A few years ago I used to work at Roots, the Canadian clothing company that revolutionized how obnoxious berets could be. During my employ with the company, it was expected that all retail employees wear Roots-brand clothing. It’s not an unreasonable request, but the only thing available for men to wear on their legs were sweatpants. The pants renowned the world over for being both relaxing and unforgiving in showing some outline of your penis.
I’m not a member of Pretty Ricky, so the prospect of asking to help people with a clearly visible penis bump is a troubling proposition. I’m a terrible salesperson in the first place, and navigating that world with an outline of greeting-card superstar Ziggy beneath my drawstring made me miserable. I tried to gently nudge the idea of “alternate pants” in to the uniform rotation, but that dream was quickly dismissed. I wasn’t trying to be a rebel, I was asking to wear pants that would mask my penis from pressing out of cotton like Han Solo frozen in carbonite.
I was a disaster for being any sort of help to customers. I’d like to chalk this up to the outline (and antisemitism based on the evaluation of the outline), but in reality I’m just a terrible salesman. I knew nothing about sizes, appropriate fabrics or giving people advice. Can a man in sweatpants warn against an item of clothing because it is something resembling what a child prostitute might wear? He can, but he certainly shouldn’t.
Every hour clocked was agony. I used to work for a company that dealt with money transfers between family members and state penitentiaries in the US, but I never felt as uncomfortable there as I did trying to assist someone buying yoga pants. I promptly found another job and ended my relationship with Roots. The sweatpants are now for home use only, retired until I attempt to run for political office. Sweatpants and You: Partners In Freedom.
Bobby Brown: Behind The Music is only an hour? Isn’t there a way we could expand it into a twelve part mini series? I’ll have to speak with the Chubb Group to try and secure funding for such an endeavor.
Saturday Mornings. If there’s ever been a case against child soldiers (aside from their poor problem-solving skills and some sort of “ethical consideration” boilerplate), it’s that they should be busy watching Saturday morning television instead of shooting people.
It’s a kid’s duty to watch Saturday morning television. It’s essential to the economy (cereal sales are responsible for 38% of domestic consumer purchases - Pretend Statistics Bureau), it’s essential to their esteem and it’s essential for finding a flimsy commonground with adults in the future.
As a child that understood responsibility, I watched as much television as possible. This viewing schedule surpassed the basic Saturday morning obligations, and extended itself into the weekday viewing schedule. I didn’t just watch television, I devoured it. Every life lesson on Blossom, every acne medication test on Street Cents, every wacky mishap that befell Steve Urkel (or his counterpart Stephan Urquelle) was cause for me to watch the fuck out of TV.
(I’m not sure how I snuck in playing road hockey, and looking at Genesis magazines half-frozen in a ravine into my schedule. Drive, I suppose.)
I not only watched programs I enjoyed, but also a festering heap of dogshit as well. I watched a lot of television as a kid that I hated. I probably snarled at it when my mouth wasn’t stuffed with Fruit By The Foot. Rarely was I forced to watch these programs, strangely I watched these programs of my own free will. Did I enjoy hating things as a kid? Did I hate myself? Did I think playing with a tennis ball (not unlike a dog) while watching it evened things out? Baffling stuff.
I’ve thought about the shows I despised the most, and figured I would ramble on about them at length. Occasionally there will be pictures.
Television Programs That I Hated Growing Up Yet Watched Anyway (Fuck You Cinar!):
Saved By The Bell: There are two good things that came about as a result of Saved By The Bell.
1) The episode where Elizabeth Berkley is hopped up on pills and breaks down in the middle of a confrontational rendition of I’m So Excited. (“I’m so scared”, she sobs lacking the emotional gravitas demonstrated by Alfonso Roberio in the midst of a similar struggle on Fresh Prince. )
2) Mark Paul-Gosseleaar appearing on Late Night as Zach Morris.
Any other reason to enjoy the program is an exercise in delusion.
Small Wonder: For a chunk of the 1990s (you remember, Bill Clinton was President for a while and Tahiti Treat was a fringe soft drink) I lived just outside of Winnipeg. One of the perks of the location (aside from meth abuse and violence) was the ability to get the quasi-scrambled signal of Pembina, North Dakota’s Fox affiliate. Small Wonder was the jewel in the affiliate’s syndication crown. For those unfamiliar with the program, Wikipedia describes its batshit crazy premise as such:
The storylines revolved around V.I.C.I. (an acronym for “Voice Input Child Identicant”, pronounced Vicki), an android in the form of a 10-year-old girl, built by Ted Lawson, an engineer/inventor for United Robotronics, in an effort to assist handicapped children. The robot is taken home by Lawson so that it can mature within a family environment. V.I.C.I.’s features include superhuman strength and speed, an AC outlet under her right arm, a parallel port under her left arm, and an access panel in her back. Despite this, the Lawson family tries to pass the robot off as their adopted daughter.
The Lawson family tries to keep the robot’s existence a secret, but their disagreeable neighbours, the Brindles, keep on popping up at the most unexpected moments — especially nosey red-headed girl next door Harriet and her parents, Bonnie and Brandon; the latter just happens to be Ted Lawson’s coworker. The show’s humor frequently derived from V.I.C.I.’s attempts to learn human behavior, V.I.C.I’s literal interpretation of speech and the family’s efforts to disguise the robot’s true nature.
To explain child actress Tiffany Brissette’s aging during the show, Ted gave V.I.C.I. an upgrade in the series’ third season. He aged her face, dressed her in modern clothes and allowed her to eat and drink. The food passed through her naturally and the drink cooled her internal system.
This was done without irony. Irony was heavily taxed for a large part of the century, so people tended to eschew irony for straight-faced takes on robot children. The program itself was a cross between a normal person’s nightmare (robot child infiltrates society, occasionally kills animals because it does not understand emotion) and the fantasy of a sex offender with a deep-rooted interest in sci-fi. Fucking horrifying stuff.
Bobby’s World: Bobby’s World was Howie Mandel’s uncompromising look into the psyche of a four-year-old. It was roughly as entertaining as it sounds. The program was also guilty of clogging up time that could have been designated to C Bear and Jamal. Holy shit, I sure was excited by the prospect of Tone Loc voicing a streetwise teddy bear.
I have no idea what this photo means. It terrifies me and intrigues me at the same time. I do not understand it, nor can I imagine a scenario where I could understand it.
The Raccoons: When Stylus was still up and kicking, Peter Parrish made a pretty sharp point about The Raccoons being a vehicle for Marxist propaganda that I’d like to repost:
"they run an underground printing press against an evil, wealthy industrialist who deploys strong-arm tactics in the form of three pigs—come ON people"
He also had nice things to say about the theme song (the mucky McCain’s ad sounding Run With Us), but I cannot co-sign on that. The Raccoons was one of those baffling shows where I have no reasonable idea as to why kids would want to watch it. Is it the magic of Evergreen Forrest? The polite mischief of Bert Raccoon? The Cajun crocodile? It’s a complete mystery to me.
Bonkers: Of all the Disney also-rans, Bonkers is probably the most frustrating. Gargoyles aimed for the brain, Goof Troop aimed for the heart, and Bonkers aimed for the part of the body that hates television and prefers loud noises being barfed all over them. He switched partners from Lucky to Miranda for some reason. One imagines this is so the subsequent Rule 34 “art” could veer aware for the realm of furry while still remaining stomach-churningly upsetting.
The Smoggies: It would horrible to suggest that I hope all the cocksores at Cinar die of stomach cancer, so I’ll diverge from that tirade to simply indicate that I do not care for Cinar. Cinar was one of the French Canadian animation companies that made it a point to take any hope of Saturday cartoon entertainment and brutally sodomize it while you are forced to watch. What more can you say for a company that makes me want to pollute out of pure spite?
Everyone wants to live in a clean, environmentally-friendly world. But is it worth it when we have to deal with soul-crushing antics of the Suntots and their magic coral? Of course not. Fuck those guys. I rooted for the Smoggies to shake their incompetence and punt those Smurfy fucks right across my TV screen.
Dinosaurs: If Lars Von Trier ever had a children’s television program, the results still couldn’t outmiserable Dinosaurs. For all its sexy frying pan to the skull action, each episode was a cripplingly depressing morality tale. I’ll piggyback on Wikipedia’s explanation of the themes touched on the program:
The two-part episode “Nuts to War,” in which the two-legged dinosaurs go to war with the four-legged dinosaurs over rights to pistachio trees, aired in February and March 1992, and was almost certainly in response to the Persian Gulf War. Dialogue in the episode addresses war profiteering (by the Wesayso Corporation of B.P. Richfield, Earl’s boss, which sells weaponry to both sides), the casualties of war (limited to one two-legger, which the Sinclair family thought for a time was Robbie), the war’s use as a distraction from domestic issues during an election year, government suppression of information, and the harassment of the antiwar movement. The (politically) hawkish dinosaurs created a catchphrase for their political party: “We Are Right” (W.A.R.). Earl, originally a hawk but later disillusioned, takes to protesting the war with a sign reading “Pistachio Eaters Against the Chief Elder” (P.E.A.C.E.), a backronym.
In the episode “I Never Ate For My Father,” in lieu of carnivorism, Robbie chooses to eat vegetables, and the other characters liken this to homosexuality, irreverence, communism, and drug abuse.
In the final season, “The Greatest Story Ever Sold” (a take off of The Greatest Story Ever Told) even references religion when the Sinclair family becomes eager to learn the meaning of their existence. The Elders dictate a new system of beliefs, and the entire cast (with the exception of Robbie) abandons science to blindly following the newly popular “Potato-ism.” The religion arbitrarily brings about a set of strange and pointless rules that they decree all dinosaurs must adhere to, possibly a parody of the Ten Commandments. Robbie and a reluctant Earl refuse to follow the rules leading to their punishment of being burned at the stake. Just as they are about to be executed, the fire mysteriously goes out. It is considered a sign, and the two are allowed to go free. The episode ends with them speculating as to whether there really is a god who created and watches over them.
In another episode, Earl switches bodies with a tree and raises the issue of conservation. This is more dramatically explored in the series finale.
It’d all be scathing social commentary if it weren’t a program jabbing its finger in your chest telling you how important it is. THE ONLY REASON PEOPLE TUNE IN IS TO SEE A BABY SAY “NOT THE MAMA” YOU SELF-RIGHTEOUS PRICKS! GRWRABAGRRRFUCKGRAWRRRR!
As alluded to, the finale is equally bleak
The series finale of Dinosaurs concerns the irresponsible actions of the dinosaurs toward their environment, and the ensuing Ice Age which leads to their demise. The episode “Changing Nature” begins with the failure of a beetle swarm to show up and devour a form of creeper vine. It is shown that the Wesayso Corporation has constructed a wax fruit factory on the swampland that serves as the beetles’ breeding grounds, causing the extinction of the species. Fearing a public relations fiasco more than any environmental threat, Wesayso quickly puts Earl in charge of an attempt to destroy the vines, which have grown out of control without the beetles to keep them in check. Earl proposes spraying the plant with defoliant, which works only too well; not only does the defoliant eradicate all the vines, but all other plant life on the planet as well.
B.P. Richfield assumes that the creation of clouds will bring rain, allowing the plants to grow back, and so decides to create clouds by dropping bombs in the planet’s volcanoes to cause eruptions and cloud cover. The dark clouds instead instigate global cooling, in the form of a gigantic cloudcover (simulating the effects of what the viewer would recognize as nuclear winter) that scientists estimate would take “tens of thousands of years” to dissipate; viewers are thus left in no doubt as to the final fate of the dinosaurs.
The final scene of the series has Earl apologizing to his family for causing the end of the world, causing Baby Sinclair to question what will happen to them. The credits then roll over a shot of the Sinclairs’ house, slowly disappearing beneath a snowdrift followed by the Wax Fruit Factory that brought on the disaster, all while a melancholy string instrumental plays. This was followed by a color-warped broadcast from newscaster Howard Handupme, staring into the camera in a slowly freezing studio, and droning, “And, taking a look at the long-range forecast, continued snow, darkness, and extreme cold. This is Howard Handupme. Goodnight. (pause) Goodbye.”
The episode was a marked change from the series’ normal humor. “Changing Nature” merited a special parental warning in TV Guide’s listings the week it aired, cautioning that its subject matter might frighten or disturb younger viewers.
It wouldn’t be so awful if the program were funny to begin with, but it wasn’t. It was dinosaurs tackling issues. Dinosaurs are supposed to play guitar (see The Last Dinosaur, Denver) and have pizza parties. No one wants dinosaurs to give you a blanket party where you’re bludgeoned with lazy sermonizing.
I need a picture of program I like to cheer me up after this bout of angry reminiscing.
Julian Casablancas - I Wish It Was Christmas Today
Noel Murray of the AV Club on Adventureland:
Greg Mottola’s tour of late-’80s post-grad angst is a likeable enough romantic comedy, with the ring of truth whenever it deals with the petty bullshit of a low-stakes summer job. But while it’s often funny, Mottola doesn’t have much story to offer. The romance between alt-rock-loving spiritual kin Jesse Eisenberg and Kristin Stewart keeps getting derailed for ludicrous (and predictable) reasons, and because Mottola doesn’t give his female characters the kind of wit and depth he gives his male characters, the movie’s various love stories lack balance. (Plus, Martin Starr’s slack-faced, lower-middle-class intellectual should’ve been the lead, not the terminally whiny Eisenberg.)
It’s an assessment so accurate that I want to send Noel a voucher for a Snapple as a token of my sincere appreciation.
Lou Reed: Justin, seeing as it’s just around Christmas I have a question that I’d like to ask you.
Justin Timberlake: Sure Lou, you can ask me anything.
Lou Reed: What’s your favorite thing about Abraham Lincoln?
Justin Timberlake: Aside from the fact he was never shot at Ford’s Theater in 1865?
Lou Reed: Yes, what in Lincoln’s assassination-free existence was most endearing to you?
Justin Timberlake: Probably his hat.
Lou Reed: That sure was one big-ass hat.
Justin Timberlake: Merry Christmas Dad.
Lou Reed: Merry Christmas Son.
(This conversation occurs during the Father/Son Three Legged Race at the Winter Goodwill Games. In the alternate universe the Goodwill Games still exist, but they are just as boring as they were when we had them in our universe. The team of Lou and Justin won third place, if you keep track of that sort of thing.)
ARE Weapons - “Hey World”: Teen alienation seen through, or sympthised with, or exploited by jaded eyes pretending to be sincere, or shocked into sincerity, or pretending to pretend to be sincere, or something. Eventually the dance of sincerity and insincerity is what gives the song its confusion and power. Reminds me a bit of “Teenage Life” by DJ Daz!
I’m currently developing a comic book about the exploits of All Saints in a world where the members are elephants. The working title is Never Ever (Forget). Even if this project isn’t a success, I may still consider signing into hotels as Nicole Appletrunk.
The Kinks - The Village Green Preservation Society
The Prisoner moves at a glacial pace and has been mauled by critics, but I’ve found the first third of the mini-series to be a gleefully absurd slice of entertainment.
That said, I’m not looking forward to the subsequent hand-drawn anti-escape orb pornography that will come as a result of The Prisoner's revival. (That should be the introductory argument used by people who prefer the original to the remake. In the 60s there was no fanbase that would be moved to draw ejaculating penises on rovers.)
Pictured above is pop chanteuse Alanis Morissette. When I was ten, her music was very important to me. I would wear out my cassette of Jagged Little Pill, enchanted by each and every track on sides A & B (even Not The Doctor). It was how I liked my music: angsty, introspective and vulnerable. It’s a shame that it was mainly unlistenable dogshit.
I adored Alanis, but time has not treated her Dave Coulier-crucifying offering particularly well. I’ve fallen out of love with Jagged Little Pill, nostalgia armour and all. That said, I’m not particularly embarrassed by my tween fandom of alternate universe Robin Sparkles. In fact, I’m a big fan of Alanis The Pop Cultural Entity. Did you see her on Sit Down, Shut Up? Fantastic stuff.
My music collection is loaded with thousands of songs that will make anyone with good taste cringe (how much Lisa Loeb is on your iPod?), but I’ll defend the majority of it with my dying breath. For example, I’m an enormous Barenaked Ladies stan, and I would never consider them an embarrassment or a guilty pleasure. Instead, I consider them misunderstood pop geniuses that I will ardently defend to the very pub argument death.
(Post derailment: If you’re one of those assholes that considers “ABBA” or “The Beatles” your guilty pleasure, it’s time to realize you sound like a fucking cocksore. Everyone likes ABBA and The Beatles. They have been scientifically certified as being great. You are pretending you’re dangerous and are covering up the fact that you probably had Cracked Rear View on both CD and cassette in Elementary School. Either be an unabashed supporter of the crap music you have in your collection, or give a real answer when asked about guilty pleasures.)
The albums that cause me embarrassment tend to be ones that I once enjoyed, but now legitimately can’t stand. (Alanis doesn’t shame me enough to make this list) Readers of this blog can verify that I lack shame and reasonable restraint, so the albums on this list must be positively dreadful if I’m mortified by typing their very names. Right, time to dive into this quintet of consumer failure and start the shame spiral.
The Five Most Embarrassing Albums I’ve Ever Owned
5. Bush X - Sixteen Stone: The lawsuit requiring Bush to be known as “Bush X” in Canada has been dropped, but it’s been so burnt into my psyche that I still instinctively include the “X”. It’s bad enough that Bush were absolutely horrendous, but what I cuts deeper is the fact I bought this album from a playground friend for $10. I paid using a chequebook my parents got me when I turned ten to ensure I made good investments. Clearly that plan backfired in a hurry (I also bought Green Day’s Dookie, shudder).
I have no real idea what I was drawn to about Bush. They just oozed unpleasantness. Frontman Gavin Rossdale reminds me of the jerk boyfriend that teen movies give female love interests so that the misunderstood lead can save her from his evil clutches. Only in this case the jerk boyfriend is greasier and armed with bleating earpoison pulled from the faultiest of post-grunge assembly lines. “Uhhhveeee gotttaa Maaaachiiiiiinneeeheeuuhhdd, (grunt).”
4. Dynamite Hack - Superfast: I bought this album in Alabama after suffering severe sunstroke and third degree (sun)burns. I would like to blame the purchase of Superfast on solar brainfuckery, but sadly that is not the case. In the summer of 2000, I was bewitched by Dynamite Hack’s cover of Boyz-N-The-Hood.
"A smug winking whitebread cover of an Eazy E song I never liked in the first place? This is the future of entertainment!", I thought not knowing that a decade later I’d want to build a time machine a punch my fifteen-year-old self in the face for thinking such a thing. I enabled FarmClub.com, for goodness sakes. That’s a shame that festers deep in one’s being.
A not particularly good novelty song anchoring an album of shitball pop-punk. I could and should have spent that money on Cherry Coke instead. How dare you restrict this from us, Coca-Cola Canada! (Read more about this in my column for Future Diabetics Weekly)
3. Various Artists - Power Plays (Sports Anthems): God help me, I can defend Big Shiny Tunes 2, Now 3 and for some baffling reason WWF The Music Vol. 4, but I cannot defend Power Plays (Sports Anthems). Like a lot of grade 4 youth in rural Canada, I loved techno. Holy shit, did I love techno. Specifically, whatever techno was barfed from hockey arena speakers and Rock Em Sock Em compilations. I have no idea if anything by 2 Unlimited or Technotronic was actually successful in the world’s hottest nightclubs, but those groups were the weird ambiguously European glue holding together Manitoba minor hockey.
Power Plays was essentially an inferior version of ESPN’s Jock Jams. Some of the heavy hitters appeared (the afforementioned 2 Unlimited and Technotronic), but there were a few strange covers mixed in as well. Power Plays didn’t feature the original Cotton Eye Joe or Whoomp! There It Is, but instead soundalikes by the such chart-toppers as Dave H and Clock. Whenever I’m feeling blue, I like to think of the meeting where Tag Team and their lawyers angrily rejected K-Tel’s offer to appear on Power Plays. Billy Idol might be okay with getting low-balled, but Tag Team knows that their star can only rise higher.
2. Collective Soul - Collective Soul: Collective Soul are terrible. And I have three stories regarding my relationship with this band.
Story 1: One Christmas I received Moon Shoes and this album on cassette. I blared “Gel” at full volume and proceeded to jump around the basement. For about ten seconds at a time. My moon shoes would snap apart instantly and repeatedly. When I was eleven, I for some reason decided “Gel” would be my soundtrack for anything dangerous or extreme. It just ended up being a soundtrack for disappointment. It makes sense as with less around the clock radio play (CITI-FM was adamant about playing these doucheweasels on an hourly basis), I kind of noticed that the song wasn’t particularly extreme. Instead, Collective Soul revealed themselves more of a bland hodgepodge of bad CCR (who are already irritating) and castrated corp-alt-rock. They made Better Than Ezra look like Black Flag, etc.
Story 2: My friend Jonathan and I were incredibly moved by the video for The World I Know. Incredibly moved. So much so, we recreated the video using puppets during our church’s Christmas supper. COLLECTIVE SOUL’S VIDEO FOR THE WORLD I KNOW RECREATED BY FUCKING PUPPETS IN A CHURCH BASEMENT! I DID THAT! That’s just fucking weird. Like something a self loathing Michel Gondry would see in a fever dream.
Story 3. While the Arts Editor of the university newspaper, I interviewed the mayor strictly so I could ask him to ban Collective Soul from coming to Regina. The interview appears here but I have an excerpt below:
The Carillon (me): I feel like we’ve become friends over the course of this, so I ask you to do me a huge favor. Collective Soul’s playing in Regina next month and they are absolutely dreadful, so I need you to stop the concert.
Pat Fiacco (mayor of Regina): No, I’m not going to do that.
TC: Come on. Mayors do it all the time. I think Cincinnati does this annually.
PF: Think of they fans out there. They want to see this band, do you want to deny them the opportunity to see this band. You mentioned Nelson Mandela earlier, what do you think he would want.
TC: But they’re a terrible band.
PF: Well crank up your music on your car stereo instead then.
Newspapers give you a great opportunity to be self-indulgent. Self-indulgence is a constant motif in my life.
1. Kid Rock - Devil Without A Cause: I was initially going to defend this by claiming that I thought the rest of the album would sound like “Bawitdaba”, but that’s an absolutely horrible defense. One that validates Kid Rock’s appearance at the top of the shame chart.
Rest In Peace Joe C.
Okay, back to the cool stuff I normally listen to. Y’know, like Sugar Ray and Lisa Loeb.
Maine’s repeal of gay marriage makes me want to blow a dude eating wedding cake out of spite. And maybe for free cake. But mostly spite. It’s nice people that want to get married. Why the hell would you want to prevent that from happening?
Maine: Making straight dudes want to give blowjobs out of spite since 2009.