Or you could, you know, be okay with you are and not spend a thing…but hey, what do I know?
Or you could, you know, be okay with you are and not spend a thing…but hey, what do I know?
God bless us, everyone.
As many of you know, internet assholes are everywhere, and they exist in many different varieties. From the dopey douche-bro who can reach no higher than schoolyard insults, to the smug pseudo-intellectual who insists that scolding and belittling amounts to a “discussion,” you’ve got quite a motley crew out there, just waiting for the opportunity to feel superior to you. Once you let them in, there’s no escaping: you’re locked in an exhausting battle of wills that will only end when one of you gets bored. There’s no face-saving in a situation like this, and even though nobody cares but you and the person you’re dueling, odds are that you’ll end up feeling pretty bummed and strung out when it’s all over.
Well, folks, I have good news for you. I have solved this problem. Next time someone comes at you with cocky, smirking arrogance, wave them away with a tactic they can’t possibly get past: the Fortune Cookie Defense.
Yes, the Fortune Cookie Defense. It’s a surefire way to frustrate and annoy your opponent, while making you look transcendent and unflappable. Please observe the following example:
No asshole can puncture your ego if you just read him his fortune. If he replies, just give him another one. Repeat until he stops. Acknowledging an asshole without really acknowledging him shuts him down very quickly. The beauty of the Fortune Cookie Defense is not only its impenetrability, but its effectiveness as a reversal move. It makes you into the troll, while turning your enemy into an increasingly ineffectual, yapping chihuahua. The angrier he gets, the stupider he looks. Your internet pride is invincible with the Fortune Cookie Defense, so get out there and start trolling, folks!
Make America Angry Again! It seems like everyday now, there’s some TV show or public event aimed at upsetting the president, followed by a Trump Tweet that fires everyone else up. Everywhere you look, you see angry racists, angry anti-fascists, angry feminists, angry football players, and angry celebrities screaming, waving their arms, and killing each other with cars over something Trump said or something Trump did.
Come on people. Look at this guy. Does he really deserve this level of validation?
Now, I realize that the issues that have Americans so enraged these days aren’t entirely the president’s fault. These are old fires being stoked, but we’re not going to douse by throwing tantrums or going out of one’s way to piss people off.
Yeah, I’m talking to you, interchangeable NFL protesters. Now, I don’t care about the National Anthem or all this disrespecting the flag one way or the other. To me, those as symbols, and I leave symbols to the same people that George Carlin does. The way I see it, you’re just exercising a right that this great country is based on. I’m proud to live in a place where you needn’t worry about getting lynched, stoned, or even fired for your actions. Whether I agree with you or not, however, I still think you could find a better venue to share your viewpoint.
Let’s be honest: Monday Night Football is not the place for you to speak your minds. In fact, you’re not hired to speak at all: you are modern-day gladiators, paid to beat the shit out of each other in an arena for the pacification of the public. That’s all you are, and that’s all anyone cares about. As for me, I don’t care one whit. If you want ruin your careers and damage the reputation of the company you work for, then go right ahead. Maybe it’ll get Americans to stop thinking about football and start thinking about real issues. I just think you’d do better to speak at a college, publish an essay, or even write a letter to the editor, for crying out loud. You’ll have a smaller audience than when you’re on your precious tee-vee, but at least you’ll know that the people you do reach will actually give a shit.
It’s the egotism that bothers me more than anything. What kind of self-absorbed douche gets on a soapbox in the middle of work? If some dude at my office decided to interrupt every workday with a political message, the rest of us would throw our staplers at him. And don’t give me that shit about free speech. The First Amendment only protects you legally. It doesn’t mean that your friends, family, employers, or sponsors will like what you have to say. There are consequences for saying the wrong thing, so suck it up, buttercup.
Then you’ve got the people who love to say that the president has emboldened racism and hate groups. Once again, I think those people are giving Trump a little too much credit. These organizations have existed, and will continue to exist, for years and years. You can’t blame Trump, a professional narcissist, for these violent rallies that are going on. Have we forgotten that the president works for the citizenry, and not the other way around? We hired him. Trump became president because we voted for him, not because he reached into his bag of racists and Russians and pulled them all out to vote. He is a reflection of us. Cruelty and ignorance are All-American home goodies, baked at three-hundred and fifty degrees for over two-hundred years.
Why do we keep blaming the president for all our problems anyway? He wields no real power. Sure, he puts his name on the bills, but his position only exists for one purpose: to provide “good feelin’s.”
Let’s be honest again: for all his impressive oratory skill, what did Barack Obama really change? I mean, really, as in the quality of our daily lives? Any changes in my life during his presidency were brought on by my own efforts. He certainly didn’t turn the country into some femi-homo-disarmed-Euro-paradise like conservatives feared. All he did was send warm, liberal fuzzies through the television while business, war, and politics went on as usual. In 2017, we just exchanged one talking head for another, one that says what the other side likes to hear. And still, nothing is changing. Do you have more money in your pocket than you did before Trump became president? Do you feel better protected from terrorists and scumbags? Is the nation a warmer, happier place than it was last year? Nah, but at least you have your alpha-male role model shouting down those pussy libtard snowflakes, and that’s all these people need.
Therein lies the trouble we face: mindless tribalism, or as the magazines are calling it, the “culture war.” People are trading their individuality for groupthink and entering into twisted crusades against each other. You can’t say it’s only happening on one side, either, or else you wouldn’t see the childish clashes we’re getting. Those militant morons out there chanting and whining don’t care about making life better for anyone, they just want to feel morally superior to those they disagree with, by shouting them down and belittling them. When they vote, they don’t consider which candidate will improve the nation, but the one that will run their enemies out on a rail and silence them for good.
Now here’s the truth: if that’s the way you think when you vote, then you’re admitting that you don’t want a president, you want a king. That makes you a defector from democracy, and a supporter of despotism. You are precisely what Benjamin Franklin warned us about, and precisely what the Revolutionary War was fought to tear us from. In a democracy, everyone gets to speak, and in a society as diverse as ours, a tug of war must exist in perpetuity.
So what’s the answer? I don’t know how to calm these nutballs we see on TV every night, but I do see the difference between them and the regular people that surround me in real life.
The fact is that regular people don’t get so worked up over these things. They’re too busy trying to survive. They have households to manage, families to raise, budgets to balance, jobs to attend to. They stay informed of policy and vote, but they don’t allow their identities to be so wrapped up in gang mentality that they want to kill the opposition. They are decent, reasonable folk who want to live in peace, not to create trouble where it needn’t exist.
It’s time we started taking responsibility for ourselves. We have to stop surrendering to the waves of manufactured consensus, and start owning up to our actions. Terence McKenna once said that “Culture is not your friend.” It aims to control you, to categorize you, to paint you as something you might not want to be. In fuming over the latest stupid tweet Trump made, you are playing straight into culture’s hands. Focus on your life, your reality, your people, your God. Consider how to improve your world practically, and don’t let anyone else, especially some nimrod on television, tell you how you should do it.
So! The New Mystery Science Theater 3000 is here. That longshot, once-in-a-lifetime revival of the best television show in history turned out to be the real deal, unlike some crowd-funded projects involving cans without labels that I could mention. What’s more, we didn’t just get some one-time, big-nostalgia reunion special, we got over fifteen hours of show, rich and fully featured.
And…I don’t like it that much.
Everything a fan could want is here: the puppets, the songs, the chintzy sets. The movies are as pitiful as ever, and the riffs are rapid-fire. This fan, however, is left wanting. I admit that the following are the expected complaints of a crotchety old man who wants everything to stay the same as it ever did, but I’m going to deliver them anyway.
First off, the show feels…I don’t know…rushed. It wants to get straight to business. There’s no acknowledgment of the show’s long hiatus, and the new host, Jonah, seems almost happy to be stranded in space. Whereas the old show took a little time to characterize Joel Robinson as a gentle, fatherly figure, and Mike Nelson as the bullied newbie, I feel like Jonah has no persona to call his own. He just kinda slides into his position and does what’s expected of him. I’d say he’s like a guest on The Muppet Show, but even guests on The Muppet Show occasionally paused to wonder at their surroundings.
I also find it baffling that Gypsy can now talk. Previously, Gypsy had to devote so much of her CPU time to controlling the ship, that she could only speak in a muddled, halting manner. She came off as slow, causing the other bots to tease her, and Joel to give her special treatment and comfort. I thought it was sweet, but I guess today’s attitudes towards autism/ADHD/any other over-diagnosed childhood illness won’t allow it, so the writers decided to play it safe. Now we gots a smart-and-sassy Gypsy…who melds right in with the others and is quickly forgotten.
Crow and Tom Servo are just okay, though their shrill, sibilant voices are difficult to distinguish from one another at times. Neither one of them has really had an opportunity for characterization, either. I haven’t seen a shred of Crow’s masochistic mania, or of Tom’s cultured pompousness. They don’t explain how they got shanghaied from Earth and stuck on the Satellite of Love again; they’re just there, going along for the ride, never questioning, never doubting.
Then there’s the villain. While nobody could replace Trace Beaulieu as the man-about-madness Dr. Clayton Forrester, I think the makers of this show could have done a hell of a lot better than Felicia Day. There’s absolutely nothing threatening, silly, or even funny about her, and I feel like her involvement is just another attempt of hers to stick her geek-baiting face into a set where lovelorn nerds will fawn over her.
The only cast member who looks like he belongs is Patton Oswalt, though I feel he’s criminally treated playing a dope like TV’s Son of TV’s Frank. Oswalt is an intelligent and thoughtful guy; I almost feel like he should be the host. He’s so good at playing put-upon, sensitive, and optimistic characters that he’d be a natural for it. Some of the best skits on the old show involved Joel teaching the bots about the delicate aspects of human nature, and I just don’t see the happy-go-lucky Jonah pulling this off. Oswalt, on the other hand, could have been great.
I tried to tell myself that the show isn’t really about the characters, it’s about really bad movies, and the really good jokes made at their expense. Somehow, though, I just couldn’t convince myself of this. I think that the relationships between the characters, and the tone established in the host segments, are linked to the atmosphere in the theater. An emptiness in one seeps into the other. The hurried feel of the show makes the riffing weak and mechanical. My dad and I watched the first episode together, and he and I were making better jokes than Jonah and the bots within five minutes. Bear in mind that he and I were students of MST3K; we learned how to make fun of movies from Joel and Mike.
So I watched the new show for hours and hours, scratching my head about why it wasn’t lighting me up. Then, ubiquitous uber-dork Neil Patrick Harris made a cameo, and all became clear: the show’s been hijacked. It’s not the territory of struggling, self-hating comics anymore. Now it’s the land of the Happy Little Internet Elves. It’s all nerdgasms and super-squees. I wouldn’t be surprised if PewDiePie or Jonathan Coulton made appearances. I guess it’s just a product of its time: when you used to watch MST3K, you were smoking on the couch and staring at Comedy Central at two in the morning. Now you’re binging Netflix on your iPhone while working the elliptical at In-Shape. The world shifts as its denizens hold fast.
It’s more evidence that the problem is likely mine. Maybe I’m just griping about the show because it’s different from what it used to be, and I don’t want it to be different from what it used to be. If I can just stick with it, show it a little patience, then maybe I’ll get on board with it. After all, I had a really tough time accepting the changes that the Sci-Fi Channel made to the show back in the 90s. Eventually, however, I came to love Pearl, Bobo, and Brain Guy, as is evidenced by their cameo on the new season, which overjoyed me, and reminded me of just how much I missed them.
A partial list.
This may be a bit on-the-nose, what with Innerspace being a Joe Dante film, starring Martin Short, and featuring a cameo by Chuck Jones. Still, I think it deserves recognition as a Non-Cartoon, if only because we just don’t see a lot of movies that are this damn crazy anymore, and certainly not done this well.
Innerspace came out in 1987, right around the time I was heavy into game-books like Choose Your Own Adventure. I had recently picked up Explorer Destination: Brain at my school’s Book Fair and read it to tatters. I think I learned more about human biology from that silly little book than I did from any science class.
Anyway, so jazzed was I about adventures in human anatomy that Innerspace grabbed me from its first trailer. It had informed me of the basic plot: a miniaturized pilot (Dennis Quaid) gets injected into the body of an everyman (Short), who seeks the aid of the pilot’s girlfriend (Meg Ryan) to get him out. It sounds like a decent sci-fi setup, even if it’s one that’s been done before. One thing I’ve learned, however, is that when you go into a Joe Dante picture, you never get quite what you expect.
The film has all the elements of a sci-fi thriller, but they’re all bent into weird angles. Short’s everyman, Jack, is a neurotic mess who has nightmares about grumpy ladies attacking him at his cashier job. Quaid’s heroic pilot, Tuck, is a cocky drunk who smacks himself for a quick psych. When Tuck’s miniaturization experiment is raided by thieves, the lead scientist, Ozzy, escapes by zipping down a highway on a ten-speed. He tries to vanish into the crowd at a mall, but one of the bad guys shoots him with a gun hidden in his prosthetic hand. Ozzy saves Tuck by injecting him into Short’s ass-cheek, and then proceeds to bleed out while surrounded by performers wearing animal costumes.
As you can see, this movie’s on the edge of Goofytown, and it doesn’t stop at the outskirts. Tuck eventually makes contact with Jack in a series of hilarious and awkward scenes that leave Jack wondering if he’s been possessed. Jack meets Ryan’s character, Lydia, who’s not only Tuck’s girlfriend, but an investigative reporter looking into the aforementioned tech thieves, and promptly falls in love with her. The two work together to trap a fence called The Cowboy (Robert Picardo), an Eastern European who’s about as far from a real cowboy as anyone can be. All the while, Jack has to avoid telling Lydia the truth about Tuck, simply because Tuck’s embarrassed about being so tiny.
Things just keep building like this, taking turn after kooky turn, until Tuck is dueling a cyborg over an ocean of bubbling stomach acid, while Jack and Lydia fly down busy roads in an out-of-control car, battling arms dealers who are the size of children.
Don’t ask me how it all works. I’m just not that smart. I’m sure the amazing special effects help. The visuals from inside Jack’s body are quite impressive, even by today’s standards. Tuck starts his journey in Jack’s buttocks (the fat cells are really just balloons), and using the bloodstream like a highway, he visits some very real-looking eyes, inner ears, lungs, and heart valves. Using slow motion and clever sound effects, Dante makes the human body into a majestic and scary place.
More important than the visuals, though, are the performances. Martin Short finds real sympathy as Jack, even when he goes full screwball. Short can be grating in other films, but I think he’s palatable here because his overacting seems appropriate for the extreme situations he’s put in. He’s also grounded by Tuck, a charming rogue who’s been forced into near-powerlessness. Quaid spends most of the movie scrunched in a blinky, buttony computer console, yet he manages to project great energy. The two actors share nearly no screen time, but they somehow play off each other, with powerful and funny results. Innerspace pulls off many great feats, but making us care about its leads, in the midst of its insane plot, is by far its greatest one.
There are so many crazy little details and characters that make Innerspace memorable that it’d do no good to try and list them all. The movie is a mural of silliness, painted corner-to-corner with colorful characters and wacky moments. A lot of it is corny, but a lot of it is inspired, and there’s an innocence to its tone and aesthetic that’s missing from comedies today. The more I watch it, the more I lament that we may never see a movie quite like it again.
If Innerspace were to be animated, it’d have to be done by Madhouse, the Japanese studio that brought us the glorious Stink Bomb. That cartoon was another tale of science gone wrong, and it also featured a bit of a dope at its center, so the parallels are there. While I doubt that even their greatest wizards could channel Dante’s sly directing style, I’m sure they could add a voltage to the film that would turn it into something special.
It’d sure be tough to replace that face-changing scene, though. I think animating that part would only make it look worse!