childlike emphasis. The print campaign for the movie has wisely seized on these innocuous but infectiously quotable phrases, which require actor Jon Heder's distinctive delivery for their comic punch.

Another highlight are the recognizable pieces of '80s and early '90s production design, from the top-loading VCR to Napoleon's funny pants, to the Trapper Keeper I swear I used to own. Bizarrely, the presence of the Internet suggests a contemporary setting, which makes the whole story seem to take place in an imaginary non-time, or maybe that's just the unfashionable midwest for you.

So, yeah. It's not genuine Wes Anderson genius, and you can certainly see why some detractors have pointed out the way it cribs an Anderson feel, but not everything has to be Rushmore. Some things can just be goofy fun, and using that style works in Napoleon's favor.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Incredibly Unwatchable

Conan O'Brien had another gimmick episode tonight. Some may remember the "claymation" episode, in which a rerun of Late Night was rendered entirely in clay. This was funny for about two minutes, fascinating for ten, and excruciating for forty-eight. I didn't make it to the second guest. Then again, one seldom watches through the second guest on an ordinary episode, so maybe that doesn't mean anything.

Tonight's gimmick was that the entire show was an infomercial called "Incredible Viewables" devoted to selling the Conan 10th Anniversary Special DVD and the Best of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog DVD. It's an infomercial parody, but also a real infomercial in that it aims to sell you things.

They had a new "infomercial" set and a tiny audience clapping with exaggerated enthusiasm right on cue, and Conan wore an ugly sweater and turtleneck. Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner joined Conan in co-hosting the infomercial. They made cheesy jokes and forced banter and would cue the audience to clap. Interestingly, since the audience was fake, they weren't actually cued to laugh. This meant that after jokes, Conan and Bruce Jenner would pause for laughter and get painfully dead silence, an unsettling effect that was presumably intentional. Nevertheless, it made it difficult to watch, because it really made it feel like uncomfortable, failing comedy.

At one point Triumph really lays into Jenner, who is apparently an amazingly good sport in addition to being good at sport. After a series of insults like "You look as good as you did on the Wheaties box...if it was run through a shredder!!" Triumph says: "Hey, all you Olympians in Athens. Take a look at this guy. This is where you'll be in thirty years. And that's if you win the gold!" There's also an amusing running joke where Conan and Bruce Jenner are caught making bizarre small talk each time they comes back from commercial.

It does get old, though, not at all unlike watching a real infomercial. There's even a commercial bumper in the form of an ad for the DVDs that gets used twice, in identical form. I get the feeling I was the only person in America dumb enough to watch it to the end.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Majoring in Poverty

To all those pragmatic people who majored in Computer Science because it was more "practical" for a "career" and looked down on "useless" liberal arts degrees that could only lead to "working at McDonald's"--

In your face! Welcome to the club. Would you like fries with that?

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Kind Of Almost Near Award-Winning

My script, Escape From Pleasanton Middle School, reached the Quarterfinalist level before getting knocked out of competition in this years Scriptapalooza contest. That's cool, I guess, since according to their email to me, only about the top ten percent of entries make it to that level. On the other hand, if you look at the list, that's still an awful lot of scripts, many with dumb-sounding titles.

It is some kind of recognition, though. Is it impressive at all to bill a script as a "Scriptapalooza Quarterfinalist?"

Friday, August 06, 2004

Comic Strip Reviews: Fox Trot

Fox Trot used to be one of my favorite comic strips. In high school I bought the books, and I have every Fox Trot collection up through Welcome to Jasorassic Park; I don't know how many that is, but it's somewhat of a lot. Maybe I've grown out of the strip and I'm romanticizing it in retrospect, but I feel like it used to have more depth than it does now.

(Incidentally, most "Comic Strip Reviews" on this blog are really a way for me to complain about comic strips, so don't look for too many positive reviews.)

The strength of Fox Trot has always been its characters and its extended story arcs, like Paige's attempts to get a prom date, Peter and Jason's moral struggle with whether to return an lost envelope of money, the family's disatrous vacations, or Jason's epic, summer-long arc at Camp Bohrmore science camp. But lately, the arcs go nowhere (see the recent arc where Jason designs a jPod to compete with iPod, or the metabolically gifted Peter's sudden weight gain and equally sudden weight loss), and the gags too often groan-worthy puns or cheap sight gags.

Bill Amend has been gravitating toward more visual humor for awhile, which is important, since comics are a visual medium. But his sight gags never satisfy, they just break the reality of the strip and ultimately feel kind of lazy.

Not all of the strips are lame. Some of them still register in the old Fox Trot style, although none of them have the freshness to me that they once had. I'm just observing a general trend in the series that bothers me.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Where Cars and Anime Collide get this. I take issue with the description of a "Herbie the Love Bug style cartoon car," as Herbie never winked or glared, and didn't have expressive eyelids except in annoying promotional art. True, he did turn his headlights in Monte Carlo and Bananas, but that's a far cry from these cars.

I've always wanted a car that could display scrolling messages to the persons in front of or behind you. This isn't that, but it's a start in car-to-car communication.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

The Olympics bore me

So, apparently it's Olympics time again. There are the colorful rings on the cover of my Time magazine, along with a big picture of U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps. What's the spacing between the Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics? Are they two years apart? The same year? I don't even pay attention, I just know that the Olympics, whatever it is, sure seems to show up more than once every four years.

Oh, sure, if a TV is on, I'll watch the athletic feats on display. I'll be mildly entertained by the exercise of comparing the numbers the judges put up with my own uninformed mental estimates. But I don't seek it out, or care about the winners.

This surely has to do with my apathy for watching or following sports in general, but the Olympics feel even more daunting. At least if you follow football or basketball or something, the teams are always there and you can keep track of them. Here, a bunch of athletes just show up and we're supposed to care who wins. Luckily it's easy to fall back on rooting for America, but actually knowing the names of our up-and-comers? Way too much work.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

A Minor Incident Concerning a Valet

So I was at Miyagi's on Sunset a couple weeks ago, which I only mention because it feels very satisfyingly LA to say I was someplace "on Sunset," and creates the impression that my living here actually has effects beyond me sitting in an apartment surrounded by a different city than that which used to surround my apartment.

Anyway, because it's LA and because it's a trendy eatery on Sunset, there are painfully gorgeous cars driving up to be parked via the mandatory valet parking. The really nice ones, they're apparently afraid to drive too far. Either that or they like having them in front of the restaurant, just like the car wash on the corner has the same sparkling Jaguar parked prominently every day, as if we don't realize it's the owner planting it there like the first dollar in a tip jar. Back at Miyagi's, someone gets out of a luscious black Ferrari and the valets just leave it there.

Eventually I notice that a valet is actually getting into the Ferrari. Does he dare? Is he really going to re-park it? That would be so cool, getting to drive this perfect, spotless, pristine masterpiece of Italian sports car. And yet, one would also be paralyzed with fear. What if one should scratch it, or grind the gears? This is simultaneously the best and worst part of being a valet. He pulls it forward, around the car in front of it. Then he rolls down the window as the other valets snap photos of him in the car. Then he parks the Ferrari in front of the car it had been parked behind. He got in it and drove it esseentially just to move it one car length forward. Was that necessary? Or were they really just playing? Would a Ferrari owner be cool with that? I think it would bother me.

On the way out I noticed, on closer inspection, that the Ferrari had some fingerprint smudges on it after all. Piece of junk.