Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Heuristic Squelch Issue Critique - October 2004

Here's my take on this month's Heuristic Squelch, as addressed to those responsible.

Here we go. I started to read Kevin’s critique first, then decided I wanted to do this fresh.

COVER: Pretty funny. Doesn’t quite take a side but still more overtly political than any cover I can remember. I’m not saying that’s good or bad necessarily. It does make it very timely, which is good.

PAGE 2: Kevin, I think emeriti can be any former editor. I think Allen Haim was in there for awhile. I don’t mind if you drop me for space. All I do is write these critiques and at this point I think I’ve been an Emeritus about as long as I was a real editor. Incidentally, these critiques should stop, as there’s no point in making current staffers constantly feel like second class citizens on the magazine they create. Anyway, onward!

Small text not funny. I remember being a contributor on the Squelch and getting a huge thrill out of seeing my name in the staff box after having contributed exactly one top ten joke that made it in the issue. That should take priority. I’m biased because I read the email exhange already, but the small text is not so funny anyway. Also, don’t forget to have a space before the staff box theme parentheticals. Did you not have space for those either?

I concur with Kevin on the WFTT response to critics. The piece is okay funny-wise, it’s just the principle of the thing.

NEWSFLASHES: Am I ever sick of this format. I’m getting to hate them before I even read them. But we’ll try to be fair. Cellophane is kinda funny, though I have no idea what it means. I’ve always liked the word Cellophane, though, especially in Cole Porter tunes like “You’re the Top.” (I’m not gay.) I don’t think Guinness the record people have anything to do with the beer, which makes the Guinness NF confusing, which makes it not funny. Also not a fan of Brady’s frat party NF. It’s an engineering frat? Is that the joke? The caps of homosexual angst don’t seem to fit the tone.

Pedophile NF is 2nd best of issue. 1st place is Hipsters Rally Around Bush. Hipsters headline should not have left only one word on the second line. I like the last two paragraphs of “Problem Found” but not the first two. Maybe they’re part of the same reference I’m not getting, but the second half was funny anyway, the first half wasn’t.

Wasting Life NF feels like I’ve seen something very similar in The Onion. Could just be a coincidence, as The Onion has coincidentally matched many things I’ve written, not to mention they hit camera phones this week, etc. They have a way of doing that. But it still felt like I’d seen it somewhere.

PAGE 6: BRAIN TEASERS – Funny. Esp. answer to word prob and Now Failure Poverty. It took me a long time to figure out the Lee Majors one, so these are pretty good brain teasers (I’m an English major).

First 3 top tens on this page also very good. Surprised there’s no Song of the South or Tar Baby reference in the Blaxploitation Disney list.

PAGE 7: BERKELEY VS. VISTA – Quite good. Is this true about Brownstein going to Vista?

Lists on this page are just okay. “Fat Bottomed Girls (Are Unacceptable)” was pretty good. The Scientist pick up lines are often cheesy and painful but I love the Schrodinger’s Cat line. Always a fan of Schrodinger’s Cat humor.

PAGE 8: SETI – Still not great but an improvement over the version sent out to the writer’s list.

PAGE 9: FRANKENSTEIN – “Arrgh! Maybe?” my favorite line. Strong piece, but it’s Sean, so… “Hey, nice painting. Who? Da Vinci? Yeah, that painting is all right.” The title layout could have been more elegant. Different font sizes or something?

SPREAD: SPIDER-MAN
Great artwork. Really sells it. Makes the jokes funnier than they would be. The Daredevil joke is a little hard to understand and I’m not quite sure what the premise is—that is, what “emotional spider-sense” does. It doesn’t seem to tell him anything that isn’t immediately apparent in the situation. Like MJ tells him what she’s thinking even as he senses it. Is that the joke? Sorry. Still funny, though. It comes close to the typical college humor magazine tone of comic parodies, which is usually “funny, but hard to follow and makes little sense.” This is better than most, but still comes close to that style. I’m being nice because the art is so dang good.

PAGE 12: I GET ARRESTED…
Very Mark Thomas title. Slow to start (Valero part is crap) but some strong lines in there. I like the part about creating IJT magazine, and “wasn’t so much a premiere as it was embarrassing.” And the premise that kind of contradicts itself. And the “solid dose of awesome” closer.

PAGE 13: PEN PALS
More sad than funny. And sweatshop jokes are nothing new. This could have used shorter letters and more beats to build some escalation into the structure. Also, jokes! Put some of those in, it’ll really spice things up. Seriously, though, I didn’t think the girl using B-ball terms was that funny either. Also, Simon, I fucked your mom and she’s pregnant with your half-brother.

PAGE 14: EXTRA LIVES
The premise sounds promising but ultimately the piece isn’t that funny. The first three are okay, not great. Then it gets boring. And another Ferdinand joke! Kevin, you’re right about the NF being obvious, but I think you disliked it partly because it stepped on your reference.

PAGE 15: STAND AND DELIVER
More clueless white people unintentionally slamming minorities. Oh, white people! When will you learn to be sensitive and PC? Hopefully never, so we won’t have to give up using racial slurs and disguising it as a satire on white ignorance. Okay, that’s only a small part of this. The rest, however, never feels as strong as it should. Baal, the golden calf? Whatever.

TOP TENS – Not embarrassing but no standouts here.

PAGE 17: MAGICAL REALISM
Did you ever read the Magical Realism piece in the Lampoon? It was pretty funny as I recall. This was a few years back but it should be in the office somewhere. This piece is pretty dense and hard to commit to reading. The fat chick joke here might make one too many for this issue. After the NF and the top ten and probably somewhere else too. Well-written and creative but often still feels like a frame for cheap shock humor couched in satire.

PAGE 18: WONDER YEARS
Funny, esp. “In class” and “Gambling.” The boulder stuff is weird but I like the premise of him failing to save someone during his monologue. Overall enjoyable.

However, wildly dated. Obviously no one expects Wonder Years stuff to be timely but is it even old enough to be nostalgia? Maybe so. Maybe I am just old. It’s on Nick at Nite now, probably. Did you know Charles in Charge is on Nick at Nite? Charles in fucking Charge. What a piece of shit show. I used to watch it. I had no idea it was so bad. Oh, but back to the piece. “Hilarity ensued” is not funny any more, and saying it twice is even more not funny any more. Even more not funny anymore.

PAGE 19: CAMERA PHONE
Good concept. I know what the “shocker” is, if only because I saw it on Matt’s collegehumor.com links and then looked it up on urbandictionary (how hip am I??). I can’t tell if Matt’s frequent use of the shocker, here and in his Daily Cal pic, is sincere shocker pride or in the spirit of ironic mockery. If it’s ironic, I approve.

However, if that is the case, the irony doesn’t come across here. The use of the shocker in all these pictures feels too much like people actually thinking it’s cool and funny to do this secret dirty gesture that other people don’t understand. In other words, maybe too much like actual phone-cam poses. What am I trying to say? The juxtaposition is funny but I don’t feel like the idiotic attitudes of phone-cam subjects are being mocked clearly enough. By the way, is that overrepresented at collegehumor.com and its ilk, or do people seriously do the shocker all the time now? Is that for real? That is so dumb.

This month’s critique feels less mean. I guess that means the issue was pretty good. Seriously, guys, just do whatever you want and don’t kill the magazine. Have the freedom to experiment and do what you think is funny without worrying the has-beens will put you down. I don’t know how much attention y’all pay to these things but I feel like if people had been doing this to me I would have enjoyed the detailed feedback but ultimately it might have seemed less fun.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Correction: the Guinness record-book folks and the Guinness pint-must-not-be-rushed folks are indeed one and the same. Boo-ya.

I'll be sending my own critique to the writers list shortly.

- Eamon

Anonymous said...

I always appreciate constructive criticism. Comedy is, I think, one of the best mediums for intelligent collaboration because of the nature of jokes and one-liners.

I do tend, however, to end up discounting much of each critique as all of the various squelchers end up contradicting each other over and over again about which piece is funny and which isn't.

For instance, in one critique I'm described as growing "my wings" as a writer, in the other, my mother is pregnant with a bastard child. But that's the nature of opinion I suppose.

Thank you for the less than brutal critique. After the first round of reviews for the first issue I expected to beaten within an inch of my life for putting my name on two pages.

-Simon

Aaron said...

My only response to this critique is to request that you continue writing them. I love these critiques. Even the last one where you suggested I be thrown out a window.

Of course it's important to me that people like what I do, and the comments are often helpful. More than that though, these critiques are a joy for me to read simply because it means someone REALLY CARES. Someone is actually paying close attention to what we've worked so hard to create. Even when you hate it, at least you cared enough to tell us why.

Thanks for the feedback.