Monday, June 30, 2008

Kenny Bloggerly's Internet Life, #9: Porn Star

See more funny videos at Funny or Die


Kenny Bloggerly finally covers the topic that is synonymous with the internet. With "Funny" results? Only your vote can say for sure (yes).

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Another Effing Jimmy's Head Post

I'm sure you're all long since sick of me posting about Out of Jimmy's Head. But they've apparently gone and put the rest of the episodes on iTunes, so if you missed my episode, now you can watch it for just $1.99. Go and buy it right now! It's under Season 2, mistitled "Lunch Table" instead of "Lunch Tables."*

*Trivia fun fact: When the show was to be "Re-Animated: The Series," Kenny's episode was originally titled "Re-Location: A Story of Lunch Tables."

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Really?

I drive past this building all the time, and I always catch just enough of a glimpse to wonder if I saw it right. Now, finally, I have proof.



"I told you I live in a Crapi Apartment."
"Come on, this place isn't that -- Oh, I see what you did there."

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Kenny Bloggerly's Internet Life, #8: Green Screen



An episode so thrilling, you won't feel guilty for voting Funny. Or maybe you will. I don't know. As long as you vote Funny, the rest is your business.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Get Smart - Review


I enjoyed Get Smart. Perhaps Matt, who thought it was terrible, did not have expectations set quite low enough?

(Some SPOILERS:)

It's funny, but not hilarious. For long stretches it's largely straight action, which I actually kind of liked. As a kid, Get Smart was equally enjoyable as a spy adventure, since I didn't realize just how absurd it was, so it was nice to have a halfway credible adventure to give the story weight on the big screen. When the movie is funny, it's mostly thanks to the cast. Steve Carell offers an endearing, likable performance that's always fun to watch, and the supporting cast offers their share of fun moments as well.

The movie includes some nice references for the hardcore fan, but it's probably best enjoyed by someone who vaguely remembers the show as something about a spy who bumbled a lot. The more you remember the nuances of Max's character, the relationship dynamics, and the show's specific tone of humor, the more the movie will feel off.

The thing about the show that most needed updating for a movie was its borscht-belt comic rhythms. It's nostalgic and comforting to hear the set-up-knock-down jokes in the old series, with clockwork beats so precise it almost becomes meta-comedy. But to most contemporary audiences that style would rightly feel unbearably corny and dated, as proven by 1995's Get Smart revival on Fox with Andy Dick.

The Get Smart movie does seek to update this but, doesn't replace it with much of anything, and fails to find a distinctive comic voice. The show settled into a groove where the jokes all felt like they were coming from the same sensibility. The movie grabs scattershot laughs wherever it can, and the styles of comedy sometimes clash.

Compared to the show, which has a higher verbal joke to slapstick joke ratio than you remember, the movie's sense of humor aims low. Sometimes it connects anyway, as when Max repeatedly pauses while urinating in order to eavesdrop on a conversation in the bathroom. The bit sounds terrible, but Carell's facial expressions sell it so brilliantly it's hard not to chuckle.

Even so, enough of the comedy works to make the movie generally enjoyable.

The "origin story" angle is unnecessary, but an understandable choice given the need to create a cinematic character arc. Apparently the promise to show "how Max became Max" is the pitch that got the writers the job. But Max doesn't need an origin story, particularly since this Max is a totally different character anyway, and becomes a different Max in the end. Particularly annoying is the detail that he used to be fat. Thin actors in fat suits and buses sweeping across the screen to suddenly hit someone have become the most abused comedy sight gags of the decade, and this movie has both. Fortunately the fat-suited flashbacks are mercifully short, and the payoff, in which Smart dances with a fat woman, is surprisingly sweet.

Carell's geeky, intelligent yet clumsy and inexperienced Max works well enough, but the changes are still frustrating. Carell is equally adept at playing overconfident buffoons like Don Adams' Max, so either approach would have still felt tailored to him. Still, it's not as different as it might seem. Despite the titular joke, the original Max was still a generally competent spy -- he could hold his own in a fight and, while 99 often helped, Max frequently was able to put the pieces together himself. He was more slow than stupid. He would spend much of the time a couple steps behind but eventually would figure things out in time to solve cases on his own. He was much more competent than Don Adam's other signature role, Inspector Gadget, who truly did stumble into success, or more often, simply took the credit for Penny's and Brain's work.

Get Smart the movie does not quite capture Get Smart, the show. It has the title, the character names, the same spy agencies, the hallway full of doors, the music, and the broad concept of a bumbling spy. It's not so much an adaptation of the show as a movie with a similar idea. As a Get Smart movie, it hits some of the right buttons but is ultimately a bit wanting. As a movie starring Steve Carell as a bumbling spy, taken on its own terms, it's pretty decent crowd-pleaser. Our audience even applauded at the end.

Still, that airplane bathroom scene still rankles me with its unexplained dumbness--why risk shooting your eyes out using a crossbow to cut the tie on your wrists when you have a knife in the same device?

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Get Smart

My mantra for Get Smart for many months now has been "high hopes, low expectations." The teaser trailer, with three excellent and understated gags, was promising, but the subsequent three trailers (which are so similar that you wonder why they bothered) dilute the success rate with some mediocre or out-of-place jokes that make you worry. The criticisms at the Get Smart fan site, including Warner Bros. total dick move to freeze out the original series creators in hopes of ducking royalty payments, and the resulting alterations to the Maxwell Smart character, are even more alarming, as are all the snippets of negative reviews.

Still, as a huge fan of the original series (as a kid, I made a series of videos with my sister called "Secret Spies" that was basically an attempt to recreate the show with ourselves as agents) and a fan of Steve Carell, passing it up is simply not an option. In some ways I feel I'm in a quandary. I don't want to reward the studio for trying to fuck over Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, and creating a weaker movie as a result... but I also don't want the movie to flop. Maybe if it's successful enough to merit a sequel they can correct some of the problems of this one. Or will they just make them worse, thinking they were successful with their changes? You can't win.

On the other hand, it's a Get Smart movie starring Steve Carell. Of course I'm going to see it. I'm hoping if I go in with an open mind (and the aforementioned low expectations), Carell will deliver something at least worth watching.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Regrets and Apologies

Three and a half years ago, I wrote a post* on this blog that offered savage reviews of the video output of one Amir Blumenfeld. Amir was a student in the Squelch De-Cal class I taught with Sean Keane who had gone on to contribute to College Humor. Naturally, Amir and his associates eventually saw the post, and Amir was reportedly "surprised and slightly hurt." His friend Jakob Lodwick offered the following comment:

Kenny, please know that a movie that YOU find unfunny is much better than a blog entry that PRACTICALLY NOBODY will ever read.


For reasons I'll get to in a moment, I've been meaning to revisit this issue at some point. But someone beat me to it. Recently, I was mortified to discover that the issue had resurfaced in another blog that referenced my post and cited the above comment. This blogger deemed Jakob's response "Awesome."

I think "Awesome" is perhaps overstating it. Richly deserved? Absolutely. Admirably succinct? Also true. But the sentiment of Jakob's response is pretty standard when it comes to anyone whose work is attacked by arrogant bloggers. The person creating something that people actually see and enjoy always trumps the cranky blogger with an audience of few. Indeed, when I was a Squelch editor and blogs were something new and even more inconsequential, I once wrote a response nearly identical in sentiment to a blogger who dared impugn the latest issue of the Squelch. It's ironic, then, that a scant couple of years later, denied the bully pulpit of a print magazine, I myself turned to attacking others from the flimsy perch of an obscure corner of the blogosphere. I don't have a real good reason. I was mad with the power of a newly-minted blogger flexing his strength. I thought I was being fair and constructive (my post did, in fact, include mentions of a couple of videos I thought were sorta okay). Like many people, I also reveled in being as mean as possible to people I didn't have to look in the eye.

Basically I was being an asshole and I'm sorry for it now. It was cool of Jakob to come to his friend's defense, and even classier of Amir to ignore my attack completely. In fact, it is Amir's response, not Jakob's, that I would call "Awesome."

The saying goes that "Living well is the best revenge." And--not that I had anything to do with it--Amir has gone on from his slapdash early videos to create videos for College Humor that are not only wildly popular, but actually, genuinely good. His series of "prank war" videos with co-worker Streeter are ambitious and brilliant in conception (in an odd crossover event, watch for my own video partner Mike in the Human Giant prank video). Amir's current series, Jake and Amir, is in my opinion the finest web series on the internet. It's got a rich, very specific character dynamic, a fast pace that never wastes your time, and most importantly, hilarious and consistent comedy. Even more frustrating, they make it look easy. Once you watch a few episodes and learn its groove, it's addictive. It is, I think, the model of what a web sitcom should be.

Revenge doesn't get more "awesome" than doing work so good that it forces your detractors to admire you. Indeed, enjoying Jake and Amir on a regular basis only deepens my shame at attacking Amir's videos way back when. I haven't re-watched his old videos, and I don't expect I would enjoy them even now. There was likely a basic difference in Amir's personality and sensibility that is probably why he disliked the Squelch while he was at Berkeley. But I have to admit that there was more to his old videos than I allowed at the time. They were slapdash, yes, but what I read as smugness was a sense of joy that continues to add a spark to Amir's videos today, and what I saw as sloppiness was a freewheeling willingness to try anything that has served Amir well. What I didn't see was that there was good in those experimental videos, and they were leading to something better.

Back then, part of my venom may have been jealousy. I admitted in the original post that I was envious of the attention he was getting, but on an even more basic level, I think I envied the fact that he had the resources to make videos at all, which I did not. Nowadays, I'm just envious that my videos aren't as good.**

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*I'd link to my post, except that I've decided to delete it entirely. Sure, maybe you can find it through the magic of Google cache, but I feel no responsibility to preserve something myself that I now see as a source of embarrassment. The post itself is not only mean but cringingly unfunny.

**Still, I beat Amir to this premise by several months. Amir's version is eerily similar and possibly funnier, but at least I got there first, right?

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Kenny Bloggerly's Internet Life, Episode 5



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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Kenny Bloggerly's Internet Life, Episode 3



Again, if you can bring yourself to vote "Funny," it is much appreciated. You all did a great job stuffing the ballot box on the last two!

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Conan O'Brien's Dinner With Jordan



Catch it before it gets taken down.

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Weezer: Red (Part II)


Where were we? Oh yes, "Dreamin'." Like "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived," it is another experiment with epic (over five minute) song length. It's a little reminiscent of '60s bands like the Beach Boys or The Lovin' Spoonful. While Cuomo's vocals keep the sound in the Weezer realm, it's also the first song on the album that has a slick, too-smooth, heavily produced style. It hits a natural endpoint halfway through, then gets increasingly produced even as the song structure gets more meandering and experimental.

The next three songs, "Thought I Knew," "Cold Dark World," and "Automatic," are especially baffling. Each has its strengths, but none sound like Weezer. Which makes sense, since these are the tracks on which the band members switched instruments. They are not written or sung by Cuomo, and all of them have a slick, un-Weezery production quality. It's surprising, although perhaps it shouldn't be, that the same band can sound completely different when you change who writes and plays and sings the songs. The problem is that while each of the three songs is not bad, they lack a distinctive sound to take the place of the missing Weezer sound. They also seem to abandon the themes that are so prevalent in the album's first half (except "Automatic," about familial love). Given time, I warmed up to them, but they still feel like okay filler on some other, less interesting band's album. I found myself wondering if I was only growing to like them the way that I would convince myself to like the awful songs by no-name bands back in my soundtrack-listening days.

Cuomo doesn't exactly have the most amazing singing voice, but it is a significant part of the Weezer signature. Thankfully, it returns for the last track, "The Angel and the One," a slow number that ends the album with dignity. I wasn't keen on it at first, but the last time I listened, it suddenly clicked and I found myself quite enjoying it.

The Deluxe version of the album offers four bonus tracks, or 40% more music. It's a pretty significant addition, potentially changing the experience of the album as a whole. But despite the weird turn in the middle, the first ten tracks feel like a complete album... or at least two cohesive EPs. The bonus tracks are clearly outside the flow. "Miss Sweeney" is the most old-school Weezer-y of the lot. It's charming and funny and more than a little similar in its chorus to "Suzanne." The rest of the bonus tracks return to the band's weird new slick sound. "Pig" is okay, "The Spider" is an insufferably terrible, maudlin track with the unbearably annoying central metaphor about a spider in a drain (the only song on the album I really, unequivocally hate), and King is pretty mediocre and forgettable. Sadly, the bonus tracks also tip the balance of the album toward the weird new sound. Switch in "Miss Sweeney" for, say, "Thought I Knew," and cap the album at ten tracks, and you'd have a far more solid effort in my opinion.

Like it or not, Weezer is experimenting, growing and changing. Whether the Red Album is good is debatable, but it is definitely not the sound of a band that is content to coast on what is comfortable. If anything, it is the sound of a band transforming. By the end of Red, Weezer sounds like a different band. I'm not sure that's good. But it is certainly interesting.

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Friday, June 06, 2008

Weezer: Better Red Than Dead?



Over at The Onion AV Club, the hipsters on the Red Album review thread have been going to town attacking Weezer -- post-Pinkerton in general, the Red Album in particular. (Yes, I am sure that is not the only place on the internet where this is happening.) I tend to be more forgiving of Weezer's late period output, probably because I am in truth a second generation Weezer fan. Someone my age really should have boarded the train back at the Blue Album station, but in high school I was too nerdy even for nerd rock. I was not cool enough to realize I could enrich my angst through contemporary music, and mostly just listened to oldies stations and movie soundtracks. Many was the time I sat in my car nodding with recognition to "another Saturday night and I ain't got nobody..." Okay, this is getting sad. The point is in high school, my Weezer exposure amounted to:

- Watching the "Buddy Holly" video on a friend's computer when he first got Windows 95. I remember liking the song and the video. I think I eventually sampled the rest of the album at Borders but was not won over enough to buy it.

- Seeing somebody holding a Pinkerton CD in class. I think they might have been saying something along the lines of how it wasn't as good as the first one.

I didn't really catch on to Weezer until college, when Napster let me get into it for free, and Squelch sing-alongs taught me the importance of "El Scorcho" among others. Around that time, the Green Album came out. Everyone said it wasn't as deep as Pinkerton, but Cuomo was quoted in interviews stating that it wasn't intended to be, and that was good enough for me. Since I was only getting into Pinkerton retroactively, the change didn't bother me at all. Green was a lot of fun, and I happened to be playing it a lot when I first began dating Stephanie, so it has a lot of significance to me personally.

I thought Maladroit was really good, too. I listened to it all summer when I was taking classes in LA, and it only got better with repeated listens.

Admittedly, Make Believe is the weakest offering in their catalogue. I haven't been compelled to revisit it since it came out and I don't have any particularly fond memories of it. "Beverly Hills" was okay at first but hasn't held up well, and I found myself getting embarrassed whenever I listened to it while driving around L.A., especially when I happened to pass through Beverly Hills. I gave Make Believe another listen yesterday, and with virtually every song, my thought was the same: "Oh, that's on this album?" The tracks all have a distinctively Weezer feel, but none stand out. Any of them would be fine as a filler track on a better album that offered at least a few compelling reasons to exist, but Make Believe is nothing but. Nothing is terrible, but nothing is all that good, either, leaving an album that is the definition of mediocre.

Even so, I'm coming at the Red Album from the point of view that Weezer has one weak album to overcome rather than three. So how do I feel about Red? it's complicated.

The album is weird. Ultimately it is maybe not entirely good. But unlike the hipsters who accuse Rivers Cuomo of becoming a soulless machine who refuses to open up in his music and is just making a trip back to the well when in need of a paycheck, I don't think Weezer can be faulted for a lack of ambition.

Red is unique, and characterized by many things: A tongue-in-cheek arrogance (seemingly representing Cuomo's response to his critics), themes of maturity, adult responsibility, kids, parenthood, reflection on one's life, musicianship itself, and finally, a spirit of experimentation. The album was recorded in three separate sessions under three different producers: Rick Rubin, Jackknife 1, and Weezer. Oddly, Rubin and Jackknife's tracks retain the distinctive Weezer feel, while the band's self-produced tracks don't feel like Weezer at all. This strange split makes Red feel like two separate albums -- by two separate bands.

The first half contains Rubin and Jackknife's tracks, and feels like a Weezer album. Not only that, it feels like an especially promising, even great Weezer album. It kicks off strong with "Troublemaker," which introduces the album's themes. Yes, it's about being a rock star, and emblematic of that inevitable point musicians seem to reach where their music ceases to be about common experience and becomes about itself. But it also touches on childhood, growing up, family, and all the other themes that the album returns to again and again. Yes, it feels like an arrogant fuck-you to critics, but if Weezer can be this much fun while settling scores, so be it.

Next, "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived" keeps the boastfulness going, while introducing experimental elements that are fun but don't detract from the band's signature sound. In the context of the album, "Pork and Beans" feels less generic and more like a part of a whole, and its consideration of aging -- the references to Rogaine, gaining weight, and losing one's cool -- feel more significant.

"Heart Songs" is sappy. It's almost embarrassingly simple, but it feels sincere and is hard to hate in spite of itself. "Everybody Get Dangerous" picks things up again with a badass, driving riff and lyrics about fucking shit up in the retarded ways that only bored teenagers can. But while it seems at first to be ironic -- only in these teenagers' minds was this stupid stuff "dangerous" and badass -- it turns out not to be. By the final verse, it's clear that we're looking back on this through the eyes of someone not just older and wiser, but someone with a distinctively parental point of view. The final question -- of how to react when one's kid wants to "get dangerous" is honestly the kind of thing you only take seriously when you actually have a kid yourself. Hearing the song through this lens of parental worry puts a bit of a damper on it, as parental worry tends to do, but if you can ignore that, it's still a solid song.

"Dreamin'" is where things start to turn. But I've gone on long enough for now, so more on that later.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Pork and Beans



The video for Weezer's "Pork and Beans" plays a game of "spot the references to internet memes" that calls to mind a recent episode of South Park, as well as the web series ViralCom, which also featured a real-life Tay Zonday cameo.

On a side note, it's interesting how a cameo from a viral video star has come to have almost the same impact as a cameo by an actual star -- the excitement of recognition is the same, and YouTube commenters are left gasping in disbelief: "How did they get all these guys?" This despite the fact that booking the likes of Gary Brolsma or Tay Zonday can't possibly be all that hard. It's also interesting that Tay Zonday's role on a Warners-backed web series like ViralCom is supposedly a step up to a semi-legitimate production, despite the fact that Zonday's own videos have far more hits.

But back to "Pork and Beans." It might lose some comic punch by not arriving first to the internet-reference party, but as a music video it has no obligation to be particularly funny. What it is, instead, is warm and delightful. As opposed to South Park's characteristically mean-sprited take, in which the internet celebrities abruptly kill each other, the Weezer video is inclusive in spirit. Some of the people featured are talents, some are objects of mockery, others are mere curiosities. Some, like Tay Zonday, are some combination of the three. At first it seems like the video is merely including clips of the notorious viral videos. But as it goes on, we see the stars mouthing the lyrics to Weezer's song, and finally interacting with the members of Weezer themselves. The video's defining moment comes when Rivers Cuomo offers Chris Crocker a hug. Weezer treats Crocker, Brolsma, and the rest with decency: These freaks are, in fact, human, and they are invited to join Weezer in celebrating their individuality. "Pork and Beans" even helps these maligned individuals reclaim some dignity -- Brolsma enjoys a moment of fame that is self-aware; "Afro Ninja" -- in reality an experienced stuntman whose career suffered after his hilarious face-plant during a jet-lagged audition -- redeems himself in a brief but impressive fight scene; Miss South Carolina bounces back from humiliation with a smile and gentle self-mockery.

By the video's end, everyone is playing and singing and dancing together, and the video has become what its lyrics express: a defiant celebration of the outsider, and a satisfyingly good-natured good time. "Pork and Beans" as a song may be a bit lightweight and generic, but it's undeniably infectious fun. Anyone could sing a lyric like "I ain't gonna wear the clothes that you like," but when you see Rivers Cuomo in his idiotic cowboy getup and mustache on the red album cover, it's hard to doubt his sincerity.

Tomorrow: Thoughts on the Red Album.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Kenny Bloggerly's Internet Life, Episode 2

Hope you like the show, because there is more! Also, vote "Funny," please. If I can't count on you, who can I count on?



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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Domain Event

For a little while now, this blog has been accessible not only through the old school http://kbweb.blogspot.com, but also via the address http://www.kennybloggerly.com. I never really publicized this so you may not have realized it unless you paid close attention to my email signature. Now that there is a Kenny Bloggerly show, the kennybloggerly.com address will now steer you towards http://kennybloggerly.tumblr.com. If you still want to reach this blog using a big fancy non-blogspot domain name, it will soon be accessible using http://www.herbietheloveblog.com.

I'm sure no one but me even knew that I had assigned kennybloggerly.com to this site, so this feels a bit silly. But I wanted to avert any confusion, just in case. I'm nice like that.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Kenny Bloggerly's Internet Life, Episode 1

Introducing a new web series:



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Board at Work

When last we left my petty work rivalries, I had responded to the innocuous request to "save" another teacher's board info with a too-large "save" box of my own, then replaced that with a drawing of a winking cat:



When I returned, the cat had not been erased. So I added a party hat, shoulders and paws.



Around this time an additional message appeared on the morning teacher's side of the board:



"Email me to say hello." And then someone had added in red marker, "kitty," so that the whole thing seemed to read "Email me to say hello kitty."

I was puzzled. Was this message for his students, who had cruelly ignored his provided email address? Was it for me, an attempt to establish contact with the person sharing his board? What of the "kitty"? Was this a reference to the cat I had drawn? If so, was it a student's joke referencing the drawing, or the teacher's? I couldn't figure it out.

So I added a ball of yarn trailing from the cat's paw to the bottom of the board and marked it "SAVE."



The next day, I decided the yarn had rolled a bit.



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