So I Just Watched: Cake Boss

Ninth in a series of disorganized thoughts I am left with immediately after watching something.

Well, to be fair, I’m through just two seasons (of five?) as available on Netflix, so it’s an ongoing endeavor.  Why?  Well, some reasons!

There is a comedian by the name of Paul F. Tompkins, with whom I have been familiar for some time.  I first saw his work on the legendary Mr. Show With Bob and David, a mid-to-late 90’s springboard for a whole slew of emerging alternative comedians (in addition to writing, Tompkins made a few appearances, such as in this sketch where he briefly appears as an entertainer-for-hire, Champion “The Drinker”).  Later, I’m sure I’d seen him in other things, maybe a few clips in rotation on Comedy Central in the days where they’d chop up as many stand-up specials as they could and repackage them into those interminable clip shows.

Most recently, though, I’d become reacquainted with him through the intimidating world of comedy podcasts.  He is probably the most prolific man in podcasting, having contributed hundreds of hours of appearances across dozens of shows, as well as sporadically releasing episodes of his own, The Pod F. Tompkast.  There used to be a website that kept track of them all, but I believe they must have given up a few months ago, realizing it to be an exercise in futility.

So wait, what does any of this have to do with Cake Boss?

Continue reading

Chatterbox: May 29th, 2013

Long time, no see!

I get in slumps, it’s true.  I have so many intentions that they get all tangled up and bottlenecked.  Am I afraid to commit time to one thing for too long, out of fear that I should have committed time to something else?  That seems likely.  But every once in a while I can push through, at least for an evening, and unravel a bit.

I’m 30!

That’s still sinking in.  I gotta keep reminding myself that this is actually the start of my fourth decade, not my third.  But maybe those first ten years are a freebie, in terms of personal development.  Though foundations were laid in that time, I do not feel that I myself built upon them until afterwards.  Of course, I have endless gratitude for my parents and family for laying strong foundations early on, without which I would be a collapsed slump of a manbuilding by now.

My intention is not to get all heady and philosophical today, I just gotta start feeling productive again after my lull.  Brains are rested, fingers are antsy, words will spill about in a mess for a while.

New topic!  On the way home, I had to swing by the store for a few things, and grab dinner. I had it all plotted out: order food, hunt around in adjacent game store for obscure titles, return to pick up order when ready, go to Target, get amenities, go home, eat, watch Arrested Development.

It’s reassuring that my problems are so small…

At Target, found what I needed.  Paid, cashier bagged it all, grabbed bags, left.  Got home. Put milk in fridge, bathroom stuff in bathroom.  Returned to room to exchange new charger cable for my iPad (wire casing has been stripped away on original, and bare wires were exposed).

But…

Where is it?

Was it in the bag with the milk, and I unwittingly put it in the fridge?  No.

Did it fall out in the car?  No.

Do I have to get all dressed again, drive back to Target while my food gets cold, gaggle around in the parking lot looking for a spot amongst the rush hour shopperati, hope the store A. hasn’t tossed my item into restock and B. believes me when I say I paid for it?  Yes.

So I did that.  Thankfully I got what I paid for.

Dear cashier: I’ve done your job before. It’s not difficult.  You have two main tasks: scan the items at point of purchase, then drop them into bags.  Very rarely, you have the added responsibility of letting a customer know they are leaving without everything they’ve paid for (because when you’ve already prepared two bags for four entire items, I am not generally expecting to need a third).

Like I said.  Small problems.  By the time I got home, my food was not entirely lukewarm, at least!

New topic!  I’m four episodes through the new season of Arrested Development.  Capsule review thus far: first episode is strong, second episode is weak, three and four are strong, and I can feel the snowball is has picked up momentum.  Like it got a good shoulder at the beginning to get rolling, but then it needed a little more help to get over the crest of the hill. My biggest fear coming into it was that we would be subjected to a recap and remix of all the best jokes from the first three seasons, but it’s already spun off in very unexpected directions and my favorite characters haven’t even had their time in the spotlight yet.

I’m excited to see where it all lands, but I feel I want to pace it out over at least a few days.  I need the opportunity to recalibrate as I go on.

It does remind me that I wish Netflix would restructure TV show rating to at least the option to score season-by-season, as each creative capsule may carry its own strengths and weaknesses.  I spent a lot of my downtime watching Frasier in its entirety (srsly), and for example I would like to have been able to score some seasons as 5s and others as 3s.  That’s a show that managed to shift its tone season by season, to its strength I think, but for a long-running sitcom like that there’s gonna be a portion of the audience that decries a deviation from the initial formula (which even for the best shows starts to lose steam after a few straight years).

New topic!  Writing.  I am exploring new opportunities to adapt old unfinished stories into the ol’ visual novel format so popular in Japan (I know it’s usually used for romance games but there is no good reason why it can’t be used for other stuff, too).  Plans: learn a bit of code to do more interesting stuff with the purpose-built software engine I found.  Import and adapt some existing unfinished projects.  Try to make them finished projects (or at least, like, a chapter of a longer novel as proof-of-concept, cuz it’s the kind of thing I could release serially (like Dickens! (I’m not really like Dickens (but I bet he would totally be into those dating sims))).

It’d be nice to have some physically adjacent collaborators, or a work space separate from my little ol’ room, but let’s not get ahead of myself.

Anyway.

Arrested Development: so far so good!

Being 30: so far so good!

Writing: we’ll see how I fare!

Keeping dinner down: so far so good!

So I Just Watched: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Eighth in a series of disorganized thoughts I am left with immediately after watching something.

Thanks to Comedy Central, I’ve never seen John Hughes’s 1987 frenemy road comedy all the way through, or in a format that wasn’t cut for time and content, and edited to fit my screen.  Hey, my screen is versatile!  Don’t be so presumptuous.

Continue reading

So I Just (Re)Watched: Beauty and the Beast

Seventh in a series of disorganized thoughts I am left with immediately after watching something.

I don’t know what it is about the letter “B”, but if you ask me “what are some good ______?”, my mind gravitates towards it.  I certainly like things that start with other letters, but I kind of jump to “B” at a moment’s notice.  It’s a fun, round, plump letter that’s produces a warm, soft, and cozy phoneme.  You might say it’s my favorite letter of the balphabet.  No, that’s stupid.  “Alphabet” derives from the common sequence of Greek letters (alpha, beta, gamma, delta, etc.)  So it would be more appropriate to say it’s my favorite letter of the betagam.

Anyway!  Examples.  “What are some good musicians?”  Beck, Bowie, Byrne, Badly Drawn Boy, Basement Jaxx, Björk.  “Esoteric or idiosyncratic games?”  Bayonetta, Bastion, Braid, Borderlands, Bushido Blade, Breath of Fire.  “Movies you can watch over and over?”  Big Lebowski, Brazil, Barton Fink, Beetlejuice, Back to the Future, Being John Malkovich, Beauty and the Beast.

And so I watched Beauty and the Beast again!  The Disney one with the singing and the animations.

Continue reading

So I Just Watched: “Ringing Bell”

Sixth in a series of disorganized thoughts I am left with immediately after watching something.

A few weeks ago, I was at Fry’s Electronics, looking through their movies.  In the Children’s & Family section, I was somewhat amused to find Studio Ghibli’s grim “Grave of the Fireflies” wedged alphabetically between such fare as “Ferngully: The Last Rainforest” and “The Great Mouse Detective”.  Ostensibly, it was created as a family-oriented feature, and in fact debuted on a double billing with the much much lighter “My Neighbor Totoro”.  However, due to its harrowing depiction of the trials and tragedy of young war orphans struggling against starvation and societal collapse in the wake of the Kobe firebombings of WWII, it is very often reshelved under, say, drama.

Think about that… a double feature of children dying during wartime, backed with “My Neighbor Totoro”, one of the breeziest, most cheerful, most fantastical fixtures of Ghibli’s catalog.  Heck, recreate the experience at home!  Watch them back to back, and I doubt you’ll come away from it thinking, “doing that was a normal kind of idea”.  I’m guessing they showed Totoro second, kind of a dessert after the main course?  But in my American upbringing, it’s basically, “no dessert until you finish your vegetables”.  This is more like, “no dessert until you finish your vegetables, and I smack you around a bit”.

Continue reading

Writer Blocks

I’ve been feeling unduly stressed and introverted this week and I’m not sure why.  Like my mind’s a tightly-packed ball of rubber bands bundled up around an idea, and I can’t seem to snap it free.  I had plans to finish, like, three posts this week (though they fortunately linger in partial draft form, thanks WordPress!), but didn’t get there.  I was waiting for something to arrive all week, and when it didn’t get here yesterday (when I thought it was going to) I got more stressed… I didn’t want to have to wait the whole weekend to get it!  But fortunately, it showed up today, so I’ll take this opportunity to exhale and force myself to release some of this mental congestion. And, as an added incentive, I’m not gonna get dinner til I’m done. But what was so cool, after all?

My huge-ass Lego set came in the mail!

Continue reading

So I Just Watched: “The Cider House Rules”

Fourth in a series of disorganized thoughts I am left with immediately after watching something.

Was this movie kind of a big deal when it came out or something? Product of its time, I guess. I will feel no great sadness if I never see it again.

First of all, the title… not too long ago, a friend and I were having a discussion about titling things, and how obtuseness and assumed lyricism do not often serve a potential audience’s interest. “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”. “The Godfather”. “Romeo & Juliet”. “The People vs. Larry Flynt”. These are your utilitarian titles. One can look at them and pretty quickly know what a story is probably going to be about.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have thematic and evocative titles that are novel and intriguing, and wind up having some greater subdermal implication to the story at large. “Cat’s Cradle”. “Gattaca”. “No Country For Old Men”. “There Will Be Blood”. “The Bad Sleep Well”.

Then you have a murky grey area in the middle, where titles are self-consciously trying to be evocative and bridging some sort of thematic/poetic gap, but falling short. “The Constant Gardener”. “Their Eyes Were Watching God”. “Secondhand Lions”. “Million Dollar Baby”. And for me, “The Cider House Rules” is there too. What are these stories about? Who knows? Plus, I can never get through without interpreting it at least once as if a Ninja Turtle is saying it… the cider house rules, dude!

Continue reading

So I Just Watched: “Arthur Christmas”

Third in a series of disorganized thoughts I am left with immediately after watching something.

Okay, so I didn’t just watch it… it was a few days ago, when I was at my parents’ for a holiday break.  I was vaguely aware of the movie when it came out, but had no interest whatsoever in seeing it.  It was a confluence of multiple vectors of disinterest!  First, Sony Animation has not done us well, historically.  “Open Season“?  “Surf’s Up“?  “The Smurfs“?

Second, holiday-themed animation is always a mixed bag.  Zemeckis’s “The Polar Express” and “A Christmas Carol” are itchy, uncomfortable affairs.  I had no interest in “Hop” based on the previews, and a cursory look at the critical and audience reception shows I was right to be skeptical.  Plus, I’ve never really been a fan of those Rankin/Bass stop-motion specials.  It’s like the ugliest crap at the flea market came to life to teach you trite moral lessons.

Continue reading

Happy End of the World Again

It’s that time again… as December 21, 2012 looms above us, thoughts turn to annihilation and worldwide destruction.  But not really, of course.  I read somewhere that, accounting for leap years, the world already ended several months ago if we are to believe the rolling-over of the long count calendar.  Why are we so fascinated by the imminent threat of our own demise?  As we are not entirely sure what (in anything) is the grander meaning of our existence, the reminder that it’s going to end (and perhaps an occasional abstract ominous capital-‘E’ Event every couple years) may spurn us to create a meaning we are satisfied with.

As a non-religious scientist type, I am not in search of any higher order of intelligence guiding our existences.  There is a cosmic order to science, an equilibrium and structure that I can take comfort in just fine, thank you very much.  Why are we were?  Why will we one day not be here?  YHWH?  Shiva?  Odin?  Zeus?  Etcetera?  Outer space turtle stack?

“In answer to the question of why it happened, I offer the modest proposal that our Universe is simply one of those things which happen from time to time.” – Edward P. Tryon, physicist

Ruminating on it too long, I do sometimes am gripped by existential angst and, looking around at the trappings and systems and requirements of this civilization, am struck by the urge to run wild and laugh and scream through nature, and cast off the persona of ‘man’ and see how ‘animal’ suits me (but not Manimal, he got cancelled toot sweet).

Anyway, the end of the world is such a grand recurring theme in fiction that I think we get plenty of opportunities to indulge in the fantasy.  It’s a notion as old as storytelling itself, this grand final chapter, as evidenced by the persistence of several fantastically evocative “elder words”.  Just look at them.  Say them aloud, listen to the ancient power they convey.

Apocalypse.

Ragnarok.

Annihilation.

Cataclysm.

Armageddon.

Considering that in stories, often, the end of the world is not truly the end of the world but merely the beginning of a new epoch (usually a horrible apocalyptic one, though), it could come from a deep-seated anxiety about our human progression.  Have we plateaued as a species?  Are there new peaks we can ascend?  Will we lead to something truly greater than we were?  I mentioned Neon Genesis Evangelion earlier but I always liked the central conceit of that series, which was that mankind had grown stagnant, and it would take some grand transformative event to move us to the next plane.  There is even an attempt made to show what such a reality would be like, in the film The End of Evangelion.  It is such a vivid and concrete depiction of an intensely abstract idea… people literally burst apart into a sort of primordial soup, mingling together, the boundaries of self, body and mind broken down irreversibly, the planet awash in a new interconnected hyperconsciousness.

Though in the Evangelion universe, the end times begin following a catastrophic event in 2015, I have to remind myself that our planet already has a definite expiration date.  However, it’s nearly 8 billion years into the future when the sun expands to sufficient size to swallow the planet in flames.  What life will look like then, and what humanity’s ultimate fate will be, is so far beyond comprehension that my head hurts thinking about it.  However, the fate of the biological mechanisms of life will undoubtedly be ticking away in some form or fashion.  In the words of the great comedian Louis C.K, when asked by his daughter “what happens when you die?”

“Well, other people keep living.”

There’s a grim elegance to that notion that I find both appealing and chilling.

But, so, how could the world end?  Fret not, there’s a fascinating website called Exit Mundi that has been compiling doomsday scenarios for a very long time, which you can flip through as the sun rises uneventfully tomorrow morning and I have to go into work, sigh, instead of running for my very existence as a wall of fire and destruction passes smoothly across the surface of our star-sailing spaceship (imagine that I have so many new age crystals in my hands that I can’t hold them and they’re spilling all over the place).

Maybe, though, all the tectonic plates will become unmoored as our poles shift, the magnetosphere dissipates long enough for an unavoidable torrent of radiation to cut through us all, and ancient caldera and volcanoes will spring to life, spewing forth molten chaos.

Maybe a lava bomb will come down as obsidian upon our heads (this is a geological impossibility, because obsidian only forms at the edges of slow magma floes, but I really want to make the following stupid joke):

In the words of Michael Jackson…

You’ve been hit by!

You’ve been struck by!

Some smooth minerals!

dana-nana-nana-nah-nah. nana-nah-nah, nana-nah-nah

Man, that’s a damn good song.  I listened to it, and the Alien Ant Farm cover earlier today (before the world ended).  Somehow I remembered the cover as being more impressive than it actually is.  Maybe that’s part of it.  So afraid we are of leaving a lackluster legacy, we’d rather burn our past than reflect upon it.  I dunno.  At least, come the morning, we’ll finally have a few months’ peace until the Extinctionists latch onto some other target date for our inevitable demise.  For real this time, honest!