An Open Letter to Pharrell

Mr. Williams,

Through none of my own doing, I have been repeatedly exposed to your recent single.

When I say repeatedly, I mean excessively. In an office environment where many people are listening to variety radio, your song “Happy” is played at least once an hour. And, just when I thought I could escape the madness, I hear your song on television or on any number of overhead speakers in stores or someone who still enjoys this tune will reference it or even sing a bar or two. It is becoming difficult for me to not blindly claw at my eardrums at the sound of your voice.

Let me be clear, Mr. Williams, that I have no problem with you or your musical prowess. I enjoyed your earlier work with The Neptunes and N.E.R.D., I loved your recent collaboration with Daft Punk, and I have defended your rampant abuse of the Arby’s logo by saying that you are one of the greatest producers of our generation and you can wear whatever ridiculous headgear you like.

Your song, however, is slowly pushing me to the brink.

I understand your motives. Every artist wants to write that one song that’s catchy and will hang around forever. The generic feel to your song, being about nothing in particular but the emotion of happiness, guarantees that it will be played at any number of events requiring a DJ for quite a long time. You have written your version of “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang, thus guaranteeing royalties for as long as you continue to draw breath and even afterwards for whoever you leave behind. The song itself is a catchy juggernaut which will likely never go away and will make an appearance on the playlist of every fifth-tier DJ who will ever spin a wedding, bar mitzvah, or birthday party. My kudos to you on a job well done in this regard.

My problem with your song (aside from the repetitive nature of its playing making me want to carve the eardrums from my head with a rusty switchblade) lies within the lyrics. I hope you’ll hear me out and understand very clearly why I make the following statement:

I will not “clap along” with you.

The qualifications given in the chorus of the song do not fit me and, indeed, should not fit any human being of nominal intelligence. This is ok, however, as your target audience is likely not anywhere near what would be considered sentient let alone intelligent. Again, no problem with your marketing to these people. They are gullible and will make you a Maersk Freighter’s worth of money. This was a smart move on your part. I will, however, go on to explain exactly why myself and no one else who is capable of reading this should “clap along” by analyzing the four tenets delivered in the refrain of “Happy” itself.

1. “Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof”

This statement is nebulous. Are you suggesting that we clap along if we feel like being within a room without a roof or are you suggesting that there are some of us out there who have the feeling that they themselves are a room without a roof?

If it is the former, I don’t believe there should truly be a room without a roof. Any room without a roof, to me, is technically outside. In this instance, clapping would be dependent on the weather. If it’s raining or snowing or cold, I certainly don’t “feel like a room without a roof”. I very much feel like a room with a roof would be the safer play for everyone involved. So, I suppose, weather permitting, I could potentially clap along, however I won’t.
If it is the latter of my previous statements, wherein a person could themselves feel as if they are a room without a roof, then that would suggest that they have some sort of dissociative personality disorder in which one of their additional personalities identifies as a structure. Based on the absurdity of this, it seems that your target demographic for clapping is quite small as this is a very nuanced portion of an uncommon condition. Also, while asking psychologically disturbed people to clap along to your pop song is kind of a nice thing to do, you shouldn’t patronize them.
Either way, I will not be clapping.

2. “Clap along if you feel that happiness is the truth”

Well, we’re jumping right into the difficult philosophical portion of this, aren’t we?
Personally, I cannot say that happiness is the truth. Maybe it’s just the part of me that is the old French guy in the back of the café smoking cigarettes and bitching about how he could have had it all but, if my time on this planet has taught me anything, it is that happiness certainly is not the truth; at least not all of the time and certainly not for all people.
You may get a few people who will clap along blindly based on this statement because they want to believe happiness is the truth. It is likely that in the moment they hear your song (unless it’s during the drudgery of the work day) that happiness is the truth to them in that very moment. In fact, I am inclined to believe that if the people listening to your song took a moment to think about this, they would not clap at all. The ones which do based on this criteria are likely pretending.
With all of the pain and suffering in this world, misery seems more to be the truth. Yeah, it’s a very emo thing to say, but when you take a moment to look around, not many people should be clapping.
Again, I continue to remain clap-less.

3. “Clap along if you know what happiness is to you”

An even deeper philosophical quandary than the previous statement which begs the question: can one ever truly know the meaning of happiness?
Sure, things make me happy – the warmth and comfort of my friends and family, a good slice of pizza, beating a video game, completing any number of tasks, hockey, etc. – but are these things truly what happiness is to me? Can I ever know what happiness truly is, in the metaphysical sense? There’s no real way to qualify it.
Without some serious searching for whatever transcendental truth lies somewhere out there, I cannot ever truly know the meaning of happiness, either in general or what it is to me specifically. This one requires much more thought and I don’t appreciate being put on the spot to clap based on truths which I have not yet fully realized. In fact, calling me out on this one is just plain embarrassing if I wind up in a room full of people who are clapping based on this criteria because I will feel like the only lazy jerk present who hasn’t yet had whatever life-affirming journey one must take to be qualified to clap here.
On this third note, my hands still remain motionless.

4. “Clap along if you feel that’s what you want to do”

At last, the listener is given some free will, apart from the great questions of life and potential psychological problems which plague the first three qualifiers. At least, that’s what we are left to conclude.
By the time we get to this statement, it is likely that people who fit the qualifications of the first three statements or those who already chose to clap based pre-emptively on this statement, will be clapping. At that point, if I begin to clap, is it truly of my own free will or am I just bending to the peer pressure of all those around me who are already clapping? Do I want to be part of the crowd simply because I don’t want to be singled out? To clap or not to clap? This statement is a clever escape clause which, in all likelihood, will result in the majority of the people clapping.
Some may be exercising free will here based on the catchy nature of the song. They may be clapping because the rhythm makes them feel like that’s what they want to do, and that’s their right. It’s not in my particular interest to clap to the beat like so many other mindless drones but the pressure would be on if I were amidst a crowd of clappers and may, indeed, bow to the hoi polloi of the situation. As a contrarian by nature, I would have to restrain myself no matter how left out of the shared experience I might feel.
So, finally, I will not offer one solitary clap to your great machine of pop music.

In the past, Mr. Williams, it has been suggested to me by other musicians that I complete certain tasks under certain qualifiers. I don’t believe I have once fit the bill of any of them.

One Mr. Z suggested that if I was feeling like a pimp that I should go on brush my shoulders off. I have done no such thing per his instruction, as I have never felt like a pimp, but I have indeed brushed my shoulders off from time to time though this is mostly due to my ownership of two cats and the consistency of their dirt being on my shoulders. If someone does feel this way, they are welcome to use it as a better excuse to brush their shoulders off, including the ladies because, as Mr. Z suggests, ladies is pimps, too.

One Mr. Smalls suggested that I throw my hands in the a-ya though I have not because I do not consider myself, as the song suggests, a true playa. For the record, however, I would not be adverse to someone calling me Big Poppa, even though it might be mildly offensive as I am slightly obese and working to lose weight.

As I have not taken suggestions from hip-hop in the past, I hope that you will understand my refrain from clapping. I have too much going on in my life at the moment to really delve into whether I should clap along or not and I mean no offense. Philosophically and psychologically, I can assume that I would not meet any of the qualifications you list which results in my withdrawal from the situation entirely. I hope you can understand and I hope this doesn’t present an issue to any potential working relationship we may have in the future.

Congratulations on your ability to use music to print money.



—end transmission—

100th Post Special – Back to the Beginning

The first blog post I ever wrote was about my disdain for fan fiction.

It was an angry, expletive-laced tirade mainly directed at Harry Potter Slash-Fic (in my opinion, the absolute bottom of the barrel) and moved into more mainstream ideas like the Star Wars “Expanded Universe” (one step up from the bottom of the barrel). Bear in mind, it was over ten years ago that I wrote those words. I would link them here for you now, just for the sake of argument, but I believe livejournal has removed my archive to make room for more mopey emo kids desperately crying out for attention.

Most of my beliefs about fan fiction continue to hold true. Much like the junk in the Pacific Ocean, this sort of tripe floats around on the currents until it arrives at an enormous garbage atoll of a community where it joins with other detritus and becomes part of the large burning reminder of all the horrible writing in the world.

Occasionally some of this flotsam washes ashore. Much of it is still refuse but on rare occasion something of value (or something someone thinks is valuable) is recovered. Some of it is repurposed to fit a new and even more valuable niche, such as the Fifty Shades series being sculpted from Twilight fan-fic (of the worst variety, if there can be a true “worst variety” of Twilight fan-fic) into the screamingly awful bondage and dominance extravaganza targeted specifically at bored housewives and unfulfilled cat ladies and exploiting that market into millions upon millions of dollars in revenue and a forthcoming feature film.

That aside, I have recently come to believe that fan fiction for the sake of personal fantasy fulfillment (interjecting an original Mary Sue-like character into an established universe or engineering settings for impossible and completely out-of-character romantic relationships for example) is the true enemy here; those who secretly wished Snape and Harry were meeting in the dungeons of Hogwarts to engage in late-night “wand battles” or those who write parallel fiction within the same universe where their character with a name and appearance similar to their own – a 5th Year Ravenclaw Animagus Metamorphmagus Auror-in-Training who is attempting to avenge their parents by single-handedly defeating He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and collecting all the Deathly Hallows before Harry Potter has a chance while balancing romantic relationships between Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy – are the people from whom we must remain guarded.

Alternate fictional universes have long been a passion of mine. I understand that this largely works in contradiction to my original rant about fan fiction and the sanctity of the creator’s domain, but it’s true and I’ve only recently come to discover my hypocrisy. For as long as I’ve been reading comic books, I’ve been in love with alternate universes. It started with “Days of Future Past” for me and continues right up until now. Multiple tracks of fictional development – Marvel’s What If…? Stories, DC’s Elseworlds series, the big events in regular continuity where something incredible, for better or worse, alters the landscape forever – account for some of my favorite story arcs. It’s as fun as alternate history but even more so because it usually comes with a flashy graphic redesign that will probably result in alternate costume choices in video games (looking at you, Batman Arkham series).

It’s only natural, then, that I would gravitate toward alternate histories of other fictional universes which didn’t involve pre-teen sexual experimentation or downright child molestation by adults who are normally portrayed as authority figures. Something with a decent point of divergence, or even a few, could make something much more interesting and revitalize your passion for that work of fiction.

I am speaking, specifically, of my discovery of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

I’m always a bit slow on the uptake with trends like this, but I understand HPMOR has been around for at least a few years and is an ongoing project, stretching 100+ chapters. I’m just doing my part to get it out to a wider audience.

The idea behind HPMOR is that Harry was raised by his Aunt Petunia and her husband, an Oxford University Professor, to become an intellectual prodigy, gifted well beyond his years in scientific knowledge and the titular rationality. He’s still eleven-years-old when he receives his owl from Hogwarts but his perspective sounds more like that of a frustrated intellectual thirty-something. Being of a scientific mind, he immediately questions the existence of magic and the wizarding community. When this existence is proven to him, he resolves himself to unravel the secrets of magic through science. Like, real science. Like, you could actually learn things from the principals discussed.

Of course, hijinks ensue.

The story is an absolute scream. I have been reading it just as I’ve read any other J.K. Rowling-penned, canon-official Harry Potter book (which means with nearly every spare minute) and, over forty chapters I have so far read, it has not yet lost my attention and has presented a sufficiently twisted track for the hero and has only thus far adhered to the most necessary conventions of that universe and accurately shown the reactions of established characters to this different set of circumstances. I highly recommend it to any Harry Potter fan out there.

Random interjection: The guys as How It Should Have Ended are also, technically, writing alt-universe fanfic and animating it. Mostly, this is done out of parody and, mostly, this is hilarious.

When you think about it, a great deal of comic books written after DC’s Golden Age and Stan Lee’s inception of the Marvel Universe Proper are technically fan fiction in the sense that writing for certain characters has changed hands so many times over the years that the characters involved have passed from the creator’s vision to something of a more public ideal such to the point that almost anyone could write a passable Batman or Spider-Man story arc without much of a problem (in fact, if you’ve read more recent issues of Spider-Man, you’d think that was exactly what was happening). I’m speaking mostly of the older and more mainstream characters, mind you, there are still some creators writing their original books.

On that token, characters introduced by other writers via their piece of the storyline are original characters interjected into the same fictional world. Some of them are the 5th-Year Ravenclaw Mary-Sue train wrecks that I was describing before; good for mostly nothing but a Deus Ex Machina unless they really hit big with the fans in which case their fade into obscurity from the core will take a little longer. Some of them stick around for quite a while. Some of them are even retconned into the mythos and lore to add to their staying power.

But, that’s the world of comic books. Surely literature, even YA, should remain with the original creator, right? My answer has changed from a resounding yes to a slightly hesitant not always.

HPMOR has opened my eyes. It has emerged as a single diamond found deep within a river of sewage. I am sure, with some hard searching that I honestly have no intention of performing, that there are other diamonds down there. I plucked this from the surface due to an obscure reference found somewhere and only dirtied my fingertips just a tad. I will not dive in head first in search of more.

I will, however, give one other fraction of kudo to an interpretation done as an infographic which has been making the Facebook circuit. It states a slightly different grammatical interpolation of the Prophecy which deemed Harry Potter the chosen one and the ultimate fate regarding his destiny. It proved to be an interesting concept and something like my original prediction as to how the series would have ended.

In this case, I am guilty of “predictive” fan fiction. I never wrote down my Harry Potter ending theory (which would have been super badass and cool unless I’m falling into the same trap as every other fanfic writer, in which case, burn me at the stake) but I did write down one I had predicted for the ending of LOST, which wrapped the whole thing up in a nice little bow and didn’t involve a church or any of that BS.

Seeing as I have Potter on the brain and, in a way, to compete with the “mind blowing” change to the ending of Rowling’s beloved story, I may be writing down my version of how Harry Potter should have ended and posting it here within the next short while. I assure you it doesn’t rely on any grammatical oversights and abuts perfectly to the original story, only changing the last few chapters (from the point Harry discovers the Resurrection Stone to the finish) and adding a deal of gravitas where once rested a truly happy ending.

I can’t believe I just confessed I’m going to write a bit of fanfic. I feel dirty.

I have to get it out, though. Now that I feel it’s slightly ok.

And because I can’t let some infographic changing the ending blow people’s minds more than my epic last three chapters.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

ANUSTART for Television

Netflix has become the absolute mecca for cult television viewing. It has taken niches and carved them out into much larger niches and has allowed the fandom of shows to expand well beyond the expiration date of their network tenure. This is not a newly discovered fact, however, the steps taken by them in recent months has proven once and for all that they herald the death of traditional television.

I am, of course, referring to the resurgence of Arrested Development.

Shows like this, for me, often fly under the radar. Until about two years ago, I had given up on sitcoms. I’d had my fill of bland humor in the nineties and wanted nothing to do with the same old jokes being told by different people on different sets in different ridiculous situations. I was tired of laugh-tracks being cued by the stereotypical lead characters dealing with a problem in the most “wacky” way possible while their sarcastic neighbor/friend made sarcastic comments which may or may not result in a catch phrase being printed on a t-shirt and marketed at Spencer’s or Hot Topic.

Sitcoms were not my friend. Most of them are very poorly written and are dragged out far too long, fading into obscurity before drawing former fans back with some heart-wrenching series finale which promises to be everything like the show you once fell in love with and not at all like the faded over-played tragedy it had become. I think I’ve shown enough of my disdain for one day.

When a good friend of mine recommended Arrested Development, it was prior to talk of the Netflix revival. I had, being a denizen of these fair internets, heard of the show and the plight which its fans suffered due to its abbreviated length. He told me that it would be my kind of humor and he was right. I thoroughly enjoyed it and, as happens with a Netflix revival, devoured the entire show within a week only to find that much to the disbelief of its continually expanding fan base, Netflix itself was involved in producing new episodes.

Shows like Arrested Development, along with other cult shows too numerous to list, are the Netflix cash cow. AD, Firefly, Galactica, every Star Trek series… these, 90% of the time, are why people subscribe. If there’s nothing else to do, you have every episode of these shows that you love on-tap and ready to go.

I realize I’m not telling you anything you didn’t know and I also realize that my blog is not, nor should it be, a Netflix commercial. What I am here to talk about is how Netflix changed the game by grabbing an otherwise discarded network show from the dead zone and resurrected it and how exactly that changes the game.

Network television, known for years to be yellowing their drawers over the encroaching crush of the interwebz, should now loose that fateful turd square into their panties over the fact that Netflix was able to put a show like Arrested Development back together for another season without any backing from the Old Boys Club. If internet-only sitcoms such as The Guild (as well as the rest of the Geek and Sundry lineup) and dramas like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries pulling down cult followings, awards, and millions of views on shoe-string budgets were the death knell for network TV, then Arrested Development Season 4 is the funeral.

YouTube and now, to some extent, outlets like Netflix have made it possible for new ideas to be brought to the fore without running the Hollywood gauntlet. It allowed for shows like FreddieW’s Video Game High School to be created and made public in a wider and more sociable forum. No offense to Freddie and his wonderful product (really, love the show) but if this were pitched to say NBC Universal Comcast Kabletown TGIFridays (or whatever they’re calling themselves now) it would have wound up on one of the backwater niche channels on digital cable that no one ever sees and would have received less views than it did on YouTube or FreddieW’s network, It would have also received less exposure. Case-in-point, here I am, talking about this awesome show and I’m able to link you to it directly. If it did wind up on that heretofore unheard of cable network and I mentioned it to you here, you’d still never see it because you’d have to a) determine if your cable provider carries the channel, b) find the channel somewhere in the vast labyrinth of the untouched numbers of the upper-hundreds, c) time it correctly to actually watch the show, and if that weren’t possible, d) condemn it to your DVR until such time as it is either potentially watched (could be months) or discarded in favor of the latest episode of Top Chef.

To clarify, I am not saying that all network television is horrible. I watch many shows on television (some network, mostly cable) and, though indie can be a wonderful thing, it is not the end-all-be-all. It would be impossible for someone to do an adequate Game of Thrones adaptation without the support of a major pay channel. HBO, however, hands over the keys to the kingdom and tells the creative types to lock up when they’re done. They are brave in that they will throw almost anything at the wall for at least one season to see if it sticks. Sometimes you get The Sopranos, sometimes you get Luck, either way it offers more freedom to the creators than the aforementioned Hollywood process, which is why HBO is consistently generating amazing programming. They, too, are making good use of the internet as they will soon (if they don’t already) allow people to subscribe to their HBOGO service; everything they have available on-demand, online, anywhere. First-run episodes of new shows are available as soon as the Eastern time-zone show is over, and they’re telling you that you don’t even need cable to watch it anymore.

Other networks operating on that sort of “take-it-and-run-as-long-as-the-ratings-are-good” philosophy are AMC and FX. Given a slightly longer leash than their network counterparts as far as the content of their programming, they are empowered to make edgier, quirkier, and ultimately more interesting shows that give a glimmer of hope for drama and storytelling within a bottomless abyss of reality shows about pawn shops, storage auctions, and trailer-dwelling creatures who believe they are beyond reproach.

I look forward to the day that channels like these take the Netflix route. They could strike out independently or partner up with a well-known distributor and make the shows they want to make as well as making the shows fans want them to make. I often love to see lists of show ideas that were shot down before being given a chance, especially spinoffs of cult ideas (I would have watched every episode of Starfleet Medical). So much potential was cast aside by fat-cat executives so out of touch with entertainment in general that they think Henry Winkler and Scott Baio are still Fonzie and Chachi hanging out at Arnold’s rather than standing in front of a jury as Bob Loblaw trys to prove that Barry Zuckerkorn can’t reach a doorknob of a schoolyard fence without the alleged use of a step-ladder. Any number of those shows once callously discarded may now face revitalization, provided the licences are available.

Arrested Development and the way it has drawn one fanbase to the internet should have the networks shaking and rethinking their strategy. Indie shows and films on the internet should have them watching their back. Cable networks continuing to expand their influence should make them take notice.

The obituary for traditional television is being written by a man who blue himself and no amount of forget-me-nows can make it go away.

Life is a roofie circle.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Spoils of War

It has happened to us all at one time or another.

You’re out at night and your DVR is running. By the time you get home, the latest episode of one of your favorite shows has been recorded and is waiting for the mere touch of a button in order to play. Maybe it’s late. Maybe you have other stuff to do. One way or another, maybe you don’t get to watch it until the next day.
Regardless of when you watch it, you will likely sit down in front of your computer or use your phone to browse Facebook or Twitter or your other social network of choice before you get the chance.

And there it is.

“I can’t believe (character) died!!!” or “OMG, (character) did (horribly unpredictable thing)!”

Right at the top of your feed. As unavoidable as death. Staring you right in the face. You’ll try to will yourself not to read it the minute you realize what it’s about, but you’ve already seen and cannot unsee.

You’ve been spoiled.

This has been especially prevalent over the past few seasons with shows like Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, where character deaths and crazy twists could be lurking around any corner and may surprise you even if you are a student of the source material.

Even though we live in the DVR/On-Demand era with most of our favorite shows at our fingertips, some of them available immediately after their original airing, social media has helped to keep these late-views to a minimum. It has also increased the availability for discussion of said shows thereby generating groups who will actually physically get together to watch a show or even do an online hangout so that commentary can be made while the show is actually being viewed.

I believe that these first-run viewings and their associated discussion groups, live or virtual, have come about due to the prevalence of spoilers popping up in full public view on a consistent basis. In essence, Facebook, Twitter, and the like are contributing to Nielsen numbers and are making it easier for networks to continue to track ratings with fair accuracy without as heavy demand on adjusted numbers for recorded or downloaded episodes.

More people are making sure to watch their favorite shows in real-time because it provides for a more pure experience. Once an episode is aired and in the zeitgeist, it becomes almost palpable. Even though you may not see any spoilers posted, you realize that the information is out there and is close enough for you to touch. People will reference it. People will discuss it off-hand. It may happen in person – you may overhear someone discussing it – but, it is most likely you will see something referenced on social media or in a meme or in a meme posted on social media which will reveal a detail that you would have preferred to get from the source.

This is also attributable to the current trend of serial television. Yes, I realize that most television has always been serialized but when you look back on the 80s and 90s, you realize that shows back then could usually be taken as independent episodes. You didn’t need to know the backstory to realize what was happening. Some shows running multiple seasons in the modern era don’t even bother to name the characters out loud, even in the season openers, because they expect that the viewer base is a returning one and will know the story up to that point. We rarely even see flashbacks anymore, unless you’re seeing something in season four that you may not remember from season one.

Even sitcoms are following the recipe of continuity more heavily than they have in the past. Most sitcoms in the past could be watched at face value no matter where you came into the series. Kids may get older, neighbors may move away, the main characters may switch jobs or even locations, but not many of them had story arcs or characterization deeper than the surface. Roseanne is an example of a prototypical serial comedy as there were story arcs with building tension and sometimes even a big reveal. It did this better than any other sitcom on the air at a time when most big twists in a comedy were advertised with the prefix “A Very Special Episode of…” This was usually when a main character, typically a child, was caught using drugs or joining the army or dying or another reason I can’t think of that could be used to escort a rapidly aging child star off the show because their appeal was down.

Then there are sitcoms such as 30 Rock and Big Bang Theory which, while easily digestible in a single serving, are much more satisfying when you come for the entire meal. Something always looms in the background and is usually brought to the fore in a one-hour season finale. Spoilers can ruin the final punchline just as easily as the big cliffhanger.

Television’s initial fears about the prevalence of downloading and how DVR can affect ratings should be largely allayed by the egregious amount of spoilerific material permeating social media (and even legit media, if they show is big enough).

Sundays are a very busy television day and, if I don’t get the chance to watch one of the two or three shows airing at the same time that very night, I know that at least one of my Facebook friends is going to blow any potential surprises I may have received watching it live. I am at the point where I will begin ignoring or deleting those who must constantly spoil.

I am declaring a moratorium of three days. No spoilers, no discussion on social media for three days after any given episode has aired. At that point, if you didn’t see it, it’s your own fault. There are a number of avenues available for you to watch an episode within three days (unless you’re on vacation away from the internet, as I have been before). After that, blab about who died or who killed who or whatever insane twist as much as you want. You have my permission.

Spoilers, for me, are incentive to absorb things as soon as possible. Movies, video games, television, books… I feel that if I’m not first to the finish, it will be inevitably ruined by some schlub who blabs about it on the internet. I’m sure that my particular brand of paranoia helps contribute, at least a bit, to first-air ratings and opening weekend box office totals and so on. It’s a marketing tactic we, as social media addicts, have brought upon ourselves. It is a very beneficial side-effect of internet assholes, at least to Big Entertainment, and gives me and those like-minded a reason to do it right away rather than put it off.

Oh, and in case you didn’t hear: Vader is Luke’s father, Bruce Willis is a ghost, “Would you kindly?” is a trigger phrase, and Dumbledore dies at the end of Book 6.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Bidula’s Last Word – Les Miz, the Movie

Out of the few gigantic movies which debuted over this holiday season, I did not expect to see Les Miserables first.

I thought it would be Django, followed by The Hobbit, then maybe Les Miz as a lollygagging third choice some time down the road but hopefully before it left theaters. I certainly did not think I would be standing in line with tickets the Friday after Christmas waiting for Les Miz.

My mother has quite a bit to do with this. She never gets to go to the movies unless it’s with my wife and I and she mentioned she wanted to see Les Miz before her Christmas vacation time ran out. A good use of the Fandango gift certificate she’d given us only a few days prior, I felt, would be to treat her to the flick of her choosing.

I’ve seen Les Miz on stage a handful of times. I saw the big anniversary special on PBS in the mid-90s with something around 100 actors who had played Jean Valjean in every conceivable country and in every conceivable language. Great soundtrack. Quite possibly one of the best musicals ever written.

When I heard there was going to be a film, I had my doubts. I immediately flashed back to 2004 when The Phantom of the Opera hit the big screen. This was the first time my wife-to-be would have any experience with a stage-production I had obsessed over when I was a teenager. I talked it up big – told her about the multiple times I had seen it in Toronto (in a theater revamped for that very production), told her stories of fog machines and trap doors and falling chandeliers and the Masque of the Red Death scene… It was a spectacle. If you missed seeing Phantom in a theater built for it, trust me, you missed something incredible.

Anyway, we go to see the Hollywood version and are treated to King Leonidas (two years prior to 300) poorly lip-synching awful versions of songs I had taken the time to memorize a decade earlier. Not to mention the rest of the cast acting like wood. I realized that Phantom was meant to be a stage spectacle and that the stage tricks and illusions were a big part of what it awesome. That movie sucked balls and I was guarded about Les Miz because I’d seen Lloyd-Webber slaughtered on the big screen before. I was braced for a large impact.

Because of my apprehension, I was absolutely blown away by this movie.

Hugh Jackman turns in a Valjean to rival the stage version. Actually, the whole cast (some of which made their bones on performing this musical prior to the flick) was phenomenal. Except for Russell Crowe, who tried really hard but in the end sounded more like a Muppet of a man (or a very manly Muppet).

The fantastic difference was that the entire cast ACTUALLY SANG. Like, while they were filming, they sang. No lip-synching, no bullshit editing. The whole thing was recorded live as they were filming which made it possible (if not entirely necessary) to use long, follow cuts during the big solo songs which, in the case of Anne Hathaway especially, conveyed so much raw emotion in a very personal way.

This was also because most scenes were shot with close-ups, allowing you to see the emotions on the faces of the actors like you’d never seen it before. There’s something to be said seeing this musical performed on stage, but it’s not nearly as personal or primal as this movie. You lose the faces of the actors on stage because they’re not recognizable. Using a few big-ticket Hollywood actors (as well as tighter camera angles than balcony seats allow) in this case didn’t go amiss as it was very easy to identify who was who. This helped in scenes where certain people have beards or are in disguise and are much more telling to the non-theater trained eye. It also made the plot a bit easier to follow in a story where there are so many named characters.

It was much more intimate and I think that had a lot to do with things. Real tears being shed while singing should not go overlooked.

The big hilarious surprise of the movie was Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham-Carter as the Innkeeper and Wife. The Innkeeper was one of those roles I always wanted to play on stage. Your Valjeans and your Fantines and your Giveres will get the bulk of the applause, but the people that make you laugh in the middle of serious drama are usually some of the most memorable. Sacha and Helena were not as trumpeted as Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, but they added so much to the movie that I wouldn’t be surprised if, when this movie actually goes up for Oscar consideration, one or both of them get Best Supporting nods.

If you’ve never seen this musical on stage, you can surely experience it here and you will enjoy it. The people who have seen it on stage will be, understandably, divided in their opinions. You’ll love it because of the raw emotion and spectacle or you’ll hate it because it violates the purity of the stage version.

Theater geeks be aware, however… Colm Wilkinson has a cameo and it’s great.

All that said, see this flick. I can’t guarantee you’ll cry, but I defy you not to get at least a little foggy at some point.

Bidula’s Last Word – 8/10. Points off for Crowe and the dude who played Marius sounding like very manly Muppets (or Muppets of men).

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Honoring My Word…

I said three years ago that I would be here to tell you “I told you so.” I am a man of my word. I told you so.

If you’ve seen my Facebook page at all today, you know I’ve been having a good time with it.

Until we speak again (soonish).

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Nerd Alert

I’m a nerd. Or a dork. Or a geek. Call me what you will under whichever definition you choose. I like things like science and Star Trek and comic books and video games. I am slightly anti-social. I wear glasses and work in a nerdy sort of job. That’s who I am and I wear that badge proudly any day of the week.

Verizon would have be believe that this is a bad thing and that, by simply knowing more about football, I can break the bonds of my stereotype and become another more socially acceptable stereotype.

Don’t believe me? Watch the commercials they’ve been throwing up during NFL games.

There are two. The first stars the prototypical office dork (thick glasses, suspenders, pomade-induced parted hair, squeaky nerdy voice, etc.) trying to interact with his co-workers at lunch who are talking about the game last night. He makes an egregious faux pas and his office mates get up and walk away from him, leaving him to marinate in his own embarrassing social disgrace.

But then comes Verizon to the rescue. The guy decides he should learn about football. The more he learns, the more he tranforms. They show him learning about football while exercising at the gym, while he’s getting his hair cut, while doing various other self-improvements, and by the end of the commercial, he’s best friends with the same co-workers who ditched him in the beginning, has his hair professionally coiffed, ditched his glasses, and seems like the kind of dude who would give his old self a swirly.

Apparently, knowing about football does all of this. The knowledge of football and its nuances are shown in this commercial to take you from zero to “hero” within one NFL season.

Oh, don’t think that we forgot about you, ladies.

There’s a sister commercial which stars a woman with (again) thick glasses, bad hair, and no fashion sense (iron-on puffpaint sweatshirts). This time, however, she’s shown to be a crazy cat lady instead of just the awkward co-worker. After learning football progressively the same way as the guy did, while working out or being social or getting her hurr did, she comes out the other side of the commercial as a well-adjusted, totally-not-shut-in, attractive, professional woman who has (again) ditched her glasses and her apparently less-than-desirable lifestyle based on the Power of Football.

Verizon, I get the zero-to-hero gag. I get that you’re overdramatizing a situation to make a funny commercial. You are forgetting one thing, however: Nerds, geeks, and dorks (some… most where I’m from) watch football. We know about football. We know the nuances of our roster. We could call in to a sportstalk show and ask an important question about the direction of the team or offer some insight to prior callers.

We already know what the fuck we’re talking about when it comes to the game, so I’ve got one question for you, Verizon: Where’s our social acceptance? Where’s our glory? You promised these things to us via commercial. Since we already know football, does that mean you owe us a haircut, some time at the gym, and a nice-looking new suit so that we don’t have to be stared at like the office freak anymore? I mean, it’s not like my glasses are getting any thinner or more fashionable. My geeky suspenders make my underwear ride up and they constantly bump my pocket protector. Or, maybe your reparations will include speech therapy for my over-obvious lisp or my hideous nasal laugh. Are you going to hand out spray tan or force my super pale ass into the tanning bed? Are you going to instill the growth of facial hair over my acne-laden skin?

Or, are you going to stop fucking stereotyping me? Because I’m a big, tan, bearded, football-knowing, no-suspender-wearing, video-game-playing, Star-Trek-watching nerd who is certainly not the office pariah you make me out to be. I may consider myself anti-social, but I still get out of my house quite regularly and have quite a few friends with whom I did not originally bond over football.

I am great friends with a number of people who know practically nothing about football or sports in general. They are certainly not the terrible shut-in characters your commercials would have us believe they are. They are amazing people who lead amazing lives. Just because they don’t watch football doesn’t mean they can’t own a very successful business or be an expert chef or climb Mt. Everest on their way to the Seven Summits (actually do have a friend who summited Everest). These are people who have great accomplishments under their belt and whose lack of football knowledge was never once called into question as a negative.

In short, Verizon, you suck. Your commercial makes adult life look like high school, where the cool kids don’t want the dorky guy to sit at their lunch table. Grow up. Advance your timeline beyond 1950 Join the real world. The lines are blurred. The social divisions aren’t as extreme as they used to be. Somewhere down the line, everyone watches at least one episode of Doctor Who, and that’s nerd enough for me.

Nerds of the world: Don’t let the man get you down. Especially not when that man is a two-bit bullshit phone company.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

PS – Follow me on twitter @precizzion for comedy gold and rants about the continuing lockout.

The Revenge of Hipster Ariel

Sub-cultures. Most of them wind up becoming so insanely popular that they come closer to being mainstream culture than they would probably like. This is a pure and honest fact of the interconnected world. If you post a picture of you dressed in the appropriate attire of your particular sub-culture and a heretofore unaffiliated person enjoys that style, they may endeavor to copy that style.

This is what happened to steampunk in latter years. I’ve never considered myself a part of that particular sub-culture, but I admire the style and have even tinkered with writing a steampunk fantasy story of which, admittedly, the particulars about the perceived tech-level were a bit underestimated, but that’s a tale for another time.

I’m sure there was some resistance from the steampunk community when the popularity of their sub-culture began to truly blossom. I’m sure some of that resistance is still out there, even with the growing amount of converts and conventions. It’s part of the little bit of hipster in all of us to resent noobs to anything, especially when its something you may have done for years. For personal reference, I was a Renaissance Faire pirate before the Pirates of the Caribbean movies came out. I resent every noob pirate I see at the Faire because I’ve been doing it for over a decade. I am the proverbial mother fucking OG.

Things may have got a bit too nerdy there for a moment. No shame in my game.

There are also the scenesters. For instance, the Goths, who were damned into mass appeal around the minute Marilyn Manson hit the airwaves. No offense to Mr. Manson, I am still something of a fan, but Goth cred went straight out the window the minute mass appeal set in. Music brought people to the lifestyle, the lifestyle over-inflated and eventually evolved into the horror known as Emo over the natural progression of things. But, again, that’s a story for another day.

All of this leads to an article I read today about an obscure scene/lifestyle called Seapunk. Yes, this is a real thing. It’s what they’re terming as a “microscene”. As with most scenes, it associates with a particular type of music (electronica) and has a particular mode of dress. The mode of dress involves a lot of blues, greens, and teals, tye-dyes, wet-suits, and generally trying to look like Angelina Jolie in Hackers. Dated reference, but there it is. Further research indicates that the “’90s cyberpunk aesthetic” is one of their key tenets, which lends even more credence to Acid Burn being their one true God.

They’re not shocking by any means. They’re not anything truly out of the ordinary other than the fact that Ecco the Dolphin is one of their main mascots and most of them buy oversized cutoff fluorescent blue t-shirts with images of sea creatures on them like you may have done yourself in the five minutes you decided that saving the whales was a worthy cause to support by buying mass produced clothing in the 90s. Oh, and they like to dye their hair blue, teal, or green. Again, not a shocker in this era, but it seems to be the most extreme of their deviance.

The reason I bring up this microscene is because they are up in arms regarding Rhianna’s recent performance on SNL. Rhi portrayed their style on stage during a fairly psychedelic first number on last Saturday’s broadcast. They’re not mad that she didn’t do it right, on the contrary, they’re upset because she did it too well.

The community believes that their microscene was unfairly mainstreamed and has taken to the internet to protest this fact.

No, seriously. Let that sit in your brain and stew for a while before it melts and dribbles out of your ear holes.

Is this what things are coming to, hipsters? I understand, as I mentioned previously, the hatred for noobs, but I would be more flattered than angry if someone big in the entertainment industry picked up on a mega-niched fashion trend that I started. It’s the ultimate “I did it before it was cool”. Doesn’t that appeal to your sort of mindset?

In short, STFU and deal with the fact that someone, myself severely excluded, digs your style enough to copy it. Eventually, every niche that ever existed gets mainstreamed. Don’t complain about it, profit on it. Use that amazing fashion knowledge you believe you have and run with it. Stop whining that your tiny little trend is getting bigger and revel in the fact that you were actually, for once and for truly, at the forefront of something.

Or just fade into obscurity. Either way, I don’t really give a damn. I just thought it was funny you were bitching about it.

Keep fighting the good fight. (as in, not the stupid fight like this one)

—end transmission—

Bidula’s Last Word: Wreck-It Ralph

Remember arcades?

If you’re young enough, you only know that they exist in amusement parks and along boardwalks. Once upon a time, however, any mall worth its salt had one, sometimes two, decent arcades. There were even some standalones that in no way involved pizza or animatronics or someone’s birthday.

These bastions of entertainment were once the domain of serious gamers; a place now taken by a couch and a headset. Back then, to play anything better than 8- or 16-bit games meant a trip out into the sunlight and possibly even some social interaction. Even if that interaction was dropping your quarter on the ledge and telling the dudes at Street Fighter II Turbo that you’ve “got next”.

Your face was your Gamertag back then. You knew who you didn’t F with at the arcade. You knew who was better than you. When you were a regular, you realized who would be destroying all comers for a while. Trash talking 12 year olds couldn’t get in your face there because you were bigger than them and they realized that, being only about a foot away at the opposite joystick, you could physically kick their ass without much trouble. In some ways, better days. In some ways, worse.

Wreck-It Ralph is a movie which will bring all the warm fuzzy nostalgia you ever had about arcades and video games in general bubbling to the surface.

Expertly animated by our friendly property-improving overlords at Disney (not Pixar, mind you, this one belongs solely to Uncle Walt), this movie features more easter eggs than one viewing can truly reveal. I would not mind paying the gate again to watch the background and pick out every character. Hell, I don’t say this often, but I would gladly pay the gate again just to see the movie, it was that awesome.

There’s tons of gaming humor to appeal to everyone from the modern FPS gamer to the old-school 70’s arcade dweller. 8-bit action and jokes perfectly blended with next-gen characters and their more contemporary quirks make the thought of “game jumping” work extremely well.

Aside from the background jokes and the funny game-related humor, there’s a great story and some wonderful voice acting from the likes of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, and Jack McBrayer. They really bring their characters to life and you can tell that quite a bit of the dialogue was ad-libbed. It wouldn’t be nearly as funny confining Reilly and Silverman to a strict script. Having a fairly unique plot helps quite a bit as well. It winds up being a very organic and fresh take on CG animated movies, whereas recent entries like Toy Story 3, while an awesome movie in its own right, worked within specific tropes of each character causing some of the dialogue to feel forced.

Wreck-It Ralph tries to go beyond the typical character classification and, even though there is mention of some characters being “programmed that way”, there is a true desire on the part of Ralph (Reilly) and a Candy-Kart Racer named Vanellope von Schweetz (Silverman) to break the boundaries of that programming and become something more. Below the surface, it teaches a very transcendentalist lesson about self-reliance and the inherent goodness in all people, which is something incredibly unique amongst the typical CG tripe they’ve been force-feeding kids on the big screen.

This is an absolute must-see. Old or young, you will love this movie. Even if you have no connection to the gaming world, Wreck-It Ralph will be one of your favorites in 2012, even amidst a sea of blockbusters this summer.

Bidula’s Last Word – 10/10, maybe the first time I have the utmost confidence that a 10 was deserved.

PS- I’m tweeting more now. If you like the blog, follow @precizzion on twitter!

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

A New Hope

Knee-jerk reaction: It was the end of the world. Another sign of the end-times. Sudden proof in my disbelieving world that the Mayans may have been right.

In case you missed the internet exploding about it, Lucasfilm has been sold to Disney. As if most of your childhood didn’t belong to them already, they now purchase the rest of it in a similar fashion to Marvel and Pixar.

When I first saw the story, I thought of it as another big corporate buyout. I thought of it as a steamroller coming to crush Star Wars into a family-friendly mouse-eared mold and use it as another cash cow. I realized later, however, that this was just my anti-establishment mind reflexively railing at the idea that one of the most important parts of my growing-up geek would be sullied by the big bad D.

After I had some time to think, I remembered that Disney had bought out Marvel not too long ago, a point which I instinctually railed about on this very blog the day it happened.

My point is that I actually had to think to remember that Marvel had been bought by Disney. With the Avengers movie shining so brightly this summer plus the insanity of the Avengers vs. X-Men storyline in the comics, it completely skipped my mind that Uncle Walt somehow had a hand in this. I realized that Marvel has done better under Disney. Marvel will continue to prosper under Disney. Print is dead? Disney ain’t got time for that. They’re going to help Marvel to keep cranking out comics until there won’t be a tree left in the world that hasn’t been pulped and printed with a character’s face.

Hopefully, this means the same for Star Wars. If Marvel taught us anything, it’s that Disney knows what it’s doing as far as preserving a brand. Look at the Muppets, too.

Also, part of the press release was regarding “Episode 7”, something which fans once pined for but had lost faith in ever since the prequels. Again, instantly, I rail against something that shouldn’t happen.

Lucas, in an interview about everything, said that he was going to allow another generation of filmmakers to take on his universe. He claims to have treatments for 7, 8, and 9, but that’s as far as it got. Somehow, I think that with Disney in the room when they go over the script could only result in something purely awesome. I’m not going to go out on a limb and say that 7,8, and 9 will be better than the originals, but, with Lucas wanting to be as hands-off as possible, they at least have a chance of being better than the prequels by a good parsec or two.

Lucas was already sort of wrapped up with Disney due to attractions at their parks, notably Star Tours and the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. This is taking it a bit further. The ball is now in Disney’s court and there are much worse courts in the world. If they take on another Star Wars flick, you can at least be confident that the output will be a very fair product.

Geeks, I call to you in words familiar to us all: Don’t Panic. The future is brighter than you might think.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—