Monday, January 29, 2007

The Freakishness That is The Disney Universe

Disney is so pervasive in our culture that rarely does one step back and take a look at the main characters, and the weird setup of the world they inhabit. Since I am bored out of my mind when forced to watch the endless stream of Disney Channel junk (thanks kids, love ya!), my mind has often wandered to the abilities and limitations of the animals which have come to represent this company. My thoughts on this vital matter follow below.

To wit, we all know Mickey Mouse, the signature icon of the entire organization. Mickey, along with his wife (?) Minnie, both are clearly not typical mice. For starters, they each walk upright, on two legs, which most mice couldn’t do for more than a few terrified steps before crashing to the floor. They’re fully clothed as well, Mickey sporting an odd ensemble of shorts with suspenders with no shirt, while Minine has a more gender traditional pink polka-dot dress, with matching big ass bow in her….well, I can’t call it hair, since these two both appear to be hairless. Let’s just say the bow sits on the spot of her head where a human who had hair would logically place it. The big thing which separates these two from the rest of their species is, remarkably, the power of speech. High pitched, annoying speech, but speech nonetheless.

That ability seems to be the great divider among animals in the Disney world. The resident ducks, Donald, Daisy and what apparently are only Donald’s nephews Huey, Looie and Dooey, all have the ability to speak, albeit in an almost unintelligible squawk. The fact that he has nephews means he must have a brother or sister, whom, logically, would also have the walking upright/speech capability as well. To my knowledge, this individual, along with his or her mate with whom these little brats were produced, is not known. The fact that this special group of ducks never seem to wear pants is yet another puzzling aspect of the (now frozen, apparently) mind of Walt Disney. Would it have killed him to cover up the lower halves of these animals, since he already put shirts on them, or is this some sort of bizarre symmetry with the shirtless Mickey? Strange decision indeed Walt.

The one species where things really get weird, though, is dogs. Is Disney’s Universe, the canine pecking order is clearly established: If you can speak and walk on two legs, you are superior to all other doggies. Those barking on all fours are left to play subservient roles as pets. Goofy falls into the former category, and despite being dumb as a bag of hammers, he holds a clear advantage over Pluto, who can be nothing more than the loyal pet of the freakish talking mouse. Goofy apparently has procreated at some point as well, as a son emerged in later years. This puppy has the double bonus of not only inheriting his Dad’s speech/walking ability, but not being cursed with his father’s limited intellect. The mother of said child is unknown, at least to me, and I do not have the energy to Google it. The fact that Pluto and Goofy appear to be of the same breed must drive Pluto crazy, as he knows he is clearly smarter than dumbass Goofy, yet can’t articulate his thoughts beyond a series of powerful barks and awkward points with his paw. Another dog, who tends to play the villain role, is a bulldog named Pete. Pete too is one of the blessed ones, not only having the walking/talking thing mastered, but also, thankfully, opting to wear trousers. Pete has a pet bulldog, which is just plain creepy and is tantamount to slavery, right? Pete’s pet dog, whose name escapes me and really isn’t relevant, plays the role to the hilt, and is clearly subservient to his “master”, even though, like Pluto, one speculates the pet might be at least as smart as the owner, if not more so. If Mickey had a mouse for a pet, wouldn’t that be sort of weird? Same dynamic here, and it is just plain ugly.

Other cartoon characters also employed the speech/upright walking paradigm, specifically in the Loony Tunes world. The difference there was that whenever Bugs Bunny interacted with another animal, that animal was on somewhat equal footing, since it also possessed the human like characteristics. In Disney’s land, clear lines are drawn within the same species.

What this all says about Mr. Disney himself is unclear, at least to an armchair psychologist like me. My entirely non-expert opinion, though, is that the guy clearly had some serious issues, mostly regarding pants. Maybe when they thaw him out and reanimate his corpse, we can get some real answers. Until then, we can only speculate.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Stupid People Are Here To Amuse Us

This is always my favorite part of the whole American Idol cycle. The time when we only see brief snippets of the wannabes who will end up competing for the coveted title of The Guy/Girl Who Gets to Have His/Her Spirit Crushed by 19 Entertainment. The time when we are shown the parade of train wrecks who fit neatly into one of the following categories:

Category One: Delusional famewhores who think they can actually sing
Absolutely the best ones to watch. The hunch is these people do really well at Karoke night with their co-workers, and say “Why not me?” after a few beers and encouragement from the others. Reality sets in pretty quickly, but for many it is simply too incredible to believe that the judges can’t recognize the abundance of talent oozing from every pore. They are usually afforded a slice of airtime to air their displeasure toward the judges as they exit the venue. Numerous bleeps ensue. Good times.

Category Two: Children of people who are delusional famewhores, but need to live vicariously through their children
A close second is this bunch. The truly scary parents who seemingly have never told their precious baby that he/she is not the absolute best at everything he or she has ever tried. The best are the ones who claim to have experienced a modicum of “fame” themselves, which normally ends up being High School Chorus and/or being a groupie that time KajaGooGoo came to town in ‘83. When their child is told in no uncertain terms that “it’s a no”, the indignation that sets in is priceless. Of course, the cameras are there to catch it all, following the vanquished contestant and family out the door and into the street, for as long as the rant lasts. First rejection is a bitch, ain’t it?

Category Three: Goofballs who just want to get on TV, no matter the cost
Everybody should be in on this joke, least of all the producers. The more outlandish the “act”, the better shot at a few minutes of precious airtime on a top rated TV show. Dressing in a goofy costume often works, but being plain ol’ batshit crazy works just as well. Bonus points are awarded when you yourself never acknowledge the act, and stay in character all the way out of the room. Later, you can go home and collect on your bets when the show airs and you are given primo exposure.

Category Four: Actual mentally challenged people
Wait, how can this be? You mean the producers will actually allow folks with clear mental disabilities to go in front of the panel, attempt to sing, and be subsequently humiliated? Believe it or not people, there actually is a line, and this is where Fox et al cross it. There is no doubt the producers know when a person is not completely self aware and competent to be on this show. Having people with clear issues perform for us like monkeys is just plain ridiculous. One argument, “If they’re not ‘well’ how did they get themselves there and decide to perform” simply doesn’t wash, as there are many folks with limited disabilities who are self sufficient with basic life skills, but lack social awareness. Nobody is around to prevent them form going to Idol. Nobody, that is, except Idol itself, which obviously values mocking all over compassion and decency.

I understand it is a fine line, and the fact that millions of people watch these early rounds could be seen as a validation of the entire format. I myself stated how much I enjoy these rounds, and wonder if by watching I am part of the problem. Fox took some heat after the first few episodes aired, but mostly for the perceived cruel remarks from the panel. Simon Cowell, we expect that kind of thing from of course, but in some of the early round Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson got into the fray as well. It looked like a recent episode was pared down since it was light on the negative comments, but that might have been due to the fact that it was only a one hour show, unlike the normal two hour suckfest normally shown at this stage.

The producers can claim ignorance, since they’re not doctors, but it doesn’t take years of training to identify some of the limitations displayed by several contestants. Want to give them a chance? Fine, but must it be aired? It would be easy to quietly tell the panel that this next contestant has some issues, and the audition will not be aired, allowing them to perhaps display some class and gently let the person know that Hollywood just isn’t going to happen.

Oh jeez, who am I kidding, this is Fox. Guess we’ll have to shower after these episodes air and buck up for the Hollywood rounds, and hope that a little backlash makes them rethink the strategy next season. I’m not holding my breath.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Currently wearing out my iPod.....

Like anyone should give a crap about anyone else’s iPod, right? Relax, this won’t be a list of all the stuff currently on my device. This soon to be recurring feature will feature songs that I’m currently enjoying. You might not like them, you might love ‘em. Either way, I suggest you check them out.

Two new songs, which unlike most stuff on my iPod actually are new, are currently in heavy rotation on said device, and warrant your listening attention.

Cold War Kids, “Hang Me Up To Dry”

This was a featured Single of the Week on iTunes a few weeks back, and if you were lucky enough to grab it, kudos to you. I can’t see this ever becoming a radio-friendly hit, but it definitely grows on you with repeated listens. Like the song below, I have a need to hear this song daily. These guys manage to sound unlike anyone else, and the pulsating tempo is still in my head hours after each listen. Very promising...

Cold War Kids (myspace page)

Pete Yorn, “For Us”

Caught this on the VH1 Video Countdown show last weekend, sandwiched among nineteen other songs commonly heard on any pop radio station. How this made the list puzzles me: I haven’t heard it on the radio at all, and the video is certainly nothing extraordinary. The song, however, is catchy as hell, and I find it necessary to listen to it at least once per day, usually more than that. I have not heard anything else from Yorn, but “For Us” is a great tune, straightforward Indie guitar based pop. Dave Grohl chips in on the drums for the tune, which just adds to the cool. I will definitely check out the rest of his current album on Rhapsody, and can see more purchases in my future if those songs are anywhere near this good.

Pete Yorn's Site

Check them out, you won’t be disappointed.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

An Announcement

This blog has become disjointed, in my view, by combining sports entries with my ordinary rants/recommendations/musings. The solution: set up a separate blog (called Bristol I My Rear View Mirror) entirely for sports related stuff. While I don’t think I’ll be a threat to the top sports blogs out there, all linked on the right side on the main page of the new site for your convenience, I still will have something to contribute.

To review:

What? (where you are right now) – All the non-Sports related stuff I feel like writing about.

Bristol In My Rear View Mirror (linked at right) – Sports stuff only.

Got it? Good. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

NFL Picks - Divisional Playoffs

Not a bad Wild Card week, as I managed to go 3-1, faltering only by showing faith that Kansas City would somehow manage to do something, anything against the previously woeful Indy defense. Silly me. The divisional round features some great matchups, and I've been going back and forth on just about every game before deciding on my selections as follows.....

Indianapolis at Baltimore we congratulate the Colts for winning despite a relatively bad performance by Peyton Manning? Maybe, but the Chiefs were as bad as the Colts were good, so I'm not sure how much can be taken from last week. The Ravens are built to win in the post-season, with a solid, ball-hawking defense couples with a much more reliable offense than what's been put out there in recent years. the big key is here, if Baltimore can control the line of scrimmage while on offense, grind the clock and keep Manning and Co. off the field, the defense can do the rest.
No way the Colt defense can reproduce last week's result while outside, on the road, and on grass. It could be an ugly game, but I'll go with the home team.
Ravens 20 Colts 10

Philadelphia at New Orleans
An absolutely unthinkable matchup a year ago. Saints are the story of 2006, while Philly is perhaps the hottest team in the league. So, what prevails, the momentum of a team riding high with a rejuvantated Jeff Garcia? Or a team who has attempted to lift an entire city on its collective back? Tough call, but with Philadelphia DB Lito Sheppard out of this game with the elbow injury, the Saints explosive offense gains a bit of an advantage. This could be the most entertaining game of the weekend, and once again the pick here is with the home team.
Saints 27 Eagles 23

Seattle at Chicago
Rarely has a #1 seeded team gone into the playoffs with so many question marks. The Bears look like a team that might have peaked in October, and have limped to the finish. Despite defensive lapses and injuries, and the incredibly inconsistent play of QB Rex Grossman, Chicago still is the team to beat, and the Seahawks are not getting past them. I can't remember a team in wihch the defense and special teams are an equal threat to match the point totals generated by the offnse, but Chicago is that team. Rex Grossman can quiet the critics, for one week at least, and guide the Bears to an easy home win.
Bears 27 Seahawks 10

New England at San Diego
The NFL wisely saved the best for last, as this one should be a dandy. Bill Bellichick and his 3 rings against Marty Schottenheimer and his ugly playoff record. Post-season hero Tom Brady against first time playoff starter Phillip Rivers. Hmm, based on those two factors, it's all Pats, however superstud RB LaDanian Tomlinson is the X-factor. How the Pats handle LDT is the obvious key to the game. Look, he is too good a player to not get his yards, and even a TD or two, but if New England can handle the rest of the offense adequately, that might be enough. They force Rivers to beat them, and they're in good shape. The Charger D has been back on track since Merriman returned, but Brady and his no-name receiving corps, along with the two pronged ground attack of Maroney and Dillon, should be able to find some holes and out up some points. Another big point: the Pats got jobbed on the road at Denver last year, which is the only post-season belmish on this group's record. That game is avenged here. My only road choice of the round, ladies and gents, is the Patriots.
Patriots 24 Chargers 20

Last week: 3-1

Friday, January 05, 2007

Recommendation of the week: Drink Til We're Funny

If you’re into podcasts, the choices presented to you are expanding almost daily. Finding new things to subscribe to via Itunes or any other provider can be an exhausting exercise, and the glut of content available contains some real drivel. Some, however, do stand out. For example, if you’re in a particularly silly mood, check out the entertaining weekly musings of Justin, Jon and Deena, on Drink ‘Til We’re Funny .

The three friends gather together each week and produce some entertaining babble about anything that strikes their fancy, though just about every podcast can’t go on too long without eventually getting around to three basic topics: fat, poop and/or death. You might need to be forewarned that Jon and Justin are both gay (one might say "flaming"), and openly talk about their respective lives, which oddly enough involve lots of gay related stuff. That doesn’t make this a queercast by any means, and open-minded straight listeners (like yours truly) will find plenty to laugh about while the three friends banter on about any other topics and events that strike their collective fancy. Deena is not gay, but is funny as hell – not that those are mutually exclusive. All three of them have heavy duty Chicago accents, which is kind of endearing if you’re not from that area.

If you’re one of those people who loves to correct the grammar of others, or loves to constantly play on words and phrases as others speak, or just likes listening to some genuinely funny folks, you’ll really get a kick out of these guys. Give DTWF a try, you won’t regret it!

NFL Picks - Wild Card Edition

What a wild finish to the regular season last week, as a series of unlikely events resulted in the Kansas City Chiefs gaining the final AFC playoff spot, the Lions went into Texas Stadium and shocked the Cowboys into a lower seed, and Bill Cowher went out with an OT touchdown to knock out the Bengals. Now, it's on to the second season, and here are the picks for the opening slate of games.

Kansas City 27 Indianapolis 24
It's obvious, for anyone who has been reading this blog, that I'm going with KC, right? Personal loyalty aside, the Chiefs can win this one. The obvious matchup in their favor is Larry Johnson against the league's worst rushing defense, and that will no doubt be a factor. The Chiefs will look to limit the number of posessions for Peyton Manning and Co., and hope it will put pressure on the star QB to rush things, causing more mistakes. Overlooked a bit here is the KC defense, which is far better than the unit from the last playoff matchup between these teams in early 2004. They don't have to be the '85 Bears here, just do enough to get some pass pressure, and hold their own in what they hope will be a very short amount of time spent on the field. The pick here is KC, in a close one, to extend the ongoing post-season frustration for Indy.

Seattle 37 Dallas 31
Home team choice here, and that is the only reason I picked the Seahawks. Banged up on defense, with an offense that has been woefully inconsistent all season, the Hawks have nevertheless broken the jinx of Super Bowl losers missing the playoffs the following year. The Cowboys have looked awful since the Saints spanked them a few weeks back, and it appears everyone is using Sean Payton's game plan to stomp them. Seattle has enough weapons to do the same, and can prevail at home in a high scoring affair. Hope they enjoy it, because the run will be a short one.

New England 23 N.Y. Jets 14
Ah, the student against the Master, Round Three. Everyone knows how tough the Pats are at home in the playoffs, and despite the Jet victory here in November, I can't buck that trend. Jets have had problems running the ball on offense, and stopping the run on defense, which could spell disaster here. The weather will not be typical January New England fare, with the temps in the 50's. Tom Brady seems to finally be comfortable with his ragtag receiving corps, and the double barreled ground attack of Maroney and Dillon will wear down the Jet front seven. As was the case last year, I just can;t pick against the Pats at home, at least not this year.

Philadelphia 27 N.Y. Giants 24
G-Men have had two distinctly separate seasons, going 6-2 through the first eight games, than crashing to a 2-6 finish, but despite all the turmoil, they're here as the six seed. The Eagles are the unlikely division champs, owing that to both a late season resurgence by Jeff Garcia coupled with the crashing to Earth of the Cowboys. No result will surprise me in this one, given the unpredictability of the two teams. That said, I do expect a relatively high scoring affair, and let's give the edge to Philly due to the hot team factor, as well as the home field advantage.

Last Week: 11-5
Regular Season Total: 151-105 (58.9%)