Jul 26, 2007

Why the Simpsons have lost their way

"Why the Simpsons have lost their way"

The once the brash, hip, controversial, and more than a few times - the funniest television show in the American broadcast spectrum is releasing a movie this week. Perhaps you’ve heard about it already? It’s called the Simpsons, and is the longest running animated television show, and on pace to be the longest running television show (non-news). The contenders are Gunsmoke/20 seasons 1955-1975 Red Skelton Show/20 seasons COPS-(Renewed for 20th season) 2007-2008. However, the edge is dull. The edge is so dull I have no enthusiasm to see the film, and I have long since cancelled my Season Pass on the TiVo. So what has soured this once great show?

Longevity? Is longevity killing the creativity of the once great pinnacle of American political and social commentary? Have they said all that can be said about the wacky nation that is America? Hardly, however, times have changed in the two decades since the Simpsons went Prime Time. Let’s go back in time a bit for perspective. Bozo the Clown was still on WGN, the king of syndicated children’s television. The Fox Broadcasting Company had just started in 1987, and was dismissed as a quick flash in the pan against the Big Three Networks. Fox was on Sunday nights, with Married… With Children, and couple variety shows, such as COPS and the Tracey Ullman Show. Fox was initially only available one night – Sunday.

It was decided that the Simpsons were popular enough to be taken away from The Tracey Ullman show as a new half hour animated program in Prime Time. This was quite a major deal, and was laughed at as a waste of money. A cartoon hadn’t been in anyone’s prime time line up since The Flintstones (1960-1966 ABC) And to make the effort even more laughable, the show’s initial success led FOX to move it to Thursday where it went head to head against the main tent pole of NBC’s Thursday line up: Bill Cosby. The Cosby show was the highest rated sit-com amongst a TV Guide full of Prime Time sit-coms. The Thursday night line up in the 1989-90 season was The Cosby Show, A Different World, Cheers, Dear John and LA Law. To say Cosby was a king, would be an understatement. A little cartoon, on a little start-up network, that didn’t even reach the entire nation.

Today, Krusty the Clown has no peers. Bozo ended his run on WGN in 2001. A new viewer would have no idea what the relevance of a Homer in Clown makeup is today.
Bill Cosby has long left television, and the sea of sit-coms have been replaced by one hour news programs, which have been replaced by reality shows, which have been replaced by crime scene procedural programs.
Fox aggressively purchased rights for major sports programming and now is the leader in sports programming for the NFL, MLB, NHL, and NASCAR.
Cable has withered the viewership of the Big Three, and there have been two new ‘networks’ since FOX started up. (these two have combined to form the CW)
However, the model for Kent Brockman, Hal Fishman still anchors LA local news.

Perhaps loosing some of the gags from the first season have hurt here and there, but not enough damage to ruin the show. Other shows have shown that making jabs at long dead cultural icons, AKA media savvy, is still a grand commodity. Which brings up an interesting point…

The Competition Kills.

Since the Simpsons was such a major hit for Fox, suddenly everyone wanted a piece of that sweet money pie. With a rush, and such a major rush that quality was left by the wayside, there were new cartoon offerings for Prime Time. Capitol Critters (ABC), Family Dog (CBS) and Fish Police (ABC). Writers and Show Runners for the Simpsons were lured away with dumptrucks of money, or at least, the opportunity to write for “the Networks.” Soon ABC brought out The Critic, which poached more Simpsons production talent.

Now, granted, the Fish Police, Family Dog and Capital Critters are a tombstone gag in Treehouse of Terror III. However, the pirating of the top writers and professionals from the first couple seasons of the Simpsons didn’t serve the show well. Best practices and writing all take time to be taught to new people in any work environment. Even in Hollywood.

However, The Simpsons survived the first wave of competition with a slight chuckle. It was growing ever more ominous in the background for a second assault. Enter Matt and Trey – South Park. Crude, scatological, blasphemous (hey self referencing media gag!), and viral by way of the new-fangled Information Highway… Jesus vs. Santa was contracted out by Fox execs as a Christmas card. Within moments everyone was passing VHS bootlegs and downloading the show for 35 hours off the Internet. The short little film show swept the nation. Little kids cussing and using ethnic slurs, and Jesus fighting Santa Claus was the hottest property in town. Discussions for a series went from FOX to Comedy Central, where it eventually aired South Park in 1997.

Initially, the poor construction paper and the weak cable outlet, known mostly for re-runs and Mystery Science Theater 3000 posed no threat to the Simpsons. However, they would both grow quickly into major players. South Park used shock humor and was much more punk than the Simpsons the first few seasons. However, the show got better with age, like a fine wine. More importantly, procrastination on the part of Matt and Trey were their greatest assets. They could get a program out the door in three weeks, whereas the Simpsons – and their 1989 hand drawn and painted cell animation – can take a full year from page to screen. Three weeks keeps South Park fresh and in the news cycle. They had an episode mirroring the Terri Schiavo story, which aired just after she died. The Simpsons are lucky to have a Tickle Me Elmo gag live long enough through the production process to be relevant.

Futurama, a Simpsons talent-poaching program from their own production company, tackled the slow animation issue, and utilized computer technology and speedier production methods – but the show tanked. Full of potential, and never quite fleshed out. It is supposed to have been given new life, but even their production methods are still slow compared to South Park – so it’s anyone’s guess when or if Futurama will ever return. Most recently, Futurama is listed on IMDB as four movies, which will be released on DVD, and then chopped into television format. Futurama was DOA, because of one very important reason, but I don’t want to jump too far ahead on the timeline.

Another competitor to the Simpsons that bears mention is Fox’s own Family Guy.
Believe it or not, Family Guy has taken some of the ‘shock’ from the Simpsons, and I think some of the more fun elements – specifically the imagination of the characters in dream sequences – and claimed them as their own. Some of the best bits in the Simpsons were when you heard the harp noise, signaling a drift from ‘reality’ and queue one of the characters to fanaticize about something said or misinterpreted. Among the best examples: Homer and the Land of Chocolate in Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk, Bart and Sarah Gilbert/Laura Powers dancing in The New Kid on the Block.

I’m not saying that Family Guy uses this technique well. Far from it. But they did take it from the Simpsons, and it’s now out of their storytelling arsenal.

It also seems that the Family Guy has taken some of the media reference comedy gold from the Simpsons as well. Granted, Family Guy will use obscure geek 70’s shows and current rehabbing celebrities in the same 2 second black out gag – but it somehow has taken some of the fun out of the Simpson’s writing pallet.

But the competition hasn’t ‘killed’ the Simpsons. It’s only battered the show, and made it less funny. Competition bleeds the talent from the production staff. The speed of Simpsons’s 1989 cell animation keeps the show about a year behind, letting South Park get all the topical humor. And Family Guy has poached some of the show’s funnier writing techniques.

There are many other elements that have dulled a once sharp sword…

The Writers - How can you be counterculture when you are the culture?

A little history, if I may. Matt Groening, the creator and lead talent of the show, had gritty underground street cred with his comic strip Life in Hell – the proto-Simpsons-ish story about bunnies dealing with love in LA in the early 80’s. His underground paper hit was picked up by a larger underground newspaper – the LA Reader. Let me reiterate ‘paper’ one more time. Thank you.

Groening was such an underground hit, he got the attention of James L. Brooks (Mary Tyler Moore, Taxi, Rhoda, and a whole list of hits that anyone under 25 has never seen, maybe have heard of)

Groening wrote and storyboarded all the original bumpers for Tracy Ullman. David Silverman and Wes Archer were the animators. When the stand alone show started, Silverman and Archer became directors of the show.

People have come and gone off the Simpsons. You can hear the creative team discuss these events, if ever so white washed and bleached for fan-boy’s ears, on the DVD commentary tracks. I do not suggest that these great creative minds shouldn’t be allowed to follow their dreams and leave the show. How many faces have stayed at the same job for more than a couple months at your own job, I ask candidly? However, with the passage of time, the production talent of the show have shifted around or up within the organization, moved on and done other projects, and so forth. The Simpsons is an amazing eye catcher for anyone’s resume.

People left the job. Okay, fine. How does that erode the humor and effectiveness of the social and political commentary that the Simpsons were once celebrated for?

Today’s writing staff. I am not a staff member there, and can only make assumptions based on what has made it to the screen. And I do not believe that FOX has had a hand in undermining the humor either, as Groening made a very specific deal that kept the Empire out of his Cloud City. I assume that the current writing staff of the Simpsons is about 30 years old or younger. So what? The writers and creators of seasons 1-9 were students of the Firesign Theatre, The National Lampoon Radio program, Dr. Demento, Spy Magazine – and the Nixon Administration. Where would anyone aged 30 or younger find inspiration for biting political and social commentary? The very show they now work for! Gags have been made to this fact, and are peppered throughout the later programs.The show has been on so long, if you were born in 1977, you would have been 12 when the show’s first season aired. And in 1989, when parents still gave a rip, it was probably deemed too ‘racy’ or ‘not-for kids’ you weren’t even allowed to watch it. I mean, they used the word 'ass' and 'crappy' on Prime Time, for crying out loud!

Let's not forget the timeline. It 1989 when the underground counterculture began to bloom and bring forth fruit. Grunge music, mosh pits, Doc Martins and pretty much the whole Gen X thing took down Hair Metal and went from there. Simpsons, on upstart - edgy FOX - surfed that wave.

George Bush Sr. even spoke out against the Simpsons! Bush 41 stated that, "America needs to be more like the Waltons than The Simpsons." When the President of the Free World disses you, even Rupert Murdoch can't buy inde street cred edge like that! Are you even old enough to remember why the episode "Two Bad Neighbors" was so incredibly funny and relevant? Are you even aware that they're not just taking the piss out of the Bushes, they're also parodying Dennis the Menace? No - don't look it up on Wikipedia! Just take my word for it, okay? It's 20 years later and the show isn't just an institution, it has morphed into it's own industry! And how counterculture can that possibly be?

Bottom line, if the Simpsons is your only frame of reference, you’re only parodying yourself – and you don't see anything wrong with that. In 20 years, the show has gone from counter culture to mainstream acceptance, and even further: into a big business. But there signs of rust in the gears of mighty Simpsons Industry… mostly because there’s a Simpsons Industry. But more on that subject coming soon.

The Simpsons Industry

The Simpsons, in 20 years, has become an important commodity for the Fox Network.
It’s their rock, the show they’re known for. And like Bill Cosby before it, the tent pole in the very important Sunday night line up.

Even with the declining quality in gags and humor, Simpsons continues to be a ratings powerhouse, and always delivers healthy numbers in the critical 18-45 year old male audience demographic. The show airs new episodes in the 8 PM (Eastern, 7 PM Central) time slot, as it has since it was moved to Sundays for season six.

And with success brings merchandising. Lots and lots of merchandising!
Toys, posters, bumper stickers, beer cozies, coasters, ring tones, DVD Box sets – some shaped like the characters, some are just boxes – video games, watches, chess sets, bedding… and these are just the items that I own. Perhaps you've seen my collection? Remember all the T-Shirts, in every single tourist town with some kind of version of Bart on them? How about The Simpsons Sing the Blues album? It's worse than Krusty the Clown and his shoddy merchandising. It's factories in China, Target isles, and 13,731 items on eBay.

Let’s also look at another side of the coin, the syndicated market. The syndicated television market is probably more lucrative than the merchandising. What is this? When a show hits a golden number; 100 episodes it is available for syndication. When a show is brought to market, it’s important to have more than 65 episodes to allow for the program to be aired 5 days a week without fear of re-runs for a couple months.

Every television producer is gunning for syndication. Rumor has it that Jerry Seinfeld bought 29 more Porsches for his collection after he hit syndication. This is the traditional area where the money is in television. Syndication, in a nutshell, is your local channels bidding on re-runs of old episodes. Before DVD, airing re-runs of popular shows was the ONLY way local channels or affiliates ever made any money. A channel can buy three packages, depending on how many local ads they want to air, but they would have to out bid their local competition first.

In Chicago, Fox won the bidding (it’s speculated that the bidding was unfair, but speculated only) and aired Simpsons re-runs, at 6:00, 6:30 and also at 10:00. That’s a LOT. Chicago local CBS 2 news, in fact, did so poorly against Simpsons re-runs at 10:00; that the other news teams renamed CBS: Can’t Beat the Simpsons.

Then there’s the DVD’s. After years of the show being in syndication, the Simpsons released their first entire season on DVD. Many industry pundits couldn’t believe that anyone would bother buying something they can get for free, and often 3 times a night. The DVD’s were packed with commentary from the creative teams, and were complete and uncut. Uncut for syndication that is – which is not done so much for content (although the episode Team Homer was modified in syndication. Homer anticipates winning the bowling tournament - so he flushes his stolen supporting actor Oscar down the toilet. The name engraved on the award was Haing S. Ngor, an actor who was murdered February 25th, 1996. In syndication, the name changed to Don Ameche. And the brief pulling of The City of New York Vs. Homer Simpson) as episodes are trimmed for time to sell more local ads, but I digress…

The Simpsons DVD’s sold so well, as complete seasons, that it sparked the entire TV-on-DVD industry. Seriously, before the Simpsons, there were scant offerings of entire back catalogs of episodic television in DVD packages. Especially programs still in production! Now known as ‘box sets’, they now take up entire wall of real estate at your favorite big box store. To illustrate how powerful box sets and syndication are – the sales of Family Guy and Futurama on DVD and in syndication have brought these two canceled shows back into production and back on the air! The only thing close to a comparison would be the popularity of the original Star Trek being able to sell Star Trek the Next Generation – albeit 18 years after the first program was cancelled.

And there’s also a movie coming out. Again, perhaps you’ve heard about it. If you pay close attention to the station that has the rights for syndication in your market, they MIGHT just have a couple stories about it on the news this week.

A lot of merchandise sold, re-runs being gobbled up, and untold millions of DVD’s purchased, a movie to buy tickets for. Why on God’s earth would you want to mess with that by making a controversial episode, or have a questionable raunchy gag in there? Groening doesn’t need to have Fox executives handing him meddling notes to tone down the gags – he’s getting plenty of notes – Green one$! As Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn said in the Blues Brothers, “If the Sh*t fits, wear it.” Or more politely, “If it ain’t broke, don’ fix it.”

But I think it is broke, and it does need fixing. The show needs it’s cut back. And it isn’t coming from celebrities stepping up to the microphone booth.
Stay tuned for the next installment…

Celebrities driving the story;
Celebrities on the show as a 'character', a long - episode/plot driving character doesn't work. It's not as much fun compared to how they used to do little pop-ins like, say when Mel Brooks as the passenger in Homer’s limo in the episode Homer vs. Patty and Selma... or even just as completing a gag, I’m thinking the tasteful use of Tony Bennet singing “Capital City” in the episode Dancin' Homer…

And you HAVE to use a Celeb in Springfield, it can be done very, very well - or you can pull a Homer. For example when it's done well it can be Aerosmith in Flaming Homer, as opposed to Elvis Costello, Tom Petty, Lenny Kravitz, Brian Setzer, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards in How I Spent My Strummer Vacation.

Now, granted, even the first produced episode Some Enchanted Evening, featured Penny “Laverne” Marshall as a guest star. (It was slated to be the premiere episode, however the animation was so poor, they were forced to push it to become the seventh aired program.) Mrs. Marshall voiced Ms. Bolz. She did not, however, play herself and this worked. And it worked for Albert Brooks (5 episodes, and one movie), John Lovitz (9), Kelsey Grammer (9), and fairly well for Phil Hartman (53). Lately, an B-list Celebrity to even have their picture in US Magazine pops into Springfield, as themselves as often as Lindsey Lohan drops out of rehab, and sticks around for 20 minutes. Was that a cheep joke!? You can bet it’s an entire episode featuring Nicole Richie next season.

Sure Jasper Johns was obscure and ridiculous in Mom and Pop Art! Wheres those little moments as apposed to, oh, I don’t know, Brendan Frazer in (albeit ironic title) King of the Hill? Even George Carlin and Martin Mull were wasted... let me rethink that pun... utilized terribly in D'oh-in' in the Wind.

Perhaps remembering the ‘good’ use of celebrity voice work over the use of ‘bad’ celebrity voices – I’m looking at you Tony Hawk and the entire cast of the Soprano’s… The Simpsons could regain some lost humor if the belief that casting a “I can’t believe X agreed to be on the show!” is changed.

Bottom line: with this celebrity walk on, stay on, and sit around works for Johnny Carson, but not the Simpsons. I tuned in to watch the Simpsons. I used to anyway.

When did it all jump Springfield Gorge?

The exact moment where the Simpsons went from ‘OMG-I can’t wait for the Simpsons tonight’ to, ‘meh, if it’s on, and I’m home, I might watch it live…’ is hard to pinpoint.

Some die-hard fans will tell you it was when Conan O’Brien left for David Letterman’s spot on Late Night. That was in 1993. And, let’s face it; although he wrote and produced Marge vs. the Monorail, he was only credited with four episodes! (One of which, New Kid on the Block – is my personal all time favorite.
(What kind of pathetic drunk do you take me for? Gasp! Somebody spilled beer in this ashtray!") Conan the Barbarian’s departure hardly soured the whole show.

I recently read a blog that credited 22 Stories About Springfield as a ‘jump the shark’ moment. This is interesting, because if you realize that this is the moment where the secondary, supporting characters, like Apo, the Van Houtens, Nelson, or even Cletus the Slack Jawed Yokel had their moment in the spotlight. Once they stepped into the light, they never left. Don’t get me wrong, a great episode all the way around, but once they broke out on their own, the background had a history which then grew into entire episodes centered around the secondary characters and not the core 5. Or Grandpa. Or Mr. Burns... okay, let's remind you that it's not pinpoint accuracy -

How about when the show actually showed Homer ‘Jumping the Shark’ in its seventh clip show?
Episode: Gump Roast. Singing,
“They'll never stop The Simpsons,
Have no fears, we've got stories for years,
Like - Marge becomes a robot,
Maybe Moe gets a cell-phone,
Has Bart ever owned a bear?
Or, how 'bout a crazy wedding?
and something happens a do-do-do-do-doooo,
Sorry for the clip-show,
Have no fears, we've got stories for years.”

Or, there’s that time Homer was raped by a panda in the episode Homer vs. Dignity. I have often thought that the term Jumped the Shark is too Fonzy, and it should be changed to Raped By a Panda. I guess it’s a little too, er, risqué?

And then there’s the sad hard truth. When the Zoloft addicted wife of Phil Hartman went on a rampage, it was a quadruple homicide. Phil Hartman, Bill McNeal, Lionel Hutz, and Troy McClure all died that terrible day. Let’s not forget there was an attempted murder of Futurama’s Zapp Brannigan too. Philip J. Fry’s was named as a tribute to the fallen funny man. Without getting too into this one - not having the crutch of Troy or Lionel to fall on, the Simpsons lost a lot of laughter with him.

So how do they fix it?
First they should - hold on a second? Why should I give this away for free? I should offer my services as a script consultant and make boatloads of money! Hey, it worked for Quentin Tarantino when he added a couple lame Silver Surfer references to the Crimson Tide script. They gave him millions for that little chunk of geekdom. Feel free to contact me Fox, or Gracie Films. Mr. Brooks, perhaps?

The Movie opens Friday. I hope that it does well, and kicks some new life into the show and the entire Simpsons Industry. It's been great to look back at some of my favorite moments of the show again, and to smile as I researched these issues. I love the Simpsons. I want to again. Let's hope they bring it back the quality that made me love it in the first place so it really can go on for another 20 years.

The Movie opens Friday. Check your local theater for listings.

Jul 25, 2007

Doug said Chug

Tangerine Dream

Elizabeth Edwards (who lives in 29,000 square foot mansion and flies in private jets with husband John to campaign events) will fight global warming by never eating tangerines again.

From the story:
The politics of global warming got very concrete, and oddly difficult, In a meeting with local environmentalists in the coastal town of McClellanville today, where Elizabeth Edwards raised in passing the importance of relying on locally-grown fruit.

"We've been moving back to 'buy local,'" Mrs. Edwards said, outlining a trade policy that "acknowledges the carbon footprint" of transporting fruit.

"I live in North Carolina. I'll probably never eat a tangerine again," she said, speaking of a time when the fruit is reaches the price that it "needs" to be.

Edwards had talked about "sacrifice," at the meeting, but Elizabeth's suggestion illustrated just how difficult it is to sell the specifics of sacrifice.

-- seeing how Well this article was written, it's either fake or another blogger taking the piss.
Either way, it illustrates how silly and hypocritical ALL our politicians are. It doesn't change the fact that her husband is still the devil's offspring.

Jul 23, 2007

John Edwards: Sexiest Woman Alive

I've been having really bad dreams about John Edwards lately. Nightmares. I've been trying to generate enough clever ideas for a cover story, but it looks like Esquire magazine beat me to it.
I think I should at least fill you in on how these dreams have been playing out.

The quick/quick version of this horror story come down to that I realize that John Edwards is a fraud, and NO ONE else sees through his lies, or worse, they don't even care. Through the night I work my way up to confronting him and his room full of people on what a fraud he is. I'm in front of cameras - live - it's a big deal and it's taken a lot of action sequences to get there. Lot of dead friends and evil minions. I leap out in front of the cameras, I tell the nation that his poverty in America tour and his wife's cancer are all just covers for the second face that hides who he really is and his true agenda.

No one listens. No one cares. Mostly laughs from the live audience.

I'm whisked off stage and taken out by his personal security detail. Not the Secret Service, but hired goons and thugs. Night after night they rough me up fairly well - to the point where I'm breathing, but I'm not talking anymore. That's the order. Finally, Edwards steps on my throat, laughing at my futile attempt to bring him down. It's all in overly scripted super-villain cliche fashion.

I eventually wake from the coma, to see he's the President.
I'm so incapacitated that I'm unable to speak, or warn anyone until the missiles are flying.

Okay, so my nightmare is mostly a rip-off of The Dead Zone and The Final Conflict/AKA The Omen III.
However, now that I have your attention - Damien in The Omen III was played by Sam Niel.

Sam Niel - Damien -, meet John Edwards.

Kind of looks like a prophecy to me, no?

US Lawns

NASA map depicts how much of the US's land is covered with lawn.
Now get of it, damn teenagers

Jul 22, 2007

Manuel Uribe

Manuel Uribe, tipping the scales at 560 kilograms (1,234 pounds) and seen here at his home in 2006, will be listed as the world's fattest man by the Guinness Book of Records, while a loss of 200 kilos (440 pounds) may make him the man who lost the most weight.(AFP/Alejandro Acosta)

Jul 20, 2007

Kerry Wood's Return

Kerry Wood - to return....(ESPN story here)
Good luck, kid, we're all counting on you.

Counting the days until you're on the DL again.

Hey - If I'm wrong, I'm a happy guy. That's why I'm a pessimist. If anything other than the worst possible outcome occurs, then, it's a GOOD outcome. Can Mr. Wood come back, as a starter, as a closer, or some utility 8th inning miracle worker? Can he keep this 95 mile an hour therapy sessions going until he's back at Wrigley? Can that damned thing just fall off right now? Yes to all these questions.

Good luck, kid, we're all counting on you.

Wicked New TV Show

*plug*plug*plug* I wish I was getting paid for this... but I'm not....
That out of the way, the new show MAD MEN on AMC is Fantastic!

Highly recommended. Better than the Soprano's and David Chase knew it.
That's why he hired the guy who wrote this script 7 years ago to write for the Sopranos. Anyway, this is probably the best program I've seen in a long time.

And of all things, on AMC. AMC who used to be a great channel until they started cutting the movies, and pausing for ads. I had to turn to TCM for my unedited classic movies.

Then this happened.

Ironically, a show about ads. But it's more than that. It's more than a period piece - at least so far. Click the picture to get some Google links about it. I'll fill you in more, but worth a look.

Jul 19, 2007

Possible Retraction - or catch and release

Well, it looks like might have made a mistake...

Al Gore and Fish are friends!

"Al Gore could choose something else to eat". The attack on the former vice-president, and his implied hypocrisy, were rapidly picked up by bloggers around the world. (yea! we're in the newspaper, ma!)

But the fish enjoyed by the Gores were not endangered or illegally caught.

Rather, the restaurant later confirmed, they had come from one of the world's few well-managed, sustainable populations of toothfish, and caught and documented in compliance with Marine Stewardship Council regulations. The Gores' spokesman, Kalee Kreider, admitted that the fish has been on the menu, but said: "The Gores absolutely agree with this humane society and the rest of the environmental community about illegally caught Chilean sea bass.

"The problem is huge. This is unfortunate, we have been in touch with the society today. The really important thing is that people become more aware of this issue."

What are the odds that Kalee Kreider probably has never had a day off?

Jul 18, 2007

Gore does it again!

Just a week after dumping tons of CO2 in the atmosphere to promote not dumping CO2 into the atmosphere, Al Gore again shows his commitment to Mother Earth by serving a threatened species of fish at his daughter's wedding.

Gore and his guests at the weekend ceremony dined on Chilean sea bass
- arguably one of the world's most threatened fish species.

Also known as Patagonian toothfish, the species is under pressure from illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities in the Southern Ocean, jeopardising the sustainability of remaining stocks.

Do as I say, not as I do.

Jul 17, 2007

Pee-soaked fly

Throughout history men have found tremendous amounts of entertainment through bodily functions and fluids. We laugh hysterically at a good fart joke, we make evenings out of pornography, we spit when we play sports, and we way love to watch the blood flow be it in movies or in unnecessary wars. It's our thing. If everyone had a vagina, no one would write their name in the snow. At least not without the help of some fraternity brothers.

That's my rationalization for my little story. My little true story.

I had one of those situations the other day where I really had to pee. A lot. And soon. Not being to continue on my journey into work, I pulled over in what turned out to be a poor choice for a restroom. A little gas station real close to the highway. I did not have time to second guess my selection once I stood up. Standing up for me means go time.

Luckily there were no keys needed in this bathroom. It was a gross little bathroom with a very unusual odor I have not had the privilege of smelling since I made the mistake of using a sidewalk porta-potty in Amsterdam.

I scurried in and quickly got to the task at hand. It was one of the best pees I have had in quite some time. It almost hurt it felt so good. About halfway through of a marathon urination session I noticed a fly hanging out on the inner side of the urinal. I had to do some maneuvering to get the right angle to hit the fly and not pee on myself or outside of the urinal. Luckily, I had a lot of pent up pee so time was not a big concern.

I aimed. Slowly, I moved the stream up towards the fly. The fly stared me down. I moved up the side of the urinal. The fly stared. And WHAMMO! I nailed that fly! God clean shot. The fly tumble down towards the water. I moved the pee stream back to safety and had a moment of satisfaction. A wet fly. Hehehe.

The fly, however, did not hit the water at the bottom of the urinal. A fly hitting the water is success. They are instantly incapacitated. They swim in circles and the pee-er can flush or scurry, makes no difference, and laugh all the way home. Not for me. Not today.

The fly pulled up at the last second. Flew up towards my head. I leaned back but was still mid-pee. The fly looked at me for a moment as if to say, "My name is Indigo Montoya. You peed on my father. Prepare for fly." He made a change of direction down and landed on my shirt.

I opted not to brush him off but to do the Britney Spears chest shake to get him off. He would not budge. I did the Victor Borge entrance shoulder slump, the Iggy Pop electric shake, and even the Judy Blume "must increase our bust" dance. Nothing. The fly sat and stared.

I finished, washed my hands, and brushed him off with a paper towel. The fly won this round bringing the grand total to 63-1 me.

Johnny Bench 'differs' in opinion.

Johnny Bench compares Barry Bonds' steroid use to Tiger Woods' lasik eye surgery.

From the link above, "Johnny Bench and Gary Carter said Bonds’ chase for 755 is good for baseball, but they part ways when it comes to the role steroids may have played in his success."

So performance, no matter what the means to get there, don't matter? If I'm Johnny Bench - which I'm not - I'd be concerned about what Bonds means to my numbers, integrety of the game, and the long term effects on said game. I'd at least say, "you know, I'm not interested in commenting on this story MSNBC, thanks for thinking of me."

The best part about Bonds not playing yesterday against the Cubs - not having to hear ESPN HD blabber on and on about him all galderned game!

Jul 16, 2007

Cubs sweep Astros...

It's the third day after the All Star Break, and all the sudden the Cub$ are in the post season? What the hell?
It seems that every media outlet has Cubs fever.
Yes, they swept the Astros for the first time since 1984.
Yes, they're 15-4 in their last 19 games.
Without relying on home runs to do it.

They're still behind the Brewers, although that lead is eroding... but not as quickly as one would hope. (3.5 games ahead as of 10 AM central, today)

Let's just sit back, take a nice breath of fresh O2, and enjoy the moment.

And let's postpone this Post Season rubbish talk for late September.

Could it be interesting? Sure.
Likely? Um....

I'll just say, I still believe, that they'll find away to blow it in somekind fantastic spectacular fashion.

Jul 13, 2007

Cubans for Cubbie$

Cuban taking an interest in the Chicago Cubs

What has been speculated for the last three years, is now becoming a reality.
I, for one, welcome our new overlord and master.

Forbes magazine recently valued the National League Cubs at $592 million, fifth-highest in baseball, although experts speculate the bidding could start at $600 million.

Cuban likes to win. And this is a virtue and strategy that has yet to be successfully deployed on Clark and Addison.

In all fairness...

Found these two political cartoons in the same post.
They're both funny.
Depends on your, er, point of view?
Start your flamewar! now.

Jul 10, 2007

In a parallel Universe right now...

*picture stolen and re-purposed for the humor and political statement of stupid Barry Bonds.
Between him and Bud 'gots to be goin' Selig - I'm surprised there's anything left.

Jul 7, 2007

But Anti-Carbon Carbon is good Carbon!

Live Earth concerts: artists flight distance = 222,623.63 miles. Carbon emissions produced by all concerts = 31,500 tons. Carbon emissions including TV audience = 74,500 tons. Hypocrisy = It's off the charts, folks!

Jul 6, 2007

Sports Bits

  • Bane of my Dusty Baker's Cub tenure was a feisty little shortstop named Neifi Perez. He could always get you that solo shot when your team was down ten or that crucial strikeout with the bases loaded to end a game. Well, it seems like you don't get stats like his (career .276) through hard work. You earn them the Balco way. Yep, Neifi was suspended for 25 games for testing positive to a "stimulant." I foresee a team that may need a Jaque Jones.

  • Tank Johnson's blood alcohol level was .072, under the legal limit of .08. The Bears had released him after his arrest because they did not release him when he was involved with shootings, drugs, and babies. See, the Bears wanted this thing called money. The best way for an NFL team to get this money thing is to go to and win the Superbowl. They needed him for that. But then they were angry because they lost the Superbowl and did not want to pay him because their stud lineman is coming back and is looking good. So they pulled the old "Duke LaCrosser" and fire his dumb ass for being sober.

  • President Bush was at the Cubs-Nationals game last night. When ask he about the Commisioner he was said, "He's going a heckuva job, that Sealy!"

Life+ 100 Burritos = Art

Steve Aragon, 30, gets ready to take a picture of his sons Giovanni, 7, and Esteban, 4, outside the 7-Eleven in Burbank, Calif. Monday, July 2, 2007. Over the weekend, 7-Eleven Inc. turned a dozen stores into Kwik-E-Marts, the fictional convenience stores of the television show "The Simpsons." (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Movie Review

The biggest most gargantuan movie of the summer has been released and is making fist wads of cash for Steven Spielbergo and also assumed filmmaker Michael Bay.

When the 'script' landed on the radar, I can only imagine how giddy they were.

Let's look at the timeline, if ever so quickly for this property. Hasbro, off the success of bringing back GI Joe to profitability by copying the size of KENNER's Star Wars franchise - and the Star Wars toys were profitable mostly because of the size of the figure allowed a better price point for consumers, and used less petrol to manufacture. Especially in the gas crisis of the 70's. Cheep price point, lots of different product, size and price allowed KENNER to make every creature shown, no matter how obscure = collectible. Profit profit.

Hasbro, flush with cash from GI Joe, looked overseas to Japan and saw multiple lines of Robot/Truck/Puzzle toys. They bought everything they saw. Slapped a couple stickers on. Gave them a back story, a comic book, and a cartoon (thanks to the deregulation of children's television ala the Reagan administration) and BLAM! The Transformers were born.

Jump thirty years later -

"So how am I going to sell all this Crack?"

The Transformer movie isn't so much a movie as it is a 2.5 hour long commercial - about a commercial. But they didn't stop at the toy/merchandising/bed sheets either. The first 1/3 of the 'film' is a recruitment pitch for the United States Armed Forces. You know, to fight the giant robots and terrorists. If we DON'T see these 'action figures' in their own GI Joe live action movie in two years, the rights holders are idiots. Maybe it'll be next year?

The other 2/3's of the movie is a long spot for GMC. The logo was oh so tastefully suggested - who am I kidding? It was so blatant, I was waiting for the salesman to come out from behind the curtain at the credit roll.

What's this going to cost me?

The risk, by Dreamworks - of putting a robot-car movie in the summer of 2007 is first, that the norms of the gen pop will take their kids to see the robot-car movie. Should be a no brainer, but to the actuaries of Hollywood; there are no 'stars', it's not a sequel (okay there was a movie in 1985, and it was Orson Well's final role... but that's getting ticky-tacky) the subject matter comes from a thirty year old cartoon/commercial, Michael Bay 'directing'. That's Risk. Risk two, that slobbering 30-year old 500 lb fanboys will embrace the movie. Bay and Spielberg are not 32, so they did not grow up with the morality play-animation/substitute family after school - nor the toys - so their skepticism for this to be a blockbuster must have been echoed by even older adults with checkbooks.

Solution - All risk is insulated by the US Military and GMC. Oh, and let's not forget Hasbro!

PS - be on the look out for other product placement such as Pepsi, HP, Nokia, Ding Dongs, Star Trek, eBAY, and My Little Pony

PPS - One other note: Hasbro bought Kenner in the mid 90's. Methinks the formula worked, no?

Jul 5, 2007

Fifth of July Blues

It seems that absolutely no one is working this entire week in America?

If this is the case, leave a comment.
Let us know what you're doing with your time.

And Play guess where Killre is.

Jul 3, 2007

You know that Libby thing?

Yeah, not so much. Remember that fine that Scooter Libby has to pay, and that probation that he'll be on for two years? Yeah, looks like those might go bye-bye, too. So, that's pretty much a pardon, right?

This Bud's for YOU

Bud Selig (cock) blocks Cubs-Marlins Jacque Jones trade to limit debt for next Cubs owners. Has nothing to do with the fact that Cubs are threatening Selig's team's division title hopes.

That means it will be difficult to trade Jones, who's owed around $7.2 million through 2008 unless the Cubs receive a similar contract in return.

So, now you're stuck wit' 'em. No? Yes? Thanks Bud. You gotta go.

Jul 2, 2007

Shhh... Members Only

And in the odd chance you're scratching your noodle on 'who's this dude?' He's Luke from an 'important' soap opera from the late 70's and 80's.