Sunday, April 30, 2006

(STRAY THOUGHTS) Topic: Horse Sense

Apparently, Giacomo, the horse who won last year's Kentucky Derby, was named after Sting's son. I suppose having a horse, especially a Derby winner, named after you would be cool. On the other hand, being named after a horse, even if it won the whole damned Triple Crown, would just be embarrassing.

The Best of "The Word"????

So, as I said yesterday, SPACE (The Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo) is but a mere fortnight hence, and due to my status as a FOBC (Friend of Bob Corby) I do have a table set aside for me and my self-published work. However, I haven't self-published anything in about two years. Last year, I at least had the Atomic Tomorrow to promote, but this year the only thing I've got to promote is this blog. So, that is what I'm going to do.
I'm considering putting together a small sampling, probably just one sheet of paper, of the finest writing from The Word From On High. (Don't think I don't hear you snickering out there in cyberspace!) Due to space limitations and my penchant for long-windedness, I'd probably only have room for four or five items. Now, I have my own ideas as to what the best examples of my work here from the past three months are, but I would like my regular readers (all 3 of you) to give me their input. Below is a list of some of my favorite pieces. Let me know which ones you think best showcase whatever the hell it is that I am trying to accomplish here, or suggest one or two of your favorite pieces that I haven't listed.
My last word on the Veep's "hunting accident"
What happens when reporters have too much time on their hands.
A 7 year old's first experience with death.
My first of what will probably be very many rants against The Other Paper
I debunk the so-called "Superman Curse"
The music of Blue Oyster Cult, to be specific
I rail against people who take too long at ATM's
The inclusion of this piece is pretty much automatic, as this is the infamous Marie Osmond post that caused a minor furor.
Demented thoughts about the new Superman film.
A not so close encounter with a crazy woman.
The SWB of the title are idiots who whine about high gas prices and drive SUVs
Well, those are my nominees for the best of The Word From On High. Which do you think merit inclusion in a collection of the very, very best--or are there gems here I'm overlooking? I look forward to reading what you've got to say.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

A Celebration of Bad TV--The Daytime Emmies

In my frenzy to avoid Deal Or No Deal last night, I stumbled unsuspectingly upon the Daytime Emmy Awards broadcast and foolishly watched it for several minutes. Apparently, there's not a lot in daytime TV worth awarding as the show seemed to take forever between awards presentations, filling the time with padding and fluff such as clips from nominated soaps, profiles of nominated actors and shots of winners greeting their fans while holding their little trophies as if it meant that they'd actually accomplished something worthwhile.
The level of acting on daytime soaps has never been all that high, but apparently the standards have dipped precipitously if the award for Younger Actor is any indication. The statue went to Tom Pelphrey of Guiding Light , but I can't figure out why. The clip that accompanied the announcement of his name as a nominee was one of the most egregious examples of over the top over acting that I have ever seen on a soap or anywhere else.
That level of performance, plus some of the ridiculous over the top plots (Marlena posesed by Satan? Come ON!) are among the reasons I quit watching soaps, although having a full time day job was another contributing factor. However, if a report I read in Soap Opera Digest here at the library while I was waiting for my last entry to upload is correct, I may want to start taping Days Of Our Lives again--Patch and Kayla are coming back! These were two of my favorite characters back when I actually cared about stuff like that.

Rendezvous In SPACE

"In the Old West, they used to have trappers'rendezvous every four years. All the mountain men and people who lived in the wilderness would get together in a certain spot and swap stories, have wrestling matches and canoe races, and see their friends. This is our trappers' rendezvous, but we have it every year."
That's the late Jack "Treetop" Straus, the man whose stunning come from behind victory in the Main Event of the 1982 World Series of Poker inspired the well-known poker adage about "a chip and a chair," quoted by Jonathan Grotenstein and Storms Reback in their book All In: The (Almost) Entirely True Story of the World Series of Poker. Straus was, as you would suspect, speaking of the WSOP, but when it hit me when I read that how the same sentiment could be expressed regarding the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo (heretofore to be referred to simply as SPACE).
Every Spring, over a hundred Small Press comics artists, mostly self-publishers, gather here in Columbus, Ohio to meet and greet long time fans, new readers and old friends. For me, SPACE provides, among other things, a chance to see friends that I only get to see at SPACE or the very few other comic cons I attend. The show has also given me the opportunity to meet people with whom I've corresponded and traded comics, sometimes for many years, but never seen in person as well as to meet artists whose work I may have heard of but never read and new artists just entering the field. I also have an opportunity to meet the people who read my comics and to rope more people into reading them.
Of course, you don't have to be a close personal friend of Matt Feazell to enjoy SPACE. If you're already aware of the Small Press comics scene, this is a great place to pick up the lastest by your favorite creators, and if you're not, then this is the best place to find out what it's all about. A wide variety of books is available in all formats. Professionally printed graphic novels sit next to photcopied minicomics and cover a range of genres and topics from humor to autobiography to just about anything you can think of and there are even some superhero comics if you're into that sort of thing. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
In lieu of wrestling matches and canoe races (though I will suggest to SPACE organizer Bob Corby that he add them for next year's show), SPACE offers, in addition to a roomful of artists hawking their wares, a full day of panels appealing to both Small Press creators and readers. The highlight is the awards ceremony in which the Day Prize, chosen by Cerebus creators Dave Sim and Gerhard from among entries submitted at the previous year's show, and the SPACE Lifetime Achievement Award are presented.
SPACE 2006 takes place two weeks from today, May 13, at the Aladdin Shrine Complex Multipurpose Room, 3850 Stelzer Road, Columbus, OH.

RIIING!!!!! Hello, It's Michael Jackson

Jackson stops calling ABC Sports

Turns out that headline concerns the retirement of veteran ABC sportscaster Keith Jackson, but when I first saw it, I actually thought it was about Michael Jackson making telephone calls to ABC Sports. Why would he be doing that? Who knows? Maybe he wanted to complain about something--perhaps Monday Night Football going to ESPN--or maybe he was just lonely and needed someone to talk to but all the eleven year old boys were in school, or maybe they were crank calls like Bart makes to Moe's Tavern on The Simpsons. And then today, no matter what the reason for his calls, he stopped. No one at ABC Sports is sure just why he stopped, but they're sure of one thing and that's that they miss him. Sure, his constant phone calls were annoying at first, but he's since become their creepy little phone buddy and life just won't be the same without him around.
Yeah, I really don't care too much about sports or sportscasters. I like my story better.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Stupid Whiny Bastards

I ain't gots no car, so the high gas prices don't directly affect me. Indirectly, though, though the higher costs of goods and services, we all pay. What I really hate, however, is people who bitch about the high cost of gas, yet don't...
OK, instead of simply ranting, I'm gonna tell y'all a story:
I work for a well known fast food chain taking orders at the drive-through window. One day we made one of our infrequent--nay, rare--mistakes. The sad victim of our ineptitude returned to the window several moments later to demand that we rectify our error, which we were, of course, happy to do. As I gave the man his corrected sandwich and profusely and politely apologized, the jackass gets all bitchy about how he had to drive all the way back and how the price of gasoline is almost three bucks a gallon. A fair enough complaint, on the surface. Except that the next time this bozo comes through, he's driving this big honking gas-eating SU-freakin'-V, which must get something like 10 gallons to the mile or worse. If the price of gas was such a backbreaking burden for this jackass, maybe he shouldn't just be pouring it into that fuel guzzling monster.
What is the appeal of SUV's anyway? Why do people want to drive around in something that looks like a Brinks truck? And they're ugly, too. (The cars--not the people. Well, most of the people, too. Like the guy in the story above; he looked like Jonathan Crane, the Scarecrow from the Batman comics.) Have you seen the Honda Element? This is the most hideous thing on four wheels. It's quite literally a metal box with four wheels and an engine. What aesthetically challenged--or maybe just blind--idiot designed this monstrosity?
Sorry, did I say something about not ranting? Oh, well--it's not like I promised.
Anyway, I'm done. I'll talk to you tomorrow.

(Now, THAT'S Trivia #12) Boogie Days

Today's trivia question comes from the world of music, an area of pop culture that I've sadly sort of neglected..maybe it's because just about the only radio I listen to these days is NPR news and talk. My favorite music remains the songs I grew up with; the music of the 1970's and 80's, which is also the music that I spun during my brief career as DJ back in the late 80's/early 90's.
So, today's question is:
On Elton John's version of the Beatles' Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, a guest musician plays with John and is credited as "Dr. Winston O' Boogie." This, obviously, is a pseudonym. Nobody names their kid Winston anymore. What was the good Dr. O'Boogie's real name?
The answer is at The Answer Blog.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Important Tip: Stealing Is ILLEGAL!

Well, I did, in fact, subject myself to a repeat viewing of Star Wars: Episode I--The Phantom Menace last night, but I don't think I'm going to waste any more of my and your time by lambasting a movie made in the last century. All I will say is that the film actually was not as bad as I remember it being; it was (and I'm sure all of you reading this can see the pay-off to that age old set-up coming at you straight up High Street) FAR, FAR WORSE!! Menace is easily the worst of the Star Wars cycle and I can see why Gabe, or anyone for that matter, would question their own taste, even their very sanity, for having liked the original trilogy after seeing this mess.
I remember feeling the same way after seeing Robin Hood: Men In Tights. The film was so amazingly unfunny that I wondered if I just no longer found Mel Brooks funny or if Mel Brooks just wasn't funny anymore, or at least not this time out, anyway. So, I watched Blazing Saddles again and was reminded of the by-gone era when Mel Brooks could actually make me laugh.
Anyway, I've wasted too much time on bad movies, so let's move on to the news.
A new addition to the list of things that the Channel 4 News department, who are always looking out for their viewers, wants us to be very, very afraid of--a list that includes terrorism, bird-flu, identity theft, perverts living next door to us, and much, much more--is the practice known as check washing, in which dastardly ne'er-do-wells will stealthily steal checks from the santity of your mailbox, use a chemical solution to remove the writing but leave the rest of the check intact, then fill in their own name or the name of one of their buddies and whatever amount they need that day to buy crack. Mike (not to be confused, God forbid, with Michael) Jackson's special report on the subject has aired at least twice, that I've seen, during the past twenty four hours, at 5 p.m. and 5 a.m., and has probably popped up once or twice more.
During the 5 a.m. 'cast this morning, anchor Anietra Hamper introduced the segment by describing check washing as "an illegal method of stealing money." Well, thanks for the tip, Anietra. If you hadn't clued me in that this was illegal, I might have gone and tried it. You probably saved my life.
Say, Anietra, you don't know any legal methods of stealing money that you can maybe clue me in on, do you? 'Cause, you see, I'm a little strapped right now and I could really use a few extra bucks, but I don't want to have to worry about getting caught and spending the next couple of years at Lucasville as someone's bitch. (That is, from what I have heard at least, what happens to pretty boys like me in prison.)
In other news, there has been a trend in the past few years of nicknaming impending legislation after the most publicized victim of the activity being legislated against, but with the new bill that will crack down on so-called puppy mills, I think the trend has gone too far: the bill is known as "Pretty Girls Bill" and Pretty Girl is, as you may have guessed, a dog.
Ken Blackwell, by the way, has come out in support of this law, which was followed immediately by the revelation that he owns stock in at least six "puppy mills."

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Attack On "Clones"

Last week, with the recently concluded Star Wars epic much on my mind after two successive posts on the subject, I happened upon a copy of Episode II: Attack of the Clones in the Whetstone libraries DVD section and snapped it up, wanting to see if it was really as bad on a second viewing as I remembered.
The truth is that it had been some years since I had seen Episode II, at a small gathering of some of my then best friend's other friends friends who I sort of knew but weren't really my friends, shortly after the film's initial release on DVD and I really didn't remember it all that well. All I remembered was laughter from the people I was watching the movie with in places that
George Lucas surely did not intend there to be laughter and an impression that I had was seeing perhaps one of the worst films I would ever see in my life. So, foolishly perhaps, I decided to give Episode II another chance.
I realize now that the reason I didn't remember much about the film is that it simply is not at all memorable. The main problem is the so-called love story that is supposedly the heart of the piece. I just didn't buy it. In one of the "making of" featurettes,
Natalie Portman, the actress who played Padme Amidala in the three prequels, allows as how Lucas had never made a love story before. She really didn't have to tell me. It is that obvious. Actually, after watching this clunker, you might think he'd never even been in love before. Which would be sad, if true, for a man his age.
In Episode II, as in
Revenge of the Sith, events happen not because they make sense, but because the story says they have to. Annakin and Padme must fall in love, because Luke and Leia have to cme from somewhere. However, Annakin comes off as such an unlikable jackass here that I had trouble believing that anyone could even like him, much less want to marry him. The romance progresses in a series of cliched scenes borrowed from just about every other romace flick ever shot, up to and including the hackneyed "confession of love just as we think we're about to be killed" bit.
Truthfully, there is not one original idea in evidence here in this movie. Obi-Wan's investigation into assassination attempts on Padme plays like Dragnet in outer space, a concept that was pulled off with far more pinache in a Daffy Duck cartoon over fifty years ago.
I said above that I remember laughter in places where it probably wasn't intended, and there were some places where Lucas was going for laughs but couldn't deliver. The comic relief bits with C3PO reveal the audience that George was really writing the last three movies for, as the 'droid dfelivers a series of obvious puns that no intelligent person over the age of five would be amused by.
Given all that I've just written, I have no idea what possesed me to check out The Phantom Menace just a few moments ago. Perhaps a vain hope, in spite of my experience with Attack of the Clones, that just maybe this one is even slightly better than I remember it being. However, I also scooped up A New Hope, so after I've finally waded through the last of the prequels, I'll reward myself by watching that one.
On Friday, my friend Gabe told me that after viewing the latter day trilogy, he wondered whether the reason he was unimpressed with it was that Lucas had lost his touch or his own tastes had changed, so he went back and watched A New Hope and found himself enjoying it as much as ever. So, as Bill Murray said in Caddyshack, I've got that goin' for me, which is nice.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Random Bits Of Weirdness

Frankly, friends, I got nada today, so I've been poking around looking for a couple of stories to make a few short, snarky cheapshots at.
Before, I get to that, I want to correct a mistake I made in Sunday's post on giant carrots. Apparently, according to frequent Word From On High commenter and annoying know it all Eric Clark, there are, in fact, carrots featured in the Veggie Tales videos. Being a forty year old man with no kids, I haven't seen the entire Veggie Tales canon, and was basing my erroneous conclusion on the few videos that I've seen with my sister's girls. However, the appearance of a carrot in what is ostensibly a humorous setting does reinforce the main point of the entry.
Moving on, here are some stories I found while searching desperately for something to write about today:
It seems Ryan Seacrest and Paula Abdul aren't on speaking terms these days. No big loss, really. I'd be surprised if either of them actually had anything interesting to say. And I'll bet Simon wishes that both of them would not talk to him.
Next up: Did you know that we are in the midst of TV Turn-Off Week? This week, until Sunday, we are encouraged to turn off our idiot boxes and do something besides sit on the couch and stare at the tube, such as read or even, as unthinkable as it may seem, talk to each other. Yeah, I know. Sounds crazy to me, too. Personally, I plan to pay as much attention to TV Turn-off Week as I do the Great American Smokeout; that is to say, none at all. My plans for this evening actually include enjoying a cheap cigar while watching American Idol and wishing Randy Jackson would just stop talking to anyone.
Gee, remember when it was hot young artist Micheal Jackson that nearly washed up former superstar Paul McCartney turned to in order to give his sagging career a boost. The shoe, it would seem, is now firmly tied onto the other foot.
Finally, there's really nothing I can say about this story, as it's ridiculous enough on its own:
A man in San Francisco was locked out of his home and attempted to get in by going down the chimney, after first removing all his clothes in order to reduce friction and make his descent easier. Didn't work. He became trapped in the chimney and police, thinking a burglary was in progress, had to be called to remove him.

Monday, April 24, 2006

"Bar League Poker Dead In Ohio" Says Rat Pack

This just in from The Word From On High news satellite, hovering in geosynchronous orbit exactly 23,000 miles above my head.
As you know, about the time I revived The Word, a Texas Hold'Em game at Conti's Pub & Club here in Columbus was raided and several players fined. As a poker player and participant in the Rat Pack's Winter Poker League (not a member of the Rat Pack, however--should any actual member misconstrue that statement as me claiming to be one of them), I was quite upset by this turn of events and have been keeping myself and my readers updated on the story as it progresses. Here is the latest development, posted on the Columbus Poker Meet-Up Message Board on Friday by the board's moderator, known as "Rat Pack Planner":
"FYI, the TFPL (which runs a large number of bar leagues, has suspended all bar league games in Ohio. Seems that one of their bars was recently raided also. Bottom line- Bar League Poker in Ohio is dead until further notice. All bar league games are subject to police raids at this time. Illegal charity games probably will also soon be targeted, although, with each county prosecutor, enforcement will likely be unbalanced, and dependent upon the influence that some of these groups may have over individual prosecutors."
This upset me because the poker league was was one of the few things other than going to work that got me out of my apartment and interacting with other human beings, not to mention that it was good, cheap practice for my own monthly home game. However, according to a reply posted yesterday on the Meet-Up boards, it was also illegal.
Fortunately, in, quite literally, laying down the law on the leagality of poker in Ohio in clearly understandable layman's language, "Chuck" did allay any doubts I had entertained about the legality of my monthly game. I'd seen a copy of the statute in question on some web site once a few months ago, but that did nothing to clear the matter up for me, as it was written by and for lawyers and was thus in impentrable legalese.
Anyway, here are the pertinent portions of Chuck's rather long post:
"The Ohio Revised Code is very specific about legal and illegal poker in the State of Ohio!!!
"If you play poker in a public place...Bar, Resaurant, Retail Store, etc...It is illegal. Period! You can't do it, even for fun with zero buy-in!!!
"You may only play in a private someone's private home or their garage or their back yard...etc!!! And if you play in a private home...You are ONLY legal if the house does NOT take a rake (have a built in profit taken from each buy-in). If the buy-in is $20 and there are 20 players...The entire $400 better be paid out or you just broke the law!!"
Well, it looks like this issue is settled, at least for now, though I would like to see the law change so that Free Bar Leagues can exist. As long as no money is exchanged, and Brian, the Rat Pack's tournament director was very careful about seeing to that, then it's not really "gambling" and hurts no one.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Carrots: Funny or Evil?

So, getting back to the subject of the comedic appeal of giant carrots, which I promised on Wednesday that I would expound upon at some future date. Well, the future is here, but where's my flying car? Seriously, man, it's the 21st freakin' century and I will continue to walk everywhere until I get my Jetson-mobile.
Anyway, back to what's passing for a topic today.
In my four decades of consuming American pop culture, I have come across several examples of giant carrots in humor. The most famous would have to be a 1978 episode of The Muppet Show in which Gilda Radner sings Gilbert and Sullivan's "I Am The Very Model of A Modern Major General" in a duet with a 7 foot tall carrot. Other examples include a mid-70's issue of DC Comics' Plastic Man, written by Steve Skeates, in which Plas faces, among other nefarious foes, the Carrot Man, who is, quite simply, a man in a carrot suit. He had been a contestant on a fictional Let's Make A Deal type game show when he suffered a head injury that caused him to turn to crime. (This issue also featured a hired assassin from the West Coast named "Rice O'Rooney--the San Francisco Threat." I still think that is one of the funniest things I've ever read, which should probably tell you a lot about me.) Then there's Bob Burden's Flaming Carrot Comics, which features a hero who wears a giant carrot mask with flames on top where the greens of a real carrot would be. The character also wears flippers, and when asked why will always answer, "In case I have to swim."
Last, and most assuredly least, is my own creation, The 50 Foot Carrot From Hell, which is a giant carrot with a demonic face surrounded by flames, who starred in a series of unpublished and not seen by more than a handful of people one panel gag cartoons in the 80's.
So, I have always wondered what is about giant carrots that inspires humor? Is it some almost forgotten race memory deep in the human genome that makes us think overgrown orange roots are humorous? Does it have something to do with the vaguely phallic form of the vegetable? (When I was in college, one of my girlfriend's friends commented that the 50 Foot Carrot From Hell "would make a great sex toy." I guess her bisexual boyfriend wasn't sufficiently satisfying her.) I really don't know, but I certainly believe that this is a subject that merits some serious scientific study. I believe the results would yield many important insights into human nature.
Finally, and I really don't know if this is related to today's topic or not, have you noticed that none of the characters in Veggie Tales is a carrot? Or perhaps I accidentally hit upon something back in college with my creation of a Carrot From Hell? Are carrots really harbingers of evil and thus not fit for inclusion in a video series that indoctrinates unsuspecting children with Christian values? Once again, more study of this question is needed.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Word's Quote of the Week

"I'm a conscientious American, therefore I have to be angry."

Missing The Mark

I could maintain a whole other blog, updated several times daily, devoted to the errors, stupid mistakes, and general stupidity to be found each and every week in Columbus, Ohio's so-called "alternative" newspaper (that word should most likely be in quote marks as well) The Other Paper. Yes, coming soon to an Internet near you: Watch for it.
This week's example of how just about everyone associated with this rag is out of touch with reality as you and I know it comes from the Alternaflicks column by Teena (two e's, isn't that sooo cute) Parker which leads off with an item about the annual 24 Hour Science Fiction Marathon, which is taking place at the brand spanking new Drexel Gateway Theater even as I type this.
The item begins thusly:
"'Space: the final frontier....' If you know which television show those words came from, then we probably don't have to remind you that the Drexel's annual Science Fiction Film Festival kicks off this weekend."
In keeping with TOP's grand journalistic tradition of mocking those they percieve as less cool than themselves, which, given their unusually, and wholly unjustified, high opinion of themselves, is just about everyone, this lead tries to paint anyone who'd be interested in the marathon as a hopeless Sci-Fi geek, but kind of misses the mark. Parker might have made her snarky little point better if she'd picked a more obscure quote, perhaps something from one of the films actually being shown this weekend. (Though, it, of course, goes without saying that she, since she writes for TOP, is far too cool to have seen any of them, or to take the time to research them.) Furthermore, given its immense mainstream success and tremendous impact on American popular culture, it does not mean you are a geek if you recognize the first four words from the opening narration of Star Trek. It simply means that you've been alive and living in the United States of America sometime during the past four decades and have been even vaguely aware of your surroundings, instead of living with your head stuck up your own butt like most of TOP's writers.
I said the only reason I even pick this thing up is for Tom, the Dancing Bug--but that's available on-line, isn't it?

Friday, April 21, 2006

No Hopes For "Dreamz"

The ads for the new movie American Dreamz, opening today, invite us to "Imagine a country where more people vote for a pop idol than their next president." Considering that the only time I've seen the ads on TV have been during American Idol, I have no trouble imagining such a place, though I have a few qualms about actually living in it, and I would really love to see a really hard edged biting satire on contempory American politics and pop culture. I just don't think that Dreamz is going to turn out to be that movie. In fact, I don't even think that Hollywood is capable of making a film like that anymore. There really hasn't been a good social satire on film since Network, exactly thirty years ago. Audiences, or at the very least the Hollywood corporate weasels who greenlight films, demand happy endings, and, for the most part, happy endings and effective satire don't really go together.
Besides, Hugh Grant stars in this film and Grant is most associated with lightweight romantic comedy, not trenchant satire. Add in the fact that director Paul Weitz's most notable credit is American Pie and you can see why I don't hold high hopes for this being the next Network.

(Now, THAT'S Trivia #11) Eight Is Too Much

Today's trivia question actually sort of ties into the sort of theme that I've had going on this week, which is a bit of a hint to the answer, by the way?
The role of oldest son David Bradford was played for most of the run of the TV series Eight Is Enough by Grant Godeve, but another actor assayed the part in the original pilot. Who was this actor and why did he give up this shot at stardom, or at least steady work?
The answer, my friends, is blowing in The Answer Blog.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Saved By Bad Ratings

I honestly didn't think I could hold out. I had only two more days to go, but I knew that, as much as I honestly didn't want to, I would break down and watch NBC's latest "reality" show fiasco Celebrity Cooking Showdown. Until, that is, I came across this item on Yahoo!:
Thank God that the majority of the American people apparently have better sense than me and refused to be sucked into watching this crap, forcing NBC to admit defeat and slaughter the beast before it cost them too much money.
That's a load off my mind, and I shall rest easier tonight.

Where No Cartoon Had Gone Before

There may be another reason, other than that the 2nd Star Wars Trilogy kind of sucks, that I, as I stated yesterday, prefer Cartoon Network's animated Clone Wars to any of the three most recent films. That reason is, quite simply, because it's a cartoon. I've always loved cartoons and any TV show or movie in animated format is far more likely to hold my attention than the very same story would in live action. The best example of this is the animated Star Trek.
When I was a kid, I didn't like Trek; in fact, I actively avoided watching it, even though my sister Pauline, only two years older than me, was already a fan and watched it every Saturday night. (It aired only once a week on Youngstown's Channel 27. And oddly enough, in all the years that the station ran Trek, they never once aired the episode "Friday's Child", and to this day I've only seen twice or maybe three times. Conversely, the episode "Wolf In The Fold" seemed to pop up about once every six weeks or so.) Actually, I tried to avoid anything that called itself "science fiction." Keep in mind that this was the early 1970's and I was a preschool aged child who was deathly afraid of spiders and snakes and that most of my experience with "science fiction" up 'til that point in my life had been Saturday afternoon TV showings of 1950's radioactive mutant films such as THEM!, about giant ants; It Came From Beneath The Sea, in which a giant octopus attacks the Golden Gate Bridge (at least I think it's the Golden Gate--I haven't seen the film in years), The Incredible Shrinking Man, in which a teeny tiny little man battles a comparatively huge freaking spider; and the 1953 version of War of the Worlds, with its creepy insect-like Martians, and you will understand why I shied away from any "science fiction" at all, including Trek. Heck, I avoided even the very definitely not-scary-at-all (but often incredibly damned goofy) Lost In Space.
Then came the fall of 1973 and the debut on NBC's Saturday morning line-up (back when the broadcast networks actually had real Saturday morning line-ups. CBS's "Saturday morning" shows used to last until 2 in the afternoon. But I'm getting off the subject; this is definitely a topic for an essay of its own.) of a Star Trek cartoon. Naturally, I watched it. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it and decided that maybe Trek, and possibly even the entire genre of "science fiction," wasn't so scary after all.
Sure, the show wasn't great, or even, for the most part, good, but it helped to open up new worlds of imagination for a seven year old child and for that it will always hold a very special place in my heart.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Star Wars Episode 2 1/2

I really wanted to write about SPACE (the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo) today, as it's now just under a month away, but there is a quote that I'd like to use that I have to look up so that topic shall have to wait for another day. I've been undecided all day on whether to write some more about Star Wars or about the comedic appeal of giant carrots. Since we did Revenge of the Sith yesterday, I figure I'll stick with Star Wars for now and save the essay on giant carrots in comedy for another day. (No, I am by no means kidding. Trust me, my loyal and long suffering fans, it will be a groundbreaking piece of opinion journalism that will set the blogosphere on its ear.)
As you probably guessed, I'm not really a Star Wars fan, though I do enjoy the first trilogy, especially A New Hope, and there is really only one SW film made since Return of the Jedi that I have really liked. I'm speaking of Star Wars: Clone Wars, which consists of two "seasons" of serialized animated adventures which aired on Cartoon Network in five and fifteen minute installments shortly before the release of Sith and chronicle the events that take place between Attack of the and Sith.
Star Wars has always been at its best when favoring straightforward action over endless exposition, semi-mystical pseudo-philosophy, or High School civics class political intrigue and Clone Wars delivers this in spades. Due to the short length of each installment, especially in the first batch of episodes, this serves to make the series easier to follow as there's no need for a lot of plot recapping from episode to episode. However, when collected on DVD and watched all at one sitting, all this endless fighting does get a little tedious.
The second set of episodes, collected on the Volume II DVD, were longer and had a bit more of a plot, as the animators began to set up the events of Sith, which picks up right where Clone Wars ends. Thus, when viewed all at once, the second season actually works as a movie of its own; let's call it Episode 2 1/2.
The animation on the Clone Wars 'toons is extremely well done and fluid and the drawings are simply beautiful. The characters don't look exactly like their flesh and blood counterparts but do manage to capture the essence of the characters. Furthermore, the blending of traditional hand drawn animation on the characters and computer animation on the ships is nearly seamless. In films like Disney's Tarzan, the contrast of hand drawn and computer animation is a bit jarring, but not here. I was almost unable to discern at times where the pen and ink and paint gave way to pixels.
So, Star Wars geek or not, I think you'll like Clone Wars. Rays says "Check It Out!" (Yeah, it's cheesy, but sometimes I have trouble ending these pieces.)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

(STRAY THOUGHTS) Topic: One of Life's Little Mysteries

Why is it, when the most common use for bread is sandwiches and most sandwiches are made using two slice of bread, that all loaves of bread are cut into an odd number of slices?

The Saga (Thank God) Is Complete

"I was not in a mood for idle conversation. The day had been ugly and my heart was full of hate for everything human."
That pretty much sums up how I'm feeling right now. I didn't write that, though it certainly reads like I could have, doesn't it? It is, in actual fact, a quote from Hunter S. Thompson's book Generation of Swine. A shared penchant for that kind of hataeful rhetoric may be one of the reasons I've always been so drawn to Thompson's work.
Anyway, yeah...had a bad day at work, and no real clue what to write about today, so none of what follows may make the least bit of sense, but at least I have so far avoided watching Celebrity Cooking Showdown...though God knows how long I can hold out. Tonight, at least, it's on opposite Idol, which really isn't such a step up but I'm safe for this evening nonetheless.
Last night, I went ahead and checked out the special features on the Revenge of the Sith DVD, which was one of the possible atlernative activities to watching Showdown that I listed last night.
After watching the promotional materials (trailers and TV spots), it struck me that some of the TV commercials are surprisingly lighthearted, even funny, for a film that takes itself so blasted seriously. (The one that features the tagline "Sith Happens" makes me wonder if it is intentional on George Lucas' part that "Sith" is, in fact, an anagram of the word that normally occurs in that phrase.) Most of them, however, emphasize the "tragic" nature of this final installment in the overblown Star Wars "saga."
Within A Minute is a "making of" documentary with a unique little twist, focusing on one scene, the climactic light saber battle between Annakin/Vader and Obi-Wan, which occupies less than a minute of screen time, as a microcosm for the production of the entire film. Unfortunately, at over an hour, Within A Minute is a bit too long and failed to hold my interest.
Other featurettes include one about the stunts in the film and another, called The Chosen One, in which Lucas drones on about the epic and tragic nature of his film and how Episode III reveals that Star Wars is really about the "redemption" of Annakin Skywalker and yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah, on and on and on and GET OVER YOURSELF, GEORGE!!!!
As for the film itself, it is, as many have said, the best of the prequel trilogy, but that's like saying Larry was the smartest of the 3 Stooges. It's not particuarly hard to be smarter than Moe or more entertaining than Attack of the Clones.
I found the film, in between the cool light saber fights and neat-o special effects, to be a bit "by the numbers." You know what I mean: It's like there were certain things that had to happen in this film and the script proceeds dutifully from one preordained plot point to the next, stopping only for one of those cool light saber fights I spoke of above. When Palpatine christens Annakin "Darth Vader" I found myself wondering, "Why did the future emperor pick that name? Is it supposed to mean something, or is it just because that's what Annakin was called in the first/second trilogy?"
And there's far too much of Jar Jar Binks in this film. Ok, it's only three seconds at the end during Padme's funeral and he doesn't speak, but any Jar Jar is too damned much Jar Jar.
Wow! Some harsh judgments have been meted out today. It could be because, as I said at the beginning, I've had a rough day, and perhaps the hate in my heart extends to annoying computer generated aliens as well.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Celebrity WHAT Showdown? Are You Freakin' KIDDING Me?

It should be pretty clear to anyone who watches even just a few minutes of TV a week that NBC simply no longer gives a flaming sack of crap. Their new programming strategy appears to be "Well, we got a lot o' air time t' fill, an' we don' really care what we fill it with." Apparently, they'll throw just about anything on the air wherever there's an opening, without, I'd guess, actually bothering to watch it and determine if its any good or not. Seriously, people, how the hell else do you explain such nonsense as Deal Or No Deal, The Biggest Loser, The Apprentice, Teachers, Four Kings, Medium, Las Vegas and Crossing Jordan. And now there's Celebrity Cooking Showdown. Geez, this sounds like an idea (and I use that term extremely loosely) too cheesy even for NBC's sister network Bravo, and, believe me, in the post-Queer Eye For The Straight Guy era that's a major, though dubious, accomplishment.
Y'know, I'm not getting paid for this, and there are other things I could be doing. I could go to bed early, or watch the Special Features on the Revenge of the Sith DVD or read Joe's manuscript that he's been bugging me for weeks to return to him or that Hunter Thompson memoir that I checked out of the library almost two weeks ago or work on that piece about poker player Jesse Alto that I've been meaning to write for a quite a few months now or...or...or...anything, dammit, absolutely bloody anything, but subject myself to Celebrity Cooking Freakin' Showdown...
But you and I both know what's going to happen. No matter how hard I try to avoid it, sometime this week I'm going to break down and turn the TV over to Channel 4 and actually watch this damned thing. Why? I'll tell you why: I am sick. Sick and weak. I need help. Turn Away!! Don't look at me, I'm Hideous!!

It's Here At Last!

The Word From On High hereby declares that as of this day, April 17, SPRING has officially arrived. What has caused me to finally shove the parka to back of the closet along with the snow shovel and boots? Was it the temperature, the fact that today is the tax filing deadline and yesterday was Easter? No, it was passing, on my way home, one of my neighbors mowing his lawn and catching a noseful, for the first time this season, of the aroma that truly heralds the coming of spring: the smell of fresh cut grass.
So, tell your friends: SPRING is here because RAY said so, and let there be rejoicing throughout the countryside!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Greatest Movie Ever

I came across this headline on Yahoo! about a week ago: "Casablanca" named greatest movie script

Okay, as far as I, at least, am concerned--and I know some people who feel differently, some who even (GASP!) dislike this film--this is another one of those "DUH!" stories.
Casablanca is, in my opinion, the greatest film ever made. After all, it's got everything you could ever want in a movie: action, drama, suspense, political intrigue, romance, humor, singing, Nazis and Singing Nazis! The script deserves to be recognized as one of the greatest ever, although after reading the book Round Up The Usual Supects: The Making Of Casablanca by Aljean Harmetz, especially the chapter concerning the writing of the screenplay, I've come to regard it as something of a miracle that the film is even watchable. Though the script is officially credited to the Epstein Brothers, Julius and Philip, and Howard Koch, if you factor in Murray Bennet and Joan Alison, the authors of the play, Everybody Comes To Rick's, on which the movie is based, and Wally Kline and Aenas MacKenzie, who worked on an early, unused, draft, no less than ten people had a hand in crafting the script. Even after shooting had begun, the Epsteins and Koch were reportedly delivering revisions to the set nearly every day. In addition, Lenore Coffee and Casey Robinson, described by Harmetz as "the most expensive and deferred to of the Warners screenwriters" had a hand in the final product. Harmetz does not specify Coffee's exact contribution, she was apparently only associated with the film for a week, but credits Robinson with shaping the romantic aspect of the film. According to Harmetz, it was, in fact, Robinson's idea to change the female lead character from an American woman named Lois Meredith, as it was in Everybody Comes To Rick's, to the European Ilsa Lund, inspired in part, Harmetz suggests, by a desire to snag the role for his Russian girlfriend of the moment.
Producer Hal Wallis even had a hand in the writing, adding that famous final line, "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship" in post-production.
Very few, if any, other great works of art have ever been produced by committee, and the old adage that "too many cooks spoil the broth" usually holds true. In the case of Casablanca, however, against all odds, it worked and produced the greatest film ever made.

Friday, April 14, 2006

(Now, THAT'S Trivia #10) More Multi-Casting

This week, we're going to get away from questions about M*A*S*H, but not all that far away, as there is a connection to M*A*S*H in today's answer. Just like last week, this question concerns multiple actors playing one role, this time all during the run of a single TV series, and with, just like the case of the different Darrins on Bewitched, no acknowledgement of any change in the scripts. Anyway, the question is:
Q:Over the course of the run of CBS's Cagney and Lacey, how many women took on the role of Chris Cagney, and who were they?
The answer is, as the name implies, available at The Answer Blog.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Idol Chatter

In one of her (Look, I got it right this time. Sorry for the error last time) greatly appreciated flurry of comments on last week's posts, the fellow blogger who goes by the cyber-handle Two Minute Trek, in responding to my over the top rant of last Thursday concerning Mandisa's ouster from American Idol, asked, "Now what's your theory on why Bucky is still in the game?" and I had planned to address that very question today. I briefly considered finding something else to write about, as Bucky is no longer "in the game" as of last night, but I've already worked out what I have to say, and, besides, I've just put in a long day at work and I am quite tired and by lower back is killing me so I don't feel like taking any time to check other blogs or the Columbus Dispatch hunting around for a topic. Anyway, all I have to do to make the topic still relevant is to reword the query from "Why is Bucky still in the game?" to "How the bloody hell did he make it as far as he did?" And why is Taylor Hicks still there? What about Kevin? How'd that little popsqueak sneak into the Top 12 and get as far as he did? Are you sensing that, as far as I'm concerned, all of these questions have the same answer?
TMT was quite right in stating that Bucky was "just not professional material at all" and, for that matter, neither was Kevin, though, being only 16, he might be one day. As far as Taylor, I'd be more than happy to have him sing at my wedding (if he lives that long...or if I do), but he really doesn't have what it takes to hang at the top levels. But they, all three of them, are cute. They're cute and funny and lovable, and that, far more than their singing ability, is most likely what kept Kev and the Buckster in it as long as they were and might just (I'm going out on a limb here--you may remember that my previous prediction concerning the make-up of the final two was rendered moot, so I guess I need to make a new one) propel Taylor Hicks to a spot beside Chris Daughtry on Finale Night. Idol is, after all, not purely a singing competition, despite Simon's insistence on repeating that point. If he and the other judges were left to determine who advances, it would be, but the decision is left in the hands of the audience, most of whom are not music industry professionals, so the factors I mentioned above will, indeed, come into play.
That said, I will allow that both Bucky and Taylor gave their best performance in several weeks on Tuesday night, though, as far as Taylor's stage moves, I have to agree with Simon, who found them ridiculous and asked if Taylor was drunk.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

But Who Was Winning The Argument?

Walking home on Sunday from the local Kroger, trying to carry four bags of groceries in one hand and smoke a cigarette with the other, I passed a rather large woman with long brown hair wearing a lime green sweater who was waiting at the sheltered bus stop in front of the Whetstone Recreation Center here in my Columbus, Ohio neighborhood of Clintonville. I noticed her because she was talking very loudly, so much so that although I could not make out her words I could hear her voice all the way over on the opposite side of High Street (the very street, as you may have guessed, from which this blog derives its name), occasionally angrily, and apparently to herself, or maybe some imaginary friend or voice inside her own head, which may account for her volume in that she may have been attempting to drown out the internal demons that haunted her. I assumed that she was talking to herself because there was no one else anywhere near the bus stop, except for me on the opposite side of the street, and she wasn't holding a cell phone. Her hands, when she wasn't gesturing broadly or waving them about to make a point, rested on her legs, which straddled the corner of the bus stop bench. I also saw no evidence of any headset, though at that distance I might have missed it. Of course, if she'd had a speaker or microphone practically in her mouth as she would have with either a regular or hands free cellphone, there would have no need for her to be so blasted loud. I won't go so far as to proclaim the woman crazy and risk coming out on the negative side of the proverbial pot/kettle rebuke, but it was fairly clear that she was talking to herself.
Sometimes, though, it's hard to tell these days. With the proliferation of cellphones in the last decade or so, especially the smaller hands free headsets, it is occasionally difficult to gauge at first blush just who is really crazy and who is merely very busy or very popular. To tell the truth, I often wonder just how many of the people I see talking loudly into their cellphones, seemingly oblivious to their surroundings or the volume of their voice, actually are talking to themselves and merely using a lifeless cellular phone as a prop, attempting to fool the world into thinking that they are not as detached from reality as they must know that they are.
In fact, I have once or twice considered buying one of those candy dispensers I have seen that look like cell phones and hold it next to my ear as I walk the sidewalks of Clintonville occasionally composing, out loud, my next pearl of wisdom for The Word From On High.

(STRAY THOUGHTS) Topic: West Wing Memories

Just before heading on over here to the library to continue my tradition of bringing you the finest in blogging entertainment, and entertainment blogging, I was listening to a compilation CD entitled NonStop 90's Rock on which there sits a cut by The Presidents of the United States of America. Having had the TV series The West Wing much on my mind these past few days, I could not help but be reminded by the band's name of that series' pilot episode, specificly the scene just before the opening credits where Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn is leaving Laurie's apartment in the morning after receiving the message "POTUS in bicycle crash."
"Tell your friend POTUS he has a funny name," Laurie says as Sam leaves.
"He's not my friend, he's my boss," Sam replies. "And POTUS isn't his name, it's his title: President Of The United States."
That's one of my favorite moments from any TV show ever.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Results Are In

It was only after I posted yesterday's rambling and overlong entry in which I asked of my faithful readers, who responded, I must add, with resounding indifference, the information pertaining to the results of the fictional presidential election on TV's The West Wing that I actually followed one of the links that I embedded in it and there, staring me in the face in the form of a link to a plot summary of the previous night's episode was the very answer that I sought. Nor was I all that terribly surprised to learn that Representative Matthew Santos of Texas, portrayed by Jimmy Smits, would become West Wing's alternate America's first Latino President, especially since the producers had the real-life death in December of last year of John Spencer, the actor who portrayed former Secretary of Labor and White House Chief of Staff and current Vice-Presidential candidate Leo McGary, to deal with. I just knew that they would not be able to pass up the bitter irony of having Leo suffer a fatal heart attack only hours before he would have been annointed as the next Vice President, not to mention all the dramatic possibilities inherent in the complications that his death will inevitably result in for the transition to the incoming Santos administration.
Just how, I'm wondering, do you go about replacing a Veep who dies on election night? Can Santos simply name a new second in command? Would the replacement have to be confirmed by the Senate in the same manner as a replacement for a sitting VP? Are there even any provisions in the Constitution for such a contingency? I guess we'll find out the answers to all of these burning questions as the last few episodes of the series play out in the coming weeks, and given the show's well deserved reputation for accuracy and commitment to verisimilitude, I'm sure that the events as they play out on the small screen will reflect what might really happen should such an unthinkable situation occur in real-life.

Here's Something Someone Might Find Interesting...

In searching out the links to further info for my "Stray Thought" about the band Queen, I simply entered the single word "Queen" into Google and, along with the official band site and some fan sights and the Wikipedia entry I ultimately went with, I also got a link to The Official Web-Site of The British Monarchy (An institution heades, as you know, by the "Queen"). If you're one of those many Americans who are inexplicably fascinated with the lives and scandals of the British Royal Family (and if you are, you are nonetheless still welcome here at The Word From On High--I'm quite open-minded about such things, even though I don't understand it at all), then you might enjoy surfing over there and looking around.

(STRAY THOUGHTS) Topic: Didn't They Retire Or Something?

Y'know, I had no idea that the band Queen was still around and, in fact, are touring and will appear tonight and tomorrow night on American Idol. I really thought the band had called it quits after the 1991 death of its lead singer Freddy Mercury.
To me, the idea of Queen going on without Mercury is like Van Halen trying to replace David Lee Roth, or INXS searching for a replacement for Michael Hutchence on a tacky Idol-clone "reality" show or ... Hey! Wait a minute!
Yeah, I'll just shut up now...

Monday, April 10, 2006

So, Who's Not The Real President?

As you would know if you are one of the hip and happening types who read this blog regularly and thus saw yesterday's odd bit of multi-megabyte wasting rambling on the merits, or lack thereof, of the comedic efforts of Leslie Nielson, I stayed up until about three a.m. on Saturday night/Sunday morning playing poker and ultimately losing everything to "Erudite" Eric Clark, who those of you who aren't him will know, if you are among my small army of fanatical devotees, from his many sage comments contained herein. This always happens when the game gets down to "heads-up" between Eric and me, because he is, quite simply, a better poker player than I am. Now, if I could pack a whole table full of people who play like my idiot brother-in-law, then I'd be a rich man. Anyway, I guess the moral is that I should cash in my own chips when it gets down to the just the two of us, though I think that if I keep honing my skills, I may one day prevail in a heads-up contest.
Anyway, as I said, it took me until three in the morning to lose all my chips, which is pretty good considering that the game started at 8:30 and I didn't havae to buy more chips, so I was tired all day yesterday and reluctantly fell asleep somewhere around six o'clock last night while watching the second series of the British sitcom 'Allo, 'Allo on DVD (which I may write about later, after I catch up on the episode I fell asleep in the middle of) and slept through to the morning, except for being awakened in the middle of the night by my cat, who was running around in a frenzy chasing her own tail or whatever hyperactive cats do in the middle of the damned night and landed right on my head scratching my face with her back claws and actually drawing blood. Whew! That, believe it or not, was all one sentence, so in the interest of readability let's start a new one. The point of this whole ramble is that I missed The West Wing last night and thus have no idea who won the fictional election to replace the fictional President Josiah Bartlett (who I believe is supposed to be descended from the real Josiah Bartlett, a delegate to the Second Continental Congress and Signer of the Declaration of Independence from, of course, New Hampshire, the state the fictional latter-day Josiah Bartlett hails from. I learned about the existence of the factual Bartlett, by the way, when he shows up at the end of the movie 1776.)
The show just isn't watched, or talked about, the way it was in the first few seasons, so no one at work knew either. That then is where you, the loyal members of my globe spanning readership, come in. Can somebody out there please tell me who won the election last night on The West Wing.
Thanks. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Unfunny Thoughts

"Leslie Nielson is NOT funny," I said to no one in particular after seeing a boxed set of his comedy films entitled The Laugh Or I'll Shoot Collection advertised in a Meijer sales flyer that arrived outside the door of my apartment today. I was speaking to "no one in particular" because I was alone in my apartment except for my cat, whose only response was to meow her usual annoying unreasonable request for food and water.
"Shut up!" I yelled, hurling a copy of Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 at her head. (Paperback, of course. I don't want to hurt her.) "Didn't I feed you last week?" She hissed and ran away to cower in a closet.
Now, where was I?
Oh, yeah. Leslie Nielson isn't funny. I've said that a million times, usually whenever one of his films pops on TV and usually to "no one in particular," but never in print and I didn't want two days in a row to go by without updating The Word, even though I was up until three a.m. last night playing poker, so I'm sharing that judgment now with the entire world.
It may be hard to remember now, but up until Airplane!, Nielson was known as a "serious" actor in mostly "B" melodramas, though he probably gave a few unintentionally funny performances in his early career. The genius of Airplane! was that it took Nielson and other actors not usually associated with comedy, such as Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack and Peter Graves, and had them deliver the same straightforward, stone-faced, square jawed performance they'd given a million times throughout their careers while reciting some incredibly absurd and ridiculous dialogue. One of my favorite bits in the film is the running gag where Bridges, as the situation spirals more and more out of control, says, "I guess I picked the wrong day to quit smoking (or drinking or sniffing glue)" in the same tough guy monotone he had used to read suspect their rights as TV's Joe Forrester. Nielson went on to star in the TV series Police Squad and the Naked Gun series of movies spun off from it that followed the same formula, being from the same writers and directors, as Airplane!
Unfortunately, the success of those projects apparently went to Nielson's head and somehow convinced him that he was actually funny. This has led to him mugging his way through a series of awful films and some dreadful commercials for the Ohio Lottery. Sadly, what was probably just a lark for Graves and Bridges, who went back to what they did best immediately after Airplane!, has become a lifetime of self-delusion for Nielson.
But then I think there are people who actually care what I have to say here, so who am I to talk about self-delusion.

Friday, April 07, 2006

(Now, THAT"S Trivia # 9) More Mindless MASH Merryment

Yep, for this week's trivia question, I'm going to continue mining the lore of one of America's best loved and most fondly remembered TV shows, M*A*S*H. The question for today is:
Q: How many actors have played the role of "Trapper" John McIntyre, and just who are they?
The answer lies just a click away, at The Answer Blog.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Unanimous Dissent

It strikes me as somewhat ironic that the thing that draws many viewers, at least at first, to American Idol is the idea of seeing Simon Cowell being mean to the contestants, Paula Abdul, Ryan Seacrest and basically everyone and anyone. It's ironic because, Simon notwithstanding, Idol is one of the very few so-called "reality" shows that doesn't revel in bringing out the worst in its participants. Idol is a celebration of talent and music and the joy of performance and of acheiving your dreams and other good crap like that rather than a celebration of greed, deceit, treachery, jealosy, manipulation and other of the worst traits of the human animal.
Yes, I finally decided to, as Jack Bertram put in a comment last week, "take one for the team...and watch that show" last night. If you read my post of last Thursday, you know that I went in to watching Unanimous with certain preconceived notions. You know, it's always nice when your prejudices are confirmed; it makes the world seem to make sense, if only for a little while. Just as I suspected, the whole thing is, in fact, another pointless exercise in manufactured "conflict" designed to bring out the worst in the contestants and appeal to the worst of the viewer. I mentioned Big Brother, a show I actually like, on Thursday and there certainly are similarities. You could say that Unanimous is BB on steroids. The "participants," as they are referred to, are completely isolated from the world in an underground bunker and must chose, by a unanimous vote, thus the name, which one of them walks off with the prize money.
That's the basic idea, but there are other "twists" that are revealed each time they vote and fail to agree. I sort of suspect the rules are being made up on the fly by the nerdy looking guy on the screen who gives the participants their instructions and counts the votes. (A note to the producers: No amount of reverb is ever going to make this guy's annoying voice sound ominous.)
The main problem with this show is the so-called "participants." They are the worst group of unlikeable, unsympathetic losers, liars, lunatics, and total jerks ever assembled for a "reality" show. On Big Brother, there are usually a few likeable people among the jackasses who I can actually root for to win the cash, although they almost never do. Here, however, there is not one single person to root for. None of these idiots deserves the money, or the 15 minutes of fame they're getting from this show, or my continued viewing of them and this degenerate spectacle.
In a comment on Thursday's post here and on his own blog, the author of Two Minute Trek suggests that the "game" is a ruse and that everyone but Steve is an actor, and not a very good one at that. Sure, that has been done before. I don't remember the name of the show, but it was on Spike-TV a couple of years back, though, in that case, the viewers were let in on the gag, which is not the case if Unanimous is as Two Minute Trek suggests. But I don't think it is.
First off, I think if they were going to use professional actors, they would have hired good ones. Now, while the participants on Unanimous may not be professionals, they are acting. There's some scientific truism that states that the act of observing something changes the nature of that being observed. I believe it's called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. I'm not sure of that, because I'm a cartoonist not a scientist, but whatever its called, it is a real thing. No where is this more true than on the so-called "reality" shows. People just act differently when they know they're being watched and even more differently when they are being watched by cameras. Its jsut human nature. By now, everyone who participates in a "reality" show has seen all the others, from Big Brother to Survivor, and knows how the genre works. Thus, the participants on Unanimous are acting, even Steve. They are acting the way that they believe people on these shows are expected to act and casting themselves in roles within the game in keeping with the rules of the genre. If they overact, if their performances seem a bit over the top it is precisely because they are not actors.
Anyway, next week I'm turning off the tube after the Idol results show. I shall not be watching this dreck any more and, as Mrs. Slocombe of Are You Being Served? would say, I am Unanimous in this.