Thursday, June 30, 2011

Politics aside: How would you characterize the behavior of a guy who did not know the ages of his own daughters?

A guy called Mark Halperin, who contributes to the cable network MSNBC in some capacity, and to TIME magazine in another, called the current president "kind of a d*ck" today.
MSNBC senior political analyst Mark Halperin was suspended on Thursday by the cable network after he called President Obama “a d*ck” on a popular morning show and then quickly apologized.

“I thought he was a kind of a dick yesterday,” Halperin, who also is an editor-at large for Time, said on Morning Joe, referring to the President’s conduct during his press conference.
Both MSNBC and Mr. Halperin himself apologized. Then TIME magazine issued a statement claiming that Mr. Halperin's comments in no way reflect the feelings of that august publication.

Politico has video of the incident. Please note that Mr. Halperin prefaced his remark by telling the director to get ready to use the 7-second delay. Apparently, even with the warning, whoever was working the board at MSNBC was too inept to hit the button in time:



So MSNBC should apologize, and the director who couldn't press a button should be suspended. But an analyst suspended for giving his opinion? Isn't that what analysts are supposed to do?

Aside: You'll note that the video embedded above is titled "Halperin's Obama gaffe and apology." Merriam Webster defines a "gaffe" as,
1: a social or diplomatic blunder
2: a noticeable mistake
Maybe Mr. Halperin's remarks -- which he prefaced by warning there would be vulgarity -- could be considered a "diplomatic blunder" (although why a political analyst's expression of his opinion should be considered a "diplomatic blunder" is beyond me). But it was certainly not a "mistake." He clearly meant to say that the president acted like a d*ck at his press conference.

Note also that Mr. Halperin was referring to the president's behavior at one press conference. Before making his "d*ck" comment, he says, "I want to characterize how I thought the president behaved."

So he did not, as Politico claims, call the president a d*ck. He said that the president behaved like a d*ck. Everyone, it doesn't matter who they are, behaves like a d*ck sometimes.

Let's leave aside all the political and moral issues addressed during the press conference to which Mr. Halperin was referring. The president mentioned his daughters. Twice, he mentioned their ages. And twice, he got one of their ages wrong:



His daughters are actually 12 and 10. Not 13 and 10. One of them turns 13 on July 4th, but July 4th isn't until Monday, so she's still only 12.

How would you characterize the behavior of a man who doesn't know how old his own daughters are? I don't think Mr. Halperin was far off.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Newsweek's zombie Princess Diana cover: Big deal.


Newsweek has dug up the corpse of Princess Diana and placed her alongside her new daughter-in-law, Kate Middleton, for what is arguably the greatest zombie cover in the history of "news" magazines.

Actually, it's just a very bad photoshop effort -- I could have done a better job. But can you blame Newsweek? Zombies are enduringly popular.

But Zombie Diana isn't very well liked.
I only liked your page so I could express how distasteful and downright vile your cover and story is. Diana still has children and family who loved and adored her. She is not a doll for your writer to dress up and play with on Photoshop. Your publication isn't worthy of being the doormat to the entrance to the National Inquirer's (sic). I hope you get an avalanche of subscription cancellations.
Diana was and still is a public figure. So what if she still has kids and family who loved her? Most people do; that doesn't exempt them from scrutiny, or from speculative articles. Or from strange zombie photoshop pictures.

Just ask Ronald Reagan. Time magazine dug him up for a special photoshoot with the current president, for some reason:


And, for better or worse, Mr. Reagan was the "leader of the free world" for eight years. Princess Diana went around to fashion shows wearing expensive outfits.

And how about Natalie Cole, who dug up her own father to perform a duet of the classic song "Unforgettable"?



The people who claim that the Newsweek cover is "creepy" are living in a pre-modern era.

The problem with Newsweek's Princess Diana themed-issue is not the cover. It's the ridiculousness inside, like for instance Diana's facebook page (why aren't I listed as one of her friends???). Then there is the story of what her life would have been like, had she lived.
Remarriage? At least two, I suspect, on both sides of the Atlantic. Always so professional herself, she would have soon grown exasperated with Dodi Al-Fayed’s hopeless unreliability. After the breakup I see her moving to her favorite city, New York, spending a few cocooned years safely married to a super-rich hedge-fund guy who could provide her with what she called “all the toys”: the plane, the private island, the security detail. Gliding sleekly into her 40s, her romantic taste would have moved to men of power over boys of play. She’d have tired of the hedge-fund guy and drifted into undercover trysts with someone more exciting—a high-mindedly horny late-night talk-show host, or a globe-trotting French finance wizard destined for the Élysée Palace.
Oh how embarrassingly slobbering it all is (and again, why is my own night of passion with Diana not mentioned?). A writer at Jezebel calls it "Shudder-inducing fanfic of the week," but then goes on to add,
It's definitely fun and interesting to entertain visions and fantasies of what might have been. But Diana wasn't just a princess and an icon. She was a mother. And while Prince William surely wishes his mom could have been alive to see him married, would he really want her and his wife to be thrown together in a Photoshop Of Horrors on newsstands across the globe?
Oh so we're back to that. It's fun and interesting to wonder what might have happened to a public figure that many people found fascinating, for whatever reasons, but how would her family react??? It's disrespectful. Losing one's mother is a terrible tragedy, I understand that. But the fact is that Princess Diana was and is, as I've said, a public figure. Her children and family have such outlandish benefits and comforts -- at great public expense -- that it's difficult to generate much sympathy for them, in relation to this magazine cover.

When did we all get so reactionary that a simple photoshopped picture of a pampered, privileged woman who never had to work a day in her life and admittedly died tragically can cause such hand-wringing soul-searching? Do we not have bigger things to worry about? For instance, who is preparing for the possible zombie apocalypse?

Oh, actually, the CDC is. Well then I guess maybe we do have some free time to waste fretting over this non-story.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Three funny comics in one Sunday section!

This past Sunday, three comics I read in a newspaper actually made me laugh out loud. First up, my choice for funniest of the week, "Garfield":


Garfield is a cat who likes to eat. He likes to eat a lot. In this comic, we see that Garfield likes to eat so much, that he hallucinates about the food coming to him for help, the way a child comes to a parent in the night.

And then, Garfield eats the food. Like children. That is really funny. I actually laughed again today, when I re-read it.

This week's Sunday comics section also had another comic strip that I liked, although not quite as well:


Generally I avoid the comic strip "Zits" because I find the word "zit" to be distasteful. This one caught my eye because of the use of the comic strip medium itself to convey to the reader, subtly, that the protagonist was unknowingly climbing a tree. This gag wouldn't work as animation.

My enthusiasm for this strip was dampened upon learning that "Zits" has an ongoing "anti-texting" propaganda campaign.

And third, this "Bizarro" strip:


A funny twist on this classic trope that I don't remember ever seeing before. At first I thought the "The power of positive thinking" bit was overkill, but I see the point behind the caption.

Anyway, that is a first since I was a kid: Three comics in one Sunday section that made me laugh out loud. Good job, comics!

What the success of Go the F*ck to Sleep says about writers who have nothing better to do than to try to make sweeping generalizations about society based on the success of one children's book parody

The Week has an overview of pieces from around the internet in which pompous writers attach themselves to the coattails of the success of the children's book parody Go the F*ck to Sleep. Of course, these pieces say more about the authors who wrote them than about the book itself which is, as I've already said, a parody of children's books.

The book itself is written from the point of view of a frustrated parent who wants his/her child to go to sleep. Or, as the title implies, "go the f*ck to sleep." The book is full of dirty words, and illustrations that give the impression of a book aimed at children. For instance:


That's pretty funny, and an effective parody of typical children's book tropes. PDFs of the book made their way online, and have helped push the book to number one on amazon.com.

But some people are not content to let a parody be a parody. There must be some deeper meaning. After all, it looks like a children's book, yet it is full of dirty words that ain't right!

An author at New York Magazine whines:
Mommy or Daddy, like a picture book, is something that the child believes exists for the child, in full. This is why bedtime is fraught with tension—it’s when adult time begins. At least, if you have the authority to pull it off. Otherwise, here comes the patter of little feet, right during the blood-­spattered opening reel of the Hong Kong gangster movie you’ve just settled in to enjoy: “I think there’s a bug in my room.”
First of all, you'll note, this author is clearly a "cool" parent. He watches, scratch that, he enjoys "Hong Kong gangster movie[s]." Man, I wish my parents had been that cool. Second, he worries about having "the authority" to "pull off" "bedtime"? If you have a small child, and you don't even have the authority to pull off bedtime (what the hell does that even mean? just put your kid to bed already and that's it), then you should not be a parent at all. Give that kid to someone else.

You, as the parent, are in charge. There is no question of "authority." Kids sleep, it's part of their nature. I would really hate to be behind this guy and his kid when they're in the supermarket checkout line.

Over at Slate, the book is seen as an expression of the rage of parents toward children:
In Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, Freud writes about the "hostile purpose" of jokes. He argues that jokes are liberating and give us pleasure when they articulate the anger we are not allowed to express in everyday life. Here of course, that anger or hostility is aimed at children, at big-eyed toddlers padding around in their strawberry pajamas, and that is what is both exhilarating and disturbing about the book. There is a nastiness in Go the F**k to Sleep, an undercurrent of resentment that is comic, or "cathartic," as another Amazon reviewer put it, only to parents who are pretty radically subjugating themselves to a certain kind of kid-centered drabness, and judging from the book's runaway success, that would be a lot of parents.
The author of this piece also says,
The idea of saying "shut the f*ck up" to a 3-year-old is hilarious and enthralling only if you are channeling an awful lot of that "hot crimson rage."
Or, perhaps, you have read more than a few picture books aimed at kids, and you find them ripe for parody. I can't get into the author's head and I don't want to. But I have read enough children's picture books to find them banal, insulting, and mostly useless. My suspicion is that he was motivated by his own personal experience, coupled with no small amount of knowledge of the general uselessness of children's books.

(The Stupids books are a strong exception. I have always very much liked The Stupids books.)

And there is this from someone writing at Movie City News:
And most of what drives this anger, this attacking, this incessant need to judge and to fight, is simply that we are each of us so terribly invested in feeling we’re making the right choices that the natural course to take is to attack anyone who thinks that we’re wrong. Because we parents put so much pressure on ourselves to get it RIGHT, to not screw our kids up, don’t we?

You have that first baby, and you look at this fragile, tiny, miraculous bit of humanity you’ve just created and you think, “Oh my God, what have I done? I barely have my shit together to enough to take care of myself. How am I supposed to raise and guide and nurture this child and, hopefully, find that in the end of it all I’ve raised an adult person who is less f*cked up and neurotic than I am?” It’s overwhelming, parenting is.
Well then, if parenting is so difficult for a delicate creature such as yourself, why are you even doing it? There is birth control. There is abortion. If you're so thoroughly neurotic that you can't do something that human beings have been doing since time immemorial, then remove yourself from the genetic pool. Do not have kids, and do not force the rest of us, the childless, to deal with your neurotic mistakes and equivocations. Do not force the rest of us to live in a world that is less interesting and more "safe" because you are worried that your child might be exposed to something that could, theoretically, cause your child to more "f*cked up and neurotic than" you are.

This book owes you nothing. It's a funny parody. Your neuroses are your own problem.

A writer at Salon claims that the book's success reveals how sexist our society is:
Though Heather Armstrong is the most famous, many other mom bloggers use irreverence and edginess about motherhood in their writing — Catherine Connors’ Her Bad Mother, Rebecca Woolf’s Girl’s Gone Child, and Kristin Chase’s Motherhood Uncensored, to name a few. And yet these women, some of whom have been blogging nearly as long as Armstrong, still get flak for the most minorly-edgy admissions. This flak comes from the very same moms buying GTFTS by the truckload. Connors was lambasted for admitting to spanking, Chase for not returning a toy her young toddler had taken from Old Navy, and Midwest mom Meagan Francis for admitting she uses a housekeeper. And we all remember the tongue wagging that Ayelet Waldman received after admitting in the New York Times “Modern Love” column to loving her Pulitzer-winning husband Michael Chabon more than her children. (Hello? We all love Michael Chabon more than we love his children.)
First of all, how does the Salon author know that the same people who are buying GTFTS are the same ones giving "flak" to these edgy "mom bloggers"? Has she seen the sales reports, and compared them to the comments sections of these blogs? Second, a lot of people consider spanking-- an act of violence-- to be the wrong way to teach a child how to behave. I don't think it's unreasonable to give someone "flak" for committing an act of violence against a child. Third, isn't taking someone else's property wrong? Shouldn't children be taught not take something that doesn't belong to them, even if they're not caught?

It sounds to me like some of these edgy "mom bloggers" are raising little as sholes. Why not call them on it, if they're willing to share this information?

Anyway, it's reactions like those I just expressed above that lead the Salon writer to believe that we're an essentially sexist society, and if a woman wrote GTFTS, then "society" would have reacted with the same shock and irritation with which it reacted to news that a woman uses violence as a teaching tool in rearing her child. Or that she at least tacitly endorses theft. Okay, I see. It's very unfair.

Over at TIME, the author makes a few of the same sorts of non-observations I quoted above. Said author also actually includes some helpful advice, such as:
The good news is that parents have more control over their child's sleep habits than they think they do, says Mindell. Here, she shares some tips:

• Have a set bedtime, between 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. for kids up to age 5. Parents think if they keep their child up late enough, they'll sleep, but it backfires,” says Mindell.

• Maintain a consistent bedtime routine. Research published two years ago in the journal Sleep showed that instituting a bedtime routine makes a difference in how quickly children fall asleep and how often they wake up at night. Mindell recommends a bath followed by two stories and two stories only.
It's so easy, it's almost comical. Set bedtime. Set routine. You might be an "edgy" mom blogger, or a hip but neurotic modern parent, but if you behave like an adult and have fixed rules for your kid to follow, no exceptions, then maybe you'll be able to sit down and start enjoying that Hong Kong gangster movie.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lady Lantern/Green Gaga: the precipitous falls of two media-generated objets d'commerce

Deadline has this weekend's movie estimates, and things don't look very good for last week's box office "champ," "Green Lantern":
The superhero fell apart its second weekend. Worse, there's little green overseas where grosses for Green Lantern never got off the ground: Friday showed a -60% drop from its soft opening in the UK alone. After this humiliation, Warner Bros needs to rethink how it mines its DC Comics library without Chris Nolan producing/directing/writing everything.
Green Lantern is estimated to have made just over $18 million, after making around $53 million last weekend.
And you thought X-Men: First Class was disappointing! Despite being in 3-D — and despite an avalanche of marketing over the last two months — Green Lantern could only (“only”) muster $52.6 million over the weekend. That’s just under $4 million less than the two dimensional First Class earned during its opening frame.
Box Office Guru Gitesh Pandya estimates that "Green Lantern" will end with a domestic box office total around $130 million or so:
#GreenLantern makes $3.75M THU for $70.95M 1st wk: below $74.9M of Hulk08 & $77.5M of FF2 which both ended at $130M+.
This is a nightmare for Warner Bros and DC. Of immediate concern is the budget, which some have reported to be as high as $300 million, including promotion and advertising, and print costs. And Warner Bros does not make all of that money itself-- it varies based on the week of release, but on average, studios get back around 60% of the money a film makes at the domestic box office.

As Deadline points out, "GL's" foreign gross is also spectacularly disappointing. Box Office Mojo has an almost comically low number that reads more like a parody than an actual number for a big summer tentpole release.

Perhaps the film has already made back its money in licensing and merchandising? TIME has an interesting article about the collusion between studios and toy makers, who begin collaborating during the production of the film itself.
If know what to look for, you can see a toy maker's fingerprints on big budget films like Green Lantern. Artists from both sides of the collaboration will often work together on designs for the film accessories, mainly gadgets and vehicles. "Yes, we're the studio and we're the closest to the people making the movie, but we integrate Mattel at the earliest stage with the film's producers, the director and the art director," Brad Globe, President, Warner Bros. Consumer Products. "We both know the important thing is to translate the movie's elements into something the kids can play with."
But what about the money?
Merchandising contracts for film characters established successful toy track records go high six figure amounts, though details of the deals themselves are often kept secret. Toy sales for new film franchises are unpredictable and the royalty fees paid to the studios are predictably lower, which means The Green Lantern is an appealing project for Mattel. Toy and family entertainment expert and editor of TimetoPlayMag.com, Jim Silver, estimates The Green Lantern brand will guarantee Mattel about $20 million in toy sales, costing the company maybe $2.5 million in royalty fees paid to Warner Bros. for the film's licensing, with a possible bonus if sales reach a higher amount. Though there's no predicting if the film will actually perform well in theaters, a $2.5 million fee won't break the bank for a $5-billion-a-year company like Mattel even if there isn't a big payoff.
Uh-oh.

How awesome does this toy look???

I could have told you that "Green Lantern" was going to fail at the box office. He is a rotten character. Probably the worst concept in comics. A traitor to his own planet, a sell-out to a bunch of strange, arrogant colonialists with some one-size-fits-all theories of what is "good." Green Lantern is an authoritarian nightmare, and he is lame, lame, lame. He always has been.

Moreover, as director Terry Gilliam points out, these superhero movies all look the same:
What’s so funny is because of growing up with comics, and always wanting to do that kind of movie, I have no interest in them at all now. That’s what I wanted to do, and now everyone else is doing them, so I don’t do them. I don’t even go now. I see the trailers, and I think, I’ve seen that trailer for about 20 years now! The same shots, the same dilemma — what are we doing here?
But Warner Bros is committed to foisting "Green Lantern" upon us, whether we want him or not. We've been threatened with a sequel. There is a new Green Lantern television program to air this fall on Cartoon Network. So Warner Bros has a lot invested in this incredibly stupid character.

But even more than that, Warner Bros has planned to mine the DC library as its next, post-Harry Potter franchise. Green Lantern was to be the first of the next breed of DC superhero films, to get us all excited about, oh, a Flash movie. Or a Deadman movie. And then, eventually, maybe even a Justice League movie!

Green Lantern was supposed to carry the weight of the entire DC universe on his shoulders, and to lead the comic book fanboys into the light of the mainstream, where they would be greeted with open arms by the public at large. His film would make squillions of dollars (if WB actually spent $300 total on the film, they were expecting a squillion dollars, at least) and Warner Bros would have something as profitable as Harry Potter to carry it into the next decade. They advertised the hell out of it. They licensed the hell out of it. The literally thousands of Green Lantern fans took the internet to tell us how AWESOME the film was going to be. (Remember how they prevented Warner Bros actually doing something interesting and different with the tired character?)

Despite all of this, the general public has proven largely immune to the charms of this utterly charmless character.

It kind of reminds one of Lady Gaga, doesn't it? Like Green Lantern, Ms. Gaga is a character created by a few individuals that has become an important marketing tool for a major corporation. And like Green Lantern, she had fairly strong opening sales for her latest commercial endeavor.
Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” album appears to be on track for a 1 million-plus first week of sales, according to Billboard, helped along by Amazon.com’s decision to sell the hotly anticipated album for 99 cents for two days last week.
"One million units" is a lot of units. But wait-- some of those were for 99 cents?
It’s not free, but it’s close: Amazon is selling digital downloads of “Born This Way,” Lady Gaga’s newest album, for 99 cents.

That gets you 14 songs and a digital booklet. The same album goes for $11.99 at Apple’s iTunes, which seems more interested in pushing a 22-song special edition for $15.99–that’s the one currently featured on the retailer’s home page.
So many people took advantage of this opportunity to own these songs for the almost-free price of 99¢ that they crashed amazon's servers.
Lady Gaga's new album has caused Amazon's servers to crash. Born This Way found itself listed on Amazon for just ninety-nine cents, causing hordes of people to go to the website to purchase it. Enough people tried that Amazon's servers crashed from the traffic.

Amazon's spokesman said that everyone who purchased the album at that price will receive it despite the crash.
Ms. Gaga's sales fell precipitously in their second week.
Lady Gaga's Born This Way continues to rule the Billboard 200 albums chart for a second week as the set shifts 174,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That's down a steep 84% from its historic 1,108,000 start last week.

While it's not unusual for albums that enter with mighty big sales frames to tumble hard in week number two, Gaga's fall is amplified, courtesy of AmazonMP3.
In four weeks, the album has sold just under 1.5 million units. That's more than I've ever sold, but I don't have a media juggernaut promoting the hell out of me. But about 400,000 of those sales were from amazon's giveaway gimmick:
The Amazon promotion that offered the entire album for 99 cents for two days of the first week was great for fans, but was a gimmick. Lady Gaga would have still had an amazing first week—more than 700,000 copies sold—without the Amazon promotion. But the 1.1 million will forever have an asterisk by it since Interscope achieved the numbers by practically giving it away (we’re quite sure the label would have done that if Nielsen SoundScan counted giveways, but it doesn’t).
Ms. Gaga is everywhere. She is on magazine covers, gossip blogs, YouTube, television, amazon.com, etc, etc. She is an objet d'commerce that we have been told to love because...

Well, why, exactly is Ms. Gaga so ubiquitous? Well, she's supposedly brilliant. She wears outlandish clothes (even to the airport!). She says outlandish things about her sexual organs. She has presented herself as a fighter for gay marriage.

But how many fans does she really have? Worldwide, her concert ticket sales are just behind Bon Jovi, AC/DC, and U2. In North America, she was behind Dave Matthews Band, Bon Jovi, Justin Bieber, John Mayer, Brad Paisley, and Paul McCartney. She sold about 1.4 million tickets in North America.

That's not bad, but it is a fraction of the 315+ million people who live in America. And yet, she's everywhere. Her every ridiculous move is studied and commented upon. She has an extremely loyal and active fan base that will come to her defense on websites and message boards. And, as with Green Lantern, there is something oddly familiar about Ms. Gaga's shenanigans.



She is a publicity-seeking semi-talented, occasionally clever gimcrack, who insists she's "shocking." Anyone who is photographed giving the finger to the camera is the opposite of "shocking."


Seriously, put a "power ring" on that finger Ms. Gaga is holding up, and you'd swear she was Green Lantern.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Poodle Bitch is unimpressed with the new television program "Wilfred"

Tonight, while waiting for the second season premiere of one of her favorite programs, "Louie," Poodle Bitch decided to sit through the first episode of the program which immediately preceded it on FX, an abomination called "Wilfred."

This unpleasant program concerns an elfish-looking young man called Ryan who wants to kill himself. He is unsuccessful. His attractive and upbeat neighbor inexplicably entrusts this man with the care of her dog, Wilfred.

These two humans have not previously met. They have merely waved at one another, the night before. When Ryan answers the door, his eyes are ringed by dark circles, and his clothes are disheveled. He is a terrible, unattractive mess. If there are humans who are willing to trust such a human to care for their canine companions after sharing only a wave, then Poodle Bitch does not want to meet them.

Then there is Wilfred himself. He is apparently an actual dog, yet Ryan sees him as an unpleasant, irredeemably unlikable human in a dog suit. This human in a dog suit makes tired, unfunny dogs-as-human jokes about the digging up of the back yard, anxiety over whether or not the human woman who left him with Ryan will return to pick him up, and a special tennis ball. There is also the defecating in someone's shoe, the speech about particles of feces in underwear, and the passing of gas and blaming it the human.

Poodle Bitch apologizes for typing that previous sentence.

Also, Wilfred smokes marijuana. And humps the leg of a waitress. And humps a stuffed bear.

The theme of the program is that the human, Ryan, should be more animal, and less human. He should follow his instinct. Ryan's sister, the responsible one who got Ryan a job at the hospital at which she works, is portrayed as a shrill harpy. Wilfred is portrayed as a crass but lovable man in a dog costume.

There are a number of problems with this. The first is, why should anyone care about a drippy loser like Ryan? Poodle Bitch wonders why it is that quitting a job on the first day and giving up all responsibilities, especially in an era of such high unemployment, should be considered a likable character trait.

Second, and most important, dogs do not act like Wilfred. Wilfred is a man in a dog suit. Human beings have only a facile understanding of the inner workings of the average canine. Too many humans seem to think that it's funny to make jokes about the fact that some dogs are either ill-trained enough, or incontinent enough, or neglected enough, that they move their bowels in the house.

How many comedians have routines about their dogs? Wilfred is the hoariest "My dog does the funniest thing" routine that you've ever heard. There is nothing unique, original, or witty about this program. Nor is it funny. Poodle Bitch did not laugh once during this first episode.

Perhaps humans would be happier if they behaved more like dogs. Perhaps they should display more affection for one another. When their human companions return home, they should enthusiastically welcome them. When they rise every morning, they should stretch and greet the day with joy at life's possibilities. They should trust one another more (a lesson which, Poodle Bitch notes, was at the heart of the second season premiere of "Louie," which is a superior program in every way, and should not even be mentioned in the same blog post as worthless "Wilfred").

Poodle Bitch believes that for such a program to succeed it must have at least some feeling of authenticity to it. As she has already noted, the humans do things that have a hollow ring of untruth to them, and she did not care for any of them, not even a little bit. They are all either stupid, or they are ciphers.

At one point during the program, Wilfred gives a long, dull, insincere speech about his life in an animal shelter. Playing with a tennis ball, he claims, made him so irresistibly adorable that he was adopted. Poodle Bitch found herself wishing that he'd been put down, instead. Hopefully this unpleasant program will be.


Poodle Bitch wonders: Which one is more unpleasant? Actually, Poodle Bitch doesn't care.

Monday, June 20, 2011

What the fanboys hath wrought

Warner Bros has tried to satisfy the more intense comic book fanboys. When they attempted to "re-boot" the Superman movie franchise, they created a paean to the fanboy favorites "Superman: The Movie," and "Superman II."

That film, "Superman Returns," was an artistic disaster, almost as bad as those first two "Superman" films. It made quite a bit of money, but not nearly as much as everyone was expecting.

They made a version of "Watchmen" which was an almost frame-for-frame adaptation of the original comic book. At the time the film came out, I presciently and wittily called it "Warner Brothers' sacrifice to the fanboys." It didn't make nearly as much money as everyone expected (on a supposed $130- $150 million budget, it made a total of $187 million worldwide). It, too, was an artistic disaster, for reasons I outlined in my original witty and prescient post.

A few years ago, Warner Bros actually had what sounds like an interesting and novel take on one of their DC Comics characters: They hired Robert Smigel, the man whose hand is inside the very amusing Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, to write a comedy version of the very lame character Green Lantern.

The fanboys expressed their anger in indecorous terms. Warner Bros got the message "loud and clear." The fanboys did not want something that might be unique or different, or entertaining.

They wanted the same old superhero shit they always get. They wanted the same storyline. The same origin. The same story beats. And they got it. They got it, Warner Bros gave them what they wanted, and now Warner Bros is once again left with an exceptionally disappointing return. $53 million in 2011 dollars, inflated by 3-D ticket prices.

And next weekend: Cars 2 opens.

Adding insult to injury is today's Vanity Fair interview with Mr. Smigel, in which he discusses some of what Warner Bros might have had, if only they hadn't listened to the fanboys.
I know that when the idea was pitched to me to do a comedy about Green Lantern I did a quick review of the specifics of Green Lantern. And I thought, Well, of course this could be a comedy. Basically just the premise that the wrong guy gets the ring and can do all kinds of goofy visual jokes—because the visuals are so potentially ridiculous. What appealed to me about it on a comedic level was that, in order to be a superhero, this requires no physical skill or talent. All it requires is owning this ring. Automatically, that’s a comedic premise.
Mr. Smigel's lantern would have been a reality show contestant who is chosen by the Green Lantern power ring when he sees him eating a raw coyote head on "Fear Factor".

That is funny. That sounds interesting. It has a great deal of potential. It's not just another superhero movie.

More from Mr. Smigel:
One thing that I liked was that he has this girl he wants to impress. He’s flying around looking for any kind of danger and there’s nothing. He sees a guy on a scaffold and knocks the guy off the scaffold and then flies in to save him right outside the window where this girl works. He saves the guy, everyone is cheering, but they’re confused because he flies away with the guy so he can fly right in front of the window of the girl.
Again, that is funny. That is a movie I might want to see.

What they got? What they got is a movie that very few want to see. Warner Bros has appealed to the fanboys. They got just over $50 million for the weekend. How much more are they going to get?

The fanboys wanted Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern. So that's what they got.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

DC Universe: R.I.P. (Reboot in Perpetuity)

Via Screen Rant, DC comics is going to begin renumbering all -- or, at least, 52 (I don't know how many comics they publish now) -- of their comic books, in an attempt to "reboot" their entire "universe."
On Wednesday, August 31st, DC Comics will launch a historic renumbering of the entire DC Universe line of comic books with 52 first issues, including the release of JUSTICE LEAGUE by NEW YORK TIMES bestselling writer and DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and bestselling artist and DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee. The publication of JUSTICE LEAGUE issue 1 will launch day-and-date digital publishing for all these ongoing titles, making DC Comics the first of the two major American publishers to release all of its superhero comic book titles digitally the same day as in print.

DC Comics will only publish two comic books on August 31st: the final issue of this summer’s comic book mini-series FLASHPOINT and the first issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE by Johns and Lee, two of the most distinguished and popular contemporary comic book creators, who will be collaborating for the first time. Together they will offer a contemporary take on the origin of the comic book industry’s premier superhero team.
Comics have become more and more isolated and rarefied as discriminating consumers turn their attention to other media. As comics sales have steadily declined, the major comics companies have become more and more desperate to appeal to a larger percentage of a smaller pool of readers. This has meant creating endless, repetitive "event" comics which feature one core mini-series, and then several crossovers or subsidiary mini series.

For instance, the DC press release notes that on August 31st, the final issue of "Flashpoint" will be published. "Flashpoint" is one of those endless crossover "event"comics. The series covers at least 47 issues.

There's the "Flashpoint" series itself, which runs 5 issues. Then, there are 14 other three-issue miniseries around it, like "Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown," and "Flashpoint: Wonder Woman and the Furies." (Aside: Warner Bros/DC takes its intellectual property very seriously. I wonder how the creators of Frankenstein and the Furies feel about their characters being dragged into DC's crossover spectacular?) Before that there was "Brightest Day," a twice-monthly 25 issue comics series which crossed over into at least 11 other titles (officially-- there were at least eight other titles unofficially involved). From June 2009 - May 2010, there was "Blackest Night," which, like "Flashpoint," had several three-issue miniseries tie-ins with the primary mini series. (This storyline, by the way, centered around dead characters being revived, which is another staple of the big comics publishers -- nobody can stay dead.)

DC's had many more of these "event" comics, some of which I will get to shortly. For now I am tired and depressed.

One of the primary masterminds behind all of these extended marketing gimmicks I mean event comics is "NEW YORK TIMES bestselling writer and DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns," who is writing the new "Justice League" title. In an interview with USA Today, he said,
Johns promises a focus on the interpersonal relationships within DC's trademark superteam. "What's the human aspect behind all these costumes? That's what I wanted to explore," he says.
He wants to "explore" the "human aspect" of Warner Bros/DC's merchandising. This after "Flashpoint," after "Brightest Day," after "Blackest Night," after "52," after etc etc.

Hey you -- you, the guy over there, the one standing in line to buy a ticket to the new "Green Lantern" movie: Are you more likely to buy comics now that they're going to start exploring the human aspect of the relationship between Aquaman and Wonder Woman?

In another USA Today article, DC co-publisher Dan DiDio offers a slightly more cynical take:
"If we can convince the people here we're doing something brand-new and fresh, we have a good chance to really get the people outside on board," DiDio says.
Yes, if you can trick people into thinking that this particular reboot will be the brand-new, fresh reboot, then maybe you'll be able to expand your audience beyond a few thousand die-hard fanboys who will buy anything. I give Mr. DiDio credit for his candor.

The cover image for Justice League number one does not inspire confidence.





They say a picture is worth a thousand critical insights into why an entire industry is failing, and boy oh boy is that ever true with this image. Look at that. They released this picture because they thought it looked cool. They really thought this image would motivate and excite people to buy this book! How clueless are these people? Here's the man who drew that image, quoted in the USA Today article:
"You're trying to have your cake and eat it, too," [artist Jim] Lee says. "You're trying to keep the iconic elements there, but at the same time freshen up the look so that people are intrigued by what they're seeing and hopefully come and sample the wares."
I suppose I'm intrigued enough to ask some questions. Such as, Where are all of those superheroes supposed to be coming from? Were they all crouched on the floor together, and then all at once decided to leap into the air? Why is Batman about to trip over Cyborg? Why is the Flash running at super speed, but still only a few feet ahead of them? Why is Wonder Woman swinging her lasso around-- how are those other guys avoiding tripping on it? Why isn't Aquaman in the water? Why is Aquaman even there at all? I was under the impression that he was considered a joke.

Speaking of jokes, and this is something I've always wondered: Why is it that Green Lantern can be a member of the colonial occupation force called the Green Lantern Corps and a member of the Justice League? And, really, did Green Lantern have to use his "power ring" to create a giant gun that is positioned in roughly his crotch area?

Is there anyone in the world who looked at this image and didn't say, "Oh for crying out loud not again"?

Whenever comics publishers run out of ideas -- and they run out of ideas a lot, it seems -- they "reboot." Justice League originally began publishing in 1960, then was rebooted in 1987, 1997, and 2006. You can see the pattern there -- the space between reboots has steadily declined.

Green Lantern, the guy with the gun coming out of his crotch in the image above, and the object of a new movie opening on Friday, was himself a re-boot. The original "Golden Age" Green Lantern appeared in 1940. An editor at DC named Julius Schwartz took the "Green Lantern" name and created a new version, with a new identity and origin. He did the same thing other characters, such as the Flash and the Atom. This was done in the mid- to late-1950s.

Even this "rebooting the whole DC Universe" idea isn't new. DC did it or tried to do it 1985, with a mini series called "Crisis on Infinite Earths." The earths were "infinite" because any time a story appeared that contradicted something that had happened in a previous issue, they'd claim it had occurred on a different earth, in another dimension. So DC published a mini series to join all the earths together, and move everything onto one earth.

Well, there were problems. It's not really important to go into them, although hardcore comics fans love that kind of stuff. Anyway, to address those problems I have too much self-respect to go into in any detail, DC ran a series in 1994 called "Zero Hour: Crisis in Time." That didn't really take care of things, so they did "Infinite Crisis." That was basically just an excuse to say "eff you" to the heirs of Superboy's creator, who had won a lawsuit against DC giving them the character's copyright-- I've written about that here. Then there was "Final Crisis" and oh who really cares just somebody make it stop.

Back when the comic book was born, it was primarily a vehicle for publishing reprints of newspaper comic strips. The comic strips of the 1930s and 1940s were much different than those we think of today. Their subject matter was much more varied. Comic strips took up much more print space, and they weren't relegated to a "comics page;" they appeared throughout the paper. (Sunday editions of comic strips took up entire tabloid-sized pages, and featured stunning artwork and admirable craftsmanship from illustrators like Alex Raymond and Hal Foster.)

These comic strip reprint editions became so popular that publishers started to buy original content. For the first few years, it was primarily humorous stuff, but then publishers started to run adventure and crime strips, and then stories about men in skin-tight uniforms (it's kinda hard to draw clothes) and capes (better to express the movement of the characters). Superheroes took over and, except for about a decade after WW2, they have pretty much dominated comics ever since.

Those original stories were considered ephemera. Because of oddball postal restrictions, the stories were generally 8-12 pages in length, and featured different characters. No attention was paid to continuity -- the stories were self-contained, and self-contradictory. The thinking was that the stories were aimed at kids, and kids are pretty dumb; or, at least that the kids who read the comics might do something other than just read comics. Like, for instance, go outside and play, and shoot peas from slingshots, smoke cigarettes and play stickball. There was no concept of "back issues," so nobody expected readers to go back and say, "Hey in issue number 14 you said The Weenus couldn't fly but in issue 25 he's flying that ain't right I want a No-Prize!"

Today, it is nothing but going back and puzzling over what happened 25 issues before. Comics readers spend maddening hours discussing minute continuity details. This level of engagement has had two effects, as I've already said: The first is to drive casual readers away, and the second is to harden the resolve of those few fans who have remained. The creators have responded by plundering 70+ years worth of history to rehash the same stories over and over again. A few might throw in some PoMo commentary and deconstruction to try to spice things up, but the situations remain the same. They have remained mostly the same since 1938, when Superman made his first appearance in Action Comics #1.

They've had more than 60 years to get this formula down. Look at that image above, of the upcoming Justice League, to see what's been learned in those 60+ years.

Back to USA Today:
"It's part of our jobs to make sure that these characters stay dynamic and relevant," [Jim] Lee says. "And that's what drove us on a creative level to make these kinds of changes."
Changes? Really?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bill Gates: Please don't allow your children to take jobs away from those who really need them

A couple of days ago, the Daily Mail published what it modestly headlined A rare and remarkable interview with the world's second richest man, in which we learn that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates's children tease him by singing that "Billionaire" song to him, he's friends with the leader singer of the rock and roll band called U2 (sorry, I forgot his name already), his kids don't get iPods because he doesn't like Apple stuff (I guess that's how people can tell him apart from me), and that he's "given away" about $28 billion.

Also, there's this:
He won’t specify what they [his three children] will get, but the reports that they’ll receive ‘only’ $10 million each can’t be far off, because he concedes, ‘It will be a minuscule portion of my wealth. It will mean they have to find their own way.

'They will be given an unbelievable education and that will all be paid for. And certainly anything related to health issues we will take care of. But in terms of their income, they will have to pick a job they like and go to work. They are normal kids now. They do chores, they get pocket money.’
There aren't a lot of jobs out there right now. If an employer -- any employer -- has one available, and he has two applicants, one being the son of Joe Schmoe, the Nobody, and the other being the son of Bill Gates, the guy who created all that computer stuff and the second richest person in the world, who do you think that employer is going to hire?

When you don't give your kids all the billions of dollars they'll need to live in the manner to which they've become accustomed, they're going to have to find jobs. Please don't force the rest of the world to compete with them. You might think you're doing "the right thing" for them, that you're helping them build character and etc, but it's unfair to everyone else. No matter what advantages you give or refuse to give them, they're still your offspring.

Please, take them out of circulation so that the rest of our children don't have to compete with them for jobs. They don't need those jobs. Ours do. If you weren't so damned selfish you'd see that.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Classic comic strip panel of the day: My pussy-visaged friend!

Mandrake the Magician, Lee Falk's and Phil Davis's classic comic strip character, is considered by many to be the first "superhero" to appear in the comics. He could either hypnotize people into believing he had magic powers, or he actually had magic powers; sometimes it was difficult to tell.

One thing that is totally certain about Mandrake: He had a flair for the dramatic, and a way with words, as evidenced by this panel from June 14, 1938:


"Pussy Visage" happens to be a great supervillain name -- or, if you prefer, "Pussy Face."

"Pussy Visagé" would be a nice drag name.

Context improves the panel only slightly: A young woman will inherit a large sum of money if she can remain in an old house for 30 days. The house is allegedly haunted. Some people don't want her to inherit the money, so they have taken to trying to scare her. One of the means employed to scare this young woman was to don a cat mask and leap out of corners, or something.

After Mandrake catches Pussy Visage, he reveals the motivations behind his seemingly nefarious deeds:


Bonus, perhaps somewhat related, the latest musical viral video that is sweeping the internets:



"I don't wanna be a crappy housewife" / "I don't wanna be a gigolo" -- the more things change... am I right?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Who needs to see "Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)" when you can just read the British Board of Film Classification's press release about it?

I missed the 2010 film "Human Centipede: First Sequence," although I certainly meant to catch it. The story of a mad surgeon who surgically grafts three people together, mouth-to-anus, really hit my sweet spot in terms of cinematic interest: It features a mad surgeon, and, um, mouth-to-anus grafting. I did catch the "South Park" parody "Human CentiPad," which was probably enough for me.

The sequel, "Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)" is to be released later this year -- but not, apparently, in England.
The Human Centipede, a 2010 horror film in which a scientist stitches kidnap victims together, was proudly touted as "the most horrific film ever made".

But its Dutch director, Tom Six, may have gone too far in the follow-up, because the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has denied The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) an 18 certificate for fears it poses a "real risk" to cinemagoers.

The BBFC refusal means it cannot be legally supplied anywhere in the UK – even on DVD or download.
First of all, if you think the idea of a secret cabal reviewing and deciding what art should be exhibited in a country is un-American, well, you're right. But this is England we're talking about and, to paraphrase Morrissey, "England is not America."

England doesn't have a First Amendment, which means, I guess, that they get to have a board that reviews movies and decides what can and can't be shown. We used to have such censorship boards here in America. Also, the movie industry itself established the Hays Commission, out of fear that federal lawmakers would come after them because of their racy content. It was as if everybody, most especially those in the film industry, forgot that America has a First Amendment.

For awhile, it was like America was England! Then, we grew out of it. Kind of.

Anyway, back to England, and HC(FS). The British Board of Film Classification put out a press release explaining why they have decided to protect the delicate stiff upper lipped sensibilities of the citizens it rules by disallowing the film to be unleashed upon that nation of rubbish bin cat ladies. Said release is both hilarious and sad, much like I imagine the "Human Centipede" sequel to be.
The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) is a sequel to the film The Human Centipede (First Sequence), which was classified ‘18’ uncut for cinema and DVD release by the BBFC in 2010. The first film dealt with a mad doctor who sews together three kidnapped people in order to produce the ‘human centipede’of the title. Although the concept of the film was undoubtedly tasteless and disgusting it was a relatively traditional and conventional horror film and the Board concluded that it was not in breach of our Guidelines at ‘18’. This new work, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence), tells the story of a man who becomes sexually obsessed with a DVD recording of the first film and who imagines putting the ‘centipede’ idea into practice. Unlike the first film, the sequel presents graphic images of sexual violence, forced defecation, and mutilation, and the viewer is invited to witness events from the perspective of the protagonist.
Believe it or not, this press release from the British Board of Film Classification goes into even greater detail about the depraved doings of the protagonist of this film. I am talking nauseating detail. Hilarious detail. I-can't-believe-they-actually-put-that-stuff-in-a-press-release detail. Detail that makes you want to actually watch this movie, at least a little of it, to see if even half of what the BBFC claims is in the movie, is actually in the movie.

If you've a strong stomach and a taste for the morbid, I suggest clicking the link above and reading the dry details of the press release. I can't stress this enough: It's high-larious.

Wikipedia says that the rulings of the BBFC are nonbinding, and,
Legally, local authorities have the power to decide under what circumstances films are shown in cinemas, but they nearly always choose to follow the advice of the BBFC.
That is nice. However, back to the BBFC's press release:
David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said:
...
“The Board also seeks to avoid classifying material that may be in breach of the Obscene Publications Acts 1959 and 1964 (OPA) or any other relevant legislation. The OPA prohibits the publication of works that have a tendency to deprave or corrupt a significant proportion of those likely to see them. In order to avoid classifying potentially obscene material, the Board engages in regular discussions with the relevant enforcement agencies, including the CPS, the police, and the Ministry of Justice. It is the Board’s view that there is a genuine risk that this video work, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence), may be considered obscene within the terms of the OPA, for the reasons given above.
In England they have laws against publishing material with a "tendency to deprave or corrupt a significant portion of those likely to see them." Ouch! Who decides on that, and how is that decided? That's pretty broad. Some enterprising censors could argue that, over time, all horror films "deprave and corrupt" those who watch them. After all, the stuff that's in horror movies now is much more graphic than what they used to put in the films when I was a kid!

Anyway, England: Too bad. I shall think of you when I am walking past one of the thousands of theaters here in America that will inevitably screen "Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)." I will think of you, and shed a tear.



The Human Centipede 2 teaser trailer. Is this, also, banned in England?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Anthony Weiner is a lying liar

Now, the representative from New York, Anthony Weiner, is admitting that he wasn't hacked or pranked, as he put it, but he did actually take those photos of himself and send them to at least six women -- most of whom weren't even in his district.
After days of denials, a choked-up Rep. Anthony Weiner confessed Monday that he tweeted a photo of his bulging underpants to a young woman, and he also admitted to "inappropriate" exchanges with six women before and after he got married. He apologized for lying but said he would not resign.

"This was me doing a dumb thing and doing it repeatedly and lying about it," the 46-year-old New York Democrat said after a week of double-entendre headlines and late-night wisecracks full of Weiner jokes.
Those are the first two paragraphs of the AP's take on the story. You will note that the AP writer mentions that the story has inspired "Weiner jokes." In this same paragraph, the writer mentions that Mr. Weiner has admitted to "lying" about "doing a dumb thing...repeatedly."

Mr. Weiner has not only been lying about this ridiculous story for over a week (!), he's been downright hostile and indignant about it. Look at these videos:






And now, back to today's press conference, as quoted by AP:
"I haven't told the truth and have done things I deeply regret," he said. "I brought pain to people I care about."

And here are the first two paragraphs of the AFP's take:
A US congressman long ridiculed for sharing the same name as a slang word for penis tearfully admitted Monday to sending pictures of his privates to young female fans online.

Anthony Weiner -- whose surname is pronounced the same as sausages used in hotdogs that are synonymous with the male sexual organ -- called a nationally televised press conference to admit he had been in a string of lewd online relationships.
This under the headline,
Tearful US congressman admits to crotch photos
Oh, he's just so regretful! You can tell because of all the tears!

Both the AP and the AFP, for some reason, have decided to downplay the fact that a sitting congressman has been combative and belligerent in his phony sanctimony, all the while lying about something that is so profoundly stupid as to be almost insignificant. This story, they are suggesting, was pushed by a prurient interest in making "Weiner jokes."

This is astonishing. This guy cannot be trusted with anything. He is a lying liar who has been lying for over a week about this. Not only lying, but copping a hostile, holier-than-thou attitude about it. I can't believe I have to even dignify these allegations with a response!

I have defended Mr. Weiner. I think the sending of photos of one's genitals is a wonderful expression of love and trust. But lying is just-- lying is just lying. Lying is wrong.

Life is so much easier if you only do things you don't have to lie about later.

The origin of the Greenback Lantern

In anticipation of the upcoming "Green Lantern" film, I created a little comic that will save you the money, trouble, and time of actually going to see it. Here is the cover image:


You can read the story here, if you like.

Related:

Green Lantern is lame.

The Superman copyfight race.

RottenTomatoBot battles the film critics who gave negative reviews to the movie "Kick Ass."

Friday, June 3, 2011

Anthony Weiner and the angst of the modern man: When engaging in time-honored courtship rituals leads to scorn

I have a new piece up at When Falls the Coliseum, this one about the Anthony Weiner story. The first bits:
The sending of photos of one's genitalia to the object of your affection is a beautiful expression of love, desire, and trust. By exposing yourself, you are opening yourself completely to another person. There is nothing so gratifying. There is nothing so perilous. "Here I am, in all my glory," you are saying. "Accept me, please."

It takes strength, courage, and genuine affection to express yourself so forthrightly.

Sadly, in our post modern, cynical society, any display of open-hearted and sincere devotion is perceived as weakness. It is something to be attacked, not celebrated. Despised, not praised. One need look no further than the tragic case of the American-style footballing quarterbacker, Brett Favre, and the seemingly beautiful Jenn Sterger, for a prime example of what can happen to a man who makes this romantic gesture.

The man who sends photos of his genitalia to a prospective romantic partner is engaging in a time-honored courtship ritual. Throughout history, man has sought to distinguish himself from other suitors by revelatory bravura. It is as much a part of our evolution as the opposable thumb, or the uvula.

The entire thing can be read here.

A little bonus: Mr. Weiner's belligerent, evasive, awkward press conference -- complete with terrible and irrelevant metaphor!



"I was giving a speech to... 45,000 people... and someone in the back of the room threw a pie, or yelled out an insult... would I spend the next two hours responding to that? No. I would get back-- I would get back-- I would get back--"

And an interview:



"Hacked or pranked-- whatever you want to call it..."

Hm. What should we call it?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Grand Rapids Michigan wastes a lot of time and money proving its irrelevance

Yahoo! has a story about a video produced by some people in Grand Rapids, Michigan -- apparently to show they're still relevant.



The video's YouTube page has the following statement from the director:
"The Grand Rapids LipDub Video was filmed May 22nd, with 5,000 people, and involved a major shutdown of downtown Grand Rapids, which was filled with marching bands, parades, weddings, motorcades, bridges on fire, and helicopter take offs. It is the largest and longest LipDub video, to date.

This video was created as an official response to the Newsweek article calling Grand Rapids a "dying city." We disagreed strongly, and wanted to create a video that encompasses the passion and energy we all feel is growing exponentially, in this great city. We felt Don McLean's "American Pie," a song about death, was in the end, triumphant and filled to the brim with life and hope." - Rob Bliss, Director & Executive Producer

*Note: The "NEW WORLD RECORD" designation refers to size and scope, not duration.
So you read something about your city "dying," and your response is to waste a lot of time and money putting together an embarrassing "LipDub" video showing moving their lips along to one of the most tedious, meandering, pretentious songs of all time?

It could have been worse -- they could have chosen Richard Harris's "MacArthur Park." Actually, the Donna Summer version of that song is kind of fun. But then everything Donna Summer ever did is touched by at least some greatness.

Anyway, congratulations, I guess, to Grand Rapids, Michigan, on your "NEW WORLD RECORD." You've shown exactly why your city is dying.

Yahoo has a link to the list of "America's Dying Cities." The reason why they say the city is dying is population decline:
Total Population (2009): 193,710
Proportion Under 18 (2009): 24.8%
Change in Total Population (2000-2009): -2.1%
Change in Residents Under 18 (2000-2009): -2.2 percentage points
So this list actually measures population decline, not whether or not the city is "dying?" They also mention:
Michigan dominates much of this list, with several cities experiencing significant declines in population as the state suffered high unemployment rates and above average foreclosures in recent years due mainly to the collapse of the auto industry.
But the list doesn't have any hard statistics on Grand Rapids' unemployment and foreclosure rates?

The introduction to the list offers a bit more information:
In several dozen cities nationwide, the population actually declined significantly as residents presumably began to flee the region’s toxic financial atmosphere, or perhaps in some cases, even held off on having kids due to a lack of resources.

We used the most recent data from the Census Bureau on every metropolitan area with a population exceeding 100,000 to find the 30 cities that suffered the steepest population decline between 2000 and 2009. Then, in an attempt to look ahead toward the future of these regions, we analyzed demographic changes to find which ones experienced the biggest drop in the number of residents under 18. In this way, we can see which cities may have an even greater population decline ahead due to a shrinking population of young people.

For the record, the piece appeared originally, at a place called Mainstreet.com. They have posted a response to the pointless "American Pie" video:
After the story was published on our site (and later posted on Newsweek.com, with which we had a content-sharing partnership), several residents began a campaign to show that the city was anything but “dying.”

Multiple Facebook groups launched with titles like “Grand Rapids Michigan Is Alive & Kickin,” and residents including the city’s mayor fought back against the claim in their local papers. Now, several months later, the people of Grand Rapids have turned to YouTube to highlight the city’s vitality.

In the video above, dozens if not hundreds of the city’s residents march through the streets lip-syncing the words to Don McLean’s “American Pie,” with its fitting chorus of “this will be the day that I die.” It’s a remarkable video that truly shows off the sense of community and pride of Grand Rapids residents and we at MainStreet were genuinely moved by it.
It is a remarkable video.

It completely reinforces why it is that Grand Rapids is dying, per the criteria used by Mainstreet.com to measure it. The population is declining, and aging. So the people chose to dust off a song from 1971 to show just how their "passion" and "energy" are growing in Grand Rapids.

You will note that the statement says nothing about the population growing.

They closed downtown for this. They raised $40,000 for this. This does not inspire confidence. When the city of Grand Rapids feels slighted, the residents get together and do something about it. They do something that does nothing to address the appalling problems they have. They don't look at why it is that people are leaving their city. They don't examine the ways they could make their city more appealing so that people look upon it as a place to raise their children -- a city with a hopeful future. This is a city that looks to the past, to a terrible, boring, overwrought and pretentious song about Buddy Holly's plane crashing in 1959.

That's likely true of most of America. We "accomplish" things that do absolutely nothing of value and don't address the actual problems we all face. (You can insert whatever "actual problems" you like.)

But none of that is really what motivated me to write this blog post. If the city of Grand Rapids wants to publicly embarrass itself, that's its business. I wouldn't care at all were it not for the fact that, via yahoo, we learn that occasional film "critic" Roger Ebert has called this tedious, annoying little exercise in futility "The greatest music video ever made."

Really? It's better than this?:



Our troops in the Middle East, whose patriotism and courage, and their desire to "serve their country," are being exploited by cynical politicians who want to look "strong," and "stay the course" (remember when our current president was still just a nominee, and he was going to bring the troops home?) have real reason to be offended by their mistreatment. The juxtaposition of the frivolous, disposable Lady Gaga song against this frustrating and dangerous backdrop worked in a way that shames the self-righteousness of Grand Rapids' Michigan's waste of time and money.

It is the far greater achievement, and was created for far less than $40,000, which should have been spent on something else. They could have sent care packages to soldiers who are fighting in the Middle East, for instance.

Also better than the Grand Rapids Michigan video:



Amy Winehouse is creepy enough. La Pequeña Amy Winehouse amplifies that creepiness while making us question our own interest in this mildly talented self-destructive woman. It indicts any of us who has ever read a gossip blog, and questions our collective fascination with the idea of celebrity.

Also better than the Grand Rapids Michigan video:



There has never been a bolder statement about popular culture in general, popular music in particular. The acme of prefabricated, soulless autotune.

I could go on, but you get my point. A video created to show how vibrant and alive a city is does just the opposite. It shows shamelessness and thoughtlessness. The fact that it is full of hundreds of people, all of whom should have known better -- any one of whom could have stood up and said, "Is this the best use of our limited resources? Is this the best use of our time?" makes it all the more painful (full disclosure: I couldn't watch all of it).

But, congratulations on your great "achievement," Grand Rapids. In one ten-minute video you've shown the world exactly what's wrong with you -- with all of us. A complete lack of desire to face reality.