The Simpsons

Stuff I Liked in 2014, pt. 4 – TV

What a terrible year for TV. 1After I posted this, my pal (and very talented editor on Transparent) Cate Haight brutally and rightly reminded me that both the number of good series and their baseline of quality are higher than ever. Which leads me to wonder why my overall 2014 TV sentiment was disappointment. Is it because my usual favorite shows weren’t as good as I wanted them to be? Has the new Golden Age of TV made my expectations unreasonable? Am I a dick? The fall’s batch of new series could be smelled from outer space, especially the comedies. Seemingly every new sitcom consisted of a thirty-something couples acting so hard that they appeared to be trying to communicate with the next town over via flagless semaphore. Nothing shows faith in one’s script like having one’s actors shout their lines while crouching and waving their arms around. Even shows I’ve liked — or loved — in the past weren’t immune to the Crap Plague, so I’ve had to cut my usual list of 20 shows down to 10 11 2UPDATED 12/31/14: I extra-stupidly left off an essential one. that qualified if I looked forward to watching them more than I did deleting them from my DVR.

The Colbert ReportThe Colbert Report (Comedy Central)

For every weekly episode any other show hauled out, Colbert and co. cranked out four that were each four times as funny and n4 as smart. I worry that we’re losing more than we’re gaining by Stephen moving to CBS, but it’s the place the biggest talent in TV deserves to be.

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1. After I posted this, my pal (and very talented editor on Transparent) Cate Haight brutally and rightly reminded me that both the number of good series and their baseline of quality are higher than ever. Which leads me to wonder why my overall 2014 TV sentiment was disappointment. Is it because my usual favorite shows weren’t as good as I wanted them to be? Has the new Golden Age of TV made my expectations unreasonable? Am I a dick?
2. UPDATED 12/31/14: I extra-stupidly left off an essential one.

Stuff I’ve Read: Sep.-Oct. 2013

To regularly keep up with what I’m reading, please follow me on Goodreads.

The SethingAt the Mountains of MadnessAt the Mountains of Madness
by H.P. Lovecraft

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I can’t quite figure out why so many people consider At the Mountains of Madness to be H.P. Lovecraft’s masterpiece when it’s such an overstuffed and under-warmed reheating of what he did so well in his short stories. This novella is just a modified haunted-house story: some busybodies explore a creepy pad and discover it possessed by something scary. Except in this case the busybodies beat feet as soon as the frightening thing pops into view, so really At the Mountains of Madness is more like a Scooby-Doo cartoon with one act — Shaggy and the gang arrive at the creepy mansion and see a ghost, so they light out and never come back. Lovecraft usually leans hard on the trope that the monsters in his books are too horrible for the narrator to describe, but in this case he describes them and their lifestyles and zoning ordinances in such detail that all the horror evaporates, like when George Lucas explained away the supernatural Force as the product of funky bacteria. Which makes me realize: At the Mountains of Madness is Lovecraft’s The Phantom Menace, in which he mucks up the beautiful legend he created and had better left alone.

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Stuff I’ve Read: August 2013

To regularly keep up with what I’m reading, please follow me on Goodreads.

The Simpsons in the Classroom by Karma Waltonen and Denise Du VernayThe Simpsons in the Classroom: Embiggening the Learning Experience with the Wisdom of Springfield
by Karma Waltonen and Denise Du Vernay

I’m not an educator by any means, but this book makes a convincing argument for, and a through guide to, including The Simpsons in undergrad and high-school curricula of all sorts.

I am a Simpsons fan by every means, so I can vouch for Waltonen and Du Vernay’s unrivaled expertise in, and love for, TV’s greatest series. I especially admire their positively Lionel-Hutzian manipulation of facts to find a Simpsons example for every letter-K entry in E.D. Hirsch, Jr.’s Cultural Literacy: What Every American Should Know.

Side note: you can also read TSitC co-author Denise Du Vernay’s enjoyable and convincing argument for Sandy Cheeks being a feminist icon in the collection SpongeBob SquarePants and Philosophy.

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My Simpsons Fandom

A Simpsons tattoo didn’t seem devotional enough for my level of fandom, so I opted for this instead.

My Simpsons Devotion

Where All the Aliens Been At?

Wanted: Alien Life FormsIf you read my post from last week pointing out that there are probably 345 billion intelligent civilizations in the Universe, you might have asked yourself or your local alderman, “How come none them trillions of ETs ever swing by Earth to say ”sup’?”

You wouldn’t have been the first. Legendary particle physicist and Nobel laureate Enrico Fermi wondered that, so much and so often that it led to his achieving the all-American dream of having a paradox named after him. The Fermi Paradox, as Rico himself summarized it, is “Where is everybody?” If all evidence points to our galaxy and Universe throbbing with hot hot life, why have we never encountered it?

Well it just so happens that today the sci fi blog i09 laid out about a dozen of the more eccentric proposed solutions to the Fermi Paradox, and man are they a gas and a half. From the theory of the Cosmic Zoo, to the Whack-a-Mole hypothesis, to the Big Meat Problem, it’s all essential lunch-break reading for anyone who enjoyed playing around with the Drake Equation app or would like a reason to say the word “panspermia.”

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Guy Fieri is America’s Krusty the Clown

Guy Fieri's S'mores Indoors PizzaChef Guy Fieri rocketed to a sad, modern version of superstardom thanks to Food Network and despite his continuing devotion to the music of Sammy Hagar. He’s now deep into his return trajectory, plunging through the selloutosphere, spraying a trail of Ed Hardy flames, his last traces of respectability burned away. Fieri has become a real-life version of the ultimate celebrity marketing strumpet, The Simpsons’ Krusty the Clown. As Krusty is to comedy, Guy is to food — a living cartoon, a face to be plastered on any product presented to him alongside a slow-cooker full of coin, a hollow symbol of grub for which quality is no object.

The first hints of Fieri’s decline appeared last November with the opening and subsequent New York Times kebabing of his massive Times Square mothership, Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar, 1Which materialized just a few feet from my old office, a new singularity in an epicurean black hole so vast that leaving my building for lunch required a trek across two crosstown blocks to get a decent slice of pizza. but his Krustydom has been ensured with the release of his latest frozen food-style product, Guy Fieri’s S’mores Indoors Pizza.

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1. Which materialized just a few feet from my old office, a new singularity in an epicurean black hole so vast that leaving my building for lunch required a trek across two crosstown blocks to get a decent slice of pizza.

Sorry, But You Can’t Vote in Pennsylvania Because of the Tartar Hordes

The Springfield Town Charter1-up to my favorite blogger, Kara Vallow, for unearthing the text to the historical court ruling that Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson cited as grounds for his upholding the state’s unconstitutional and grandma-oppressing new voter ID law.

That precedent, the 143-year-old Patterson v. Barlow, is so hilariously and offensively anachronistic that it seems to have been lifted from the Springfield town charter. The 1869 judge found that election rules needed to be instituted in Philadelphia to protect the state from those who might do it harm if allowed to vote, i.e. the poor and immigrants (not to mention of course Jews, Papists, and dumpling eaters). As Kara notes, the ruling claims that letting those quote-unquote-people vote would “place the vicious vagrant, the wandering Arabs, the Tartar hordes of our large cities, on a level with the virtuous and good man.”

Apparently Judge Simpson feels that Patterson v. Barlow, having kept Pennsylvania safe from the Tartar hordes for nearly a century and a half, forms a fine foundation for 21st century election law in his state. What a dick.

Do yourself a favor and go read the rest of Kara’s post, but be warned that it uses cuss words including “Maltoolers” and “Newgate Knockers.”

Also, if you know any Pennsylvania voters who need help getting official identification for the upcoming election, the organization Election Protection will assist them. Visit their web site or call 1-866-OUR-VOTE.