Movin on Up....

We moved!

As of October 22, 2008, all the bloggy jibber jabber is officially going down on our site, www.barrelhousemag.com, which you can get to by clicking here.

You'll find the same random discussions of television, books, movies, commercials, snack foods, literature, and Barrelhousey news, all incorporated into the Barrelhouse site proper.

Get on over there and check it out (scroll down to see the latest posts).

If you're a long lost contributor, let us know that you'd like to get back in the mix and we'll hook you up.


In Which Family Guy Craps the Bed Bigtime

Color me confused by last night's episode of Family Guy. The plot revolves around Stewie's time machine and his and Brian's attempt to find Mort Goldman, who had inadvertently stepped into the machine, thinking it was a bathroom.

Well...the machine takes all parties to Poland on the eve of World War II. Stewie and Brian find Mort at his grandmother's Jewish wedding. Then the Nazis attack, Stewie and Brian and Mort run for their lives and mad cap parody adventures ensue, mostly from Raiders of the Lost Ark, as they try to return to the present. Along the way you have your typical topical MacFarlane jokes, like a McCain/Palin button on a Nazi uniform, Mickey Mouse and Hitler shaking hands, and Brian joking that the reason the U.S. never attacked Germany was because Germany didn't have any oil.

But anyhoo...the elephant in this episode is that most of the family members Mort is watching celebrate a wedding are going to be shipped of to concentration camps. Unless an intimate knowledge of the show's minor characters is required, and there was an episode three seasons ago devoted to Mort's family escaping the Nazis...we have to assume that many of them were rounded up and killed, no?

So it just seems odd that Mort doesn't even try to warn and/or save his family members from the Holocaust. And even weirder that Brian, the show's conscience and Seth MacFarlane's stand in (MacFarlane's real voice is basically Brian's voice), is completely silent on this issue too.

You have to wonder who thought "Jews/Time Travel/Nazis" would just be a HILARIOUS premise for an animated half hour cartoon. Maybe the South Park guys were right about Family Guy after all:


Brilliant political calculation or desperate Hail Mary?

I wonder what the rest of you folks think about Sarah Palin's appearance last night on SNL? If you haven't seen it -- I realize that some of you, unlike me, have actual lives -- I would imagine it's easy enough to locate on the interwebs.

I imagine the idea behind her appearance was the same idea behind just about any politician's appearance: make herself appear more human via some gentle self-mockery (Al Gore was pretty okay at this, as was Rudy Giuliani). But then what she did, essentially, was just stand/sit and smile while people made fun of her: Tina Fey did her usual impression, Amy Poehler performed a rap about spying on Russia and shooting moose, Alec Baldwin went on a bit of a screed about how she's terrible while standing right next to her (prompting her to make one of her two "jokes," that Stephen was her favorite Baldwin -- the other joke involved her standing before a room of reporters and announcing that, as per usual, she wouldn't be taking their questions).

It all seemed a little weird. I mean, the jokes could have been meaner, and some of the teasing was gentle, but still, one got the impression of Palin being forced to grin and bear it because someone had told her it would be worth it in the long run.

Is it possible she didn't realize she was being made fun of? Do you think she wanted to punch Alec Baldwin in the face? When she was bopping her head in a vaguely hip-hoppish way along with Poehler's rap, was she thinking everyone would find her endearing?

The whole thing left me ... well, confused.


This Week in St. Mary's Today

St. Mary's Today is Southern Maryland's News Weekly. The citizens of Southern Maryland face many problems, particularly too much government, too many minorities, and an abundance of vague, misleading headlines, such as my personal favorite:

Man Dead Due To Speed

If you, dear reader, guessed that the aforementioned man throttled his car off a country road and bit the farm, then you may be from Southern Maryland, the blessed land of no rotten teeth nor no doublewides exploding mysteriously in the night.

My second favorite headline is below:

Was this a dastardly plot involving a bank teller distracting her co-workers with a cooing baby, enabling her to rob the bank blind while everyone one took turns burping the toddler and making "ga ga" sounds? Did she walk up to an innocent bystander in the bank, implore him/her to hold her baby, then proceed to rob it? If you entertained either of these scenarios, good sir or madam, then you Are Not From Around Here.

No, clearly what this headline is trying to say is that the Teller was kidnapped at her home with her two children, driven to the bank in the early morning, and forced to rob the bank with her older child while the younger one was held hostage in the getaway car.

Notice, too, that the front page gives no indication whatsoever where more information on this significant event can be found inside the newspaper.

Some of you familiar with the more mainstream work of Cate Blanchett (at her hottest in this movie along with Pushing Tin) will recognize this crime as the plot of the movie Bandits, also starring Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thorton doing a Peter Gallagher impersonation.

Hopefully the Southern Maryland police are not too scornful of our nation's craven, amoral popular culture, because knowledge of Cate Blanchett's role in the movie should lead to immediate suspicion of the kidnapped woman, who probably arranged the whole thing.

Another awesome feature of this newspaper: Racist cartoons!!

Our Special Friends

Barrelhouse board member Thisbe Nissen has a story featured in this year’s Best American Mystery Stories, editied by DC’s own George Pelecanos.

Issue 1 poetry contributor Bradford Tice has a story in Best American Short Stories 2008, edited by Salman Rushdie.

Regular Growler contributor Stephanie Anderson has launched Projective Industries to produce chapbooks that are beautiful in both design and content. Seriously, I would frame these covers if it didn’t mean that the poems would be stuck behind glass too.

Mike's Adventures in Sitcomland: Day Four

When people speculate about the downfall of America, it's usually our failing financial markets, our military over-extensions, maybe some sort of Apocalyptic religious war. But no one ever seems concerned about the state of American pop culture.

I bring this up because NBC's Kath & Kim is, apparently, a remake of a popular Australian sitcom, another in what's becoming a fairly long line of American shows adapted from foreign shows. There was a day, my friends, not so very long ago, when America ruled the sitcom! Do you think ALF was adapted from a Japanese show called Alien Furry Sock-Puppet Our Friend? Do you think Cheers was adapted from an Indian show about the neighborhood hookah bar? No! 

Don't get me wrong, sometimes these translations work: the only people still arguing that the American version of The Office is a cheap ripoff are being curmudgeonly for the sake of being curmudgeonly, like those people who refuse to listen to any REM album past Murmur. But more often, it seems, these remakes fail to capture some hard-to-define charm of the original, like the American version of Coupling, which I'm sorry to bring up, since as a nation I think we decided to never speak of again.*

This remaking business just strikes me as fundamentally lazy. It's not like it's all that much work to come up with one of these things; in fact, they seem to be put together in a kind of Sitcom Mad Libs game: [Lead character name] works at [business] with [secondary character name] who's quirky because of his/her [race/appearance/unmarried status/mild developmental disability], hijinks ensue! 

Or: [Lead character name] has just seen his/her life change due to [new career/marriage/divorce] and is trying to [make it work!/meet Mr. Right!], hijinks ensue!

K&K is, in fact, sort of a mixture of the two: Kath (Molly Shannon**) runs an in-home hair-styling business, and lives with her daughter Kim (Selma Blair***), who's quirky due to being incredibly stupid. Also, Kath has a new boyfriend (John Michael Higgins), who runs a mall sandwich shop called Phil's Sandwich Island and is quirky because he's basically like every other comically over-earnest John Michael Higgins character ever****.

It's not hard to imagine K&K as a translated foreign show, because it seems like it should be funny, and is often very close to being funny, but some hard-to-define thing just isn't quite right. The humor (attempted) mostly stems from the same kind of dramatic irony that propels a show like Absolutely Fabulous: two characters who clearly think their lives are glamorous and enviable, but which are in fact kind of sad. The show's best moments play on this kind of tension, like when Kath says "No, Kim, not the Pecan Sandies, those are for company!" Or when Higgins' character takes Kath out for a special engagement dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Or when Kim storms into the living room and complains about their being out of Doritos for the third time that week, then pouts "What else am I supposed to eat with my Hot Pocket?"*****

Of course the balance one has to strike in this kind of deal is making the characters funny without making fun of them. This is the particular genius of the Best in Show-style mockumentary, in that the characters are all patently ridiculous, but they're so over-the-top ridiculous (and so earnest) as to actually be fairly sympathetic. They're ridiculous caricatures but they're also, somehow, totally real humans. Kath, at times, seems to fit this mold (i.e., the Pecan Sandies joke, or her attempts to turn her living room into a "real salon" by adding one of those little Zen rock fountains), but Kim is just too much of a joke, her stupidity manifesting itself mostly in mispronouncing words or failing to see why her somewhat-estranged husband would value a job at the electronics store over a job at Cinnabon, since working at Cinnabon means free Cinnabons******.

For the show to work, I think the writers need to spend more time studying that Best in Show mold, and figure out how to strike that balance (it might involve actually making the characters more ridiculous, the show's premises more absurd). They've got a cast that could pull it off: Shannon is funny, Higgins is really funny, Selma Blair is perfectly capable of giving one-dimensional characters a depth of humanity.

Verdict: As has been noted by pretty much every television critic, the outlook for this show isn't exactly promising, based on the first two episodes (yes, I actually watched two episodes this time). But I don't think it's a lost cause ... yet.

*Actually, I know at least one person, a person generally smart about other things, who really loathes the British version of Coupling, to the point where it almost made me reconsider, but then I saw the episode where the curly-haired guy pretended to have a wooden leg to date a woman he met on the train, and I was back to being a fan. 

**playing a character that's sort of a variant on her SNL "Forty and Fabulous!" character.

***who is, at least, not playing her usual film role of Repressed/Dowdy Girlfriend Sure To Eventually Be Left For Someone More Fun.

****like his character in Best in Show, or his small part in The Break-Up, a movie I find to be vastly underrated, probably because too many people expected it to be a typical romantic comedy and so were confused when Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Anniston fail to get back together in the end.

*****Actually, it's beginning to dawn on me how many of K&K's jokes revolve around food, which is kind of odd. I would be surprised if there isn't, at some point, a joke revolving around either tuna noodle casserole or Hamburger Helper.

******The show uses a stand-in for Cinnabon, of course, but it's clearly meant to be Cinnabon.


Mike's Adventures in Sitcomland: Day Three

I came to Gary Unmarried with, yes, a fair amount of skepticism, but also with a small shimmering globule of hope. Like Gary, I'm unmarried (though, unlike Gary, I'm not unmarried due to divorce), and I'm also still grasping onto the possibly unjustified belief that Jay Mohr -- frequently criticized for his work in ... well, pretty much everything he's ever done -- actually has within him the possibility for comic greatness, or at least reasonable comic goodness. 

Now that I find myself wanting to defend that belief, though, I can't say with any real certainty where it comes from, except maybe a few funny Christopher Walken impressions on Saturday Night Live, a sort-of-funny bit part in the movie Go, and the fact that I often enjoy Snarky Asshole characters,* which Mohr seems fairly adept at portraying**.

The premise of Gary Unmarried is that Gary (Mohr) has recently divorced his wife of 15 years and is now trying to live on his own. He runs a painting business that seems to not be particularly successful (he has only one employee, and when that employee paints the interior of Gary's new bachelor pad, he manages to paint the windows shut). Despite this non-success, he's somehow able to live in a prototypical sitcom house,*** by himself, while also paying child support and a portion of his wife's living expenses.

Though there is at least a brief nod to Gary's probable financial woes, since in the episode I watched -- "Gary Marries Off His Ex" -- part of the plot revolves around Gary trying to convince his old marriage counselor (played by Ed Begley, Jr.), who's now dating Gary's ex-wife, to hurry up and marry her already, so he can stop paying her so much money. The other part of the plot revolves around Gary's improbably hot girlfriend**** wanting him to move on with his life, i.e. paint his new house, buy dishes not made of paper, etc., and presumably in turn get more serious with her.

If this all sounds like fairly standard sitcomish stuff, it is, though I have to admit there were a couple moments of actual humor, like when Gary stole his wife's expensive Kitchen-Aid stand mixer, then admitted he didn't even know what it was for and took it out of spite (later in the episode, he also steals its replacement from her kitchen). It's not even that the stealing itself is particularly funny, just that the Kitchen-Aid mixer is pretty much the perfect representation of a Married Product, in that people tend to own them only because they registered for them and someone actually forked over $400 to buy them one. It's also a product I can completely believe his wife would be pissed over losing, because I in fact registered for one, before I decided not to get married, and if I'd gotten it I would have guarded it fiercely, partly for its utility but mainly because it's like a beautiful art object for one's kitchen*****.

The success or failure of this show, I think, will ultimately turn on Mohr's ability to be a reliably funny and improbably likable Snarky Asshole. If Vince Vaughn were in this show, for instance, it would probably be hilarious. But Mohr is, sadly, no Vince Vaughn; his humor operates at about 1/3 of Vaughn's frenetic pacing, and because he hasn't fully embraced his Everyman Schlubbishness in the way Vaughn (mostly) has, his brand of asshole-ishness has the off-putting scent of the guy who still thinks he could get by on his looks******.

Verdict: I may actually watch this show again, against all rationality, because I still think there's hope for Mohr to save himself, and this show seems to be the proper vehicle for him to do it. Because the very things Mohr would need to do to be successful in this show -- embrace his Everyman Schlubbishness, be a more likable variety of asshole -- are also the things Mohr needs to do to be successful in general.

*I also used to be a sometime-defender of David Spade, though I've long since given that up.

**At this point we probably have to concede that Mohr, like Spade, is in fact a real-life snarky asshole, though while this makes me like Spade less, for some reason it only makes me like Mohr more. I have no idea why this is, except I think having a few beers with Mohr might be fun, whereas having a few beers with Spade would be interminable. Maybe because Mohr seems to at least partially embrace his schlubbishness, whereas David Spade continues to think he's the cool guy in a circa 1992 high school cafeteria. I mean, come the fuck on.

***Almost every sitcom house is a 1950's-era bungalow or craftsman in a vaguely suburban (but not exurban) neighborhood, where the homes are close together but all feature fenced yards and driveways. It's funny that in sitcoms these homes tend to represent something like "working class family" despite the fact these kinds of homes, in old, nicely tree-lined neighborhoods usually within easy commuting distance of a city's downtown business district, haven't really been "working class" since maybe the late 1970s (the recent fallout in home prices notwithstanding).

****Of course every male character on pretty much every sitcom is paired up with an improbably hot girlfriend, even if that male character looks like, for instance, Kevin James. In Gary Unmarried's case, though, I suppose this might be slightly less ridiculous, since in real life Mohr's first wife was a model and his current wife is an actress. On the other hand, if Mohr were in fact a house painter, rather than an actor, I'm not sure how likely these pairings would be, in so far as Mohr isn't unattractive, but he's not exactly Brad Pitt, either. In Gary Unmarried he's starting to show his age, with a haircut that's about three years away from becoming a full-on combover, and a paunch not unlike Vince Vaughn's in The Break-Up. 

*****Yes, I'm kind of a woman.

******Mohr's blonde hair doesn't help. For some reason -- and I'm not saying this is fair -- men who are still blonde beyond the age of, say, 22, tend to come across as narcissistic assholes.


Mike's Adventures in Sitcomland: Day Two

Here's a pretty good indication of the sitcom's current status in the universe of American television: there are no prime-time sitcoms on Tuesday nights. None. This isn't a baseball/debate abnormality, either, since the Phils had the day off and the two presidential candidates don't square off until tonight (Wednesday). Even when I expanded the search to include basic cable, the only sitcom I could find last night was a circa-2005 episode of Reba.*

But no fear, loyal readers: once again Tivo has come to the rescue**. I happened to tape The New Adventures of Old Christine last week, before I even thought of this project, so now I'll just pretend it came on last night.

TNAoOC isn't exactly new, of course -- it's been on since '06 -- but I've never seen it. And it seems like it might be a good watermark for sitcoms in general, since it's been nominated for a number of awards, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus actually won an Emmy.

Let me note, first of all, that I fucking love Wanda Sykes. I have never, ever seen Wanda Sykes in a television show or movie and not laughed at least once -- and this is saying something, because Wanda Sykes has been involved in some really shitty projects***. True to form, I laughed at most of her jokes in TNAoOC, even when I knew, intellectually, that those jokes weren't all that funny. I don't know what it is; something about Wanda Sykes just does it for me, humor-wise.

The premise of TNAoOC is that Christine (Dreyfus) is divorced and owns a gym. Also, at some point she apparently sham-gay-married Sykes' character for reasons never made entirely clear in the episode I watched, though I can only assume the reasons were predictably zany.

Dreyfus is fine, and the other actors are all fine, in rather predictable sitcomish fashion -- a series of laugh-track one liners, mostly, which in this episode centered around race (after Sykes is profiled in a magazine article, the gym gets a bunch of new black members, which makes Dreyfus vaguely uncomfortable, though this tension is resolved so quickly it's like it's never really there). Just to give you a sense of the sorts of jokes we're talking about here:

--A woman is twice mistaken for pregnant, after which she says "I'm getting rid of this stupid blouse."
--Dreyfus is trying to say she'll "be right back" but instead says "be right black," then gets flustered and says "be white black."
--The two men in the episode (whose relation to the other characters I'm not entirely clear on) are shown to be rather inept at child care and general responsibility.

In other words TNAoOC isn't exactly breaking new ground, but is perhaps serviceable as a kind of sitcom comfort food. And the power of sitcom-as-comfort-food shouldn't be discounted. I for one find myself, in times of mild depressiveness, turning to old episodes of Cheers or Cosby not so much for the jokes but for the familiarity -- just seeing the Cheers bar or the Huxtables' living room is enough to make me sink a little deeper into the couch, exhale and go comfortably numb. One could perhaps imagine TNAoOC's gym some day having a similar effect, since it has that familiar sitcom look, a look I'm not sure how to describe except as oddly warm -- everything is very evenly lighted, the furniture and props never seem to move, the show's universe is pretty much a closed world****.

So I guess my verdict on TNAoOC isn't really positive or negative -- there's enough potential that I don't feel comfortable dismissing it without first watching more than one episode, though I'm not sure I'll watch it again. Perhaps one problem with sitcoms is actually their comfort-food appeal, which makes old reruns of syndicated shows somewhat more appealing than new shows, unless of course those new shows transcend the comfort-food thing and manage to be different or interesting, like (reportedly) Arrested Development*****.

*Which I refused to watch, since a) this project is about "new," or at least "kinda new" sitcoms, and b) come on, Reba? Fuck me.

**Actually I'm Tivoing all these programs, which is why I reviewed a Monday show on Tuesday, etc. And it strikes me that this whole project would never be possible without Tivo; or, it would be possible, but would require me to be an even bigger slave to my television than I already am. Which, in a way, might be more interesting, since it would be an actual challenge then -- sitting through a different sitcom each night, commercials and all, instead of just recording them and watching them whenever I feel like it. Tivo, I've found, is a sort of double-edged sword: on the one hand, obviously, you can watch things when you want. On the other hand, I watch all sorts of dumb crap I'd probably never watch -- and would maybe be better off for never watching -- if I were forced to do my watching on the networks' timetable.

***Like Evan Almighty, for instance, which admittedly I didn't see, but I laughed at Wanda Sykes' parts in the trailer.

****It's worth noting here that, as an actual gym, the gym in TNAoOC is patently ridiculous: one carpeted room measuring maybe 12' by 14' featuring about six pieces of exercise equipment. Though, in fairness, the gym seems to be modeled more on Curves for Women than Bally's or Gold's, and since as a man I'm not allowed inside Curves for Women I can't say for certain that the portrayal on TNAoOC isn't architecturally and anthropologically accurate.

*****Which I never really got into, partly out of some weird curmudgeonly resistance to everyone else's unabashed praise, and partly because I was afraid of watching AD and not liking it, then having to reconsider my friends' aesthetic tastes.

Introducing the Carolina Chocolate Drops!

Visited my buddy in Nashville this past weekend, and got to see some great live music, including the Carolina Chocolate Drops, who are revitalizing traditional African American string band music, which was very popular in the pre-World War II era, but is now incorrectly perceived as the sole domain of white mountain folk from the South.

The CCDs spiced up their already impressive show with a version of Blu Cantrell's Hit 'Em Up Style, which unfortunatley is not featured on their website(s), as well as some spontaneous hootenany-ing.

However, here is an embedded clip from them in concert, it features 18 songs, and Hit Em Up Style is #17. You can get to it by pressing FF about 17 times, which is kind of annoying, or you can set aside about 3 hours of your day and listen to all 18songs...it's worth it! (Or just go here, and click on #17...lazy bastards!)

The CCDs opened for Old Crow Medicine Show, another traditional string band that really rocked the old Ryman Auditorium...leading to a young woman getting into a heated argument with security guards before being kicked out for standing on the church pews.

I couldn't figure out how to embed it, but here is a video of Old Crow doing an awesome cover of Wagon Wheel, an awesome song with an even more awesome history:

Wagon Wheel" is a song composed of two different parts. The chorus for the song comes from a Bob Dylan outtake from the soundtrack for the film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Although never officially released, the Dylan song was released on a bootleg and is usually named after the chorus and its refrain of "Rock Me Mama." Although Dylan left the song an unfinished sketch, Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show wrote verses for the song around Dylan's original chorus. Secor's additional lyrics transformed "Rock Me Mama" into "Wagon Wheel." Secor has stated the song is partially autobiographical. The song has become extremely popular since its inclusion on Old Crow Medicine Show's major label debut, "O.C.M.S." in 2004, although the song appeared in earlier form on the now out of print "Troubles and Up and Down the Road" EP in 2001.


Mike's Adventures in Sitcomland: Day One

What can I say: I'm a sucker for idiotic projects. So this week, in part to retain some semblance of sanity while fighting off both a flu and a giant stack of student papers, I've decided to, each evening, tune into one new (to me) sitcom, and report back to all those loyal readers in Barrelhouseland about what I find.

Up front, let me just say I'm not optimistic. It's not a great time for the sitcom, by nearly all reports. For Christ's sake, Two and a Half Men* is supposedly the best the genre has to offer. The only sitcom I watch with any regularity is How I Met Your Mother, but even that regular watching has less to do with great comedic moments** than with my own laziness and aversion to change (at this point, I pretty much have to find out how he finally meets my mother, right?). I suppose Entourage is sort of a sitcom, in that it's half an hour and meant to be (mostly) funny, though I just don't think HBO shows count, since they inherently play by different rules (cursing, nudity, no commercials, etc.). Honestly, the only reason I can name more than one or two currently running sitcoms is their prominent advertising during college football games and the MLB playoffs.

Anyway, on with Day One's show, which is something called The Big Bang Theory. The title alludes to the actual Big Bang, since the main characters of the show are geeky scientists (physicists, specifically, according to IMDB.com, though I'm not sure their specialty matters all that much) who live next door to a "hot"*** girl. That's pretty much the whole premise, so far as I can tell.

I'm not sure it's fair to criticize the cliche-factor of a sitcom's premise, since pretty much every sitcom is positioned in relation to cliche (either as a cliche itself, like 'fat, losery dude inexplicably paired with smart, funny, beautiful wife,' or as cliche-breaking in a rather obvious way, like 'black family living the kind of mid-80s upper-middle-class existence previously represented televisually only by white families'). 

But the cliche of TBBT -- geeky scientists juxtaposed with "hot" neighbor -- doesn't leave the show with many options, story-arc-wise. Either the guys will prove themselves to be more winning with the neighbor than one would expect, which might be interesting but not particularly funny, or they'll be a collection of geeky-science-guy stereotypes, which will be funny only in the lamest, most predictable ways.

It seems the writers of TBBT have gone with that second option, as the episode I watched involved a lot of geeky science-speak, a lot of social awkwardness (one character is literally unable to speak in the presence of the "hot" girl) plus an Indian guy who speaks in an exaggerated, Apu-style accent.

All of this would be perhaps be okay except for two things I just couldn't get past, having to do with two of the science-guy characters. One, Leonard, is played by Johnny Galecki, better known as David, from Roseanne, Darlene's losery boyfriend for several seasons. I always liked David's character: he was sort of subtly funny, and mopey, always being abused in one way or another by either Darlene or the other Conners. He was a sad sack, but a lovable sad sack. So I just can't buy him as a brainy scientist. At first I thought this was my own fault, but Galecki seems to be playing the geeky science-guy character with pretty much the same mannerisms, voice inflection, slouchiness, etc., that he brought to the character of David. Sure they've put dark-frame glasses on him, but frankly that just makes him look like an older David, who's maybe semi-realized his dream of penning his own comic book, rather than a guy who's exploring the outer reaches of our universe with a giant telescope. 

My other problem with the show is Jim Parsons, who you may remember for his brief appearance in the movie Garden State: he was the guy who worked at Medieval Times, and was sleeping with another character's mom. On TBBT, Parsons' character is supposed to be unemotional and rational in a Spock-like way, but this is played up to the point where he resembles nothing so much as a deranged serial killer. It's fucking creepy, which could be interesting, but it's obvious the creepiness is mostly unintentional; I didn't get the impression there'd be a future episode in which he reveals a closet full of body parts.

As for the episode's actual plot, it wasn't really interesting enough to dwell on. 

Verdict: This show's been on the air a full season already, so presumably certain people are watching it. But I don't think I will be.

*I refuse to watch Two and a Half Men. Sorry. I just will not.
**Actually, HIMYM is sometimes funny, but mostly because of Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Segal and, to a lesser extent, Alyson Hannigan (I can never decide if I think she's funny or just hot. I know that shouldn't be a hard distinction to make, but for some reason it is, probably having more to do with me than with any sort of universal law re: funniness and hotness). Point is, the actual plot of HIMYM is pretty stupid, and not very entertaining, and the main character and pretty much all of his girlfriends are completely insufferable. It's sort of like late-period Friends, in that the whole thing is patently ridiculous and overly sitom-ish, but every now and then either Joey or Chandler would say something funny.

***Kaley Cuoco, who you may or may not remember as the daughter on Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Daughter, a show memorable mostly because it featured John Ritter, and then John Ritter died, and it tried but failed to awkwardly sputter on without him. I don't find Cuoco particularly hot, though I suppose she is in a kind of bland, sitcomish way: if you squint a little, she looks sort of like a mid-breakdown Britney Spears.


If I Had Enough Money...

I would buy all of the ad time on Fox News and just show this video over and over and over:

I recently saw a clip where 80+% of Fox News viewers thought McCain won the last debate. That's an astonishing number, and a dangerous one, but not because their viewers skew conservative. I'd feel just as strongly that it was worrisome if a channel had a viewership that felt the opposite. When a group of people gets all their news from the same source, and that source feeds a strong bias, and those people repeat that bias into a feedback loop, it hurts that population by preventing new viewpoints and new solutions.

But I'm being too serious. Really, I just want you to watch the video again. Because no matter what your political idealogy, "I hope you hit a whale on your way to France" is an amazingly funny line.

More Contributors Make Good

Tilt has just announced its forthcoming chapbooks and the list includes two Barrelhouse contributors: Issue Three contributor Jeanpaul Ferro and Issue Four contributor Sarah Sloat. More info as it becomes available.

Issue Three Illustrated Story artist Warren Craghead has a new free book out—Seed Toss, Rough Cut —available from his website. Warren did an amazing job adapting "Only Child" by Erin Pringle, by far the creepiest illustrated story we've published thus far.

Three Great Tastes That Taste Great Together (Kistulentz, Livingston, and David Lee Roth)

Barrelhouse contributor (and owner of the dingy living room in which Barrelhouse was more or less conceived) Steve Kistulentz is the featured poet this week over at No Tell Motel, owned and operated by Barrelhouse buddy Reb Livingston.

The title of today's poem -- which will also appear in 2008's Best New Poets -- pretty much says it all: The David Lee Roth Fuck Poem with Language Taken from Van Halen I, 1984, and The First Letter of the Apostle Paul to the Church at Corinth.

Check it out, today and every day this week.

In fact, you should pretty much check out No Tell every day, since, amazingly, they put up new poetry goodness every single business day. Every day!


YouTube Famous

Colby Hartburg has produced this nice little segment on the Barrelhouse Issue 7 release party and the Pink Line Project starring our own Aaron Pease as the Man with the Mustache and Barrelhouse board member Philippa Hughes as Skates with cameos by the DC Rollergirls as The Gang and Cory Oberndorfer as The Cat.

Okay. I made up those names, but Cory does get billed as the man, the myth, the inspiration. We had a lot of fun that night and we hope you did too if you came out. If you missed it, this will give you a glimpse.


This is absolutely the last goddamned time

Look, I know I've been saying for weeks now that I'm going to stop watching 90210: The New Class, then each week here I am, once again, not only watching the show but sharing my thoughts on the show with the world (or at least the very limited part of the world that reads this blog). But this time I mean it! No mas! I've got a pile of books to read, I've got old episodes of The Wire on DVD, I've started downloading This American Life's weekly podcast -- there are so many things I could be doing instead of watching this interminable program, which serves only to make me nostalgic for the original 90210, which in turn makes me feel very, very old.

So here you go, kids -- your final 90210: The New Class Somewhat-Live Blog.

0:01: New student at West Bev, and she's a total bitch! Yet I don't really care, because like I said I'm never watching this piece of shit again. Go ahead, bitchy new girl, set fire to the school, fuck every single dude in sight, form a terrorist cell and fly an airplane into the Beverly Hills Kabbalah Center. See if I care!

0:03: Remember that episode of Saved by the Bell when the kids got paired up and had to take care of a fake baby, and Lisa Turtle got paired with Screech but was then all angry about being paired with Screech, and hilarity ensued? Apparently the writers of 90210: The New Class totally remember that episode, because they've decided to just go ahead and rip it off. Except two dudes are paired up as a same-sex couple, because that's what happens in the land of godless Hollywood elites, and also because the writers probably also saw I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, so they can rip off all those stupid jokes, too, instead of actually writing an original and interesting show. 

0:05: Rob Estes' daughter is auditioning for some kind of horror movie, and the bitchy girl who got kicked out of the play for being hopped up on goofballs is also trying out for the movie. Bitchy Girl seems all nervous and out of it, but then she snorts some coke and everything's all better. Or at least I assume it's coke. Maybe it's crushed-up Ritalin, or horse tranquilizer, or whatever the hell the kids are snorting these days. Again: I'm old.

0:10: Sorry, I think I actually passed out for a minute there. My fault.

0:17: Cokehead Girl got the movie part, and is now celebrating by doing more coke (or whatever). I bet this won't end well!

0:20: Here's the thing. At first I thought maybe the show's writers were just trying to keep the older characters from dominating the plot, since it is, after all, a show about the younger kids. Which: okay, fine, understandable. But then last week they pretty much promised a Dylan McKay appearance, since Kelly was taking a hiatus from work to go hang out with him in Africa or wherever he is these days, and yet so far in this episode not even a single mention of Kelly or Dylan or even stupid Brenda Walsh, so that I think what's actually going on is the writers have figured out a certain segment of their audience (of which I am a definite representative) are only watching the show to see the older characters, and they also realize that as soon as we've seen the older characters we'll stop watching, so that this whole Kelly-Dylan thing is just a lame bait-and-switch. I'm on to you people! No more!

0:40: Oh for God's sakes: in the span of forty minutes, the Coke Girl has gone from starting up a coke habit to totally melting down to agreeing to enter rehab. The writers of this show clearly don't have any interesting or original ideas, so their only source for plot points is to crib them from other pretty bad television shows, then make those worn-out cliches even shallower and clicheier, so that, in the end, this isn't even a television show so much as the outline of the idea of a television show (did I mention I'm not going to watch this anymore?).

0:45: The teacher who is kinda the poor man's Jake Gyllenhal is on a date with a girl he met online. She's an actress who's been in commercials. Do I need to tell you that she's incredibly self-centered and airheadish? Or that the teacher makes a variety of sarcastic jokes the dumb actress doesn't get? Of course I don't need to tell you these things, because the show is being written not by actual people but by the ClicheBot 3000, the CPU of which is a kind of Dumb Television Cliche Mad Libs program that spits out plot points and various pop culture references and ... well goddamnit, I really hate this show.

And now it's over! Good night, and good luck.