I Hate You, Michael Landon

[Originally posted on November 11, 2011. Surprisingly, this is the most viewed and shared post I have ever written. The internet is mesmerized by Pa Landon's apple-cheeked death gaze.]

An essential part of growing up for any virgin to life is to have your spirits lifted, then promptly trampled on by Michael Landon.

Growing up, I was a Little House on the Prairie nut.  From episode one, I cared about the Ingalls family and their trials and tribulations.  I ignored the fact that Pa had a perm; I ignored the tire tracks appearing on prairie shots, or how the Midwest looked like a California desert.  At 5 p.m. every weekday, I turned on WPIX to become a part of the syndicated Little House world.  I cheered for the characters when they triumphed and wept when they struggled.

And Lord, how they struggled.  You see, everyone views Michael Landon as this great guy who created wonderful family shows to inspire us and give us hope.  Let’s be honest – Michael Landon used his magical powers of story-telling to rip out our hearts with his mangled claw-hand, leaving black rot to form and kill off the remaining niblets of innocence and whimsy hiding deep in the recesses of our souls.

…Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration; but the man was a grim reaper.  I present to you, my lovely reader, exhibits A-Z4 in My Childhood Innocence v. Pa Landon – a list of the actual trials and tribulations that occurred on this show:

- When the Ingalls wheat crop failed, Pa went to work in mining.  He befriended a man.  The man was funny and nice.  The man was blown up by dynamite.  The camera showed a close up of Pa doing his typical heart-wrenching, apple-cheeked quiverface, telling all actors that if you are kind enough to be a guest star on a Michael Landon show, he will reward you with death.  On the plus side?  Emmy reel!

- Ma had a baby; Laura was jealous of the baby.  The baby died, and Laura thought she caused it due to having Pa Death in her genes.  She ran away to live on a mountain that miraculously appeared in the middle of the prairie.  On Miracle Mountain, she met a Special Guest Star Angel.  Pa couldn’t kill the angel, because an angel by definition isn’t alive.  Pa was disappointed.

- Ma cut her leg on a wire.  Pa and the kids conveniently travelled somewhere without her for the only time EVER on this God-forsaken show.  She developed a staph infection and slowly rotted away in the Ingalls house.  To further tease us, people would check on her by knocking on the door.  We the viewers would think, “She’s saved!”  But no; her neighbors wondered why she wasn’t answering and they’d just take off.  As their carriage clippity-clopped off into the sunset, we’d see Ma’s ashen sweaty hand desperately reach up to the door knob to catch their attention.  Of course they acted like they didn’t see her.  But watch closely: Doc Baker totally hit the horsey gas pedal when that door opened.  He’s like, “So long, bitches!  Call me when penicillin’s invented!”  She almost died, but Pa figured she’d be more useful to him alive.

- Mary gave Laura a pet raccoon.  How could this end well?  Of course, the raccoon had rabies, bit Laura, so Pa shot and killed it.

- Laura had a horse named Bunny.  She sold it to Nellie Oleson to buy Christmas gifts for the family.  Once she won the horse back, she was showing her grandfather her riding skills, and ran Bunny into a barbed wire fence.  Grandpa shot Bunny.  She died.  Laura hated Grandpa and wished him dead.  Pa gave his apple-cheeked Quiverface, but reveled inside, for this was the Grand Slam of Anguish for Pa.

- Laura had a terrier named Jack.  The dog was annoying her and she wanted it to go away.  Pa realized this was the perfect moment to further torment Laura, so he killed Jack and claimed it was old age.

- Mary went blind.  Now, in actual history, Mary went blind when she had scarlet fever.  On the show, Mary had scarlet fever long ago, and went blind as some weird aftereffect.  I had scarlet fever twice as a child.  Thanks for keeping me up at night, Pa.

- After going blind, Mary kept her childhood reading glasses in her pocket at all times as a reminder of what Pa Ingalls does to people who have hopes and dreams.

- Mary fell in love with her dreamy blind teacher Adam Kendall, and when they got married, a surprise dust storm struck and almost took out the entire wedding party.  No one saw it coming.

- Mary got pregnant.  She miscarried.

- Mary and her dreamy blind husband had to take a stagecoach ride somewhere.  The stagecoach flipped.  The driver died.  Dreamy Adam got pinned under the stagecoach.  Mary went for help and almost burned to death in a brush fire caused by her childhood reading glasses.  Pa found her just in time to save the day.  HOW CONVENIENT, PA.

- Mary thought she was regaining her sight.  It was just Michael Landon fucking with us.  She remained blind and was devastated.

- Mary and her dreamy blind husband had a baby.  They were finally happy.  Then their school for the blind burned to the ground in the dead of night, thanks to no-good Albert smoking a pipe in the basement.  Pa’s message: Smoking kills, kids.  NO PA – YOU KILL, YOU SICK APPLE-CHEEKED BASTARD.

- In said fire, Mrs. Garvey realized Mary’s baby was still in their bedroom.  Because like, EVERYONE FORGOT ABOUT THE BABY.  Like, really.  Mary and her dreamy blind husband spent like, 20 minutes on the lawn eating cold fried chicken and playing blind man’s bluff AND HAVING A MERRY LITTLE FREAKING TIME WITH 10 RANDOM BLIND KIDS, ONLY TO REALIZE ALL TOO LATE THAT UH, YEAH, BABY IS STILL CHILLIN’ IN THAT FIREY WARM BLOB ON STAGE LEFT.  Ahem.  So anyway, Mrs. Garvey went to get the baby.  Since the baby had the Pa Death in his genes, he used his rudimentary Pa Death powers to cause Mrs. Garvey to freeze like a deer, stare at him for too damn long, and they both got trapped in the room.  As the students and staff stood outside in horror, Mrs. Garvey used the Kendall baby as a battering ram* to bust through a window to try and escape.  She didn’t.  They died.  That little baby was a Pa Death Kamikazee. (*that description is courtesy of the fine people who brought us the now-defunct jumptheshark.com)

- Mary became catatonic and lost her everlovin’ mind for like, three episodes.  Seriously.  She held her dead baby and creepily hummed a lullabye.  Of course, no-good Albert wussed out while Mary lost said mind.

- Dreamy Adam Kendall regained his sight, but Michael Landon only did that to screw with Mary’s head.  After this, dreamy Adam went on to create shows like “Malcolm in the Middle,” so he did well for himself.  Poor Mary landed B-rate horror movies, like “Happy Birthday to Me,” where she would slaughter people on her birthday in a rampage.

- No-good Albert shacked up with a girl named Sylvia.  They were in love.  She was raped by a mime.  The mime got her pregnant.  Albert told her they’d get married and he’d raise the baby as his own.  When the mime attacked her again, she tried to escape from him and fell off a ladder (a real ladder, not a mimed ladder, which is kind of a letdown to be honest with you).  The mime died.  Sylvia and her fetal-mime died.

- James (played by a young Jason Bateman) and Cassandra were the children of a wonderful couple who needed help moving, so Pa “helped” them.  They came across a steep road on a mountain.  Pa went down first with the kids.  The parents then went down on their covered wagon.  Pa decided the show needed more young children so he sabotaged the brakes on the wagon.  The couple’s wagon tumbled down the mountain as James and Cassandra watched their parents die a bloody, gruesome death.  Cassandra became a mute.  Greedy Pa gobbled up the children like Saturn and they became a part of his clan.

- More kids means more trauma!  So naturally, James was shot by a bank robber.  Pa took him up to Miracle Mountain, where James got all clammy and dead-like.  Another Guest Star Angel appeared and to Pa’s dismay, saved little clammy James by feeding him something from a bowl.  I think it was Pa Death Antivenom.

- Mr. Edwards married and they adopted three kids.  Note: EVERYONE ADOPTS AN ORPHAN ON THIS DAMN SHOW.  IT’S LIKE THE JOLIE-PITT/MIA FARROW ACTION HOUR, BUT WITH MORE DAMN KIDS.  You guessed it; the oldest kid became a reporter and was murdered.

- Mr. Edwards was devastated that his oldest son died, so he went back to drinking.  His wife and two remaining kids left him, so he only had Pa to turn to.

- Mrs. Whipple had a son we’ve never seen before, and he served in the Civil War.  He had PTSD and was a drug addict.  In typical Little House fashion, the only purpose to have this person on the show was to kill him.  He died.

- No-good Albert became addicted to morphine.  He didn’t die from that. Instead, he got leukemia.  Thankfully, the show didn’t last long enough to watch him die, because you totally knew where that was going.

- Shannon Doherty was on the show and almost drowned to death.  How did she get on the show?  Oh yeah.  Her parents died.  She was an orphan.

- On the final episode, the townspeople rebelled against Pa and blew up the town [Note: Husband who never watched Pa Landon’s Little House of Horrors read this and asked me, “Really??”  My response: “Yes.  Really.”].

I could go on and on, but you get the message.  The evidence is overwhelming.  I was thoroughly traumatized by Pa Landon and his moral anvils.  I mean, sure, I could stop watching… but…but then I wouldn’t see town party vs. country party!  I wouldn’t see when Percival melts Nellie’s mean girl heart.  I wouldn’t see Laura become a woman, damn it (and a real woman, not a girl who stuffed her bra with apples), and I sure as hell wouldn’t have seen my dreamy blue-eyed Adam Kendall waving romantically (sniff!) to Mary as her carriage rode away.  Sigh…dreamy, 70s-hair, hydrophobic Adam Kendall…(swoons).  Yeah, okay, if taking away my Little House takes away all that, I suppose I’ll exchange my innocence for your paella of death, despair, and inexplicable wholesome and timeless charm.  {{shakes fist}} Curse you, Landon and your ability to reach into my soul!!

A Few Words on Reactions to Celebrity Deaths…

[Originally posted on Feb 12, 2012. This was a somewhat viral post at the time, thanks to it being cross-posted on Jezebel. Re-reading it, I’m saddened thinking about what has since happened to her daughter, Bobbi Kristina, and I’m sad that nothing in internet posting has changed in four years. If anything, it’s gotten worse…]

When a celebrity dies, social media blows up and follows an amazingly consistent pattern.  Keep in mind, I have done some of these myself. I think most of us have at some point or another:

Round One of Posting: “What? [Insert name here] died!”

Round Two: “RIP [Insert name here]”

Round Three: Posts links to something the deceased did that the posters thought was amazing

Round Four: Other parties decide to chime in: “[Insert name here] was a [drug addict/creepy alleged pedo/tyranical CEO of a company that makes an Operating System people are brainwashed to like and I was brainwashed to hate].” I’m presuming they then find the highest mountain with wi-fi access to climb atop to then proclaim, “I’m going to save my grief for someone who deserves it!”

Round Five: “100,000 people die each year from [starvation/earthquakes/war/listening to Michael Bolton while driving on a windy cliff]. Why don’t you care about them?”

Round Six: “Check out this great video of a cat yawning!”

Here’s the deal, people: there is nothing wrong with being sad someone died, and thankfully we, being the advanced species we are, have the capacity to have sympathy for more than one person at a time.  In fact, we can have sympathy for an unlimited number of people and things.  Wow – Amazing, right?  All this time, conventional wisdom told us we had to hide away our spare grief in cigar boxes, old shoes and mattresses because we thought it might run out at a really inconvenient time.  After all, how much would it suck if the family dog or other loved one died, or we watched Titanic for the 50th time, and we had no more grief to give? “Well, shit, Jennifer; this would normally be the time I’d hug you and tell you I’m sorry for your loss, but I’m all out of grief and sympathy.  I really shouldn’t have burned the last of it on Whitney Houston.”

“I told you not to waste it; she was a crack addict, you know.”

Why are people sad when a famous imperfect person dies?  You can ask the people who are posting the RIPs, and they each may have their own unique response as to why they are sad; perhaps they have a great memory associated with one of the creations of that imperfect person.  Maybe they really are that person’s Number One Fan.  Or maybe, they’re like me.  Every time I’ve felt sadness over a famous imperfect person’s passing, it’s because I feel they’ve been robbed of the life arc I wish everyone could have but few are lucky enough to receive.  On the final curve of this life arc, we overcome our demons, find peace and joy, create more beautiful things with our inner strength and wisdom guiding us, and we die peacefully in our sleep when we are old and grey.

I think of how talented and lovely Whitney Houston was in the “How Will I Know” video.  When I watched that video today, I thought about how the young, vibrant person in that video had no idea what was coming in her life – I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have predicted her future would bring years of substance abuse and a publicly tumultuous marriage.  I’m sure she didn’t predict her final moments would involve drowning in a hotel bathtub, leaving behind a slew of rumors about her addiction and a beautiful young daughter who she didn’t say goodbye to.  I’ll admit, while I have always felt her vocals were about as close to perfection as you can see in pop music, I was never really a fan of her music.  Yet, I’m sad for her, and I am sad that yet another person didn’t have a beautiful and graceful final curve to their life arc.  I’m sad that the world still looks at addiction and other mental illnesses as stigmas.  I’m sad every time I read or hear someone state “fuck them” when they see a person falling hard.  I then get angry, because everyone who says “fuck them” is creating a barrier between those in need of help and the resources they desperately need.  “Fuck them” prevents people from admitting they can’t fix their life on their own.  “Fuck them” is what causes governments to cut funding to mental health facilities and programs.  “Fuck them” is what causes families to be afraid to seek help in the community, or to give up after the first few backs have been turned.

The person who passes may “just” be an imperfect celebrity, but to me? Their passing reminds me of all of our failures and all of the beautiful things that could have been created by those who left us far too young.

The Fabulous Five Observations of the Week, Part 1

Soooo… I really need to write more often and get back on the horse. This week nothing huge happened worthy of its own post, so I’m going to fill you in on 5 micro-postings that happened this week and my observations. If you’re tired of me talking about music, skip to number 2.

1. Support Feels Awesome
So I finally put myself out there and uploaded two tracks I recorded at home. I cannot thank everyone enough for listening, encouraging, sharing, reposting, etc. Look; I know this isn’t going to lead to anything big. I’m an overweight 38 year-old woman making music in my house. I’m not the kind of person a record company straps two whipped cream cans onto to create some infantilized masturbatory product (not that there’s anything wrong with that if you’re into that sort of thing?). It’s just that my soul comes alive when I write, and it feels special to share that with the internets. I want to share it with as many people as I can and find people who like This Thing That I Do. So thank you everyone. The biggest surprise is how many compliments I’m getting on my voice. I’m hoping I can keep up this charade that I can sing for a little bit longer! In a week or two, I’ll add two more songs, then I think I’ll wrap it all together as an EP. We’ll see how it goes. I want to bring good, quality stuff to you, and that is quite a challenge on a $0 budget.

Because releasing music also unleashes an inner urge to endlessly and relentlessly force a musician’s crap onto others, I provide you with this link to my Reverbnation page. If you like, please share. If you don’t? That’s okay, I still love you. In short, the more plays I get, the more I move up the chart and the more exposure I get, so if you love it? Don’t be afraid to listen to it often.

2. Big City Life: Mass Transit Wonders and Angry Pedestrians
I’ve been going into the city for seminars and whatnot related to my “Career Transition” (more on that later). As a result, I’m fully taking in mass transit and pedestrian life – something you don’t experience in Arizona. Here is a list of mini observations on this point:
- No matter how nice someone might be outside of their car, Bay Area Drivers are horrible, horrible people. There is so much impatience and law-breaking going on at any given second it is stunning.
- BART mid-day provides me with interesting seat partners. One day going in, despite many open rows, a guy decided to sit down next to me and engage in what I can only describe as a vigorous lotioning routine for the duration of the trip. Another day, I got a contact high from a kid who smelled like he was a 5’8” joint. I seriously hate the smell of weed with a passion – I would take cigarette stank over pot stank any day. Ughhhh.
- You know Shit Just Got Intense when you are walking across a major intersection in the Financial District during rush hour and EVERYONE stops and stares nervously at a pedestrian screaming profanities and punching the hood of a car. I don’t know what led up to that, but I know the guy probably needed a little bubble of space when he got to my side of the street.

3. Please Don’t Ask Me About My Career Transition
I am so freaking tired of this. I’m done defining myself as unemployed, so I’m not going to do that anymore. My onsite seminars are both incredibly useful and deflating. Everyone there is accomplished and amazing and I’m a simpleton. Every time I try looking for a job I get incredibly depressed, so I’m just done talking about all of this. When I find a job, I’ll let you all know, but until then? Let’s talk about anything but what I do or don’t do for a living.

4. OCEAN OCEAN OCEAN
On Friday, I decided to let spontaneity take over and accept my friend Kirsten’s spur-of-the-moment invitation to go into SF and hang out at the ocean. I’m glad I did – it was absolutely beautiful, it was my first trip on MUNI (which went through a bunch of cool neighborhoods), and I felt human again. It was nice to take a one day reprieve from the self-flagellating unemployment process and just enjoy the moment. I can seriously watch and listen to the waves crash in the Pacific for hours on end. I saw the sun turn into a sliver and set over the ocean. Why don’t I allow myself that kind of joy more often?

5. Sonoma is Beautiful
On Saturday, we headed up to wine country for a wedding. It is gorgeous up there – hills upon hills of golden vines, mountains in the distance… just breathtaking. The wedding took place at a vineyard and was absolutely lovely. It felt like the quintessential northern Californian wedding: wine, delicious food, guests from all over the world…it was a great way to end the week. Plus? I got Chris to dance with me to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” We’ve got to head back up there for a tasting tour some time.

The Elephant in the Room: Here’s Where I Unleash My Music

Note: I’m putting the music on top so you don’t have to read and be like, “just get on with it already!” But if you want some info and background, please read below the widget. BTW, the widget started to look chopped off in my browser – if you only see one song, scroll and the second one is there too. I have no idea why it’s doing that…Also?
HELP! GAHH! I’m trying to figure out what I want to do in terms of offering these to download. I would like to start out simply offering to sell these as single downloads for a cheap price – just something to help me offset fees, save up for better gear, etc. I feel really presumptuous asking people to pay, but…I should, right? Should I? I’m new at this and I have no freaking clue what I should be doing. I’m researching things like CDBaby and ReverbNation’s services, and I’m not sure they fit what I’m looking for at this point. So...if any of you have experience with these services and are willing to offer advice, feel free to leave me a comment below or email me (submissions@themenacingkitten.com) Thanks!

 

 

People have told me that they appreciate how vulnerable I’ve been on this blog. I’ve talked to you about my depression, my social anxiety, dealing with my father’s death and my reluctance to let people into my life. I’ve touched on songwriting and music in some of these posts, but until now it’s been the elephant in the room. Talking about most of the things I struggle with never felt all that vulnerable to me. Music? Well, this is a true vulnerability for me. This feels like a release of control, and I’m a little terrified.

Why am I terrified? I talked to Chris about this a while ago: you’d think that people hating my stuff would be the biggest fear. It’s not. Hate is an emotional response, and it means I created something that triggered an intense emotional reaction. A moment of rupture. Art! Um, yay? Seriously though – I know what I’ve created isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. I’m mentally prepared for that. So what is it?

Apathy.

This is something that is in my bones. It has been a part of me since I could barely talk, and it’s the thing that both carried me through hard times and broke me. My biggest fear is to unleash this piece of me and no one cares. Okay – some of you care, because you’re my friends and family. But I mean, what if no one cares? Like, people listen to it and think, “gee that’s nice; soooo…what’s for dinner?” And they never play it again. They leave it behind and it’s meaningless. Again, I expect that to happen to some people, but I am terrified that will happen to all the people. Why? Because I care so much. This stuff is me. What you are seeing here is the ultimate vulnerability.

After Chris bought me my keyboard and my hands found their way to a new song, I wanted to cry. I was so removed from the theory of it all, I wasn’t even sure what key I was writing in, but like I did when I was a little girl, I trusted my ears and the little atrophied hamster in my brain hopped back on a wheel and started running. This note has to go here, that note has to go there where is this melody coming from wordsaredanicnginmyheadand…ta da! Song. It was a shitty song, but it was a start. In time it led to other songs, like these two:

NOWHERE LEFT TO RUN
I just wrote and recorded this on Friday, and I liked it so much it replaced what I originally intended to post. This is an odd one in that the main keyboard riff is a take on something I wrote when I was 14 and appeared in a song I wrote when I was 19. I normally am unable to recycle my stuff, but the riff haunted me a little and begged for a new melody, lyrics and structure. I am really, really happy with the lyrics in this song; despite the serious subject matter at the core of it, they were a shitload of fun to write. I mean, how often can you incorporate Publisher’s Clearinghouse into a song? There’s something special and magic-y about this song (at least to me) and I am excited to share it.

BLACK TO ALABASTER
Yes, I want to be a magician. Here’s my theory for how I could achieve magic:

Well-written song + solid recording + ??? = MAGIC!

I’m working off of mostly old, crappy gear in my house. My mic is roughly 16 years old, I only have GarageBand (which Chris messed around with to keep the integrity of some of the sounds that morphed or disappeared over the years), and I also really suck at mixing things. I have like, zero aptitude for the technical side of music. I see more than five knobs on a soundboard and I turn into Rain Man after he burns toast. But, this song is somehow working for me. Perhaps it’s so new I haven’t had a chance to imagine how it should sound. It’s not perfect. It’s just a simple piano and voice demo and has some clear areas where it could be better, but I’m happy with it. It feels a little magic-y for me.

Anyway, here’s my heart and soul. I hope you like it. I have roughly 20 songs I’m working on right now, so as I get them to an acceptable level and they don’t suck, I’ll be adding more. Thank you for listening and letting me share this with you. Sincerely.

Arrested Development 2013: 3 Things I Loved, 3 Things I Didn’t

WARNING: Minor spoilers in the form of spoiling a couple of punchlines

The most hyped television event of the year didn’t occur on a network or cable station. Netflix, a company that appeared to be going down faster than the Hindenburg two years ago, resurrected themselves through the revival of Arrested Development.  Their new-found approach to viewing television through on-demand original programming is revolutionary and somewhat exciting to watch unfold. While they’ve had original shows prior to Arrested Development such as the popular House of Cards, you can’t help but feel this was the Big Event to show off the New Netflix to the world and test the waters for this uncharted territory in programming. Of course, this uncharted territory is only revolutionary if the show is worth the purchase of a subscription.

So, was it worth it? In my opinion, yes. Due to the scheduling conflicts of cast members, writing around said scheduling conflicts, dealing with a different model of television-viewing, and working with what I’m assuming was a much smaller budget, the long-awaited season of Arrested Development was sure to be a different experience from its network television days. To be certain, the show wasn’t free of problems, but the fans who stuck through all 15 episodes were treated to soon-to-be classic scenes, extremely clever writing, and the luxury of watching a marathon of new episodes at their own pace.  Below are a few of the things I loved about this new season and a few that didn’t quite work for me:

What I Loved:

  1. The Multi-Layered Storyline. After the first couple of episodes, I looked over to Chris and frowned. “I’m not feeling this. At. All.” He shook his head. “Neither am I…” I recalled that the most recent season of Archer started off slow but we wound up loving it as it progressed, expressing my hope that this would too be the case for Arrested Development. I am happy to say it was. By the time they got around to telling Lindsay Bluth’s first story, you began to see a glimpse of the greater story they were weaving. Imagine each episode as a single cartoon cel: as the season progresses, you see one cel layered on top of another until you get to the final episode, where the entire image is complete. The writing is brilliant in that it was a creative way to work around the real-life scheduling conflicts of the actors and use the Netflix on-demand format to its fullest potential. I doubt this layering of stories would have worked on a traditional programming schedule; the episodes seemed designed to be watched back-to-back, where one doesn’t need a long memory to recall a subtle joke or remark in earlier episodes. The storytelling was very ambitious while still clever and funny, so the writers get an A+ for effort.
  2. They Didn’t Overdo the Meta Jokes. Well, not more than Arrested Development typically did in its original run, at least. Let’s face it – Arrested Development works because it’s so meta, but unlike many shows and movies, it’s meta done right. While some of the Ann jokes got a little tired, as a whole, the recurring jokes on the show were used at the right times. There are few things I hate more than excessive meta-writing, and for a show as quotable as Arrested Development it would have been too easy for them to just make this a retread of “greatest hits.” Instead, they ran with a few of the recurring jokes, added onto old jokes (the Fakeblock storyline is a great example – I didn’t see that coming at all), and created a slew of new great moments. My personal favorites all seem to revolve around the Fünkes – whether it was the goose scenes or the cornucopia of Tobias double entendres, they created many moments deserving of a rewatch and a YouTube supercut.
  3. Michael Cera / George-Michael. I want to give serious props to both Michael Cera and the writers for advancing the character of George-Michael while managing to still make him the Charlie Browniest. It’s easy for a character like George-Michael to get lost  in the mix when put next to the grandiosity of Tobias or GOB, but they did a fantastic job of subtly passing the baton from Michael to George-Michael to be the star and the sort-of “straight man” for the season. This had to be done; Michael has to have his family next to him to not come across as a selfish, self-righteous (hilarious) asshole. They did a good job of highlighting this in the first couple of episodes of the new season – it was painful to watch how awful Michael was. Cera jumped back into the role of George-Michael more seamlessly than I would have expected, and did a great job of interpreting him as an adult – who is still a Charlie Brown, despite his mustache and sexual um…awakening? I thoroughly enjoyed his scenes. And? “Make me cry!” “You’re a bad mother!” – huge laugh in our house.

What I Didn’t Love:

  1. Moments of Poor Production. Like I said, this new season wasn’t perfect. Now, I am not a “movie person.” I’m not typically the kind of person who spots the digital watch on the caveman, or sees the cameraman visible in the reflection of someone’s sunglasses. I seldom read the “Goofs” section of imdb, because that’s not my thing and I normally can’t spot the mistakes anyway. That said, there were a few really sloppy aspects to the production that I noticed. Because I don’t look for these things, I feel like if I notice them, they must have been pretty bad. There were some very noticeable continuity mistakes (for example, when Maeby is writing on the whiteboard during the real estate scene), some of the camera tricks they used to hide that the actors weren’t physically in certain scenes together were distracting, and the makeup work was really bad at times. On both Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, the yellow concealer under their eyes was very noticeable. Additionally, I felt like there were moments the camera moved away from something too quickly (especially when the viewer needed to take in a single image or read something) Did this ruin my experience with the show? No. Do I understand they had a tighter budget and the quality would be a little lower? Yes. And I appreciate how many obstacles they had to deal with to film the scenes, however I’m hoping for any future seasons or movies they can get a little more money or have a little more time to clean up these little things.
  2. Seth Rogan as George Bluth Sr. Generally, I was not feeling the flashback scenes of Lucille and George Sr., but I have to tell you: I really, really didn’t care for this casting decision. And I love Seth Rogan (I’m a big Undeclared fan; I pretty much root for anyone who was on that show). I just couldn’t get past thinking, “That’s Seth Rogan in a wig.” Kirsten Wiig did a pretty good Lucille, but it was more of her doing an impression of Jessica Walter’s Lucille than really being Lucille, if that makes sense. I didn’t love this. To be fair, who could be a young George Bluth? I hope they don’t do this for the movie (or any future seasons – I know they didn’t really talk about future seasons, but I’m just throwing it out there. Like The Secret – throw it out into the universe, and it will become so. Right?)
  3. The Lack of the Ensemble. I know there wasn’t much of a way around this, and as fans this was the only way we’d get our Arrested Development, but the show was missing something by not having everyone together. The chemistry between everyone on the show is phenomenal, and not having them share more scenes was removing one element of what makes the show magical. Tying back to my point about the production issues, the camera tricks to make actors appear in the same scenes became distracting, and I feel like some of the scenes would have had a bigger payout if they could have acted off of each other more. Funny enough, I think the Fünke scenes worked so well because the joke is how disconnected they are from each other, so this format worked perfectly into that.

Despite my quibbles, I absolutely enjoyed the season when all was said and done. I can’t wait to see what they have planned next – hopefully we won’t have to wait another 7 years to see it.

What did you think? Add your opinions in the comments below – to those who haven’t seen the new season yet – assume that the comments will contain spoilers.

Downton Abbey: The Season 3 Drinking Game

Here in the States, PBS aired the first episode of Downton Abbey, season three. I’m not sure of what to make of this season just yet – there was a lot of exposition in the first episode and not a whole lot of meat. Like, 10 seconds of wedding coverage? Hello? Not a big deal…I guess? We’ve only been on the Matthew/Mary Carousel of Guilt and Denial for two seasons now…the wedding wasn’t important or anything, right? The episode gave us a few hints of what plots are to come – the financial downturn of the estate, Mrs. Hughes’ certain potential cancer, Bates and his turn-of-the-century Charlie Brownism, Poor Edith and her own turn-of-the-century MarshaMarshaMarshaism, Branson and that whole ridiculous poison in the drink drama with the Downton equivalent of a Star Trek red shirt…

One thing is for certain in these times of uncertainty: we need a drinking game for season three. Grab a scotch or one of those newfangled cocktails the Dowager Countess disapproves of, turn on your TV and play along:

Take a sip…
…if you yell at Laura Linney, “stop your yapping and get on with the episode already!”
…every time someone says some variation of “adapting to change.”
…When the Dowager Countess insults a “foreigner”
…every time you think, “I fucking love Maggie Smith.”
…when O’Brien or Thomas are on a smoke break (I mean, they’re smoking, you should be drinking, right?)
…when someone says Poor Edith’s turn will come at marriage, and she responds desperately, “WILL IT?”
…when Poor Mister Mosely is passed over for someone better.
…every time Anna goes Pollyanna on Meestah Behhhhhts
…every time Bates is a freaking martyr and you’re like, “I liked you in Season One; now I’m like, what else is going to fucking happen to Bates? A piano falls on you after you push Lord Grantham out of the way? You want to save Bob Marley, so you declare that you, in fact, shot the deputy even though you totally didn’t? You eat a bad taco the night before you’re reunited with Anna?” Shakes fist,  “WHAT’S NEXT MEESTAH BEHHHHHTS? WHAT’S NEXT?”
Ahem.

Take a gulp…
…when you shamefully find yourself cheering for Harriet Jones Mrs. Crawley.
…when Poor Edith doesn’t appear sad and alone
…when someone doesn’t use the appropriate title or salutations
…when you don’t find Shirley MacLaine’s presence distracting (I love her, and I love her interactions with Maggie Smith, BUT – too much)
…When Lord Grantham does something bad/immoral
…when a lady is in the men’s quarters, or a man is in the ladies’ quarters (scandal!)
…when Lady Sybill becomes awesome again/indicates an interest in women’s rights.
…when Branson is dressed “appropriately”

Chug…
…when Thomas is being helpful
…when the Dowager Countess compliments America

Do you have any additions? Add them in the comments section below!

JMHO: Sorting Out the Internal Conflict

Note: In case you’re wondering about the weird graphic, I’ll be honest with you – I really don’t feel comfortable being yet another site to splash a Sesame Street image on this story.

I’m having a hard time with this Kevin Clash thing. For those of you who haven’t followed the story: Two men have accused Kevin Clash, the voice of Elmo on Sesame Street of having sex with them when they were underage. There is a lot to the story that I won’t even get into here, so get thee to Gawker and catch up on all the sordid details.

I believe many people are having a hard time with the controversy because the allegations are just so contrary to the image they held of Clash.  We all like to think we’d have a sense for these things, and by all accounts, Clash doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to pray on underage teens.  But what do we know? When do we ever know? I don’t want to believe it, but I don’t want to disbelieve something simply because it doesn’t align with my preconceived notions. There is so much going on with this story, I will do my best to answer the questions across the internet and running through my mind.

Is it possible that a guy who is such a beloved figure could do this?
Yes. On more than one occasion, we’ve seen beloved celebrities do things we never expected they were capable of doing. So yes, it’s possible.

Is it possible that the accusers are fabricating this story for fame and money?
Yes. Also on more than one occasion, we’ve seen people make up false stories for their own benefit; this is nothing new.

Why do I feel like shit for even entertaining the thought the accusers are making this up?
Because you know that there are a lot of victims of sexual crimes out there, and these victims do not have a voice. You feel that by questioning a public story, you are not only shaming the alleged victims, in a way, you’re further silencing victims of sexual crimes.

This is where the issues get really tricky; no one wants a victim to stay quiet.  We want to create a culture where people feel safe to come forward. Conversely, we don’t want to convict a person before they ever had their day in court. Here is the problem with crimes of this nature: it is very difficult to prove or disprove them. The best we can hope for is the evidence will become clear either way, and that nothing will obstruct the truth from getting out there. That may never happen.

So what am I allowed to feel?
It’s okay to feel conflicted. In this day and age, we want to be judge, jury and executioner the very second a story falls on our ears. This is especially true of crimes involving children and teenagers – we don’t want to let them down or allow the crimes to continue. It’s a nice thought that our swift court of public opinion protects people, but it doesn’t.  Let’s value the time spent for fact-finding, and see what facts present themselves before we persecute anyone. This doesn’t just apply to this controversy – it’s a good exercise to practice on any sensationalized story. We all have some type of prejudice when we read a story, whether it is looking for someone’s failure or ignoring someone else’s faults. We sometimes act like our opinions are this giant Jenga tower that is about to collapse if one piece is pulled out. Bottom line? It’s okay to feel conflicted, but keep your mind open to the possibility the truth will shake the tower.

If the accusations are true, is this really a crime? I mean, a 16 year-old knows what he’s getting into. And I hear gay men like hooking up with young men.
Wait, what? I am seriously reading a lot of this, and pardon the French, this is the most bizarre apologist shit I’ve ever seen. So first of all, let’s put aside what people “hear” about the gay community. It is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is, there is an age of consent in this country and while it varies from state to state, if you have sex with someone below that age (and in some cases, are a few years older than the person you are having sex with), you are committing a crime and chances are you know you are committing a crime. Never mind what should and shouldn’t be, because at the moment it doesn’t matter. If Clash had sex with teens who were below the age of consent, he committed a crime. He also would have to have known that working on a children’s show and having sex with minors would create a pretty big fucking mess in his life if it got out. I really hope he didn’t do this, but if he did, I’m sorry, I can’t excuse his behavior by pointing to f-ing Belgium and saying that 14 year-olds are totes game over there.

So, okay. If he did it, it’s a crime; but is it bad?
To me? Yes. I have yet to find a 30-something or 40-something in a relationship with a teen who didn’t use the relationship as a means to control, manipulate and royally mindfuck the person. Totally anecdotal I know, but that’s what I’ve seen and it’s shaped  my opinion. There are a lot of different opinions out there, but only you can determine if you think it goes against your moral code or not.

Can we joke about this? I mean, come on – tickle me Elmo?
Every morning over the past few days, my alarm goes off, and I wake to the sounds of the local morning zoo cracking joke after joke on this story. Every morning I groan and feel the bile rise in my esophagus. Yes, it’s a free country – you can joke about it, but unless you have Louis C.K.- level skills of making horrible things funny, I wouldn’t find it amusing.

Can we make fun of TMZ and how fucking horrible they are?
Yes. Oh my God, yes.

Just my thoughts. What are some of the questions running through your mind with this ordeal? Any opinions you feel haven’t been voiced yet?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Angry Birds

I am a huge football fan.  A big reason for this was how I was raised – my dad was a high school football coach for nearly 30 years, and I have been going to games since I was a fetus.  I remember being a kid and not wanting to be a cheerleader because they always faced away from the game.  I remember a few exciting last-second wins and my mom and I waiting on the sidelines while my dad finished up interviews.  Oddly one of my strongest memories was from when I was about 7 or 8.  For one particular game, some guy sat in front of me in the stands.  I never got a good look at his face, but saw the back of his head.  He was balding, and I watched his entire head turn purple from anger.  He sat alone.  He screamed onto the field, as if someone could hear him and would throw the playbook to the ground to take his advice.

“RUN THE BALL THROUGH THE SEAM! RUN IT UP THE SEAM!”

“DAMN COACH DOESN’T KNOW WHAT HE’S DOING! PROTECT THE POCKET! PROTECT THE POCKET!”

“BLITZ! YOU NEED TO BLITZ MORE, YOU BUM!”

Between these brilliant suggestions for a high school team from the state known for its great football legacy – that’s right, Connecticut, bitches* – he had a mantra:

“IMPEACH THE COAAAACHHHH!!!! IMPEAAACHH THE COAAACCHHHH!!!”

Behind me of course, was my mom and a couple of the other coaches’ wives muttering under their breaths, “this is high school football, asshole; not the NFL”  Not loud enough for him to hear, of course, but loud enough for me to hear and smirk.

“IMPEACH THE COACH!!!”

The word puzzled me.  I pictured a bunch of people throwing peaches at my dad, and it didn’t really make sense, so I turned to my mother.  “Mom? What does impeach mean?”

My mom looked frustrated and kept her eyes on the field while responding to me.  She deadpanned, “It’s a word used by people who don’t know what they are talking about.”

“But what does it mean?”

Mom explained the definition to me.  And that is how I learned what the word impeach meant.  I kid you not – every time I hear that word now, I flash back to that jerk’s angry, purple-y bald dome screaming his rage towards the field.

Maybe it’s this memory that makes me grumble inside when I hear about fans booing their own team, like this past Sunday in Arizona.  If you follow football at all, you know Arizona has a bit of a quarterback issue; long story short – the Cardinals paid a large price to acquire Kevin Kolb, who was beaten out for the starting position by John Skelton this year.  Admittedly, on the field, Kolb didn’t look like the player fans hoped he would be.  His passes lacked zip and accuracy and his decision-making looked poor.  Skelton had similar problems, but he seemed far more patient and relaxed on the field.  The offensive chemistry seemed to be better with him on the field.

In the first game of the season this past Sunday, Skelton went down with an ankle injury and had to be carted off.  When they bring out the cart for you, that’s kind of a bad sign. Like, players start praying and shit. You could call the cart the You’re Fucked Wagon, because that’s usually what it means.

Anyway, Skelton was writhing in pain, he got YFWed [he’ll be okay – low ankle sprain].  So, anyway, you kind of need a quarterback on your team if you want to play this grand game known as football, yes?  So who comes in? Kolb.  And what do some fans do?  They boo.

They freaking booed.

So let me ask you this – what kind of person boos the players on the team they are supposedly rooting for?  I just don’t get this.  Okay, if someone killed a man, raped someone or kicked puppies – yeah, fine; boo.  Those are serious things.  But booing someone because they didn’t have a good year? And booing them when they are replacing an injured player at a critical moment in the game?  How exactly do you think this helps “your team?” Do you really think a coach rubs their chin and says to himself, “well gee, I guess that fan booing between drunken Miller Lite vomit attacks was right; let’s just fire the guy and throw away a few million dollars for no reason whatsoever. Boooo! Boooo!”  Do you seriously want a coach who would listen to you and your stupid ideas? I sure as hell don’t want them listening to mine.

I’ll tell you who these Boo Birds are: they are the trolls on the internet.  They are the random angry drunk bros who pick fights at 1 in the morning on the Vegas Strip because some other bro looked at them funny.  They are the people who feel like the world owes them a favor.  They are the people who belittled me when I waitressed at Friendly’s.  They are men who sit by themselves at high school football games in Connecticut and scream from their perch.  They don’t even have a “favorite team” – they have a vessel that keeps them angry, raging and indignant every Sunday.  When you look at it that way, you kind of feel sad for them.  Because this thing – this angry, booing, screamy, trolly thing?  This is all they’ve got.  This and bad, cheap beer.  Tragedy.

And one ticket to Sucksville for them – Kolb kicked ass yesterday and won the game. That’s the best kind of “F-you” a person could give; remember that when you run into your own Boo Birds.

*I say this noting the exception of Greenwich High alum Steve Young. As a side note, Young had one loss his Senior year.  That loss? My dad’s team. Not like that is a huge event in the grand scheme of things, but as a coach’s daughter, I always thought that was kinda cool.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I Would Never Ever Ever Ever Ever Ever Call This Punk

This "Girl Punk Movement" is as authentic as stock photos of punk girls. ROWR! HOAs R OPPRESSIVE!

Before any tween happens upon this and goes ballistic, let me start off with this: I don’t particularly mind Taylor Swift as a concept.  She has a hand in writing her own music, and she can actually do things on her own, like play guitar and fog a mirror and stuff – as far as anything that is played on the radio goes, that’s about as much as you can hope for these days.  She seems like a nice enough girl.  Her songs are catchy, and she writes well for her intended audience. I recognize that.

That said, I have never (ever?) seen a PR Anvil like I have seen for her new single, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”  The Clear Channel Abomination (oh, I’m sorry, it’s now called I HEART ABOMINATION) I have my alarm set to usually doesn’t play music until it’s approximately 9 months past its expiration date, yet they aired this new single within like, 5 seconds of its release.  Seriously – I heard it at 5 in the morning that very day followed by an audio clip of some interview with her.  This is coming from a station that plays “Hungry Like the Wolf” at least 3 times a week at 5:30am.  By 8 a.m. that morning, every news outlet had an entertainment story about the song, with titles like, “Who Is She Writing About?” “John Mayer and His Nazi Penis Gets Dissed by Pop Princess!” “Some Jonas Guy Stays Relevant and Says Song Isn’t About Him!” By 5 p.m., the article titles evolved to “TAYLOR’S NEW SINGLE IS MOST AIRED EVRRR!”  Yay for her.

I draw the line, however, when NPR weighs into the hoopla with the article, “Taylor Swift, Princess Of Punk?”

I’m creating a new paragraph not because it is grammatically correct; I want your eyes to rest on that title for a moment.  Let it marinate in your head and gurgle in your esophagus.

The author, Ann Powers, is actually a well-established writer who has written about women in rock for years and years.  She knows what she’s doing, right? One would assume she knows the world of punk, yet…

Yet…

WHAT IN THE WHAT?

Punk.  Punk?!?

Punk.

What is punk?  There’s a wide variety of punk out there.  Some of it sounds like this:

 

And some punk sounds like this:

But I guarantee you none of it sounds like this song.  Powers discusses a sort of modern-day “punk movement” in female pop music, dating back to that wild and crazy time Kelly Clarkson flipped the bird in her video for “Since U Been Gone.”  Breakaway is a great pop album, no lie;  It is not a punk album.  It is not even in the district of punk. It might be a distant moon on the edge of the punk universe where guitars, drums and some semblance of talent exist just outside the gravitational pull of The Great Auto-Tune Black Hole of Suckage that drains the life force out of everything good and original to spit out cotton candy-scented masturbatory fantasies.  In other words: catchy? Yes.  Talented? Sure.  Punk, or even the catch-all Columbia House Record Club category of “Alternative”? Not by a mile.

Flipping off the camera in your high-dollar music video does not make you punk.  Unless you come across as a girl-next-door type, like Clarkson always does, flipping off a camera just makes you look like a spoiled brat.  As the emo movement proved long ago, brats are not punk.

I suppose Powers’ angle is to celebrate the message of Independent Girl and feminism in these songs.  The problem with this idea is the songs mentioned in her article aren’t about independent women, they are about young women attempting to validate their existence after some guy dumped them.  That’s all fine and good for the Billboard Hot 100 – hey, radio would be a lonely place without a bunch of singable break-up songs – but let’s not confuse that with feminism.  Or, you know, punk.  Is this what we’re settling for now – both musically and as women? Have we really become so formulaic and compliant that stepping a single toe out of our Mary-Sue caricatures is considered revolutionary?  Sprinkling one grain of salt on your treacle is the new punk?

Ladies? I love a good pop song – there is truly nothing wrong with something that makes you want to sing, dance, or smile; but if this is what we now consider counterculture? We’ve got to put away the Stepford sundresses and sing louder, rock harder and just flat out do better.  Please.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Menacing Kitten Services You: Little House Edition

One of the joys of adding Google Analytics to your site is seeing all the strange ways people find your site through search engines.  As I reviewed the list of search terms used to find the site over the past year, I realized I had an opportunity to be service-y and answer a few of the questions and queries posed by those who search for my site.

One of the most commonly searched for items that lead people to my site are Little House on the Prairie inquiries, many of which I am more than happy to answer:

“Did Adam get his sight back before or after Mary had the baby on Little House?”
After.  See? Service-y!

“Mrs Garvey broke the window with Mary’s baby”
Yes, yes she did.  Fucked up isn’t it?

There is also a contingent of people obsessed with Michael Landon.  Would you believe one of the most searched for queries on my site is:

“Did Michael Landon get a perm?”
To answer this question, I turned to pre-Little House pics of him on Bonanza.  After careful photographic analysis, I think it’s fair to say that no, Michael Landon did not have a perm.  He had naturally curly hair, and just kind of let it go wild for the Little House series.  He was also quite the looker in his Bonanza days.

People really want to know about the deep, dark world of Michael Landon, if that even exists:

“Michael Landon hated”
Are you looking for things he hated, or that he was hated? I don’t know much about him, but Melissa Gilbert was quite fond of him, and Johnny Carson adored him.  And clearly, he hated Mary Ingalls.

“Michael Landon’s secret life”

Tell me, what did you hear?

“Michael Landon pedofil”
Yeah, no.  And really, spelling?

“Michael Landon and kittens”
Wait, what?

Of course, not all queries are sad and negative.  Maybe part of that “secret life” was a signature move I was unaware of:

“Landon fuck move”
I have heard rumors that Landon was quite the Cassanova back in the day.  I suspect the Landon Fuck Move does not involve Little House On the Prairie, but upon reading it, I get a very disturbing image in my mind’s eye of Pa’s apple-cheeked quiverface getting down and I do not appreciate that.  Especially since he’s still wearing suspenders.  Damn you, Asshole Brain. 

It could be that there is an entire world of Little House slashfiction that I’m unaware of [Oh.My.God. It exists. And I’m not linking to it because it’s just wrong…*shivers*  WHYGODWHY and Albert and Sylvia fanfic? Really?].  I think that’s what someone was getting at when they wanted to find:

“Mary and Adam Kendall Wedding Night”
Okay, Mary was super pretty and Adam Kendall was dreamy, if not a little dorky.  The episodes where they fell in love were hands-down my favorite episodes of the series.  I feel you, Little House On the Pervy, I do, but there are certain things you need to leave be.  This is one of them.  Might I interest you in Albert and Sylvia Mime Porn?

Note: The videos below do not contain Mime Porn.  But season four does introduce dreamy Adam Kendall.