Flotsam: Slumming It

1. For one reason or another (none reflecting well on me), this is Sunday flotsam. And Sunday flotsam on the Feast of the Assumption at that, yet I currently have nothing edifying to say about Our Lady.

2. So instead, I’m just going to slum it and drop a few of my favorite riffs from Mst3k and Rifftrax: ones the I’ve found myself referencing or quoting most often or that seem to contain a bit of hidden practical wisdom, or are just plain funny.

3. On Raising the Stakes:
Movie Character: “They say it could blow up the universe.”
Tom Servo: “Or worse!”
-Epsiode 3:18 Fugitive Alien II

4. Where the Blame Lies:
(Discussing with a teacher how one of his high school basketball players is illiterate)
Coach: “If he can’t read, how’d he get through school?”
Mike: “That would mean we absolutely su…oh.”
-Reading: Who Needs It?

5. Best Laid Plans…
Soldier: “The electrical shocks don’t seem to bother Gamera at all!”
Tom Servo: “Hm, and I was counting very heavy on them….”
-Episode 3:02 Gamera

6. Practicality:
Mike: “My lunchbox can withstand a nuclear blast.”
-Episode 8:22 Overdrawn at the Memory Bank

7. Goes Without Saying, Really
Sheriff: “How long would it take you to get to Springdale?”
Deputy: “Maybe an hour, maybe less.”
Crow: “Longer if I die.”
-Episode 3:13 Earth vs. the Spider

8. Call it What it Is
Tommy: “Trumpy! you can do magic!”
Crow: “It’s called ‘Evil’, kid.”
-Episode 3:03 Pod People

9. Good Advice:
Customer: “I’ll remember you if you just…”
Bill: “Do your ****ing job.”
Customer: “…remember me.”
Bill: “And do your ****ing job.”
Remember Me

10. Embarrassing
Mike: “We have got to get organized! We should not be losing to grasshoppers, people!”
-Episode 5:17 The Beginning of the End

11. Logic
Kevin (as Lupita): “Did Daddy really think he was going to find a job at 4am on Christmas morning?”
Santa Claus

12. Humble Beginnings
(Upon seeing Clint Eastwood’s first onscreen film role)
Crow: “Ah, this guy’s bad. This was his first and only film.”
-Episode 8:01 Revenge of the Creature

Mst3k Assignment Venezuela

Kind of busy right now, so for today’s Saturday entertainment, here’s a small Mst3k treat.

This was a short that wasn’t connected to any specific episode. Instead it was created for the planned ‘Mst3k CD-Rom’ project that was never completed. The short, however, found its way into the fan community and eventually onto DVD. I now present it to you (excuse the substandard sound and the big time indicator in the upper left).

The short tells of an American engineer working for Creole oil and his experience of relocating to Venezuela and discovering all that that then-vibrant and growing country had to offer. From our perspective, it’s actually a little heartbreaking: this is what Venezuela used to look like before Socialism.

But even with that, the riffing is still firing on all cylinders. Enjoy!

Budweiser Swamp

In the mid-late-nineties, Budweiser beer started a new advertising campaign, consisting of a trio of frogs just croaking the syllables of their name. It became hugely popular and all-but iconic. Then, after a few variations, an actual story developed, played out over the course of the commercials (especially during Superbowls), involving a self-impressed lizard named Louie scheming to take the frogs’ place.

The surprising thing is that, if you string the commercials together, it’s not a bad little short film, largely due to the great voice acting on Louie and Frankie the lizards (courtesy of actors Paul Christie and Danny Mastrogiorgio) and some strong dialogue (“All my hard work has paid off!” “Louie, you hired a hitman.” “…Yeah, with my own money!”).

On top of that, you have a pretty decent example of basic story structure here. We open with a false order (a status quo that seems stable, but contains the seeds of disruption): the frogs are the champions of Budweiser and Louie is jealous. There’s a rising action: Louie lets his resentment of the frogs lead him to increasingly heated rhetoric and finally desperate action. There’s a chance to turn back via his buddy Frankie’s repeated warnings. There’s a turning point that changes the status quo from false order to disorder: Louie hires a hitman to assassinate the frogs. There’s a unexpected result – the assassination attempt fails to kill the frogs, but leaves one of them incapacitated, allowing Louie to get what he wants after all. Then there’s the climax and logical result of the action, where Louie achieves his dream…only to ruin it through his own personal flaws, the same ones that led him to such desperate measures in the first place. Finally, Louie receive his comeuppance, first by being beaten up by the frogs and then by seeing himself replaced by the character he respects the least and never bothered to take seriously, but who ends up outdoing him completely while being a more reliable performer, thus restoring the status quo to true order.

As Frankie says, this isn’t Shakespeare, but as a bare-bones and very funny illustration of story structure, you could do worse.

The Mikado

I am rapidly becoming a full-bore Gilbert and Sullivan fan. Their plays are some of those works, like the writings of Shakespeare, Pope, and Dickens, that really show off the English language to its full power of rhythm, sound, and turns of meaning. As well, of course, of being set to absolutely beautiful music. I like musicals in general, but Gilbert and Sullivan are to a modern Broadway show what Rembrandt is to a comic book artist.

So, for your Saturday pleasure, I offer a full recording of The Mikado, one of the best such recordings that I’ve found (all too many recent versions of the play have the actors in western garb or even modern dress, which…just why? What happened to you?). This one features a great cast, including the immortal John Reed (who offered yesterday’s rendition of ‘Nightmare Song’ and was a foremost G&S performer for many years) as Koko. I also especially love Kenneth Sanford as Poo-Bah (“Oh, my proto-plasmic ancestors!”), who will forever be my definitive image of the role.

(I actually watched a version once which, while quite good, featured a thin Poo-Bah, which is like having a thin Falstaff!)

Set aside a few hours to be happy and enjoy!

The Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect Summarized

“Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”

-Michael Crichton

Or, as Scott Adams puts it:

Fraud Presenter  - Dilbert by Scott Adams