Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rimsky-Korsakov Still Woulda Been Funnier Than Beethoven, Though



February 12, 2010 will mark the tenth anniversary of Charles Schulz' passing. In 32 years of life (wow!) his is the only "celebrity" passing that moved me to tears.

The above is one of my favorite individual panels in all of Peanuts. Hilarious (say "Lobkowitz stopped his annuity!" out loud and see if you don't agree) and historically accurate.

Charles Schulz set the bar, then took it with him when he died.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Take Your Iron Boots and Stick Them Somewhere Uncomfortable

I never finished Ocarina of Time. I may never finish it. I mean shit, it's been eleven years.

It's an anomaly for me to not finish an epic game, which is why I don't feel so bad about admitting that I flat-out gave up during the Water Temple. Hundreds of carrots and rupees sacrificed in the name of horsey acquisition didn't do me in, but constant screen-switching did. I couldn't help it--the equipment screen was beginning to appear in my dreams.

Can you consider a game you never saw all the way to the end with your own gamer hands to be the greatest game of all time? Can you be in such awe of intricate puzzles that required a patience you simply didn't possess? (And by "patience" I also mean, "game guide.")

Thanks to YouTube, I get to see players far better than I do Ocarina walkthroughs. These videos swell up something inside of me, right in the gut, or the craw, just left of my druthers. I am suddenly overwhelmed with the need to revisit the game and finish that fuck. I want to fight Shadow Link. I can beat him. I can beat Ganondorf's phantom pianist ass, and I can take down Ganon. (Mild digression: that last boss battle has got to be one of the most intense of its kind in the medium. When he transforms from 'dorf to beast GANON with the swords bigger than Link himself, my sweet Jesuscakes. The only thing that would make it more undeniably epic is if the instrumental to Danger Mouse's "Change Clothes" remix off the Grey Album started playing. Think the sample, now.)

But then I remember that I just don't have the time anymore. Immersing myself in a fictional world of my own creation rather than that of someone elses is far more important these days.

If only I could have my next book come out in gold.



(Another Ocarina treat, featured on only the first two releases of the game: the original Fire Temple music, complete with Muslim prayer chanting. You can guess why it was removed from future versions.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Watt is Pigpen

I don't do Peanuts is Timeless anymore, 'cause honestly, I think I've proven the point. Also, the process of hunting down, compiling, and commenting on those links is time-consuming. However, when a particularly superb reference to a character or trope related to the greatest work of American art in the 20th century blips on the radar, I can't pass it up. Ladies and gentlemen, Iggy Pop.

What was your first reaction to the news that the Stooges will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010?
Well, very surprised. I didn't think I'd ever see the inside of that neighborhood actually. Probably because the group had a very long outsider history, going back way back before there was ever a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It took us a lot longer to get some sort of general acceptance than probably most people.

You've been eligible for about 15 years or so.
We've been rejected seven times and we would have set a record I think if it happened again. We would have been the record holders I think. The first few times I'd always hear we got nominated about a month after it happened. Then the lag time started decreasing until it'd be the day after, all these people calling me to say "congratulations." It sort of became one of those things like Charlie Brown and the football. And it's always Lucy's idea. I'd run for the damn thing. But somebody every year was nominating us and then it was like, "OK, Stooges, come on, just run and kick the ball." Whoops.

Inducted alongside the Stooges: the Hollies, Genesis, Abba and Jimmy Cliff. A pretty mediocre group, Detroit's near-finest aside. I don't care about Cliff 'cause I don't care about reggae; Abba had some of the greatest pop singles ever, but made full albums as well as I make wedding cakes; the Hollies and Genesis, I look at them the same way--some good songs, but mainly forgettable when not downright terrible. Donna Summer was passed over this year for induction, and "Hot Stuff" on its own destroys anything those last two bands ever put out. Come on, she got a motherfucker who hated disco to do a guitar solo on her disco song.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Spirits in the Material World

"The Grief Show" is unfolding almost faster than I can contain. Like watching an entire garden blossom forth its bounty. The spiritual aspect of the story alone puts it on a higher level than "415 101," although as first novels go, I'm not ashamed of that one at all. Let's hope a publisher somewhere shares my confidence.

Friday, December 4, 2009

So Long to Tai Shan

After four years, the DC Zoo's most fantastic denizen is headed off to China. You know what that means...Dastardly the Komodo Dragon* is now the Zoo's prize attraction!












*as named by me.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

TV Guide's Maddening Insistence on Diluting the Art of the List: Simpsons Edition

The Simpsons--AKA, "Greatest Thing To Ever Emanate From the Glowbox"--turns 20 this season. To celebrate, TV Guide has compiled a list of their twenty favorite episodes.

Generally, I adore lists; when done correctly--with intelligence, passion, research, and playfulness--they can be stimulating and educational. (See: Listverse.) Executed poorly, they are transparent appeals to either the majority or minority audience, eschewing genuine opinion for the sake of stirring the mob into a frenzy.

TV Guide's list, as a rule, suck lots. It is simply impossible to satisfactorily break down the myriad of ways in which their "100 Greatest Episodes of All-Time" compilation is just wrong. You can use words from different languages (including sign), draw up many a graph and chart, emit primal exhortations from your disbelieving throat--you will never be able to get across that the mag's obsession with Seinfeld is an actual brain-clouding sickness that the rest of the world should be protected from. (When that particular show was nearing its end, "The Guide" sought fit to proclaim it the "Greatest Sitcom of All-Time," justifying the hyperbole by praising the shows everyman qualities, the way its viewers could so easily relate to the adventures of four New Yorkers who used their cars way more than four of my NYC-based friends ever do. The article then used, as an example, the episode where Elaine sends out Christmas cards featuring her picture on the front--and her nipple is showing! Yeah, who hasn't had that happen?)

So it is not at all surprising that the Simpsons list gets it right sometimes and wrong most times.

20. Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy--There's several Lisa-centric eps that deserve mention: "Lisa's Wedding," "Summer of 4 ft. 2," and the heartbreaking "Lisa's Substitute." She's a smart, passionate eight-year-old with daddy issues. But TV Guide has a process, you see, and if you shine a light on it, the creepy-crawlies scatter every which a way. Their review for this selection features the words "plasticized sexism"--so forget the heart, forget the laughs, TV Guide adores the issues.

19. Treehouse of Horror IV--Praised for its consistency. I suppose.

18. The Crepes of Wrath--The Simpsons is one of the few shows that can pull off DVD commentaries with six-plus people in a room talking about the same thing. The commentary for this particular episode is the only boring one in the history of The Simpsons on DVD. So for that, yeah, legendary.

17. Das Bus--"Go banana!"

16. Marge vs. the Monorail--See, now you know! God, if only Conan had thrown in a B-story about how mid-city monorails hurt the cause for Tibetan freedom!

15. Mr. Plow--Season 4, oh sweet Jesus. Season 4 of The Simpsons is in that rarefied air with Season 2 of AbFab, Season 2 of The Office, season 2 of 30 Rock, season 4 of Hill Street Blues, season 3 of Homicide. Utter perfection, where the hits off the cylinders ping. "Mr. Plow" has a ridiculously brilliant premise, great use of a secondary character, a TV jingle that's like a drill bit in the brain, and the magic of a jacket as an aphrodisiac.

14. Mom and Pop Art--Guest voices Isabella Rossellini and Jasper Johns. Al Jean's first script upon his return to the show. The latter is the reason TVG gives for loving it. What the shit.

13. I Am Furious Yellow--"Angry Dad" is forever winning, and Patrick and I still help ourselves to some stock from time to time. TVG digs that "it skewered two cultural phenomena at once: the dot.com bubble and 'The Incredible Hulk'." (Again, don't be funny, be topical!) Yeah, about that last one...there is no more maddening moment for me as a fan, personally, then when the show that used to reward your intelligence instead flips off your intelligence and then brags about fucking its mom. Cue a green, shirtless, enraged Homer wreaking mini-havoc. Then cut to a horrified Lenny, who proclaims, "It's the Incredible Hulk!" Only food or sex should ever make me moan that loud.

12. Bart of Darkness--Is funny.

11. Moe'n'a Lisa--Cameos from Jonathan Franzen, Tom Wolfe and Gore Vidal. I do love me a lit-heavy episode. There's even an author brawl where a painting of Snoopy hunched over a typewriter gets smashed. You know I can't resist that. But this entry is like so much of the list--funny, good, yeah, but I can think of 20 more that are funnier and better.

10. Homer the Great--You know, the Stonecutters ep.

9. Flaming Moes--Top 250, maybe.

8. Three Gays of the Condo--Hilarious, especially for a post season 12 offering, but no better than my top 60. How is this so high? Oh right, the gay thing.

7. Cape Feare--The rakes. "The Bart the." The fucking rakes.

6. You Only Move Twice--Albert Brooks on The Simpsons is like almond crust on a sweet cut of salmon. Where the hell is "Life on the Fast Lane"?

5. Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind--Beloved, for reasons unfathomable to my asparagus brain, by the notorious hard heads at Nohomers.net Is it the "Homer's Life" montage? Hooray for computer animation and YouTube references and such? 'Cause I'll be damned if I can recall anything else from this one. In ten years, this one will fall in a lot of estimations.

4. King-Size Homer--Just reading or writing about this one makes me want to watch it. Without question the greatest entry on this sad-ass list. "I wash myself with a rag on a stick" is funnier than "Eternal Moonshine." Bart's post-daydream, fake rag on a stick is funnier than "Eternal Moonshine." A top 5 episode, easily.

3. Behind the Laughter--Of course, I mean, the entire thing lampoons a TV show. Happens to be funny though, so.

2. Two Dozen and One Greyhounds--"See My Vest." Rory Calhoun. That's it.

1. Homer's Phobia--It just got mad gay up in the piece. They did it so right with this one that "Three Gays" was really just superfluous. Scott Thompson ain't fuckin' with John Waters on any level in any capacity. I agree with the summation given here, that the writers nailed both the humor and the social commentary, using a lighthearted approach that shows Homer as a decent guy with some opinions that might not exactly strike some people as smart or even very funny. This makes my top 20, helped immensely by Waters' performance.

So, there it is.

Hmph.

When I make my top 50 list, and Patrick makes his...shit. New galaxies, y'all.