Tag Archives: in defense of…

In defense of… Superman

Yup. Superman.
Believe it or not (I’m walkin’ on air), there are people who just plain don’t like Superman. Even just a quick Google search (I’m weaning myself off the use of "Google" as a verb) came up with quite a few articles:

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/vine/showthread.php?t=490695

http://blog.seattlepi.com/peoplescritic/archives/142522.asp

http://jarodrussell.livejournal.com/588082.html

and so on. Golly, I never thought something so uncompromisingly straight-arrow and hardcore good old-fashioned American like Superman could be disliked, or even hated, as the lovely powers of Internet Hyperbole will allow. I mean, Superman was created to be a perfect good, a protector, a fighter for truth, justice, and the American way, but somewhere along that American way we started giving Supes the finger and told him to bugger off, I guess.
Forgive me, I just don’t get it. I mean, he’s SUPERMAN. He’ll always be Superman. They can give him dopey electro-powers. They can give him dippy long hair. They can kill him and bring him back to life if they want to. He’s SUPERMAN, man… it’s like saying you hate candy. Or breathing.
I’m not quite sure which societal ill this is a symptom of: is it an increasingly snotty and self-centered America, that wants Superman to leave them alone, because they don’t need his help? Sorry, but if I was a window washer and was falling to my doom, I’d be okay nuzzling those impressive pecs as opposed to being street pizza. I don’t see Superman peeking in peoples windows at night and telling men they’ve got a lot to compensate for, or something. Where does this whole "demigod" brand of hate come from? Perhaps jealousy, that sounds plausible. Think about it, Superman is the ultimate boy scout: doesn’t kill, does what’s right, has godlike powers but doesn’t abuse them… come on. Look at it, folks. If you had those power, you’d abuse them. You’d abuse them to the moon. You’d abuse them to Krypton’s shattered shards and back. On top of that, he’s got these powers, and he’s just so gosh-darned nice, too. Doesn’t that just make you sick? I bet it does, and I bet you hate Superman just because he’s everything you’re not instead of gritting your teeth, growing a hair, and working to be more like him.
There’s the rub: it’s hard work. We’re becoming incredibly lazy. We see someone do a selfless good, or do good simply because it IS good, and we mock them. We snicker. We try to come up with some excuse. We do anything we can to say that somehow, doing good is not worth it, doing good is stupid because then we don’t feel jealous and guilty that WE don’t do good… because doing good is, like, hard! And, like, how am I going to listen to my new Britney Spears CD if I’ve got to go, like, HELP people? Hello?
You people like to cling to your gritty anti-heroes, to your Spider-Men and your Wolverine because they angst, and in that angst they are weak and silly, so you can laugh at them and go "ha! No one’s perfect, so why should I be?" You should try, damn you. You should try to be perfect. You should try to be as good of a person you can be. You should try to forgive your enemies, and not strike out, and not be selfish or cruel or even peripherally self-centered via your Facebook, Twitter, whatever that says just how awesome and unique you are. Wake up. You’re not awesome. You’re not even good. You have to work for that. Even a guy with heat vision knows that. No one is good and awesome, so quit deluding yourself and work towards making yourself just a little better. And if you won’t, then don’t mock those that do.
Superman is the kind of person we should all try to be: capable of destroying the world, but compassionate. I don’t care if it’s unrealistic, or if he’s hokey or hard to write… he SHOULD be hard to write. Someone who is that good, that idealistically good, should be hard for us to write because none of us will be like that. If it really bothers you that a fictional character is that good, instead of inspiring you, then you should have your head examined. Sure, Batman is a great character, but he’s also very much insane. Spider-Man’s got more issues than Sports Illustrated. Wolverine’s so screwed up they’ve re-written his life countless times. The sad truth is, most of us would wind up more like Ozymandias or Dr. Manhattan if we were given the power, or we’d tear ourselves apart from the inside like Dan Dreiberg. But just for a minute, a moment, escape into a world where someone like Superman exists, and bask in the altruism. Soak in what we should all wish for our lives, rather than this cathartic "at least it’s not me" philosophy. Put aside the idea of conquering personal demons and relish in the idea of someone who has none, someone who takes the gifts he has been given and does the right thing.
And think, but for the grace of God, we almost had THIS as Superman:


THAT’S what an "anti-hero" Superman would have looked like.
Oy gevalt.

Mr. Burton, I loved Beetlejuice, and even your Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was all right. But this… this would have been sad.
Until tomorrow, I tenderly remain,
Eric.

In defense of… Brett Favre


Zuh-buh-huh-juh-muh-guh-WHAAAAAA?!

Take it easy, folks. I promise I haven’t gone completely off my rocker.
Yes, as preposterous as it sounds, I, a dyed-in-the-wool Bears fan (see what I did there?) who was born the year they won the Super Bowl, a veritable child of the Superfan Mystique, is taking it upon himself to defend the man who was basically the Mephistophelean Adversary to our shining alabaster beloved Chicago Bears. How did it come to this? Come along and see.
I won’t be defending his career with the Packers. As far as I’m concerned, the Favre most of Wisconsin (and whoever actually listens to the blubbery spittle of John Madden) have canonized as some kind of football saint is nothing but a pill-popping, skirt-chasing (as said by former coach Dan Reeves), interception-loving opportunist. Let’s face it, folks: the only reason the Packers were good for those few years was because they had a damn good coach in Mike Holmgren, and I’m willing to admit that. Holmgren managed to turn a saggy and aged Reggie White (also probably hopped up on something, preacher career be damned), a mediocre Desmond Howard, an even more mediocre Robert Brooks, the obese tectonic plate known as Gilbert Brown, and a few other forgettable faces (including Don freakin’ Beebe, come on!) into a force to be reckoned with. If you ask me, Holmgren deserves a medal for making a successful team out of that collection of dashed-off tripe. Before you say anything, remember that not that long ago, Holmgren worked the magic again, bringing the Seattle Seahawks to their first Super Bowl appearance ever on the vanilla shoulders of Matt Hasslebeck. No further questions, your honor.
And at the center was Favre, a brick-headed good ol’ boy who fit in well with the beer-sogged, wife-slapping, down home borderline-racist minority of Wisconsin fans who seem to relish being a statistic. I kid you not, domestic violence has been proven to go up in the state of Wisconsin when the Packers lose. Don’t bother looking any of this up, of course, because I’ve already tried and it’s impossible to find. I suppose you could say that I’m making it all up, but honestly, why would I? You see, there is something strange about the Green Bay Packers. For starters, they are the NFL’s only publicly owned team, which literally means the team is owned by the town, which is why the Pack have some gosh-darn home-grown feel good country roots, doncha know. As a result of this, the media seems to think that they can champion these goons (most of which probably didn’t even know Wisconsin was a state when they signed) as some kind of Family Team or, even more revoltingly, a second incarnation of "America’s Team," a name formerly applied to the Dallas Cowboys of the 1970s.
So what does this all mean? Well, in short, it means hands-off. ESPECIALLY hands-off the charming, oh-so-Dogpatch kyoo-bee, Brett Baby. Gilbert Brown beats his girlfriend? No coverage. Reggie White dies suspiciously early of a heart attack? No questions asked. Mark Chmura is found in a hot tub with underaged girls? Chmura gets the boot, but Favre is rumored to be at the party, and not a word is said. Even Brett Favre’s own admission to having an unhealthy relationship with painkillers has been almost completely glossed over by a tongue-lolling media hoping that, by hook or by crook, they can show that at least one professional athlete isn’t a scumbag. As long as you played for the Packers, it seemed like you were untouchable.
But God help you if you switch to one of their rivals.
Exhibit A: Reggie White, the beloved defensive end, decides that retirement just isn’t for him and comes back for a few ridiculously under quality seasons with the Carolina Panthers. Packer fans say "oh, that’s nice, go Reggie!"
Exhibit B: After winning the Super Bowl XXXI MVP award and being a Green Bay darling, Desmond Howard winds up playing in Detroit and is never heard from again, his very existence seemingly wiped from Packer fan memory.
Exhibit C: Brett Favre, after nearly escaping crucifixion by overzealous Packer fans, finally retires, prompting many a "say it ain’t so, Brett" among the MGD United. He then decides, also, that retirement just isn’t much fun and plays a ho-hum season with the New York Jets, starting out big and coasting on his previous successes, but flaring out and managing to set the record for interceptions in a career, surpassing George Blanda, a man who played until age 48. Once again, a far away team inspires a lot of "we’re still rooting for you!" sentiment and even an upsurge in New York Jets jersey sales and demands for TV coverage in Wisconsin as the fans hold on like desperate cast-offs from a swinger’s late night romps.

BUT THEN!

Mr. Favre has the gall, the UNMITIGATED GALL, to sign for the division rival Minnesota Vikings after another off-season of "should I or shouldn’t I?" hemming and hawing about his future career. After a year of huggy-muggy love from the Lambeaun-heads to NYC, the gloves finally come exploding off Packer Backers as if someone had just traveled through time and simultaneously slapped their mother, grandmother, and infant daughter. Suddenly, the Packer fans go ape.

Sweet Gallopin’ Horseradish. I can’t even fit them all on here. But what the heck, one more funny one:

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the madness. For some reason, the aforementioned Packer psychos base so much of their life around this stupid football team that it gives us…gives us… THIS:


From a fanbase that previously gave us THIS:

It’s ridiculous. It’s ludicrous. I could make a "This is Sparta!" joke, but it loses panache when there actually is a Sparta, Wisconsin. To wit, Jim McMahon, the quarterback who lead the Bears to a Super Bowl win, ended up playing for the Packers, and I can’t think of a more spirited and hated rivalry. Heck, the Packers could arguably be the team that ruined his blossoming career with a cheap shot, but the Chicago faithful didn’t do anything like this malarkey. I mean, sheesh, this is just… I can’t even fathom it.
So why, Brett? Why? Why did you go an betray your adoring fans by signing with the enemy? Why did you seemingly show disdain and spit in the eye of every Packer Backer? Why would you take a team that has done so much for you, adored you, made you unto a God, and betray them thus? Well, I can think of a few explanations:
1) He never has, and never will, care about the Green Bay yokels
2) He was all for the money
3) It’s just a GAME, RELAX YOU IDIOTS

or, the case may just be…

Brett Favre isn’t smart, but he’s smart enough to know how dumb he is.

Let’s face it. Brett Favre is not a smart man, but he’s not a complete retard. He knows he won’t get any big time endorsement deals beyond Wrangler jeans or Snapper lawn tools (he couldn’t even get a deal with the green-and-yellow lawn mower company? sheesh!) . He knows he’s got quite a medical bill from his wife’s cancer. He knows he won’t get him dumb, dead-eyed slur on any kind of commentary show, especially not with his best buddy Madden hanging up his microphone. Brett Favre is smart enough to know that he has almost no career after he stops playing football, and he’s going to coast on the modest success and Asgaardian image Mike Holmgren crafted for him until he can no longer do it, and retire with whatever he has to do nothing but play golf and drink beer for the rest of his life. No one outside of Wisconsin wants to see Brett Favre, and the other teams in the league show interest only because they hope and pray that he still has a bit of the magic left in him, magic that might have filled a thimble in the first place and not enough magic to lift Joe Montana’s pinky finger a centimeter. I feel I must defend Mr. Favre from the same slavering, idiot fans who got a big ol’ stiffy over him in the 90s. Sure, I still don’t like the guy, and I think he’s about as good as Bobby Hebert… but I respect him a little more because of this latest move. Hey, fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, Brett Favre’s gotta find somewhere to throw interceptions. Here’s to the best. Brett, and I won’t even mind if you spank my Bears yet again this year. You deserve it for all the crap you’re going through from fickle, bandwagoning, possibly drunk former "fans."
When I was in fifth grade, the Pack won the Super Bowl, and everyone in my class HAD to write a letter to a Packer. I grudgingly sent a letter to Jim McMahon, and proceeded to talk about his time with the Bears. Yes, the Bears suck pretty hard, and they’ve seemed to screw up everything good given to them in the past two decades, but I’m still a fan, darnit, and I’ll still cheer for those Super Bowl Shufflers, even if they do play for the enemy. I might pout and scream and gnash my teeth, but in the end I’m still a fan, and you won’t hear me calling Mr. McMahon a "traitor" for taking a job. Godspeed, Mr. Favre, I never thought I’d be defending you.

~To be a Bears fan
is to know the pain of years
Joy will never come ~


This has been a Chicago Bears haiku.

In defense of… North

Man, was that picture hard to find.

(EDIT: That’s the THIRD picture I’ve had to find, all the others keep crashing. It’s like this movie sucks so hard it’s trying to retroactively erase itself from the internet.)

Anyway…North.
Now, don’t think I’m going to defend this movie, because I’m not. It’s crap. It’s awful. It insulted my intelligence when I begged my brother to see it when I was nine. I was ashamed to see it. I was ashamed my brother had to see it. I was ashamed it existed, even going so far as to try to simply blank it out of my memory for more than fifteen years. Then, as if by fate, one of my favorite internet funnymen, the Nostalgia Critic, reviewed the movie a few weeks ago.

http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/videolinks/thatguywiththeglasses/nostalgia-critic/7838-north

It’s in no way safe for work, and there’s quite a bit of bad humour and language. But hey, I laughed.
Moving on…
Upon seeing this movie torn a new one all over again, my adult mind decided to resurrect the decaying memory and see what I could do with my now super-powered adult brain to pull a Dr. Frankenstein and make it live again as a real idea. And, lo and behold, something actually happened.
I found a redeeming quality in this movie which Siskel called “junk” and Ebert said he “hated, hated, hated, hated.” Does that mean I’m some kind of ethereal, Super-intelligent stallion pinnacle of a man?
No, it just means I’m yet another whiny guy on Livejournal who thinks his opinions matter.


I smell an Oscar!!!

The movie “North” tells the story of a kid, about eleven or so, who thinks his parents are too busy and don’t spend enough time doting on him. As such, he decides that cozy suburban hum-drummery is no longer for him, and becomes an emancipated youth in search of “new” parents. Wacky misadventures ensue, almost none of them funny, until he, with the help of his spirit guide (Bruce Willis?), finally realizes that his parents are important.

But not before he gets shot by his former best friend who is using the fact that North got emancipated to give power to kids and threaten every parent on the planet with desertion. Of course, none of this is real, and North wakes up back in his “secret spot” or some such rubbish in a department store, where it turns out it was ALL JUST A DREAM.
Believe me, I hated that as much at nine as I do now. When it’s hackneyed for a fourth-grader, it’s pretty damn hackneyed. This movie is awful, full of cliches and plots that are, actually, pretty darn insensitive and possibly even racist. It’s all lame and tried and boring, and the ending is really just the crab apple on a crap sundae.
HOWEVER!
There is merit to this movie. I don’t know if it was Rob Reiner’s plan, but he managed to make a movie that looked like it was written by a child. Every lame joke, every broadly and badly drawn character, even the bits where North is shown as this charismatic, loved-by-all wunderkind that his parents JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND so he has to leave them because THEY’LL FEEL BAD WHEN I’M GONE. It’s like reading any of the dashed off tripe from the pseudo-literary chumbucket known as Comic Genesis. Basically, this movie is what would happen if you gave a kid a few million and let him or her make a biography.
And the result is bad.
So what have we learned?
For the most part, kids are pretty stupid. At least on an adult level. As such, they shouldn’t be considered on the same level as adults. “North” is proof of this. If Rob Reiner went out of his way to show just how stupid kids are, I salute him. In my other life, well… let’s just say I work with kids. And I know they’re stupid. But for some reason every child today is made to think that he is the genuine, best, godlike perfect little super special snowflake and no one else is better because YOU’RE PERFECT JUST THE WAY YOU ARE.
Sorry, kids. You’re not. You’re lame just like everyone else except Columbo and Sean Connery. “North” is proof. Thank you, Rob Reiner, for giving me the perfect teaching tool to show that kids should not be considered equal, or better than, adults. They are vapid, self-centered little dips who really wish a world like the one presented in “North” would exist, and for that they fail. “North” is a terrible movie, but the spirit of the movie is golden. I like to think that Mr. Reiner purposefully made a bad movie just to get back at the spoiled, entitled generation of mouth-breathers that will soon be inheriting the earth, God have mercy on us all.


Plus, he’s a Cubs fan who made “the Princess Bride,” I’ve GOT to defend him.

I encourage everyone who works with children, or even near children, to see this movie. If you haven’t seen the movie, go find it, or watch the Critic’s review. It will make you feel better and reinforce your very, very true belief that children are not the shining exemplars of everything human, they’re just imperfect adults.
Imperfect adults who make horrible movies.
Horrible movies with Bruce Willis in a pink bunny suit.
Until we meet again, I tenderly remain,
Eric.

BY REQUEST!

In defense of… Group Dancing.

Macarena. Electric Slide. Hustle. Cupid Shuffle. Slide to the left. Slide to the right. Criss cross. Charlie Brown. Everybody clap your hands. Cha-cha real smooth.
If you understood any of the jibberish I just typed, then you know of the phenomenon called “group dancing.” Particularly due to current events, and by personal request, I will be taking it upon myself to defend the dance of choice for both the late King of Pop and average wedding-reception goers alike: synchronized movements done to a beat in a group of three or more. This will be a difficult article for myself to write, as I am not a fan of group dancing (particularly in the last thirty years or so) nor am I a fan of any accepted form of dancing that has grown (or rather, groan) into an art form since Mr. Ford was President. If given a choice between dancing like an absolute goon or dancing the Macarena…I’d choose this guy:

funky

BUT! I have been challenged to defend group dancing, and defend it I shall to the best of my ability. Strap on your platform shoes, get your chicken wings ready to flap, and brush up on your Spanish, because we’re going to jump onto the dance floor with fifty complete strangers and get CRAYYYYZEEEE.
First off, Eric said, adjusting his bowtie and straightening the lapels on his corduroy jacket, the idea of synchronized dancing, or even dance crazes, is nothing new. Different forms of dances, along with different forms of music, have been making the rounds since the Renaissance, when people finally realized that they could have more in their lives that farming pigs, sleeping next to pigs, selling pigs for rich people to eat, and then dying of starvation next to the pigs marked for sale to the Lords and Ladies. Yes, in the Renaissance people came out of the backward Medieval period and realized that they wanted to do one thing: DANCE.
I mean, come on, wouldn’t you?
So, with more people spreading out more of the wealth more favorably, we finally got a middle class of sorts, and the number one thing middle class people like to do is pretend that they are upper class, whether its buying a ridiculous yacht, dining at a ridiculous restaraunt, or dancing some ridiculous dance that everyone says is “cool.” And such dance crazes were born. Of course, back then dances were less fleeting and a little more labor intensive, often involving a long period of study before you could whip out the newest schottische for the Duke of Prussia. As such, dances seemed to stick around longer and have more impact. One dance craze from the olden days you might remember is a little thing called the Waltz. Yes, as much as it stabs at the cold, cynical core of my hear to say it, the stately waltz was once considered in the same category as the Ketchup Dance…but only barely.
Mash the fast forward button a bit and head into the 20th century, where mankind, if you’ll pardon the expression, went completely off its tits. It appeared that all the freedom we’d been enjoying since the Renaissance had gotten us bloated and stupid on our own delusions of grandeur, but the First World War put a fairly grisly kibosh on that…but that’s a story for another day. So, in this world of global war, poison gas, and millions of amputees dotting the world over thanks to Minie shells and Maxim machine guns, what’s a lost young former soldier and his confused wife to do?
DANCE.
Thus the worried, shell-shocked, and nihilistic WWI veterans got their fears out through drinking a ridiculous amount of supposedly illegal liquor and dancing dances that, by many people’s accounts, should have been illegal. The first bona fide crazes of the 20th century dance catalog were the Charleston and the Jitterbug, which both flappers and vamps alike cavorted the night away with while Myrtle got run over by a big yellow car. At around the same time, tango dances became popular, no doubt also for the licentiousness, and still gave a bit of class and work ethic to the popular dances of the time. But still, the seeds were sown. The dances were still challenging (try doing the Charleston some time) but a state of fad was beginning to surround popular dance, and suddenly it wasn’t so much that you were a twenty year master of the waltz, but that you’d spent twenty minutes doing the next big thing.
Moving on, I’ll take another bullet to my Historical heart and say that another of my favorite decades, the 1950s, spawned quite a few ridiculous dances, almost all of which can be documented in the recent movie “Hairspray.” Soon, things like the Twist and the Mashed Potato weren’t options at an ice cream joint or restaraunt, but rather moves to shake your poodle skirt and shimmy your saddle oxfords to. Some made sense, like the Swim (wherein one pretended that he or she was swimming), but others, like the Watusi or the Frug (pronounced Froog) just showed that we were headed down a dangerous slope. As we moved into the 1970s, dancing was starting to become just a spasmodic flailing of limbs rather than a carefully practised sequence…and it would only get worse.
Ahhh, the 80s. Now HERE’s a decade I can rip on. Almost universally, the 80s have bad fashion, bad music, and bad dances. After the aforementioned Hustle, the Bump, and the YMCA, dances which really only consisted of standing in a line and moving a little, died with disco, the 80s brought in a new slew of weird gyrations, only some of which demanded talent. Vogue dancing became popular, though it was was hardly more than posing set to music (perfect for poseurs!), and the Electric Slide, still a favorite for its easy to learn…well…walking around to music. Unfortunately, things got even worse when the whole “walking” aspect was deemed too challenging, giving us dances like “Walk Like an Egyptian” and the unholy Pig-demon of all group dances, the Macarena. I used to say, as a child, that the Macarena was perfect for weddings, because anyone can do it drunk. I was a prescient child.
Now, what was I supposed to do be doing…?
Oh yeah…DEFENDING group dances. Well, here we go.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with group dances. They get people who wouldn’t usually dance to get up and have some fun, so they are ideal for social situations like weddings where everyone’s a little nervous about people they don’t know in the room. When you’re all doing the same dance, no one can laugh at you, right? Also, it has the grace of bringing dancing down to the level of the everyday guy, where earlier dances, as I stated, required quite a bit of work and athletic skill. The repetition of the same moves over and over also allows for quick and easy memorization, to make sure no one feels left out. Group dances are not meant to be about the dancing, they are a social experience. It’s not about how good someone is, it’s about how much fun everyone is having. It’s not about being the best, it’s about being accepted. It’s about being able to do the Chicken dance next to the great-aunt of some obscure cousin at some other obscure cousin’s wedding, and laugh your behind off because it’s fun, something that I tend to forget about in my stuffy, History-based approach to culture. It would be very hypocritical of me to champion retro gaming only a week ago, reminding people that games should be fun, and then turn around and say that dances can’t be. I, personally take a dance seriously, especially one that has specific steps and a name. If I wanna just be a goon, I’ll be a goon. However, I understand that to some people, dancing is a game, and dancing should be fun. So, to that guy who is always whining about how group dances are lame, simplistic, boring, and a greater sign of the downfall of modern society, I will look into the mirror and say…
“Dude, relax. Just go have some fun.”
Until we meet again, I tenderly remain,
Eric.

In defense of… the Wii

Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s white plastic and blue lights. In this, the age of the overpriced, overhyped, overeverything iPod and its distinctive styling, it’s almost nauseating to see anything with what was once considered futuristic and edgy styling. If the future really looks like this, if the world of tomorrow is designed by Steve Jobs, then consider me a dirty, dirty Gatesian luddite, sporting a tattered beard and hanging out underneath an iCulvert jabbering nonsense as iFords zip over the iWay on their way to iWork, all buzzing with the defects that will soon destroy them…but looking good!
Aesthetic quibbles aside, there’s an issue I’d like to address, and I might as well start with the Nintendo Wii. You see, video games are like a puppy. We had one once, back in the early 80s. It wasn’t much to look at, and more often than not it wet the rug and tore up the couch, but it was loyal and could fetch a stick, so we were content with it. The only problem was that soon all our friends wanted a shiny new puppy, and they bred so many of the things that the small amount of people who loved our carpet-wetting retard-dogs couldn’t afford to feed them, and they all died, and by that I mean the industry crashed.
A few years later, the puppy people, much the wiser, started making a new, more quality puppy. The American breeds, lovable as they were, just couldn’t compete with this new rounder. Not only could he fetch a stick, but he didn’t ruin the upholstery and could shoot fireballs out of his nose at angry looking fungi. This dog was named Nintendo, and for the past few decades it has been the one loyal pooch at the side of gamers while other more excitable, yippy furballs (Sega) and mangy mutts (Atari, Phillips, Panasonic, what have you) got put to sleep. Yes sir, that dog was a mighty fine dog.
Then something happened. All of the little boys grew up, and suddenly they didn’t want a lovable puppy anymore. They wanted a tough, snarling, he-man nut-buster of a junkyard dog who had a computer chip embedded in his teeth to seek out the crotch of your enemies. Suddenly, Nintendo was “for kids” and “lame” but it was always the same old pooch it always was, now simply neglected and left to stick its big, sorrowful brown eyes to the picture window on a rainy Saturday night while all you fickle turds play Halo.

I’m now going to abandon that analogy, as I have ridden it cleanly into the mud…and hop aboard another one!

Nintendo suffers from much the same problem as the original Star Wars trilogy has. As a dedicated fanboy of both (it KILLED me to buy a PS2), I can honestly say that the fans are their biggest problems. Stupid fans (not me, of course, I’m the shining star-child of all creation) have built both Nintendo and Star Wars up to expectations that the Lord Almighty couldn’t possibly live up to. It’s like, after all this time, seeing the old water-into-wine trick and going “Psht. That was SO New Testament.” Does it matter that he’s still JESUS? Apparently not, and yes I just compared Nintendo to Jesus, because I know a hell of a lot of kids who worshipped that ugly grey box growing up. If Miyamoto had told us to genuflect, we would have.
What I’m trying to say is, don’t be so quick to clobber Nintendo with the critique stique, nerd boys. Just because you “grew up” and demanded more blood, gore, and realism does not mean that Nintendo is suddenly a sewage drenched Monte Cristo. Nintendo is, was, and always will be flawed, from the ROB to the Virtual Boy to the initial fallout over the Wii. It’s not sacred, and you’re the idiots who made it so as kids, so stop yelling at someone else for your own mistakes. Nintendo wasn’t as good as you thought it was at seven, and it’s not as bad as you think it is as twenty-seven. Deal with it. You made a mistake.
Now, on to the Wii.
I hear several complaints about it:

1) no good games
2) wonky controls
3) casual gaming fanbase

Numbers one and two I can answer succinctly. Three might take me a while.
So, number one, lighten up. Just because a game isn’t about space marines circumcising this week’s villain (who all seem to be the same anyway) with springloaded Skilsaw blades in first person, all while showering the viewer with realistic blood and gore in yet another brownish, greyish hellhole of a pseudo-realistic setting that looks like it took forty workers three years to program one grain of sand in… does not make it a bad game. Think bad to your childhood, you jaded misanthropes, and how you used to love using just two measly buttons to jump on things and make them go “boop.” Were they fun? Yes. Were they realistic? No, but who cares? Games = fun, or else I’ve missed something.
As for the controls…deal with it. A lot of people shat bricks when they found out home ports of arcade classics didn’t have joysticks or trackballs, you learn to deal. Just because the Wii encourages you to move and try something different doesn’t mean that you should reject it. Heck, weren’t we, as gamers, the original litmus test for finding out what works and what doesn’t in games? If enough people back then had demanded that all games be made for the Power Pad, no doubt we’d be crying heresy over the thought of using a controller at all! Gaming, just like any industry, has to re-invent itself or it will die (or, in the case of video-gaming, die again) to embrace new markets, controls, and concepts is what will keep another game crash from happening. Which brings me neatly to where this whole article is leading…
Point three. Okay, you son of a gun, bring it on.
If I hear any more whining about how the Wii is too focused on the “casual” aspect of gaming, I’m going to grind my teeth to a powder, mix them with my hot tears of fury, and make tiny little bullets to shoot into the faces of each Halo-strafing, Achievement-collecting, Blowout-hairdo wearing fart-blossom that makes that assertion. I’m going to go ahead and make a bold statement and say that not only is the Wii a perfectly acceptable gaming system for the “hardcore” gamer, but it is in fact THE BEST HARDCORE GAMING PLATFORM ON THE MARKET.
But wait, Eric, I hear you say, the Wii has all these family games, music programs, and weight-loss peripherals? How can this beeeee?
Well, you, this is how it can be. The Wii has a little something called the “Virtual Console,” which is an online resource that plays the following:
NES
SNES
Nintendo 64
Sega Master System
Sega Genesis
TurboGrafx 16
TurboGrafxCD
SNK NeoGeo
Commodore 64
and the MSX in Japan.
How can you possibly get more “hardcore” than that? Listen, you Madden morons, I’m only going to say this once: you are not hardcore. I am hardcore. A hardcore gamer isn’t one that plays Halo, he plays Lolo. He’s not eagerly awaiting the new Xbox shoot-em-up, he’s cursing the fact that twenty years later, he still can’t beat freaking Bayou Billy. He doesn’t rush out and buy the newest system with the keenest graphics, best resolution, and hot new release title that’s just the same damn game from last year with a new gun and worse storyline, he’s the one who still coddles and cajoles his NES to life and relishes in the fact that the characters from a first-generation Final Fantasy title bring him to tears more than any well-rendered death soliloquy from HaloGears of KillWarZone Ex Machina 2: The Re-Deadening.
To be hardcore is just that: to be hard on the inside. To be hardcore is to tolerate the slings and arrows of kids who mocked you for playing Mario in third grade and now wear Mario shirts. To be hardcore is to keep playing your Mega Drive even when the new 3-D re-imagining of your favorite game is burning up the shelves. To be hardcore is to love your Wii for its love of the core of gaming, and not to listen to the chunnering idiots who dismiss it as a “kiddie system” while they were the ones playing DDR when it was a fad. Hardcore gamers don’t go with fads. Hardcore gamers stay true, and the truest you can still get is Nintendo.
So stay true, retire your old NES, and go download all your beloved old games on the Virtual Console, and let the golden age of gaming live again. Let them have their achievements and their MMORPGs, games that are more like work than fun, you go back to Bayou Billy and see if you can finally get past those ridiculous driving stages. At least this time, you don’t have to blow in the system to get it to work.
Until tomrorow, I tenderly remain,
Eric.

In defense of… Sean Connery

I know what you’re thinking: Eric, you charming gypsy prince, why on Earth would Sir Sean need defending? Couldn’t he basically crush any opposition with one swing of his fist, one steeley-eyed glare, or one growling admonition from that iconic voice?
Well, I would say yes, but for some reason, there are still those who seek to tarnish the transcendant experience that is Sean Connery.

Name me one person who is more recognized, beloved, and respected despite a myriad of parodies and black marks. Name me one actor who is better equipped to completely arrest a scene with his simple presence, and yet at the same time play gentle elder statesmen to the youngest and untried of actors. Name me one person who, without even seeing one of his films, is recognized simply by his voice and inflection by those as young as ten years old? Sean Connery is a luminary as far as acting goes, and as far as human beings go, he is truly one of a kind.
Yes, there are accusations of his violence, particularly toward women. Yes, there are accusations of his smoking and drinking. Yes, there are accusations that he’s really not that good of an actor to begin with, instead relying on his intimidating presence and lush voice to carry him in a role.
To this I say… hogwash.
The man is an actor. Let us judge him separately as an actor and as a human being. I do not care what Brad Pitt has for lunch, and I do not care what Sean Connery does to his wife. As long as the CHARACTERS they portray are sound, I can like or dislike the PERSON on a completely separate level. There is a current muddling of the two people in America as of late, spreading to the rest of the world, and it is ridiculous. If I wanted to care about the actors, I would care about the actors. I care about the characters, and how they play them. A boy scout can be a bland character, and a womanizer can be dynamite, and I’m still going to want to see the show with the better ACTOR.
Now, with all that said…
Sean Connery is (or should I say, was, as he is retired) a phenomenal actor. The man made the cinematic character of James Bond, Henry Jones, Sr, and Jim Malone. No one else could do the roles the way he could. For crying out loud, the Scotsman (and a very proud Scotsman with a very proud Scottish accent) portrayed and Egyptian with a Spanish name (Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez in “Highlander”) and we STILL bought it as plausible. Why? Because it was Sean Connery, and when Sean Connery brought a role to the table, he played it in the way that immediately made you stand up, pay attention, and know that this man was, well… inspiring. Hey, when a guy can make THIS look credible…

THAT is what you call sheer charisma.
In short, the man had what so few actors have today in that very charisma. In much the same as I say about William Shatner, I say that Sean Connery is a leftover of a dying breed of actors who are being shunted out of the way by a trend for acting to be “realistic” which basically means that lines are mumbled and people squint a lot. People like Connery brought a noble air to the profession of film acting that helped it become what it is today and finally earn some grudging respect from the snobbish theatre crowd. The current trend of acting, while not limited to the big and small screens, is threatening to ruin experiences at both the theatre AND the theater. Without people like Sean Connery bringing a larger-than-life persona to their work and delivering with such panache, we will sink into the likes of Keanu Reeves and that Twit from Twilight, and soon all arresting, inspiring, and engaging presences will be gone from acting forever.
Please, folks…Connery’s already retired, and Shatner can’t live forever. The men are ACTORS in the truest sense of the word, let’s do their acting legacies proud. Act like you mean it.

In defense of… Burger King

Burger King. Booger King. Booger Fling. I’ve heard them all. I’ve heard that they lock some poor artisan from the Old Country in an airless box and make him paint on the grill marks with liquid smoke. I’ve heard that it’s only where the more “urban” people go to eat. I’ve heard that the King is “creepy.” I’ve heard that it “sucks.”
I refuse to believe it.
Burger King has been, and always will be, my favorite gruntburger spit-em-out of them all. My favorite burger chain is still Hardee’s, but calling them gruntburgers nowadays might as well be akin to calling McDonald’s horse knees and koala brains. I also exempt White Castle from this list, as they are an entirely different category altogether. (Though that didn’t stop Hardee’s and BK from trying to steal the market…dum-dums…) As far as I’m concered, gruntburgers go like this:
1. Burger King
2. Jack in the Box
3. Wendy’s
4. A&W (barely)
and
5. McDonald’s
There’s others, like Whataburger or Checkers (as far as Wikipedia is concerned) but those are the ones I’ve had, and those are my picks.
So why all the hatred for Burger King? To be honest, I have no flippin’ idea. The burgers are the same slap-bang processed tiny slabs of cow-cow that you get almost anywhere else, but it has that yummy smokey flavor that I’ve loved since I was a mite. There’s just something about the smoke, the ketchup, the mayo, and the garlicky pickle all dancing together on a Whopper (hey, kinda like that commercial…) that just makes it work for me. They are the King of Burgers, where McDonald’s is just the sneering vizier behind the throne. The burgers taste like real burgers, smell like real burgers, and look like real burgers should look, moreso than the other grunts. Yeah, the chicken’s good, yeah the onion rings are some of my favorites (I’m not a big onion guy to begin with), but as far as your bread and butter goes, Burger King has ’em all beat.

Or should that be bun and burger? Could you even get buttered bread at a BK? Who knows. I should try. Still, I can’t quite figure out why people like McDonald’s over Burger King. Sure, I get that itch to cheat on my burger bride, but I always feel remorse about it after I do, and if I don’t immediately, I do in a few hours…ugh. I suppose I could see a love for Jack in the Box if I lived nearer one (stupid commercials) or Wendy’s, which I think has the closest taste to a home burger that ever has been grunted out. McDonald’s, though? Just pitiful. Me no likey. It’s hangover food. It’s desperation dinner. It’s chew at your own risk. It’s just not as good.
Yet, what I say here will not sway anyone. My sister will still call it Booger Fling even into her thirties, and I’ll still be hard pressed to have a meal with anyone but me, myself and I at a BK, and instead settle for snacking out with pals at Mickey D’s. For some reason, the Midwest loves not the King of Burgers, mounting some kind of insurrection behind the freaky clown who looks a little too close to Pennywise. Yes, you heard me, I find Ronald creepier than the King. That’s saying something.
But maybe, perhaps, there is a different crux of the problem. Perhaps, in my lifelong bid to not be like the majority (which I do with frightening regularity, as if I’m subconsciously ordering myself around) I’m picking Burger King out of spite, and telling myself it’s wonderful just so I won’t be a sellout. However, thinking like that suddenly turns Whoppers into Tastee Wheat, and I try to keep any kind of Matrix discussion out of my head because it makes my inner Spock cry. So yeah, maybe my love for BK is just a knee-jerk subliminal reaction to the popularity of McDonald’s, but I’m still gonna buy it, eat it, and love it when the question of gruntburgers comes along. If you don’t want an argument, suggest we eat White Castle, or Hardee’s, or Red Robin. I’ll probably not argue with you there…unless Ron’s Place is nearby 😉
Until tomorrow, I tenderly remain,
Eric.

In defense of… bagpipes

I seriously don’t understand why people hate bagpipes so much, or any of their cousins like Uilleann pipes. I find their melodies entrancing, and consider them instruments that can be haunting, lively, majestic, and downright intimidating all at the same time. Try saying that about a euphonium.
Imagine, if you will, that you are a poor English regular, called into service because, well, the King said so. You’re pulled out of the dirt-farming life in Gloucester or something and you’re brought into the King’s Army with barely a smattering of training, a long pike, and orders to kill the other guy. You’re just a normal man, you’re no soldier. You’re not battle-hardened, you’re not tough, you’re just a guy who’s here because he’d be thrown in a terrible English prison if he didn’t.
Then suddenly…you hear it.
It’s a sound unlike anything you’ve ever heard before. A keening, piercing noise that is still strangely melodic and seems to carry for miles on the breeze. The fog on the moors is so thick that you can’t see anything, but you can hear the pipes, the pipes your fellow infantrymen have told you to beware of, because you hear the pipes and you know…they’re here. You can’t see them, but you can hear them, and the bagpipes on the early morning breeze strike you straight to the bone and set both your knees and teeth to chattering. That sound is the sound of your impending doom, of thousands of berserk, powerful Scotsman willing to die for their home and country. You’re not here for home and country, you’re here because you have no other choice, and that isn’t helping your feet stay in the ground. Those pipes, those wailing pipes, so beautiful, so haunting…why won’t they end and bring the battle that will kill you? Just make it swift, make it painless, and hope that the last thing you hear are those beautiful pipes singing you to Heaven.
That’s why bagpipes rule. They can be used at a battle in the morning to strike fear, and at a dance that night to kick up your heels. They sound like almost nothing in the world, and have a power that can stir the souls of your friends and chill the hearts of your enemies. People say that bagpipes are too strident, and they can’t stand to listen to them for very long…I say it’s just because they’re afraid.
Bagpipes rule.

Look for new, and eventually final, Doctor Who stories coming soon!

In Defense of… Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion (or Shin Seiki Evangelion for all you weaboos out there) was an anime franchise first started in 1995 and one that continues very lucratively to this day. It stands proudly atop many critics’ lists of best anime (or Japanese Animation) ever created, and is often considered among pantheon level in mecha (giant robots) Japanese culture, or even Science Fiction in general.
Of course, as all popular and lauded things go…it has recently come under scrutiny.
There appears to be a time limit for just how long something can be considered “cool” or “impressive” in the modern human culture. The amount of praise and adoration some piece of popular culture gains appears to be determinate on two things: its immediate reception, and its lasting popularity. In the case of something that comes highly touted, like the Oscar-winning Juno, the initial hype was near dizzying, which lead to an early round of backlash not long after its premiere and initial praise. However, expect the movie to come back into favor with the hardcore crowd in a few years, just around its very entry into the event horizon of obscurity. In the case of Evangelion, its’ beginning was less humble, and then grew into a sensation, causing the backlash to linger for a few years before leaping into full swing. As it has been now nineteen years (and I can’t believe that as I type this) since the show’s inception, backlash is coming on strong, and much of it is undeserved.
First and foremost, Evangelion is a good and entertaining story. Secondly, it is good and quality science fiction, and third it did something that each show that should be considered pantheon level should do: it pressed boundaries. It pushed the envelope. It asked dangerous and risky questions of both the established storyline, format, and even the genre itself, which truly should garner it the love and praise that has recently been stripped away by jaded (and admittedly rather young) minds who feel it is their part in youth’s rebellion to do away with the beloved forms of a previous generation. Science Fiction is both horrible and wonderful in that sense, as it is usually so steeped in human emotion and veiled reference to a current and everlasting human condition that strong bonds tend to be formed to whatever the viewer considers their “first experience” in the genre. Denizens of Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor initially rejected Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor on the cult sci-fi BBC series Doctor Who, and both fans initially became wary of the modern continuation. I would be remiss not to discuss the ongoing battle between Captains Kirk and Picard of different generations of Star Trek, and now the arrival of the newest Captain Kirk (played by Chris Pine) will only add more zealous fervor to the debate. In this way, Evangelion is being passed over as “too popular” and “last generation’s fodder” by the current crop of young anime fans, but the show is still one of the highest caliber, and deserves its unmarred place in the history of Japanese animation medium.
As stated earlier, Evangelion’s plot and story are at the first and foremost of its appeal. In reality, the same can be said for any sort of entertainment. Man cannot live on Michael Bay-styled, action-heavy, plot light, adrenaline-fueled explosion demonstrations alone. In the history of entertainment and media, it is those who truly have a gripping and universal plot that survive past niche appeal and summer blockbuster chum and achieve true greatness. Evangelion’s plot revolves around young Shinji Ikari, the estranged son of Gendo Ikari, leader of Japan (and the world’s) last defense against giant invading aliens known as “Angels,” the organization known as NERV. NERV’s weapon is the Evangelion units, giant robots piloted by the souls and spirit of their young human pilots, who possess the true humanity needed to combat such inhuman invaders and power the massive mechanical exo-suits. This will be a spoiler-free article, I hope, so I will not say much more about the plot itself aside from that it revolves on keeping the Angels from destroying the planet. While that in itself seems a pitiful excuse for a plot, it serves as a solid foundation for everything that is layered on top, like a delicious dish of lasagna.
Culinary analogies aside, it is the characters that make Evangelion what it is. Without each of them, and their many idiosyncrasies and oh-so-human failings, it would just be giant robots beating on giant monsters and, while entertaining, after twenty-six episodes it becomes grinding and tedious, which is why I tend not to watch a lot of “fight-train-get stronger-repeat” anime like DragonBall Z. There’s just so much of the same plot I can take, but Evangelion allows the plot to meander to almost everyone involved at NERV, giving them all different problems and situations that, although sometimes exaggerated for the sake of drama (which is not a bad thing in this, the age of bland “reality programming”) are things that almost every human being had had to deal with at some point in their life. The show’s creator, Hideaki Anno, had said that he doesn’t understand why people like the characters in Eva (as it is known to us fans) because they are all “so messed up,” or words to that effect. Mr. Anno, I think we like them BECAUSE they are messed up, and we feel the same way sometimes. When I first saw Eva, it was at a particularly difficult time in my life, and knowing that someone else on the other side of the world who I will never meet was thinking the same things and putting them in a format I could understand and bounce my ideas off of…it was comforting. The characters of Eva, and the way they flesh out what should be a pretty standard anime plot, are what truly makes the show compelling, arresting, entertaining and worthy of praise and possibly even a few “best of” commendations. For me, it’s the only mecha I ever really got into.
Mecha is, of course, a form of science fiction. Giant robots battling aliens hardly seems anything but. However, Evangelion manages (in its last two episodes, especially) to become a true sci-fi epic in its own right, as opposed to just an action show with some science fiction elements. The last two episodes, and several leading up to them, gradually begin to move the focus of the entire series from battle to introspective, suddenly making you realize what’s going on with the characters beyond their charges, while still keeping a wholly terrifying villain just on the periphery. In short, it does what sci-fi is best known for: giving a fanciful and appealing storyline along with some heavy thought and commentary issues. Science fiction had its roots in the likes of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and works courtesy of Edgar Allen Poe, and each time the new sciences afforded by the stories (and by the historical age they were living in) brought about new questions of ethics, perception, and humanity that cemented the genre as one beyond the standard fantasy fare of “slay dragon, rescue princess.” On a side note, it is one of my biggest pet peeves when a bookstore groups Fantasy and Science Fiction together, as the former is, in my opinion, action oriented and the latter is based in thought. After all, the first word in Science Fiction is Science, and Science requires quite a bit of thought. To this end, Evangelion manages to ask questions and delve deeply into the richness of sci-fi’s history, making something that truly deserves to be considered along with the classics. Sure, it may not end as bombastically as Star Wars or even the latest Star Trek foray, but those are what we nerds like to call a “Space Opera,” not Science Fiction. Sci-fi, true Sci-fi is something that leaves you scratching your head and pawing at the screen, perhaps even a little angry at the information denied you…but you know what? It makes you ask questions, and if that doesn’t sound like something rooted in Science, I don’t know what does.
Of course, some of the questions asked by the series are some people don’t exactly want to hear. For example, the two endings to the series (a second one was commissioned to explain the first one a little more, bad form!) are often criticized for being too confusing, too cerebral, focusing mainly on what is happening within Shinji’s own mind. While that is a three ring circus compared to the moments inside other character’s minds (which are still some of the most emotionally traumatic things I’ve seen on a screen) a lot of people wanted a conclusive ending where the Death Star blows up and everyone’s happy. The only problem is, and the same can be said for several beloved nerd franchises, is that ambiguity is how the world really works. The awfully simplistic artistic direction of the final two episodes and the ending, which is completely left up to the viewer to debate, is what any truly epic story should do.
While the two Matrix sequels were a bit of a muddle, I will give them credit for not tying everything up perfectly. A show like this should ask questions, it should deal with uncomfortable elements, and it should not end clearly. As such, it is probably not intended for the Halo-playing, Dew-guzzling frat-boy audience that is starting to approach anime, but that’s all for the better. Evangelion took chances, raised the bar, entertained, and left me asking questions. It is still one of the greatest anime productions ever, and the amount of recent criticism affixed to it will be seen only as bitter reverse nostalgia and soon forgotten, just like the love/hate relationship with
”hippie” culture in the United States. Evangelion transcends fad and fanboys, and will always be considered one of the best, so clueless newbies to the anime genre (like myself) can decide they want to check out “the best” and be completely blown away. It may not be for you, it may not be what you consider your favorite, but you will not be able to deny its place in History.

In defense of… Immortality.

You’ve got to admit… it’s tempting.
The idea of living forever, or even for a time that humanity would deem “forever” is one that has been sought after, promised, dreamed of, and attempted since Man became aware of its own mortality. Studies show that, although there seemed to be some sort of rite placed on the dead of the earliest humans, they did not always understand it. Truly, there are accounts in what we would call a much more “civilized age” of people being falsely accused…of being dead. Life and death are still mysteries to us, where we came from, and how it all comes to end. We still don’t know sometimes why the body chooses to peter out, or why there’s even a need for death as we know it. People like Doctor Kevorkian would argue that he is taking control of one of the few things that we have control over: when we die. Me, I support the idea, but I consider the good doctor far, far too shortsighted. Controlling when you die is admirable (especially for control freaks like me) but I prefer to control the situation into one where I simply don’t.
Now, there are definite drawbacks to an abnormally long lifespan, particularly for a human being. Being, despite our best efforts, a race governed by our emotions, the idea of continuing life whilst all you know and love dies and decays around you is something not many humans could handle. In fact, some humans cannot accept or have trouble accepting the deaths that occur within their own natural lives. Humans don’t do well with death, and the idea of massive prolonged death occuring all around them is, quite frankly, something that can keep you up at night. I personally spent many, many nights as a child up awake knowing that one day, my parents would die, and I would be without them, which often would lead to me crying myself to sleep. I was a peculiar child.
Other drawbacks include a continuing integration into a society that will eventually become aware that you are immortal, and try to hack you open to see why, and the tricky issue concerning romantic love. As for the first, let’s get one thing straight: this is full immortality I’m talking about, in for a penny, in for a pound. No catches, no unfortunate or uncomfortable ways to secretly take damage or die… I’m talking full immortality, and the only thing that will end your existence is the eventuall, well, end of all existence. In that instance, being cut open on a regular basis would stand to be annoying, and one would probably try to avoid it, but having to reset your life every few decades is probably a significant hassle. The sheer amount of information to be known to create a new life gives me a headache.
As for the second concern…well… this one bothers me the most of all. You love your family and friends, of course you do, but you know in the back of your mind that they aren’t going to be around forever, and for the most part you’ve made peace with that. But, for some reason or another, romantic love remains one major bugaboo that plagues the immortality debate. For the life of me, I can’t see why. You see, I subscribe to the theory that you may fall “in love” several times in your life, but once you find “that one” all other past loves seem completely inconsequential. As such, if you find the love of your life twenty, or two hundred years in, it will still be the love of your life and no one else, before or after, will measure up. It’s up to you to know which one that is, and to fully recognize it, which dictates a certain consciousness of one’s self, and an ability to make mistakes when you find out that one isn’t “the one.” The idea of romantic love for an immortal does not seem troublesome, as five years with your true lover is ultimately preferrable to five hundred with an assortment of lovers, but that should seem obvious, shouldn’t it? Love does not have a time limit, nor does it have an expiration date.
Another tricky idea is that of the religious afterlife, and what an immortal means to that. Does it set established moral doctrines on its ear? Will the immmortal ever reach Heaven, or Nirvana, et cetera? How exactly does one look forwared to eternal life in paradise when one already has eternal life on earth?
To answer those: No, Yes, and very, very eagerly. Just because someone lives for a few centuries doesn’t mean that they are the Second Coming. Just because someone seems not to die doesn’t mean that they are performing miracles. If anything, immortality would give one more cause to believe in Heaven and hope to attain it upon eventual death. As we all know, life on Earth is fun, but hardly a paradise. Someone who has lived forever will no doubt look with a happier eye toward Heaven, because they’ve virtually lived Hell as described above.
In dealing with the positives, there is only one, yet it is more unspecified. Imagine being able to have held conference with Julius Caesar, Jesus Christ, and John Lennon, and still be here to talk about it. Imagine having walked the floor of the Pacific Ocean, seen what nightmares it holds, and not been afraid. Imagine fighting for what you deem as a right cause in all of History’s wars, able to die infinitely and serve your ideals to the absolute best. The prospect of immortality is, frankly, one that leaves me salivating. The mere idea of experiencing Earth in the 23rd, 24th, or 24th and a half century puts me in a state of hypothetical, projectionary historical bliss, and up until recently it seemed the greatest possible thing I could ever hope for. After all, who wants to die?
That being said, for several reasons (all within the past year) I think I would find myself unable to accept a generous offer of immortality. But hey, eighteen months ago, when I had nothing to lose, it sure seemed enticing. In fact, I recommend immortality to those who have nothing else to lose, and it’s people like that who should keep furthering the thought and study of such an idea until they find something to make them value being a mortal. When you find it, embrace it, and soon there will be another disenchanted twenty-something to think about it, and eventually there will be some disenchanted twenty-something, or thirty-something, or so on that will finally figure it out, and then all the disenchanted people in the world who truly thirst for knowledge can be rewarded. When your life seems completey empty, the pursuit of knowledge is all that there is, and with the ability to live forever, that pursuit can never end. If you try hard enough, you might even get to know everything.
Hey, it’s almost as good as being in love.

Henry’s in limbo until I can get the lost files back

In defense of… Chris Benoit.

Chris Benoit was one of the best professional wrestlers of the past quarter century.
Chris Benoit also went insane and killed his wife, his son, and himself.
You see the difficulty. In fact, most of the wrestling community, fans (marks) and smart fans (smarks) have had trouble dealing with this for some time. On one hand, you have a multiple title winning, fundamentally sound, darn entertaining person. On the other hand, a murderer. Benoit was a darling of the smarks (smart marks, or those who are well aware of the business and have an appreciation for the artistry of it all, formerly yours truly) and was even loved by the “It’s still real to me dammit” marks who love whoever Vince McMahon tells them to. Well, Vince told them to love Chris, but not a lot, and apparently not enough.
You see, Chris Benoit had a horrible problem. He was SHORT. He even started his career at UNDER 225 pound. Holy Cabooses. Now, while a 5’11” man at 225 pounds seems normal, perhaps even a little bulky, such a thing does not fly in the realm of Vinnie Mac. This is the man who gave us such in-ring disasters as

6″5″, 275 lb Chris Masters, who was in the ring for no other reason than to be well-built

Batista, an 6’6″, 290 lb injury prone monster (I wonder why)

and the Great Khali, who is billed at 7’3″, 420 lbs, and is just as mobile as you’d think.

For reference, the little guy next to Khali is 5’10”.
Against the behemoths, what’s a guy like Benoit to do?
Work hard.
Work very, very hard.
I’m talking 300 days a year. Maybe more. I’m talking 300 days a year of getting smashed with chairs over your head, performing diving headbutts off the top rope, and basically pounding the crap out of your body and, more importantly, your brain. This is a business that suggests, and then demands, that you punish yourself. Add to that a bit of steroids (because you can’t make it in WWE without big, bulgy biceps!), painkiller addictions that would make Brett Favre seem normal, and a level of sleaze that Hollywood wishes it could write about, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster that yields three bodies, one tragedy, and one fan who’ll probably never go back to wrestling again.
During the autopsy, it was found that Benoit’s brain was nearly liquefied, and resembled that of an 85 year old man suffering from the last stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Benoit was 40. A twenty-two year career of being smashed in the head had reduced Benoit’s brain to the state where it appeared correct for him to murder. Particularly, his brain was functioning (and not a result of “roid rage”) when he placed bibles next to each body and sent cryptic text messages before hanging himself on a piece of exercise equipment. The man was not well, but over twenty years of getting bludgeoned in the head will do that to you.
Wrestling is not “fake.” People get hurt, people get sick, people die, and everyone just keeps on going. The unregulated, non-union wrestling world is as sick and corrupt as anything you’ll see, with promoters that seem out of a cheesy 80s flick. The performers, particularly career middle-of-the-card ones like Benoit, have to sacrifice everything to get noticed, while talentless musclebound hacks are given title runs within a year of debut. Wrestling has a problem. It needs to be fixed. When two of the most interesting, talented, and charismatic (both verbally and non-verbally) wrestlers die within years of each other, there is a problem. The current climate of the wrestling industry killed people like Chris Benoit. It has killed others. It will keep on killing and maiming these men for your entertainment, and without any awareness the sins will be completed again. Chris Benoit is not to blame, his brain was barely functional at the time of the murders. Blame instead a business that chews you up and spits you out like none other: professional wrestling. I was pleased to see Mickey Rourke’s “The Wrestler” do so well in theaters and critically, because the wrestling world really is that disgusting. I don’t watch anymore. I can’t. When your heroes get bludgeoned into a state of psychosis and near unimaginable disrepair, you just can’t justify it any more.

Cry Havoc

In Defense of… That Kid from “A Walk to Remember”

Many long years ago in the mists of time, my sister (then a naive, young junior high student) expressed a desire to watch a feature film from 2002 called “A Walk to Remember.” Now, the movie is utter poo-poo, but anyone with half a brain can tell you that this is far from Mandy Moore’s much more tolerable work in movies like “Saved,” and that the movie is paper-thin, pop-singer-starring dreck to make a quick buck and no doubt anger fans of the original book like some kind of romance novel Tom Bombadil. Rather, I’m going to defend one particular character from the film, a character so interesting and inspiring, yet so glossed over that I can’t even remember his name, or find any of his information on IMDB… and there’s no way I’m going to watch that movie again. So, for all intents and purposes, I’m going to call this young man “Tommy.”
Tommy is a good boy. I’ll say that first. If I remember correctly, he’s student council president or something along those lines, gets good grades, is involved in various extra-curriculars, and basically does what you’re supposed to do in high school: work hard and prepare yourself for the reality of adulthood. So of course it’s only natural that this movie paints Tommy as a supporting villain.

Naturally.
If you can’t guess the plot (I’ve already called it a romance movie, so you should be able to) the movie involves a pure, innocent WASP Princess (played by Moore) and a motorcycle-riding, stunt-attempting, scowling tough guy. Gee whiz, guess what happens. Now, when the inevitable “coming around” happens and Scowly McLeatherJacket starts to realize that maybe Many Moore could be the one to save him from a life of iniquity (which always happens in real life) he begins to try to spend some more time with her, something his bad boy image probably wouldn’t do if she didn’t have clear skin, a trained body, perfect hair, yadda yadda yadda. It’s all the same old dreck you’ve seen before, and done better. Even Travolta would admit that this plot was old when he did it in Grease. Cripes, Timothy Dalton probably rolled his eyes when he was playing Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, possibly the first example of “dark stranger steals pure maiden from well-meaning pouf.”
And speaking of well-meaning poufs…here comes Tommy. Much like his spiritual antecedent, Edgar, Tommy finds himself devoured by bland, unimaginitive movie conventions and used as fodder for the brooding anti-hero to bite through like a wad of Big League chew. Like I said, you’ve seen it all before, and better. However, I’m going to use Tommy as sort of a template here, and I’m basically going to stand up for poufs like myself throughout History. Poufs unite! It’s not like we have anything better to do on a Friday night, eh?
Tommy is a good boy. He cares about people around him, and for more than the fact that they’re Mandy Moore. He sees a pure-as-the-driven snow classmate being approached by the love child of Fonzie and Vin Diesel and you can almost see the words “Blimey, not again,” stamped across his forehead. Now, spolier alert, but Mandy Moore’s character happens to be suffering from a particularly nasty disease, “nasty” here meaning “terminal,” so put yourself in Tommy’s shoes. The nice girl in your class who is dying slowly and painfully of a debilitating disease is being approached by a guy who, for all intents and purposes, looks like he has nothing to show her but the back seat of his IROC-Z. What do you do, as a decent human being? You stand up for those who can’t. So Tommy does. He does what all the other Poufs and denizens of the “Friend Zone” (including myself) wished we could have done: he stands up to the tough guy. He actually tells him to back off, because he doesn’t want to see this sweet young woman get hurt.
Now, I ask you… how is this bad? Someone nobly tries to defend those who cannot defend themselves from a walking pile of stereotype, and he’s painted as a villain? Am I really supposed to identify with the idiot who, in the film’s opening sequence does something insanely stupid to be identified as “extreme” or some such bollocks? How on earth is the guy who wants to help the pretty young thing (while never thrusting himself upon her, mind you) suddenly one moustache and top hat short of tying her to the train tracks? Why is the good guy the bad guy, and the bad guy the good guy? You know what? I blame Emily Bronte.
And I don’t want to hear any of that “don’t judge a book by its cover” nonsense. If Tommy applied that to his everyday life, he’d be shanked by the first homeless thug he tried to give five bucks to. Sometimes stereotypes exist for a reason, and if you want to show that you can change, make some effort besides grunting out vaguely romantic things from under your pensive, handsome “oh-I-can-change-him” inducing brow. Tommy is not the enemy here, Tommy was doing the right thing, and for that he has more balls than almost any other pouf in any other high school I ever met. We wish we could have stood up to the squids like Shane West in that awful movie and finally said “Clean up your act or you don’t deserve her,” but we never do. We stand by, watching the pretty young things get defiled by said idiots, hoping that by being a good friend they’ll eventually come around, and then learning five years later that the pretty young thing has turned her car into an alcohol-fueled, flaming metal coffin. Tommy is just as unrealistic as every other character in the crap movie, but at least he was a decent human being and tried to do the right thing, which more than I can say for myself.
For almost the entire movie, I kept harassing my little sis by saying “What about Tommy?” at key romantic moments between Scowly and Pretty. I was being petulant, but in a way, I meant it, because Tommy is the real tragic hero of that story, not Little Miss Leukemia. So, in the interest of fairness, I’ll tell you what happened to Tommy, who sadly blinks out of the movie after fifteen minutes so we can get more Shane West pouty faces:
Tommy graduates at the top of his class, all honors, and gets into a fantastic school. He gets into a great job, makes lots of money, gets a nice house, and even a lovely wife and a few kids. His life is going great and, though he is occasionally plagued by the thought that he couldn’t save Mandy Moore’s character, he realizes that Shane West turned out to be all right, and he probably wouldn’t have tried so hard to win her heart had he not been challenged by him. At least it helps him sleep at night. Unfortunately, Tommy is still a noble and philanthropic sort, and has trouble coming to grips with the fact that the world, for all of his successes, is still horribly broken. Sometimes he has a little too much to drink, and sometimes he eyes the butcher knife with a longing to plunge it into his leg, but his wonderful wife saves his every time. In his later years, he begins to think that maybe, just maybe, the short, tragic romance Shane West’s character had with Mandy Moore’s was his punishment for not following the rules, and his lasting, meaningful and loving life with his wife is his final vindication for doing the right thing for years without any reward seemingly in sight. Happy ending. Eventually, Tommy wins, and by extension, every last one of us hopeless, yet hopeful, Poufs 🙂

In Defense of… Benny.

“What happened to Benny What happened to his heart,
And the ideals he once pursued?”

Warbles one of the many forgettable stock characters of the inexplicably popular new-age musical “Rent.” The answer is not immediately given, but the audience is left to assume what happened to the heart of the young man. You see, in the musical, Benny was once one of the faux-neo-post-pseudo-Bohemians that occupied “Alphabet City,” a run-down section of New York City at the turn of the 1990s. However, that dastardly Benny had the avarice, the unmitigated gall, the sheer cojones to leave all of that life behind, instead following his heart and marrying a woman who happens to have a fair bit of money. In an act of philanthropy and as a way to make up for lost time, Benny offers his friends the opportunity to bring their talents (filmmaking and songwriting, respectively) to a wider audience by regentrifying the neighborhood into a modern studio, using the money he got from his marriage to rejuvenate the area, all while helping his friends in the process.

OR SO WE THINK.
In reality (or at least the reality the show creates,) Benny is the bastard son of JP Morgan and Hitler, sent to Alphabet City with the singular desire to RUIN the lives of the individualistic, artistic, charmingly anachronistic “Bohemians.” You see, his investment isn’t going to help the area, it isn’t going to forgive back rent of over a year by simply having them do the work they love and get paid, it won’t bring some kind of attention to a part of the city that was quite frankly falling apart and could use the exposure and goodwill of other kind souls in the future, no!
It was… pure evil.
Apparently, getting paid, paying bills, having food, and actually living a life with things like heat and electricity is SELLING OUT to THE MAN, which is something the dweebs in Alphabet City just cannot stand! Who cares that the loving parents of one of the jerkoffs (probably well-meaning, middle-class folk who “just don’t understand him”) are constantly calling and offering to help, who cares that a news show is offering you money to work when you can’t even buy a cup of tea, who cares that you and almost everyone else you know is dying of a horrible, ghastly debilitating disease that is only worsened by their unfortunate (and chosen, mostly) lives and state of affairs…NEVER….NEVER…give into…THE MAN.
Pardon my French, but what a crock of shit. Did Johnathan Larson actually believe this gobshite? Did he honestly think that it’s okay to be dying of AIDS, dirt poor, and living akin to a Dickensian street urchin was better than just taking a real, paying job? Did he honestly think that the creative process and someone’s “art” cannot survive if they spend a couple of nights slinging hash or bussing tables? Did he honestly make a statement that a horrible, horrible death at age twenty is better than trying to improve your life? Well, I guess we’ll never know, because sadly Mr. Larson was killed the night before the off-Broadway premiere, almost cementing him a Tony and a Pulitzer. Too sad. I’d love to rip him a new one.
Let’s look at this rationally. Yes, I’m aware it’s a musical, and I enjoy several musicals that have absolutely no basis in rationality or logic…
“Let’s dance while we fight, Bernardo!”
“Si, white oppressor, fear my jeté!”
…but remember that “Rent” was supposed to be gritty, real, realistic. It had real issues (like AIDS) and a real, modern setting (dirty, dirty New York…why does anyone want to live there, is it really that bad?) and as such it was supposed to reflect a lot of modern theatre in that it stripped away all of the silly pretense of beloved classics like “Oklahoma!” or “South Pacific.” So, by that standard, and by the standard of other, better modern musicals (“Blood Brothers,” for example) let’s take a look at exactly why Benny is no villain, no antagonist, and should actually be slapped on the back and called a bloody hero.
Imagine you’re a guy. Might be tough for some of those ladies out there, but roll with me. Imagine you’re a guy, living in an absolute slum in the nastiest part of New York (and that’s saying something). You don’t have money for food, bills, furniture, anything… you’re basically homeless, squatting in some old tenements that you hope won’t fall around your ears one of these days. You’re an artist, and you’re devoted to your craft, which is great (look who’s talking) but you’re not getting anywhere, and the whole poverty thing, despite all your singing, dancing, and love of the “Bohemian lifestyle,” still kinda sucks. You just wish there was some way to get your name out there, get your friends’ names out there, because you’re all doing some really good work and you think people will actually like it…but how?
Suddenly, you meet a girl. She’s wonderful. She’s everything. You’re not afraid to say it…you love her. Sure, her family’s got cash, but that doesn’t matter. You’re a bohemian, deep down, and bohemians believe in love, and you love this woman. So you marry her, and in so doing you marry into a fair amount of money. On top of all of this wonderful fortune, her father, the rich man behind it all, actually likes your idea of getting your friends’ names into an arena where they can, you know, actually afford to EAT, and he’s willing to give the cash for backing and help you and all your friends’ dreams come true. You rush down to meet them, and what do they do?
They throw it in your face.
Take back your gilded pen, they say, we don’t want any of that dirty Jew money. We’re just fine dying of AIDS and starving or freezing to death… or both! They’re artists, man, and you can’t judge them, or call them bloody idiots, because you just don’t get them, man! What’s more, you’re actually a sell-out for falling in love and trying to help your friends. They not only berate you for actually making something of their life (while they would rather sit around and whine about how they don’t have jobs instead of, I don’t know, FINDING THEM?!) but they berate your father-in-law and his business associates, almost guaranteeing that they will die cold, lonely, and riddled with disease, but with their precious stupid integrity intact. Sorry folks, but integrity’s got a price, and that price is usually somewhere north of death.
I was homeless once. It wasn’t fun. It was only a few days, but it still meant living out of my car and bumming places to sleep off my friends. I went hungry a lot, too, just over this past winter, before my lovely and wonderful girlfriend offered to share food with me. I ask you, then, am I a sell out? Probably, but I’m a sellout who is happy as a clam. I’ve got the woman I love, I work for two different state governments, but I still have time to devote to my art, and I don’t spend time complaining about how “the man” is keeping me down, because I know at twenty-three that that is a juvenile complaint and at some point everyone needs to grow a pair and swallow some pride. Fucking artists. Benny never lost his heart, or his ideals, he just found a way to realize them. You, meanwhile, sit and whine and never manage to get anything accomplished, which basically turns you bitter against “the man” for your own pig-headed stupidity. I guess what Benny should ask, as he offers a chance at a wonderful life, a real life to his friends is “what happened to your hearts?”
Oh, and as a pitiful, pathetic postscript to this ridiculous masquerade, remember that this show was not written for the average homeless person (who, by the way, is nowhere near as cutey-cute as the Renties) to pool their pandhandling money and go see. Far from it. This show was written for the elite, the rich, the people like, well, Benny’s benefactors to see what life is like for the other half. In essence, the entire show is paradoxical in the way it preaches not selling out while selling out, but unrealistic in the way that hardly anyone would let their new son-in-law pour millions of dollars into a community that quite obviously doesn’t care about them. I don’t believe in Social Darwinism but MAN, this show makes it hard to discredit.
Benny should be loved. Benny should be adored. Benny is who we should all try to be. Benny stayed true to himself and found a happy life, a mature life, while his friends wallowing in misery and petulance. He was able to sip wine, while they did nothing but whine. Benny is the hero of this show, and I will say that all the way until my dying day because he is what an American life is supposed to be. “Rent” is supposed to be about real Americans living real lives. Benny is the only real one of them all. The concept of “Rent” is a sham and a pretty distraction for rich people, but that doesn’t stop countless people (mostly well-to-do, middle-class Midwestern college kids) from championing it as some kind of revelation. Perhaps, in 1996 when it premiered, it was a bit of a barn burner, but that barn has long since burned to the ground while other, more realistic projects have carried on in its wake. It’s time for “Rent” to join “South Pacific” on the list of musicals that “just don’t work anymore” and it’s especially time for Benny to have his due. The character is an inspiration, not a villain, so loosen up your $90 “Bohemian” scarf, take your head out of your own smug posteriors, and take a big, fresh whiff of real life. Take those $500 “vintage” Ray-Bans off your eyes and look around at the real world, and see who really are the heroes, and who are the villains.
Oh, you’ll see…boy, you’ll see.
Until tomorrow, I tenderly remain,
Eric.

Letter from an Illinois church

In defense of the American Sitcom

Let’s face it, folks: the sitcom is a uniquely American creation, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, and it is not exactly the pinnacle of entertainment’s potential. However, America and our lives would not be the same without the presence of these formulaic, poorly-constructed, wholly unrealistic half hour jaunts. Think back to the salad days of your youth, and what do you remember from that lovely glowing box? I, being a barely surviving refugee of the days of Zubaz and Bryan Adams, have wonderful, romantic, even downright fuzzy memories of Mondays spent plunked down in front of a black and white Sears solid state or a color Zenith screen watching Blossom and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. As time marched on, I entertained the likes of Frasier, Seinfeld, and yes…occasionally the odd episode of Friends. For some of my older readers, perhaps you remember the Brady Bunch, or Punky Brewster, or even (going a bit farther back) the likes of I Love Lucy and the Honeymooners. Don’t lie. Everyone did it. We all watched sitcoms. And we all loved them.
So why, in this postmodern, ironic culture based on painfully prepared “random” observations and $300 flannel shirts has the sitcom, that most American of television icons, come under such unbelievable scrutiny? You would think that sitcoms, which at their heart are sending up the “establishment” that you Modest Mouse listening angry youths seem to believe need a good sending up Knobbly Stick Road. And yet, I hear nothing but ire for our beloved sitcoms, calling them “offensive,” “unrealistic,” and, often, just plain “bad.” Well, I’m here to stand up for sitcoms, because no one else will, and I’ll take each of your barbs in turn. Someone’s got to do it, before we completely lose our rich televised heritage of scripted comedy to the utter scum and rotten chum-bucket that is laughingly called “Reality” Television. So, without further ado, I take up arms against your sea of troubles. Come wind, blow wrack, at least I’ll die with Ross and Rachel off my back.
First off, the idea of modern sitcoms being “Offensive” and other nasty words like it, whilst subsequently championing the bygone days when scripted shows were wholesome, pure, and good old-timey entertainment.
Pardon my French, but I’m going to have to call a good old-timey “Bullshit.”
While it’s true that the modern scripted shows have become crude, almost unbelievably so, it’s the same old story that our grandparents were saying to our parents’ programming in the 1960s, and it probably has happened since the very dawn of entertainment. You know, the birthday of Dick Clark. I can just see it now.

Patercles: Son of mine, truly I cannot believe that you will be taking in the new Sophocles epic tonight!
Sonnycus: Father, I find it entertaining so!
Patercles: Zeus’ Beard! You call that entertainment? All that filth of copulating with one’s mother and gouging your eyes out? If you ask me, things were better back when they had good writers. Why Aeschylus…now HE could weave a tapestry and create a story worth painting an urn about, not this hack…and don’t get me started on his choice of venue for all of this smut. Thebes! You know what they say about girls from Thebes…
Sonnycus: Father, my girlfriend is from Thebes…
Patercles: Oh, don’t get me started on THAT harlot! She might as well call herself an oracle and move to Lesbos!

Man, I could keep going.
But yes, such shows like Family Guy, South Park, and The Show Where All Family Guy’s Semblance of Plot Went, AKA American Dad have definitely ramped up the sex, violence, and all that other stuff that makes Watchdog groups scratch giddily at their fleas. However, the argument loses a little steam when you remember shows like All in the Family, which was considered horribly controversial at its time, and is now considered a classic (Archie Bunker’s chair is in the Smithsonian, for crying out loud). I believe Hill Street Blues killed a character in the first episode, something that was considered a big deal in the 70s, and let’s not forget the struggle the world’s greatest science fiction serial Doctor Who has had over the years for its portrayals of scary aliens and violence, all of which now make Ray Harryhausen look like the WETA workshop. Have we all forgotten the stir Murphy Brown caused in the 1980s with its scandalous scripts, or even the worries about letting Fred and Wilma Flinstone share a bed? It’s all a matter of perspective, and as long as people, particularly young people, are going to be entertained by the gross and outlandish (and they always will, as Shakespeare’s copious fart jokes will show), there is going to be a spot for people to push the envelope in the sphere of entertainment…although a spherical envelope would be awfully impractical.
Secondly, the idea that sitcoms are absolutely unrealistic, as a form of criticism, is, well…absolutely unrealistic in its own right. I know it’s hard to believe sometimes, but the second part of “sitcom” is “comedy.”

Situation + Comedy = Sitcom.

See?
Anyway, the very core of a sitcom is comedy, and for almost fifty years, it has been very, very, very simplistic and easily scripted comedy. There’s a reason why Tom Wolfe never wrote for Happy Days, or why John Updike never penned an episode of Cheers. Sitcoms are meant to be simple, easy to understand comedy, and in that way they are a descendant of the glorious traditions of vaudeville…you know, without all the blackface and the child abuse. Still, within today’s good taste (which is a window about the size a mouse can fit half its nose through these days, blimey…) the comedy has been pared down to the safe and traditionally less than subtle.
For those of you who didn’t spend a frightening amount of money to study tragedy and comedy, let me explain what comedy is all about in the snootiest possible way.
Snifter of brandy? Check.
Meerschaum pipe? Check.
Elbow patches? Check.
And now, to jam my nose into the air…done!
You see, the very essence of comedy, of all things comedic and funny, is to take something normal and twist it. Why do we find it funny when a man falls down? Because we usually stand up. Why do we laugh when someone gets hit with a pie? Because pies are for eating, silly. Why is funny… funny? Because it’s taking our admittedly rather unfunny lives and throwing in a Gaylord Perry spitball that makes up turn into down, black turn into white, and boring turn into humorous. The secret to comedy is to take the mundane and turn it on its ear, all while remaining serious and faithful to whatever ridiculous thing it is you’re doing, and that is why Jimmy Fallon is not funny.
But speaking of black and white… forgive me for letting my conservatism show, but over the past forty years the field of comedy has been winnowed such that the only thing left to turn on its ear is the situation of, you guessed it, the privileged white male. Now, I’m not about to go and say that me and my saltine Cracka brothers have it hard, no siree, but the society and current climate is such that the privileged white male is about the only thing you can make fun of anymore. Enter Homer Simpson, Ray Romano, Peter Griffin, Jim Belushi, and pretty much any TV father or older, successful white guy you can think of. In such a society that you can get sued for even implying that your black co-worker slept in when he shows up to work two hours late (because, you know, that means you’re calling the entire African-American race a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings…or something) the only thing you can get away with making funny are those evil, domineering, oppressive WHITE GUYS. So time rolls on, and the men get stupider, and more outrageous, because you have to keep delivering the funny and you’ve got nothing else to make fun of.
Mom? No way, unless you want NOW claiming you’re holding women to a lower standard.
Kids? Heck no, that’s abuse! Even implying a kid, who are by their nature less educated, by somehow less smart than their parents will damage their little psyches and turn them all into some kind of cross between Ed Gein and Heinrich Himmler.
How about rhe main character’s sassy ethnic co-worker, which every show is told to have by law, it seems? Wrong! Unless, of course, you want to be called Grand Wizard and given a Nazi salute as you go to work in the morning by idiot graduate students in sweaters and patchy beards.
It’s not that sitcoms are getting unrealistic. It’s the fact that they never were realistic, and now they are so hog-tied with who they can and can’t look to for humor that the pool of funny has reduced to a dried-up puddle. The TV try their best and keep dredging up the same muddy swill to feed you, but things are getting awfully shallow, and sometimes you have to resort to having the dog piddle into the puddle to keep things interesting. Not necessarily good or prudent, but… interesting, which brings us nicely to…
The claim that “shows these days” are just plain bad. Well, I won’t argue with you there. Got some real stinkers in the prime time lineup…but that always happens! There are hundreds, possibly thousands of shows that never made it, and we don’t talk about them in the good old days because they didn’t, and therefore passed through public memory. It’s impossible to measure the halcyon memories of landmark shows against the glut of dross that will eventually be sieved out of the mass consciousness of this country…except for that one idiot who still keeps up and Angelfire page about how “Herman’s Head is a highly underrated program.” But that’s a rant for another day.
Yes, a lot of shows are bad. That’s entertainment. I’m shrugging a lot as I type as if I’m trying to will my fingers to type with a “what can you say?” kind of attitude. Showbiz is full of the corpses of ideas, products, and even human beings that just didn’t cut the mustard. Add to it the fact that we’re not really allowed to make any cutting, funny jokes anymore for fear of the ACLU, the NAACP, or some other acronym coming and bludgeoning us into a Dora the Explorer-like coma with their mighty initials. As a result, people are simply giving up on the genre, a truly American genre and switching over to some dreck like American Idol, Extreme Makeover, or FOX’s newest hit, We Don’t Have to Pay Writers Anymore So We’re So Damned Rich. Also, let me note that most of our Reality Programs (and that includes to an extent the eight billion forensic shows that litter the TV landscape like the aftermath of a claymore mine) are actually taken from other countries’ ideas and concepts, so what good is that flag pin now, eh?
Don’t run away from sitcoms. They’re good. Yes they’re simple, yes they’re telegraphed so hard that Samuel Morse would say “steady on,” and they’re quite possibly the lowest form of scripted entertainment…below soap operas…but they’re still funny, people! At least, they can be again if you follow three simple steps to combat the three problems we saw before:
To combat offensiveness, don’t watch the swill. Start putting your efforts into shows that don’t constantly reference such, drugs, alcohol, and the like. If need be, actually STOP WATCHING for a while. If enough people stick to their guns and, I don’t know, dust off that copy of Balderdash that’s been propping up the sofa leg, you might find things getting a little better!
To combat unreality, well…get the stick out of your arse. Comedy is supposed to be taking a ribbing on our established way of life, so get over it and giggle at a Black joke, or a Polish joke, or even a Japanese joke involving a comical misspeaking with l’s and r’s. Just take it easy and laugh when you want to laugh. I mean, after all, the Comedian’s dead, right?
Finally, to combat badness. Support other types of entertainment. Like I said earlier, don’t watch. Grab a board game. Catch a stage show. Go walk next to a tree or something. Spend time with your family, with your kids, with your brothers and sisters, I promise they’re not nearly as bad as you think. The only way things change in showbiz is if it doesn’t sell, and the only way it doesn’t sell is if people don’t watch. For example: Originally, Coca-Cola pulled its sponsorship of Family Guy, calling it too offensive. A few years later, we’ve got a baby Stewie Macy’s Day Balloon. What sells will get the money, and will encourage more. On top of being full of crap, the showbiz world is full of copycats. If you don’t like what you see, just don’t watch. The internet has provided a wonderful alternative on this front, as you can suddenly see a glut of good (mostly not-so-good, but that’s what happens when every Joe Idiot has a DV Cam and a Messiah Complex), enjoyable entertainment for any taste on the internet if you look hard enough. Give it a shot.
Really, I can’t say this enough. There’s nothing wrong with the sitcom. It’s a form of entertainment with a rich legacy and proven results. However, thanks to the various factors mentioned above, the genre is getting bastardized into extinction. Don’t let this happen. Don’t let so many of our guilty pleasures and plain and simple fun get buried under bad “Reality” programming and even worse attempts by modern scriptwriters to compete with the nose-picking, self centered Stupids that make up said programming. Sitcoms can be good again, TV can be good again, all of entertainment can be good again…but we’re going to have to stop just complaining and actually do something about it.
…but that’s a story for another Wednesday. Until tomorrow, I tenderly remain,
Eric.