Sunday, February 22, 2015

Bad, Bad Movies

Tonight is the 87th Academy Awards ceremonies, where all of the glamor and glitter and cocaine-off-of-the-backs-of-commodes all concentrate in one place, so average Americans can watch rich people give other rich people awards.

Of course, let's not forget the bad movies as well as the good.

A lot of people have a fascination with bad films. At first glance, it seems weird--who would voluntarily watch something horrible? But I think a lot of people look at a final product and realize that thousands of people worked on it, and not one of them stepped up and said "Wait a second, what the hell are we doing here?"

There's also the type of bad movie to look at: some movies are "so bad, they're good" and then there are just bad movies, and finding that nearly invisible line between the two can be a challenge.

Granted, there are different types of bad movies:

  • Movies where there is a failure on all fronts. Production values are bad, casting is atrocious, and the writing makes no sense. You actually don't see this happening all that much anymore; at the very least on the production value standards technological costs are so low even the barest of budgets can get decent props, sets, and cameras. Gone are the days of things like Plan 9 From Outer Space where they were literally grabbing junk from random places just to put on a show. Still, there's enough stuff out there were naive or unprofessional directors straight up can't get their act together. 
  • Movies where the genres are mixed. This might be a thriller that also tries to be a romantic comedy, or an action flick that tries to make a political point, or a historical drama that tries to reinvent history to appeal to a modern audience. It's not impossible to pull off, and when it does it's brilliant, but it's very difficult. You'll also see a lot of people see this work once--and then all copycat attempts to duplicate that success are garbage.
  • Movies with an acting misfire. These often star perfectly capable actors and actresses that either can't quite pull off what the writers and directors are trying to do, or the actor is branching out into a genre they just aren't going to fit in with.
  • Intentionally bad movies. These are often horror movies or gross-out comedies,where the bad writing, situations, and productions values are done with a wink at the audience.
  • Finally, there are movies that are just a mess. These are the most common nowadays, where the production values and budget are average-to-high, it has a lot of big names, there's a large cadre of directors, writers, studio representatives, and money men involved--everybody who has a stake in the movie are all there, and not one of them steps back and thinks that it's a bad movie. The badness of the movie is amplified by the fact that these are all professional people with huge budgets and all sorts of talent at their fingertips, and they still produce a complete pile of trash. And so it gets wide distribution and a huge marketing campaign and then audiences hate it and it becomes the subject for ridicule. 
This last one, in my opinion, is the most fascinating. There's probably a part of it that enjoys the fact that big, powerful people get embarrassed by something they think is great. But another part of it is just the fact that the power structure of Hollywood is so farcically out of touch that no one can say "This is a bad movie" without there being repercussions. If you're an underling telling a big-name director that he is creating a bad movie, that's a one-way ticket to not working in Hollywood anymore. If you're the executive who expresses reservations about a project, you're painted as a betrayer.

There are a lot of poster children for this sort of thing. Heaven's Gate, directed by Michael Cimino, is probably the most notorious, mostly because it had actual repercussions in the culture of Hollywood. If you are unfamiliar, the story is about the Johnson County War in Wyoming between land owners and immigrants. This was during the days in which New Hollywood reigned. When a large number of director-driven (as opposed to studio-driven) movies became smash hits in the 60s and 70s and easily became the "future" of moviemaking, studios adapted, giving directors a huge amount of money, resources, and leeway in how they wanted to make their movies. It produced a lot of classic movies, such as The Godfather, Bonnie and Clyde, and Apocalypse Now. But like most things, directors became more and more demanding and more and more difficult, and the returns on the movies were beginning to make less and less money.  

Heaven's Gate was the final straw: it cost $44 million to make (swelling from its original $12 million budget) and ended up making a paltry $3.5 million. It bankrupted United Artists (or, rather, they were bought out before that could happen) and destroyed Cimino's reputation, which had been on the rise after the Best Picture-winning The Deer Hunter. It ended that era of Hollywood, and studios quickly took control back from directors and managed their movies (and budgets) more closely.

The thing is, the movie isn't bad, really--the acting is capable, the production values are decent, and it's not unwatchable. And yet it is a bad movie, because it's eminently boring, there's no reason to want to actually sit down and watch it, and to see all of the talent being poured into such a huge undertaking just baffles most people. And this is the sort of thing that happens most frequently now--while there's a lot of bad writing and bad acting and bad ideas still being produced in Hollywood, there's at lease some sort of quality control to make sure it's not something like a bad 60's sci-fi flick with set pieces falling down and actors who are their brother's chiropractor.

Still, there's plenty of bad stuff to go around. I recently saw The Room, which defies all description and fits none of the categories above. It's the sort of thing that's entirely enjoyable to watch and yet is clearly a bad movie. The actors are all capable if mediocre--except for the star, Tommy Wiseau, whose broken English and over-the-top acting and complete disregard for inflection and timing come across as laughable. The main plot of the movie--a guy whose friends, one by one, betray him--isn't bad, except that none of the plot makes sense, dozens of subplots are introduced and immediately forgotten, and weird scenes depicting things that no one in the history of the world has even done (like throwing a football back and forth while jogging) make the entire experience seem like a bad fever dream.

Anyway, when watching the Oscars tonight (or, like me, reading about it on Monday), just take a moment to remember all of the horrible, horrible movies that these same people also made.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Why I'm Glad Jon Stewart Joined The Daily Show, And Why I'm Glad He's Leaving

So, last week, Jon Stewart announced that he is stepping down as the host of The Daily Show.

I was one of the early adopters of The Daily Show. When Comedy Central debuted the program in 1996, the state of news satire in America was pretty abysmal. You basically had Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live, and...well, that was it. Sure, you had some attempts like Not Necessarily The News and That Was The Week That Was, but those were modest successes with a limited audience.

Being an avid consumer of current events back in the day, I ate it up. I wasn't a huge fan--Craig Kilborn, the original host, was kind of a smug prick, and the guests and format were a little too Comedy-Central-Centric. (Most guests were basically comedians who had Comedy Central shows.) Still, the writing was sharp enough and the genre so barren that it was still eminently watchable.

After Kilborn left and Stewart took over, the show revitalized itself. Sure, it still followed roughly the same format, but the attitude was different, the writing cleaner, the range of subjects broadened. It became a proper news satire source and not just a mash of comedy bits held together with dorky jokes about the news. Guests and topics no longer felt like they were simply vehicles for Comedy Central routines. And, most importantly, they cultivated what would end up being a dream team of writers and performers: Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Rob Corddry, and Ed Helms, to name a few, all of whom have gone on with successful careers. From about 1999 to 2004 or so, there was no greater example of satire on the airwaves than The Daily Show.

Unfortunately, around that time, something changed. I don't know if there was any one specific point in which it did, but if I had to choose it would be Jon Stewart's appearance on Crossfire. During this interview, Stewart called out hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala as being bad for political discourse, calling them partisan hacks in a combative and uncomfortable segment. While some think of it as a brave calling out of the loud, obnoxious debate programs that permeated the air, others (like myself) feel it was a absurd for Stewart to do this on their program in the manner that he did. Clearly Stewart was there to be a comedian--since, you know, that's what he is and claimed to be--and when he used it to unexpectedly attack the hosts it was not only hypocritical but in poor taste. He was simultaneously acting as an expert on news discourse, and when they counter attacked he just claimed to be a comedian, apparently hoping that his comments would be taken seriously enough to have an impact, but not so serious that he had to accept responsibility as a journalist. Had Stewart been invited on to discuss the state of media, I think it would have worked out fine, but he chose instead to take the opportunity to make a childish ambush.

The entire problem stems from the fact that around 2004 or so Stewart transformed The Daily Show from something that was a satire of everything to a vehicle for commentary and ideology. Oh, don't get me wrong--good satire has the pleasant side effect of calling out the rich and powerful on their bullshit where traditional journalism can't. But two things converged to make the satire less effective. First, Stewart and the staff took to criticizing all other news outlets, and then when those outlets turned it around against them they claim that they're just a comedy show. You can't just say, "Oh, we are strictly a satirical organization whose sole purpose is to be funny and shouldn't be held to the same journalistic standards as the regular news, except for those times when we want to make an accusation, where we want you to treat us like an academic source."

And that's the biggest issue that I had with The Daily Show. They wanted the good stuff (being taken seriously as a organization when they critique people via satire) but not the bad (their news stories were biased, slanted, used cherry-picked statistics so they could make a funny point). Everybody kind of took The Daily Show's popularity as an excuse to make accusations that under any other circumstance would be the exact sort of thing The Daily Show would get angry about, and if they were criticized they would throw up their hands and say "Can't you tell this is all just a joke?"

There was a glimmer of hope after 2008. Even though I had long stopped watching The Daily Show by that point, I always defended it. Good satire pokes fun at the powerful and influential, and during the height of its run the people in power were the Republicans. It only made sense that their targets would be ideologically slanted. But when the Democrats were ushered into power--mildly in 2006 and then fully in 2008--it was clear that The Daily Show wasn't ready to move on. Old, stale jokes from previous election cycles were trotted out, dusted up, and shook at towards the audience, hoping that they wouldn't notice that the writers couldn't bring themselves to make fun of the party and ideology they so clearly adored. Regardless of what side of the political spectrum you are on, satire is most effective when you can make fun of both sides. Otherwise, it's just ideological masturbation. When you're creatively bankrupt enough to not be able to make fun of your own side, the effectiveness of your satire is greatly diminished. Oh, sure, they still made fun of Democrats once in a while; I'm not saying that the show became a relentless anti-conservative machine. But it was clear that the satire against their preferred party was weak, mute, and without bite.

Exhibit A for this sort of thing would be Last Week Tonight, a similar show on HBO starring former Daily Show correspondent John Oliver. It's almost like they took everything that was wrong with The Daily Show and magnified it--every story is a hypersensationalized distortion of any sort of reality. The stats are all skewed, the framing of each issue is slanted to an absurd degree, and the delivery is wrapped up in a sort of douchey faux-intellectual mock horror. You know that guy who goes to college for the first time and suddenly discovered politics and then uses every single logical fallacy in the book to prove that he's right? That's exactly what Last Week Tonight feels like. It almost feels like a satire of satire news shows, except that no one is in on the joke.

Ultimately, I think it's a good thing that Stewart is leaving. I'm glad he did what he did, but it was clear a long time ago that satire has progressed beyond stale Bush jokes and getting upset about the Tea Party, yet Stewart is still sitting in the back corner table wailing away about it while the rest of the world has moved on. He brought a fresh perspective into a vast wasteland of a genre, but it's time now for someone else to do the same to him.

Friday, February 6, 2015

George Washington Totally Wanted Peanut Butter Pie On His Birthday

So last year I entreated my readers to start a brand new tradition: making a delicious peanut butter pie in honor of Presidents Day.

I laid out my case in the post linked above, but last night during a fever dream I totally thought up another perfectly 100% valid reason why we should all make peanut butter pie a Presidents Day tradition:

1. George Washington Carver was named after our first President, George Washington.
2. George Washington Carver also invented peanut butter.*
3. Ergo and therefore and QED, peanut butter pie on Presidents Day makes the most sense ever.

 

Oh oh oh and 4. I just thought of this 4. George Washington Carver is black and February is Black History Month and he invented peanut butter so now it's not only awesome but now school children around the nation are legally obligated to make peanut butter pie (and epipen cocktails, I presume) and bring it to class.

 So--you guys have two weekends to spread (ha!) the word and get yourselves out to the grocery store. Peanut allergists get your placards out for your Presidents Day Protests (or just get some Nutella as a similarly suspicious substitute). And everybody get ready to indulge in a new and tasty American tradition.

*I know some people will claim that George Washington Carver did not, in fact, invent peanut butter, but those people are stupid and wrong.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Trivia Crack Category Conversion Chart


Geography = History
History = Meaningless Dates
Sports = Soccer, Volleyball, and Michael Jordan
Science = Obscure Medical Terms
Art = Pop Culture
Entertainment = Hunger Games Questions

Friday, January 30, 2015

What To Expect For Super Bowl XLIX

The much-awaited game between the New England Patriots and Some West Coast Team is ready to go this weekend, to much heraldment and poppistry*. There's going to be a lot of non-football fans watching the game, so now might be a good time to take a look at what one can expect this Sunday:

  • Bill Belichik might show up in a suit, what with this being the single most-watched program in the entire world, but he probably will show up dressed like he just woke up in a dumpster and stumbled to the field just in time for kickoff.
  • For the first time, NBC is streaming the Super Bowl live this year on the internet, which is good news for people who like to see the exact same ad for Geico 200 times in a five-hour period right next to a banner trying to sell you shady car insurance via a dancing cactus
  • For the first time ever, millions of girls under 10 are going to be really, really excited to watch the Super Bowl right up until the point when Idina Menzel finishes the national anthem and then they go to bed.
  • This Super Bowl will be played at the University of Phoenix Stadium, where tickets are selling at $6,500, which coincidentally is also the cost of one credit's worth of unaccredited online classes for medical transcription. 
  • Katy Perry is slated as the halftime entertainment. No less than Lenny Kravitz will be brought on as a guest singer. Audiences will certainly be disappointed if the halftime show doesn't somehow involve pot, Elmo, or fireworks shooting out of Katy Perry's boobs.
  • The Seahawks are making their second straight Super Bowl appearance. This is now the third longest-lasting thing in Seattle, right behind the rain and keeping up the pretense that if Kurt Cobain were still alive he wouldn't be a judge on The Voice
  • There's a pretty good chance that Aaron Rodgers will still show up and play a few downs just for the hell of it.
  • The game starts late and it's a work night, so lots of fans might end their night early. This might also include LeGarrette Blount.
  • Richard Sherman will precede the broadcast with an in-depth discussion contrasting the unique worldviews of Immanuel Kant and Georg Hegel, providing a refreshing perspective that viewers can use to rethink their role in their communities.
  • Whatever commercial you currently find annoying--I bet it involves car insurance!--there will be an ever more annoying version of it on Sunday.
  • This will mark the 49th year in a row where the world is reminded that the best way to honor our veterans who have fought and died for our country is to buy watered-down beer and pickup trucks.
  • Viewers will be treated to no less than six dozen interruptions during the game for the announcers to mentions the PSI of the footballs at that exact moment.
  • No matter what the final score of the game is, the real winners are the guys who are going to earn overtime cleaning up murder scenes in Las Vegas.


*I don't think either of those are words, but they should be.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Interview: A Movie Review








By now, everyone knows about The Interview. The Seth Rogan-led comedy made headlines when its plot--an entertainment host and his producer go to North Korea to pull off the assassination of Kim Jong-Un--upset the government of North Korea, and the film was pulled from wide release when Sony, the movie's studio, was threatened.


After some time, it was eventually released (in limited theaters) and then released online in a variety of sources. Eventually it got itself to Netflix streaming, where most people will no doubt watch it.

As such, I watched it a few days. After seeing the film, the best I can say is: "eh."

I won't rehash the plot, since it's more or less covered above. A shallow entertainment host, James Skylark (James Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogan) are celebrating their long-running success, but yearn for something more fulfilling. When news leaks that Kim Jong-Un loves Franco's show, the two of them get in contact with the leader to do an exclusive interview. The CIA then gets involved, convincing the two to pull off an assassination of the leader, stating that they have a sympathetic faction ready to take control.

Once there, Skylark finds that he and Un have a lot in common., and he becomes sympathetic. Rapoport, on the other hand, has to figure out a way to pull off the assassination himself--and ends up falling for Un's propagandist. When Skylark eventually realizes how horrifying North Korea really is, the plan changes--by changing the plan. The globally televised interview, which normally would be pre-arranged questions, soon changes to piercing questions about the North Korean regime. A battle ensues, with the reformers taking control.

OK, when I say "piercing questions about the North Korean regime," I mean "fart jokes." This is--when you strip away the meta circumstances and the pseudo-political trappings--a Seth Rogan movie. The first half hour is pretty standard, with crude jokes mixed with some legitimately intellectual humor. It then switches to a surprisingly bland spy film. It finally turns into an action flick as the climax occurs.

And that is ultimately my problem with the movie--it doesn't know what it wants to be. It tries to be a buddy flick with crude dialogue, but also a political movie trying to make political points, and also a spy caper, and also an action movie. And it ends up doing none of these things particularly well.

A few highlights--Randall Park does an excellent job in nearly everything he does (notably in Veep), and here he manages the role of Kim Jong-Un delightfully well. James Franco, however, seems like he's just supposed to be a good-natured shallow individual, but instead he kind of comes across as a creepy man-child. Seth Rogan isn't really acting, he's just doing the exact same thing he does in every movie. If this script had been strung together with a little more foresight and weight behind it, it could probably have managed to be a legitimately funny yet politically insightful movie; instead, it just comes across as a boorish mess.

Don't get me wrong--I loved certain parts of it. It's by no stretch a bad movie--I laughed plenty throughout, and I'm glad I watched it. But as a whole it was very unsatisfying, not scratching a comedy, action or spy movie itch. It most certainly is not worth causing an international crisis over. So watch it, if you're into Seth Rogan movies, and even if you aren't it might be worth a pass, but beyond that it's not particularly memorable.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Why "The Office" Is The Best Sitcom Of An Era

Mass entertainment can often be difficult to judge; even more so when it's currently in production and fresh in our minds. And yet I feel a solid determination can be made: the US version of The Office is the best sitcom of the current era.


Oh, sure, there's plenty of great competition from the past 15-20 years, but I feel most of them have some critical drawback. Friends and Seinfeld both are solid, well-written, long-running shows with interesting characters, memorable episodes, and a critical collection of nostalgia, but they both seem freeze-dried in the 90s. Arrested Development will always have a place in my heart, but its short run will always be an albatross around its neck. 30 Rock is awesome, but it already feels dated and was too clever for its own good. Parks and Rec and Modern Family are still on and have the potential to be solid frontrunners, but we'll have to wait and see for both. Instead of maturing, most of the cartoon shows suffer from their long-running status. Other successful sitcoms around this timeframe--Everybody Loves Raymond, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, Two And a Half Men, and so on--are generally good but just don't differentiate themselves enough to be outstanding.

Of course, let's be honest: the last 20 years have not been kind to sitcoms. After The Cosby Show made sitcoms hip again, there was a flourishing of comedy from the 80s into the 90s, but around the end of the decade sitcoms were getting pushed over for dramas--mostly medical shows, reality TV, and police procedurals. You can hardly flip through the stations without bumping into a Law & Order rerun or a CSI spinoff. (This isn't all that unusual, by the way--the history of television tends to go in cycles. Hell, there was a time in the 60s when there wasn't a single night of the week when a Western wasn't on.)

At any rate, I'm not plucking The Office out of a decimated lineup just for the hell of it. My wife and I have recently been watching it again from the beginning, and it's astounding to me how fantastically written that show was. It wasn't perfect--we'll get to that in a bit--but I can't think of a single television program that manages to piece together sharp writing, interesting characters, and an easily accessible environment.*

Here's what makes The Office great:
  • It's a familiar situation. Even if you have never worked in an actual cubicle farm, you at least understand the relationships between people who work in any organization. Sure, you may have never understood the frustration of a copier that just won't do what you need it to do or having to deal with that person who thinks they have more authority than they really do, but you have something similar wherever it is you spend your time, whether that means your home, your church, or your gym. 
  • The characters are interesting. At first glance, many of the characters come across are boring old office drones, but that quickly falls away as each develop their own quirks, foibles, and personalities--all of whom are someone you know. Every office has an Angela, or a Kelly, or a Creed. 
  • We can't really go any farther without discussing Michael Scott. Played to perfection by Steve Carrell, he shed a lot of the cringe that his UK counterpart had--although he still had plenty--and added in a little bit more competence and compassion. In fact, one of the biggest departures from the original UK version was that while David Brent was useless, Michael Scott was, at the end of the day, actually good at his job--useful, since it made sense as to how his antics were tolerated by those both above and below him. By converting him from a loathsome annoyance to a competent authority figure with a believable level of obnoxiousness, it lifted the entire show up and made its longevity much more likely.
  • Dwight deserves special mention, When I first watched the show, I kind of dismissed him as a sort of artificial antagonist; the whole concept of him obsessing over petty victories grew old. But on a re-watching of the series, I find that his character is much, much more than that, and it's downright hilarious.
  • The romance between Jim and Pam was tricky. On the one hand, you can't have everything happen at once; the driving force of most of the series was the trajectory of their relationship. We all knew how it was going to end, but half the fun was watching the details unfold. On the other hand, stretch it out too long, and it becomes boring and unbelievable. A lot of people criticize the show for basically becoming uninteresting once they get married, and there's a little truth to that, but it's unlikely that could have been stretched out any more than it already had.
  • Regardless, every episode showing a new step in their relationship just blew everything out of the water. Whether it was their first kiss, or Jim moving away, or Roy assaulting Jim, or Jim proposing, or their pregnancy, or their marriage...the list goes on. Each episode treated their relationship with respect and yet also managed to make it amusing and interesting. 
  • The ensemble cast grew to be incredibly interesting, so much so that by the last two seasons the entire show could stand on its own without the focal point of Michael Scott. And whether it was by design or not, the balance of introducing new characters and developing old ones was done remarkably well. 
  • The writing: there's an incredible balance between sharp wit, throwaway jokes, physical gags, heartwarming moments, and legitimate dramatic tension. It's also very consistent.
  • And finally: the end. (Minor spoilers follow.) The series finale is widely considered one of the best, right up there with M*A*S*H and Six Feet Under. It conveniently wraps up everybody's storyline with something that's satisfying. The entire premise of the show--being shot as a documentary--is not only addressed but displayed in a believable manner. And the return of Michael Scott--which at the time was a legitimate surprise, since news sources had stated he wasn't coming back--was done with the appropriate amount of understatement; he had, maybe, two or three lines total, but it was still pretty awesome. Wrap it all up around Dwight and Angela's wedding, and it was fantastic.
The Office wasn't without its problems. Some of the plots got carried away with their own cleverness and wound up being more awkward than enjoyable. Once Jim and Pam got married, a huge driving force of the series seemed to wind down, and the writers had to concoct an ever-increasing number of situations filled with artificial romantic tension to keep things going, most of which were flat-out uninteresting. There were a few plot lines that really didn't seem to work--for example, the Michael Scott Paper Company story seemed to be more trouble than it was worth.

And Season 8 bears special mention; after the departure of Michael, Robert California (played decently by James Spader) just wasn't very interesting and his character was wasted. (In addition, most of the plots of season 8 stretched even the already-expanded levels of believability as far as they could possibly go.) They also wasted the character of Nellie (played by Catherine Tate), who could have been something amazing but they basically did nothing to develop her personality and she just came across as a weird bitch, and then when they did finally flesh out her character it was too late. On the plus side, after season 5 the introduction of Erin (and, to a lesser extent, Gabe) added a huge amount of just flat-out fun to the series.

Thankfully, season 9 picked up and the writing was on par with the series' heyday. Even with the departure of Ryan and Kelly, the addition of Clark and Pete (two decent characters that just didn't have time to contribute much) and a weird plot line dealing with one of the sound guys (which thankfully ended after a few episodes), the last season is not only memorable but fantastic. Those who understandably dropped out after the 8th season would be well advised to power through it; it's well worth it.

At any rate, why does this make it the best sitcom of an era? As I mentioned in the first few paragraphs, it's a series that is clearly of a decade but not defined by it; its appeal is largely universal; and, most importantly, it has the writing and the characterization and the execution to back it up. While it's only been off the air for a few years, it already seemed to have been able to stand the test of time--re-watching shows from over a decade ago don't seem dated in the least. I can't say for certain if The Office will be regarded as the Cheers or M*A*S*H of our time, but I suspect it will be pretty close.




*The only other candidate is the previously-mentioned Arrested Development, which I would rank a little higher. But as I said, with only four seasons--with two of them shortened, and the fourth an admitted awkward half-effort--it's hard to propel it higher than The Office.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Trivial Pursuit

Who wants trivia? We all want trivia!

Well, maybe.

I've been sucked into playing the newest hot app, Trivia Crack. I won't lie, though: I'm not sure how long I will do so. Given the track record I've had with hot apps like this in the past (Word With Friends was awesome until their servers couldn't handle it and started begging for money, for example) and I've already encountered quite a few repeat questions. On the plus side, they have what seems to be an aggressive question-submitting system that will keep things fresh (although, to be honest, with a few too many questions about the Hunger Games.)

I have a love-hate relationship with trivia. Well, mostly love, but it's not without its issues. I think a lot of people have some misplaced sense of intelligence because they can rip through trivia games; in reality, knowing random facts doesn't always mean you have the comprehension or analytical skills to really be smart. (On the other hand, having a broad base of knowledge helps.) It's a tricky situation, since a lot of people have differing perspectives of what is considered "smart," but in any case there's too many people who think they're hot shit because they know how many seasons Friends was on the air.

(As an aside, I'd like to point out a huge issue I have with Trivial Pursuit, the grandaddy of all trivia games: namely, that the whole move-your-pie-and-get-wedges system is equally boring and frustrating. It doesn't necessarily reward people who know the most trivia; it rewards people who happen to be lucky as well. The fact that someone can theoretically win before anyone else has a turn is bothersome. When I play, we generally disregard the board and play with a point system, which is more fun anyway.)

Still, though, trivia can be fun. And there's no way to replicate that feeling of successfully knowing who played the male lead in Pretty In Pink when no one else did.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Frozen (No, Not That One)

So, it's cold.

Let me tell you how cold it is: for the past few days, my windshield washer fluid hasn't been working. I push the little button and you hear a sad little whirring noise but nothing comes out. Usually this is because I'm an idiot and forgot to put in new fluid (entirely possible, but not in this case) or because the outlets are frozen shut and the fluid just makes a bit pile of smurf slush (entirely possible, and what I assumed was happening).

I knew that there was fluid in there because I had recently filled it with this:

I would like to draw your attention to the label that said "Winter Formula" and "-20 degrees Fahrenheit."

So I assumed that it was because things were frozen shut, and a simple session with the ice scraper would solve the issue. Not so! After driving around for a few days I realized something else was wrong, to the point that I assumed that I had either burned up the motor or that the case had cracked open and leaked all the fluid out.

I popped open the hood to be confronted with this:


Frozen solid.

That's right, a liquid that is specifically designed to handle low temperatures couldn't handle the weather we're currently having.

And that's how cold it is.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Results Are In! The Winners of the 2014 Miserable Crank Awards Are...


What is the Worst Government Decision?
Brakes Put On Tesla Sales 

What is the Worst Technological Advance?
Assault On Net Neutrality 

What is the Worst Sporting Event?
NFL Abuse 

What is the Most Embarrassing Thing? 
Renee Zellweger's Face 

What is the Worst Business Decision? 
Elk River Chemical Spill 

What is the Worst Popular Trend? 
Ice Bucket Challenge 

What is the Worst Incident? 
Malaysian Airlines 

What is the Worst Entertainment? 
Kim Kardashian Breaks The Internet 

Who is the Worst Person? 
Vladimir Putin 

What is the Worst Inconvenience? 
Polar Vortex 

Oh, sure, it's just dandy that The Interview gets cancelled after the deadline, but it's not like the power of Kim Kardashian could penetrate it, right?

And finally...
 Ferguson, MO