Archive for April, 2012


“Thanks, Zombie Simpsons!” – The Cruise Industry

Chalkboard - A Totally Fun Things Bart Will Never Do Again

“Don’t forget to check out the galley.  That’s real shag carpeting!” – Captain McAllister

The title of yesterday’s episode, “A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again”, is a reference to a famous 1996 David Foster Wallace article for Harper’s, in which he embarked on a giant luxury liner to experience the narrow, selfish, and vapid thinking that underlies the modern cruise industry (as well as the bland and mostly uninteresting people who think of it as the height of fun).  It’s an enjoyably cruel piece of writing (it was later used as the headline piece to a book length collection of essays he published), and you can read the whole thing in PDF format.  The subtitle is “On the (nearly lethal) comforts of a luxury cruise”, and the main point is that cruise vacations are mercilessly inhuman. 

Wallace held the cruise industry in utter contempt, and not without cause.  It’s environmentally disastrous, ethically compromised, and generally unpleasant on anything deeper than a surface level.  The spectacular sinking of the Costa Concordia in January is only the most high profile of the industry’s problems.  Two years ago, they kept sending tourists to their fenced in resorts in Haiti while people were dying in earthquake rubble.  Crew members, who work long and extremely stressful hours, routinely disappear without a trace.  And just a few weeks ago, two fishermen died on their disabled boat when a cruise ship failed to rescue them even though the crew had been alerted by passengers to their presence.  In other words, this is an industry that places a higher priority on cheesy lounge acts and shuffleboard than it does on human life, and it is ripe for parody and satire. 

David Foster Wallace knew that the only way you could say something honest or interesting about cruise ships was by reveling in the ugliness that props up that gleaming facade of stark white hulls and perpetually happy people.  Zombie Simpsons borrowed his title, and then did the opposite, making their cruise out to be so awesome and perfect that they actually wrote a song about how awesome and perfect it is.  I realize it’s not their job to do exposes on irresponsible corporate behavior, but by sticking with such a sunny perspective they limited themselves to only the safest and most tame kinds of comedy (when they were bothering to attempt humor at all). 

Of course, the episode did eventually descend into post apocalyptic chaos (and I thought we were done with the “Outlands”), but only after acting as an unpaid and unquestioning endorsement for most of its run time (and concluding that the only way to have a bad time on a cruise is to take one with Bart Simpson).  And, it goes almost without saying, no part of the episode made the least bit of sense, from the completely unnecessary (and exposition filled) scenes where the family paid for the vacation, to Bart’s panic after the song, to the immediate descent of the ship into Mad Max 4: The Wet Warrior, to a quick sketch or two in Antarctica.  Along the way, characters wander in and out of scenes for no discernable reason, the plot swings wildly from one idea to another, and most of the stabs at being funny are paint-by-number bricks like this:

Lisa: It’s so diverse!  I’ve died and gone to a PBS kids show.
[Kids in wheelchairs roll up out of nowhere.]

And this:

Marge: You’ll never guess how many bath towels they gave us.  Enough!
Bart: And there’s a DVD library of movies that haven’t been released yet!  Whoa.  Whoa.

The episode wasn’t completely without its charms, “Magazine Hater” magazine is pretty clever, and the cult of the lifeguard isn’t a terrible idea.  But, again and as usual, the stuff that has a little bit of thought to it is drowned in a sea of garbage that can’t rise to the level of being semi-clever or even coherent.  When this is your ending . . .

Best Vacation Ever!

. . . the ship has irreversibly foundered. 

Anyway, the numbers are in and they continue to be historically bad.  Only 5.00 million viewers sat through last night’s infomercial for Carnival and company before hitting up the buffet.  That ties last year’s “The Great Simpsina” for the fourth lowest number ever.  The post-New Year’s episodes of Season 22 generally hovered around six million viewers.  Season 23 is down to five million, and routinely fails to get even that many. 


Quote of the Day

Bart of Darkness5

“I wish you’d stop spreading bad rumors about people.  Remember how you got Grampa tarred and feathered?” – Marge Simpson
“Sure, that was twenty minutes ago.” – Bart Simpson
“Gonna be in the tub for a while.” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson


Sunday Post: A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again


Image bloodied by Dave.

It’s that time again:

In this mouth-full of a title-d episode, when Bart sees a commercial for the ultimate cruise, he begs his parents for a family vacation. Low on cash, the only way they can go is if each family member sells one valuable. Once they’re away, Bart is determined to make the vacation last forever. So he comes up with a plan to make sure they never have to return home.

I anticipate a well plotted piece of non-claptrap that never makes me want to wretch.


Quote of the Day

Stark Raving Dad9

“Aw, she looks sad.” – Leon Kompowsky
“That’s cause she knows you’re looking at her.” – Bart Simpson
“Although I’m aware you’re looking at me, I would look exactly the same even if you weren’t.” – Lisa Simpson

[Initially scheduled this for pm instead of am.  Whoops.]


Quote of the Day

Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily8

“Where are we going?  Where are we going?” – Marge Simpson
“Okay, okay, don’t panic.  To find Flanders, I just have to think like Flanders.” – Homer Simpson
“I’m a big four-eyed lame-o and I wear the same stupid sweater every day and-” – Homer’s Brain
“The Springfield River!” – Homer Simpson


Reading Digest: Long Reads Edition

Lisa the Iconoclast8

“To celebrate our bicentennial, all twenty of you will write an essay about Jebediah Springfield; and the best eighteen will be put on file in the school library, available to anyone who requests them.” – Miss Hoover

Quite a few people took to their keyboards this week, producing thoughtful and well written tracts about various topics from Poochie to “Bart the Genius” and the slippery nature of hero worship.  On top of that, we’ve got lots of usage, an old story from Sam Simon, a couple of fan made drawings, two links to upcoming crappy merchandise, and a solicitation for people who can do Marge and Lisa impressions. 


Exclusive: "Simpsons" Co-Creator Sam Simon On The Show’s History With Gambling In "All In: The Poker Movie" – Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week is this clip from a new poker documentary.  It’s part of an interview with Simon where he talks about how real sports handicappers complimented him on “Lisa the Greek” as a show that, unlike the rest of teevee, was credibly written by degenerate gamblers.  Apparently, at some special screening, they used to change the voices for whichever teams were in the Super Bowl that year.  Lisa was right three straight years before they stopped.   

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company Presents MR. BURNS, A POST-ELECTRIC PLAY, 5/28-7/1 – That play about people recreating society through The Simpsons after the apocalypse is finally premiering in Washington, D.C. at the end of May.  It runs through July.

‘Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie:’ Totally in your face – An appreciation of Poochie.

A Reflection on Hero-Worship – As usual, The Simpsons shows the way:

Though we no longer tend to engage in the open power worship of a Carlyle, we yet have a need to make heroes. If one was to make a massive generalization, the Victorian era was the time of power worship and the late 20th/ early 21st century is that of victim worship. The wittiest and most succinct illustration of this I can recall, and one that often reoccurs to me when I witness the phenomenon, is from an early episode of The Simpsons:

Homer: That Timmy is a real hero!

Lisa:  How do you mean, Dad?

Homer: Well, he fell down a well, and… he can’t get out.

Lisa:  How does that make him a hero?

Homer: Well, that’s more than you did!

Excellent usage. 

15 Big Little Things You Can Do in 15 Minutes – Excellent usage:

6. Complain/get angry. When Homer Simpson went to purchase a gun and was told that there was a mandatory five-day waiting period, he yelled in protest, “Five days? But I’m mad now!”

Branson Invites You to "Come On Down" – Moderate usage:

Branson, Missouri, once described by Homer Simpson as being like "Las Vegas if it were run by Ned Flanders" is actually getting an injection of genuine Vegas glitz. No, not the Spearmint Rhino — it’s Branson, remember — the Las Vegas stage version of "The Price Is Right Live" will open in Branson this July.

Bart recounts Homer’s description as “My Dad says it’s like Vegas, if it were run by Ned Flanders.”  More importantly, there’s a stage version of “The Price Is Right”?  Heaven help us. 

HOMER SIMPSON CANVAS PAINTING – Live in Queensland, Australia?  This cool fan made Homer painting can be yours for only $30.  I like the drool and the hammock, but since when does Homer read books?

Angry Birds Space adds ten levels – Simpsons could be next – Oh good, another tie in.

Former producer speaks of his humble beginnings – Simpsons alum Joseph Boucher gave a talk at Cal State Fullerton.  Not much fresh information here, but plenty of encouragement for anyone wanting to get into animation.

Simpsons – McBain, These are Loafers – I’ve always liked the way Wolfcastle just bends straight over and stares right at his shoes. 

Talkin’ Softball – Baseball season’s started, and someone put up a new copy of the song on YouTube.  There’s also this:

I have a fairly short list of ‘favourite things’.

  • Baseball
  • The Simpsons
  • Beer
  • Freinds & Family
  • Playing Guitar
  • Animals
  • Eating Food

But I’m lucky because most of these things mix very well together:

  • Baseball (watching it, anyway) + Beer
  • Family & Friends + Beer
  • Beer + Eating Food + (with) Friends and Family
  • The Simpsons + Friends and Family (watching it together)
  • Playing Guitar + Beer
  • Simpsons + Baseball

“Simpsons + Baseball”?  I’m intrigued.  I’ve always wanted to try playing a real a Simpsons rules softball game, but where would you find a park that would let you set up a keg at first base? news: Five takeaways from Seahawks’ pre-draft presser – The Seahawks GM apparently lapsed into a Homer impression during a press conference.  Sadly, no video.

Fox at 25 & Growing Up With The Simpsons – There’s some Zombie Simpsons in here, but I do enjoy this:

I was living in Canada during those years, the ’90s, and I remember having this English teacher who, as far as I could tell, didn’t really teach us much, but would stand at her podium, lecturing us about the ills of the world. She would fill us in on the details of the war in Kosovo, denounce America as a nation of gun-toting buffoons, and–frequently–get into a tizzy about how awful The Simpsons was. “Completely inappropriate for children,” “racist,” and sexist” were a few of the charges she levied against the show–and, in her criticism, she wasn’t too far removed from the show’s detractors in authoritarian China and Venezuela, and its critics in the United States, a country that she hated so much (I’m sure the writers of The Simpsons would have found a delicious irony in this). At the time, I reasoned that if someone like that–my teacher–hated the show so much, then it must be even better than I realized.

My teachers hated The Simpsons, which, of course, just made us love it all the more.  Ah, memories. 

Fox’s 25th Anniversary Special…In 10 Words – And we can’t watch FOX because they own those chemical weapons plants in Syria. 

Happy National Pretzel Day; AKA A Dark Day For Baseball – YouTube of exactly what you think it is.

#16: Margetini – A fan made sketch of Marge as a martini.  That’s all well and good, but what’s in it?

Simpsons Sums Up: The Vampire Diaries – Again, I’m taking Lenny’s word for this, but that guy on the bottom is smashingly handsome.

What it pays to teach your kids – Excellent usage:

If you’ve seen the episode, you’ll recall Homer Simpson’s devastation as he pulls from under a bed not the last peanut he was searching for – ”overflowing with the oil and salt of its departed brothers” – but a $20 bill. Until, that is, he remembers ”money can be exchanged for goods and services”, so $20 can buy many peanuts.

Doctor Robotnik Meets His Match, Sort Of – I chuckled. 

Voice Over/Impressionists – Seeking Lisa Simpson and Marge Simpson – A New York area Craigslist posting:

Seeking VO artists or impressionists who can do a great Lisa and/or Marge Simpson impression. We need a small number of lines recorded in their likeness for a proposal project.

Good luck, those are not easily duplicated voices. 

HAHA ! I WIN! – Animated .gif of Homer taunting Marge with her own affection from “Lisa’s Pony”.

It Happened to YOUUUUUU – A Radiohead infused illustration of Grampa’s “It’ll happen to you” quote.

Which MBTI type are the characters from The Simpsons? – A Myers-Briggs list of Simpsons characters.

Simpsons – Homer ‘Whoop whoop whoop’ walk (gif) – Just what it says it is. 

Four Nights Of A Dreamer (Quatre nuits d’un rêveur) – Allow me to help:

Throughout the film, there are several instances of brilliant philosophical dialogue. The most important of these, insofar as it sets a framework for the film and, simultaneously, reflects on Bresson’s aesthetic tendencies, is the conversation between Jacques (Guilliaume des Forets) and his artist friend. They speak about what I — and several distinguished writers, including Noel Carroll — now consider a fundamental truth in the appreciation of artwork: what matters isn’t what is there, but what isn’t. For example, with a painting, art arises from the spaces between the lines — what is not shown — rather than what is physically evident. Even the Simpsons understood this. In an episode I cannot quite recall, Lisa tells Bart to listen to the notes “they are not playing”. In just the same way, it’s the space that is created that instills art.

I believe this is what you’re looking for:

“Sounds like she’s hitting a baby with a cat.” – Jazz Prick
“You have to listen to the notes she’s not playing.” – Lisa Simpson
“I can do that at home.” – Jazz Prick

How Working in a Warehouse Feels While Using an MP3 Player – Animated .gif of The Anvil.

The Forbes Fictional 15 – It’s that time of year again.  Bereft of any decent ideas, Forbes has once again made up a list of the richest fictional characters.  This year Burns comes in at #13. 

Rubies adds The Simpsons – Some company I’ve never heard of got a license to sell adult Simpsons costumes in Europe.  As usual, the marketspeak is knee deep:

Carl Lumbard from Fox Consumer Products has commented: “A key component of the success of The Simpsons has been the appeal, fun nature and recognisable appearance of the iconic yellow characters. Rubies have done a terrific job creating costumes based on the characters from the show which promises to bring a whole lot of pleasure to Halloween and dress up parties everywhere.”

Media and licensing manager at Rubies, Holly Oldham, has said: “As costume designers and manufacturers The Simpsons is a dream property. We have absolutely no doubt that Homer, Marge, Bart and Krusty will rank amongst our best selling costumes and we hope that this is the start of a long and very successful relationship with FCP EMEA.”

“bring a whole lot of pleasure to Halloween and dress up parties everywhere”?  Jebus. 

Snapshot: Juan Mata Buys David Luiz ‘Sideshow Bob’ Birthday Cake – Pretty much what it says.  I’m impressed that they got Bob’s hair like that.

Omer Counting in the Digital Age – Modern technology, The Simpsons, and homophonic pronunciation come together to help Jews count the days after Passover. 

The Simpsons, Season 1, Episode 2: “Bart the Genius” – And finally, our last long read of the day is another person embarking on a rewatching of the show.  (Here’s the first one, which I somehow missed.)  I especially like this:

It’s not hammered in by the plot really, but watching this again I was a bit depressed by the implication that a ten year old boy is fully aware that his father’s love for him is totally conditional. Even more depressing is that Bart is absolutely correct. Once he inevitably confesses out of guilt driven how Homer has been doting over him, Homer curses him and chases him through the house, causing Lisa to grimly comment to Marge that things really are back to normal. Who knew that the “reset the status quo” nature of the sitcom could be used to put a bit of tragedy into the proceedings?

That was one of the things that was so great about the show.  Their status quo sucked.  Naturally, that essential misery is almost totally lacking from Zombie Simpsons. 


Quote of the Day

Sideshow Bob Roberts8

“My friends, isn’t this just typical?  Another intelligent conservative here, railroaded by our liberal justice system, just like Colonel Oliver North, Officer Stacey Koon, and cartoon smokesperson Joe Camel.” – Birch Barlow


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