Monday, November 23, 2009

Wait . . . Talking Dinosaurs?

It is high time--no, well past high time--that I told you about Dinosaur Comics. Some of you may already know about Dinosaur Comics; if so, congratulations. As you have discovered, your life is richer for it.

To those of you who do not yet know of Dinosaur Comics, let me say this: it took me a couple tries to "get" Dinosaur Comics. My old roommate showed them to me, and I was confused and distracted by the way that the drawings are the same every time. It's always six panels with three dinosaurs, one of whom stomps on a house and a very small person. This is what I have learned: just ignore that. Especially the house. The house isn't important.

It's just a comic where the main character is an excitable T-Rex who has conversations with his two friends, a dromeceiomimus (she actually doesn't get to talk that much) and a utahraptor. And sometimes God. And ocasionally the devil, but he only likes to talk about video games. T-Rex likes to talk about linguistics, philosophy, and life in general. Who doesn't? And speaking of "who doesn't?" who doesn't enjoy headings like "A METHOD BY WHICH SOCIAL CONSTRAINTS SERVE TO LIMIT PERSONAL FREEDOM (a comic)"? We can all learn something.

Here are some (only some) of my favorites (click to see them larger):

Just in time for Thanksgiving:

I'm particularly fond of this one, since it makes the King Midas fable the horror story it ought to be:

Click here to read more . . .

Sunday, November 15, 2009

So . . . How 'Bout Those Aggies?

Guys. I do not understand this team. Let's review the conference games so far:

Loss to Oklahoma State, which is a pretty good team, by a mere five points. If that wasn't a moral victory, it was pretty close.

Loss to Kansas State, which had up to that point been an awful awful team, by 48 points. As I decided at the time, it was the second-worst game that has taken place since I've been an Aggie.

(Tangent: the interesting thing about K-State, who finish up the regular season by playing Nebraska next week, is that if they win their last game, they win the Big 12 North and go to the Big 12 Championship game. If they lose, they don't even become bowl-eligible. [They have six wins, but they need seven since they played two FCS teams.] Isn't that weird?!)

Win against Texas Tech, a perfectly decent team (whose only other losses have been to ranked opponents), by 22 points. This would have been astonishing even without the shaming dealt by K-State the week before.

Win against Iowa State by 25 points, which would have been more if Coach Sherman hadn't decided to be classy at the end of the game. This was a game that the Ags should have won anyway, but Iowa State is better than usual (who knew getting your coach stolen would work out so well?) and the Aggies looked very good in the win ("looked" metaphorically, of course, since that game was broadcast nowhere). So it was an encouraging performance.

Loss to Colorado by one point after having led by 10 as late the fourth quarter. This was heartbreaking. Colorado is eminently beatable, and if A&M could have held onto the lead, they would have become bowl-eligible.

And last night, the Aggies lost to Oklahoma by 55 points. And Oklahoma isn't even that good this year. I DON'T GET THIS TEAM.

My friend Lindsay offered the explanation that they're just a very young team. And this does make sense. There are several very talented players on the team, explaining the upswings, but they aren't experienced, explaining the utter lack of consistency.

But still.

The upshot of all this is that the Aggies HAVE to beat Baylor next week and that I don't know if they will. The Ags have five wins; six is the magic number. I enjoy that whenever commentators talk about whether texas will get to the national championship game, they say that the only possible obstacle is their game at Kyle Field, but realistically? Gots to beat Baylor to get to a bowl.

It doesn't help that Baylor is also something of a mystery--they lost their surprisingly good quarterback, Robert Griffin, but they managed to beat Missouri last week anyway. On the other hand, their score at halftime against t.u. yesterday was 40-0. (That's horrible.)

And of course, we'd need to beat Baylor anyway to keep the streak alive--no losses to Baylor at Kyle since 1984. Keep the streak alive, Ags! Pretty please?
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Friday, November 13, 2009

A Few More Disney Thoughts

1. So, in my previous Disney post, when I used the phrases "watched ad nauseum" and "burned into my brain" to describe my childhood relationship to Cinderella, I spent my hyperbole too soon. I subsequently re-watched The Little Mermaid and HOLY COW. Not only could I still probably sing you every song and recite every line (with the appropriate vocal cadences and everything), but I could pinpoint words that The Little Mermaid put into my vocabulary. This was particularly true in Ursula's song "Poor Unfortunate Souls." Ursula taught seven-year-old me what "gossip" and "body language" mean. For real.

2. Pocahontas (and Pocahontas in Pocahontas) is just kind of dull. That answers the question of why my sister and I never looked into watching it ever again after seeing it in the theater.

3. Mulan doesn't get a lot of love, but I will defend it entirely. That movie is funny (not quite as funny as I thought it was when I was younger, but still funny) and interesting, visually and thematically. Verdict: much better than Pocahontas. Or Sleeping Beauty.

4. Man, Aladdin is just good. It's just a good movie. The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast have not (yet) made appearances in my re-watch-fest, but those three--like most Pixar movies--clearly qualify as Quality Cinema. Aladdin might be third out of those three, but still.

5. Watching 90's Disney movies is a much different exercise than watching Snow White. (At least, generalizing based on myself, for grownups.) How do you judge Snow White? There's a lot about it that's kind of dull or uneven, but--it was the first time somebody made a whole animated movie. It's hard to blame them for the stuff that no longer really works (the several long scenes of Comedic Dwarf Business, the extremely rapid ending) when they couldn't have known better and, moreover, when they did so much that does still work. It surprised me, for instance, how good the songs were and how ADORABLE Snow White's forest friends all are. Are those just the cutest cartoon animals ever, or what?!
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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Few Disney Thoughts

For reasons that shall become clear later, I watched both Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty today. My sister and I watched Cinderella ad nauseum when I was a child but hadn't seen it in years and years. Sleeping Beauty played a much less prominent role in my childhood--I maybe saw it once or twice? But I had seen it more recently, since I rented it out of curiosity in college.

It turned out I still had some parts of Cinderella burned into my brain: the stepsister singing "Sing Sweet Nightingale," the Cinderelly song, and Gus trying to carry too many food units* under his chin and dropping them (I think of this often, when I try to carry too many things). But I also realized some things I never did before. Namely:

1: There is NO POSSIBLE WAY they could have given Prince Charming ANY LESS to do. He stands. He bows. They dance for a little while, but do not appear to talk to each other (they sing, but it's apparently in their heads). He speaks, like three sentences when he tries to stop her from running away at midnight. (Also? Way to run slower than a girl in heels, yutz.) He doesn't even do the glass slipper tryouts himself! The only personality he ever shows is when he yawns during the every-girl-in-the-kingdom-come-and-curtsey session.

It's a good thing Cinderella is kind of dull, too. They'll be perfect together.

2: The King is hilarious! He wants grandbabies so bad! He more than matches up to stereotypical mother-of-an-adult-child-who-really-wants-said-child-to-procreate that I've ever seen. Bravo, King from Cinderella. Bravo.

As for Sleeping Beauty, the impressions I gathered from watching it the last time were confirmed. It is not good.

I'm pretty convinced that I felt this way as a child, too, and that's why I didn't want to rent it over and over and over and over and over like I did with Cinderella.

Now, I know there are many adamant Sleeping Beauty fans out there. You are all probably outraged. My reasons are these:

1: It's not well-written. Watch it with a critical eye, you'll see. It's sloppy and formless instead of structured and focused. (And why did they bring her back to the castle before sunset on her 16th birthday?!? That's 16 years of exile [and very sad parents] flushed right down the toilet.)

2: The "Good Fairies" are incredibly stupid. They are therefore very annoying. And since they're the main characters, this is problematic.

2a: So, for 16 years, they've lived without magic, presumably making clothes and food for themselves, and yet on Aurora's birthday, they totally fail to make clothes and food? Did the other two just force the little fat one to wait on them hand and foot for a decade and a half? And then as soon as they get their wands back, they have a magic fight that gives away the Secret Princess Location (not that it really matters, because the Princess left the Location before Maleficent showed up, making it--again--entirely worthless for her to have been there in the first place)? And the fight only happens because they're such idiotic children they can't compromise on dress color? SO STUPID.

2b: I didn't time it or anything, but the fairies are onscreen and carry more of the story than any other characters, up to and including Sleeping Beauty. It's The Good Fairy Movie. I think this is an example of the poor plotting I mentioned in point 1.

3: That fight at the end between Maleficent and the Prince is very boring. (When I was a kid, I'm sure I was scared by the dragon part, but I was probably bored up until then.)

In conclusion, the more I think about it, the more I hate Sleeping Beauty, and I will not apologize for that stance.

*When I was a kid, I thought they were little cubes of cheese. I didn't realize until today that they're kernels of corn.
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Friends: Season Six

In general:
Before I embarked on this project, I had thought that Friends peaked with Seasons 3, 4, and 5, then dropped off a little bit in Season 6. But on further review, it turns out that the Season 6 dropoff is a little steeper than I believed. Most of the episodes are made up of a couple OK plots and one annoying one, or maybe two medicore plots and one based on one strong joke (examples of the latter: "The One Where Phoebe Runs" and "The One with Ross's Teeth." They ride the title jokes really hard, because they're hilarious, but there's not really much else going on.)

That said, there's not much that's terrible, either. There's no one subplot that sets my teeth on edge. "The One with the Unagi" is fairly lame, what with Chandler being a weasel about making a Valentine present for Monica, the weaksauce plot with Joey trying to get into a twin study, and the fairly repugnant scene where Ross tries to get a self-defense instructor to tell him how better to attack women. But even so, the "unagi" jokes are good enough that the episode isn't a waste of time. All in all, the only truly horrible aspect of this season is Elle MacPherson's acting. (Wow, she's bad. Wow.)

Season 6 is a fairly aimiable one (although that would be more true if you could subtract most of what Ross does) and, of course, an important one. It finds Ross a fitting job; it shifts roommates around until it comes out with the surprisingly good pairing of Joey and Rachel; and it makes Monica and Chandler an officially serious couple and then gets them engaged. Plus, it shows us what an alternate reality would be like, and that's always fun.

Little things that drive me crazy:
It's always weird to realize how long they had Phoebe living with Monica and Chandler, because they did very little with it. But then, what little they did with it showed that it did not offer many comedic possibilities. I think those three characters just bring out the worst in each other.

Directly from my notes: "Ross handles embarrassing situations poorly."

At the end of "The One with the Routine," it's the Christmas season and Joey and Janine kiss. At the beginning of "The One with the Apothecary Table," Joey burts in to brag about how he and Janine just kissed. It's no longer Christmas and everybody's wearing different clothes. (They do better with the short gap between "The One with Rachel's Sister" and "The One Where Chandler Can't Cry"; Monica's not sick anymore, but at least everybody's wearing the same clothes.)

Speaking of "The One with the Apothecary Table," I've liked that episode much less ever since I saw it pointed out that it's one long Pottery Barn commercial.

Joey says he'll give Ross free stuff at the coffee shop, as Joey has done for a particular hot (?) girl, "when you look like [she does] in a tight skirt." A tight skirt? A tight sweater, yes; a short skirt, yes; but does "tight skirt" make any sense? That's just not a thing.

Just little things:
They leave it unresolved, but I have a hard time believing Chandler didn't make up the joke about the doctor who's a monkey.

I, too, don't know what a pashmina is.

Little things I love:
The studio audience gets so sad when Monica and Chandler break the news to Joey that Chandler's moving out. Their hearts break for Joey's heartbreak!

The ambiguity of whether Phoebe's roommate, Denise, really exists.

When Monica was a little girl, she didn't have a crush on the Six Million Dollar Man; she had a crush on Kermit the Frog. (Girl, I can identify.)

Phoebe's magic purse (containing, among many other things, a goldfish in a bag).

Ross being touched that Rachel remembers what a trilobite is.

The sunburst-shaped lightswitch plate by Monica's front door. (I just noticed it.)

{removed: a Hulu video, can't remember of what}

Chandler's Tintin shirt in "The One that Could Have Been."

Monday = One Day, Tuesday = Two Day, Wednesday = When? huh? what day? Thursday = the Third Day.

Rachel's insistence that she can beat up all game show hosts.

How Matt LeBlanc plays the scene in "The One with the Proposal" when Joey tells Chandler that Monica's run off (although it turns out she hasn't really): it's fairly subtle, but he does it as Acting Joey instead of Regular Joey.

  • Phoebe: "Your tombstone can say whatever you want it to say! . . . Mine's gonna say 'Phoebe Buffay: Buried Alive.' "
  • Joey: "When I had insurance I could get hit by a bus, or catch on fire! It wouldn't matter! Now I gotta be careful?!" Chandler: "I'm sorry, man, there's never a good time to . . . stop catching on fire."
  • To Ross, who has crazily over-whitened his teeth--Chandler: "What was wrong with your old . . . human teeth?"
  • Monica: "Do you want to try this highlighter again?" Ross: "Nah, I think it poisoned me a little."
  • Chandler: "Why haven't you told them?" Monica: "I was going to, I really was, but then somehow--just outta nowhere!--I didn't."
  • Rachel: "Look, I'm melting butter!" Monica: "Great, Rach! You now have the cooking skills of a hot day."
  • Ross: "It tastes like feet!" Joey: "I like it!" Ross: "Are you kidding?" Joey: "What's not to like? Custard good, jam good, meat GOOD."
  • Ross, after promising to be cool: "OH MY GOD IT'S JUST LIKE I DREAMED IT!"
  • Rachel: "Well, you don't want to try too much, too fast. You do remember what happened to The Little Girl Who Tried Too Much Too Fast, don't you?" Jill: "What?" Rachel: "She . . . she died, Jill."
  • Monica: "You're jealous of Princess Caroline?" Rachel: "Do I have my own castle?"
  • Phoebe: "C'mon Ross, you're a paleontologist, dig a little deeper."
  • Joey: "Chandler is a complex fellow, one who is unlikely to take a wife."
And then there's Phoebe's prediction of how all their lives will play out:
Phoebe: "Well, first Chandler and Monica will get married--and be filthy rich, by the way--but it won't work out."
Joey: "Wow."
Phoebe: "I know. Then I'm gonna marry Chandler, for the money, and you'll marry Rachel and have the beautiful kids."
Joey: "Great."
Phoebe: "But then we ditch those two and that's when we get married. We'll have Chandler's money and Rachel's kids--and getting custody will be easy because of Rachel's drinking problem."
Joey: "Oh, what about Ross?"
Phoebe: "I don't want to go into the whole thing, but, um, we have words and I kill him."

Let's talk about Janice:
Friends fun fact: this is the only season in which Janice does not appear. Her voice shows up in "The One with the Unagi" (on the mix tape Chandler had claimed to make for Monica), and that's the least Janice any season ever has.

I've got a theory about Janice.

There are really two Janices. They have a lot in common, sure--whiny voice, that laugh, a distinct lack of social-and self-awareness. Janice 1 exists from Season 1 to Season 3; Janice 2 exists in Season 4 and beyond (except, arguably, for her appearance in Season 5). Janice 2 is born in the Season 4 episode "The One with All the Rugby." As Chandler explains, "You know all those little annoying things that she did before we fell in love? You know, like her voice and her laugh and her personality? Well, they're all back! And she's picked up like nine new ones!" From that point on (except in Season 5's "The One with Chandler's Work Laugh," to which we will return later), Janice is deployed to create uncomfortable/horrible situations.

In Season 10, she might move in next door to Monica and Chandler, because she'd be the worst neighbor ever! In Season 9, she sees them at the fertility clinic because who could more embarrassing to see at a fertility clinic?!? In Season 8, she ends up in Rachel's semi-private hospital room, because there's nobody worse to be trapped with in a small space! Janice is probably worst in her seventh season appearance. After she finds out that Chandler is marrying Monica, she starts trying to invade their lives, becoming the House Guest That Will Never Leave, thanks to her total inability to realize they want her to leave. She's annoying in every possible way there is to be annoying. (Incidentally, it's fairly infuriating that the writers repeated the Janice solution from Season 7--pretend Chandler's still in love with her to scare her away!--in Season 10. That's just insulting.) "The One with the Unagi" show that just the reminder that Chandler used to date Janice is insulting to Monica once he's dating her. The tone for all of this is set in Janice 2's first appearance, when Chandler is so desperate to get away from her that he pretends to move to Yemen. And apparently flies there, or something. I don't know. The Yemen episode also sets the low standards that Janice 2 episodes got held to.

Janice 1 episodes are more interesting. Janice starts out as the woman that Chandler is terrible at breaking up with. In her first appearance ("The One with the East German Laundry Detergent") she's a cool photographer who cares about Chandler enough to give him Rocky socks to match his Bullwinkle socks. Chandler makes a mess of their breakup because he's a mess when it comes to relationships. Janice is more overtly annoying in "The One with the Monkey," when she goes overboard gushing about how she and Chandler are "back together." She doesn't know that he just wanted Some Girl to be with at a New Year's Party, and he can't set her straight without hurting her. Again, Chandler is inadequate at handling the interaction.

Then there's "The One with the Candy Hearts." Chandler and Janice accidentally get set up on a blind double date. And oh, Janice is angry. ("By the way, Chandler, I cut you out of all my pictures, so if you want, I have a bag with just your heads. . . . You could make little puppets out of them and use them in your theater of cruelty.") Here too, she's overreacting, but it's not like Chandler is blameless for his behavior. They end up in bed together and once more Janice thinks they're officially Together while that's the last thing Chandler wants. Or is it? Chandler tells her it's not happening and Janice responds in what is, I think, her finest moment:

Season 2's "The One Where Heckles Dies" is all about Chandler's relationship inadequacies. He decides he's too picky and will therefore die alone. In desperation, he calls up his safety net. Janice (in her second-best burn) shows up married and pregnant. No dice, Chan-Chan Man. (Side note: "The One Where Heckles Dies" only aired eight months after "The One with the Candy Hearts," and Maggie Wheeler was pretty big, pregnancy-wise. Janice moved fast! [Maybe that's why it ended up not working out?])

I also like "The One with Barry and Mindy's Wedding," at the end of the second season. Chandler meets a girl on the internet who gets him; she calls him on his nonsense and makes him happy. He's devastated when he finds out she's married, but is willing to give it a shot when she says she wants to meet him.

Of course it's Janice. In her finest moment, she was right.

The first several episodes of Season 3 show Chandler not just dating Janice, but really happy with her. The conflicts in their relationship don't come from her flaws. Joey dislikes her, but that only causes friction between Chandler and Joey (which Janice does her best, bless her heat, to fix). They hit a slight rough patch when Chandler gets freaked out about being in a committed relationship, and then he overcompensates and freaks Janice out ("I'm hopeless and awkward and desperate for love!"). But Janice forgives him readily when he finally manages to explain what he's feeling. (And they even exchange "I love you"s. Aww.)

The only thing that breaks them up is Janice's Complicated Situation. She's got a kid and has a chance to make it work with her estranged husband (although she and the husband apparently don't have "movie love"). Chandler does the grown-up thing and steps aside. The dating-Janice-for-reals arc show a lot of growth in Chandler's character. (Not too much, since Chandler's attempt at a mature breakup goes awry and turns into shoe theft. "You can't leave without your shoe!")

Janice 2 is all about Janice's flaws. Janice 1 is more interesting because she's all about Chandler's flaws. Like Janice 2, she has her quirks, but any story with her in it is about Chandler's inadequacies and/or his efforts to grow out of them.

Furthermore, Janice 1 is secretly awesome.

She is! She's funny and cheerful and occasionally lays the smackdown where the smackdown is due.

That's why I'd classify Janice from "The One with Chandler's Work Laugh" as Janice 1, even though it comes after the Yemen one. This is the episode where Janice hooks up with Ross. Then she dumps him because he's just too whiny. BURN! See?

Janice is awesome.

Top five episodes:
"The One Where Joey Loses His Insurance"
or: "The One Where Phoebe's Going to Die" or: "The One with Ross's Accent"

"The One Where Chandler Can't Cry"
or: "The One with Rachel's Sister, Still" or: "The One with Phoebe Buffay, Porn Star"

"The One with the Proposal"
or: "The One Where Joey Buys The Mr. Bowmont" or: "The One Where Ross Dumps Elizabeth" or: "The One with the Backups"

including the total classics:
"The One Where Ross Got High"
or: "The One with Rachel's Trifle"

"The One That Could Have Been"
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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Aggie Football and its Surprising Turn for the Better

In the comments for my previous post, both Angela and Craig wondered why I never put up a post celebrating/gloating about Texas A&M's shocking beatdown of Texas Tech last week. I have come up with several possible answers.

1. I . . . don't know.
That does seem just like something I should have done, doesn't it? I mean, my team beating the team whom I have most often expressed extreme loathing for, especially when it's only the second time we've beaten them in nine years, and the first time we've beaten them in Lubbock since 1993. 1993! I was in the fifth grade in 1993! Now I have two college degrees! It has been a long time since 1993. And I didn't even blog about this win? That's pretty weird, yeah. I don't know what was up with that.

2. My teeth hurt?
I was all, like, drugged up and stuff from my wisdom tooth pulling. (By the way, I keep meaning to write a wisdom-tooth-wrap-up post, but the drama continues to unfold. I got the dry socket, and it was just as unpleasant as legend foretold.)

3. I hate to admit this, but . . . I don't think I hate Texas Tech as much as I used to.
I know! This is shocking! It needs its own subheadings:
a. I live in Big T(elev)en Country, right? When you're deep in the heart of Texas, fellow Aggies are easy to come by. You band together against your enemies, i.e. people who root for texas, Texas Tech, and ever so occasionally, Baylor. But out here, any fellow Big Twelve person is a great find. When I was at A&M, KU was a rival, a lower-level one at that; here, me and my Jayhawk friend are the only ones around who "get it." And then of course, I've gone from being able to watch my team in person on a regular basis to being grateful when I can see any Big Twelve game on TV. It's a whole different dynamic.
b. I think I think Mike Leach is funny. My feelings about his weirdness have gone through a gradual progression from scorn to bewilderment to amusement. OK, amusement/bewilderment. Is there any other response when, for instance, his loss to A&M prompted him to contrast his job to coaching the "Swedish bikini team" and to blame the loss on his players' overconfidence, said overconfidence having been instilled by the players' "fat little girlfriends."
c. Angela has convinced me that not all Tech fans are soulless devil fiends, which was really the basis of most of my hatred. I mean, a lot of them are really terrible, but not all.

4. I did not listen to the game.
This might be the biggest reason I didn't write anything--I couldn't say anything from any particular authority, because all I did was follow the score on the gamecast. And the reasons I didn't listen were that it takes concentration and effort for me to listen to a football game as opposed to watching one (and I was all drugged up, remember?) and that I really didn't want to jinx it. I mean, after I listened to the whole K-State debacle, can you blame me?

All of this is not to say that I'm not excited. Of course I'm excited! And yesterday's victory over Iowa State, I think, confirms that this team has turned a corner. They have an offensive line now! That means they can, like, run the ball! And Jerrod can throw without having to run for his life first!

Most importantly, the Ags are only one game away from bowl eligibility! (Sure, maybe I aim low, but it's exciting to have the team achieve my hopes for them anyway.) Seriously, I could do a Chinese fire drill of football happiness right now. The Aggies only have to beat Colorado or Baylor, and with the way they've played in the last two games, those are both achievable. Heck, if they can maintain this level of play, I wouldn't rule out (knock on wood) a Thanksgiving Day surprise at Kyle. (I'm not saying it's going to happen, I'm just saying I'm not ruling it out.)

In conclusion, did the victory in Lubbock cancel out the massacre in Manhattan? Yes. Yes it did. And if that's not saying a lot, I don't know what would.
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