Thursday, September 29, 2016

Dark Roast

Today is National Coffee Day! Or at least social media is telling me that this is so.

I like coffee, but--oddly--I find myself rarely drinking it all that often. I'm not the sort of person who requires a cup of joe first thing in the morning to get going--I secure my caffeine intake in other ways, mostly Diet Pepsi. So the only time I find myself actively drinking coffee is sometimes in the winter--and I almost always prefer a hot cocoa instead. All of this is weird, because I do like coffee.

I've found that I have a preference for coffee-flavored-things--such as ice cream, hard candy, that sort of thing. Of course, that is no doubt this is because in addition to coffee flavoring it has about nine parts sugar in it, which puts me on par with the rest of the consuming population of liking "coffee" when in reality they like desserts that slightly taste like coffee.

I don't begrudge people that. After all, coffee is bitter and strong, much like my soul. And it's not all that different than, say, cocoa beans--have you ever had unsweetened chocolate? It's gross. But it's additionally perplexing because I prefer my coffee black or I prefer my coffee filled up with so much garbage it should be a desserts; I don't have a middle ground.

I've always been fascinated by old-timey coffee, too. Like, any time you watch a Western, they're making coffee in some weird tin container, which almost always makes me think they're throwing a bunch of beans in some water and then drinking some slightly brown water. Then again, they were eating lizard leather and kidney stones for stew, so it probably wasn't so bad by comparison. 

So today, on National Coffee Day, I ended up having a fountain soda. Go figure that one out. After you've had your morning cup, of course.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Pitt



Given the recent news about Brangelina, let me tell you about the weird infatuation I have with Brad Pitt. 

First off, I mean, c’mon. Brad Pitt is a handsome man. So let’s get that out of the way. 

But after that, Pitt seems to have a taste in roles that align perfectly with mine. 

When I wrote my Top Ten Movies Of All Time post a few years ago (which needs to be updated, but not by much, and not right now), I was a little shocked that he stars in three of them—well, one in the top ten (Inglorious Basterds) and two in the top twenty (Snatch and Se7en). 

This all came about when, during the early days of Netflix when you actually received small little discs in the mail, I had managed to inadvertently watch three Brad Pitt movies in a row: Burn After Reading, Twelve Monkeys, and The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford.
I’m also a sucker for heist movies, so him being in the Ocean’s Eleven movies certainly helps. And being in two “economic” movies (The Big Short and Moneyball) is also a plus.

Looking over his filmography, he’s probably one of the most consistent actors with what I would want to watch—although I don’t know exactly what that consistency is. There’s no underlying theme, except for maybe a bit of sci fi and a bit of economics. And he’s certainly a good actor, although I wouldn’t say he’s the greatest. I haven’t seen everything he’s been in, of course, and some I know I won’t like, but it’s a little weird how one actor orbits your favor, especially when he or she doesn’t stick to one specific genre.I'm sure a lot of it is perfectly explainable--he's a bankable actor who gets in a lot of good movies most likely to be seen, but a lot of other actors fall into that, too.

So what I’m saying is that if we are basing whose side we are on in the divorce based solely on the box office, I’m firmly in Brad’s camp. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

I Don't Think So, Tim

The AV Club recently asked the question: Why has time forsaken Home Improvement?

I would disagree with that sentiment.

First off, I love the Onion, but the AV Club has long seemed to me to be a bastion of lemon-sucking sourness, a cadre of kids too cool for school yet still latched onto geek culture. There hasn't been an overrated musician so obscure they couldn't fawn all over or a mainstream hit they couldn't piss all over, all while smiling through a glaze of, no, honest, we're cool geeks, here. I'm...not a fan

As such, I disagree with their assessment of Home Improvement.

Home Improvement, for those sad enough to not know, was a 90's sitcom--lasting from 1991 to 1999 and being a top 10 hit each of those years, #1 for many, could easily be considered the 90's sitcom--about Tim Talyor, a handyman who hosts a show about (wait for it) home improvement projects. The setup was largely a parody of This Old House, the staid PBS series about home renovations, but included the host's family life as well. Throw in a wife and three boys, a level-headed if naive assistant on the show, and a gimmicky neighbor, and you had a formula for an eight-year successful run.

And "formula" is the right word. The show managed to base itself with two different things. The first was the mechanics of the home improvement show, where a lot of the catch phrases ("More power!") and physical humor came into play. But also it dealt with the friction between quintessential "male vs female" arguments; Tim, who had arguably one of the manliest jobs in existence, would often find himself confused about the vagaries of the fairer sex.

Episodes followed a pretty standard arc--Tim would do something stupid; his wife Jill would get mad; he would talk to his assistant, Al, or his neighbor, Wilson, about the situation; he would then try and correct the problem in the least effective way possible while still succeeding. The other story for each episode would focus on the show, usually building a project that would in some way blow up or hurt someone.

It sounds pretty tame by today's standards, but I maintain that it actually was a touchstone for the current state of comedy--not just on television, but in general.
  • Situation comedies have always struggled with the "man vs woman" dialogue. Either the issue was studiously ignored, or it was done with the subtly of a frying pan to the face (see: any Normal Lear production). Home Improvement managed to straddle like a colossus between two ideas--the "old" notion that men needed to cling to manly things if they wanted to retain their identity, and the "new" notion that men should make an effort to communicate with women about things that often go overlooked. They managed to do this and make it funny. In today's age of hyperawareness, it's a little refreshing to see the writers do justice to both
  • They acted like grownups about serious issues. This was the 90s, so they had the necessary Very Special Episodes, but they were generally done with both respect to reality and a wink to the audience. Special mention goes out to the episode about pot--rather than treat it as a demon weed, they emphasized that getting into pot will probably make you lazy and disinterested, and for a kid trying to get into college on a soccer scholarship it's probably not the best idea--let alone the legal ramifications of it. (Given Tim Allen's real-life issues with drug abuse, this was probably the best way they could handle it and not be roaring hypocrites about it.) 
  • As formulaic as it was, it did the formula well. Even well into its eight year run you could see the situations a mile away and yet they usually managed to make it fresh. Sure, there were down periods and occasional recycled scripts, but you could count on one hand the number of sitcoms that don't do that. And even the formula wasn't that bad--Jill, the wife, was wrong plenty of times.
The show, of course, wasn't perfect. Casting three boys as their children was probably a mistake; not only did it leave little room for character development, it seems like a lost opportunity to get a daughter in there, given the show's emphasis. And formula is formula--even a good one gets old after eight years.

Still, I think the show doesn't get nearly as much credit as I think it should. It certainly wasn't everyone's cup of tea, but it was #1 for a reason.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Part Of A Complete Election

So General Mills is holding an "election" for their halloween-centered cereal mascots. You know who I'm talking about: Count Chocula, Boo Berry, and Franken Berry.

Seriously, you should check out the web site, because it's hilarious. They even have an electoral college set up to see who is going to win. This is what it looks like right now:



First off, what's with Montana? You guys must really like your artificial strawberry-style flavoring.

Secondly, are we going to see a fourth party insurgency by the likes of Fruit Brute, or, even more unlikely, Yummy Mummy?

Finally, I've been trying to pin down how these three fall into the standard two-party-with-third-party-challenger system, and I'm coming up short. Maybe you guys could help.

Count Chocula seems to be the establishment favorite. He endorses chocolate, which is the standard-issue blatant pandering giveaway issue of the times. He's also ambiguously foreign. ON the other hand, he's clearly being bought, paid for, and encouraged by General Mills as the iconic voice of the monster cereal cartel, so Big Cereal has got their grubby hands all over his candidacy.

Frankenberry seems like he's a scion of science, and it literally took a village (of corpses) to create him. And yet for all his practical inventiveness, he's largely concerned with always being first, leaving all others behind.

Boo Berry is kind of an enigma. He seems to say nothing and stand for nothing. Heck, he's practically invisible and yet seems to have solid support in the northeast and west--and legend has it that people in the south have created Boo Berry Consortiums during the off season, so he clearly has grassroots appeal.

I know this seems like a sponsored post for General Mills and their ad campaign, but come on--after reading this, you want to eat ALL OF THE CEREAL.