Sunday, September 30, 2007

What I did on my week off

Thanks to whoever filmed these, all the nice folks my friends and I met in San Antonio and Austin, you guys here for sitting tight while I took a breather, and the Flaming Lips (and road crew) for rather obvious reasons.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Joe Mathlete presents FAMILY GUY: DETRACTOR'S CUT

(Much thanks to my friend Jonathan for inspiring this)

Presenting for your edification: Family Guy season 6 episode 16, minus every instance it resorted to one of the program's Five Pillars of Lazy Post-Simpsons Hack Bullshit (see: the last thing I wrote). I searched at random for something from the most recent season and went with the first episode I came across, ensuring that the show would have a fair shot at giving me it's best work, or at least its most average and representative. This also ensured that I would only have to watch one episode of Family Guy.

I was able to shave a full ten minutes off the episode's runtime without removing anything that had remotely to do with the actual plot of the show. It takes a couple of minutes for the episode to really lean hard on the cheap hack copouts that are Family Guy's bread and butter; keep your eyes peeled and see if you can spot every time I had to cut something. If every example is correctly pointed out, there's probably a prize or something.

I'm proud at how much this improves the show. Watch it quick, before someone on the internet or from 20th Century Fox says I'm not allowed to do this and it gets taken down.

I'm taking a short break for a few days or so... When I get back: words!

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Family Guy is terrible, and laziness is ruining comedy

I've said it before (and so has South Park, and so has probably The Simpsons, and I'm guessing other people who write about stuff they hate), but let's summarize:

1. In a comedy show, the majority of jokes ought to have at least some tangential relation to what is going on in the story. An occasional non-sequitur aside here and there can add an absurdist dimension to an already strong piece, but Family Guy writers just let their gag idea notepads shit into each and every script in order to bloat episodes to their full, required 23-minute lengths. It's boring and amateurish.

2. When something goes on too long, it goes on too long. Extending an out-of-nowhere awkward pause does not automatically equal humor. Family Guy didn't write the book on this sort of device in animation, but they highlighted every page of the book and consult it multiple times per tired, hackneyed episode.

3. Ditto unnecessary repetition to highlight/belabor a dumb gag.

4. Inserting a celebrity or stereotype (or reference to such) into a scene for no reason, then letting them do or say something for an extended period of time, not to propel the action along but rather derail it to highlight how silly said celebrity/stereotype is (or how silly the reference is)? Hack City USA. There's enough ADD going off with all the "that reminds me of the time when..." bullshit (see #1), but sometimes even when Family Guy manages to avoid cutting away from a scene, it still can't focus to save its goddamn life.

5. Somewhere around the fifteenth year of Saturday Night Live, television show parodies (either fabricated shows or spoofs of existing programing) became essentially the most creatively bankrupt, butt-lazy form of cheap-laugh comedy premise, especially when they are segued into via "some people are sitting on a couch watching television."

None of these points in particular are unpardonable offenses; when used sparingly and creatively as part of shows or movies or whatever that are grounded in things like strong writing, originality and a cohesive plot (yeah, remember those?), that's no problem. When you use them as the basic formula for a highly popular and long-running television series, when you run them into the ground until a nation of dim college students and uncreative stoners are programed to mistake an endless parade of disjointed pop culture references for legitimate humor, when you've done all you can to ruin modern comedy through your lazy hackery and Marmadukian formula-abuse (that's right, I went there)...

When you're a show that was fresh and original for precisely one season, devolved into self-parody after two, was canceled after three, then saw its DVD sales and rerun-fueled contract renewal as a mandate to make your empty, half-assed bullshit the gold standard and make an entire generation of misguided attention span-deprived MTV casualties nullify the value of content and rape Dada's corpse (I am looking at you, Adult Swim, and with some notable exceptions your programming is on extraordinarily thin ice)...

When you've made a boilerplate formula out of left-field randomness...

Jesus, I'm too defeated to even finish that thought.

(I will say that I find Lois kind of attractive... I find it's best not to think about it.)

Birthday clarification

(see: that last thing I wrote)

Early 20s: 20-23
Mid 20s: 23-26
Late 20s: 26-29

Those years where there's overlap are where distinctions like "early-mid" and "mid-late" come into play; their usage is wholly optional, but I prefer sticking with it to be slightly more accurate while maintaining slight ambiguity.

Obviously I'm making most of this up right at this moment.

Fun Faqt: I was born at 3:33 AM, so I'm pretty much required by birthright to have some amount of 3s as my lucky number.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I'm in my mid-20s

I used to be in my early-mid 20s, but as of now I'm in my mid-20s. No new post today while I'm figuring this out.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"If your aunt had balls, she'd be your uncle" and other British turns of phrase

"If your aunt had balls, she'd be your uncle"

"If your sister had balls, she'd be your brother"

"If your mum had balls, she'd be your da"

"If your grandpa had balls, she'd be your grandpa"

"If your lady cow had balls, she'd be your boy cow"

"If your foot had wheels, she'd be your rollerblade"

"If your clock had radiation, she'd be your microwave"

"If your dog had gills, she'd be your dogfish"

"If your frog had wings, she'd be your birdfrog"

"If your Coke had cherries, she'd be your Cherry Coke"

"If your computer had legs, she'd be your robot"

"If your chin had balls, you'd have a wiener in your mouth"

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Original proposed tracklist to the Empire Records soundtrack

1. Til I Hear It From You - Grunge Blossoms
2. Liar - The Grungeberries
3. A Grunge Like You - Edwyn Collins
4. Free - The Grungetinis
5. Crazy Life - Toad The Grunge Sprocket
6. Bright As Grunge - The Innocence Mission
7. Circle Of Friends - Grunger Than Ezra
8. I Don't Want To Grunge Today - Grunge Hangers
9. Whole Lotta Grunge- Cracker
10. Ready, Steady, Grunge - The Meices
11. What You Are (Grunge) - Drill
12. Grunge Overalls - Lustre
13. Here Grunge Comes Again - Please
14. The Ballad Of El' Grunge-o - Evan Dando
15. Grunge - Grunge

Eventually, cooler heads prevailed and they let the bands keep their original names/song titles, but the (terrible, terrible) film ended up putting the coffin in the grungesploitation* genre anyway.

*: sorry

Monday, September 17, 2007

Five specific things I remember about five Kurt Vonnegut books I don't really remember

Kurt Vonnegut (totally RIP) has been my favorite author since I became a teenager. With the exception of Happy Birthday Wanda June, a copy of which I was never able to find (granted, I didn't look too hard, but regardless), I exhausted his canon before turning 18. It wasn't so much that I was a tremendous reader back then; I didn't read nearly as much by any other author, and to tell you the truth only finished one single book I was assigned by a high school English class (two if you count Vonnegut's Welcome to the Monkey House, but I'd read it years before so I don't. The other was a book about boxing in South Africa, and it was awesome and had badass fight scenes so I stuck it out). Basically I was just a really big Kurt Vonnegut fan, and after I finished one of his novels I tended to want more.

I recently reread my copy of God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, one of the first books of his I ever read, and was surprised as hell that I remembered so little about it. Granted, it has been close to a decade, but I realized soon after beginning it that I didn't have a clue as to how it ended, and save for a few choice bits there were large chunks throughout that were almost entirely foreign to me... It was sorta weird.

I thought about it some more, and it turns out that there are a number of other books I've done an even worse job at retaining details about than that one. Here are five Kurt Vonnegut books that I read and enjoyed years ago, and the only things that I can really remember about them today.

Deadeye Dick: Somewhere at the end, someone tells the main character (Deadeye Dick, I guess) that the Ku Klux Klan is secretly in charge of the United States, and cultivates their image as powerless nutjob extremists so that nobody will suspect them of anything.

Hocus Pocus: Someone's mother, who has some sort of brain disease or illness or something where she's kind of dim, calls a fish "humongous," and this choice of words is remarked upon as unusual. Influenced my frequent use of this word to this day.

Sirens of Titan
: There are some statues on a desert island on one of Saturn's moons (Titan). No idea what they were doing there.

Player Piano: A woman gets caught on a future train for many days because she misses her stop and it won't let her off because of dystopian efficiency.

: People turn into seals because the world ends. There is a little computer that quotes poetry. (this is actually all I really understood about this book, possibly my first encounter with Vonnegut, when I initially read it)

I've got a lot of re-reading to do.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

F#@k You Lolcats, part four

Here are some more Joecats. Just doing my part to give some dignity back to my third-favorite animal.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

F#@k You Lolcats, part three

I've obtained a copy of an attempt by my friend Jonathan to write a Wikipedia entry for lolcats. Jonathan hates these things as much as I do, possibly even more. It starts somewhere in the middle and ends in a nervous breakdown; I think he swallowed his tongue. - Joe Mathlete

Tamara Ikenberg of The News Journal states that "some trace the lolcats back to the site 4chan, which features bizarre cat pictures on Saturdays, or 'Caturdays and STUPID FUCKING SHIT'." Ikenburg adds that the images have been "slinking around the Internet for years under various labels, but they didn't become a sensation until early 2007 with the advent of"[15]

The first image on "I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER?" was posted on January 11, 2007.[16] The use of "lolcat" to describe the phenomenon was introduced no later than June 14, 2011, when wikipedia gave gravity to an entirely superficial and annoying internet phenomenon no greater than when Power Ranger Yellow wasn't in that one episode.[citation needed] was registered.[17]

Lev Grossman of Time wrote that the oldest known example "probably dates to when i was living in my mom's basement",[18] but later corrected himself in a blog post[19] where he recapitulated the anecdotal evidence readers had sent him, placing the origin of "Caturday" and many of the images now known as huhughdsfudsfuhdsuahdsuhf no no no no no

Sunday, September 09, 2007

F#@k You Lolcats

Sorry to be complaining so much about things lately, but this has been bothering me for awhile. The nigh-infallible Achewood had what should have been the final word on the subject, but somehow this phenomenon persists.

I love cats. If I were less busy and more responsible, I would own a cat and I would love the hell out of that cat. I also like funny pictures of cats; I like cats, I like funny pictures, it works just fine. But in all my years of liking funny pictures of cats, not once did I want twelve-year-olds to caption them with almost pornographically-misspelled interpretations of what the cats might have been thinking.

Honestly, I think it's the misspellings that appall me the most. Who says cats can't spell correctly? Why is something like spelling "hi" with an "ai" (or is that supposed to be "hey"? I still can't figure that out) supposed to be inherently funny in any context at all? And if these captions are things the cats are saying or thinking, why does spelling enter into it at all? Possibly this practice has to do with imagining the cats speaking in dumb, cartoonish voices, but I've got enough imagination to think of a silly cat voice if I so choose without someone writing "your" as "ur." I'm starting to believe that people who make these lolcat captions are just mildly retarded and don't know much about the English language.

I'm sick of having to see the hilarious antics of one of my favorite creatures constantly co-opted for a dumbass internet fad that's far past its expiration date, and I'm offended at the implication (however subtle and obtuse) that, if cats could write, they wouldn't be able to spell correctly. I'm taking it upon myself to reverse the trend. Fuck you, lolcats.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Hey guess what: I'm gonna be on the radio today

Along with a half-dozen other people, playing songs. The Mathletes are performing on 91.7 KTRU at 6 pm central; so if you've got an internet and a soundcard you should tune in is what you should do. Or, y'know, if you live in Houston you can use a radio.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Alvin and the Chipmunks and a quasi-scholarly analysis on the futility of taste (or, Joe is pretentious)

There comes a time in every cynic's life where it becomes meaningless to rail against the wrongs men do in the world, be they artistic, political, cultural or what have you. Whenever I come across something like the new Alvin and the Chipmunks movie and can barely muster up the motivation to articulate why it's wrong, I realize that so much of me that was once vital has long since died. There is something to be said for being so removed from modern pop culture that large chunks of it, even its most perverse offenses, can be rendered as surreal and meaningless abstractions; I credit a high-speed internet connection my freshman year at college and the subsequent realization that I didn't need to own a TV to occasionally watch TV shows as the first and most important step in becoming so sheltered that the only way I even find out about stuff like the Alvin and the Chipmunks is by rare accident.

And on those rare accidents, when something horrid slips through, I am at first horrified. When I was first made aware of My Super Sweet 16 (or whatever the show with the wealthy bitchy teenage girls yelling at their parents and friends is called), I was apoplectic that they were featuring these terrible, spoiled, and mean-spirited people as entertainment figures, but then my sister informed me that there were scads of shows pretty much just like it, and everyone agrees they're terrible and yet they're still hugely popular so what are you going to do?

It's sort of humbling, in a way.

So I don't really even have the energy to make myself care about Alvin and the Chipmunks anymore; after the initial flash of outrage in the taste centers of my brain, it's sunk into that dull blue-gray "that's just stupid/it's so weird they decided to make that/oh well, what are you gonna do" area of perception. Beyond the obvious fact that it's a children's movie and thus not intended for me (I am neither a child nor do I have children), there is a lot to hate here. There have GOT to be better opportunities out there for Jason Lee to make a big dumb Hollywood blockbuster borderline-career killer, for one. And the trailer I stumbled upon repurposes footage of a riot in which nearly 100 people died for comedic effect (it also features Alvin sucking on a piece of Theodore's shit... hey, it's a kid's movie!). And Hollywood remake necrophilia is a bummer and a half, especially when applied to a franchise as pointless (not to mention pointlessly remade) as Alvin and the Chipmunks.

But for the most part, I'd much rather save my ire for when something that ought to be good isn't (the last Arcade Fire album, f'rinstance... they're fantastic live, and Funeral matched the hyperbole for me, but Neon Bible just plain didn't bring the songs), rather than for shit that pops through my self-imposed isolation bubble and briefly spooks me by exposing the true values of the lowest common denominator. So I'm pretentious, and I'm a snob, and I'm giving up, but what am I gonna do?

It's Alvin and the Chipmunks. They were singing "Funkytown."

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Wikipedia: I hate you

If YouTube is the greatest thing about the 21st century thus far, Wikipedia is the worst. Both have similar effects on my tendency to follow any train of thought to whatever logical/illogical conclusion, which in my more formative years resulted mostly in a lot of daydreaming. Daydreaming, naturally, is only as entertaining as your imagination and/or lack of interest in whatever you're supposed to be paying attention to (school, church, relatives), and no matter how creative you are or how boring grandpa is, you're going to snap out of it sooner than later. YouTube and Wikipedia, on the other hand, take (advantage of) your idle, wandering mind and supply it with a virtually endless series of additional distractions, some directly relating to your initial train of though, some not even tangentially having to do with anything you give a half of a tenth of an ounce of a fuck of a shit about.

My attention span was shorter than that of a mosquito long before the internet. I never took Ritalin when I was a kid because I heard it made your nipples fall off, so I told my folks "please no" and we all suffered together. Now I'm in my 20s and my apartment's full of mosquitoes (I try to kill them or at least shoo them out, but they're just too focused). I'm a grown-ass man with shit to do, but not if YouTube and Wikipedia have anything to say about it.

Now: I love YouTube. Love the hell out of it. Best thing to happen to me in forever. Don't own a TV, don't need a TV. Wikipedia? To hell with it. Hate it on general principle (I'm not even going to get into how much I hate it for things like forever destroying the power of myth, or how much it creeps me out that there's already evidence of large corporations editing pages to suit their own needs (music-specific example here)), but for the purposes of this ramble I hate it for how much time I lose to it, reading about things that didn't used to matter to me, that still don't matter to me, and didn't really matter while I was reading about them. Both things are so similar in the time-waste regard, but here is the main difference:

YouTube is entertainment; Wikipedia is information.

If I'm going to be wasting my time on something in the manner of an idle daydream, I would rather it be entertaining than informative. Especially if it's information about the bullshit I tend to read, which is probably 5% science and nature, 15% history and politics, and the rest entirely meaningless and useless sub-trivia (tune in tomorrow-ish as I relate how I accidentally discovered they're making an Alvin and the Chipmunks movie and subsequently became so furious with pop culture I shit blood out my dick). Yeah, yeah, nobody puts a gun to my head and makes me read this stuff, but for chrissakes, I go and look something up (in the previous example, information about a David Cross standup special) and natural human curiosity makes me become an active participant in the downfall of my own evening. With YouTube, someone sends me a link to three guinea pigs fighting over a piece of cucumber (see: below) and shazam: I'm more than happy to give up control of my destiny to a series of cute li'l critter videos, because I'm relatively sure I'm not going to end up three hours later knowing which cast member of the 2001 Broadway revival of Caberet has obsessive-compulsive disorder, and five hours later forgetting which cast member of the 2001 Broadway revival of Caberet has obsessive-compulsive disorder.*

Look: if I want to watch an old music video or clips from a TV show I used to love or just kill some time, YouTube is incredible. If I want to know something very, very specific, I'll go to Wikipedia, but from now on I need to train myself to treat it like a mad dash into Home Depot to get something to fix a leaky sink; beyond my tendency to go "wow, I've never heard of THAT comic book!", I'm getting sick of how easy it is for us to treat an enormous chunk of the assembled collection of human knowledge as disposable and borderline meaningless.

And when I want to shake myself out of a slack-jawed, glassy-eyed stupor and go "wait, what? How did I get from thinking about my favorite Kinks songs to wondering how turtles have sex?", I want to know that I got there on my own. Just like I did when I was a kid.

*: This fact is make-believe. And no way in hell I am going to look it up on Wikipedia.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Cartoon Televangelist, Episode Two

Work off your Labor Day hangovers with your pal and mine, Cartoon Televangelist. Keep an eye out for the Prayer Cone!

Joe Mathlete: Exposing you to the future of cinema since a week or two ago.