Tuesday, September 18, 2012

See You Next Tuesday ("Here Comes Honey Boo Boo")

See You Next Tuesday is one of the Boomstick's regular columns. On Tuesdays, I bring you the week's most laughable scumbags, idiots, and jerks for your reading and reviling pleasure.  If you don't get the name, visit your nearest middle school playground and ask the first kid you see.  You can read previous editions here. 

It was only a matter of time before I was forced to mention the new low in repulsive televised voyeurism that is "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo."

I am certainly not the first or best writer to tackle this subject; the internet is rife with excited bloggers and critics for whom a juicy spin-off of "Toddlers and Tiaras" is a flaming car wreck we're all guiltily rubbernecking.  But, I made a big deal about hating too-easy targets, and "Honey Boo Boo" may be the easiest target out there since Countess LuAnn of RHONY released her paradoxical dance single.  So, I'm going to attempt to adhere to my own (admittedly tenuous, generally shoddy) moral guidelines, take a step back, and instead examine the network that made such a show possible.

I can do this because, even more pathetic than the very existence of this obese, redneck, fart-fueled, toddler-beauty-pageant-spinoff of a show, is the fact that this show airs on a network incongruously named "The Learning Channel."  And what's sad enough to be See You Next Tuesday worthy is that The Learning Channel is now an unrecognizable reality shell of its former substantive self.

The Learning Channel has noble roots: it was founded as the painfully dry-sounding "Appalachian Community Service Network" in the 1970s by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and NASA and distributed without cost by NASA's own satellites.  In the beginning, The Learning Channel was devoted to academic programs, gleaning a reputation for instructional and educational programs about nature and technology.  Its slogan was still "a place for learning minds" when it was  purchased by Discovery Communications, parent company to other, higher-brow channels such as The Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and The Science Channel. These days, the only thing TLC has in common with its sister networks is the high probability that its viewers are stoned. 
In the 1990s, The Learning Channel began rebranding, cancelling education-oriented shows (anyone remember "Cable in the Classroom?") and airing more reality and craft-based shows, rooted largely in house-flipping ("Trading Spaces"), and later expanding to personal stories like "A Wedding Story" and "A Baby Story."  In 1998, the Learning Channel officially rebranded to TLC.

(Aside: this very type of substance-diluted-to-acronym rebranding was pointedly mocked in the first episode of "30 Rock," where a female comedy hour called "The Girlie Show" was renamed "TGS with Tracy Jordan" to make room for their new male headliner.  The joke, of course, was that this silly, transparent rebranding completely destroyed the original purpose of a female-driven sketch show.  Well, it seemed transparent whey they did it.)

The era of TLC as interior-design peddler was effectively ended by ten people in 2008: the Gosselins.  The highest-rated show on TLC, "Jon & Kate Plus 8" (and later "Kate Plus 8"), was so successful that TLC followed it with "Little People, Big World," and "17 Kids and Counting," (now "19 Kids and Counting") shows that TLC would call "family-oriented" and the rest of us would call "thinly-veiled attempts at circus freak sideshows." 

Wouldn't you think Supercuts would give them a discount?
And thus, TLC abandoned its intellectual roots and became a network devoted to an increasingly grotesque parade of abberations and mockable weirdos (prompting one blogger to ask, "When did The Learning Channel become The Leering Channel?")  This is not to say that TLC doesn't occasionally succeed at sympathizing and respecting the subjects of its reality shows ("Little People, Big World" has been lauded by some for normalizing and positively portraying people with Dwarfism ), but acceptance and understanding are certainly not TLC's primary goals, and are more accurately a happy accident of charming, likable subjects than a conscious production consideration.

No, TLC's goal is to ringmaster a pathetic circus of outcasts so strange and bizarre as to be incomparably interesting.  TLC exploits that core, gut, juvenile instinct we all have to stare agape at the strange person on the street, the instinct that we grownups have learned to socially tame and swallow and to swat down the outstretched, pointing fingers of our children.   TLC lets us, from the privacy of our home, unbutton our pants, eat out of the carton, and drop our jaws at the knocked-up, the over-fed, the undereducated, the mentally ill, the sex freaks, the addicts, the polygamists, the mutants, the hoarders, the fundamentalists, the extremists, the virgins, and God knows, the absolute motherload: the obese deluded redneck beauty-pageant toddlers! 

And TLC not only lets us all tap into our childlike ids pointing dirty fingers at the odd and inexplicable, but it even answers some of those questions that polite society doesn't condone us asking: "Can two little people have a normal-sized child?" "How can you give birth without ever knowing you were pregnant?" "How do you raise 8 kids? How about 19? Who would choose to do that? Are you building a child slave army?"

So, how can any of us be surprised at the premiere of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" a show that's basically a big, sloppy stew of all the ingredients TLC has been perfecting over the years.  (One blogger pointed out that TLC's old slogan: "Home, Style, Cooking" is the exact same slogan as Applebee's but with commas.)  On the contrary, "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" will be such a fine addition to already stellar line up of "Sister Wives," "My Strange Addiction," "Hoarding: Buried Alive," "Tattoo School," "Long Island Medium," "High School Moms," "Breaking Amish," "Say Yes to the Dress," "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding," "Virgin Diaries," "Extreme Couponing," "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant," "Addicted," "My Crazy Obsession," "Strange Sex," and of course the brand new show, "Abby & Brittany" about a pair of adult conjoined twins.  The Learning Channel indeed!

TLC Promo - watch more funny videos

Friday, September 14, 2012

Flicky Friday: Mad Men Music Video

Just glancing at the labels this post is tagged with should be enough insight for most of you as to why the following video is the Greatest Thing to Ever Happen to Me.  In fact, I would probably rank my life milestones thusly:
1. This video
2. Getting married
3. Contact lenses
4. The 1992 Disney film "Newsies"
5. Bar Exam
And now here's the cast of "Mad Men," rollin' us all.  Thanks to Erin for the heads up: 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

WTF Wednesday, Because You Thought True Blood Was Just About Weird On-Screen Love Triangles

Spoiler alert if you're, like, on Season 1.
The internet is buzzing with news that Stephen Moyer and Anna Paquin -- who play steamy lovers Bill Compton and Sookie Stackhouse on HBO's True Blood -- welcomed twin babies yesterday. Stephen and Anna, you see, are married in real life, and while this arrangement is much to the delight of True Blood fans, one presumes that it's less delightful for Moyer's ex-girlfriend and babymomma, Lorien Haynes.  Haynes, an English journalist, dated Moyer for 7 years preceeding his True Blood Run, and they have a now 10 year-old daughter together named Lilac.

For a while, there was a fair bit of press speculation as to whether Paquin had "homewrecked" Moyer's relationship with Haynes, seeing as both Moyer and Paquin admit their relationship began with True Blood's pilot episode.  (Moyer has consistently denied claims that he left Haynes for Paquin.)  Regardless of the circumstances, and regardless of the equanimity of the ending of his prior relationship, I would've assumed that it would still suck (word I'm using without attempting a vampire pun, thankyouverymuch) for your ex-girlfriend/mother of your child that not only were you dating someone new, but that she was also able to see you having steamy sex with the new girl on T.V.  And posters. And billboards. And the internet. All. The. Time.

I say "would've thought," though, because apparently I'm wrong.  I was (obviously) reading some gossip mags about Anna Paquin, the True Blood babies, and this love triangle yesterday, and imagine my surprise when I read this article:

Do you see that byline? Let me blow it up for you:

Yup, that's right. The mother of Stephen Moyer's child wrote this article on Anna Paquin, which begins with a lauding introduction about Paquin's Academy Award (no, it wasn't for X-Men, y'all),and includes this paragraph:
Sexual chemistry is arguably what has made True Blood such a success. . . .While filming the first series, Anna and Stephen developed a real-life relationship, which they tried to keep quiet. When they eventually went public it was, says Anna, ‘the worst kept secret on the planet’.
The tacit "yeah, no telling," is discreetly omitted from the page.  (I mean, what? Really?) The article goes on to ask Anna about having kids, and includes the seemingly-genuine compliment:
Hearing her today, aside from her addiction to caffeine (‘my one true vice’), Anna’s only enemy sounds like her formidable work ethic.
At the very end, the interviewer concludes because she "wants to get back to [her] daughter," without ever mentioning that her daughter is also Stephen Moyer's daughter or that Anna is a homewrecking slut.  (Because, I suppose, all signs point to her not being a homewrecking slut.) Surprised by this, I looked back at some of the other articles I'd read, and sure enough:

This NY Post interview with Moyer is also by his ex.  Despite the retardedly cliched title, it's a good interview, and its juicy personal questions are made ten times juicier when you know who's asking:

She writes [with my edits in brackets]:
He's so at ease [because we've slept together], it's hard to believe he and co-star Anna Paquin, are the hottest television couple on TV [hard, but not impossible. Clearly not impossible.]

Image via The Frisky, who apparently discovered the same thing
It's not just the 200-ft. "True Blood" billboards on Sunset Boulevard [that I can't ever effing avoid even when I'm driving to get a goddamn coffee], but the fact that the season two opener trumped all HBO's ratings, bar the finale of "The Sopranos" [instead of sleeping with the fishes, she's sleeping with my ex]. This is not only due to a strong marketing push, but down to the sexual chemistry [it's mostly lighting tricks] between Compton and Sookie Stackhouse (Paquin) [did I say "tricks?" Fitting for a whore].
Their chemistry has traveled off-screen, with Moyer, 39, and Paquin, 27, [SHE'S TWELVE YEARS YOUNGER THAN HE IS! TWELVE! THE MAN HAS TWO CHILDREN!] an item for the past two years and this month denying rumors of an engagement [which they'd better]. 
Truth be told, they are very much together, [like SO much together. Like he's inside of her together, have they mentioned that?] living in Venice, Los Angeles, committed to a mutual relationship with Stephen's children [one of whom is my goddamn flesh and blood] and a future that's filled with Season 3 and potential offspring of their own [and painful imagined deaths and tears and unemployment and cheating and syphilis].
And if you thought it couldn't get better, it jumps off the damn deep end of better. I won't spoil the whole interview, but I will say that the following questions are asked: 
  • You work closely with Anna Paquin. What can you tell us about Anna that people don't know?
  • How often do you see your children, Lilac and Billy? Do they know you are playing a vampire?  
  • How do you prepare for the graphic love scenes on "True Blood"?
Either Stephen Moyer has the best, most mature, understanding, adult, enviable ex-girlfriend of all time who turned her connection with Moyer into a positive career boost by securing exclusive and intimate interviews, or Lorien Haynes is embarking on an extreme, Agatha-Christie-style long-form revenge strategy.  Only time and eventual heads on sticks will tell.

You can read previous editions of WTF Wednesday here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

WTF Wednesday: Lisa Frank is Cray Cray

You remember Lisa Frank.  She's the kitschy, sugary-sweet, almost certainly insane artist behind every Trapper Keeper made in the mid-90s.  You know the ones: kittens peaking over the brim of a splatter-paint high-top sneaker which floats inexplicably in a night sky replete with neon dolphins leaping over baffling neon rainbows.  Or maybe your style was more purple penguins hugging on a psychedelic unicorn with a kaleidoscope mane?

What I bet you didn't know, however, is that Lisa Frank is still peddling pink puppy binders and plush rainbow-tiger-topped pencil erasers, those cornerstones of the little girl school supplies market.  And what I bet you couldn't have hoped for your wildest dreams is that the real Lisa Frank seems to be every bit her public persona: tiny, colorful, bizarrely famous, and bat-shit crazy.

No amount of describing Lisa Frank's artwork -- though a super fun, theasaursy task -- could ever truly do it justice sans images, and no post about modern day Lisa Frank would be better introduced than with a screen shot of the "Official Store" section of her current website, copyright 2011:

Click to make it bigger and have your head explode!
Did everyone have the same first two thoughts that I did?  1) How fast do you think they can ship that amazing crushed velvet shirt? And 2) I was not aware that lady sexcessories were properly classified as "stationary."

I hadn't thought about Lisa Frank in years, but then I came across this rare, recent interview Frank gave to The Daily discussing her career and aspirations.  According to this article (lovably written on purple ringed binder paper studded with Frank-like stickers), Frank is a recluse who shudders at paparazzi-level fame and, in her own way, "understood Michael Jackson." 
You know what? I bet she did understand him. Source: NY Times; see also: this blogger.
On her staggering fame, Frank laments, "If I use my credit card, people go, 'Oh my gosh, there's Lisa Frank who makes the stickers.'"  Apparently unaware how common the names "Lisa" and "Frank" are in this country, Frank nonetheless has a tried-and-true celebrity approach to such near-recognition by a merchant card-swiper  The J.D. Salinger of stickers, Frank denies her fame, brushing off the coincidence with the comment, "[I]sn't that the craziest thing I have the same name!"  Is it, Lisa? Is it the "craziest" thing?

Lisa Frank and J.D. Salinger: two elusive American icons.
Lest you think she's paranoid or past her prime, though, Lisa Frank is hardly outdated.  The pop-art guru modernized her school supplies for the new millennium by collaborating with one of the only other people in the universe to share her sophisticated, refined, subtle aesthetic: Ed Hardy. (The other kindred spirit here might be Saddam Hussein. Remember his insane fantasy art collection? Photos here.)  And sure enough, collaboration of this mind-blowing magnitude can't exist without the blogosphere taking note.

Missoni seems fitting.
In 2011, Frank launched her first (and fingers-crossed, not last) line of apparel.  But making clothing isn't necessarily easy for the queen of color: "'America loves black,' Frank lamented, pretending to cry," (emphasis added).  She hopes to collaborate next with Missoni, or the Olsen twins (those bastions of color?). We can only assume that the Olsens will hide their pretend cries behind their giant sunglasses. 

Before we got this juicy interview with Frank herself, Hello Giggles had come closest to with an interview with another insider.  Rondi Kutz (isn't that a perfect 90s name for a cheer-team mom slash sticker-maker?) was the head designer at the company from from 1987-2002, and had this to say about Lisa:
"Lisa IS her brand! She lives, breathes, and quite possibly eats colors. Her house was/is purple. She wears the most awesome shoes – usually with super platforms – and unique designer clothes. She is teeny tiny, with a personality about a million times bigger than she is physically. Lisa radiates creativity along with extreme business savvy. She is one sharp and colorful cookie!"
And The Daily indeed confirmed Rondi's assertion and all of our hopes and dreams and desires and cuddles and puppies: "'My house really is purple,' [Lisa Frank herself] promised, 'and yellow and hot pink and light green and orange.'"

Bonus: this great video trailer for the biopic of Lisa Frank brought to you by Upright Citizens' Brigade.  Bonus to the bonus: I was as surprised as anyone to see Brian Faas, a high school friend, in this video.  Brian, I wouldn't have wanted you to sneak up on me in any other way.

Final thoughts on this (one of my longest pieces ever that's devoted to such a ridiculous subject).  Frank is an easy target, easy to mock, easy to make fun of, and maybe that's exactly why she's been so media-averse.  Her interview may have been a little silly, but we were all poised and ready to make it a little sillier.  Her whole empire may be a joke, but it's a billion dollar joke.  (By comparison, this snarky blog post will earn approximately $0.03.)  So, cheers to you, Lisa. I bet your purple house is awesome.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

See You Next Tuesday (Super Duper Recap Version)

Alright ladies and gents: it's been a long hiatus, and I apologize sincerely that you've had to endure weeks (months even!) of news and events without anyone to guide you through the worst, dumbest, douchiest, most laughably grotesque stories.  So, to make it up to everyone, I bring you today's "Super Duper See You Next Tuesday," a post chock-full of all the cringeworthy cultural stuff that you might've missed, or worse, not known how to accurately ridicule on your own. 

(For those of you who don't know, [I've made some new friends in my blogging downtime] See You Next Tuesday is the Boomstick's regular column.  On Tuesdays, I bring you the week's most laughable scumbags, idiots, and jerks for your reading and reviling pleasure.  If you don't get the name, visit your nearest middle school playground and ask the first kid you see. You can read previous editions here.)

Przbylewski hated teaching to the test.
•  Freakonomics (a book I recently discussed) has a great chapter devoted to how author Steven Levitt caught a massive cheating scandal in Chicago's school system back in 2002 by exposing teachers who had been changing the answers on students' standardized tests after the fact. Levitt sparks an interesting discussion about how high-stakes testing can incentivize desperate teachers to alter student exams in order to maintain statistics, salary, and grade-to-grade promotion. 

A teacher found guilty last week in Atlanta of giving students answers, however, does not bring the same complexity of motives and analysis to her circumstances.  Though more than 100 Atlanta-area teachers have been accused of cheating on standardized tests, fourth-grade math teacher Shayla Smith is a notable standout because of her unique excuse: she had to help the students cheat because they were "dumb as hell."  Why yes, that is a direct quote.

Shockingly, her "dumb as hell" defense was not her smartest move, because a tribunal opted to terminate her.  While this story may be positive for Atlanta classrooms, it's particularly bad for me because I have to go to the downtown Atlanta DMV next week and I'm pretty sure that's where Ms. Smith will be working by then.

•  If anybody wants to party, it seems like 47-year-old Stacy Kerres is a great time.  She was hired to babysit a five-year-old, but while on the clock, Ms. Kerres was found "topless and incoherent" in a hotel parking lot. My favorite excerpt from the report:
Kerres, identified by the cops by a rose and dagger tattoo, was described by officers as lethargic and incoherent.
“I don’t even know where [the boy] is right now,” she reportedly said.
Stacy Kerres, featured here in a rare photo with her top on.
Also worth mentioning: the kid had a babysitter because his mom had gone gambling.  At the time of the story, "[c]ops found no sign of the child’s mom."  Sounds like the kind of kid who's going to need to have his test answers changed in a few years.

•  In a deeply ironic, post-Olympics youth sports tragedy, a 15-year-old javelin thrower with what Gawker called "either worst or best aim" accidentally skewered and killed a judge during a competition.  Understandably, tween fanatics are convinced this stunt was planned as an elaborate early-release trailer for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

•  Another near-Darwin award contender is the guy who nearly suffocated when he tried to ship himself to his girlfriend but got lost in the mail.

Image Source
• In a breaking bit of See You Next Tuesday news, the grandson of the founder of Red Bull and heir to Red Bull's fortune has been arrested today for hitting and killing a police officer with his Ferrari.  But, as anyone who's consumed Red Bull can believe, the crime didn't stop there.  According to The Washington Post:
"Witnesses said they saw the sports car dragging the police officer dozens of meters (feet) as it sped from the crime scene. Police followed oil streaks for several blocks to the gate of [the] family mansion."  
There is speculation that the young driver might "get off easy" because the rich and famous are treated differently by Thailand's legal system.  No word yet on whether the heir's defense will be that he gave the officer wings.

Remember this?
•  Kim Kardashian recently told V Magazine that she would like to be the first reality star to "break the mold" and earn a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  The problem with Kardashian gleaning this particular recognition stems from the pesky word "earn."  Apparently her musings in this direction were so misguided that an actual representative from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce felt the need to comment on them:  the rep told the Hollywood Reporter -- and I'm paraphrasing -- that a crucial part of earning an award for acting is being in the business of acting, otherwise known as being an "actor."  Being an "actor," of course, means being someone who has been employed -- usually multiple times -- in film, theater, or television, or what Kardashian would call "acty-type things."  Kardashian was undeterred, explaining:
“It [reality T.V.] reminds me of rap music. When rap music first came out, people were like, We don’t understand this, what is this, it’s just a fad. But rap music is definitely here to stay, and I think reality shows have proven they are as well. But when something is newer, people don’t really understand it."
Boyfriend Kanye West must be so proud.

•  And, of course, I saved the best for last. Perhaps the most important news of the last few months came just last week, with such perfect poignancy that I knew I had to start writing See You Next Tuesdays again.  No, it had nothing to do with the G.O.P. convention or Voldemort's comments about "legitimate rape" -- it's much more fantastic than that.  Courtney Stodden, child bride of old, creepy Green Mile actor Doug Hutchison (whose union was worthy of an entire See You Next Tuesday a year ago), has just turned 18.  And to celebrate her legality (though she's looked like a botoxed Real Housewife for years), her geezer hubby gave her a dog. Named....

Doug Hutchison looks like Jon Voight slowly melting into a lesbian.

A dog named Dourtney. Like the dog version of Courtney, so it starts with a "D" instead of a "C," for regular Courtney because it's a dog.  The dog's name is Dourtney.  DOURTNEY.

Other pros of being 18: she's received "at least 4 offers" to do porn!!  FOUR, y'all!  Playboy, however, has publicly said, essentially, "thanks but no thanks and we didn't really mean the first 'thanks'" to her Twitter suggestion that she would pose for the magazine.

This is a great opportunity to remind you about Courtney's amazing Twitter feed (@CourtneyStodden), which, yes, DOES feature of a background of her naked in a bathrub!  And if you can't stomach her tweets raw, there's always the more avante-garde "Courtney Stodden's Tweets Turned Into Beat Poetry By a Drag Queen."

Well, that's it for today, but I expect to be largely back into the swing of blogging, and I have an arsenal of dumbassery to bring you next week.  So, everyone, thanks for reading, and I'll See You Next Tuesday!