Category Archives: Internet

More From Me At The TV Addict

Yesterday Daniel Malen at the TV Addict ran my second piece for them.  The idea I pitched was a game for readers and site contributors alike, which we called “Play Fantasy TV: Choose Your Own Adventure.”  Everyone wants to think they’d be able to make great art, no matter the medium, so I wanted to put that to the test.  I pitched a TV show I’d love to see, explained the main influences, wrote an outline for a pilot, and a vaguer direction for the rest of the first season.  I want the TV Addict’s readership to chip in with comments to act as a virtual writers’ room, and I want friends and family to pitch their own ideas using the rules I listed in the piece.

Here’s a quick look at the article, but click here for the whole thing.  And keep coming back for more, because I have other ideas brewing, and Daniel’s regular television coverage is phenomenal.

The Show: P.I.

Reductive Combination Comparison: Robert Altman’s THE LONG GOODBYE meets THE THIN MAN film serials of the 1930s.

The Concept: A fun-loving drunk/private detective aims to take on the lower stakes cases (a tier above cheating spouses but not CHINATOWN-level regional power plays) other fictional detectives shy away from, but of course always finds himself embroiled in labyrinthine plots. Each season will focus on one main case and the odd jobs he takes to support his drinking. They’re usually connected in some way.


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Necco Wafers, Ranked

The internet is overrun by unnecessary rankings of all kinds, usually in an attempt to reveal the greatest, worst, and most overrated or underrated ephemera “of all time!”  They’re easy lies to draw eyeballs, in order to make a quick buck.  I’m an attention-starved wannabe writer, so I need to swallow my pride and join the crowd because I am no better than anyone else.

This week’s rankings are inspired by the ample Easter candy I’ve been munching all week.  Necco Wafers are my favorite confection and I don’t care that they’re essentially flavored chalk.  And now, after eating them and little else in recent days, it’s time to definitively order their quality.

8.  Orange (Orange)

They’re terrible.  If you mashed them up and poured the dust into a solution with viscosity somewhere between yogurt and milk, you would get the exact taste of my childhood’s most hated medicine.  I don’t remember what it’s called, but the fact remains: Orange Necco Wafers taste like medicine.

7.  Chocolate (Brown)

Also fairly maligned by my taste buds, the chocolate flavor does not mix well with the chalky qualities.  If you’re going to eat chocolate, it needs to be at least somewhat chewy.  But when your chocolate is itself crunchy — without, say, rice like in a Crunch bar — it doesn’t work.

6.  Lemon (Yellow)

A huge improvement over the previous two entries, there is nothing wrong with the lemon flavored Neccos.  They’re a little on the bland side, as the lemon flavoring is not particularly overpowering.  But they’re pleasant and I don’t get frustrated when there are an inordinate number of them in a roll.

5.  Licorice (Black)

A flavor that has fallen precipitously in my estimation since my childhood.  It’s still good, but the amount of black licorice — and black licorice-flavored snacks — I’ve had in my life has numbed me to its finer points.  Still tasty, but not the overwhelming deliciousness I remember from my younger days.

4.  Clove (Purple)

One that has risen as I’ve aged, clove is tasty and always a pleasant palette cleanser after the lesser Neccos on the lower end of the list.  This is probably not reflective of the truth, but the clove-flavored wafers are seemingly the rarest of the bunch, and they almost never appear twice in a row.

3.  Lime (Green)

Now we’re talking.  I get genuinely excited when I see a green pop up in the roll.  They have a strange spicy kick to them at the beginning, but the aftertaste is smooth.  As a bonus, they tend to appear packed together several in a row.

2.  Cinnamon (White)

Much like the limes, the whites have the spice one would expect from cinnamon.  They’re overpowering in the best way, especially when chewed after the gross ones.

1.  Wintergreen (Pink)

I save the best for last.  With every roll I get, I unravel the paper wrapping and pick out every pink wafer I see, then pile them together.  Most other wafers disappear rapidly, but the pinks I savor.  The aftertaste sticks around for a while, which is nice, too.

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Slate and I Must Be Neighbors in the Idea Space

“… [A] space in which mental events can be said to occur, an idea space which is perhaps universal. Our individual consciousnesses have access to this vast universal space, just as we have individual houses, but the street outside the front door belongs to everybody. It’s almost as if ideas are pre-existing forms within this space… The landmasses that might exist in this mind space would be composed entirely of ideas, of concepts, that instead of continents and islands you might have large belief systems, philosophies, Marxism might be one, Judeo-Christian religions might make up another.” – Comic book writer Alan Moore on the “Idea Space” from the documentary, The Mindscape of Alan Moore [courtesy of Wikipedia].

Moore’s words are weighing on my mind today as I read Slate’s post about Bob’s Burgers by writer Jon Christian.  Christian takes the same premise, analyzes the same scene, quotes the same lines, and comes to (mostly) the same conclusions I did when writing for the TV Addict last week about Tina Belcher, the show’s eldest daughter.

From Christian’s opening, published yesterday, April 17.

There’s a wonderful scene in Season 3 of Bob’s Burgers, in which the eponymous restaurateur lets his 13-year-old daughter Tina drive the family’s car in a nearly-empty lot. “Let’s make this kitty purr,” Tina monotones, glancing nervously at her dad from the driver’s seat. She pulls out of the parking space at a snail’s pace, and starts to groan with anxiety. Bob talks over the groan, calmly reassuring Tina, his voice rising as she sets them on a glacial collision course with the only other car.

“OK, Tina, you’re kinda headed toward the only other car in the lot,” he says. “You have plenty of time to turn, Tina, so just go ahead, turn one way or the other.” Tina’s groan intensifies. “You’re just swerving back and forth,” Bob says, now alarmed. “Turn one way and stick with it, Tina. Tina for the love of God, turn away or stop! The brakes, Tina, the brakes!”

Needless to say, Tina totals the car.

And now, from mine, published on April 8.

Take, for instance, her driving lesson at the start of the season’s seventh episode, “Tina-rannasaurus Wrecks.” Tina’s father, Bob, gets the bright idea to let her drive his car in a mostly empty parking lot as a treat for helping him run errands. Tina’s unsure and antsy, but she hops in the driver’s seat and says with faux confidence (re: terrified trepidation), “Let’s make this kitty purr.”

What follows is perhaps the greatest slow-burn visual gag in years. Despite Bob’s initially reassuring tone, Tina starts groaning in the way only she can as voiced by Mintz (“Uuuuuuunnnnnnngggggh.”). She knows exactly what needs to be done, but it’s scary. She’s paralyzed. She’s also not moving beyond idle speed, which builds the comedic value exponentially the closer she gets to the only other parked car in the lot. Increasingly frustrated and later panicked, Bob tells her all she needs to do is turn the wheel slightly in either direction, and later to brake, but this goes about as well as you would expect.

The similarities follow with connections made to Tina’s groan being the perfect sonic example of the go-nowhere sense shared by many millennials in my situation.  They differ as Christian goes into a short discussion of Tina’s place in the zeitgeist as a feminist hero.

I joked with a few people this morning about how Slate “basically plagiarized me,” but that is likely a fiction.  My best days on this site get maybe 50 views, most of them from friends, family, and whoever actually reads the stuff on Blog Surfer before the time limit runs out.  I don’t have the readership numbers for my post on the TV Addict, but I can’t imagine some nobody like me would have garnered much attention on my first post there — speaking of which, I pitched some more ideas to them, so I’ll be writing there again, perhaps as soon as later today.

Which is an extended way of saying, I’m not interesting or established enough to plagiarize.  Yet.  I do recognize that Christian’s piece is surprisingly similar to mine, and maybe even suspiciously so, but I’m struck by how much better a writer Christian is than me.  He supports the ideas better than I did, which goes to show that I have a long way to go before I can get paid to do this; if anything, he refined my thoughts.  Besides, like the Moore quote above says, ideas tend to grow from multiple sources.  There’s no such thing as an original thought.  It’s all a matter of organization of those ideas to form something worthwhile.  Christian and I were struck by the same moment, and latched onto the same themes, likely because that was the intent of episode writer Jon Schroeder.  The idea came down our block of the Idea Space, and I said hello to it a week before Christian did.

Or, who knows, maybe he plagiarized me.

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“Win [Something] for Having a Working Memory!”

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Photos like this circulate around Facebook constantly.  They exist in a plane of shared experience, a collective nostalgia for things that do not matter.  Their mission would appear to be building community, a way of saying, “We’re not so different after all.”  But in effect, they don’t do that.  And this is a problem.

So let’s unpack these wildly popular Facebook posts a bit.  Every post in this category follows the same pattern, oftentimes the exact same wording: “LIKE and SHARE if you remember… [photo, usually of the Saved by the Bell cast for some reason].”  Thousands of people click the familiar blue thumbs up button and they post it to their homepage, which causes each post to then get more views from that homepage.  And it builds for a couple hours into a phenomenon of people replying to the photo with variations of, “Yes, I remember this common object, event, pop culture artifact, etc.  It was so great!”

But here’s the thing.  Recognition of something does not deserve a back pat.  You did nothing special.  Your brain made a connection to something you experienced in the past.  You are, in fact, doing something every healthy, functioning human being has done since the dawn of the species.

What are we saying when we repost these things?  It invariably goes back to “old is good, now is bad.” But that’s rarely, if ever, the case.  Take, for instance, the chair in the picture above, which I only used as a generic example.  There is someone claiming in the comments that these were “the best chairs ever.”  If you like them, that’s fine, but hyperbole doesn’t earn you extra points.  The nylon on these chairs frayed and would poke you.  They would rust and be impossible to open.  They would collapse if you sat back.  They are the height of triviality.

If they’re so useless, why do we see them daily on social media?  That’s plain when you look at the sources of the photos.  They almost never originate from a personal account.  It’s pop culture websites, sports teams, and anything else vaguely commercial enough to deserve a place on Facebook “Pages.”  The more people who look at the photos, “Like” them, and share to their friends, the more attention these companies will get for doing nothing.  They get traffic to their pages, which leads to their website, which leads to people buying a product because of a vague recollection of something that does not affect their life.  The photos make these commands without offering anything.  People extrapolate this to mean their memory will win a prize.  If it works on you, the prize is spending your money.  If it doesn’t work, there is literally no purpose whatsoever.

And this concerns me.  When we engage in this blind triviality, we give up some agency.  It might not be much, but it’s troubling nonetheless.  We’re bored at work, or in class, so we look to something, anything to get us out of our mental rut.  In comes this thing which harkens back to a time when you were doing something that isn’t the something you’re unhappy with in the moment, and it gives a glimmer of hope.  It makes you more dissatisfied with the present, which makes you want to escape more.  But escaping is rarely useful.  This is why I watch so many movies and write, and why people crochet, paint, work out, or whatever else.  These activities make us think about where we are, what we want to do; they teach (or at least attempt to teach) us something of value about the world.  We are creating something when we do them, building the neural connections these Facebook photos only look to lazily exploit.

And really, the present likely isn’t terrible.  It’s simply here.  If you’re unhappy with it, you should engage in what makes you unhappy, then work to fix it.  Apply for new jobs, work on a hobby, play with your kids.  Just stop blindly following commands from people you don’t know to do something that won’t change your situation.

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