Monday, November 22, 2010

Stating the obvious. About the holidays, this time.

As I’ve noted in the past I’m a pretty shallow guy who tends to think in clichés, and bearing that in mind, one of the upcoming New Year’s resolutions that I intend to make and then promptly ignore will be to let go of the clichés, truisms and similar rhetorical crutches on which I depend so heavily. It's also likely that I'll resolve to give up run-on sentences. Fragments too.

Anyway, before that self imposed deadline looms too near I’m going to go ahead and Beat a Dead Horse and point out something that you haven’t heard or thought about in at least five minutes: that this year the Christmas Season began in mid-October. It’s exhausting, really. One can’t, for instance, spend a few quiet moments wandering aimlessly through name-your-retailer-of-choice without dodging floor displays full of red and green socks while the appallingly fey Johnny Mathis simpers about snowmen and Parson Brown in the background. Blech.

The obvious solution, of course, is to simply give up any pretense that there’s any time of year that’s not about Christmas. In short, each and every day should be Christmas. Now some of you wide-awake boys and girls will remember that Timmy, the chronically unsupervised protagonist and perennial danger to the space-time continuum in The Fairly Odd Parents created just such a world just by wishing for it. Of course the results of his wish were, as was much of the rest of the show, predictable. The value of Christmas spirit was cheapened and the excitement necessary for Christmas magic evaporated pretty quickly. Well I say pah! That’s right, I’ll even put it in quotes: “Pah!”

That storyline suffered only from a lack of commitment. Consequences be damned, I think we really should just go ahead and make every day Christmas. What the hell, every day is already Go Out and Buy Some Crap Day, so why not just wrap everything and hand it around. Just think! Everyday at the office could be a secret Santa party. You’d never have to buy your own cologne or joke boxer shorts with painfully unfunny wordplay printed on them again! I like it. An entirely Christmas-based economy with no apologies.

So look for it on your next ballot: Prop 12-25… colloquially known as the Santa Rules. Vote yes. Your local name-your-retailer-of-choice will thank you.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ahead of the curve with Harry. Or: An early review of the Deathly Hallows, oddly enough.

There are few, if any, moments that I can recall finding myself squarely at the bleeding edge of any sort of curve. Curves of fashion, cuisine and pop culture are normally well beyond me; I was, for instance, likely the last person in the Western hemisphere to find out that a “Bieber” is not, as I originally thought, a small rodent-like puppet in a third-tier Disney show, but rather a pop star of some note. Apparently.

All of which is to say that I was mildly surprised to find myself sitting comfortably at a private Imax screening on Wednesday evening as the penultimate screen treatment of Harry Potter’s lengthy adolescence unspooled before an audience of Potter fans. Ah, but enough about me.

The decision to break the story into two films was certainly correct; part 1 is a taught, straightforward treatment of the book that successfully conveys the adult world of dread, danger and loneliness in which Harry, Hermione and Ron find themselves. It is a world in which no-one is to be trusted and the hustle and bustle of industrious bureaucracy is opaque and menacing. Perhaps most telling, though, is that it is a world in which there is often no clear-cut path to follow. Just as in real life there are dead ends, false leads and times during which there is simply nothing to do but wait for answers to present themselves.

There is of course plenty of action as well, although it is a relief that director David Yates has a deft touch so that the sequences of running, flying and things going boom never feel forced. (Which, if nothing else, makes it all the more clear that directors like Michael Bay have done us no favors by flooding the screen with car chases that not only feel endless, but are, inexplicably, less believable than sequences involving magic wands and flying motorcycles. )

So, in short, the Deathly Hallows got well deserved upturned thumbs from everyone I saw it with last night, and perhaps most importantly, I don’t have to be behind the curve and wait on line to see it with the rest of the nerds this weekend. Ha!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kids, “master clowns,” and one small, sweet victory. Probably.

As any parent will tell you, the benefits of raising a child are many, if for no other reason that children will occasionally confirm and reinforce your most deeply held beliefs. Mostly, of course, my kids spend much of their time inventing new ways to turn my hair grey, but still, my heart is warmed on those rare occasions that they inadvertently act as little emotional enablers.

To wit: it was on a warm autumn day not unlike this very one that my younger son announced to me, unbidden and without any hint of irony, that “clowns are bad.” He was, at the time, a mere tot of five or six and the first thought that came to mind was something along the lines of “out of the mouths of babes…”

This moment, then, was illustrative of couple of things. The first is that yes, I really am so shallow that I tend to think mostly in clichés, but second and more importantly, it was the boy’s youthful balance between innocence and an appropriately jaundiced view of the world that lent an unassailable authority to his observation about the inherent malevolence of clowns.

Bearing all that in mind, today is a day that should be celebrated. It is a day on which my suspicions have been confirmed that not only are clowns vile puppets who bow to the will of a single Clown Overlord, but more importantly that they are mortal. That’s right, after all is said and done, even clowns must slip this mortal coil and go wherever it is that they meet their Clown Maker. So to speak. In short, at the age of 84, “Master Clown” Frosty the Clown has finally left this world, and I’d say the world is just a little less creepy for it.

Sure, some may think me “insensitive” to celebrate his departure, and others may call me “loony” to go on about clowns as if they really deserve the scorn they endure. Others, like my Lovely Bride, point out that he was just a regular guy making a living doing something he loved and left behind a perfectly nice widow and a family who are probably very sorry to see him gone. Well that’s fine, and maybe it’s true, but I’m still not taking any chances. Everyone else can just wait around for the next “master clown” to be anointed, but I’ll be hiding in the basement with a bottle of seltzer and a pail of confetti, just in case.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Really? Skating with what, now?" Or, WTF part one.

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” is just one of the countless chestnuts dropped on us by inventor, wordsmith, ladies man and world’s most devoted Benjamin Franklin enthusiast: Benjamin Franklin. Certainly the case can be made that his propensity for self promotion was as successful as it was unseemly, but if nothing else Franklin did have a way of putting none too fine a point on the obvious. In this case, “early to bed, etc.” is a good reminder that getting one’s butt up and out first thing each morning makes the rest of the day go a little better.

Unless, of course, you end up in the gym watching morning television.

Now normally I’m an afternoon gym guy, but in an effort to live a more virtuous, Franklin-esque life, I’ve been at Planet Fitness bright and early. That’s working out fine, except that all the effort I had put into immunizing myself against the mindless nonsense of afternoon programming seems to be useless against the mindless nonsense that is morning programming. In short, I spend much of my time on the elliptical wondering if I really just saw what I think I did.

This morning, for instance, I saw some promos for an upcoming show called Skating with the Stars. By this afternoon I had convinced myself that I had just imagined the whole thing until my Lovely Bride assured me that there would indeed be a collection of tired looking “stars” flopping around on a skating rink. Moreover, as best I can tell one of the “stars” is a large, middle-aged drag queen purporting to be Sean Young. Weird.

Anyway, the Skating/Stars thing is presumably just one of the mysteries of early rising that will vex me in the days and weeks to come, but with any luck I’ll eventually get the hang of it. Unlike Arthur Dent and Thursdays… but that’s a reference for another day. See ya.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Keep Circulating The Tapes! - (Fresh? Timely? Nah.)

It was nearly 20 years ago on a bright, sunny Saturday morning that I happened to be sitting in front of the TV when I inadvertently landed on the Comedy Channel. (Yes, that thing you kids call “Comedy Central” today is the result of the devastating Funny Wars between HA! and the Comedy Channel in the early 90s. Cable TV takes no prisoners, apparently.)

Anyway, it wasn’t long before I noticed that there were silhouettes blocking some of the action, such as it was, and that they were busy mocking the poor sap on the screen who happened to have a haircut so ridiculous that it could only be eclipsed by the bizarre fur Speedo hiding his junk. The silhouettes were, in short, those of Joel, Tom Servo and Crow having fun at the expense of a bit of cinematic detritus called Cave Dwellers. I was hooked.

So anyway, even though I’m sure that at some point you’ve been told that All Good Things Must Come to an End (the sort of maxim usually spouted by cranks and misanthropes who, as best I can tell, enjoy lowering children’s expectations and kicking puppies), it turns out not to be strictly true. In this case, even though MST3K has long since been sent upstate to a beautiful farm where it runs and plays with all the other cancelled shows, the fun still lives on. Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett are busy peddling Rifftrax, in which they engage in exactly the same sort of behavior that made me fall in love with them in the first place. Ahhhh.

Even better, they do live shows which are, for those of you who don’t happen to live in Mike, Kevin or Bill’s basement, simulcast through Fathom Events to a theater near you. The last live Rifftrax event was a thorough dissection of the studiously incompetent House on Haunted Hill, a movie complete with marionette skeletons and a plot so stultifyingly convoluted that in the end the movie just sort of stopped, rather than reaching any sort of conclusion. (To be fair, it must be noted that Vincent Price, urbane as ever, seemed to be a good sport about the entire affair.)

So anyway, true to the Dad’s off the Couch tagline, none of this has been timely or relevant to anything, other than to note that if you A: enjoy things, and B: are a nicer person than Hitler, you’ll probably groove on the Rifftrax thing. Go on, they’re waiting for you.

Keep circulating the tapes!