Monday, August 27, 2012

Somebody that I used to know

Have you ever heard a song, sang along to it in secret because you don’t want anybody in the world knowing you know the lyrics… only to figure out later that these are lyrics you really shouldn’t be singing ever? Well for many, this is one of those stories.

I caught my mother earlier talking a friend of hers out of the 12th marathon in a row of the song “Somebody that I used to know” by GOTYE. Now I’m not proud of this, but I do know all of the words, only I never really though about them until just a bit ago. And if you’re sleep deprived or upset, I’ll admit it’s slightly catchy. That plinking, Little Tykes piano in the background can catch you off guard, lulling you into a false sense of “oh what a nice song” when really, something more sinister is afoot.

So let me just break down the song a bit, so we can get to the bottom of this hit, which by the way now has a Kids Bop version. I want you to keep that last part in mind.

"Somebody That I Used To Know" feat. Kimbra

[Gotye:] (The man parts, sung in a style reminiscent of Peter Gabriel)

Now and then I think of when we were together

Like when you said you felt so happy you could die

Told myself that you were right for me

But felt so lonely in your company

But that was love and it's an ache I still remember

You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness

Like resignation to the end, always the end

So when we found that we could not make sense

Well you said that we would still be friends

But I'll admit that I was glad it was over

(Okay so right here, we have a dude who I’ll guess felt invisible, even next to this woman, and the two just realized they really weren’t compatible. Alright then..)

But you didn't have to cut me off (Ah… what?)

Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing

And I don't even need your love

But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough

(WOAH I’m sorry, time-out here!! You just said you were glad your relationship with this woman was over, and that being with her at all made no sense to either of you. So why the hell are you suddenly flipping this to her abandoning you? Where did that come from??)

No you didn't have to stoop so low (How is this stooping low? YOU DUMPED HER!! Of course she’s going to move on, you ditz!)

Have your friends collect your records and then change your number (How long have you been stalking her if she felt she had to change her number and send someone to collect her… wait did you say records? I hope for your sake you mean the vinyl round things that produce music and not like… medical, dental or financial records. Because if that’s the case, then you need to check and see if her friends are wearing badges, because if so.. those aren’t her “friends” you’re talking to, that’s the police.)

I guess that I don't need that though (Yeah, you DON’T need the records of a woman YOU DUMPED)

Now you're just somebody that I used to know

Now you're just somebody that I used to know

Now you're just somebody that I used to know

[Kimbra:] (The lady parts, sung in a style reminiscent of “I’ve been crying but not really and by the way I’m willowy and waifish and I’ll scream three words like a teen mad at her dad”)

Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over (Oh this doesn’t sound good.)

But had me believing it was always something that I'd done (So…. The man in the song has a nasty habit of spin-doctoring every problem into being someone else’s fault, and he’s not mature enough to take responsibility. Uh-oh.)

But I don't wanna live that way (And why would you want to?)

Reading into every word you say

You said that you could let it go (Yeah, he’s BAD at that.)

And I wouldn't catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know

[Gotye:]

But you didn't have to cut me off (SHE DIDN’T!! You dumped her!!)

Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing (But YOU said you were glad it was over!!)

And I don't even need your love (So why are you kvetching??)

But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough (Well can you blame her? You couldn’t wait to dump her, then you blamed her for every issue you’ve had since!)

No you didn't have to stoop so low (Her?? Ah… who’s the one singing about her again??)

Have your friends collect your records and then change your number

I guess that I don't need that though (More like she doesn’t need YOUR drama.)

Now you're just somebody that I used to know

[x2]

Somebody

(I used to know)

Somebody

(Now you're just somebody that I used to know)

(I used to know)

(That I used to know)

(I used to know)

Somebody

Now if you couple these severe creep lyrics with the actual video, which both singers are naked, wearing paint and standing in front of a really hideous painting:

You have a recipe for total disaster.

If this was a real-life couple, you can bet that a sequel song would include a restraining order, an arrest and then a psychiatric evaluation for the man involved. As for the woman? Oh you know she’d first send the story to some female magazine, and then the magazine would sell the story to one of those smarmy, man-hating production companies, and this would become the Lifetime story of the week. I can see it now.

“He told her he was glad it was over…”

Man: I’m glad it’s over.

“But was it?”

Man: You didn’t have to stoop so low!!
Woman: *Sobs* I didn’t DO anything!!

Keanu Reeves and Amy Jo Johnson star in a Lifetime original movie…..

“Somebody that I used to know.”

I will say this again, there’s a Kids Bop version now??


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Lost Lion King

When I wrote a blog about The Lion King back in May: http://codenamesailorearth.blogspot.com/2012/05/30-things-to-think-about-for-lion-king.html I underestimated it’s popularity. Blogger doesn’t let me see how many hits I get on any blog, and since hardly anybody uses Google products these days (except for the search engine and YouTube) I just guessed that since I only have a handful of subscribers that maybe this just wasn’t a popular topic.

I couldn’t possibly have been any more wrong.

So imagine my shock when I receive and email first thing in the morning about the blog.

You may recall that my 30th question was this:

“When the original kid books for The Lion King came out, they listed Nala and Simba’s child as a boy. In the sequel, Kiara is a girl. Was this a misprint in the original books, a simple ret-conning of Kiara’s gender, or was there another cub that Rafiki dropped?”

Well a plucky reader going by the pen-name Angel, in an attempt to answer my 30th question, sent me a link to a Lion King Wikia.

Now normally, I dismiss Wikia pages as they are fan edited, hackable and most often dominated by angry DeviantArt and fanfic writers who have been banned from Fanfiction.net. There really aren’t many good ones out there, but this one was beyond exceptional.

http://lionking.wikia.com seems to be run by people who really do their research, and if anything, I’d like to thank them for posting about a few books I remember seeing at various libraries. Starting with one particular book I remember wanting to read, 1994’s The Lion King: Six New Adventures.

An obscure book, it follows right after The Lion King with Simba and Nala’s…. son? That’s right! In this book, published by an outsourced team with permission from the Disney corporation, Simba and Nala have only one child, a somewhat homely cub named Kopa.

At first I was skeptical, thinking that maybe I was looking at details from a bootleg book, even in 94 I was a little skeptical, considering the low-quality drawing in most of the pages, but a further investigation via Google proves that this book is 100% legitimate, as are the other facts noted in this blog.

Kopa is rambunctious, adores Simba and has a little tuft of brownish red on his head. (A real lion cub won’t start sprouting this until he’s about 2 or 3. A teen in lion years.) Kopa was likely developed to look a little like Mufasa, and was probably made a boy since the end of the movie implies that “The Circle of Life” continues with Simba and Nala picking up where Mufasa and Serabi began, with a baby boy. Or at least, that’s how all of the movie books and Burger King mini-books describe it.

So what happened to Kopa, and why is he absent from Lion King 2?

My first theory was a simple one. Rafiki gave him a sex change. But not only would this be a difficult pain to explain to millions of youngsters in the mid-90’s and would have set off the coalitions like crazy, it would have created more problems down the road, like why would Rafiki make Kopa a girl? Did he anger someone worse than his father did? And of course it doesn’t jive with the opening for Lion King 2, so out that theory goes.

Did Kopa die? The Lion King films are heavily centered on death, and there’s plenty of ways the danger-prone, Simba-lite Kopa could have died before taking the throne. He could have gotten sick, been eaten, crushed in the way Nuka was in the second film, drowned, flung from Pride Rock, set on fire, inhaled one too many of Pumbaa’s farts, plenty of ways to easily kill off Kopa before Kiara’s birth, but I’m pretty sure Disney wouldn’t want to explain a dead cub. Oh sure, they’re totally fine with killing parents in gruesome and terrifying ways, villains, old friends and hell, they’ve even killed off main characters only to resurrect them via “magic” (Belle kissing a back from the dead prince comes to mind) but generally they don’t kill kids that often. I’m not saying it hasn’t happened (a few years ago, they gave us a short for The Little Match Girl) but kids, tweens, babies and teens are usually off the killing menu in these films and film books.

Kopa is listed on the fan pages as Kiara’s brother, but I think the third explanation makes more sense, considering what the original animation team has said in the past.

Kopa is an alternate universe character. Essentially he is Kiara.

Kopa and Kiara are also a cub named “Fluffy”. And who exactly is Fluffy?

Well back when they were wrapping up production on The Lion King, the animators only referred to Simba and Nala’s baby as “Fluffy”. It was a placeholder name used only to remind the team who was being drawn at the time.

Nobody expected the film to do as well as it did, and the Disney team didn’t actually like making the movie at all. It took several years to finish the film, during which time, the title changed, (it was originally a comedy called King of the Jungle while in development, with a little less emphasis on death) several characters were dropped (Nala’s derpy father, Nala’s baby brother Mheetu and a few friends for Simba and Nala, respectively) and several plot developments were scrapped. (Scar tried to get it on with Nala. For real.) Add in time constraints and these people just didn’t have any time left to flesh out a character for the baby. So the cub was temporarily named Fluffy, and the team went on to the next film.

For the record, Fluffy has no gender. This could mean that Fluffy is a hermaphrodite cub, or that they kept the gender neutral, in case Disney wanted to add something later. Though Fluffy perfectly matches Kiara, and has long been accepted as her prototype.

Disney outsourced the rights for the movie books to various publishers, including Grolier Books, and granted the writers permission to make up brand new stories and new characters, based on the movie, starting with Kopa, the assumed progression of Fluffy. And since nobody at Disney could be bothered to read any of these books BEFORE granting them release or drawing up a sequel, the books and comics went to print, and Disney never thought about it again. A perfect tale of corporate laziness right there, folks.

And these lost books and comics open up big fat gaping plot holes, such as the addition of uncles for Simba and Nala, cousins, an adopted brother for Simba and an entire fleet of older male lions, who could have easily taken Scar down. This begs many questions. Why didn’t these lack-a-bouts bother to help when Scar was ruling Pride Rock, and where were y’all in the last film? The books barely even keep consistency with each other, further pushing the “this is an alternate universe” theory.

Now the last people to find out about these add-on characters were the Disney writing and animation teams… who didn’t find out about Kopa and the rest until Lion King 2 was WELL into production, and just about to be wrapped. Nice one, Disney! Way to keep your employees up-to-date.

So with the team unaware of Kopa, they just continued on explaining that at the end of the movie, Simba and Nala only had one child, a girl named Kiara. And the opening of Lion King 2 blends pretty well with the ending animation for Lion King 1.

However some people still insist that due to a few animation differences (such as Serabi’s place changing between films and the altered sky) that this could have been a different ceremony, and that both Fluffy and Kopa exist in Kiara’s story, but again, this opens up plot questions. Did Kopa and Fluffy die? Did Fluffy and Kopa grow up and move onto another pride (as most male lions do) and if they did exist, then why is Kiara then the ONLY heir? I’m thinking the differences in the opening to Lion King 2 were just honest mistakes caused by budget and time issues, as is the case with almost all Disney sequels.

Adding to fans’ frustrations, if you purchase some of the DVDs for the second film, the animators fess up, citing that they did toy with the idea of Simba and Nala having twins, one boy and one girl, but the boy was dropped from development and only Kiara remained. While most people speculate that the boy was Kopa, he was more than likely Fluffy, since Fluffy’s animation sheets match the original concept. But again, the three cubs are one and the same in Disney’s eyes.

When asked, Alex Simmons (the person responsible for first drawing Kopa) confirmed that Kopa was never truly affiliated with Disney, and was solely his creation with Disney's label. So while Disney made money off of Kopa, and allowed the public to believe and accept Kopa and Simba’s only child, he does not exist in the movies and Kiara is all there is.

This was a lazy oversight by Disney, one that could have been dealt with rather easily. They could have hidden behind the worldwide accepted excuses of alternate universes or as Disney calls it “place magic”, they could have last minute re-added the cubs to Kiara’s film and just given the animators more time (we didn’t need a sequel right away in 1998 ~ four years AFTER Lion King was relevant) or they could have found a way to write out the earlier Kopa. Instead, Disney just left it alone with absolutely no explanation. Not even a ret-conning.

And on this note, I really feel sorry for my generation’s parents. It’s enough trying to memorize the cast of a movie you took your kid to see, but then to add on a triple personality cub like Kiara, and have to memorize the difference between Kiara, Kopa and Fluffy, it’s just tacked on aggravation.

While I can accept Kiara as the only heir, it is a shame that a company billing itself on quality once again let greed screw with a simple story, that just as easily could have been left alone.

Friday, August 17, 2012

My Girl Pollyanna's Odd life of Timothy Green

I’m about to spare you about 460 minutes of your life. And you are welcome. But in exchange I am asking you to make me a promise.

But before I save you those precious minutes and request of you a promise, allow me to teach you something about movies.

If you EVER see a commercial touting a movie as wholesome, charming, heartwarming, feel-good, chicken soup or any other Lifetime channel phrase…

RUN!!! RUN AWAY and for the love of humanity DO NOT EVER look back. Save yourself, IT’S A TRAP!!

It’s a scam as old as Hollywood itself. It’s how they snooker you into watching movies about drama that you really do not need to spend time on. And they typically use these words during times in which the American lifestyle sucks the hardest. It’s useless drama.

And when I say drama, I don’t mean drama with an explanation as in “Oh no, Timmy’s down a well, where’s Lassie??” no, I mean redundant drama, such as the movie opens and not 15 minutes in, the main couple is arguing over something ridiculous. Usually it’s either the woman making up something that she bases on a magazine her girlfriend read or the man is too lazy to wash the dishes and is able to magically bring in work into the argument, and he somehow equates dishes and work to “THIS IS YOUR FAULT, WOMAN!!” and if neither of those scenarios make any sense to you, congratulations, you are healthy.

You may have seen the ads for “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” which is being touted as “the feel good movie of the year”.

“Of the year” is a term used by a movie studio when even the cast is reluctant to see it.

Also, the term “feel-good” usually implies that the few characters you will care about either die horribly, become disfigured, sick or just have life take a monumental dump on them. Most of these characters are either super old, or like in the cases of the below films, tweens.

Ah tweenhood. If you ask a Hollywood executive, the tween years are the most awkward, death prone years in an adolescent's life, filled with spoiled, self centered parents going through a mid-life crisis, vicious bullying, puberty and of course, unsolicited and creepy first love. These are also the spunky youngsters, whose lives are totally and forever ruined, with a barely explained life lesson thrown in somewhere before the credits roll.

Take for example Pollyanna. Right off the bat, the sickeningly sweet tween Pollyanna, has parents that die mysteriously and horridly, and she is sent to live with her town bully of an aunt, ironically named Polly. The townspeople are fed up with Polly running their lives into the dirt, so they hold a bizarre. Pollyanna goes in secret, but when she tries to climb a tree leading into her room, she falls, breaks her legs into a million pieces, is rendered a cripple and is forced to leave to some unknown, seedy city in an attempt to get them repaired. There, that’s 134 minutes I just saved you. Oh and by the way, in the book, she eventually does get full use of her legs back, but Disney thought the movie was better off ending on a cliffhanger. Way to go, real family friendly.

When I was four, a movie called “My Girl” came out. I didn’t see it until I was almost 6, when HBO picked it up. It too was touted as a “feel good, heartwarming” yadda yadda, and it starred Macaulay Culkin, a popular child actor of the day whose star could only be challenged by Bart Simpson ~ who is a cartoon. Why you would punish an innocent child with a name like Macaulay Culkin is beyond me, but I digress. I had already seen Home Alone, which was deceptively mentioned in the ads for My Girl as “from the same acting genius behind America’s favorite” so how bad could it be?

VERY!!!

Long story short, the movie centers around a morbid child named Vada Sultenfuss, I remember because that name is just too terrifying to forget. Sultenfuss has to be the 5th prissiest last names you could be punished with. I digress. Vada is convinced that because her first parent died during childbirth, it’s clearly her fault and she was a murderer. Not helping is her dimwit father who owns a funeral parlor, in fact, I’m pretty sure they LIVE in it too. Eww.

He’s hell-bent on marrying this homely and self-centered bitch named Shelly, and we have our typical “I HAVE NEEEEEEEDS you don’t understand because you’re a CHILD” spoiled-brat arguments from the father.

If you are a parent, and you try to push your sexual frustrations off on your kids, asking them to accept whatever bad life decision you’re about to make, please, do us all a favor and kick yourself in the taint right now. It builds character.

So on top of this, Vada is bullied at school, and nobody wants to lift a finger to help. And there’s her grandmother, dying of Alzheimer’s and a ton of WEIRD adults in her life that the newspaper reviews only label as “an eclectic cast”. That is a very nice way of saying “they be creepy, smelly and severely crazy, and not in the fun, party type of way”. Vada makes a friend, Timothy, played by Mr. Culkin. Timothy is the only sane person in Vada’s life and to push the point that these two are soulmates (an evil word, don’t you EVER let me catch you using this abomination of a word) there’s a kissing scene. WHY?? They are 11 years old! Kids at that age should be playing with toys not playing with.. GRR anyway, we have a weird scene where Vada has her first period and screams, thinking she’s dying, because nobody in her life has ever explained puberty to her.

Then Timothy runs into the forest to retrieve a ring she dropped, and dies horribly of a bee attack. Thanks to this film I am now permanently scarred for life, to this day, I can’t even look at bees without flinching or screaming and if I ever find the people responsible for writing this crap, I am going to sue.

So at Timothy’s funeral, Vada and her father have an argument over… I don’t remember and it probably wasn’t that important. And then somehow seeing Timothy about to rot away in his casket, Vada realizes that she wasn’t the cause of her other parent’s death, and sometimes life is just a piece of crap, and realizing that life sucks brings her closer to her father. And that is 102 minutes I just spared you.

And WHY was there a sequel to this garbage?? In My Girl 2, Vada’s father has married stupid bitch Shelly, and oh goody they’re going to have a really horrible baby. Nice. So Vada wants to do a school project on the parent that died when she was born, and oh by the way, her grandmother has died too now, so Vada goes to live with her Uncle, who’s girlfriend’s son sort of babysits her… even though they’re the same age. (What?) At first they hate each other, Vada won’t take off the ring from Timothy, but then she and this monkey’s ass of a boy starts to fall for Vada, and the (now 13 year olds) kiss and have their first love. And I threw up, realizing that if her uncle and the boy’s mother do actually get married as they intend to do, Vada will be in a relationship with her step-cousin. And that’s another 99 minutes you have been spared.

And speaking of death prone kissing tweens, I’m about to spare you an unreasonable, 125 minutes.

Timothy Green starts off with the main, argument prone couple being told that they are infertile.

Let me stop right there. This is a Disney drama. Disney, the family friendly, Snow White and the seven Dwarfs Mickey Mouse uses as sled dogs company, that was planning on selling products from this movie to the 2-6 year old demographic, and yet also gave us Pollyanna... which has been aired on the Disney channel in years past and aimed at children. Please do work the word Disney into your memory of the commercial. Ok?

Anyway. Timothy Green opens with the main couple learning that they are hopelessly infertile. So they make a wish for a son. Knocking at the door comes 10 year old Timothy Green, a sickeningly sweet boy with leaves growing out from his flesh. Everytime he does something nice, or helps someone make a life discovery, one of the leaves turns brown and falls off. Along the way, Timothy helps a dying old man, some random people matching the “eclectic cast” description, and then he befriends a tween girl with whom he experiences friendship and first love. (What is it with tween lust in these films? EWW!!)

Then Timothy also has to deal with school bullies, bullies that kick girls in the face, bullies that attack Timothy and oh... fantastic, their parents are bullies too. And soon the town tries to rip away Timothy from his family.

But then everyone learns a valuable life lesson, and Timothy loses his last leaf. Despite his parents’ pleas, Timothy “goes away”. That’s creepy. He doesn’t die traditionally, he just fades away, and someone in the town notes that Timothy is light-years older than 10 and has appeared to people before in the same manner, leaving the movie goer to wonder if he was even alive in the first place. I hope he was, otherwise that other tween has to be told “Dudette, you were crushing on a zombie.” The movie ends with his parents now having the courage to fight for their right to adopt… because… you know… it’s illegal for straight people to adopt or something. This is a Disney film??

A drunk woman at a diner once told me (obviously mistaking me for someone she knew in her head) that people go to dramas when they’re already depressed, so they can see how much worse off their lives could have been, and thus this ideology makes them cry and then feel better.

We have a terrible economy, the last Bush administration sent us into a resurgence of the Great Depression. We have people unable to get government assistance, decent healthcare or even a job offering a living wage. We have a rising death toll among children under the age of 12, a massive unemployment rate, the highest foreclosure rate since Uncle Tom’s Cabin had it’s second Hollywood revival, and a drought large enough to trigger another dust bowl. And right now, people ages 0-69 are trying to find ways to cope with decades worth of poisoning, thanks to faulty (and yet government approved) vaccines from the Gulf War on back, lead coated bootlegs and American made foods, loaded with Bisephenol toxins and pink slime. How much more depressed to you REALLY want to be??

These movies should never have been made. I have yet to watch one of these films and have a “feel good” moment. I don’t even have the luxury of laughing. Not once, not even a chuckle. I always end up feeling either depressed or angry that I just blew a good chunk of my day on a film that could not be bothered to live up to it’s hype.

If you are planning on spending any time at all on a movie billed as “heartwarming” please don’t. We need to tell the studios to quit depressing us, and sadly, the only way you can do that is to hit ‘em where it hurts. The pocketbook. Do yourself a favor and avoid these “chicken soup” movies like the plague.

And now the promise you must make me.

And if by some chance you know me personally, as in I’ve seen you in real life or have let you had a phone conversation with my mother…

DON’T ~ and I am NOT kidding here ~ DON’T YOU EVER take me to see one of these films.

Even if there is a bet involved. Even if the world stops spinning. Only if the sun is about to crash land onto the planet, and the only way to send it back to it’s proper orbit is to strap me down and force me to see the feel good movie of the year will I EVER even think about entertaining your request.

So help me, unless you have a really valid excuse (such as the ads lied, there’s no explosions here and why does the Death Star look like a windowless van near a hair salon??) I will hurt you. I will grant you a scar in an embarrassing and unavoidable to notice place.

You will spend your days with your friends endlessly ribbing you, and when you are old and feeble, neighborhood children will walk up to you and ask “Yo GRAMPS, what’s with the burn mark on yo’ forehead in the shape of Hello Kitty?” and you won’t be able to look them in the face.

All you will be able to do is just stare up at the ceiling as you grip the arms of your chair, digging your fingernails in, gritting your teeth and hissing “I took that woman to see the feel good movie of the year…”


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Domestic meteor shower

All I wanted to do was to see the meteor shower.

The following story is sad but true. For the love of humanity, if you are anything like the woman in this story, please, I am begging you, get OUT of whatever pathetic excuse you call a relationship, file a police report and move on.

And I don’t even care what gender you are. If you are in an abusive relationship GET OUT. Don’t even give me the lame, wussy excuses of “But he/she luuuuvs me” or “But I luuuuuv him/her” because if love was actually a part of the equation, the fists would NEVER fly. Act your age, toughen up, pull yourself up and get to running. Never look back.

Hypothetically, I could have posted this the day after the meteor shower, but my gut told me to wait a few days and see what happens. I’m very sad to say it was right.

So a number of days ago was the meteor shower. I had fog in my area but it was clearing up, so I left my window open. Normally I don’t do this, especially at night, but how often can you say you saw a meteor from your comfort zone? So I turned down the lights and waited.

Oh, I got a show alright, just not one that NASA would approve of.

Now across from my house is a little blue cottage. For all the 7 years I’ve lived in this Podunk area, my redneck neighbor lady has been for the most part quiet. The last time I mentioned her was probably in 2009 when on MySpace I referred to her as “drunk lady”. Why? Because on the occasion I do see her, she’s swilling wine, in a white tank top, daisy duke jean shorts and sometimes with car keys in her hand. For all 7 years also, there has been a redneck man coming by her house almost every day in a pick-up truck. I don’t know their names, but I do know that anytime he comes around, she stops drinking, bows her head and goes inside the house.

I’m kicking myself now for not seeing the big picture.

So on Saturday night as I’m waiting for the meteor shower, I hear screaming from the little blue cottage.

I turn to see the pick-up truck man grab the woman’s face, and throw her four steps to the ground off of her porch. He then races down and starts beating her.

I grab the phone and dial 911, trying to stay calm while the seemingly bored operator lazily makes the call to the police. I swear I wanted to hit something at that moment. This 911 woman couldn’t even try to act like she cared. As soon as she had my address, she hung up. Oh real nice.

I wait, watching this man beat the woman. Nobody shows up.

He walks into the cottage. My stomach drops. I don’t know this woman too well, but I know she has a little daughter and an elderly mom with really bad arthritis, both of which stay with her a good chunk of the time. I’m scared he’s going to target them next.

Instead he comes back out, and the two start looking for jewelry. I wouldn’t know that except they are screaming at each other. Apparently in the melee she dropped some Wal*Mart women’s jewelry that HE wants for himself. I’m not even kidding.

She has a flashlight and a cell phone that she’s using for light. He’s spitting and screaming at her, she’s trying to find a ring.

Suddenly, he puts her in a headlock takedown, and begins beating her again. As I turn to dial 911 a second time, he pulls out a BiC lighter and sets her face and hair ablaze.

Mama is now on her phone and we are both screaming “SHE IS ON FIRE!!” I watch the woman run down the street as he is screaming at her.

He goes inside the house, comes back, then from the truck produces a large dog.

Now, I’m no expert on dogs, so I have no idea what breed this is. All I can tell is that he’s big enough to eat Scooby-Doo. This thing looks like a shaved golden retriever but with monstrously HUGE front legs. It’s got an abnormally large neck for a dog and it’s muscles are pulsating. If I didn’t know better, I’d say it was on steroids as I’ve never seen a dog like this before.

The dog starts sniffing around. He’s screaming at the dog to go after her, but when he lets go of the leash, the dog just starts sniffing around in a circle. While the dog does this, the man is turning his truck lights off and on, threatening to mow her down.

Finally, after 15 of the longest minutes you can imagine, the cops arrive. He gets a police escort in his truck while the woman is sobbing. Her lip is messed up, but she will make a full recovery.

The next day I find out that the man was already on the local police radar. Just three weeks ago, he slammed into a pole with his truck, hit another car and nearly missed hitting a kid.

Then another person steps forward, claiming he used to work with him. He’s a locksmith.

Every day he would come to work super drunk, and proclaim that the woman (who is in reality his EX wife) somehow ruined his life, and because of that, he wants her dead, and he firmly believes everything she owns or has ever owned (even prior to meeting him) HE earned, HE deserves, and he wants it all. Her jewelry, her clothes, all of it. This is not the first time he’s beaten her.

Now with a head case like that, you would expect the story to just stop right there.

It doesn’t.

I opened my window today to see his truck in front of her house again. She kisses him, and then screams “OH YEAH?? WELL FUCK YOOOUUUUUU!!!!” and the argument over who deserves the $5 Wal*Mart ring begins again.

I’m hoping at least her daughter and mom are somewhere else today, the last thing I’d want to see is the two most helpless people getting caught in the crosshairs.

In case you’re wondering, the sky cleared up right as the second cop car parked in front of my house. I didn’t see a meteor shower, but I got a shooting star. I’ll let you imagine what I may have wished for.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Don’t take Power Rangers seriously.

As I type this, I’m trying to price check the new Power Ranger DVD sets. I really just want the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, but I will accept Mystic Force if it’s out. I’m a little excited. When MMPR was first on, only a handful of VHS tapes came out. Hardly any of them topped out at an hour (most were just 25 minutes of program, plus an additional 8 minutes of ads, four at the start of the tape and 4 at the back, or a music video) and only a select number of episodes were ever put on VHS. If you did manage to collect all of the tapes, you’d have about 10-15 episodes total, all way out of order. So the idea that I can see this show in it’s entirety on DVD makes me happy.

But before I can get the price of the sets off of Amazon, I have to sift through an entire internet full of snarky reviews about the original series. Here are a few excerpts from a DVDtalk review: http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/55994/mighty-morphin-power-rangers-season-1-vol1/

“First and foremost, the acting is absolutely dreadful. I think the last time I saw acting this bad, was probably on those ancient, super corny after school specials. Yeah, it's baaaad. Also, as you can tell by my typical episode breakdown, the show can get pretty repetitive if you marathon a bunch of these episodes just as I did.”

I have a little issue with this statement.

Yes, the original MMPR (which by the way was the 13th Super Sentai in Japan, meaning that right off the bat we’re already missing 12 groups of Power Rangers) did have some schlocky acting, border-lining a Cinemax soft-core porn. But keep in mind, this was a 1993 TV show, pitched to 5-7 year olds. It wasn’t supposed to be serious.

I think a majority of these reviewers need to understand that this show was made by a California team (read: flakes) that made a show for kids to enjoy.

Enjoy, and enjoy in carefree bliss. Not to learn from, not to have shove morals down their throats, just to enjoy. It's not supposed to be as dramatic as Batman, as over stimulating as Yo Gabba Gabba or as educational as Bill Nye. Even with the FCC mandated PSA's Power Rangers had (the first ones I can remember were don't be a bully, we're just actors and don't pollute) it wasn't supposed to be taken seriously. None of the actors took it seriously, so why should we?

Saban wasn't hunting for a daytime Emmy or to be the Martin Scorsese of Fox Kids, he was looking for a quick buck, and all we kids wanted was to enjoy a 25 minute bit of superheroes.

1993 was a quirky year. One of the top family films was Mr. Nanny, Tiny Toons Adventures was a top cartoon, every kid had a Trapper Keeper and collected PoGs, men wore Tommy Hilfiger, women wore Ashley Stewart and kids wore French Toast. Bright colors were still all the rage and everything had to be extreme. So in a world where every 2nd commercial had a long, drawn out “BLAAAAAAAAAAANG” electric guitar riff and a voice over telling you that your parents suck and everything you own isn’t extreme enough, Power Rangers fit right in. Schlock and all.

Personally? I liked the schlocky, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers for a ton of reasons, but one thing I liked alot was that it didn't change very much episode to episode, until after the Ninja Ranger saga with Ninjor.

At the time that my Ranger fever was highest, everything in my life was changing rapidly, and never for the better, so it was nice to be able to watch something stable. Whether it was 4:30 in the afternoon, 8:30 in the morning on Saturdays, 7:00 in the morning on weekdays or 7:00 at night the week they debuted Lord Zedd, it was my 25 minute escape from reality.

When they did change an actor out or add something to the cast, it was a slow change that gave viewers a chance to accept it. But the general flow of the episodes stayed the same, and even when the main characters did go away, we were always reassured that they could (and often times did) come back, and that the good guys would always be friends and the bad guys would never totally sever their ties.

But for the most part, the episodes followed a simple formula:

1.A simple plot line develops. (The Power Rangers are hosting a food drive to raise money for the playground.) Calamity ensues with Bulk and Skull. (FOOD FIGHT!!)

2. Rita Repulsa (or Lord Zedd) sees the plot line, and has Finster develop a monster around said plot line. (Finster creates a pig.)

3. The monster wreaks havoc on Angel Grove.

4. The Rangers have to transform, and go into battle. Monster grows and the zords are needed.

5. Monster is defeated.

6. The plot line is wrapped up. (The principal buys the last cake, giving them the $20 they needed to finish the fund raiser.)

7. Everyone laughs and the credits roll.

It was a simple show. And with so many shows cramming our little heads with propaganda about the environment, politics, health, pseudo education and all kinds of other morals, it was nice to have something mindless to watch. Something to relax to. Something that the kids at home could daydream about and goof off with. I don’t think 25 minutes of relaxation is all that bad for a kid, especially when you look at what they have to deal with.

Countless are the days I spent wondering why there weren’t yet any purple or orange Rangers, or daydreaming that they’d eventually meet up with the Japanese Rangers I had just read about in a magazine. It’s the kind of youthful make believe that I’m sad to say most children’s programming does not allow.

Think about it. You never hear kids daydreaming aloud anymore about their own, made-up characters or asking honest questions about why there are and are not certain storylines. They just accept that this is all there is, and they don’t even try to daydream at all these days, not without some teacher or pediatrician threatening to pour Ritalin down their throats until they “stop that free thinking idiocy” and act like an adult. Nope. My generation was the last to have an imagination, one that didn’t require a late night DeviantArt post, based on sexual frustration, stranger hate and the lack of parental guidance.

We all had different levels of daydreaming and different levels of Power Ranger fandom. Some kids were content to just watch the show, while others collected the toys and cosplay. Rich kids even sent away their $30 to join the official fan club, so that they could obtain their mass manufactured 8 x 10’s and a coupon for the fruit snacks. A $30 rip-off, but one that we broke kids used to banter about on the playground, hoping to be one step closer to becoming Rangers ourselves one day. The carefree mindlessness was so strong, not one of us even minded that the toy zords would fall apart if you played too roughly, though the desire to collect them all was strong.

While the parents complained endlessly about the violence, there really wasn’t much to speak of. The fight scenes were carefully choreographed dance moves, and the actors themselves would even film segments, reminding us that this was staged, and we shouldn’t try it at home. The explosions were done either through Toei’s trick camera editing or via post production special effects, so while we kids could take in the idea of a life or death battle, there was never anything too severe for television.

I wish this was something that could have stayed this way forever.

The mindless enjoyment of the series in my opinion stopped right after the Ninja Ranger saga, when they added the first blonde Ranger, Kat. And while she was a likeable character by the time Turbo started, her arrival sparked the death knell for a happy chapter in my days as a Fox Kids viewer.

Kat was replacing Kimberly, the valley girl brunette we’d all grown to love (nasty attitude aside) and more than half of that season revolved around Kat, getting to know Kat, getting Kat to stop being evil, and teaching Kat how to use a zord ~ issues that Tommy (the last evil turned good ranger) didn’t need more than 5 episodes to work out. Other take over Rangers Aisha, Rocky and Adam only needed 4 episodes before we were all satisfied with them taking over for Jason, Trini and Zack.

Kat needed almost her own full season to get acclimated. That is inexcusable. Especially for a Power Ranger.

Aside from Kat (who needed her hand to be held through each episode) the final episodes of MMPR started adding in extra villains that took away from Lord Zedd and Rita, and the entire 13 episode finale where the Rangers became children and needed the Alien Rangers, took a ton of the fun out of it for me.

After that, the Rangers changed out every year, and it became hard to get emotionally invested in any of them. We went from 30 episodes a season down to 13 every February, plus an additional 6-7 in the early summer, and then another handful to wrap up the series in time for the next batch. 30 episodes for MMPR just meant that the cast would come back next season, ready for action. With se exception of Samirai/Super Samurai, 30 episodes for any other set of Rangers means that come next season, they won’t be around.

And since then, we’ve expected too much from the Power Rangers. As we grew up, we started to forget that this was supposed to be fun and light hearted.

Of the many things we started expecting of them, we’ve expected them to be more serious, more brooding, and a whole lot less trusting.

The original MMPR only allowed the Rangers to have trust issues In episode one and in select episodes where the Green Ranger was under Rita’s control. Our of 145 episodes, I think that 2-7 trust issue episodes is a fair amount.

Now? Good grief! Every team since Power Rangers in Space has had trust issues. Brooding Red Rangers that eye the others with suspicion, questioning the yearly authority figure who granted him his power, while the other rangers bicker over who should be leader and “can I REALLY trust you??” One Emo Ranger would be fine. But 3-6 of them and I’ve had it.

We’ve also complicated their powers.

The Mighty Morphin Rangers had a simple wrist communicator and a belt buckle morpher. Items that are super easy to conceal and require absolutely no instruction booklet to operate. Just scream out “IT’S MORPHIN TIME!!” and the name of your dinosaur, mythical creature or animal, and POOF you’re a Power Ranger. Need a zord? Yell for it. That’s all!

But starting with Zeo, it’s become a rigorous routine to transform. Zeo and Turbo required you to wear dual gauntlets that needed to be fit together like a puzzle, while in Space gave you an enormous keypad gauntlet, that required you to punch in a different code for everything you needed.

And now we have flip phones, each with it’s own series of spells that need a special number to activate, and the Super Samurai Rangers now have to write in Kanji, draw a circle and then say a spell. I am not even joking. Do you know how hard it is to write in Kanji?? By the time you get the word right and then draw the circle, the monster of the day could have stepped on you, eaten the other rangers, blown through the town and moved onto the next city. And don’t be bad at spelling in Kanji, you might just seal away your Power Ranger transformation.

Another big issue I have with the new gadgets? Plot holes.

The MMPR morphers and zords both had a simple explanation. This is ancient technology that Zordon has been sitting on for several thousand years. Just pop the coin into the morpher and let nature do the rest. And as kids we all accepted that. It was simple. We didn’t care what it looked like and we didn’t need another explanation. The gadgets worked and that’s really all that mattered.

The Super Samurai and Mystic Force Rangers were also supposed to be based on ancient technology. So why then do they have to transform with cell phones?? Think about that for a second, the Super Samurai and Mystic Force powers were supposedly created during the Edo period and Renaissance periods respectively. There were NO cell phones back then!! NONE!!

It’s sloppy storytelling to add modern day technology to ancient powers. And judging by the slumping toy sales, the updated technology is not enticing today’s kids to buy into it.

We also pay too much attention to the world outside of the daily battles and expect the Rangers to be more dramatic.

Episodes of MMPR dealing with each Ranger’s family life were few and far between. We only needed one episode to explain that Tommy lived alone or that Kimberly’s parents were divorced. We never needed a special story arc to tell us twice when Kimberly’s mom got a boyfriend or that Billy’s parents were stuck up dorks. A passing cameo or sentence once every 30 episodes was more than enough to satisfy our curiosity.

RPM needed extra episodes to tell us that Summer was a spoiled brat debutante with doubly self-centered and controlling parents, and that Flynn was from Scotland, and not you know, California. They needed another three episodes to explain that Gem and Gemma are twins. A good chunk of Operation Overdrive was devoted to the Red Ranger coming to terms with being an android, and Dino Thunder had to drive it home that the moody and cantankerous Dr. Oliver was once MMPR’s Tommy. The later series spend so much time focusing on the background stories and adding drama, that the Rangers often forget “Oh DERP I’m a super hero, and like ah.. the villain is gonna step on me.”

From the people in charge of writing and filming right down to the TV critics themselves, people have forgotten that Power Rangers is supposed to be schlocky, funny and always, action packed. It’s escapism in it’s purest form, and we’re not supposed to let so-called “real world” drama taint that.

While DVDtalk may not appreciate it, I want to embrace it. It’s a shame we don’t have more shows like this on for any age group, but more so for children. The acting was goofy, the plotlines were radical, and isn’t that how television was supposed to be?

On the rare occasion that I pop in my old VHS tape, complete with lines from the many times I’ve skipped past the audio cassette and toy ads, I try to enjoy MMPR for what it was. I don’t pick at the hack and slash editing of Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, I don’t tear apart the acting or even try to hunt for realism. I just watch the show. I let the show entertain me.

So bring on the goofy, rubber mascot villains from Toei and the skinny, Technicolor, spandex suited warriors in their slow and difficult to maneuver Dino Zords, and let them bring along their blanket of questionable teenage morals, clumsy plastic weapons and unnecessarily drawn out pose and introduction routines.

It’s Morphin time, dammit! And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Stupid things that Teachers say

As I type this, it’s the start of August, and as such, it’s the end of summer vacation for most pre-collage aged children. For most people under the age of 21, it’s a somber time, as your carefree, summertime youth is suddenly interrupted by a sharp end to what little freedom you have, and you are thrust into the cold, heatless and unforgiving school system, where you must endure another year of conformity.

And for the over 21 crowd… it’s one of the happiest times of the year! For parents, it means an extra 8 hours each day of their tiny, two legged mistakes being someone else’s problem, and for non-parents, it means an awful lot less trolling until December. Why? Because teenagers are hit with so much useless and time consuming work, that they have no time to spend spamming YouTube with hate.

I’ve never missed being in public school. The three years I spent there, plus the six months I worked at a school supply store/teacher’s aide, showed me enough ignorance to last a lifetime. I doubt I could meet a more ignorant lot, but then I really shouldn’t challenge fate. My best school years were spent being homeschooled, where I had access to un-edited books and contact teachers that actually cared what happened to me. A luxury the common public school refuses to allot your little ankle-biter.

With the exception of about 5-6 teachers I can vaguely remember, the majority of teachers I’ve dealt with have been moronic, self-centered, lazy and unimaginative. And it startles me, considering that most of them come from good, and financially well off schools. More shocking? If you’re reading this, you may have been spoon-fed the exact same crap I have been!

So here are a few pearls of stupidity I’ve received from teachers and other school based shysters.

~ Math without a calculator ~

I wasn’t a bad math student, I got straight A’s and a few A+’s, but I wasn’t by any means a math whiz. It took me longer to solve a math problem than it did say science or sociology, so to this day I keep a calculator with me.

One day, I caught one of my teachers snatching a calculator away from a boy in my class during a math lesson. Now mind you, just the same week, this woman was on me for not bringing a calculator to class, so imagine my shock when the boy gets reprimanded for using the very thing she told him to bring. Why even ask a kid to bring a calculator to school, if you don’t want him to use it?

So I asked her point blank “Why can’t we use a calculator in class?”

Without blinking, she whipped around and said “Because Koriander, you have to learn how to do math in your head by yourself. When you grow up and then get old, you won’t be able to rely on technology. You will have to balance a checkbook and figure out receipts all by yourself. Technology won’t be able to help you then. We do not now nor will we EVER live in a technologically based society.” She said just two rooms away from the computer room.

Fast forward to today. Everyone has a smart phone. Every phone has a calculator built into it. Every computer too. Every ounce of life is now technologically based. We now even have gadgets that order us about. I wonder where that idiot is now? Suri?

~ Mars ~

It was always considered a “special treat” to see the teacher wheel in the television and VCR stand. Cable in the Classroom programs had just started up, but none of them were really anymore educational than Nickelodeon’s Nick News, so until they became popular, the teachers would just bring in random tapes. Most of the time, they were videos about drug abuse, saving the environment, how to avoid being raped and dental care, but on one such day in 1995, the teacher brought in a tape she made of then recent episodes of Frontline and Nova.

The episodes were about the possibility of space travel, to places further than the moon. A boring two hours, but still informative. At least, what I was allowed to see. The teacher kept fast-forwarding and telling us not to look. I don’t know why, I’ve seen the episodes uncensored, and there wasn’t anything gross, sexual or offensive. Hmm.

So she eventually stops on a segment about the potential for visiting Mars. A scientist and an astronomer start talking about the red planet, and a really BAD CGI rendering of Mars made on a GeoWorks PC. This was laughably bad, just barely mode 7 graphics, but it was at the same time a decent, early 90’s representation of the surface of Mars.

As the CGI plays, the teacher stops the tape. She places her hands on her hips, and stares us down, angrily.

“You SEEEEEEE??? This just PROVES that there is NO life on Mars, there is NOTHING up there, not even rocks, and it is FOOLISH to think that there is life anywhere but here. You can stop thinking that there are little green men, stop believing in aliens, they do NOT exist. See? The video proves it!!” She placed her hands on her hips. “And FURTHERMORE we are NEVER going to Mars EVER. There’s no way we can travel that far, okayyyy??”

Up went my hand. Only I didn’t wait for her to call my name. I stood up.

“Excuse me, but how can you base the idea that there is NO life on ANY other planet, on a CGI made on a GeoWorks PC?”

The teacher’s eyes darted to my direction. “What is a CGI? You’re talking nonsense, Kori. This video proves there is no life out there.”

In case you’re wondering, my teacher was a college graduate. I had to walk past her framed degree every day to get to my desk.

“First of all, CGI is short for Computer Generated Imagery. Meaning that this is essentially a cartoon, created using a computer instead of pen and ink. Second, this video did not prove or even mention that there is or is not life on Mars, or on any other planet for that matter. YOU made up that claim, based on a computer cartoon! They made up a computer cartoon of the surface of Mars. They never mentioned anything about life, no life or even little green men. Play the rest of the tape.”

My mother of course was called in, since the teacher was claiming I made up the words CGI, GeoWorks, Windows 3.1 and troglodyte, the latter being a word I used to describe her. But even when my mom, principal and vice-principal all showed her books and data from NASA, and even sat with her to watch the end of the Frontline tape, she still insisted there was no life on Mars, and furthermore, no way we would ever make contact with said planet. “Rockets can’t go THAT far” she told my mother.

When I started drawing the cartoon attached to this blog, our space team was busy landing another rover on Mars. So far, we’ve seen rocks, microbes and shadowing, proving that at the very least, if not little green men, then something at some time has existed on Mars. Rocks you see are formed of minerals, which are certainly made up of much more than “nothing”.

~ Give your kid a head start! ~
I bet you’ve seen the ads for ABCmouse.com. And if you haven’t, you’ve seen countless pre-pre-school “smartening” items and who knows, maybe you had them yourself as a kid. Hooked on Phonics, Baby Einstein, Your Baby Can Read, I’ll bet your mother blasted you in-utero with Mozart set to “deafen” on the headphones she placed over her stomach.

Every other ad says the same thing. “You only have a 1-7 year window of opportunity to teach your child everything in the world! Use it now with our system! After age 7, children CAN’T learn anything at all.” by this logic, we shouldn’t even have school or Rosetta Stone, because if the window for learning cuts off at age 7, then there really has never been a need for college. Nobody would ever learn a new language, how to work a new gadget, hell, you wouldn’t even be able to learn how to take care of a baby.

What these ads fail to tell you, is that all you’re really cramming your kid with isn’t knowledge. It’s stress. Baby Einstein for example has been blamed for reduced test scores and raised stress levels in the kids who were raised off of it when it first came out.

Another thing they fail to tell you is that this so-called “head start” is actually detrimental to any child attending public school. Often, teachers tell students (as mine certainly did) to “tone it down” and to “stop acing so many quizzes, stop doing so well, you’re making the other kids feel bad, and it’s hurting their self esteem when they can’t keep up” this was something I was told, and my mother was even told as a child!

Also, the smarter you are, the more trolling you face online and the harsher the bullying face to face. I was once punched square in the face for doing better than a boy I went to school with. He had been left back a few years, while I was a gifted child.

Worse? Assuming your child “does” really well in school, he still isn’t any more likely to get a decent job as an adult than if he was a moron. I have several friends in my life right now with multiple degrees, and none of them are earning even one penny more than I am.

And in case you are wondering if it’s safe yet to ditch the head start programs, here’s a little more food for thought:

Dave Thomas was a high school drop out. He founded Wendy’s and also founded a charity for orphans.

Bill Cosby failed the 10th grade, and wouldn’t complete High School for several years. It took him longer to get to college. He’s a famous comedian and actor.

George Washington dropped out at 15 and spent his youth growing hemp with his brother. He became an army general and America’s first president.

Jersey Shore’s Snooki actually made it all the way through school and is a college graduate.

College is not all it’s cracked up to be.

~
If you don’t do well in pre-school, you’ll never go to college! ~
When I started working at a school supply store, it was September, still early enough for some kids to start late. We were one week removed from an ugly teacher’s strike, so the store was severely short handed.

My first week there, I saw a few teachers bullying some young parents. “If Jeremy doesn’t learn his shapes right NOW, he’ll NEVER go to college. If Susie doesn’t shape up and learn how to share, she will NEVER make it to college”. Mind you, these were PRE-SCHOOL teachers, meaning it’s YOUR job to TEACH SHAPES AND SHARING!!!

The mom and dad of Susie were the ones that hurt the most to watch. While the other parents just quietly nodded their heads like victims of abuse, this couple looked to be no older than I am now. Both of them turned away from the teacher that was by this point laughing in my store, and the mother started to cry.

I stepped in.

First I made it quite clear to the teacher that if she could not conduct herself as an adult, that her patronage was not welcome at my store. She tried bullying me back, calling me a bitch and an additional word rhyming with “pick” but I wouldn’t back down. No business suit has ever scared me, and certainly I wasn’t going to tolerate this abuse any further. Realizing intimidation wasn’t going to work, she paid for her crayons and left.

Next, I turned my attention to the young parents, and offered a tissue to each of them. The father was tearing up, and both lamented to me that Susie was their only child. I can remember her name, because most of the parents that came into the store had children with more modern names. Susie isn’t a very popular name these days. Anyway, Susie had just turned four, but was not getting sharing, colors or shapes very well, and this was now the second adult to tell them Susie might never make it to college. The first being a day care attendant.

I pulled the two aside, and quietly explained a few notes, some of which I eventually used for a blog on College here: http://codenamesailorearth.blogspot.com/2012/01/truth-about-sat-other-school-bs.html

“For starters, the average college does not care where you went to pre-school. They equally do not care at what age Susie learns her colors or shapes. As long as she has enough money, Susie can go to whatever college she wants to. And second, they don’t seem to care if she ever learns how to share. Most children don’t naturally want to share their toys until they’re about seven years old, and it’s not a class her future college will ever grade her on. If anything, with the rampant abuse of sex and drugs at such universities as Penn State, they’d prefer if she didn’t share at all.”

After calming the young couple down, I quietly slipped them some information on Homeschooling. Specifically, I gave them the information to one of the homeschooling associations I went through as a child: http://www.clonlara.org/. I did the same for a few of the other bullied parents.

A week later, I was pulled aside by my boss, herself a substitute teacher on the side. She asked me to quit telling parents about homeschooling. She noticed a drop in the number of students at the school she went to, and she was already sick of the smug smiles on the parents that were coming back to shop for their books.

I was very happy… not to oblige.

~ You need the coolest up to date school gear, now get rid of it all, here’s our mandated list of what is or is not ok to have. ~
I was a child of the 90’s and of course, consumerism had it’s grasp on me. I was secretly enamored with the idea of being a cool kid, and I wanted everything I saw. Air hockey tables, electronic games, my dreams used to be filled with them. (I still do check out the tables at thrift stores.) Now most of the ads I grew up with were laughably bad with cheesy music, but when you’re little, it seems like the coolest thing.


Yikes pencils, Trapper Keepers, pencil boxes with funky designs and backpacks with the latest cartoon or logo were all the rage. And while I didn’t have everything I saw, I had what I thought was cool. A pencil box with a black and rainbow cat, Mead notebook, Crayola and Rose Art crayons, generic triangle pencils in the style of Yikes, and of course, one or two Lisa Frank items. I was SO ready for school!

… Wait, what’s this?

Well day one of 2nd grade, I was sent home with a note, explaining that I was going to be thrown out, unless I came to school prepared with what the school deemed appropriate. Here’s a little glance at what I was asked to bring with me:

1. A plastic pencil box. (My cardboard black kitty box, which had served me well for the first two years was not up to their standards, because it didn’t have a closure.)
2. Basic, bland #2 pencils. (While all trendy pencils are #2, the teacher claimed that they were too outrageous and offensive. How bright yellow offended her I don’t know, but..)
3. A pink eraser. (Why?? Pink erasers smear pencil lead, don’t work and turn rock hard after 6 months of using them!)
4. Standard box of 8 Crayola crayons. (My box of 64 was offending the other students. Apparently having extra crayons ruins a student’s self esteem.)
5. A plain notebook. (WHY?? We never used these things!)
6. A bottle of standard, white glue AND glue sticks.
7. A pair of children’s safety scissors with a plastic handle. (The metal children’s safety scissors which can’t even cut hot butter were deemed not safe enough.)

We were banned from bringing in our own pencil sharpeners, even though we were all asked initially to bring them. Pencils, backpacks and notebooks with colors and characters were banned, because the school felt they sent the wrong message. (I suppose my Surfin’ Tweety Bird notebook was sending a subliminal message telling kids to punt babies.)

My plain blue and yellow backpack was deemed school appropriate, so at least that wasn’t one more expense. But still I was not happy to have to emergency change out my entire gear, just to make the school happy. You can imagine how more angry I was when one of my school bullies was allowed to have a copy of the exact pencil box I was told not to bring anymore.

Now most schools have these lists, making me question why there even are school supply companies that are allowed to sell character based supplies to parents? Sure they look awesome, and make any office or school situation a little less ugly, but many schools won’t allow some of it. I also wonder why we don’t just have the schools supply this crap. What on earth are we wasting tax dollars on, if the parents are the ones paying for everything from uniforms and supplies to lunches and sport programs?

Well at the end of the year, the entire class came back home with all of the junk we were required to bring. Here’s what it all looked like in my bag:
1.The plastic pencil box started to break after two uses. By week two the hinge of it had a massive hole in the corner and it was crumbling. My cardboard pencil box by the way still works, despite being 20 years old, and never needed a closure.
2. The erasers on the #2 pencils hardened the third month I had them, and the leads kept falling out.
3. The pink eraser smeared the lead like crazy and became hard and unusable within six months. It also made everything reek of eraser.
4. Out of 8 crayons, only the black and red crayons were ever used completely. We were banned from using the other colors, and in art class we used markers.
5. The plain notebook was never used. We had worksheets for every lesson, so there was never a need to take notes.
6. The glue sticks were used sparingly, but the bottle of glue was not used at all. For projects were were handed the teacher’s glue, making the bottle useless.
7. The safety scissors were used once. But after a kid threatened to stab me with her own pair, the teacher decided we should use the school scissors instead. The plastic kind that’s white on one handle, and then on the other handle it’s either blue, peachy-salmon, red, black, yellow or green. Right, because that makes sense.

I asked the teacher why I had been asked to replace my original school gear, and I was told that I needed to be seen as presentable, so that in the future, I would come across as sophisticated, and make it into a good college. “Koriander! What if someone sees you with THAT notebook!?”

Ah… they might think I’m a kid… in school… who likes Looney Tunes.

And now that I think about it as an adult, what kind of college administrator would peek in on a second grade class, to see what notebook I was bringing in?? No seriously, unless you are a parent or legal guardian, you’ve got no business trolling a grade school. Back off Pedobear, maybe I LIKE Looney Tunes, what’s it to ya?

~ Pennies ~
One day while working at the school supply store, I had five teachers come in, each with special orders. It was one of the rare times I had to punch in their tax exempt receipts, since two of the five came from church schools. The other three came from schools that just called ahead.

Well before I could help each of them with their order, I had to check out a mom of three. She was one of the few parents that came in with behaved children. She was a little short on cash, and had to purchase a slightly cheaper book instead of the one she wanted. She paid for the book in full, in cash and in change. Very nice lady.

From behind her, I heard the impatient teachers grumbling and snickering about her having change. Grown adults mind you.

So up comes the first of the five, and I punch in her order. She paid me $20 for a $19.99 purchase, which meant I owed her one cent in change. So with cheer, I handed her a receipt and one penny.

“EW what is wrong with you? TAKE THAT AWAY!!!” She screamed at the penny. “What are you doing giving me THAT??”

I point out the total on the receipt and explain that she is owed exactly one penny. This causes the other four teachers to laugh.

“Why haven’t you heard? Pennies are going to be obsolete in a few months! Prices have gone up so fast that the penny is no longer going to be the lowest denomination. Nickels will be the lowest you can go. Besides” Further explained the first teacher “change is such an outdated form of cash. It weighs down my purse and is SO heavy!! Two years from now, we will only have credit and cash.”

Each of the teachers begged me to put their change on something easier to carry, like a gift card. I needed the manager to help me convince them that the store forbade us from putting and amount of money under $5 onto one of these cards.

Well it’s been five years since this episode played out, and pennies have not been phased out. In fact when you go to McDonald’s, they still ask for pennies for the Ronald House charity. And I’ve yet to meet another soul who scoffs at change, since money is money.

I often wonder how some people become teachers.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Interactive television

I was reading a study the other day on things that trigger some people (ages 12-20) to become cyber bullies. It was a fascinating piece that I feel hit the nail on the head:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/02/tom-daley-cyberbullying-tweet-internet_n_1734413.html if you have some spare time, it’s a good read. In fact, I’d like to cue in a segment of the article that really caught my eye:

Because humans are used to communicating in person, our brains are hard-wired to take in all manner of non-verbal cues such as gestures, facial expressions, tone and pitch of language as well as the pace at which people speak, explains Simon Rego, Psy.D., director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
"When you move online, suddenly all those cues also removed," he says. "You are stripped of the nonverbal cues, the patterns of speech, the rate, tone and context and you're left with a lot of guesswork."

And when humans are faced with guesswork and ambiguity, they often perceive it as threatening and react accordingly. This may have saved your life in prehistoric times but in modern times, it can mean an escalating series of jabs on Twitter ending in handcuffs and a stint in jail.

It makes sense. When you read an article like this one, you feel as though you are listening to the person as he/she is in the room with you, so you feel as though you know the writer. However you don’t. And unless I’m speaking to you via a video chat, you can’t see any of my actual facial cues, and I can’t respond to you the same as if I were to see you in person. For all you know, I could be doing jumping jacks every third sentence, and then singing a song about Narwhales and you would never actually know that.

Celebrity magazines are written in a way that also makes the celebrity too familiar to you. A film called Teenage Paparazzo really opened my eyes when more than one psychologist pointed out that (for example) when you read a tabloid, it doesn’t say “Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie made a public appearance at McDonald’s” instead it’s written as “There they go AGAIN! Bradgelina at Mickey D’s, what can YOU say about that? We know what you’re thinking!” See? The two are presented to you in a manner that makes them seem like your next door neighbors instead of who they really are ~ two total strangers ~ whom you do NOT know ~ trying to enjoy a regular lunch.

It’s often creepy to get a series of emails from someone who SWEARS they know everything about you, and that they hear from you every day, when they are a total stranger. Creepier when you’re receiving death threats and hack attempts over something you posted and forgot about. And yet many cyber stalkers and hackers cry out as they’re being arrested “But I KNOW you!! I KNOW WHO YOU REALLY ARE and I can EXPOSE you!!”

A person that deep into your work is really no different than the fan-boy you try to avoid at Comic Con. You know the one. The guy who SWEARS to you that Will Wheaton is for real and serious Wesley Crusher, and he KNOWS Wes because he’s watched him grow up. Yeah, THAT guy, the one who’s in his 50’s and has yet to learn the difference between real and television show. Or the creepy girl at Otakon that SWEARS to you that only SHE knows how to “properly” use Miku Hatsune, and that Crypton answers to her Wikia page. Yeah, the creep in her 30’s who hasn’t figured out that Miku is a computer graphic, and is about as likely to “hear” you as Buzz Lightyear. You’ve seen them.

Now with all this said about magazines and the internet, that got me thinking. When’s the last time you read a study like this on interactive television?

Now ITV is nothing new. Even before there was television, many cartoons would break the fourth wall and let the audience in on a prank. One animator by the name of Tex Avery made it his hallmark. He would let Bugs Bunny (when he worked for Warner Brothers) or Screwy Squirrel (at MGM) talk to the live theater audience and let them know what’s on their minds (I like him, he’s silly!) or what the next scene would have (Eh… I’ll perplex ‘em with me slow ball.) in store for the villain. At MGM, Tex had to answer to a man named Fred Quimby, who HATED these segments. He never liked the idea of pretend characters breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to the viewer. He felt that it was just plain wrong. And I’m curious as to why he felt that way. Did he know something we don’t know?

Back in the 50’s it was a common treat on any broadcast channel. It started small, you would watch a game show and try to guess who would win. Sometimes you could send in your phone number and address and get a chance to win a prize. It was just a short time later really that vote-in shows and live talk shows became common place. (For those of you too young to remember, there was a day before American Idol. Fox Kids used to let us vote for what shows we wanted to see.)

Children’s ITV was invented just as soon as TV was. In the 50’s, you could buy fancy toys or send away for decoder rings, and play along with the TV show. A plucky cowboy or a general of a space fleet would often cue the young viewers at home to point their plastic object at the screen, to try and catch the bad guy. This generation of kids found absolutely no shock in the infra-red toys of the 80’s and 90’s that offered my generation to play the same.

But in the mid 90’s, ITV took an interesting turn, and honestly, I never thought about it until today. But this is something I would like to see a study on.

In 1996 Nick Jr started a seemingly harmless show called Blue’s Clues, about a blue puppy who leaves obvious clues for her well meaning but dim-witted owner, Steve. This was no ordinary show though, it was Interactive Television.

The premise is simple. Blue decides on something she wants, and then leaves clues for Steve all throughout his house. During the 25 minute episode, Steve speaks one-on-one to the viewer, asking for their opinions. After an exceedingly LONG pause, he nods his head, as if to say “Ok that’s nice” and then waits for the “A CLUE A CLUE” cue to point him to what he needs to see.

Viacom and several parental coalitions ran several studies on children 2-6 and came back with what they deemed as favorable results. “The kids really get into it. They feel like their part of something big!” is what I heard most often. But it’s the next line that got me. “My child feels like she KNOWS Blue!” Um… yeah, that’s not cute.

Now I was too old for Blue’s demographic, but at the time my brother wasn’t. We watched about two episodes before he declared this show contrite and lame (large words for a 4 year old) and then he dismissed it. Future viewings at my house were often the result of a lazy afternoon when the VCR has blown. So of course I never thought to ask too many questions about the show.

But Blue wasn’t the only ITV show on. In 2000 Dora the Explorer started, and soon, every show on PBS was super pushing existing ITV segments as THE thing to watch.




Sometime after Dora started becoming a dominant force, I remember being at one of my mom’s ex-friend’s houses. Because I was praised for being more responsible for my age, this woman would insist on having her children hang around me, to broaden their horizons. (Please read: free babysitter.) So on one such afternoon while my mom and this woman were off doing… I have no idea what, I was sitting with my brother (then 11) and these other children, ages 9, 6 and 2.

The two year old had run of the house, and she decided that the curiously re-scheduled afternoon block was going to be the ONLY thing on. And she was a fierce one. See, she was special needs, and soon after birth, she needed a special surgery to save her life. She knew that. She didn’t understand colors, shapes or the alphabet yet, but she understood how close to death she once was, and she held it over the other two like the sword of Damocles. “I HADS SU-GEWY. WHAT YOU GOTZ? NOTHIN? WE WATCHES DOWA NAOW!!” Oh… she was brilliant.

So Dora started a minute late, and it wasn’t long before I was praying for the little street urchin to catch a sore throat. Good lord, just because children are watching doesn’t mean you need to punish us all with the most shrill voice available. Did you get Jane from the Go-Go’s to do a voice and then pitch her WAY up??

So surprisingly, all four kids sit down quietly to watch “Dowa”… for about 10 minutes. When suddenly Swiper appears and steals something. (It was in her bag, so I don’t remember what it was, let’s just pretend it was a present.) To get across to get the present back, Dora needs her boots. (Not the monkey.) So she calls upon her living backpack for help. (When’s the last time you washed this thing?) Backpack (what a clever name) produces a garden hoe, a map and a pair of boots, and challenges the kids at home to find Dora’s boots.

The 2 year old, who until this point in the day was very smart and could think for herself, suddenly doesn’t know what to do. She points aimlessly at the screen, identifying a garden hoe as “Boots”. This made me very sad. Why? Because ironically enough, she was wearing a pair of BOOTS at the time this episode aired. More ironic? The boots had Dora and her pet monkey named Boots on the side.

What kind of terrible parent out there would let a little girl walk alone in a forest with a pet monkey ~ an inbred monkey at that, because let’s face it, Boots is the WRONG color ~ is beyond me, but I digress.

The child was wearing Dora the Explorer boots, and yet could not identify Dora’s boots on the screen. They were even in the same colors as the boots on screen, making me more sad.

The 6 year old started pointing and screaming “BOOTS!! BOOTS!!!! BOOOOOOOOOOTS!!!” unable to grasp that Dora can’t hear him.

Making this episode worse is Dora’s constant egging “What? What did you say? No comprende!” at the top of her lungs.

The 9 year old points “The boots are over there.”

The 11 year old rolls his eyes “This is LAAA~AAAAME!!” but then joins in once he realizes this scene is taking too long. “The boots are over THERE you stupid bimbo!!”

The 9 year old snaps back. “Don’t you call Dora stupid!!”

“She IS stupid! First of all, who keeps boots in a backpack, and second the boots are right freaking there!”

“She is NOT stupid!! Don’t say that you could hurt her feelings!”

“She CAN’T hear you, she’s a CARTOON. She doesn’t HAVE feelings!!”

“Yes she does!”

“NO she DOESN’T!! She’s just a poorly drawn kid in a Flash cartoon, voiced by a wing bar waitress!”

“DORA IS NOT A WAITRESS!! She’s an explorer and she’s NOT STUPID!!”

“Look, she can’t figure out the difference between a garden hoe, a map and a pair of boots, her voice is high enough to deafen dogs ~ as is evident by YOUR dog needing ear drops when I got here ~ she’s always asking us every 5 minutes how we’re doing ~ KNOWING the answer, and she’s carting around a GARDEN HOE. Not only is Hoe a bad word meaning Bimbo, if you stick it in the ground tight enough and spin, she’s a STRIPPER! Why is she carrying this around?? She NEVER goes to school, you NEVER see her read a book and she can’t figure out footwear. DORA IS A STUPID BIMBO!!”

“DORA IS NOT A STRIPPING BIMBO!!”

As I’m trying to referee the 11 and 9 year old, the 6 year old shouts “HA! I got it RIGHT!!” as Dora puts on her boots.

Now the two year old is screaming her little head off, crying and kicking, angry that the garden hoe wasn’t chosen. As the 11 and 9 year old go to their respective chairs for a minute, the two year old rubs her head against my leg, and then punches the couch. From the baby talk I can translate, apparently she thought this was no time for boots. Dora should have taken the garden hoe, cracked Swiper in the head with it, taken back the present and then used the hoe to dig a shallow grave and leave his body there, after of course a second swat to the head. Where she got this idea I’m not sure, but I do agree that her was would have saved us a ton of grief.

Now the 6 year old is rubbing it in the two year old’s face that he got it right. To add insult to injury, he also declares that they should have been watching Spider-Man instead. How Spider-Man got involved is beyond me, because at the time there were no Spider-Man cartoons on, but now the 2 and 6 year olds are arguing over whether or not Spider-Man is better at finding clues than Dora.

Well now Dora needs us to help her say “water” in Spanish. “Agua”. One of about 15 words I do know in Spanish. So right in front of an impasse, Dora darts her creepy brown eyes into the camera, and without blinking screams “Say AGUA!!”

All four of the children scream AGUA at the top of their lungs.

“I can’t hear you. Say AGUA!!”

“AGUA!!!”

“What? Did you say… chocolate cake?”

“NO you stupid bimbo I said AGUA!!!” Screams the 11 year old, beyond annoyed by now.

“Stop calling her a Bimbo!! She can hear you!!”

“NO she CAN’T!! If she could she could hear me screaming AGUA!!!”

“Agua you’re RIGHT!” Says Dora, but now her face looks serious.

“YOU MADE DORA SAD!!” Angrily screams the 9 year old. “APOLOGIZE!! She looks all serious!”

“Oh GEE could it be because she has to cross over a river next to a WATERFALL?? In that case I’d be serious too!! And LOOK there are sharp, pointy rocks!”

“NOoooooooOOOoo She’s serious because YOU made her sad. APOLOGIZE!!”

Dora crosses the river, but Swiper appears again. “Oh NO! What should I do? Can you say Backpack?”

Four children are screaming for the backpack. Again we have a garden hoe, a map and now a net. “What should I do?”

The 2 year old is stomping her little feet and pointing at the garden hoe. The 6 year old is pointing to the map. The 11 and 9 year olds are screaming for the net. Dora is confused.

“What should I bring out of my .. BACKPACK?”

“ASPIRIN!!!” I scream.

The 9 year old looks back at me. “Silly Kori! Dora can’t bring aspirin with her. Zero tolerance, drugs are bad.”

“OH GOODY! So she can’t even figure out to bring regular first aid in case of an emergency?” Snaps the 11 year old.

“Look here, I KNOW Dora, and she’s NOT STUPID!!”

“No first aid and she can’t figure out footwear? SHE’S STUPID BIMBO!! Look she can’t even figure out how to GET THE NET AND CATCH SWIPER”

“SHE IS NOT STUPID!!”

“IIII WAAAANTS THE GWEEEN THING!!!”

Now I want you to imagine this entire episode again, on repeat for 30 minutes. Why 30? Because while Nick Jr airs Dora commercial free, the show stops at minute 25. This gives us 4 minutes worth of commercials. But these aren’t normal commercials, oh no. No, I am not granted the luxury of 4 straight minutes of mindless consumerism, brought about by corporate greed in the shape of a chubby Dora doll with rooted hair. Oh no, perish the thought. For you see, the parental coalitions have decided that in lieu of consumerist ads targeting the 2-11 demographic (sweet, sweet consumerism), pre-school programs should be followed by little segments where people and puppets come onto the screen, and engage the viewer in more Interactive Television.

“Hey kids! It’s time to stand up! We’re going to play the eagle game, okay?? GOOD! Now flap your arms like this *wildly slaps self in the thighs* then turn around and caw. CAW CAAAAW *says the perpetrator at the top of his lungs* now you do it too, but really fast, ready? GO!!!”

Imagine a 2 and a 6 year old smacking them selves, running around in circles, and screaming as loud as they can.

“OKAY KIDS! Now Blue wants you to find the triangle. Where is the triangle? C’mon now, kids? Where’s the triangle?”

Now let’s pretend there is a marathon of Dora and her inability to figure out footwear. Yeah.

Now at the time, I didn’t really put it together. I just figured this was a mindless program for toddlers, and I was too busy nursing a migraine to actually care.

Fast forward a number of years. Those kids are now probably 19, 16 and 12, perfectly within the age bracket of the cyber bullies typically fingered for the new studies coming out now about the internet and it’s effect on people.

During these ten years, kids in those age groups have had nothing but Interactive Television. Dora was ITV, Blue was ITV, anything to do with Kids Choice was ITV. Hell, 90% of Nick Jr and Nickelodeon programming itself is ITV. Even the late night shows ask you to pick what you think happens next, and to interact with characters.. that are not even real. From there, they ask you to interact with real life celebrities, as though you personally know them. (Ever hear the commentary between awards? Sounds suspiciously like a tabloid…)

But, you never really had the chance to choose what happens, did you? No, it was all pre-determined. These shows essentially tell you what you are going to think. Your "choices" have already been chosen for you, decided for you. Don't get me wrong, it's still interactive television, and you are interacting with the TV. Just not how you planned. You sit still, and the TV tells you what to think. (You really want the boots. Wanting anything else is bad. Dora needs the boots.)

These shows were also slipped in as educational, but really, did you learn anything from them?

Since my babysitting story, I've seen about 13 episodes of Dora all together. That's about 1-2 seasons, depending upon how Nick Jr wants to bill it. My Spanish isn't any better, in fact it's actually gotten worse. I catch myself second guessing and pondering over simple words and phrases, so the best Spanish I can muster up is ¿Dónde está Burger King? (Where's the Burger King?) And the last time I heard from them, the kids I watched knew even less Spanish then that, but they watched Dora every day!

The kids that watched Blue's Clues and Dora every day did no better in school than if they hadn't seen it at all. And if anything since these "educational" shows came about, the nation's test scores have taken a solid nosedive, with large cities (such as Detroit, where Dora is exceedingly popular) doing the worst. (Cities, more expensive areas in which parents have better access to cable and dish channels that air programs like Dora.)

Kids in these age groups were pretty much pushed into growing up quickly too. Think about it. Kids Bop CD’s are chock full of songs that really should not be sung by children. Kids Bop 22 for example has Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” which is a song about stalking a potential one night stand, Maroon 5’s “Payphone” and GOTYE’s “Somebody that I used to Know”, which are both anthems about the end of a relationship, and “Moves Like Jagger” which is a catchy song, but has anybody read the lyrics?

I don't give a sh*t
And it goes like this
Take me by the tongue
And I'll know you
Kiss me 'til you're drunk
And I'll show you

Not EVER something a child should sing. But sing they do. And when they outgrow Nickelodeon at age 12, most of them migrate to reality shows, which feature self-absorbed and often times rude, loud, disrespectful trolls, being paid more than a Jock’s salary each week, just to be obnoxious. Each week on shows like Teen Mom and Jersey Shore, teenagers watch these people having meltdowns and fist fights ~ often times over issues that can be resolved with a quiet “no thank you” and between episodes, teens are told the same things.

“Join our website so you can interact with your favorite stars. Get the app so you can keep tabs on them. Follow your favorite on Twitter and get the behind the scenes scoop we can’t show you here.”

The viewer at home is being told that this is perfectly normal.

And where are the parents? Doing the exact same thing in the next room, voting on an American Idol or getting the 411 on the Bachelor, trying to decide who should be chosen.

And in the event they’re told “this is pre-determined” or “it’s just a TV show, relax” these people get violently angry, and take to the internet. And again, everyone is told this is “normal” behavior.

Now I can’t outright blame ITV for society, can I? I mean on paper, it looks like a fun hobby. We all play games, we all like to feel closer to people that are (and should be) unreachable, so I can’t say the initial intentions are bad.

But like most things, too much of a good thing can be bad. Spinach, iced tea and asparagus are good for you, but if you eat too much, you put yourself at risk for kidney stones, and the build up of uric acid can aggravate gout. So it’s always a good idea to eat these things sparingly, right?

Then maybe it’s time we scaled back a little bit on the interactivity. Start small. Trade in two hours of ITV for just plain TV. See how you feel.