Tag: tv

Day 874: Browsing The Naughty Bits Of Reddit

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I’m going to let you, my loyal readers, in on a secret. My weapon of choice with which I take aim at any number of strange stories, from murderous ice cream vendors to toilet gods, is Reddit. If you’re unfamiliar with the social news site, let me fill you in on how it works.

Reddit is split into roughly a gazillion communities, known as subreddits. When you join (which is free), you subscribe to the ones that interest you. For example, r/funny is where you’ll find everything from church sign typos to pugs dressed like the Blues Brothers. r/foodporn features exquisite shots of steaks and BBQ shrimp skewers and whatever else will make you regret eating Hellman’s mayonnaise with a spoon for supper. There are also subreddits for all types of fandom, from the Beatles to classic films to the TV show Community (not the happiest subreddit right now, trust me).

And naturally there are boobies. While I restrict my redditing to perusing my front page, which I have customized to my own wonky obsessions, and the r/Wikipedia subreddit, which is filled with a bevy of interesting and obscure topics like the ones I cited above, there are communities for all sorts of fetishes and quirks. And like any landscape in which freedom of speech is the guiding tenet, sometimes things go too far.

Jailbait-1

I’m offering this photo of an elephant driving a car because searching for images to represent r/jailbait will get me fired from my day job.

Reddit is comprised of a notoriously small staff. Volunteer moderators police a number of the forums, ensuring that posts in r/Modern_Family don’t feature online Ponzi schemes or links to bestiality. Also, the general public can upvote the best or most interesting posts, while downvoting the stuff they don’t like, resulting in a democratic front page of generally high-quality posts. The site’s administrators originally had no intention of hosting pornographic material. They didn’t want the hassle. Read more…

Day 844: The Girl With The X-Ray Eyes

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I think I would have made a good superhero. I get along well with sidekicks, I’m mostly incorruptible, and I’d probably look pretty smokin’ in a cowl. But alas, I have fallen into zero vats of radiation, been struck by no meteors, and if I saw a radioactive spider I’d probably blast it with a flame-thrower before I’d let it bite me. I’m destined to be a powerless schlub, I suppose.

But that’s okay – superheroes are but the stuff of fiction, right?

Well, maybe. That all depends on how much disbelief you’re willing to suspend when it comes to Natasha Demkina, the twenty-something lady from Russia who claims to possess the power of X-Ray vision.

To be clear, this is not some floozy with a Superman fetish, nor is she an impassioned collector of 1950’s mail-away cereal-box kitsch. Natasha truly believes she has this ability, and a number of people sporting a cavalcade of letters after their names have lined up to check her out.

And not just because she looks like this, you filthy-minded mongrel.

And not just because she looks like this, you filthy-minded mongrel.

According to her mother, a lady whose intentions hopefully drift nowhere near the realm of exploiting her daughter, Natasha began exhibiting this bizarre skill when she was around ten years old. To be clear, we aren’t talking about peering through plaster and brick into the next room, nor is she able to identify a playing card by looking at its back. Natasha’s X-Ray vision is just that – the ability to see into someone’s body, X-ray-style, to diagnose what’s wrong with them. Read more…

Day 834: The Dark Knight Redux

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When Hollywood scores a hit, we all know they will run it as far into the ground as possible, often forgoing quality and integrity somewhere within the planet’s crust and plunging deep into the molten core with a hot and hungry grab for easy audience bucks. The current crop of superhero / comic book flicks have been fairly consistent, with few features splatting upon the pavement of suckiness, at least since the era of Daredevil and Spider-Man 3. But it’s probably just a matter of time.

The problem as I see it is that we have just as many superhero / comic movies in various stages of production as we have seen released in the last couple of years. Studios have plunged their hands elbow-deep into the sticky pie of superherodom, and if a run of crappy returns happens to tilt the public’s interest away from the genre, they’re going to be in trouble.

We saw five years between Tobey Maguire’s final Spider-Man film and Andrew Garfield’s reboot. Now we’ve got Ben Affleck re-introducing us to Batman (not to mention a new Smallville-like origin story TV series on the way), and the lights on the set of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy are still warm. These movies are still money-printing magic and no one wants to let a valuable property sit still. But Batman movies have not always been a sure thing – and no, I’m not talking about Joel Schumacher’s unfortunate smiting of the Tim Burton reboot.

I’m talking about Batman Dracula.

BatmanDracula

In 1964, two years before Adam West donned the menacing cowl and did the Batusi on television, Andy Warhol concocted his own film about the caped crusader. Warhol’s Batman was apparently a true forerunner of the series’ campy approach. Not a lot is known about the film’s content, and it was actually considered a lost film until quite recently. Warhol didn’t have the permission of DC Comics to use the character; he was simply a fan and he thought it would make a fun film. A search online revealed only a few small clips, none of which appear to follow a linear, sensical plot. Most of what I found consists of artsy double-exposed film accompanied by some Velvet Underground music. It’s not particularly good. Read more…

Day 825: Meet The New You

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This might sound stupid – and I realize now as I plot out the journey of the remainder of this sentence that it does indeed sound fundamentally stupid down to the core of its clanging consonants – but I’ve always perceived a palpable thrill attached to the concept of the witness protection program. Forget the fact that you might always be looking over your shoulder, or that nine out of ten times you’re probably a criminal testifying against a more important criminal before you get to join the program – it’s a slate-wiping, sin-scratching, skin-shedding fresh start. Who wouldn’t want that?

Okay, I’m glamorizing a societal necessity, supported by a culture of violence and murder. TV and movies have taught me that witness protection serves either as a plot point to disguise a character’s shady past or as the eventual salvation for the antihero we’ve been cheering for. This is the problem with being raised by TV – its stories tend to omit a number of details and all of the paperwork.

Not every country has a witness relocation program in place. For many it’s a matter of protection as a case warrants it, with the police usually clearing out once the testimony is complete. But sometimes a relocation, a new identity and a new life become the end-result of a witness’s gutsy testimony. That’s where the real story begins.

KKKAct

The first instance of witness protection popped up as part of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871. During the post-Civil War period, when many southerners were aghast at the unconscionable decree by “the man” that no longer allowed them the God-given right to own people, the KKK was particularly active. Part of the Act included government protection for anyone who was willing to testify against Klan members, who had a habit of being a tetch on the violent side when it came to their enemies. Read more…

Day 824: Lights… Camera… Stink!

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Imagine if you will the scent of Scent Of A Woman. The stink of Mel Brooks’ Life Stinks. The sweet smell of The Sweet Smell of Success. With so many leaps in the technologies of CGI to improve a film’s look and the constant reinvention of pristine Dolby sound, it feels as though our other senses are being neglected. Movie theatres are offering pre-assigned seating, full bar service and popping Sam Worthington’s face off the screen in terrifying 3D, but why the hell can’t I smell his sweat?

A couple days ago I wrote about an April Fools’ prank in which the BBC convinced viewers they’d be introducing new technology that would allow their TV audience to experience the smells of their favorite programs without having to purchase any additional equipment. The mental image of millions of curious viewers pressing their shnozzes up against their TV tubes still tickles my giggle-muscle.

But I was inadvertently gobsmacked by the extensive available information on legitimate attempts to incorporate the olfactory into the public cinematic experience. Perhaps it’s time for Smell-O-Vision to make a resurgence; they’re trying to lure us away from our torrents and our Video-on-Demand by encouraging us to sit among the chatty teens and cell-phone-happy nudniks for $15 a pop in the theater; why not give us the visceral experience of finding out what Kevin James really smells like?

Surprisingly, he smells a little like old crackers.

Surprisingly, he smells a little like old crackers.

As I learned a few days ago, Samuel Roxy Rothafel, the brains behind Radio City Music Hall, first tried to engage the sense of smell in his Forest City, Pennsylvania theater in 1906. The story goes that he had a pile of cotton wool that had been soaked in rose oil placed in front of an electric fan, titillating the nostrils of his patrons while they watched the Tournament of Roses Parade. This was two decades before the movies had figured out how to fuse themselves with sound – Rothafel was jumping the curve with this. Read more…

Day 823: Trolling The Trough-Crusties – Worst TV Part 7

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Posting a list of bests and greatests opens the door to debate, dissent, and the occasional inter-cubicle pelting of office supplies. Posting a list of worsts never seems to stoke the same ire. I have offered a tankard of derision for the insipidly successful sitcom According To Jim throughout my 823-day journey and have yet to hear one person defend the show’s quality. I appreciate my audience’s congruity. Perhaps it’s a rare thing for someone’s “worst” to be another someone’s favorite.

Even the shows I can’t stand today – and I make no apologies to fans of Two And A Half Men or The Big Bang Theory – I would hardly consider them to be among the absolute worst fare in the medium’s history. Just as I’m certain those folks who abhor shows I enjoy, like The League or It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, would likely not plunk them at the bottom of the proverbial barrel.

Sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves just how low art can sink, which is why once every month or so I like to pick apart the worsts of things – most often television because she was my third parent and we still keep very much in touch. Just as we eventually grow to learn that our actual parents are flawed and imperfect, we must also acknowledge the defects in TV’s past, the moments we all wish she could take back.

And these are just the sitcoms.

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Concocting satire surrounding one of the worst genocides of the past century is a painfully delicate operation. The British nailed it in the 80’s with ‘Allo ‘Allo! and the Americans found a winner years earlier in Hogan’s Heroes. But check out this pitch for Heil Honey, I’m Home:

“It’s a parody of the cutesy family sitcoms of the 50’s and 60’s. We’ve got Adolph Hitler and Eva Braun living in an apartment building, and their next-door neighbors are… wait for it… Arny and Rosa Goldenstein, a Jewish couple! Oh, the hijinks! Oh, the hilarity!” Read more…

Day 822: Pitying The Fools

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My wife hates April Fools’ Day.

She has a legitimate reason, stemming from the scar-worthy childhood trauma of watching one of her friends get April-Fooled into a lengthy scavenger hunt for a brand new puppy by his parents, only to discover the final prize was nothing but a prank. Were she not the empathetic soul I know her to be, I might assume this to be an elaborate act of transference on her memory’s part, that this may have happened to her; thankfully my in-laws aren’t quite so cruel.

I have always maintained an appreciation for a meticulously blueprinted ruse, provided the only perpetrated harm is the gloppy egg of embarrassment upon the face of one’s target. Every few years some news outlet or public pulpit successfully melds a crafty sense of humor with their automatic public earpiece and delivers a delicious morsel of weirdness to justify April Fools’ Day’s presence on our calendars.

A quality media prank is a rickety bridge above the chasm of banality and/or outright stupidity. One needs to find the threshold of credulity and glide one’s words upon it without causing a rupture in believability. We see this every so often when an article from The Onion or The Daily Currant makes its way as gospel into people’s Facebook feeds. When executed poorly, it’s a bad joke. When done right, it’s art.

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That Swiss lady plucking fresh pasta from her spaghetti tree was the talk of the British water coolers on the morning of April 2, 1957, after the BBC had run a story about the popular agricultural phenomenon the night before. The show was Panorama, a current-affairs, 60 Minutes-style show that’s still on the air today, and the gag was delivered without punchline. The segment focussed on a family in Ticino, northern Switzerland, as they reaped the bounty of a hearty winter spaghetti harvest, having defeated the nasty spaghetti weevil. Read more…

Day 797: ‘Twas A Good Time For The Great Taste

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I read a story last week – an actual news story, written and published by actual news people who weren’t pranking their employers – that our world is entering into an actual clown shortage. There are people (mostly people who run clown schools, I imagine) who are worried about this. Perhaps this is predictable fall-out from an age entranced by online distractions and hand-held toys that ooze a non-stop viscous goo of entertainment and fun. Maybe Stephen King is to blame for sticking a clown in the fictional sewers and frightening a generation of readers.

Maybe, like disco dancing and earthquake movies, clowns are merely part of an entertainment cycle that swells and wanes with the syncopated breath of a culture. My daughter was creeped out by clowns, as were many of her young friends. Gone are the days when Clarabell, Bozo, and Flunkie the Clown would tickle funny bones on TV. There’s no street-cred in clowning anymore.

But we’ve still got Ronald. Oh Ronald, that trans-fat-peddling scamp who was born in McDonaldland and has a permanent address in our hearts (probably near the blockage). He still pops up to remind kids that healthy food isn’t as much fun as McNuggets, even though his cronies have mostly been driven into advertising obscurity. Perhaps that’s for the best.

FirstRonald

This photo pops up in various Buzzfeed retro-galleries – it’s the first incarnation of Ronald McDonald, prior to the crafted look that presently echoes the McBrand. Underneath all of that make-up is a man named Willard Scott. You probably know Willard as the one-time weatherman who still shows up on The Today Show to wish centenarians a happy birthday. Maybe you remember him from hosting the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade broadcast on NBC for ten years. Maybe you have no idea who I’m talking about. That’s okay too. Read more…

Day 791: Surviving Shabbat

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I think for a change of pace today I’m going to throw caution to the flatulent wind and boldly discuss religion. First of all, Shabbat Shalom to all my Jewish friends. Secondly, you’d better not be reading this before sundown, lest the wrath of the almighty rain down upon you, which would really cut into your weekend.

Shabbat – that’s the Jewish Sabbath for those who aren’t up on the lingo – has always fascinated me. I was raised Jewish, inasmuch as I had a bar mitzvah and dutifully followed the careers of Mel Brooks and Woody Allen. Beyond that, I spent Christmases ripping open presents and downing eggnog with my mother’s family, and the rest of the year believing Jediism to be the one true faith. But I had a strange Shabbat experience back in high school.

I was spending the weekend with a Jewish youth group at the unreasonably massive home of one of our city’s wealthiest families. It was Friday evening (after sundown – Shabbat had rolled its opening credits) and I was winding down by listening to the Beatles’ White Album on my Walkman when one of the family’s smarmy little children scolded me for using an electronic device on the Sabbath. “It’s the White Album,” I told him. “Fuck off.”

The next day I went home. I’d have no part of a group that restricted my access to “Sexy Sadie”.

Some of us simply won't compromise our faith.

Some of us simply won’t compromise our faith.

The rules of Shabbat – and I have no doubt that zillions of diligent Jewish lawyers have perused these Biblical statutes – have a catch: they need to be interpreted through modern technologies to determine whether or not they are relevant to our lives. Conservative and Reform Jews (and wholly non-practicing Jews like myself – you know, the one who are just in it for the bagels) tend to land on the side of ignoring the Shabbat limitations or not applying them to our modern conveniences. Orthodox Jews want to make sure their bases are covered, God-wise, and they have found ways to carry those ancient restrictions into the present. We heathens just want to have a good time and work a bunch of Yiddish words into our lexicon. Read more…

Day 788: Vintage Celluloid Boobery

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Whenever I’m assessing a question of morality, I like to assume the vantage point of an interplanetary visitor from an advanced race, dropping in to see how humanity stacks up to their alien equivalent. Don’t kill each other? I’m sure the little green dude agrees. Don’t pilfer one another’s wallets on the street? No question, Gleep would be down with that. Don’t allow parts of one’s natural form to be visible to anyone else, lest they succumb to evil, lust-sopped acts? He might raise a quizzical, crooked antenna at that one.

But our society has fought to uphold this denouncement of defrocking, this ban of the bare, particularly in film. It’s as though the collapse of our fragile culture could be set into motion by one wayward nipple. Sure, the pope probably gets naked, and so does every sign-toting, network-calling yahoo who feels their eyes have still not recovered from the excessive displays of side-boob on NYPD: Blue twenty years ago. But there’s a difference when it comes to being naked in one’s own home (or Pope-Fortress as the case may be).

Forget the fact that, with exceptions for size and possible skin conditions, butts tend to look fairly similar. And forget that the prohibition of anything (alcohol, drugs, looking at naked people) does nothing to quell the public’s desire for it. Our culture – and here I mean our global culture, because this is not simply a western taboo – spent decades frowning upon cinematic nakedness. Not too far back in our past movies could show blood from a stab wound by a homicidal maniac, but pubic hair? Hell no.

EadweardMuybridge

It should surprise absolutely no one who has watched the landscape of the internet develop over the past 20 years that nudity was appearing in films before actual film had gotten around to being invented. Eadweard Muybridge (and I should point out that ‘Eadweard’ is a name choice more parents should consider) created the zoopraxiscope, a projector that could display images etched onto a spinning glass disk. With his rapid-fire photography method, he could capture what amounted to the equivalent of a brief gif of a horse galloping, a donkey bucking or, of course, a naked person. The photo above is his own grizzly self-portrait. Read more…