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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

What Do You Mean, Toothpaste Wasn’t Invented Yet?!

I blog, therefore I am

Before we get to our blogging for the day, we have a Programming Note From the Shameless Self-Promotion Department:

I’m entered this week in the New Weblog Showcase at The Truth Laid Bear. The submission is an entry ‘ripped from the archives’ called A Wall to Save Us All. If you’re interested, have a look. If you’re impressed — or you wanna help a poor brutha out — you can link to it from your own blog to ‘vote’ for it in this week’s Showcase. (See the Showcase for full details.) I really appreciate the support, and if I win… well, that’s just one more day to put off contemplating suicide, now, isn’t it? Or something like that. Anyway, have a look. If you don’t like my entry, maybe you’ll like someone else’s! It’s all good, baby.

Also, it’s not official yet, but I’m trying to worm the same entry into the next Carnival of the Vanities. ‘Cause, you know, I’m shameless. The current Carnival is careening into gear at DaGoddess, and the next — hopefully featuring moi, among dozens of others, will be hosted at Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics. Check it out, read the blogs, have some fun, burn your bras, whatever. Yadda, yadda, yadda. I can’t tell you people what to do.

And now back to our regularly scheduled blog, already in progress. Blog appetit!

Do you ever have one of those shows that you really like, or think is interesting, but not quite compelling enough to actually figure out when the thing is on so you can actually watch it?

(Those of you with TiVo need not apply, you smug, self-satisfied bastards. I will become one of you, dammit!)

Anyway, maybe it’s because I’m at home more lately, but I have one of those shows. Or more precisely, I have four. So under the guise of pointing out good shows for you to watch, I’ll give you just a taste of what piques my interest these days. It’ll be fun. I promise.

1.) The Family Guy

Five Second Synopsis: Cartoon about dysfunctional family; sort of like the Simpsons with cameo celebrity appearances and more fart jokes.

Okay, I mention this one first because it pisses me off the most that I can’t figure out when the hell it’s on. It’s always been like a frickin’ fly buzzing around my head. I never knew when the damned thing was on when it ran on FOX, and now that it’s syndicated, I still don’t know when to tune in. I’ve caught maybe half a dozen episodes ever, and I want more. More, do you hear me? More!

Plus, the damn show is a watch-tease. Or something. That didn’t sound right, but something, all right? Cut me some friggin’ slack; it’s nine o’clock in the morning, for the love of Twinkies. Anyway, what I meant by ‘watch-tease’ is this: it’s one thing when I can’t get my shit together to watch a show on a regular basis. I accept that. Most days, I can’t even get my pants on facing the right direction, so unless I’m very careful, I’m likely to miss out on anything that requires thinking ahead. Like catching a particular show, or eating. That sort of thing.

But it’s a Different Thing Entirely™ when I catch a show once a year or so, and then see the same damned episode that I’ve already watched. I’ve probably seen a half-dozen Family Guy‘s, and half of them were reruns. (And yes, I realize that they’re all reruns these days, ya dildo. I mean reruns in the ‘If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you!‘ sense. I have seen it, it’s not new to me, and it frickin’ cheeses me off!)

Look, it’s fine if they only made four lousy episodes of this show, and it’s just the luck of the draw that I’m catching repeats, but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that is not the case. Somebody out there knows when I’m watching TV, and knows which episodes I’ve seen, and just frickin’ substitutes in a rerun anytime that I happen to cruise past the channel it’s on. That’s the only explanation. Can you say, ‘V chip’, people?

2.) Faking It

Five Second Synopsis: Regular people are trained in a foreign occupation for four weeks, then thrown to the wolves to be judged.

This one, I almost got a handle on, but I lost it, and now I don’t know when to watch. This is also one of the many ‘cross-over’ shows that started on the BBC, and has now been dusted off, bastardized, sprinked with glitter and hair spray, and Hollywood-ed into an American show. Now normally in these cases, I prefer the original. (Gee, could you tell?) And I suspect that will be the case here, but the jury’s still out, and here’s why:

Episodes seen from the original BBC show (my titles and descriptions; no spoilers about judging results):

The Aspiring Chef: A street-wise, foul-mouthed chap (hot dog vendor, maybe? I missed the beginning of this one) is recruited to become a head chef for a month. First episode I saw, and I was hooked.

Best Moment: They threw the guy in with a stereotypical (but apparently real) abusive, perfectionist prima donna chef-with-a-heart-of-gold for advanced training. The poor trainee left after an hour or so and recorded a profanity-laced, thick-accented tirade on his video diary — ‘This is just feckin’ shite. It’s shite. I dun’ knoo whet I’m doin’ here. It’s a feckin’ madhoose. I can’t teek much more of this… this shite!‘ Or words to that effect. You get the feckin’ idea, mate.

Vicar Sells a Car: A man of the cloth from some rural pasture-town is plopped into a downtown, big-city used car lot and told to sell, sell, sell! He’s too nice and genteel to make it on the lot, so the salesmen spend much of their time toughening his skin, and his accent.

Best Moment: During the show, the owner of the lot sends our man to buy a car, which he’s then going to sell. He ends up spending a tiny fraction of the money he’s given on a run-down, beat-up clunker of a lemon, and is soundly chastised by the owner about it. At the end of the show, the owner gives it to the vicar, because it’s impossible to sell such a flaming hunk of shit. Er, shite.

You Call That a Painting?: A grungy house painter is cleaned up, slicked back, and taught how to paint real art, starting (and pretty much ending) with ‘Self-Portrait of the Artist as a Young Crippled Boy’. He starts slowly, but picks technique up quickly and produces quite a lot of work for a four-month period. Well, to me, it looked like a lot, anyway. You could wallpaper a hallway with all the crap he painted.

Best Moment: I hate to pick an easy one right from the show’s trailer, but when the professional art critic that visits to check our hero’s progress says that one piece ‘looks like it was painted by a macaque monkey trying to do a pastiche of Matisse‘ (I may be paraphrasing slightly), the look on the budding artist’s face alone was worth the price of admission.

So, that’s quite a body of work on the Beeb side. Solid episodes, creative choices, interesting personalities. And I’ve only seen one American Faking It. So how could I still believe that our version might make it after all? Well, here’s what I watched:

Yay, Ivy League!: A mousy-feisty Hahvahd girl (New Englanders, you know the kind…) travels to Hotlanta to become a Falcons cheerleader for a month. She struggles with her ‘booby bimbo’ opinions about cheerleaders, but soldiers on and shakes her poms, anyway.

Best Moment: Um… it’s a show about cheerleaders. And a misfit, pent-up-bookworm-becomes-glamorous-hottie plot. Hell-oo-ooo. It’s porn without the goofy music. It’s all good.

So, that’s Faking It. Hey, just think, maybe they’ll call me, and teach me how to write blogs for a month. Wouldn’t that be cool?

3.) Queer Eye for the Straight Guy

Five Second Synopsis: Gaggle of gay men whirl into a straight man’s life, clean him up, make over his digs, and watch him on hidden cameras.

Okay, this one’s actually hard to miss, the way they’re market-blitzing the bejeesus out of it. I think it’s airing on six or seven channels, and I’ve already caught parts of three shows without really meaning to. But it is fun, if a little scary. Well, not scary, really — it just makes me think about whet they’d say to me. (Especially right this minute. No, you don’t want to know. Trust me.)

But it’s hard to watch without putting yourself in the victim’s subject’s place. These five guys prance in, and teach the guy how to dress, and shave, and clean, and paint, and cook. It’s what I imagine growing up Italian must be like, only with lighter loafers and a breezy sense of style. It looks like it might be fun, frankly — hell, if I could get five guys over here just to paint the damned house, it’d be worth it, even if I did have to start wearing ruffly shirts and waxing my eyebrows.

4.) The 1900 House

Five Second Synopsis: A British family moves into a turn-of-the-century Victorian outfitted with only 1900-era goodies. For three months.

Okay, I don’t know whether you’ve seen this show. It’s on PBS, so you probably haven’t, unless you’re trolling for Sesame Street reruns. I caught the first two episodes by chance, but now I want to see the rest (there are only four in all). Anyway, after seeing two episodes, I’m ready to make the following judgements:

  • The historians and suppliers on the show are very good; the house really looks like something from a century — and a whole world — ago.
  • From the ‘audition videos’ in show one: your average British family is not the most attractive group of humans on the planet.
  • The family that signed up for this — parents and four kids — are completely, totally, undeniably out of their freakin’ minds.

Let’s take a look at the facts, shall we? One, there’s no electricity. None. They’ve got gas lighting, a coal stove doohickey for cooking and heating water, and the sun for just about anything else. Two, they’re stuck with only the medicines and cures available from the era, which consists primarily of cod liver oil and bleeding leeches. Oh, and morphine. Yikes! And three, they have an outhouse. There’s a tub in the bathroom, but when it’s ‘loo time‘, they’ve got to trudge outside to hit the john. Which means that for emergencies, they’ve got chamberpots.

So now, I want all of you to ask yourselves a question. Yes, that’s right, all three of you out there. Pay attention. Let’s say you wake up in the middle of the night with a bubbly, bursting bladder. You’ve got two options — either you trudge downstairs and outside in the dark and cold and wind to make a tinkle, or you squat over a bowl and let loose, and then sleep with your pee until morning. What do you do? What do you do?

I have to admit, I’m not sure myself. The chamberpot sounds gross, but remember, you’ve got to make it down a flight of stairs, through a door, a yard and another door, all in unfamiliar territory, and all without bumping into something along the way that’ll jostle the juice out of you prematurely. The options are not good. Plus, let’s say you take the lazy way out and piss in your pot. Fine. What kind of dreams are you going to have for the rest of the night, eh? Look, when you smell bacon cooking, you dream of breakfast. When you smell smoke, you dream of fire. What’s a ‘piss dream’ going to be like, as it wafts up to you from under the bed? Not good, I can tell you that. And hopefully not breakfast, unless you’re on some diet I don’t wanna know about. (What would Atkins say? How many carbs in a quart of pee, do you think?)

Anyway, the parents in the group were already sniping at each other by day three. The mother had a near-nervous breakdown on day four, which coincidentally — or maybe not — was her birthday. ‘Happy birthday, Mum. Hope you like your present — it’s a shred of dignity, to replace the one you lost when you tried squeezing back into your filthy corset after going without a bath for three days. Many happy returns!

I feel bad for the neighbors of this house. Between the outhouse, and the chickens that they’ve brought in, and all the yelling and screaming, it’s got to be a friggin’ nightmare. But the ones coming out of this thing the worst are the kids, of course. Oh, sure, the mother’s got it bad. She’s spending three hours to cook each meal over what amounts to a pissant campfire, and hand-washes all the family’s clothes (they’ve got three outfits apiece, whether they need ’em or not!), and has to stay in her Victorian-era bindings at all times, while the kids get to change for school. So she’s definitely going to bite someone’s head off at some point. No question.

But think of the kids — what sort of ruthless, merciless taunting are they enduring in class? They have to bring their turn-of-last-century-food lunches to school, interact with as little 20th — not to mention 21st — century technology as possible, and clamber back into their grimy clothes as soon as school’s over. So they’re barely-washed, un-deodoranted, smelly, haggard, gruel-eating, loner freaks. For three months. I can just see the schoolmaster instructing the bullies at their school:

No, William, you may not pull his underwear over his head. Elastic bands weren’t sewn into underwear until 1915. Yes, Jill, toilets existed in 1900; you may safely give the twins a swirly.

Poor little buggers. I don’t know how the hell any of them are doing it. Shit, I wouldn’t make it for a week in The 1990 House, much less one from one hundred years ago. Think about all the things we didn’t have back in ’90 — the Web, the Sims, Lara Croft, The Drew Carey Show, Dream Team Olympic farces… well, okay, some things were better back then, I suppose. Still, it was a scary time. We barely had the Simpsons, or Seinfeld. And blogs? Fuggedaboutit! I feel faint just thinking about it. I’m gonna go have a lie-down and watch TV. I just hope I don’t stumble onto ESPN Classic or an old Dynasty rerun, or I may lose it completely.

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