Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Monday, February 27, 2006

It's That Time Again



The John Kerwin Show interviews Kelly LeBrock, who starred in the films The Woman in Red, Weird Science, and Hard to Kill.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Don Knotts

Don Knotts has died. He was awesome. His goofiness was so natural and genuine that it didn't matter how broad or ridiculous his characters were, or whether the jokes he had to deliver were good or just plain dopey. Knotts' uniquely loopy delivery made things hilarious all by itself.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Abandoned Baby

Here is a piece I wrote about two years ago that was never used for anything. I believe what happened was that National Lampoon's website didn't want it. Now you can see why! I was probably shooting for their College Corner section, hence the obnoxious college-y subject matter. I don't think I've posted this here before, but if I have, just remind me and I'll be embarrassed.

A Guide to Dormcest

So, you’re off to college and finally ready to find that special someone—that singular individual willing to do all those dirty things you heard the cool kids talking about back in high school. And because you’re not ready to indulge in the date-rape bacchanalia of frat parties, or because you’re a guy and frats won’t let you in, that means sooner or later you’ll fall back on dating someone in your own dorm, possibly even on your own floor, even though everyone warned you not to do it. Well, if you’re going to make this mistake, you might as well do it right. So before you get started, make sure you familiarize yourself with these important guidelines:

1. Choose your mate carefully.

Avoid those with too many roommates (i.e. living in triples). The more roommates you both have, the more people you will annoy with your behavior, and the more people will dedicate their lives to turning the entire floor against you.

Let’s say you’re making out with some girl on your floor. Let’s also say you’re a guy (the alternative, while hot, is far too distracting). Her roommates are trying hard to ignore it, but of course they can’t because you two are disgusting. Next thing you know, the whole building is talking about how you poison kittens for fun. Who do you think started that rumor? That’s right: your sister, right after she saw you poisoning a kitten eight years ago. But your girlfriend’s roommates wouldn’t be spreading that rumor if they weren’t so sick of watching you roll around sucking face in their already overcrowded room.

Needless to say, this problem is exacerbated when both parties live in triples, where slave-ship conditions make privacy that much harder to come by. It is not helped by the fact that you do indeed continue to poison kittens to this day.

2. Do not make out in common areas.

Chances are, people are already looking at you funny over the whole kitten thing. Don’t make it worse by making out in a hallway or a study lounge, fumbling with bra clasps and the like.

No wants to see the glops of saliva stretching between your parting lips after a sloppy, too-wet kiss. You make them envy the blind girl on the second floor, not only because she’s blind and does not have to witness your nauseating display, but also because if they had a cane like hers they could use it to hit your face.

There’s no gentle way to put this: If you make out in the hall, you will be more hated than that guy in the next building who looked the other way while his friend raped and killed a little girl in a Vegas restroom. At least his room doesn’t smell like dead kittens. Seriously, throw them out!

3. Don’t worry about whether your roommate is really asleep or only pretending.

Chances are, if he's actually awake and can hear you, he wishes he were dead, which is almost like being dead, which is almost like sleep. At least, that’s what you told yourself the first time you put Windex in Mittens’ water dish. And don't let your roommate’s muffled sobs distract you from doing the deed. He's not disgusted, he's just jealous. And frightened.

4. Sex in the co-ed showers.

So gross. Also, even if your rationale is that kittens are so cute and you love them so much that you just have to kill them, don’t share this with your mate, especially after telling her how cute she is and how much you love her.

5. Keeping your personal space.

If your significant other lives on your floor, that means you can and will see her all the time. She will never leave. Your relationship is still young; you need your space. If you don't get your space, it will be impossible to cheat on her.

So plan ahead: Date someone from another building and cheat on her with someone on your floor. This way, the cheating is convenient, and if you ever want to get away, just explain that you're going somewhere with your real girlfriend and she can't come. Bingo! You don't even need to have a real girlfriend, as long as the girl from your floor thinks that you do.

“Isn’t all this lying and cheating dishonest and immoral?” Big words from a kitty-poisoner.

5. Before beginning your affair, be sure to make friends with everyone else on your floor.

This way, you’ll be the good guy after the breakup and not a complete social pariah. You see, you’re going to break up, and it’s going to be ugly. Without this preliminary measure, people will only hear your ex’s side of the story once you break up, and they will all hate you.

Yes, your bland Dining Hall dinner will be seasoned with the salt of your tears as you sit alone at the next table, listening to your ex tell all your floormates about your obnoxious habits and your unsuccessful attempt to get her to poison kittens with you. Silently cursing her lies, you’ll debate whether you should save some kitten poison for her next time. Allow me to settle the issue for you: Cool it with the poison, already.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Thoughts On The End Of Arrested Development

It’s still up in the air whether Arrested Development will return on ABC or Showtime, but the last of the FOX episodes aired last Friday. As of a few weeks ago, creator Mitch Hurwitz was still on the fence over whether to continue the series.

The last of the episodes were designed to offer some closure, so that if the show ends here it will be reasonably satisfying, yet they also leave some threads dangling so that the show has somewhere to go if it does come back. That said, there was a surprising amount of closure. Ron Howard’s narration closes the show with “It was Arrested Development,” and instead of “On the next…” he says, “On the epilogue…” So it all feels very much like an ending.

For those of you still working your way through the DVDs, here is a

SPOILER WARNING

…and on with the show.

Resolutions

Most surprising was that the main story arc of the series, George Sr.’s arrest, came to an end. Another long-running story, George Michael’s infatuation with Maeby, reached a turning point but remains frustratingly unresolved. There may not be a truly satisfying way to end this story, but as it is, it falls just short of the closure we’re hoping for.

Where Would It Go From Here?

If the show ended here, that would be okay. As Bruce Wayne repeatedly muses in The Dark Knight Returns, “This would make a fine death.” It's easier to accept when the show actually presents you with an ending, rather than when you just hear about a cancellation.

But here, in the end of season three, it is the unpredictable plot twists that offer the most excitement, and the show’s amazing arsenal of running gags threatens to wear thin. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all still funny. Arrested is an incredible humor study in how many ways you can recontextualize a single joke. It’s like a symphony of comedy, re-using rhythms and in-jokes on top of one another in a masterful build until you don’t even remember where a joke began, but it’s hilarious that it’s still going. Early in season three it started to feel like the writers grew too self-conscious that callbacks were a trademark of the show, and they started to feel forced and predictable (“Her?” in particular was overused quite a bit). As the season has progressed they have found the groove again and introduced new running jokes to keep things fresh.

I’m getting sidetracked. The point I was driving at is that by the end of the third season, one wonders whether there is much left for the show to do. The show is practically a Moebius strip, looping back on itself with increasingly absurd riffs on the same themes—but how much further can you take Tobias and his repressed homosexuality, or George Michael’s impossible crush on his cousin? The show could probably keep it funny—who would have thought you could play out an incest joke for this long, after all?—but would we actually find anything new?

I don't know, maybe we would, maybe not. But it's worth asking. I’m just thinking on the page at this point. It’s actually hard to judge the show’s potential based on the third season. These last few episodes were created in such a desperate climate. First clinging to survival, then cobbling out an ending. Who knows in what directions the show might have gone had the writers not been so pressured to spend the second half of a truncated season wrapping things up?

The Tone

I want to talk about the note on which the series ends. One of the main criticisms of Arrested Development, and one of the many reasons frequently cited for why it failed to find a broad audience, is the show’s lack of heart. Granted, almost all the characters are clueless and selfish, but I’ve always felt that Michael’s drive to hold the family together really did offer a core of heart to all the crazy things that went on—even if that heart was easily missed in the surrounding chaos.

But the show ends with Michael finally doing what he has threatened to do throughout the series—abandon his irresponsible family for a better life with his son. It’s like an admission that all of Michael’s struggles to keep the family together have been a waste of time. It's not the story of a guy trying to keep a family together, but the story of a sucker who learns that the only way to stick up for himself is to be a quitter. No one else has learned anything, they are all hopeless, and maybe the family is better apart. It’s funny, but it’s an awfully bleak, cynical message to leave us with—one that suggests that maybe the detractors were right. Maybe this show never did have any heart, and the moments where it appeared to were just a big ironic joke. Or maybe Michael's decision reflects Hurwitz's own bitterness and exasperation after struggling to keep the show itself afloat: It's easier just to leave.

Or the ending may simply be a necessary evil to keep the show open-ended. If keeping the family together is indeed where the heart is, that may actually be the most important thread to leave open. Michael could always come back. After all, he also deserted the family at the end of season one. It’s not the act of desertion but the finality of it that gives the last episode that vaguely depressing feeling.

UPDATE 2/16: Just to be clear, I did enjoy the episodes. Like Simon and Cynthia, I agree that there was a strong sense of closure, to the point where I could easily accept if the show were to end here. Also, I adjusted one of the paragraphs to be less excessively spoilery, since I didn't really discuss the plot points in question enough to justify including them.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Catching Mono


Ray Bradbury is right. An LA monorail system would be fucking awesome.

Unfortunately, the biggest obstacles to widespread monorail acceptance are its presence in Tomorrowland and that classic episode of The Simpsons. Together they have made monorails a laughingstock. Everyone knows that once something appears in Tomorrowland, it is automatically too stupid to be a part of the real future.

But the fact that Bradbury's editorial surfaced at the same time as the Puppy Monorail is a good sign. Monorails are out there again; they're part of the zeitgeist. We just need a critical mass of pro-monorail sentiment and LA will be saved.

Smart Girls Don't Listen To Hip-Hop

Wow, what the heck is going on in the comments section of my High School Musical post? I guess that movie really is a sensation.

Maybe now that there's going to be a sequel, we will actually see them put on the musical? Then again, perhaps not. I see this as a trilogy: Part I, Auditions; Part II, Rehearsals; Part III, Cast Party. Or the actual show. But probably not.

Adventures In Strongmanship

Today Stephanie calls and asks me to pick up some milk if I get a chance. I decide to go to Staples for a long-delayed ink-and-paper run and buy the milk at the adjacent 7-Eleven. Staples and 7-Eleven (actually, two discrete 7-Elevens) are located just a few short blocks away, so I can walk.

However, this results in me walking home carrying four reams of paper in one hand and two gallons of milk in the other. Paper and milk are heavy things. The 7-Eleven clerk asks me, "You think you can carry all that?" As I am a weakling, it is a fair question. "You're going to be a bodybuilder," he laughs.

On the way home, I pretend I am under the tutelage of a cruel martial-arts master, whose merciless exercises are necessary to prepare me for the hard battles and long journey ahead. The handle of the plastic bag twists into an ever tighter, ever more painful cord against my hand, cutting off all circulation. I must mentally block out the discomfort. Yes, sensei, I will carry the paper and milk all four blocks home.

Finally I set my load down on my doorstep. I fumble for my keys with my numb, purple fingers. What inhuman challenge awaits me next?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Yen For Dollars

Here is a page of Japanese Nintendo DS advertisements. It appears that in Japan you can buy PDA-style software for the DS, with useful functions like translating languages or being delightful in other, more inscrutable ways.

Then there are the Hot Mario Bros. commercials, which are somehow not as wonderful as you would expect.

The anime-style Max Devilpower looks pretty awesome for a sports game. Is that ever coming here?

I'm not sure I've ever seen a commecial that spotlights gameplay in this much detail.

Win Frey

Why are people so eager to forgive Oprah Winfrey's hypocrisy?

I know this story is totally old now, but hey, Entertainment Weekly only got around to weighing in on it last week, which was what got the issue stewing in my mind.

The consensus seems to be that Winfrey should be applauded for pummeling James Frey, the author of the partially fabricated memoir A Million Little Pieces, to a pulp on live TV. Good for her that she finally decided to stand up for herself and call him on being the liar that he is.

But seriously, what's up with her defense of him merely weeks before? That was the time to get mad at Frey. The secret was out: He was a liar and everyone finally knew it. That was the time to feel betrayed and get outraged, yet that was the moment when Oprah stood by him. Why did it take two weeks for Oprah to decide that lying is bad?

Because Oprah's first reaction was to cover her ass. She underestimated the public's wrath, figuring that if she defended the book's sentiment as essentially true, that the whole scandal would blow over and her book club would emerge unsullied. But this was a stupid miscalculation. Her book club would have been fine if she had immediately condemned Frey along with everyone else. No one could blame her for being taken in along with the millions of other readers.

But her decision to support Frey only makes her later turnabout and smackdown completely disingenuous. Clearly, the ensuing two weeks, and the public's confused, skeptical reaction to Winfrey's flimsy Frey defense showed her that the scandal wouldn't blow over. Oh shit, she realized, this is a big deal after all. People do care that he lied in his book. Who knew?

The solution? Take it all back and crush the man responsible in a disproportionately cruel manner designed to compensate for her ill-advised defense and settle once and for all her positioning on the right side of the moral fence.

Her change of heart is so transparently self-serving, I can't believe more people aren't upset with her. Everyone is saying "Good for Oprah," when they should be calling her on her willingness to sell out her principles for the sake of her reputation and success, just like James Frey.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Fever Fever

Okay, the videoblogging is about to get a little excessive. For that I apologize.

YouTube is a treasure trove of Puffy AmiYumi videos. Just a few years ago I paid $30 and made two trips to San Francisco's Japantown for two video tapes full of mostly mediocre J-pop videos, just because there were a couple of Puffy clips buried within. Granted, there were a few other gems in there too, but a lot of chaff as well, to mix a metaphor. Now there are tons of Puffy videos readily available. It is a wonderful thing.

Many of the videos, especially the earliest ones, are a bit dull by American music video standards. They can be repetitive, and often simply feature Ami and Yumi prancing around a given location. But the girls are so stylish and fun to watch that even these are okay. I've selected a few of the most notable videos below, even though it may seem that I've just posted all of them.



This video for "Boogie Woogie No. 5" is a solid place to start. The video is not that interesting, but the song is one of their best known, and the outfits here are really cute, especially the raglan tees with the long denim skirts and sneakers. The bowling shirts are nice too. I really like Yumi's hair here.



"Mother" is a sweet, lovely song and it boasts one of the most distinctive videos of the bunch. Animated dolls. Cynthia, animated dolls! It's wicked cool.



"Nice Buddy" is a new song, it seems. The video's based around a well-done special effect, and the girls are cute as always.



"True Asia" was their first big single, according to whoever posted this video. The video is pretty dated looking--the girls look like they just walked off the first season of Friends or something--but there are some cool visuals. The guy dressed as a 10MB computer chip makes it worthwhile.



"Puffy De Rumba" is not one of my favorite songs, but the video is one of the weirder, more stylish ones here. Don't miss Puffy feeding Jimi Hendrix a magic mushroom.



"Brand New Days" is a little underwhelming video-wise, but the song rocks, and I like the washed-out colors and how the girls look really cool. Like, jeans commercial cool.



"Wild Girls on Circuit" is another classic song, and offers some of the cartoonishly bad special effects that are so cute in J-pop videos.



"Joining a Fanclub" is another one of their newer tunes. Very catchy, plus some fun slo-mo in the video. I believe I once mentioned this video to Lydia and she wanted to see it. It was BoingBoinged a long time ago and described as reminscent of bukkake. Shame about Yumi's hair in this one, though.



Finally, a commercial. I think one reason Japanese commercials seem so funny is that they're half the length of American commercials. Fifteen seconds instead of thirty. So everything is a frantically paced non-sequitur, and they're over before you even know what happened.

UPDATE:



Okay, one more. This video is just a bunch of concert footage, but it looks like there're clips from the Spaceland show I went to see with Romie.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

That's My Bottoms



Another episode of The John Kerwin Show, this time featuring Timothy Bottoms of The Paper Chase, The Last Picture Show, and That's My Bush! He really does look a lot like Bush.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Blog Is Mightier Than The Respiratory Ailments

So Paul Clinton, the CNN film reviewer whose King Kong review I dissed in a brutal and uncomfortably vulgar fashion, has died.

I am pretty sure he Googled his name, found my post, and lost the will to live.

Way to make me feel like a dick, Paul. Thanks a lot.