Thursday, December 26, 2013

Porn stars, superheroes, and a dead iPod: Grading how well 2013 entertained me.

Last year, about this time, I started trying to post 100 things from 2012 that I thought were the best things of the year, and I was surprised to have so much trouble coming up with 100.  I was certain that I'd read/saw/ate more than 100 things that year, much more, and so this year, in 2013, I tried to keep better track.

Specifically, what I did was keep a running list of all the things I did for entertainment in 2013: each time I watched a new show, each time I saw a movie or ate something cool or read a book or short story or blog, I tried to list it, in chronological order, with the intention all year of REVIEWING THEM ALL, and listing them for you.

Sounds daunting, doesn't it? IT WAS. Imagine having to NOTICE WHAT YOU DO. It's IMPOSSIBLE. But I did it: Like Thoreau, I lived deliberately (not least by comparing myself keeping track of webcomics I read to Henry David Thoreau, who I'm pretty sure did something of note), and that has allowed me to walk through and GRADE the entire year of entertainment, 2013.

A couple of explanations: What I did was list the first time I tried something -- so there might be TV shows or blogs or something on here that I no longer watch or do, or which I watched or did for a while and then stopped and came back.  But the date listed is when I first tried that.

Also, if I did stuff all the time -- TV shows I watched regularly or blogs I read all the time -- I tended not to record those all the time.

But here goes! We'll start with the day I first began writing stuff down, and the first thing on the list:

1. The Packers-Vikings Playoff game 1/5/13: This was the year I stopped watching football. Not because of this game, but because I no longer found it entertaining enough to devote 3 hours of my time to.  By last year I'd stopped watching games live and started taping them, a necessity given the boys and how hard it is to watch a show uninterrupted with them around, and how much I'd rather spend time with them than simply sit and watch TV.  So I almost certainly watched this game on tape-delay, a system that meant I had to spend an entire Sunday disconnected from the Internet, and which ultimately led to my "Sundays With The Classics," a series that started when I would spend Sundays reading classic literature rather than watching TV or being on the Internet.

I don't really miss football: I still check the scores out on Sunday to see who won, and I follow some of the big news.  I know that Peyton Manning just set the new record for touchdowns (which I predict will be broken within 5 years, probably by Cam Newton, just to irritate me), and that the Packers probably aren't going to the playoffs.  But I doubt I could name all the starting quarterbacks in the league anymore, and I can't name all the head coaches.  I mostly follow football the way I follow other entertainment news: I'm aware of the big stories, and will pay attention to really big stuff (I'll probably watch the Super Bowl, but that's probably, making this the first year since I was an adult that it was probably.)

I also don't remember who won this game. Which helps tell you why I stopped watching football: when entertainment becomes unmemorable, who cares, anymore? If I spent 3 hours a week watching a movie and then couldn't remember how it ended, I'd stop watching that movie.  And I don't miss any great plays or anything: they're all over the Internet about 5 minutes after they happen.  Deadspin is great if you just kind of want to know about football.

Grade: D.


2.  Wonderella: 1/6/13. The Nonadventures of Wonderella made it so quickly on to this list because I read it more or less every week.  Published on Saturdays, it's a hilarious web-comic about a self-involved superheroine who is more or less the antithesis of Wonder Woman.  If they make any superheroine movie (and they won't because movies starring women are seen as chick flicks and so men won't go see them) they should make Wonderella.


It used to be the first thing I read on Saturday mornings.  Lately, I've gotten lazy and read it sometime during the week.

Grade: A.


3. Drawn Together, 1/6/13. Until right now, I had completely forgotten I had watched this cartoon series about a bunch of cartoon characters living in a house a la "Big Brother" last January.  I watched in on Netflix, I know, because that's how I watch about 70% of my TV, and I do not recall why I picked it or even many of the plotlines.  I don't think I watched it for very long, although I'd probably go back and watch it again, if I didn't have anything better to do, which I do.

Grade: C.

4. Breakfast of the Gods, 1/6/13:

First off, this year I wrote a story called Breakfast of the Gods, and it's been accepted for publication in Trans Lit Magazine's issue #11, InTRANSigents. It has not yet been published, so don't go there to read it, but do go read that site's online magazines because the stories are very good.

Second off, this Breakfast of the Gods is about all the breakfast cereal mascots going to war: the bad guys are led by Count Chocula and the good guys by Cap'n Crunch and Tony The Tiger.  It is darker and more cool than that description makes it sound:



I believe that the creator ran into trouble publishing it because it violates every single copyright law ever, which goes to show that copyright laws are stupid and that my idea for revamping copyright laws (which has already started to be put into practice by Amazon) is a great one.

(You may doubt that I am that influential but don't be so skeptical: after all, it was just two months ago that I posted a big article on mayonnaise, and Slate has now ended the year with a retrospective on Hellman's, so I am a trendsetter.)

11.  Time Enough To Say Goodbye, P.T. Dilloway: 1/7/13:  I only just now realized that I never posted a review of this book, other than to say "The end battle was incredible."

Which, it WAS, but that gives short shrift to what is really a phenomenal entry in what must be one of the greatest superhero series ever.  I've said before that what PT does best is write stories like this: stories that somehow have the feel of a good old fashioned comic book: CRASH! BANG! POW! stuff, but which carry an emotional weight and depth of characterization to them that adds an extra dimension to the story.  What really makes it remarkable is that PT does this without resorting to the brooding antihero that's become so annoying.  His main character, Emma Earl, is simultaneously upbeat and naive, while carrying with her enough sadness over her dead parents and her abandoned love to be entertaining and not an idiot with rose-colored glasses.

"Time Enough" brings back all the characters from "A Hero's Journey" but adds in two villains (as all good sequels must) and TIME TRAVEL, which can be a tough thing to juggle, but PT does it excellently.  This book, like every Scarlet Knight book I've read, is supremely entertaining.

12. The Tick (1/8/11): Lots of times, I have television shows on in the background, and the trick about finding a show to play in the background is that it has to be one which doesn't depend so much on the visuals to get what's going on.  Surprisingly, this is MUCH LESS of a problem than you would expect for a visual medium: many, many television and movie writers fail to make (effective) use of the part of the TV show where you see things, or have their characters say what you are seeing anyway, so that you can listen to TV shows and understand about 95% of them.

"The Tick" is not one of those shows: based on a comic book, 'The Tick' is set in a world where there are superheroes, but they are not particularly effective or even all that super.  It's sort of like if Seinfeld had superheroes in it, although don't let that mislead you about the humor: 'The Tick' is silly, not absurd like Seinfeld was.  (There's a difference.)

I watched the live action show; I understand there's a cartoon but I've never seen it.  The Tick fits in perfectly with the kind of shows I like: strangely dysfunctional people trying to exist in a almost-like-ours- world that allows for them to be but not to be themselves.  (See also: Andy Richter Controls The Universe, Better Off Ted).




13. Mike Sager, Little Girl Lost (1/8/13): Here's the first thing on the list I didn't remember when I re-read it.  This was a Longform.org article about a porn star who committed suicide when things got bad for her.  I used to have Longform bookmarked on my Kindle, and would read whatever articles sounded interesting about once a week.  Nowadays, my Kindle tabs when I go to the Internet are "Girl Genius," The New Yorker book blog, and trans lit magazine.

What Longform did really well was reprint "true crime" stories, and this is almost one of those: it's a fascinating look at the world of a porn "star" who was really just a sad, drug-addicted party wannabe.  It's easy to dismiss people who live on the fringes of society -- but harder when you get a glimpse inside their actual life.


Savannah wouldn’t give her father her phone number; he’d written long letters, in printing similar to hers: “Please don’t think I don’t care. I do very much. I hope you can talk to me more. I’d like to have your phone number. . . .” Her dad prayed, thought about hiring a private detective. Her mom continued to be indifferent, though Savannah showered her with presents and money. 
When Savannah had gone home to Justin, Texas, and confessed her heroin addiction, her mom dismissed it as a phase. 
 Savannah and Jeanna had parted ways after a big scene in Palm Springs. They’d gone there with a sugar daddy. Savannah had been holding the stash of heroin, thirty bags. The girls had had a little spat. Savannah wouldn’t give Jeanna her fix; Jeanna refused to beg. While Jeanna was waiting in the hotel lobby for a car to the airport, dope-sick, wishing she were dead, Savannah strutted past in a thong bikini, another girl on her arm. 
 For a while, there had been Shawn. He was stolen by Savannah’s best friend, Julie Smith. The couple had moved into a house that Julie had rented and furnished with a $2,000 loan from Savannah. 
Then there’d been the married strip-club owner. The last night of a weeklong stint at his club, the two had dinner. He complained about his wife the whole time. When Savannah asked why he’d married such a bitch, he stomped off. He left her with the check, and refused to pay for her week’s dancing.
It was one of the sadder stories I've ever read -- it gets worse from that part.  Much worse.

Longform Grade: B- (I drifted away from it over the course of the year, as the article selection seemed to waver in strength and I got more interested in other things.

Little Girl Lost grade: B+.




Interlude:  The songs I listened to most this year on my old iPod, the one I bought using money I saved when I quit smoking back in 2004, and which is now is dead, were*:

*I'm not sure if this counts plays only on Itunes on my computer or also on the iPod.

1. Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk, by The New Pornographers: This one gets skewed up a bit because it's Mr Bunches' favorite song. But I like it a lot, too:



2.  I Love It, Icona Pop: 77 times.

This is the song I'm trying to listen to 10,000 times in my life.  I got 77 this year just off my iPod.





3.  When I Go/ Me & You, Slow Club (50 times each, tie).

Surprising to even me. I didn't realize I liked these songs that much.  Apparently I do!





4.  I Will Remain, Mathew & The Atlas: 49 times. Narrowly edged out by Slow Club,



5.  which also came in 5th with "Giving Up On Love," 44 times.






This is probably going to take me longer than I thought.  I'm only up to January 8 or so.  I'll keep working on this over the next few days (if not longer, as fans of my 437-Steps series could tell you).

All of those songs obviously get As, as my favorite things to listen to in 2013.

Links:




Here is where I first proposed in 2009 that copyright laws be changed to allow anyone to publish anything but share the profits, something that Amazon started doing this year with their fan fiction publishing.

Here is my October essay on mayo. Here is a link to Slate's article on why Hellman's tastes so good.

Here is a post I wrote back in 2011 that not only discussed Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk but also pointed out that short people live in the future.


Here's where I decided to try to listen to I Love It 10,000 times in my life.

7 comments:

Andrew Leon said...

We actually own The Tick. It's a great show and unfortunate that it didn't make it, which was less its fault than it would appear. It's ratings were actually strong enough to keep it. Warburton is just awesome.

You should try out The Middleman. I bet that's a show you'd like. I don't own that one, yet, but I want to.

Briane P said...

I'll have to look that up. I've never heard of it.

Pat Dilloway said...

I watched "Drawn Together" when it originally aired on Comedy Central. I didn't like it. I think it was like "South Park" (which preceded it) only without the wit and intelligence.

Thanks for posting your review of TETSG!

Briane P said...

Lately, South Park is like South Park without the wit and intelligence. But you're right; it wasn't great. The concept was more clever than the execution.

Rusty Carl said...

Oh man... I'm so bummed that this post ended when it did. I want to know about your year in this sort of detail. It was awesome.

I watched the Tick back in the... well, whenever it aired on TV. I watched a few episodes but drifted away from it. Maybe it came on on Fridays? Can't remember.

Oh, and I'm not sure I knew you quit smoking in 2004. Congrats on that. Your 10 year anniversary is coming up then. The lesson my taught me about celebrating successes in quitting addictions is to not celebrate quitting a thing by doing the thing you quit.

For him, it was also smoking, and each time he'd reach a milestone, like 3 months or something, he'd celebrate by buying a pack. So then he'd spend another year smoking before he got the will to quit again.

He did that something like, 4 or 5 times before he made the connection.

I have, interestingly enough, found that is not universal, I celebrated my 41st anniversary of not being wealthy last year, and decided to celebrate by finally being wealthy. But apparently it doesn't work that way, because I'm still not and the year will be up soon.

Rusty Carl said...

Er, I think I meant to add something about my father in there... since that is the 'him' I'm referring to in my previous comment.

Liz A. said...

Oh shoot, I forgot what I was going to say. I had something all figured out, and then the phone rang...

Are you planning on doing this for 2014, too?