Saturday, January 31, 2009

Classic Victor: "Internet Misinformation Database"

Today's classic Victor entry comes from all the way back in September 22, 2008; America's infatuation with Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl" was waning, Lehman Brothers had just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Paul Newman was terminally ill, and I made this little post:

Internet Misinformation Database

The good people at the IMDB have yet to fix any of my incorrectly credited roles. In contrast, for all the arguments there are against its reliability, Wikipedia would have immediately fixed a problem like that. I hope, they never fix it though, it's a pretty neat little spot of the web to occupy (plus I would have to update all my resumes again). Of all my fake roles, I am most eagerly waiting for the producers of "Days of Our Lives" to bring back my character of "Bailiff Sullivan." I figure if "Guiding Light" can have ESPN football analyst goon Mark Schlereth on in a reoccuring role, why not bring back the big V.

Classic Victor: "Shedding some light on 'The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia'"

Since I'm actually on my way out in a little bit and it looks like I won't be able to fill my usual 10 post monthly quota with two more completely original entries, I figured I'll do what all the big television networks do: throw in some re-runs.

Did you know that since the conclusion of my landmark "100 Posts, 100 Typos" retrospective back in June, I have written over 70 entries that never received the benefit of a proper retrospective? Now, while it's unlikely I'll muster up enough enthusiasm to do another month long tribute to the second hundred posts, I figured I can still milk a few for reruns anytime I feel like I've run a bit short at the end of the month (and believe me these moments will be more than infrequent). Like the old 90s NBC slogan said "If you haven't see it, it's new to you"!

So out of the Victor vaults, originally run way back on August 25, 2008 it's:

Shedding some light on "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia"

This was the culmination of my long time personal project to attempt to create an easy to understand breakdown of the complex murder/revenge story that is Vicki Lawrence's "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia". I originally intended it to be even more elaborate with a set of drawn schematic diagrams to give a better visualization of the characters and their movements and actions throughout the song. However, budget restraints and general apathy held me back to a standard written breakdown. To this day, many consider it to be the definitive blog post breakdown of the song....written by someone named Victor.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Wave of Mutilation

I consider myself a fairly jaded soul when it comes to television infomercials. When you look back at your formative years and they looks suspiciously like all the warnings from "Television, the Drug of the Nation"; you have to admit you've spent a lot of time in front on the TV. Seeing that I've seen my fair share of TV infomercials and that television has completely obliterated my attention span, it really takes a special, "Offer-ian" level, effort for a late night commercial to stop my remote in its tracks.

Well, for the past half hour, I was a captive in my own room; irresistibly fixed to this hypnotic sales pitch for something called the "Flavorwave Turbo Oven". The crazy thing about it was, it was probably one of the worst infomercials I've seen in my life, but I just couldn't stop. The baffling level of badness to it all tasked me to keep watching. Throughout the whole commercial I was wondering if this was some sort of elaborate joke or extended comedy bit. Everything from the premise of the commercial to the people involved to the actual product itself just seemed so absurd that it just couldn't have been a legitimate advertising for a cooking appliance.

In terms of the hosts, the big question is, what has Mr. T done in his decades of acting work that have anything to do with a kitchen appliance? They don't even bother even having it tangentially related to him by slapping his name on it like the Foreman or the Hogan Grill. In actuality, his generic role of inquisitive male counterpart could have been replaced any nearly actor. Of course with most other actors, you wouldn't be able to introduce him by having him break down the kitchen door! Sure the banter between him and suspected "actress & TV personality" Darla Haun is stiff and awkward; sure, every attempt by him at feigned enthusiasm is transparent and forced; sure, the sad sight of a middle aged, dumpy, gold chain-less, Mr. T is totally distracting from the actual product; but at least you have him dropping an "I pity the fool" about a minute into the commercial.

As for the machine, it looks so cumbersome and extremely narrow in application. Infomercials have the magic touch of making an otherwise shoddy or unnecessary product seem like a life changing innovation, but even all the late night luster couldn't make this product seem enticing. Half the problem lies in the fact that you never actually see it in action since it takes 15 to 20 minutes to cook things; and the time lapse videos they show you of meat cooking looks more like the scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" when all the Nazi's faces melt-off. The other issue is that all the demonstrations that Darla and Mr. T show in the commercial is basically the extent of the Flavorwave's use. In the relatively specific cases where you need to cook and eat medium sized pieces of frozen meat and vegetables with a cooking time that is about five minutes less then a toaster oven, the Flavorwave is the innovation for you.

Then there are just weird moments in the commercial that defy catagorization, like when:
  • Mr. T inexplicably gets a birthday cake.
  • Darla nonchalantly brings out a large tray of frozen meats.
  • Mr. T says he's had enough of the jibba jabba.
  • Mr. T uses Hannibal's catchphrase ("I love it when a plan comes together") from the A-Team.
  • Darla gives Mr. T some sort of official Flavorwave master gold chain
Of course the ultimate question is, despite the terribleness of the whole marketing effort, isn't the very fact that I was mesmerized for half an hour and I'm blogging about it make it technically a good commercial? Now that's some impressive jibba jabba.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Oh Really?

Last Thursday's new episode of "The Office", if you haven't seen it, had an interesting secondary side story. While Michael and Dwight were out of the office on the main A story mission, the rest of the office engaged in an episode-long debate to determine if multiple Academy Award winning actress and former Karate Kid Hillary Swank was "hot". It was an interesting debate with notable points being brought up by both sides (Kevin distinguishing whether someone is "hot" with whether he would have sex with them or not, an elaborate overhead presentation analyzing the structure of her face by Oscar, a spirited personal speech in defense by Stanley).

For me, her body of work, her sense of style, her attitude, and her obvious Oscar hardware places her strictly in the category of handsome women. Thus, as a handsome woman, she can never be considered within the traditional definition of "hot". That is to not say she's unattractive; she's just beyond categorization within those traditional boundaries of female ascetics. Can she grace fashion magazines? Sure. Can she be admired for her style and grace? Absolutely. Can the average man rub one out to a naked picture of her? It doesn't seem impossible. But is she traditionally hot? Most definitely not.

Now that my two cents on that issue have been given, it brings us to the other interesting thing about that episode. During my brief flirtation with full time work after college, I put in some time as a glorified temp at a Korean Human Resources firm. It was essentially like "The Office", except Korean, and totally devoid of all humor or enjoyment. Being an all Korean office environment, the TV water cooler talk would more often then not center around the only two shows on prime time network television featuring Korean actors: "Lost"(Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim) and "Grey's Anatomy" (Sandra Oh). One day, the discussion of Sandra Oh came down to whether she was attractive and the response was similarly polarizing. Roughly half the office found her to be a fine, attractive Korean woman, while the other claimed manly features and general horseface-ness (a few nationalistic souls found her unattractive for not looking Korean enough). This decisive split is also mirrored among discussion with my friends. I would imagine any place where humans congregate a similar conflict would arise.

What's my opinion on the matter? It's a complicated answer that is beyond just immediately playing the handsome woman card. There is an obvious line where a woman is handsome and where a woman is just unattractive by traditional female standards. Sandra Oh, precariously straddles that line. In my opinion she appears to be at times an attractive woman trapped in a handsome woman's body. In terms of the style and attitude that constitute handsomeness in a woman, she doesn't have it. She carries herself on like a traditionally attractive woman, rather than with the classy, dignified air of a true handsome woman (of course six years of "Arli$$" will rob anyone of their class and dignity). However in some cases like "Grey's Anatomy" and "Sideways", she can truly take on a the role of an empowered handsome woman that actually exudes attraction. If I had to make a call right now, figuring in my exposure to all her previous work(including seeing her topless in the stripper epic "Dancing at the Blue Iguana"), I'll lean to attractive handsome woman; but of a more non-traditional handsome woman mold.

Where do you stand?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sentimental Hogwash

If you haven't noticed already, a certain 44th President is having the "best day ever". When I was hired as possibly the first Asian teenager at my local A&P in high school, all I was given was a name tag and a quick tutorial, this was a little bigger. If you really think about it, given the extent of global media coverage and the age we live in, at this moment he is quite possibly the most popular person in the history of mankind. Going by all the people glued to the TVs at school today, you'd think it was the last episode of MASH (now there's appointment television; you could in theory get two Obama inaugurations, but only one series finale of "MASH.").

With all the attention and historic images that have been pouring in all day, the most striking one to me surprisingly was old Dick Cheney in a wheelchair.

Seeing the now former VP in that state reminded of another notable, bald, wheelchair bound, curmudgeon:
I'm not sure what Mr. Cheney's post Vice Presidential plans include, but I wouldn't put taking over the savings and loan and creating a crooked, hedonistic slum town known as "Cheneyville" beyond him.

As for you Mr. President, I'm willing to give you a pass on this $150 million dollar multi day Obamafest in the middle of a growing recession; on account of history and the expected national catharsis resulting from the end of the previous administration. You can rub elbows with Jay-Z, have your parades, and attend your ten balls (infact by the 10th ball you should be like Fonzie in that episode where he had to win a dance contest with Joanie and pretend you're all danced out and then wow everyone with a crazy Fonzie dance).

However, Wednesday morning I expect you to get down to some serious work.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

"So do you think they got shrunk down, or is it just a giant sack?"

The early months of a new year are a strange and fascinating time when it comes to movie releases. The emerging award season and the general slowdown in business of theaters nationwide lead to an unpredictable movie release landscape. On one hand you have your prestige pictures; some held over from the previous month, others entering wide release to capture the crest of the Oscar buzz. On the other hand you have the glut of held over cinematic trash from the previous year that the studios are hoping to quietly and unceremoniously dump out at multiplexes during the slowest time of the season. There is no other time of the year that comes close to the sort of wild cinematic clashes where potential Oscar winners compete head to head with potential Razzie winners for the hearts and wallets of the ambivalent movie going public.

Now while I haven't see the new Kevin James vehicle "Paul Blart: Mall Cop", I'm sure most will agree with me that it is closer to the latter Razzie category of January pictures than the former. The whole movie just screams cheap January laughs. You know what you're going to get when you buy your tickets to "Mall Cop", about two hours of: a fat guy looking ridiculous on a Segway (lol!), a fat guy taking his petty job as a mall cop far too seriously (haha!), a fat guy falling down a lot (ho ho!), fat guy saving the day at the end and getting the hot girl (rofl!). Just to ensure the laugh factor they slapped on a goofy mustache (hilarity), gave the main guy a silly name (Blart? That rhymes with fart) and set the whole thing in Jersey (the only state whose setting itself can be a joke). The whole thing looks by the book and destined for brief, inconsequential, quick change run in the theaters. I should hate it, or at the very least not even be thinking all that much about it, however as you can tell this is not the case.

I have a personal pantheon of watchability interest when it comes to movies. At the very top is the movie I am willing to spend money on in theaters to see ("The Dark Knight"), right below that is a movie I am willing to rent a copy on (I just recently rented 'The Philadelphia Story"), below that tier is a movie I am willing to watch on TV even with commercials (any time they play "Starship Troopers" on TNT I have to stick it out), under that are commercial free movies on premium channels (like the time I saw "Threesome". Was it a particularly good movie? No, but it was commercial free and had some nudity), and finally there are movies I have no interest in seeing unless paid too (oh, how about "The Sex in the City Movie"). This wacky version of "Die Hard" should be in that bottom rung of watchability interest with such similar January/February fat guy comedy releases as "Code Name: The Cleaner" and the Larry the Cable Guy epic "Witless Protection". However, I'm don't find myself automatically disgusted by "Mall Cop". While it is no where near the top of my pantheon, I might go as far to watch it with commercials on TBS a year or two down the line, perhaps even rent it if my Netflix queue gets a little light.

There's really no concrete reason why "Mall Cop" seems mildly amusing to me. It's sort of like when Elaine wanted to see "Sack Lunch" over the "English Patient". Sometimes you just want to see a movie about a family in a giant sack over some overwrought Oscar bait. Between global economic meltdown, Somali pirates, the fighting in Gaza, and ongoing wars abroad, the world's in a pretty shitty place right now. Sometimes I just want to see a fat guy falling down over "Doubt".

And if I am going to see a fat guy fall down, you really can't get better these days than Kevin James. From all the "King of Queens" episodes I've seen on planes and rained out ballgames, the guy is quite agile for a big man, like a Kirby Puckett or Bam Bam Bigelow. He definitely has some notworthy physical comedy talents. In the end isn't the only real thing that separates the fluff films of Kevin James and the "culturally significant" work of noted heavyweight silent film star Fatty Arbuckle is about seven decades of nostalgia (and a murder trial). A quality fat guy falling is a fat guy falling.

Note: As of the conclusion and posting of this entry, the latest weekend Box Office returns seems to indicate that a great number of the movie going crowded preferred some lighter fat guy fair. The previous week's number one film it beat out? The critically acclaimed "Gran Torino".

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Remember that scene in "Blue Velvet" where Dennis Hooper's Frank is meeting up with his friend Ben played by Dean Stockwell and he keeps telling Ben throughout how he is so impressively "fuckin' suave" and how much of a "suave motherfucker" he is?

That about sums up my definition of the late Ricardo Montalbon. The man was so goddamn suave.

His unique brand of ultra smooth, borderline caricatured, Latin accented, classiness was the driving presence that defined for me, among others, the greatest Star Trek movie of all time, in the best Naked Gun movie of all time, one of the best Freakazoid! villains of all time, a decent Spy Kids sequal, and a relatively tolerable Taco Bell commercial.

Roger Ebert has a personal "Stanton-Walsh Rule" which states that no movie featuring either character actors Harry Dean Stanton or M. Emmet Walsh can be altogether bad (apparently with the exception of Wild Wild West). In that sense I can probably say that for me any work was always a little better with a dash of Montalban.

Damn, that's suave!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

This Week in Handome Women News

In the great varied tableau of the human species, there are few specimens more fascinating and complex as the handsome woman. It is a description that eludes concrete definition. Is female handsomeness based merely on physical appearance, or is there a certain air and manner that exudes handsomeness, or is it mix of both? The label can be both insulting and complimentary. It can be interpreted as describing someone as masculine, attractive, different, refined, aggressive, strong, strange (all of which are subjectively positive or negative qualities depending on who you ask). To the men I ask, would you rather be with a handsome woman or an average looking woman? To the women I ask, would you rather be a handsome woman or an average looking woman?

The reason I've had handsome women on the brain lately is a weird confluence of recent circumstances regarding some of the greatest handsome woman actresses of all time from the past to the present:

The other day I watched the romantic comedy classic "The Philadelphia Story" with, the woman who defined cinematic handsome women, Katharine Hepburn, in the lead. It was a pretty solid piece of old school screwball romance that can't really even begin to work in today's age. I, however, had to suspend some disbelief that Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart would be so mesmerized by Hepburn's character. It must be her iconoclastic, strong will and independent spirit (which in the context of the time, makes her a really pionnerring character) because it certainly wasn't her looks. While the physical beauty is more average and workmanlike than unbearably handsome, she wears perhaps the most unattractive ensamble of clothing for a film not intended to be science fiction. A hideous calavcade of navel height trousers, gigantic man shirts, puffy robes, and shoulder pads aplenty work to completely deny her any additional astetic help. But maybe it's her personality we're suppose to fall in love with...or something like that.

The woman who carried the great handsome woman mantle of Hepburn through the last quarter century is the immoral Glenn Close who, as the round the clock advertisements on FX has drilled into your head, will be returning for a second season of "Damages"; one of those many "best show on TV" Cable serieses that are killing network programming. Call me crazy but I found her traditionally attractive enough for Fatal Attraction to be plausible, but as the years passed and she become more refined, she has truely embraced her handsome womanhood. It's a shame that the usually handsome woman friendly Academy has denied her that elusive Oscar (I feel like she should be allowed to trade in all five of her nominations for an equilvent Oscar). I doubt all the Emmy awards she'll win for "Damages" will ever fill that Oscar shaped hole in her heart.

Bringing it all around is the current piece of well crafted Oscar bait, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button". I knew modern day handsome woman star Cate Blanchett was one of the main stars but I was quite surprised when my friend told me that other contemporary handsome woman star actress Tilda Swinton had a supporting role in the film as well. This is essentially the handsome woman equilvent of having Robert De Niro and Al Pachino in Godfather II (at the height of their power, not exploiting them in their diminished twilight years). I would say Swinton is the more handsome of the two in terms of looks and attitude, Cate's handsomeness can be quite curtailed if you actually put her in a dress and "pretty her up". Of course to tangentially tie it all back to the beginning if Cate does get any Oscar love for her role, she can put it next to her Best Supporting Actress Statute she won for "The Aviator" for playing Katharine Hepburn.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

So Keep Your Love Lockhorns

As we approach the first full week of the New Year, I'm sure many a resolutions are starting to feel the strain if not already collapsed all together. In my years as a serial resolution maker, I've had some that didn't even make it past "Dick Clark's Rockin' New Years Eve." While I've found that most promises I make with myself are inherently doomed since I have no problems disappointing myself, I still on occasion attempt a small personal challenge here and there just for the novelty in seeing how long I can keep it up. It's sort of like playing an old 80s retro arcade game like Pac-Man or Donkey Kong; there's really no end to it (outside of the game's programming collapsing upon itself), you just see how long you can maintain.

It is in that bold, kamikaze-like spirit of New Years' Resolution making that I decided to go through with my long considered plan to create a blog that tracks the daily fights and squabbles of my my all time favorite comic strip, "The Lockhorns". You can keep the eternal melancholy of "Peanuts", the office jokes of "Dilbert", the lasagna fueled antics of "Garfield", the unrelenting meddling of "Mary Worth", the edgy racial politics of the "Boondocks"; for my money the "Lockhorns" never fail to deliver. Sure it's the same 10 or so jokes about unhappy married life and the difference between men and women, but you are guaranteed to always get the joke in every panel and its guaranteed to be at least an acknowledgable joke in the traditional sense. Despite my enjoyment of "The Lockhorns'" unique, classic brand of comedy; I don't think I've ever really looked at the loveless dynamics of this miserable marriage. So for the rest of the year I will, hopefully, give a daily play-by-play look at the eternal struggle that is the Lockhorns' marriage and give a tally of who's actually coming out ahead in this unholiest of unions.

So if you're looking for the kind of laughs that can only result from watching the petty, daily arguments of two ugly charactures of American domestic married life, one panel at a time, then look no further than "Lockhorn vs. Lockhorn" during your daily journeys through the blogosphere.

Of course, half the fun is wondering how long I'll be able to keep a daily journal up before my procrastination overwhelms me.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Let's see what Vince has to Offer!

I know Christmas ended over a week ago but I was pleasantly surprised by a wonderful, belated, holiday gift while roaming through the late night channels. My old friend Vince Offer was back making the late night infomercial rounds; and this time he was offering me and recession reeling America a means to quickly "slap our troubles away".

The commercial has all the classic Vince trademarks captivated America with the "ShamWow": the sustained sense of urgency, the quick talking, the hyper aggressive selling, the demonstrations with uncanny dexterity, the insultingly condescending tone, the constantly moving camera, the ridiculous New York accent. While I still find the "ShamWow' commercial to be more hypnotically compelling, the almost magical abilities of the product also contributed a lot. The "Slap Chop" commercial really shows Vince at the height of his powers, since it's really his pure strength of personality that's selling the product (the chopper itself is a fairly unoriginal item that doesn't really distinguish itself all that much from the other hand choppers). One can only imagine what kind of Offer-less world we'd be living in had his bizarre lawsuit against the church of Scientology actually panned out or his self financed "Underground Comedy Movie" not proved to be such a massive failure that he had to return to shilling consumer products. Billy Mays is probably hearing footsteps.

Some highlights from the commercial include:

"You love salad! You hate making it! You know you hate making salad! That's why you don't have any salad in your diet."

"Stop having a boring tuna. Stop having a boring life...You're gonna have an exciting life now."

"You're gonna love my nuts!"

"It pops open like that, like a butterfly."

"Life's hard enough as it is. You don't want to cry anymore."

"We're gonna make America skinny again, one slap at a time!" if you order now, they'll throw in the "Graty" ("Fettuccine, linguine, martini, bikini").