Monday, July 02, 2007

It’s summer, which means three things: Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and the Disney Channel. While the first two have served me as surrogate parents for as long as I can remember, the Disney Channel is like an uncle who died after he stopped airing Even Stevens and Lizzie McGuire. After they did that, Raven Symone took over the network and instantly turned me off with her fistfuls of sass and hips dripping with equal parts Crisco and attitude.

I switched my allegiance to Nickelodeon’s TEENick lineup, a suitable replacement for Louis and Lizzie. Drake and Josh are obviously hilarious, Ned’s Declassified is quality entertainment, and Zoey 101 proves that when given a good script, even a Spears child can suspend the redneck in her for 22 minutes a week. Also, the show has sweet scooters.

Somehow over the course of a few years, Raven and the new Disney crew tricked a bunch of children into thinking their shows were funny and the channel saw its biggest successes thanks to a pair of twins and the daughter of a former country singer. I ignored these shows for as long as possible, but in the lazy doldrums of summer, I simply couldn’t resist any longer. Also, I took some notes and did a little science while watching the episodes and discovered some very disturbing information.

The first show I watched was The Suite Life with Zach and Cody. With a pun in the title as hilarious as that one the show could have been about a school janitor who molests corpses and still be considered a rip-roaring comedy. The show stars two twins. I remember the good old days when twins were granted only half the rights of a normal person, a fitting sentence given that they each can only possess one-third to one-half the brain of a human. But apparently those days are no more and twins are now acting side-by-side instead of playing the same person. This confused me at first and made me realize that Full House could have been twice as hilarious, if only the writers were as clever as the ones from The Suite Life and child labor laws were easier to bend.

The episode I watched was “To Catch a Thief,” surprisingly about a thief. This caper was one of the early adventures in the Tipton Hotel- it was filmed before the That’s So Raven Curse settled in on the kids and made them fat. Raven is inflating at such a rate that it's only a matter of minutes before her form is more suited for a syrup container than a television screen. Just like Raven and her black friend, Zach and Cody are plumping up each day so they will go into cardiac arrest just as they stop being cute. Disney also has forbidden them from cutting their hair lately; I suppose the Disney marketers figure the kids watching are sitting around getting fat and growing hair all day, so the kids on the screen should too.

But back to the episode I watched. In order to see just how hysterical the show was, I made note of each use of the laugh track, a daunting task, especially when you consider that it’s played so frequently it can often be hard to tell when one bout of laughter ends and the next begins. The show’s heart beats with that laugh track, constantly reminding the audience that the show is still alive and the story is progressing. During the 21-minute episode, the laugh track played 146 times, an average of 6.95 laughs per minute, or one laugh every 8.63 seconds, which is an astonishing feat. I also recorded the number of times that I laughed during the episode: 3, and they weren’t really laughs, but I kind of quickly exhaled and thought, “Yeah, I’ll give them that one.” These laughs were due to 1) A suspected thief talks about his crime loudly on a phone in the middle of a hotel lobby, 2) It turns out that guy wasn’t the real thief, and the “huge Diamonds” he was talking about is a fat couple named Diamond, and 3) An old woman is captured in a net and beaten with an umbrella. For each genuine laugh I had to sit through 48.6 rounds of the imaginary audience loudly enjoying something that I just couldn’t appreciate. My loss, I suppose.

After the show, I saw a commercial for High School Musical 2, a film I am greatly anticipating. My excitement was only elevated when I saw the movie’s star, Zach Efron, tell me how much fun he had making it while in some strange desert and wearing an absurd amount of makeup on top of a ludicrously fake tan. That smells like entertainment.

Up next was Hannah Montana. Based on the theme song “The Best of Both Worlds” and the star’s appearance, it looks like the show is about transsexuals. Sadly, it is much less funny than that show would have been. My opinion of Miley Cyrus is that aging country singers shouldn’t procreate with farm animals. I’m sure some unfortunate looking little girls look up to her, but aside from her startling appearance she always sounds like her mouth is full of braces or marbles or carrots, oats, sugar cubes, and other horse-feed. Her best friend on the show is played by Emily Osment, punching in her time card on the set now that her brother can’t plump up the family bank account anymore. An interesting note is that, as in The Suite Life, males are forbidden haircuts on this show. The guys look like girls and the girls look like thoroughbreds and there’s a little Mexican boy who owns a hot dog stand. It’s a terribly confusing show.

When it comes to the funnies, this show seems to think it’s a home run. In its 21 minutes it racked in a whopping 182 hilarious moments, according to the laughter, or 8.67 laughs per minute. That’s one laugh every 6.92 seconds, certainly proving that this show is the funniest thing of all time. Sadly it is not. The episode, “My Best Friend’s Boyfriend,” had a plot, I think, but it wasn’t important. What was important, though, was the fact that I didn’t laugh a single time. Perhaps all the jokes went over my head with metaphoric subtext and allusions to things greater than me, but I suppose that’s my fault. One of the laugh tracks played after the line, “We were robbed.” This doesn’t strike me as humor. Perhaps they’ll get a smile out of me next time in the episode “My First Date(Rape)!”

Some notes on the episode: Hannah wears an awful lot of makeup when she goes to sleep. Hannah buys an apple from a vending machine at school. This raises some questions: 1) Where are these vending machines? 2) How bad do they smell after no one buys the apples and they sit around for 30 days until the refill truck comes around, and 3) They could do a better job of hiding the fact that the actress is a horse. According to, apples are “relished by all horses.” Perhaps a granola bar would have been a less obvious choice.

Moral of the story? Even Stevens and Lizzie McGuire had no laugh tracks and were hilarious. These new shows do and aren’t. Though without them the viewers would be confused and wonder things like, “Is this supposed to be funny?” “What the hell am I watching?” and “How’s that horse stand up on two legs?”

Also, have any of you ever taken a leak in complete darkness? It’s an experience everyone should enjoy. I did it a few days ago when my bladder yelled at me in the middle of the night. I didn’t want to wake myself up, so I left the light off and bravely stood over the bowl. I couldn’t see a thing and, based only on my memory of the room, I uncoiled my weiner and aimed it to what I could only assume was the water. Bracing myself, I contracted my bladder muscle and there was a pause. A silent beat echoed through my head and I felt as vulnerable as I ever have. My heart ushered out one firm thud, and then SPLASH! The noise of my urine hitting the toilet water was a symphony of stinky success. A proud smile wrapped over my face as I crawled back to my cocoon. I recommend this experience to everyone, but no cheating: be sure to stand up. This will be even more thrilling for the ladies.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

I’ve been meaning to write a new one of these things for a while now, but I’ve been far too distracted. The last one was on November 15, 2006. I couldn’t write anything between then and November 22, because I was starving myself in preparation for Thanksgiving. Christmas was held on December 24th or 25th last year, so until then I had to prepare my wish list. The rest of Christmas break featured Driver’s Education, which is story enough for a whole different entry. (Actually I wrote about two pages of that one, but got bored and stopped. You’ll have to ask me about it in real life. Actually don’t, because I’ve told the stories enough and I’ll probably just ignore you if you ask. But they are funny stories.) After Christmas came the turn of the Millennium and I spent January celebrating Martin Luther and drinking Tropicana products. The complete first season of Dragon Ball Z was released on DVD in February. That brings us to the current month, March. “But what have you been up to this month?” you ask.

I respond, “A lotta stuff. Get outta my face,” and briskly walk away. I think to myself, I should have given that person the real answer, which would be: Listening to the new Fall Out Boy album and reading things on Wikipedia.

“Just those two things? For all this time?” You persist.

“Jesus Christ, what the hell is your problem? How did you even catch up to me? And how did you hear my thoughts?” I wonder. “Nevertheless, yes, just those two things.” The FOB disc grew on me like a sugary sexually transmitted delight. At first I thought, Hmm. This doesn’t feel right. This sounds very over-produced, and there are pustules on my scrotum. But after three or four listens those boys from Chicago had me hooked like a simile-dealing fisherman. Every time I fire up my Comp-U-Tron 6000, I immediately start playing a live video of the Boys and love every second of it while simultaneously noticing how they sound worse than a band at a middle school talent show.

The second distraction is Wikipedia, which is the electronic equivalent of an encyclopedia. At night while watching TV I will usually notice interesting things and write them down to research in the morning. I will search for one thing, such as Public Access Television, and start clicking on all the blue words, or “hyperlinks.” Eventually my screen is so full of windows that I mistake it for the Home Depot. When I’m finally done reading all of the pages, it’s usually 3 o’clock in the morning and I’ve entirely forgotten the reason for getting on the computer machine in the first place. Usually I’ll have Instant Messenger running, but for no real reason, as I get annoyed when people message me and interrupt my Wikipedia reading. But I do know one reason for keeping AIM running: Sweet, sweet away messages and profiles. If someone were to write a book composed of hundreds upon hundreds of away messages, I would say, “How did you get that published?”

The author would respond, “Well, it was a lengthy process that involved years of schooling, hard work, connections…”

“Spare me the details, Poindexter,” I would yell in his face. “Just give me a copy of your book. I want to read all of those away messages.”

Which is precisely what I would do. Which is precisely what I do do. Any time I sign on, I must read where everyone is. Every time I sign off I must again read where everyone is. There is no man crazier than the guy who signs off without first running through everyone’s info from top to bottom.

The only problem with this is that people have more or less the same away messages all the time. “I am away from my computer right now,” says one. “Away,” is all another has to offer. But the very worst, the absolute worst away message possible, is the dreaded “Just chillin’,” or whatever other horrible way the author wishes to spell it. I know one person who frequently displays this one, though sadly he is currently sporting “I AM SO GAY AND I LIKE TO EAT MENS BUTTHOLES.” An interesting choice, and I still prefer it to the “JC” option.

“Just chillin’” very well may be the worst euphemism in the English language. It is the main reason I abandoned Instant Messenger for a time between 2002 and 2003, an era similar to Picasso’s Blue Period. I was avoiding the only conversation possible between two sixth graders. It goes a little something like this:

xXxlilhunnyxXx123: sup

sk8ater69: nm u

xXxlilhunnyxXx123: jc

The conversation would end there as xXxlilhunnyxXx123 went to download an Avril Lavigne song. That exchange was so common and useless and annoying that I stopped altogether. I thought I was safe from the dreaded “just chillin’”, but recently I’ve noticed it’s coming back to life, though in a far more horrifying form: Real Life.

It usually appears on Monday, secretly sneaking into conversations that are unnecessary in the first place. This exchange will be something like:

Person 1: How was your weekend?

Person 2: Okay.

Person 1: What did you do?

Person 2: Chilled.

Person 1: Cool.

As you can see, the language has evolved slightly from two-letter acronyms, though the meaning is just the same as it was so many years ago. “Chilled” is such a stupid way to glorify nothing. To contrast, here is how I usually field that same conversation, free of any such nonsense.

Person 1: How was your weekend?

M to the B: Not too bad.

Person 1: What did you do?

M to the B: Not much. I sat around in my sweats and watched some movies. I also ate a few sandwiches.

Person 1: Cool.

For the longest time the “chilling” bullshit had taken advantage of me. I never really thought about what it meant, but I figured it actually had some sort of a meaning. Then one quiet Saturday it was around 2:30 in the afternoon. I was wearing my standard uniform of stained black sweatpants and a t-shirt while eating my lunch in front of the TV and watching MTV. In my mind, this constitutes doing nothing. But then I looked around, squinted my eyes, and whispered, “So this is chilling.”

The next Monday I heard the standard exchange go down and smiled, knowing that the supposed chiller had really done nothing at all, but it’s much cooler to say “chilled,” because, I guess, the words are related by temperature. I wanted him to man up and admit what he had done, but I suppose he will learn in time. Hopefully the use of this dirty phrase will decline now that I’ve exposed it for what it really is.

Also, and this one goes out to anyone attending high school, if you want people to know you drive a car to school, please just wear a T-shirt that says so, or purchase a sign on the school’s billboard, or use a megaphone to announce it. Enough with the obnoxious key chains and Chik-Fil-A cups. They were cute at first, but it needs to stop. You might as well just run around with a Super Soaker and shout “I clean vaginas!”