Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Baffling Concept of Kiss Cams

Because you may never spend quite so much time reflecting on why the Kiss Cam is a strange institution until you have to explain it to someone who is not from the United States and has never watched an American sports game. What follows is an edited, cleaned-up version of this conversation.

The Man From Another Place: What is a Kiss Cam?

Me: It's this thing where they point a camera at a couple at a sports event, and the couple is displayed on the big TV screen that everyone in the stadium can see.

MFAP: Is that an American creation?

Me: Probably? I actually have no idea if other countries have it.

MFAP: How do people know how it works?

Me: You just do. Like, it's been going on for a while, and when you see yourself up there it will actually put the words "Kiss Cam" on the screen so you know to kiss.

MFAP: It's weird if it's American because Americans don't like sex.

Me: That's kind of true. We have a hang-up about displays of sex, yeah.

MFAP: So why do people do it?

Me: Well, it's not sexy, exactly. It's usually to show that you love the person next to you.

MFAP: Oh, so it's like the kind of kiss you'd give your grandmother.

Me: Actually, not always. Some people really go at it.

MFAP: And what do the other people watching the game do?

Me: They cheer.

MFAP: What happens if the people onscreen don't kiss?

Me: The crowd might boo at them.

MFAP: Because they're not putting on a show for everyone?

Me: I guess? I've never really thought about it.

MFAP: They boo because the people aren't in a relationship?

Me: Basically. There's no way to communicate, "No, we're brother and sister."

MFAP: I feel like Americans shouldn't like Kiss Cams, then.

Me: Yeah, it might make more sense if it was a punch cam, and you have to physically assault the person next to you in the stands.

MFAP: How does the camera man know that he's showing a couple and not just friends?

Me: I have no idea.

MFAP: What happens if they put a man and woman who aren't in a relationship on the Kiss Cam? What if they were brother and sister?

Me: They'd probably get booed, I guess.

MFAP: Do they ever put same-sex couples on the Kiss Cam?

Me: No? I don't know. I haven't been to a sports game in a while. Maybe they do now.

MFAP: It would seem like gay people would be mad if they never got featured on the Kiss Cam.

Me: This is probably a thing somewhere.

MFAP: Now I feel like I understand the Kiss Cam better. Thanks!

Me: See, now I don't.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Last Decade on Murder, She Wrote

In lieu of a real post updating my life’s accomplishments, challenges and complications, I present to you a list of the random, before-they-were-famous guest stars on Murder, She Wrote. Revel in clothes and hairstyles that haven’t traveled well to 2014.

Kate Mulgrew as a glamorous actress with a dead body guard.

George Clooney as a good-looking guy who maybe doesn’t get enough sleep.

Charlotte Rae as a soured socialite.

Robert Reed as creepy Alex Trebek (apparently).

Billy Zane as a guy living it up while he still has a good head of hair.

Megan Mullaly as a high-minded lawyer who dresses like Diane Chambers. Really, her outfits steal the episode. I can’t imagine what the tactic was in dressing her in this manner, but for god’s sakes, lookit.

Jessica Walter as a proto-Lucille Bluth, basically, who also dresses exactly how Lucille Bluth would have dressed in the ’80s.

Time-traveling Kate McKinnon (apparently)

Florence Henderson as a hot shit fashion designer.

Courteney Cox as a prim bride pushed to the edge in a circus-themed episode.

Linda Hamilton and Bryan Cranston as ill-fated lovebirds in a tennis-themed episode.

Eve Plumb, a.k.a. Jan Brady from The Brady Bunch (right) as a hardened prison inmate named Tug.

James Marshall, a.k.a. James Hurley from Twin Peaks.

And Meg Foster, a.k.a. Evil-Lyn from Masters of the Universe.

EDIT: I’m just going to tack on subsequent Murder, She Wrote celeb sightings to the bottom of this post. Enjoy.

There’s also young Conchata Ferrell, more or less playing the type of role she plays as old Conchata Ferrell.

Pamela Voorhees herself, Betsy Palmer.

And time-traveling Maria Bamford (again, apparently).

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How to Destroy Your Toe

I have ten toes, like normal. I used to think I had nice-looking feet, as far as guy feet go, but that’s not really the case anymore. Now I have one big toe with one little toenail.

This is the story of how I did this thing to myself.

This summer, I moved into a house, and the house had several trees that badly needed pruning. I found a guy to do this, and he eventually brought in his team of dudes to shape the trees as well as do some other work that I couldn’t do myself. This situation caused some feelings of insecurity for me. I’ve generally tried to do all the house chores myself, but I lacked the tools to trim trees, to say nothing of the know-how.

When the workers got to my house, the head tree-trimming dude pointed out that the cement paver path that runs through my yard would make it difficult to push wheelbarrows in and out of the yard.

“Can they be moved?” he asked.

“Oh, yeah. I’ve moved them myself before.”

He seemed surprise by this. “You moved these yourself?”

“Yeah, I can move them. It’s actually pretty easy.” (This was a lie. It actually isn’t easy.)

“Oh, okay, then. I was going to sic the guys on it, but yeah, it would be helpful if you could get these out of the way before we get started.”

And so I felt better, because here was something I could do, to be helpful and to demonstrate that I had agency and man-strength enough to move these cement squares that the foreman presumed were too heavy. As the workers start hauling in the sharp, lobster claw-looking tools they use to chop branches, I started prying up the pavers, then rolling them end-over-end and out of the way.

Did I mention I wasn’t wearing shoes at the time?

Yeah, you see where this is going.

I rolled the final paver out of the way — not easily, I should admit, because they’re heavy as hell — and when I finally got it where I wanted it, I let it drop. And it fell corner-first onto my right toe.

I didn’t make any noise. I didn’t give any reaction at all, I don’t think. I just picked up that one side of paver and slid my foot out from beneath it and then hobbled inside, leaving a trail of blood behind me. It didn’t gush blood. It wasn’t like getting punched in the nose. But it bled for about an hour — after I washed it and poured rubbing alcohol on it and swaddled it in paper towels. And so there I sat — on my couch, with an ice pack resting on my discolored, leaking toe as I watched Hallmark Channel reruns of Golden Girls and tried very hard to concentrate on anything other than how badly my toe hurt.

There’s irony here. I injured myself because I’d wanted to prove that I was strong enough, and I only ended up sitting on my couch, watching Bea Arthur waltzing around in a weird cape dress as I tried not to cry. (I also am not strong enough to wear a cape dress.)

Subsequently, the toe manifested all manner of colors — from red to yellow to purple to black to clear, when it just stopped existing. It’s coming back, slowly, but now my big toe is more skin than toenail, so it just kind of looks like Melissa Gorga. The good news is that I will eventually have a proper toenail again. I just need to wait, and meanwhile every time I glance down at my bare feet I have this horribly asymmetry to remind me that pride truly does goeth before the fall — of the cement paver, directly onto my toe.

The bad side, of course, is that this probably won’t prevent me from hurting myself, physically or otherwise, in an effort to prove my worth as an able-bodied human.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Country Roses: A Lesser-Known SNL Sketch You Should Probably Watch

Here is the latest in an ongoing series of bygone Saturday Night Live sketches that haven’t gotten their due. “Country Roses” comes from a 2004 episode hosted by Jennifer Aniston, and it’s a faux commercial for a compilation of old country songs performed by female artists. It’s amazing, and one of the better all-female sketches in the show’s history. Tragically, it’s hard to find online. There are still chunks of SNL’s recent past that just do not exist online in glossy, hi-def format, so I had to yank this couple from a Russian YouTube wannabe that seemed darkened back alley-level sketchy.

But because I love you — yes, you — I’ve made it just a little more accessible. Enjoy.

Despite being relatively forgotten, this episode has introduced a lot of key phrases to my vocabulary, including “Ain’t nothing cuter than a fat country baby eatin’ peaches off a hardwood floor,” “When I told my husband to take out the trash, I sure as hell didn’t mean you,” and “Mama, why are there snowflakes?”

I hope Dana Jean Harley makes as lasting an impression on you.

Fun fact, BTW: Since I originally saw this sketch, I found out that the first performer featured in it, Lynn Anderson, used to be friends with my parents. I actually own the record single of her singing “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” though that’s not the most spectacular piece of Lynn Anderson history that I own. That, of course, would be this.

And you have to admit, it’s a glorious thing.

Weird SNL sketches, previously:

Monday, November 3, 2014

That One Bizarrely Twin Peaks-y Episode of Darkwing Duck

Seeing how last month was bookended by posts about the second coming of Twin Peaks and unusually scary sitcom episodes, this seems like a logical place to kick off November.

Nearly a year after the last episode of Twin Peaks aired, the Disney cartoon Darkwing Duck aired an episode inspired by the David Lynch series. Given how cartoon production works, I’d imagine that this episode “Twin Beaks” was conceived at the height of Twin Peaks mania — and a point when the Darkwing showrunners figured Twin Peaks was a shoe-in for a third season. As it stood in 1992, however, “Twin Beaks” arrived a little late to ride the Twin Peaks bandwagon, as the wagon’s wheels had fallen off long beforehand.

Its lateness probably didn’t make much of a difference to its target audience — kids like me, just ten years old at the time — didn’t get the references, and just reacted with, “Oh, okay, This episode is a little weird. Yay, cartoons!” I had only the scantest awareness of Twin Peaks at the time, as I was forbidden from watching it. All I ever saw was the bits advertised on ABC. In fact, I didn’t actually watch Twin Peaks until college, after the religious experience of watching Mulholland Drive in the theater. When I finally did, I thought about this Darkwing Duck episode and how all of its weirdness made sense — or as much sense as you can make when you’re springboarding off David Lynch.

Today, I’m impressed this episode got made. It’s defiantly weird, even for a cartoon like Darkwing Duck, which skewed edgier than most Disney fare, and there’s something noble in doing a genre parody that will fly over the heads of most of the people who watch it. In case you have never seen it — or in case you just remembered it as that inexplicable Darkwing Duck with the strummy guitar for no apparent reason — I’ve made a condensed version of it, with all the Twin Peaks-y moments and a rough semblance of the plot. It’s like Cliffs Notes — for nostalgia! Because this is how we live now!

Highlights and notes after the jump.

A primer in case Darkwing Duck was never part of your particular Disney afternoon: It’s a spinoff of DuckTales that has Scrooge’s pilot, Launchpad McQuack, leaving Duckberg for St. Canard, where he plays sidekick to the Batman-like resident superhero. The plant-duck-thing you see at the beginning of the clip is Dr. Bushroot, who’s basically the Poison Ivy of the Darkwing Duck universe.

The first especially Twin Peaks moment occurs just after the one-minute mark. That background music doesn’t occur anywhere else in the series aside from this episode, unless I’m mistaken. It sounds just like the darker parts of “Laura’s Theme.” Around the two-minute mark, you hear even more riffs on Angelo Badalamenti’s music, and the “Twin Beaks” theme is close enough to “Falling” that it puts me in the very same relaxed mindset, knock-off status notwithstanding.

I don’t think the character name Trudi is coincidental: Though Norma owns the diner, there’s recurring Twin Peaks character named Trudy who works as a waitress at the Great Northern. Giving Trudi Nadine’s eyepatch is actually a fitting way to further tie Norma and Nadine together, really.

Around the 2:40 mark, you see Dr. Bushroot’s dried up body wrapped in plastic and tossed into the river. Even understanding the source material, I have to admit that this is an oddly dark moment for a Disney cartoon. Would you have expected that a series that exists in the DuckTales universe would so directly address the topic of death? And corpses?

The musical effect that accompanies Bushroot’s corpse falling into the river is oddly lighthearted and whimsical. This may have been intentional.

I like how Darkwing ultimately offers a more concrete explanation for a talking log than Twin Peaks ever actually did.

I also didn’t realize while watching as a kid that Darkwing himself is kind of jerk to his friends. He just has the crankiest responses.

Two thirds of the way through, the episode takes a sharp turn into B-movie sci-fi, Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style, which isn’t any weirder than anything else that happens in the story, really, and which may have resulted from the writers didn’t have an ending to Twin Peaks that they could trace their way to. (Really, we still don’t, all these years later.) I suppose it does tie in well enough with Twin Peaks’ theme of doubling. Darkwing’s dream sequence isn’t particularly David Lynch-inspired, but it is weird as hell. I say that in a good way: It’s always good to see unbridled lunacy in something that kids watch.

And then in the end, the warning “The cows are not what they seem” is explained away by having the Earth’s saviors be alien cows, who arrive and blast in the cabbage clone menace with lasers. Maybe the weirdest thing of all in this episode would have to be the revelation that the spacecows come from “the planet Larson on the far side of the galaxy,” which is nod to Gary Larson’s cow-populated Far Side comic that gets wedged into the episode despite the lack of any tie to Twin Peaks. Again, I’m not complaining: I actually got this reference when the episode first aired, and it made me feel smart.

According to IMDb, Ruth Buzzi is the voice of the spacecow. (And yes, the voice of Gosalyn is clearly the same person who provided the voice of the original Babe.)

This episode isn’t the only Twin Peaks parody to be called “Twin Beaks.” That may not be all that surprising, considering that your options are limited when making a kid-friendly riff on a supernatural soap opera about a dead homecoming queen. A February 26, 1991, episode of Sesame Street features a “Monsterpiece Theater” segment that is also titled “Twin Beaks.”

I’m pretty sure those dual-beaked bird puppets would have given me nightmares if I’d seen them as a kid.

And in case my abbreviated Twin Peaks wasn’t enough for you, you can watch the full clip below.

For now, anyway.

Weird TV, previously: