Tag: Simpsons

Edna

There's no new Simpsons tonight, so, in honor of the late, great Marcia Wallace, might I recommend breaking out your DVD collection and watching one of these classic Edna Krabappel episodes:

Bart the Lover, Season 3

If there's a better Mrs. K episode, I can't think of one. This shows Edna at her most complex and human -- and Bart too, for that matter. Wallace won an Emmy for this one.

Bart Gets an F, Season 2

And speaking of emotions we don't often see from Bart, the climax of this one -- where he breaks down in tears on finding that he failed his test despite really trying his hardest this time -- shows us a seldom-seen side of both characters, without giving in too much to sentimentality. I love Mrs. K's attempt to comfort Bart -- "I would have thought you'd be used to it by now!" could so easily have come across as sarcastic, but Wallace chooses to read it as a gentle, tender statement. Now that's comedy.

The PTA Disbands, Season 6

So many classic moments in this episode purple monkey dishwasher. It's Simpsons at its satirical finest, highlighting the conflict between teachers and administration, the public's simultaneous desire for better schools and lower taxes, and the terrifying reality that if you pick up some random person off the street, they'll be a worse teacher than Miss Hoover or Mrs. Krabappel. And the resolution is so ludicrous that it can only serve to hang a lampshade on how intractable these issues really are.

Grade School Confidential, Season 8

Mrs. Krabappel and Principal Skinner were in the closet making babies and I saw one of the babies and the baby looked at me.

The Ned-Liest Catch, Season 22

Say what you will about modern-era Simpsons, pairing off Ned with Edna was a rare and legitimately pleasant surprise. It's not the sort of thing I would ever have seen coming, but it makes its own unexpected kind of sense -- two characters who have seemingly nothing in common but their loneliness, but who complement each other so thoroughly and who can each stand to learn so much from the other. This episode highlights how difficult those differences can be, and they almost don't make it as a couple -- but, thanks to an Internet vote, they stay together.

Bender's Back, Baby!

"Guess this is your lucky day, Pimparoo."

That would have been my one-sentence reaction to the returning Futurama, but then the third act happened. (I haven't watched Fry and Leela's Big Fling yet, just 2-D Blacktop.)

There are a lot of great Futurama episodes. The best have an emotional core to them -- Jurassic Bark, Luck of the Fry-rish, Godfellas. Other great episodes experiment with the format of the show -- any of the Anthology episodes, for example. (Well, I wouldn't describe the Holiday Spectacular as great, but all the rest.) Some are deftly-written time-travel stories, like Time Keeps On Slippin', Roswell that Ends Well, The Why of Fry, Bender's Big Score, and The Late Philip J Fry. Some are biting political satire, like any episode with Nixon in it. And some of them do clever things with the medium of animation -- like Reincarnation. And this one.

The Professor's hypercube was a nice touch. The Mobius strip played with the concept a little more. But the actual segment where they're caught in the Second Dimension is fucking ingenious. The writing -- the Professor explaining how everything works here -- is brilliant, and the design is even better.

This is an episode that did immensely fucking clever things with science fiction and with animation. I've never seen anything quite like it -- the closest thing I can think of is Homer3, which played on the same premise in the opposite direction.

The show's had its ups and downs. But as this just-started thirteen-episode run is the last we'll be seeing of it for awhile, it's great seeing it fire on all creative cylinders and do shit that I've never seen it or any other show do.

Also: the latest issue of the comic is legitimately great too. Zoidberg becomes unstuck in time and has to prevent a catastrophe from happening while still trying to piece together just what exactly is going on.

You Kids Don't Know Grand Funk?

The wild shirtless lyrics of Mark Farner? The bong-rattling bass of Mel Schacher? The competent drumwork of Don Brewer?

Out To Get You, Zappa and Grank Funk Railroad. From the album Good Singin', Good Playin'.

Great Opening Titles: Get Smart

Going farther back with this one -- to 1965.

Classic. From the blaring horns to the fast car and especially Adams's confident bearing, we're treated to a show where the funniest thing is how serious it's pretending to be. And then the increasingly ridiculous door sequence (later to inspire another great TV sequence, the theater doors on MST3K), and finally -- that phone booth. The first of many far-too-conspicuous hidden spy devices. (A surprising number of which were some sort of phone...)

Simpsons did this one, too, but I can't find it online. Fox seems to be pretty aggressive in taking down couch gag montages. Because I guess that interferes with people buying DVD's or watching syndicated episodes or something, somehow.

Great Opening Titles: Dexter

Once again: recent, obvious, and Emmy-winning. Specifically, the '07 Emmy. Dexter.

A positively wonderful juxtaposition, turning the normal and everyday into something violent and stomach-turning. The camera work, the music, and Hall all sell it.

And yeah, Simpsons did this one too, last Halloween. And once again, Art of the Title has something to say.

I've got more to say about Dexter and his role in the pantheon of guilty-pleasure vigilante justice antiheroes -- because he takes the premise and drives it right the hell off a cliff, pushing the trope to reductio ad absurdum levels.

But that's an essay for another day. And it's got Batman in it.

Great Opening Titles: Mad Men

All right, another one of these. Like the last one, it's recent, it's obvious, it's Emmy-winning, and Simpsons did it.

Mad Men -- the falling, the skyscrapers, the sexy ads. In thirty seconds we've got a picture of the glamor and the horror, the loss of control and even identity -- but, at the same time, the slickness, the class.

The black-and-white figure is presumably Draper, but it could be anybody -- he's literally faceless. Draper may have the most obvious and literal identity problems, but the entire cast grapples with them. The figures in the ads on the walls -- they're otherworldly, they're a little creepy; they're not more real than the falling figure, but they're certainly more defined.

And here it is on Simpsons.

And here it is on Daily Show three weeks ago.

And once again, Art of the Title has more.

Great Opening Titles: Game of Thrones

So here's a thought: looking at great opening title sequences for TV shows.

Let's start with an obvious one: last year's Emmy winner, Game of Thrones.

(This video is from the official GoT YouTube account, so it's probably region-locked, but it's also probably not going to get pulled for copyright infringement.)

So okay. What's great about it?

Well, first of all, it serves a purpose. A Song of Ice and Fire is one of those incredibly complex and convoluted fantasy series where it's hard to keep track of just what the hell is going on at any given time; reading the books, I find myself perpetually flipping to the map.

So how do you deal with that in a TV show? You show the map, at the beginning of every single episode. And actually change what parts of the map you show, to match the locations where this week's episode takes place.

It also stresses another of the central themes of the series: the idea of distance, of the vast expanses between all the characters you're seeing, the isolation of Daenerys out in Qarth or Jon Snow north of the Wall. The series itself initially focuses on a comparatively small area of the world, and the characters and their narratives drift farther and farther apart as it goes.

Technically, it's beautiful; the CG and clockpunk styles combine to make for a sort of pleasing set of anachronisms, so that you know what your'e seeing doesn't literally fit the setting of the show. You've got the symbolic rising of kingdoms, towns, and castles, with the heralds of the major families. And the theme song -- I don't think I've stopped humming it since April, 2011.

Simpsons did a fantastic parody of it recently, too; I can't find a good copy of that that's embeddable, but they have it over at io9. (Does not appear to be playable in Firefox on Ubuntu. Booooo.)


If you want to read more, Art of the Title has a great interview with Angus Wall, creative director of Elastic, the company that made the sequence (and also the animated Deathly Hallows sequence in the second-to-last Harry Potter movie).

And we've got a couple discussion threads over at the forums: Game of Thrones: The TV Show, where, as the name implies, we discuss the TV show (expect untagged spoilers for all of season 1 and much of season 2 at this point, and tagged spoilers for both seasons and the books), and Song of Ice and Fire: The Books: Massive Spoilers & Rampant Speculation, which, as the name implies, is nothing but huge spoilers and speculation and which I advise you not to read unless you've read all five books and don't mind people talking about as-yet-unrevealed things like who Jon Snow's mother is.

Pointless Nostalgia on an Aribtrary Date

Yeah, okay, so it's been awhile. It's been a busy year. Looks like I missed this site's tenth anniversary by a few weeks, but it was December 9, apparently.

2009. 2009, 2009, 2009. You know, the last two years were straight-up law-of-averages affairs, though in different ways. '08 was pretty mediocre all around; no real highs and no real lows. '09...well, if '08 was a flatline, '09 was a sine wave. It was like the "That's good! That's bad." bit on Simpsons. Alternating highs and lows. The best part of '09 was meeting a very nice girl and finding myself, for the first time in my adult life, in an actual relationship. The worst was losing my uncle. And there were peaks and troughs aplenty in-between.

In other nostalgia-y not-quite-news, I've gone and started another damn KateStory -- I didn't miss that anniversary. The sucker's 15 years old now. I can't believe it's already been 5 years since the 10th anniversary.

I reread all 17 previous installments in preparation. In reverse order. And you know, I learned some things.

  • Brent was right about pretty much everything. Books I-III should probably all be considered one book, VI shouldn't be in there at all, comedy is more important than strict adherence to whether or not I have replaced my watch battery, and Final Fantasy VII is not nearly as good as I thought it was when I was 15. (Chrono Trigger, on the other hand...)
  • Speaking of which, IX isn't nearly as horrifying on a reread as it was a year ago when I had to go through and excise all (well, most of) the adolescent bickering. It's actually better than X. X just fucking drags.
  • Going through the old books looking for "best lines" to reuse in the first chapter of XVIII, most of them were written by Brent. I had a pretty good number of runners-up, but there really weren't any with my name on them where I went, "Yes. That is the best line in this book." Though I threw a couple of mine in anyway for the sake of balance. (Of course, I also focused on lines that would work with the phrase "It was [year], and" prepended to them.)
  • I kinda miss the old days when chapters would cut off in mid-sentence. I should try doing more of those.
  • I've named every single book except KateStory Gaiden, which was McDohl's title. Some of them are well-named (I know Brent's a fan of "Midnight Falls. And can't get up.") and some aren't (I think the reason Book III is "Searching for a Plot" instead of "The Search for Plot" is that the latter was the title of Mad's Star Trek III parody).

I'm seeing end-of-the-decade lists pop up everywhere, but have no great urge to put up any of my own. I can't fucking believe I've got my 10-year high school reunion coming up. Feels like I don't have much to show for it, but on the other hand, I've got a pretty good life, all things considered.

Which isn't to say it can't get better. Here's hoping 2010 continues the past year's trend of wonderful things while ending its trend of terrible ones.

Happy New Year.


Reading: Jeez, haven't read a prose book in months; spending entirely too much money on comics. I just finished Fables vol 7 and Usagi Yojimbo vol 1.
Playing: New Super Mario Bros. and Dragon Age: Origins.

Yes We Did

I like to think this is one of those moments people talk about -- one of those times you tell your grandchildren about, and say, "I was there. I was there when everything changed. I was part of that."

Ball's in your court, President-Elect Obama. (President Obama...I like the sound of that.) You have the potential for greatness...or you can be merely adequate, another Clinton. The choice is yours. But regardless, you've accomplished something extraordinary here. Regardless of what happens over the next four years, tonight I am proud to stand with my country in welcoming you as our next President.

...All right, one more:

By the way, I'm aware of the irony of using musicians from the 1960's as my symbol for change, so don't bother pointing that out.

...By the way, I'm also aware of the irony of using a Sideshow Bob quote in a post about Obama's victory, so don't bother pointing that out either.

Edit 2012-05-24: Noticed that the Dylan video I originally posted had been pulled; I've replaced it with a current one. It's a bit of a cheat, as this video is from a 2010 performance, well after the post I've just retroactively stuck it into.)

Love and Rockets: New Stories #1

So, people on the messageboard have recently been prodding me about the fact that there are threads there that consist largely of me posting and nobody replying, yet meanwhile I have let my blog languish since February. It is a fair point, and so I'm going to start putting my posts about things nobody else apparently wants to talk about up here instead of on the boards.

Sadly, Love and Rockets seems to be one of those things, and that's a shame -- anything involving Skrulls or written by Mark Millar provokes lively discussion, yet when I bring up one of the seminal series in comics history (and, for my money, a fantastic piece of American literature)? Nada.

So this week marked the debut of Love and Rockets: New Stories, the third volume of the series and a new format -- a beefy 100-page annual. I suspect that the reason they titled it New Stories instead of simply Volume 3 is that, at a glance, it looks like a trade; they want to emphasize that it is not, in fact, a collection of old stuff.

The presentation is 7 short Gilbert stories (one of which is written by Mario) bookended by a Jaime story in two 24-page installments.

Jaime's story is set, loosely, in Locas continuity -- it features Penny Century and Xo, and Maggie appears briefly -- but it doesn't fit with the series' usual realistic themes; it's a superhero story. It recalls the early Maggie the Mechanic stories, where dinosaurs and robots appeared as casual, everyday parts of life, and Love and Rockets was actually a fairly accurate description of what you were likely to see in the book.

That aside, needless to say, it's not everday superhero fare. There's plenty of Kirby love to go around, but this is still a Love and Rockets story -- it's about family issues, old friends reuniting, and strong women.

That element of the familiar pervades Gilbert's stories, too, but he abandons his established world -- there's no Palomar here, nor even any of its tangentially related characters like Venus or Fritz. They're also short -- Jaime devotes 48 pages to a single story, while Beto's longest is 16.

Papa, The New Adventures of Duke and Sammy, and Victory Dance form a trilogy of sorts, increasingly surreal as they go. Mario's story, Chiro El Indio, is not so much surreal as whimsical, and has a certain 1920's vibe to it. Never Say Never is a funny animal story about luck and sharing the wealth, while the aptly-named ? is a thick-lined, surreal pictures-only story that recalls Owly or Frank.

Beto's stories show a good deal of stylistic range -- I'm not an artist and I'm likely to stumble in trying to describe what he does with lines and shading, but each story is visually distinct.

Anyway. Love and Rockets. One of the all-time greats, and I love that it's still being published -- even if we only get one a year now.

Looking forward to Beto's story in this year's Treehouse of Horror comic.


Playing: Just finished Mass Effect for the second time; working my way through various Mega Man titles in preparation for 9.

Reading: Our Dumb World, in-between various comics. The local Atomic Comics had a 20% off sale on Labor Day and I picked up a stack; so far I've read Astonishing X-Men vol 4: Unstoppable and Batman: Gotham by Gaslight.