shoebox_dw: (hp snape get off me)
Topless Robot recently did a '10 Most Ridiculous Things About the Original GI Joe Movie' list, and lo, I was gleeful. Because I loved the original GI Joe series with all my little mindless-pop-culture-consuming heart, and that damn Cobra-La trifled with that heart like Aztecs looking for fun on Saturday night.

And then I read the opening paragraph, about the live-action movie remake. I had not known there was to be a live-action remake, possibly because my brain shut down and started going 'nuh-uh! nuh-uh-uh!' whenever I tried to take it in. I mean, we can all agree there are inherent issues in recreating the Joeverse in living colour, yes? For one thing, just try casting Cobra Commander. "Er...yes, you do wear a totally face-concealing mask for the entire picture. But it's shiny!"

Apparently, though, there are depths to which my inner child's heart can still sink:

"In just a few weeks, the majority of us will be exiting theaters on the opening night of the live-action G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra, either laughing till we puke or pummeling each other out of sheer, unadulterated rage. Between Schumacher-esque Joe body armor, Storm Shadow's sneakers and Duke's childhood buddy Cobra Commander, we all know we're in for something painful--but whether it's Troll 2 painful (hilariously bad!) or Love Guru painful (assisted suicide) remains to be seen."


Sneakers? SNEAKERS?

...'scuse me, I'll be over in this corner weeping for a little bit...


shoebox_dw: (pbs truism)

So yes, in the course of rambling on about Feminism in Watership Down, below, I got a little carried away. Especially does this bug in terms of children's media (which Watership really isn't, but we'll ignore that for now). It's something I've been personally confronting lately, as I rummage around in my Sesame Street-intensive past. Do you realise, fellow Gen-Xers, that the newest DVD sets of the show carry a disclaimer to the effect that "These early episodes of Sesame Street are intended for grown-ups, and may not meet the needs of today's preschoolers"?

Sad, and a little strange - not least because accurate. On the one hand the belief is that children are more sophisticated than ever before; on the other, that they’re fragile flowers whose every input needs monitoring for fear it’ll corrupt the mechanism.You see it reflected in the pages and pages of 'what behaviours is The Mole Sisters teaching my child'-type posts to the TreehouseTV forums, complete with just-saw-it-on-Oprah-so-I-know-it’s-scientific vocabularies. In the Fat Albert movie, which disavows the crude-but-funny 'snaps' that made the show famous in favour of hauling in a little (white) girl to teach the gang proper English. In the attitude of my nephew's pre-K teacher, who reacts to the news that this four-year-old has taught himself to read with 'Well, we need to think about how much he actually comprehends...'

Yes. She really said that. I swear, you just want to grab these people by their PTA-attending pencil necks and hiss, "Look, I spent an entire ruddy childhood watching a trenchcoated Muppet sidling up to innocent kids and asking if they wanted to buy an 'O' – that’s when he wasn’t off stealing the Golden An just for kicks - and somehow I managed to become a fully functional member of society..." [shaking them violently] "DO - YOU - UNDERSTAND?"

…Heh. [ahem]. Well, maybe there is something to be said for social conditioning. I'm not advocating wholesale exposure to disturbing imagery, either; children’s mechanisms can certainly suffer from neglect, and on the whole it’s a Very Good Thing that those closest to them realise that. But you can get carried away with it, is all I am saying. This obsession with socialization, with carefully categorizing every possible influence in the here and now, actively works to stifle any imaginative possibilities for the future. Worse, it gives kids the impression that intelligence, thinking about the answers, is much less important than getting the answers right. If you’re going to ensure the world is laid out exactly as it should be, then where’s the inspiration to think about what could be?

More rantiness under the cut... )
shoebox_dw: (pbs happiness fairy)
Sigh. Well, the tax refund apparently doesn't kick in for another week, so I guess it's time to haul out the Backyardigans episodes!

Quite seriously, ever since Treehouse put it on the weekday midnight rotation - ie., just in time for me to snuggle down with something fun - I have learned to totally adore this series. Thusly intimate with the concerns of dancing daring CGI critters, I have even picked out a favourite character. This is Austin, the shy but smart and sensible purple kangaroo, who is clearly going to grow up to be the closest thing his universe has to a Net geek. I would cheerfully babysit him anytime.

This is the thing about these characters: you cannot help but think of them as real little kids. Which turns out to be more than you can say for a whole lot of Nick Jr.'s nominally human cast. It is possibly not a coincidence that there (usually) isn't a single Positive Reinforcement of Behaviour visible anywhere on the screen.
In the bewitching tradition of the very best children's media, Burgess & co. have instead focussed on the possibilities inherent in a child's inner life - that necessarily chaotic, thus perpetually exciting and involving, place we all exist in from roughly ages 4-10. They've taken great care to phrase it correctly, bringing on talented dancers, real musicians, and above all writers who have an uncannily firm grasp on a kid's self-involved, opportunistic, yet strictly fair approach to plotting logic (clearly, they've tried to run their share of kindergarten birthday parties). Net result: an invitation to imaginative creativity that's almost impossible to resist.

Funny how, despite children's educators obviously having the best intentions in the world, how few seem to be able to grasp that all the careful socio-intellectual indoctrination your Doras and Blues can muster is totally useless if kids aren't inspired to try and figure out what to do with it...

...OK, that's an essay for another time. Let's get to the cute. Here in no particular order is my official List of Favourite Backyardigans Episodes (thus far):

shoebox_dw: (pbs aaaaaaahhhhh)
 Had the TV set to Treehouse as a pleasant background noise while writing. Just happened to turn around as Rolie Polie Olie opened on the classic shot of mom and pop-bot snoring away, just seconds prior to their kid-bots storming in -

- and just parenthetically, how do people with lots and lots of kids do that? I mean, the ones with a serious collection, six or eight or so (as Pat McManus, himself the father of four daughters, puts it, "A simple, inexpensive hobby that somehow got out of hand"). My small nephews - currently aged eleven, eight and three - routinely make it seem as though my sister houses at least a dozen; I have no idea what it must be like to expand that experience exponentially.

- Anyway, so mom and pop Polie are snoring, and I'm smiling in vague anticipation, and everything's all very peaceful and Parental Advisory Council-approved, when suddenly...the headboard blinks. In a single moment of horrified revelation, it hits me: the bed has eyes. Actually, everything on Planet Polie has eyes, up to and including the containers in the fridge, which is freaky enough, but - c'mon, the Polies have kids! And don't tell me they're robots, they probably just built the little ones in the backyard. There are two ruddy genders on this planet, and their beds have eyes. Also, mouths. Doesn't stop with just the 'rents, either. Can you imagine the hell that must be the teenage boy-bot's nighttime, on this plan?
shoebox_dw: (toy story modern art)
So I am about the last person on the Net, with the possible exception of www.nepaleseyakherders.org, to weigh in on Transformers: The Movie.

This is doubly odd because I was a massive fan of the original cartoon. I've written elsewhere in this journal of my receptiveness to sweet-hearted yet simplistic animated media, and after-school TV in the 80's was its undisputed mecca. My typical weekday afternoon ran something like this:

shoebox_dw: (pbs happiness fairy)
--I'm spending the next little while's worth of writing hours getting my novel project back on track. Over the next week, I'm going to (re)post the first few completed chapters; by which point I should be well and truly onto new material. Until then...here's another selection from the Greatest Hits vault.

Funny thing, this anthropomophization craze we humans have going.

Here we sit, masters of a vast and bewildering ecosystem, strange and beautiful and wholly alien to our experience in any meaningful way...well, perhaps it isn't so odd that our basic coping mechanism is 'Stick that bear into a pair of overalls and give him a hoe!'

It starts early, with childhood daydreams like Little Bear and Franklin; then we move on to fairy tales, then the fables of Aesop and LaFontaine. In all of which we learn about human frailties from a safe and not incidentally cute'n'cuddly distance.
We want the world to make sense - or at least, we want to reassure ourselves that it isn't going to eat us. We want to know that for all its apparent complications, life is all going to work out in the end. And in the animal kingdom, it does, because we literally have the last word.

Apparently, though, we've got no problem at all with the notion that it might be laughing at us behind our backs the whole time...

shoebox_dw: (pbs happiness fairy)
--Sorry, sorry...this is the official last day of recovery from the sinus infection. Not that I don't have ideas, just that it's been difficult to stay awake long enough to physically type them out. :)

As for the kid's shows...yeah. Highly inappropriate olfactory stimuli aside (really did not need to know I had 'that just-rolled-out-of-bed smell!') I lurve Bear in the Big Blue House and hug it and pet it and call it...well, Bear. In every loose, clever, earnest way possible it's the direct descendant of the Sesame Street Muppets - making Elmo, yes, the redheaded bastard child. We just won't get me started on the little red freakazoid, OK?

shoebox_dw: (toy story modern art)
There's an almost Orwellian poignancy in the fact that mine is probably the very last generation to have the full experience of the Saturday Morning Cartoon, one of the purest childhood joys ever invented.

Sure, kidlets today have their on-demand DVDs, their round-the-clock Blues Clues and Baby Einsteins...but nothing will ever match the sheer bliss of those opening hours of the fresh new weekend, the TV blaring, bright beacon of freedom from responsibility.
You could get away with anything, those mornings. You could get up reallyreally late and stay in your jammies until noon and lie around the couch no matter how nice a day it was outside and eat random hunks of last night's dessert for breakfast with maybe a pizza chaser and your parents couldn't do a thing about it because it was Saturday mwah-ah-ha-HAAAAAA...

...ahem. Actually, now that I think about it not much has changed in twenty-five years, here at Shoe Central. So let's just skip the charming nostalgia, shall we? and head straight to the cartoons themselves. Because that's what I've been doing a lot of lately, after winning a gift card in an office raffle and subsequently prowling the TV-DVD aisles of my local Rogers Video. All fired up with the zeal of nostalgia for a truly sweet and decent corner of the universe, I embarked on a quest to rediscover my childhood favourites... Read more... )
shoebox_dw: (Default)
Seriously. If you ever want an exercise in humility, try sitting yourself down and trying to figure out exactly why anyone should be interested in reading your take on the universe at large.

However, here I am, improbably enough, and I've already made the big play for humility below so am pretty much permanently schnookered in that direction. (See, kids, this is why an addiction to self-pity is so dangerous. I mean, as long as Apple's still in business there will always be a need to weasel another iPod upgrade out of Mom and/or Dad, y'know? Learn to pace yourselves.)

...Ahem. So anyway, I'll just add that there will be very, very few solutions to world angst proffered or pondered from here on in. I'm not even a particularly political animal - although given that my memories of Conservative goverment involve things just getting crappier and crappier until the e.Coli arrived, I confess to being rather glad at the slimness of their federal mandate).
My entire rep as a writer [and the crowd goes wild: Yay.] rests on an ability to - notice things, I suppose you'd call it, and point them out. That's it...hope it's enough.

I suppose I'd best begin with what I've been doing in the, er, entire year since I last posted. Not honing my razor-sharp communication skills, obviously. Read more... )
shoebox_dw: (Default)
...Now, just what the blazes do I put in it?

 I mean, the one topic on which I can demonstrably write stuff many people read - Canadian Idol - doesn't start for weeks. And frankly my life in the meantime is not exactly of that special calibre of fascinating that makes publishing houses glance up. (Although I have been told my wails re: getting up for work in midwinter are really quite, uh, artistic. Operatic, even. But hey, I'm Canadian, where's the fun in that?)
At any rate, I need to post something. I've got this journal all set up and it's gorgeous and I truly hate staring at blank space, especially when it's in back of my eyeballs. So as a kind of mental ipsum lorem text, here's a random musing from a year or so back on Kids' TV...

…You have to realise, I've been around this stuff in one form or another for about ten years now - starting with managing the children's section in the bookstore...onward through the TV-addict nephews...through the discovery that when I'm home in between temp assignments TreehouseTV makes for a nicer background hum than Jerry Springer.
In short, I've developed something of an immunity - it's almost become a minor hobby. As a public service, I herewith provide TV Coping Mechanisms for Bored Grownups:

Key: AVO - American Viewers Only

B/CVO -British/Commonwealth Viewers Only

--Practice sprinting for the remote as soon as you hear the Barney theme begin. Time yourself on speed, distance and how fast you can subsequently remove the loveable purple spawn-of-something-deeply-unholy from your consciousness.

--During Dora the Explorer, count how many times the Map sings 'I'm the Map!, I'm the Map!' in succession. (Twelve, is my rough estimate.) Bonus: If you listen closely, you can actually hear the voice actor becoming more and more desperate for air from eight repetitions onwards.

--AVO: Mentally redub Bob the Builder into the original British accents. The machines will still be whining incessantly, but at least they'll sound cuter doing it.

--In light of the fact that Blue's Clues recently sent Steve off to college, take bets on how many room-mates he'll go through in the first six months. "Dude talks back to his soap dish!!"

B/CVO - Appreciate the minor miracle that is UK stop-motion animation. If possible, catch an ep or two of Wind in the Willows or Brambly Hedge.

--Decide how many of the weird subtexts in The Toy Castle can be attributed to the fact that it's ballet-dancing-based, and how many are just plain strange. For example, who decreed there should be human-sized Frog Twins, Frieda and Frederick, involved; and why they're dressed up as the King and Queen of Hearts. For extra credit, work up a scary campfire story for next summer starring human-sized frogs with enormous bright sparkly blood-crimson mouths and Scarlett O’Hara accents.

 --Whilst suffering through yet another 'realistically' annoying toddler character, entertain yourself by picturing how long they'd last in your childhood...the one that featured Dad and his belt.

--As Bear in the Big Blue House opens, and the big ol' hunk-a-fur is 'sniffing' you - in extreme close up and quite audibly - try hard not to think all the things you're thinking.

--Confirm what you've long suspected - that the Berenstain Bears' real given names are in fact supposed to be ‘Mama’, ‘Papa’, ‘Sister’ and ‘Brother’...this despite the fact that everyone else in their furry Bearverse has a moniker like ‘Fred’ or ‘Lizzie’. Speculate on what name you'd rather send your son through life with, 'Brother' or 'Sue'.

--Wonder what age Little Bear et al. have to be before clothes become a requirement. I imagine a little Bar (Bear?) Mitzvah-esque ceremony around age 14 or so: "Son, it's time you knew the truth...you're naked. Go, put these on and cover your shame forevermore."

--B/CVO: Think of the strangest possible cartoon character you can. Like, oh, say, a mini-snowmobile. Then turn on Wumpa's World, set in the darkest Arctic, and lo and behold...two of them. Pink and blue. Named Zig and Zag, in case you were wondering.

--Appreciate the rare-but-wonderful moments of genuine for-all-ages wit that sneek in here and there...like in Wumpa's World, when Wumpa the Walrus decides to learn ballet...cue walrus, fluffy pink tutu peeking out under his parka, assuming third position. Or the bit on Bear in the Big Blue House starring identical otters Pip and Pop: “Hey, sure! ‘Adventure’ is our middle name!!” “Uh, no, that’s your middle name. Mine’s Angelica, remember?”

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