Maybe if they’d brought in an *actual* spotwelding torch…

So I finally managed to slip the credit card out of Shoemom’s sight long enough to purchase the Bob & Ray movie. (On the principle of making hay while the sun shines I also bought the Not Always Right book, and am loving it, but that’s another post).

At any rate, yes, the B&R movie. An Award-Winning Film.… all twenty minutes of it. Plus a lengthy written insert by Keith Olbermann, video intro by Jeffrey Lyons, a Mary Backstayge episode set to a picture montage and — inexplicably, esp. given that the rights to all of their own TV series eps combined would probably have been less expensive — three Carson-era Tonight Show appearances.


[harrumphs slightly]


I really should’ve known better. You know the interview avoidance technique described in this post? The post I wrote? Buy this movie for a live-action demo.

I was off in my initial impression; the filmmakers don’t want to crack their artistic code, they think it’s really cool that they haven’t. You can tell, because the first five-ten minutes — showcasing the duo ‘relaxing’ before an afternoon’s taping — are shot in that peculiarly Sixties art-house style, the one where the more random the conversation gets the more incredibly cool it must be. In this case: not so much.

Which would not be even as awkward as it is had Olbermann not recounted, in his excellent essay, being treated to a fine display of backstage charm not much later at WOR (Ray, on correct nautical terminology: "Don’t want to have them step on some whale ship. We can’t say that on the radio…").
And there are other indications in the current subject that they know exactly what they’re doing; notably a certain funny half-smile Bob gives the camera at one point, that’s mirrored in several of the still pics. Also Ray’s restless dark eyes, noticeably too sophisticated for a podgy middle-aged face. After awhile the viewer starts following them as the last best clue to why anybody thought this film worth creating…

Meaning that what we have here is a documentary whose major theme is that the subjects really didn’t care about being in this documentary. Lovely.

It gets better once they settle down to work — a couple on-the-fly promos, one Matt Neffer episode recreated from a script, and a rework of the Komodo Dragon sketch — inasmuch as the camera goes from unwanted to utterly unimportant, and the indifference becomes part of the show.
It still resembles nothing so much as a documentary I once saw on twins who’d created their own language. Worlds conjured up literally off a few muttered cues and the degree of slyness in a grin. There’s one really incredible sequence in which their producer (the guy whose mustache is bothering them in the YouTube clip) throws a bunch of non sequitur sounds into their scripted taping, and they’re just effortlessly caught up and twirled into the vortex.

…all of which, it must be said, essentially boils down onscreen to ‘two guys who happen to be very, very good at making each other laugh.’ You think we could get a bit of the larger picture over here, please? Creative, historic, what they had for lunch that day, whatever? Olbermann’s essay would’ve been a lot more effective as an interview cut into the film, along with any others they could round up.

The special features don’t help a lot. Some of the pics are cute, especially the oldest ones. Of the (undated) Tonight Show clips, one is the Slow Talkers of America, one is an obscure-but-deserving tale of a legendary pizza flipper… and in the third Ray looks distressingly ill, not to say a bit too realistically out-of-it. Major ‘the hell?’ factor happening here. Didn’t any family members check this thing out prior to release? For that matter, where are the family members? If they got Jeffrey Lyons, they could probably have pried Chris Elliott or his daughter Abby off the SNL lot.

Ah well. Reminders of imminent mortality excepted, not a bad waste of an hour. Definitely a waste of at least fifteen of the thirty bucks, but that’s OK, I’d probably have just blown it on Starbucks’ punkin scones anyway. Now, I get the scones and complete indifference from a couple comic geniuses. It works out.
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The Seven Days meme: Day Four

day 01 | a song
day 02 | a picture
day 03 | a book/ebook/fanfic
Day 04 | a site
day 05 | a youtube clip
day 06 | a quote
day 07 | whatever tickles your fancy


I am thinking this would be an excellent time to thank Bad Movie mecca the agony booth for being the amazingly rich source of entertainment it’s been to me for so long. Love siterunner Albert Walker or not — frankly I’m a bit bemused by the way he runs his forum lately, which is why I’m not saying this there, despite being tempted many times after finishing a recap…

Anyway, he gets all kinds of points for running his site according to real-world literary standards, not Net ones. Not only is his grammar excellent, but his snark is consistently intelligent, insightful and damn funny. Same thing goes for the recaps others post under his supervision; inasmuch as I’m paying off old laffs I must single out Jordon Davis, Jet and Mark ‘Scooter’Wilson. Enshrining Mr T’s place in pop-culture history is a noble work and all, but — in the context of the Internet — the booth’s greater achievement  may be giving wits of their calibre a congenial place to shine.

Well, that and making it through that one Deep Space Nine ep where Quark gets a sex change…

Wait’ll you hear what she says when her aunt wants her to expose her shoulders.

I spend some of my cyber-time on Project Gutenberg, the online effort to have every existing public-domain book ever transcribed and available by…whenever. They’re good and noble people no doubt, but their header-writing leaves a bit to be desired, clarity-wise.

Anyhow, I was originally inspired by the chance discovery of the Pollyanna sequel. Yes, you read that correctly. Pollyanna Grows Up. And yes, a truly adult Pollyanna is an oxymoron. Thus I do not recommend this book except to those investigating a possible Chinese Cheerfulness Torture.

(Which, come to think of it, is an intriguing concept. "Hey, don’t sweat it, boy! You still have nine fingernails left! Whoops! OK, make that eight. Still, think of all the money you’ll save on manicures!")

‘Tennyrate, I got intrigued by the possibilities and did some further digging. As it turns out, not only is there a Pollyanna sequel, there are Five Little Peppers sequels. There are Further Chronicles of Rebecca. Heidi Grows Up, too. The Betsy/Tacy series actually continues on until both are married and one is expecting. It’s kind of funny really; from this vantage point we’re thinking ‘timeless once-in-a-lifetime-classics’, and it turns out that back in the day they were thinking ‘Sweet Valley High’. Only, y’know, with  fewer crazed spa owners wanting to steal Mrs. Pepper’s face.

It becomes especially amusing when you realise many of the best-known of these women are iconic for the one  novel that isn’t representative of their output.


Let’s face it, Ozma’s kind of an idiot.

Really, she is. I know this, because I have lately been on a course of Oz sequels (in eBook form) and I have been experiencing that prickly sort of irritation that twigs only in the presence of a Purity Sue. It’s been building for a couple rereads now, but this time this Author on Board-sense is just off the charts. Also, this time I have a journal in which to rant about stuff like this.

Disclaimer: I love the Oz books. I really do. It is the one fairyland in which you are absolutely confident that anything can happen, and can never tell what might be around the corner – for the very good reason that the author couldn’t either. There is a sort of naiive charm about that. Having not hung himself up in a web of Rules for his World, Baum’s imagination was free to roam in a way that even Tolkien himself might… well, nod thoughtfully at.
It’s just that every time the Ruler of Oz shows up – and a smart few times when she’s offscreen – all this amused tolerance comes bang! to a screeching halt. You can’t get away from Ozma, not least because you’re implied to be a terrible person if you try. Baum goes on and on and on about how beautiful and sweet and dainty and beloved she is, to the point where it basically amounts to older man in love with ideal young creation.

Think I’m being unkind to a classic of kidlit? There’s an entire book, The Road to Oz, that’s actually built around all the Ozites and every single character from Baum’s other books attending Ozma’s super-spectacular birthday party, the like of which the world has never seen. Dorothy is clearly too deep in the throes of a girlish crush to notice, but one might expect the Shaggy Man to be a trifle more bemused:

"You got me totally lost, saddled me with a couple of kids, which half the time one’s a damn fox – yeah, let’s give the dumb one the sharp teeth, that’s not a problem, noooooo. Plus one rainbow sprite – you ever tried collecting the perfect dewdrops at six am? And if it’s not perfect, she starts up that damn dancing again, and it’s like Oh, God, my stomach’s gonna add a brand-new colour to the spectrum right here. So here we are, completely lost…Oh, and the Scoodlers, did I mention them? ‘We love you in soup’, yeah yeah, most hilarious thing ever. Until they give me the donkey head. By then I thought that was a nice touch, actually.

"And so I have to swim in the Truth Pond – yeah, love that magical moss or whatever it was, bring it on – because I still have to keep the kids from picking up every random whatsis they find by the side of the road and we FINALLY get here and I’m staring at a little kid …and it’s her frelling birthday… hey, everybody, welcome to a Very Special Episode in Oz! Firearms are bad! Ha ha ha hahahahah…"

That said, this is not the nadir. It is close – especially the ending, where after spending a couple days in All Hail Ozma the Super-Specially Sparkly mode all the potentially interesting people just sort of float home in super-strong soap bubbles – but not yet.

No, the nadir is The Emerald City of Oz. In which Dorothy finally decides to bring her family to fairyland for good, at the same time as Evil finally decides that those ‘disgustingly goody-good’ Ozites need a thorough conquering. As a child, this is frankly terrifying. As an adult, especially a snarky-minded one, it’s… a bit less so. During the recent reread, I started mentally compiling a list of Ways This Kiddie Fantasy Novel Has Been Bugging the Crap Out of Me For Years Now, and since as noted I do have a journal this time…

…you might want to look out for the next entry. In the ‘Ooh, lovely!’ sense or the Wile-E-Coyote-with-tiny-little-umbrella sense, works fine either way.

…”and laugh at them in our turn?”

It occurs to me – or rather it was just now shoved up through my subconscious, which is snickering madly at the idea of my setting up as a pop-cult snob – that the cult surrounding Jane Austen is in a lot of ways the hi-brow equivalent of the whole pretty pink tween experience. Granted, there’s a lot more snark and a lot fewer ballads, but when you look more closely, what both come down to is the cute.
The bright and sparkly fun and excitement of femininity unleashed. Playing with love, calling yourself empowered without having to deal with the unpleasant consequences. Also, as the clincher…shiny wet semitopless Darcy.

I rather suspect the real Jane would’ve viewed some of her more dedicated admirers with a distinctly sardonic eye.

That feeling extends to my current reading material, Darcy’s Story by Jane Aylmer. I tend to avoid the modern-day ‘sequels’ as a rule, just because they strike me as so wholly unnecessary, but the idea of Pride & Prejudice rewritten from the perspective of its most interesting character (sorry, Lizzy) was too delicious to resist.
As it turns out, I’ve really gotta work on my resisting skills. I will start by stiffening my resolve immediately I see the words ‘Austen enthusiast’ anywhere in the author’s bio. Because of course the POV turns out to be that of the Darcy of modern myth, the Colin Firth version, constantly brooding from across the room. Oooh, whatever could he be thinking?

…the trouble being, as anyone who’s honestly familiar with the book will realise instanter, that interesting does not automatically = mysterious. Mrs. Bennet-esque blithering on the dustjacket aside, Darcy really isn’t that much of an enigma after all; no more his author intended him to be. She named his major motivation in the title, for cripes sake. He summarises them to the midway mark in the big proposal scene, and goes into a two-page speech on the subject at the windup just to ram the point home.

Meanwhile the moderately-alert reader is generally able to make a decent guess as to what’s passing through his head at any given moment: He doesn’t like Elizabeth. Then he likes her. Then he proposes to her. Then he’s obviously struggling to make it up to her…etc, etc.
That’s what this book is: that decent guess. There are I’m sure any number of lovely dashing stories that could be told about Darcy, even woven around deep examination of his motives, but that’s no more the focus here than it is at any given moment in Zac & Vanessa’s (sorry, Troy & Gabriella’s) relationship.

So the original plot is reproduced down to big chunks of dialogue, with ‘Darcy thought/said  _________’ tacked on at the end. This is not, exactly, riotously fascinating. Save for some pleasant domestic scenes that nicely ground all the romantic speechifying at the end, even the most average Austen fan – ie. pretty much the entire target demographic – will probably find their own fantasies on the subject much more involving, not to say fulfilling.

Thought that I heard you laughing/Thought that I heard you sing…

So I’m browsing the threads over at the Comics Curmudgeon the other day, and ran across a poster with the handle ‘Wally Ballou’. This provoked a mild little ripple of mirth from a few others…along with comments on how unexpected it was that people were getting the reference, as they’d’ve thought it ‘too old’ for the audience.

Erm. Given what I’ve been able to gather about the average age of the ‘Mudgeons, also further observations elsewhere…this gave me reason for a rather lengthy pause. Apparently I’m not just the only dedicated Bob & Ray fan online, I may be the only Bob & Ray fan anywhere under 45.

Realising you’re this unique on the World Wide Web is, as you can imagine, a deeply bemusing experience. Still, it’s rather a pleasantly knowing one, as compared to…perhaps that one person on TVTropes who keeps adding Jem & the Holograms examples. I’m sorry, love, but there it is. On this side, brilliant, groundbreaking comedy; on the other, the ’80’s version of Hannah Montana.

…About that. Not Hannah, so much as High School Musical. Owing to media saturation around the third edition I have finally figured out what all the hype is about, and I gotta tell you, gang, no offense, but as far as I can tell the reason I hadn’t picked up on it before was because there’s nothing there to pick up. Something like cotton candy on a hot day at the Ex – one swipe, a shrug, and it’s on to the next bright shiny distraction.

Well, maybe not that cheap. I mean, the part where friend[info]shing_ posts hot pictures of shiny wet topless Zac, that I get OK. Not my taste, but I can sincerely appreciate the effort. It’s just that…hell, Jem had the computer gimmick, y’know? And Hannah M. has at least the occasional amusingly surreal Dolly Parton cameo. Maybe the ep I watched was the anomaly, but for one glorious moment Dolly was there. Vicki Lawrence, too. And the ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ guy.

HSM, on the other hand, is…just…there’s no there there at all, except inasmuch as its leads are pretty. Yes, historically this has been justification for quite a lot of pop-culture, but this…this is like a running compilation of all the moments that the teen dream media machine itself considers cliche. Realising that the current craze sweeping the post-millennial nation is based around an episode plot used by every single 80’s sitcom I ever watched (and a healthy few of the 70’s ones, too) is the second most deeply bemusing thing I have encountered this week.

(Especially the ‘Sharpay’ business. I’ve been trying to figure out what seems so wrong about it for awhile now, and it just hit me: A Shar-pei is a dog breed, people. A notoriously goofy-looking dog breed. Yeah, i know that’s the gag, it’s just that…vide Dave Barry…it’s a really stupid gag. I can just about see proud [if slightly dense] new parents gazing down at their little red wrinkly bundle of joy and saying “Awww, doesn’t widdle snookums wook just wike a widdle shar-pei doggers!” But a screenwriter naming their blond bombshell rich-bitch nemesis? Not so much.)

I seem to lean on old familiar ways…

So I’m having a sick day…actually, more of an “I feel intensely like staying indoors where it’s warm, cuddling up in my PJs and indulging myself with hot toast and toffees” day. You know, the kind that tends to hit females once a month or so.

Seriously, I probably should feel guilty about this but I don’t in the slightest. I haven’t had a really good self-indulgence in ages. Besides which it’ll give me a chance to do some more sorting out re: my next writing project – yes, we’re back to wangsting about that again, although I’ve managed to keep it mostly off-blog this time. I just seriously do feel like I’m ready for the next level of literary challenge…and you know where we go from there, right? (No, not more pointless Bob & Ray trivia. Think that particular biographical urge is out of the system for now…although I can’t say it’ll never strike again.)

In the meanwhile, and in keeping with the general theme of all things cozy and comforting, let’s get on with the next installment in the review series: Kidlit. More

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