Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Three things promised to make my jaw drop, per online ads

--What Luna Lovegood looks like today
--These photos of Lady Gaga
--Four cards charging 0% interest

My jaw remains in place.

We interrupt our usual programming...

How WNET--the biggest local PBS affiliate in the New York City area--treats viewers is baffling and maddening. I'm a fan of The Great British Baking Show--a baking competition program (minus the usual crappy trappings of competition shows) that's become a big hit. The PBS network finished its run of the season two weeks ago (August 12). But because WNET did not double up on a few episodes as the network as a whole did, this past Sunday (it's airing here on Sunday afternoons rather than Friday evenings, as on the network) was only the quarter-finals. And next Sunday should be the semi-finals. But it's not airing. That's because WNET is starting yet another fund drive this weekend, and regular programming is off the air so it can rerun medical quackery programs, financial advice shows, doo-wop extravaganzas, yet another salute to Downton Abbey (yes, a special called something like I Miss Downton Abbey, a show that literally just aired its final episode a few months ago!), etc. (And, I'm not kidding, wasn't there a fund drive in late June or early July?) The regular schedule won't be back for at least two, possibly three, Sundays. It's so far off in the future that the show is not even showing up in a search of Optimum's schedule (not even sister station WLIW appears to be showing it!). That's if WNET even bothers to show the last two episodes at all. A few years ago, WNET disrupted the run of the last season of Poirot for a fund drive, with one or maybe two episodes left. I could never find them, if it showed them--certainly, it didn't run them in the regular Sunday night slot. By the time the drive was over, Masterpiece Mystery was on to a new series. Is that really any way to treat viewers? (Can I watch the last two episodes on my computer? Sure, and I probably will. But why is WNET treating viewers so shabbily?) PS: I support my local public radio station, but, no, I stopped giving to public TV a few years ago out of sheer frustration.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Everything they do is so dramatic and flamboyant. It just makes me want to set myself on fire.

Episode 1 of "I've Made a Huge Mistake," the Arrested Development podcast, is now available. Look for two new episodes every week. (Will also be available via iTunes, but it appears episode 1 isn't there as I type this. There's a different podcast with the same name, so look for the one with the orange-colored icon that says "An Arrested Development podcast" beneath the title.)

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Do you love Arrested Development as much as I do?

Oh, don't be that way, Lucille!

Of course you understand the question--Arrested Development is only the best TV comedy of the 2000s.

And since you do love Arrested Development as much as I do, note that there's a new podcast devoted to the show, and it's called "I've Made a Huge Mistake." It starts next week, and I'll be on the show devoted the ninth episode of season one, "Storming the Castle," in a month or so.

But don't wait for me--put on your denim cutoffs, whip up a nice batch of mayonegg, and meet me where the magic happens. (You know, at the Gothic Arsehole.)

A preview episode is already up, laying out plans for the coming months.

Monday, July 25, 2016

And I fully expect two-headed tomato peddlers to start showing up soon

Nothing had been so hateful in the sight of these mobs as the man of learning, at first because they had served the princes, but then later because they refused to join in the bloodletting and tried to oppose the mobs, calling the crowds "bloodthirsty simpletons."  

Joyfully the mobs accepted the name, took up the cry: Simpletons! Yes, yes! I'm a simpleton! Are you a simpleton? We'll build a town and we'll name it Simple Town, because by then all the smart bastards that caused all this, they'll be dead! Simpletons! Let's go! This ought to show 'em! Anybody here not a simpleton? Get the bastard, if there is! --Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Nixon's the one!

Please to enjoy these Nixon ads from 1968.

Is it just me or is this first one straight out of The Parallax View?

Nixon touches the nation's youth. (Figuratively!)

What has Richard Nixon ever done for me?

This one is FREAKING ME OUT.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

In which we respond to various trending items on Facebook

"Lou Holtz: Former College Football Coach Photographed Carrying Bottle of Crown Royal at RNC"

How else is anyone expected to make it through this experience?

"Steve King: Congressman, R-Iowa, Says Europe and US Contributed Most to Civilization"

He'd calculate the way Europeans have contributed most, but that might mean using algebra.

"Omarosa: TV Personality Named Head of African-American Outreach for Trump Presidential Campaign"


Monday, June 27, 2016

[Bleep] City

I was reading an article in an August 1969 issue of the Arts & Leisure section of the New York Times and stumbled across this absolutely real, absolutely crazy ad for an upscale housing development ($29,000 for a house with luxuries like pools, year-round ski slopes, and golf courses!) outside of the city. (Click to embiggen.)

I don't know how to read this other than "Come live here and have sex with your neighbors. It's cool. We're all doing it."

"Easier to love your neighbor"? "There will be clusters for young swingers"? "There were be clusters for not-so-young swingers"?

Yeah, they are totally doing it.

The first thing that came to mind as I read this was this dialogue from season 2, episode 8 of Arrested Development:

G.O.B.: That’s right, Michael. Guess who just got fired? 
Narrator: G.O.B. was recently hired by the Bluth Company’s rival, Sitwell Enterprises. And although he started off well...
G.O.B.: 52% of the country is single. That’s a market that’s been dominated by apartment rentals. Let’s take some of that market. I call it “Single City.” It’s, like, “Hey, you want to go down to the whirlpool?” “Yeah, I don’t have a husband.” I call it “Swing City.”

Stan Sitwell: Let’s get into some new areas, if you don’t mind. 
Narrator: But G.O.B. continued to fine-tune his first one. 
G.O.B.: How do we filter out the teases? We don’t let them in. This goes for the guys, too. Because sometimes the guys are tapped out. But check your lease, man. Because you’re living in [bleep] City. 
Stan Sitwell: You’re fired.
Narrator: ... his ideas failed to evolve.

Oh, G.O.B. You were decades too late!

As Clueless as ever

I'm appearing in five episodes of the As If podcast--a minute-by-minute look at Clueless, Amy Heckerling's 1995 updated, comedic take on Jane Austen's Emma. (In addition to that link, by the way, the show is also available via iTunes.) I'll be a guest for episodes devoted to minutes 53 through 57, and the first of our episodes went up today--the others go up Tuesday through Friday. If you're wondering if Clueless holds up: Yes, it does, and we had a lot of fun talking about it. Host for the episode is Dan Costa (who has his own podcast, Blockbuster Dropouts) and fellow guest is Wendy Mays (who hosts the Pet Cinematary podcast). (I take it that I'm now the only person on Earth without his own podcast.) So tune in for fun and prizes! (Note: The prize is free entertainment!)

You can start at the beginning, if you like--start listening now so you're all caught up!

At the end of the first episode, I was asked if I had anything to plug, so here goes--

Daily Grindhouse posted a piece I wrote about George Pal's 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, a classic fantasy from 1964, and a favorite of mine since I was a kid.

And Cashiers du Cinemart published my mystified take on the cult oddity After Last Season, which includes interviews I conducted with three of the actors. If you've never heard of the movie--well, I can't blame you, but here is the trailer, which is mesmerizing. The movie, not so much. You are under no obligation to watch the movie, but, seriously, watch the trailer. It may change your life. (Note: There are printers in the basement you can use.)

Another piece I wrote for CdC is this look at Michael Powell's They're a Weird Mob. Powell is one of my favorite directors, probably best known for The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus, and A Matter of Life and Death. This is one of his lesser movies, but his classics are just so widely analyzed it didn't make sense to write about them yet again. As far as I can tell, I may be the only person who has ever written about this movie. Sure, there's a reason for that, but still.

And, finally, my Twitter account is here, and my Letterboxd profile is here.

That's all, folks!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sorry, I can't shake the feeling you're insincere--also, you sound like a peevish tween

Longtime readers of The Velvet Blog (ha! ha! also: ha!) may remember a series of posts on the "nonapology apology"--that is, when public shamings prod violators of the social code to to say "I'm sorry" even though they don't mean it in the least. This never goes well. The insincerity of a nonapology apology is always apparent, and you're probably best shutting up rather than apologizing without meaning it.

But there's a flip side to the nonapology apology, one that has become annoyingly popular lately, and that is: starting a headline with "Sorry" when the intent is not to express sympathy or apology but, rather, to say something closer to "you're a poopyhead." I haven't seen a description of this elsewhere yet, so I'm going to go ahead and call this the poopyhead apology.

This has been on my radar for a while now, but it seems to have recently reached critical mass.

What inspired this particular post is a story on the Forbes site. Recently, some websites (I believe the first writer was Alex Kotch over at The National Memo) have noticed that the Koch brothers--right-wing industrialists who are big into funding conservative issues--are pushing a high school curriculum that includes sentiments like this one:
Corporations routinely sacrifice the lives of some of their customers to increase profits, and we are all better off because they do. That’s right, we are lucky to live in an economy that allows corporations to increase profits by intentionally selling products less safe than could be produced. The desirability of sacrificing lives for profits may not be as comforting as milk, cookies and a bedtime story, but it follows directly from a reality we cannot wish away.
Pretty callous, right? But just right for Randian Studies 101, I guess.

The quote (and others like it) became the subject for much jeering from liberal-leaning writers, such as Esquire's Charles Pierce, as well as clickbait-leaning websites, including Salon.

Forbes clickbaited back, with a story that features this headline: "Sorry, Salon: The Koch Brothers Are Actually Right." As you can imagine, the Forbes writer, one Tim Worstall ("I have opinions about economics, finance and public policy" appears to be his slogan, and yeah, Tim, I'm sure you do), thinks Salon is wildly off base and he does not appear to be the least bit sorry if a few kids get, I dunno, exploded by Pop Rocks or something.

So I decided to go off to the wilds of Google News to see just how popular this particular locution has become in headlines, and the answer is: way too goddamned popular. These are the incomplete results, and I'll say in advance that Salon is a repeat offender, but, by far, the worst is The Washington Post (and note that these results come only from May):

Sorry, There's Nothing Magical About Breakfast
Sorry, but We're About to Ruin Diet Soda for You
Sorry, but it looks like the West's once-great future is all behind us
Sorry, Paul Ryan. Donald Trump is now 'Mr. Republican.' 
Sorry, Bernie: I love you, but this is over — and getting embarrassing
Sorry Eric Decker, Tom Brady's suspension doesn't mean the AFC East is 'up for grabs'*
Sorry Google, we just don't want to be friends with you*
Sorry, Donald Trump. Trade policy won’t help you win Sanders voters.**
Sorry, liberals. Elizabeth Warren isn’t going to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate.**
Sorry, Bernie fans. His health care plan is short $17,000,000,000,000.**
Sorry, but that fake pundit isn’t more accurate than Nate Silver**
Sorry, Republicans. There’s no escaping Donald Trump.**

Are there more in the May time frame? Oh, GOD, yes, but if I copy and post any more I fear I may lose my mind.

I know the temptation, headline writers. I've written many a headline in my day, and sometimes it's easy to fall back on some comfortable phrase. But it's really time to retire this one.

*These two also lack the comma of direct address. That's pretty basic grammar stuff, and seeing it missing in headlines gives me a headache.

**All of these are from The Washington Post!

P.S.: I'm tempted to blame this. (I did not remember that Charlie was such a stereotype of a tough guy. He seems awfully unconcerned that his sister is now a widow, though, which is not cool.)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

I draw the line at three dimensions, and I refuse to wear those stupid glasses

Part of a very occasional series in which we improve odd descriptions of vanity press books advertised in The New York Times Book Review by adding the phrase "Wacky high jinks ensue" at the end of them. Why? Because we just want to help. Ad copy verbatim (except for the high jinks) from the May 15, 2016, issue.

But first, my usual boilerplate warning: There is nothing wrong with going the for-pay publishing route if you know exactly what you're getting into. If, say, you do public speaking and want to sell books at your engagements. But many of the companies with this model take advantage of the delusional. It doesn't matter how many ads you take out in the Times, no one is going to buy your book about the previously unknown 13th zodiac sign.

Consider all text (sic):

Final Days of Judgment
Final Days of Judgment describes the author's journey to discover how information relating to the laws of universal creation, channeled from the Elohim, ascended masters responsible for the Earth's ascension, applies to life in the modern world. Wacky high jinks ensue.
Bonus! The blurb is lengthened online: "Final Days of Judgement explains how the dross of negative programmes, held individually and in universal consciousness, can be cleared away to facilitate transition to fifth-dimension reality."

Sorry, I'm out. I can't handle that many dimensions.

The Great Creator, the creation and His Creatures From the author of Haiti's Earthquake Jan. 2010 - God's Manifestations comes an insightful book that reveals the way back to eternity through fraternity, combining prose and poetry to convey this call, and highlighting how people can improve their lives. Wacky high jinks ensue.
Through fraternity? Now I regret not pledging. (Oh, I hope it's not Delta Upsilon. Those guys were the worst.)

The Ride, the Rose, and the Resurrection
This memoir by [redacted] narrates the gripping account of one couple's journey through personal tragedy after they suffered life-threatening injuries in a hit-and-run motorcycle accident. It shares stories of compassion and suspicion, companionship and abandonment, religion and faith. Wacky high jinks ensue.
Not to mention sense and sensibility, pastrami and corned beef, and arts and crafts.

A Window to the Soul In this collection of original poems, [redacted] celebrates one of the most profound human experiences: love. Immerse yourself in a a world of love and human emotions as you take a peek into A Window to the Soul... Wacky high jinks ensue.
Peek thought my soul window and I'm calling the authorities.

Memoirs of a "Mad" Dentist
In Memoirs of a "Mad" Dentist, [redacted] looks back to his not-so-ordinary life and career. This book also offers a glimpse into a crusade the author led against a large corporation, demonstrating the power of the human will. Wacky high jinx ensue.
If only the film could star Laurence Olivier--he has experience at that "mad" dentist thing.

Well, that's all for now. And, considering this blog is dead, perhaps ... forever?!? (Nah, probably not.)

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Monday, February 29, 2016

There’s an old joke about a little boy who doesn’t talk. Though his parents try everything, including medical specialists, hypnotists, psychiatrists, but nothing will make the kid talk. His life is otherwise normal—he goes to school, plays with his friends, is a member of a Little League team. But he never says a word.

One day, when the boy is 10, his mother serves him soup for lunch. “The soup is cold,” the kid says.

“Oh, my God!” the mother says. “You can talk! Why haven’t you said anything before?”

“Until now,” the kid says, “everything’s been OK.”

What I’m saying is, has anyone checked Justice Thomas’s soup?

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The owls are not what they seem

From a New York Times article on workspaces. If I worked in this LinkedIn office, I would expect a dancing dwarf to tell me the gum I liked was about to come back in style.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

If only I could monetize this

It's kind of weird how credit works on the Internet. There's a story over at the AV Club about how the Coen brothers are indifferent to the highly acclaimed Fargo TV show, based on their film. The interview originally appeared in Radio Times, which is noted, but IndieWire gets the "via" link and credit. However, when you go to IndieWire, the Exclaim site gets a "via" link. And when you go to the Exclaim story, NME gets a "via" link. Finally, NME links only to the original Radio Times story. So the AV Club story is four steps away from the original story and everything in between is just a summary with absolutely nothing new to add.

So, to further this information journey, I'm going to link to the AV Club. If you pass on this information, though, remember to credit me.