Early March Weather
March 9, 2018
Snowing, raining, blowing…
Isn’t spring here yet?
Waiting, wondering, sighing…
Age of the Disclaimer
March 1, 2018
‘Tis the age of the disclaimer, for ignorance knows no bounds
As the overzealous, oversensitive masses quickly sound
Off with their disgruntlement at the drop of a hat,
No matter if one’s right or wrong, for they don’t care about that—
Not as much, that is, compared to whether or not they agree
With the words of whoever’s speaking about Topic A, B, or C,
And should said speaker say one wrong word, no matter the intention,
He or she runs the fatal risk of provoking contention
From his or her audience at hand for wrong or for right,
For even the sound-minded can find fault in what one writes
Or speaks, and understandably so, seeing as words can mean
One thing or another, depending on the context in which they’re seen,
And if even the discerning can find fault in any message at hand,
Imagine the aforementioned masses forming a frothing band
And demanding the speaker’s severed head on a platinum platter,
And whether his or her goal is noble or wicked won’t matter.
Sure, it wouldn’t kill folks to slow down for once and think,
But in this world, where laziness and brain farts literally stink
Up the air we all breathe, none can take such a chance,
Thus leaving it to us speakers to do a verbal dance
And construct our own messages carefully so that none can take us
Out of context whenever we say whatever we must,
For those of us who mean well can’t afford the same reputation
Of the same rabble-rousing fools who’re the scourge of each nation
That allows free speech, even to those who’ve no grounds to speak
Based on the blatant ignorance that makes their arguments weak.
We know we’re bigger than that and thus have what it takes
To challenge the global status quo and all the errors it makes,
So let’s avoid coming off like condescending egotists
And be smarter with how we phrase things so that all get the gist
Of that with which we take issue and wish folks would rearrange
So that society’s standards in the end for the better can change,
And if that means using disclaimers to cover our tails, so be it.
It’s better for us in the long run for when we say what we see fit—
All the better to show the thought we put into what we say
In hopes of spreading wisdom that all may absorb one day,
And gone that day will be the crap that’s held humanity back
From attaining the morality we all for too long have lacked.
Rambling about Dreams
December 17, 2017
Had a dream the other night, and not a pleasant one.
I was at a bowling alley with my family not having fun.
The place was crowded cheek to cheek and deafening as hell,
And the bowling we did was abysmal, as I’m sure you could tell.
Why I dreamt it, I’ll never know, but one thing I do know
Is that I’m glad it was a dream and that I’m spared the woe
Of having to live it for real, for I’ve enough grief and pain
To deal with in the real world threatening to kill my brain.
I don’t remember doing anything lately related to bowling,
So why would I dream about it? Just who or what is controlling
My train of thought when I’m asleep? Are these visions of mine
Perhaps from a life I’ve lived elsewhen that I’ve somehow left behind?
Are these visions of a future that has yet to come
Or the memories of some other soul caught, too, in a mental slum?
Are they trying to teach me a lesson or merely telling a tale
Meant solely to entertain me? The truth here might help me prevail
In my career, for who knows just where inspiration lies?
Maybe these dreams are for my own good and come to me so that I
Can craft new stories with them that folks have yet to hear and see.
That notion at least sounds promising, but something else troubles me:
What if these dreams are reminders of the schmuck I used to be
And a lifestyle I’m not proud of and have tried to leave behind me?
The events may have been reforged, but my old persona remains,
Portraying my faults, and if that’s the case, maybe I’ve something to gain.
There’s the birthday dream, after all, in which I kicked a hole
In the speaker of my birthday present: an expensive stereo.
There’s the dream where I worked at a department store and wouldn’t help
Any customers because I was such a prickly, nervous whelp.
I’ve even had many dreams in which I was made to relive high school,
Getting lost, losing my locker combo, or otherwise playing fool.
All these dreams remind me in one way or another
The problems I’ve tried to leave behind me in some way or other,
Even though the memories remain, much to my chagrin,
No matter how much I move on from them or the situation I’m in,
For in my dreams, they haunt me and may stay with me ‘til I die,
Which is why I try to purge them in my efforts to find out why
I dream, for surely my dreams mean something to me somehow
In the grand scheme of things…or I’m just having a cow,
Trying to read something from nothing in the long run,
And I should give up right now while I’m sane ‘til my name’s done.
After all, all this pondering’s been annoying even me,
For is there really one thing that all my dreams are meant to be?
Each dream needs to be treated like its own unique entity
In the instance I should analyze it learn what it means to me.
Each dream tells its own story, no matter the genre at hand,
And only by dissecting it by itself will I come to understand
The meaning of the dreams I have as they come to me at night,
And once that at last happens, there’s no stopping me, brother.
On that note, then, dreams, come on out, wherever you are,
And riddle my mind with wonder, whether you be near or far.
Paradise or purgatory, Nightwish or nightmare,
I’ll be ready for you, so come at me if you dare.
A Long-Overdue Rant on Internet Grammar in the 2010s
January 9, 2018
Fifteen to twenty years ago, when I’d surf the ‘Net,
Grammar made sense just like it did in school.
Nowadays, though, old man that I am, I can’t help but fret
At how today’s folks write ‘cause it isn’t cool.
Miscaps here, misspellings there, lack of punctuation all around—
It’s all enough to make me sick to my gut.
I hate the way it looks on screen and even the way it sounds
When I read it aloud and witness the kind of rut
Society’s now in mentally ‘cause honestly, what the hell
Has become of us from a written point of view?
We used to be so neat and concise, but these days, all’s not well.
Where did we go so wrong out of the blue?
Have we really gotten so stressed for time that we cannot bear
To take a moment to write a sentence right,
Or have we just gotten lazy and stopped giving any care
To what we publish on the Internet day and night?
I only ask ‘cause not only is our grammar collectively
Devolving, but so is our sense of thought,
For no longer do we think through what we want others to see
Or hear, even though deep down we know we ought.
Somebody stinks at something? We scold them, “Git gud, scrub!”
Something angers us? We type IN ALL CAPS
With multiple exclamation points ‘cause we’re just that livid, bub,
And are in that serious need of a nap.
Its versus It’s, Then versus Than, There versus They’re versus Their—
Not to mention Yore versus You’re versus Your…
This misuse of similar-sounding words is more than I can bear…
And yes…bear! Not bare. Leave that at the door
Right along with your ellipses used in the place of periods
‘Cause they’re made of three periods themselves, right?
Also, Dont versus Don’t? Isnt versus Isn’t? Whose teaching these kids
How to not use apostrophes day and night?
Notice, too, how I used Also to start a sentence rather than And
Like we ‘80s kids were taught once upon a time,
For conjunctions’ function is to join sentences and fragments at hand,
Not start them like we do now, friends of mine.
Alas, though, each mid-paragraph, it’s And, But, Or all day,
Every day like it’s nobody else’s bloody biz,
Right along with the double negatives like don’t none and ain’t no way.
It’s insulting, even to one who’s not a grammar wiz.
Comparative forms in adjectives these days also makes me mad.
I’m sure you, too, have noticed this vexing matter,
For kids and even adults now say more hairy, more petty, and more sad
As opposed to hairier, pettier, and sadder.
To think, too, I’ve only scratched the surface of this steaming mess,
And the more I look, the less relief I see.
I know it’s petty and paranoid of me, but I can’t rest
As I wonder where the world’s literacy could be.
Am I overreacting? Are things really that bad?
Will we ever revolve from where we are now?
All I know is how all this bad grammar’s been making me sad
And wish that we could go back some way, somehow.
Poem of Hope for 2018
December 30, 2017
A new year is fast approaching, my friends.
Say goodbye to the year we’ve come to know.
Hopefully what crap we’ve been through will end.
Well, folks, a new year’s coming ‘round the bend.
What good will it bring? Only Heaven knows.
A new year is fast approaching, my friends.
To all who’ve shown support, my thanks I send.
May good fortune be wherever you go.
Hopefully what crap we’ve been through will end.
May somebody always be there to lend
You a helping hand, should you need it so.
A new year is fast approaching, my friends.
After all, it could be that we must fend
For ourselves, should the future bear us woe.
Hopefully what crap we’ve been through will end.
Cross your fingers, then, for when this year ends,
Its foul or fresh nature we shall soon know.
A new year is fast approaching, my friends.
Hopefully what crap we’ve been through will end.
The Week Before Christmas
December 19, 2018
‘Tis the week before Christmas without snow on the ground.
I’ve looked all around, but nope—none I’ve found.
No chilly white fluff, just hard grey and brown
With tiny green spikes poking out all around.
To think, too, ‘tis December in Illinois,
Yet there’s no snow around to bring Christmas joy.
What a kick to the teeth for today’s boys and girls
Who’ll never know Christmas as it went in my world!
Back in those days, we’d have at least enough
Snow from which we made snowfolks, snow forts, and stuff;
Upon which we rode our sleds down this and that hill
And that we balled up and threw at each other ‘til
Our parents called for us to come on in from the cold
And have ourselves some soup with flavors rich and bold
And perhaps some hot chocolate as we hunkered down
‘Round the fireplace to listen to the joyous sounds
Of Christmas carols playing on the radio
As the lights all around us twinkled and glowed
With a subtle, supple glimmer that reminded us all
Of the time of year it was—not spring, summer, or fall,
But early winter, and Christmastime, too,
A time where kids could shake off the year’s blues
And enjoy life with friends and family,
Especially with so much to hear and see
As well as do for but a few weeks
‘Fore life elsewhen dares once again to sneak
Back upon us and reintroduce the mundane
‘Til another year passes, when we’d do it all again.
Granted, snow wasn’t the be-and-end-all
When it came to Christmastime great and small,
But it helped us get into a Christmassy mood—
A jolly, serene, and hopeful attitude—
And helped make the season feel all the better,
With or without the notoriously gaudy sweaters.
Heck, even a mere ten, fifteen years ago,
The Holidays felt more natural with snow.
Now, though, the ground’s barren of the chilly white fluff
As if Mother Nature Herself has had enough
Of keeping up with the seasons and stuff,
And by no means does it feel like any bluff.
‘Tis a crying shame, I will not lie,
For this Christmastime’s been passing me by
With a vengeance as I’ve been trying to sort out
So much else in my life that I can’t help but shout
Against the Fates for all I’ve been through,
And with no Christmas snow falling out of blue,
I’ve one less reason to have holiday cheer,
Making Christmas a non-thing for me this year,
Which hurts in that Christmas usually
Is a season that brings out the best in me
And helps me be the best person I can be
In one way or another, but now look at me:
I’m a crabby sad sack complaining about snow
Or the lack thereof it. What a way to go!
Surely there’s something better I can do
To set my mind straight again and see me through,
For truth be told, ladies, gents, boys, and girls,
“Green” Christmases aren’t the end of the world,
So long as one keeps strongly within one’s heart
The spirit of the season. That’s one way to start.
Sure, snow helps set the stage for the season,
But the absence of it alone is no reason
To not spend time with those you hold dear to you,
For only sharing can see you through—
Sharing the kindness, respect, and love
That Christ Himself, who now resides high above,
Had taught us all once upon a time
To have for all people during our time
And instill that same value in those we meet,
Regardless of season or where we chance to meet
Those to whom we pass on this life-long lesson
And share ‘round these times a holiday blessin’.
I guess on that note, then, I still have hope
In having a Merry Christmas even if the slopes
And valleys ‘round me aren’t smothered in white.
Knowing that, then, I can sleep at night
And focus what really matters ‘round this time:
Spending what I’ve left of this life of mine
With friends, family, and other loved ones dear
As per the tradition this time of year.
On that note, Christmas for me just might yet
Be saved, regardless of whether I forget
About how the snow might’ve made matters better,
For really, can I afford at all to be a fretter?
Therefore, snow, fall or not. Take your pick.
My Christmas will be fine, whether or not you’ll stick,
But a sincere thanks for the memories either way
Of when I was young and knew Christmas Day.
Work in Progress
October 29, 2017
We all strive for perfection. On that you can rely.
One thing remains, however, that none of us can deny:
Reality ain’t perfect, right down to humanity.
Knowing that, too, it can be a pain to be the best one can be.
Impossible is it for anyone to live and not make mistakes.
No matter one’s competence or intentions, life rarely gives us breaks.
Perseverance and wisdom, then, are paramount to success—
Resilience in adversity’s face when we’ve obstacles to address
On our own or with someone in our corner to help us along the way,
Growing with each step we take as we do each night and day,
Recording our successes and missteps, learning from what we do wrong,
Each time performing better at each task as we march along.
Such is the way we achieve our goals from the cradle to the grave.
Success, after all, befalls upon those who see forth that effort’s made.
Sometimes You’re Better Off Not Looking Back
October 7, 2017
Sometimes you’re better off not looking back.
The past has passed, and it should stay that way.
Looking back isn’t worth the heart attack.
Something I once loved is now out of whack
Compared to how it was back in the day.
Sometimes you’re better off not looking back.
In fact, it’s long been that way, even back
When I chanced to revisit it one day.
Looking back isn’t worth the heart attack.
The passion’s gone, for folks have naught but flack
For that which they still watch to this damn day.
Sometimes you’re better off not looking back.
Watching just to hate? That just sounds wrong, jack.
Lest you’ve hope, why give them the time of day?
Looking back isn’t worth the heart attack.
All that said, guess what: I’m moving on, mack,
Lest what I’d loved improves in a big way.
Sometimes you’re better off not looking back.
Looking back isn’t worth the heart attack.
Frustration of an Undiscovered Author
September 26, 2017
Month after wasted month, year after wasted year,
I reach my hands up high for something more,
Yet no matter how far I reach, nothing ever comes near,
And I wonder if anything really is in store,
So I try hopping up and down, bounding higher with each jump,
Flailing my arms frantically all the while,
Yet no matter how feverishly my furious fists I pump,
I always fall back down in a frustrated pile.
I even cry out to the heavens, hoping someone will hear
That I’m alive and around and worth the time,
Yet all my screaming and shouting only brings me to tears
As I likewise lose this desperate voice of mine,
And once again, I’m left all alone, just as I was before,
Asking why no one sees any worth in me.
Why am I so unwanted? Why’s dealing with me such a chore?
I’m actually worth something, dammit! Can’t you see?
I’m not some braindead peasant. I’m not some clueless schmuck.
I’m more worth investing in than you think,
But ho! You keep you blowing me off and wishing me “Best of luck!”
Not telling me directly why I stink.
It’s either that, or it’s one excuse or another that I’ve already
Heard before from others just like you.
Sooner or later, though, you know one day, you’ll need to be ready
To take on somebody promising, fresh, and new,
Unless those whom you serve already are somehow immortal
Beyond their work, but I doubt that’s the case,
So come on already! Stop casting me away from your portal
As if I’m some kind of talentless disgrace.
Anyone can pick me up, after all, and make something of me
In the instance you refuse to do so, friend,
And when they do and my name becomes immortalized, you’ll see
That success for you had always been ‘round the bend.
Better things have happened for blatant schlock that’s polluted the mainstream,
Bob-bob-bobbing in it like buoyant turds,
And even if I don’t become a legend once I fulfilled my dream,
At least I’ll at last chance to be seen and heard,
And who knows? People just might like me. Wouldn’t that be a treat
After all these years I’ve spent trying to break free?
I’ll finally start a brand new life, too, living on Easy Street
Rather than carrying on through that which’s fallen on me.
All I need is someone on my side to see I’ve got what it takes
To at long last make my dream a reality,
For apparently, I’m forbidden to do so on my own, for Heaven’s sake,
But will somebody help me? I guess we’ll see.
I’ll just keep on doing what I’ve been doing this whole bloody while,
Albeit with a new approach to my crusade
In hopes that someone will hear me and greet me with a smile
And see to my success finally being made.
I’ll show you, then, that I am worth something and prove you the fool,
And the last laugh will be mine at your baseless doubts,
And I’ll throw your “Best of lucks” back at you as you wallow in a pool
Of shame towards the flippancy you used to spout.
Better days are around the corner. They just have to be.
Things can’t get that much worse from this point on.
I just have to keep trying, though, if success I want to see
And all my naysayers I want to prove wrong.
Before I can begin this article, I’d like to apologize for being tardy in posting it. Truth be told, I’d been hoping to post this editorial much sooner. However, between work, family matters, and my current writing schedule, doing so has proven to be a lot more difficult than I’ve expected. All the same, from what I’ve seen in the media in recent months—particularly this past month, what with so many new programs coming out on television during the fall season—the content included in the editorial below is still pretty relevant to what’s been going on in the world of television and motion pictures. That being said, thank you all for your patience, and again…I’m sorry in taking my dear sweet time in uploading this, as I do plan on posting future articles here on this blog in a more timely fashion in the future.
Thank you all for your time, but for now, enough kvetching. On with the editorial!
On January 23, 2016, I’d written an article on this blog about the kind of books I’d have liked to see come out in whatever at the time was left of this decade. Truth be told, I still have the same attitude regarding my suggestions as I did back then, but now my opinions have expanded towards other forms of media. After all, even though I myself can admit that the “good old days” of the 1980s and 1990s weren’t flawless by any stretch of the imagination, the fact still remains that no matter the crap that was going on in each of these two decades, there was still plenty of entertainment media out there for audiences to sink their teeth into and as such help them look beyond it all, even if only temporarily. That’s not to say that today’s entertainment scene is complete and utter trash, of course, for there’s still some good stuff out there for the masses to enjoy as well a good number of avenues through which they can check out said stuff. It always seems, however, as though such movies, television shows, and the like end up taking a back seat to whatever garbage seems to be flooding the market, which in turn leads to said garbage attracting more attention from folks by and large. Don’t get me wrong, either, for I’m quite tempted myself to vent about some of the flotsam and jetsam that’s been bob, bob, bobbing along the mainstream like buoyant fecal matter for years. Then again, what would that accomplish, even in the very unlikely instance that some major entertainment exec was to come across this humble little blog and read this specific entry? For all I know, nothing more or less than the person in question rolling his or her eyes, clicking off this page, and muttering to himself or herself, “Oh, great…another miserable malcontent from the vocal minority…”
That being said, I present to you all a small list of the kind of things that would encourage me to invest myself in a given form of entertainment. As was true before, the following represents my own preferences. If there’s any kind of idea that you think would make for a movie, television show, or similar form of media that I’ve neglected to mention, please leave it in the comments section below. Otherwise, enjoy!
Ease up with the remakes.
One of the biggest complaints that’s been circling the Internet since the beginning of this decade has to be about Hollywood’s apparent lack of original ideas and the necessity to remake, reboot, readapt, and simply flat-out re-everything they lay their hands on. Now, granted, not every movie that happens to be a remake or reboot of a previously existing film is necessarily an unholy abomination that has no business to exist. I’ve already mentioned Dredd from 2012 on December 2, 2016, for example, and its superiority to the original Judge Dredd movie from 1995. The same can be said for John Carpenter’s The Thing from 1982, Scarface from 1983, The Fly from 1986, The Blob from 1988, Cape Fear from 1991, Gone in 60 Seconds from 2000, Ocean’s Eleven from 2001, Chicago from 2002, The Italian Job from 2003, and The Hills Have Eyes from 2006, just to name a handful. Sadly, critically and monetarily successful remakes like these have recently become few and far between, as movie studios are more content to simply take something that either was or still is popular and remake it into a whole “new” film for little to no reason outside of making a quick buck from something with an already established audience. The result: Movie remakes have gone up in quantity, but down in quality. Whether such films as these are lazy, uninspired, shot-by-shot rehashes of their previously established counterparts (i.e., Gus Van Zant’s Psycho from 1998 and Samuel Bayer’s Nightmare on Elm Street from 2010) or nearly to fully complete overhauls that completely miss the point of their source material (i.e., 1999’s The Haunting or 2014’s Robocop), the fact remains that they usually only succeed at two things: alienating fans of the original works and making the originals prove all the more that they can stand on their own just fine without having to be remade. Very rare these days are remakes that respect the idea of the original property while adding something new to the formula to give audiences a movie-going experience that is both fresh and pleasant. Honestly, I can only begin to tell you the kind of backlash that the following movies, amongst others, have received for one reason or another from both audiences and professional critics alike, regardless of their financial successes.
Annie from 2014
Bad News Bears from 2005
Black Christmas from 2006
Carrie from 2013
Clash of the Titans from 2010
Conan the Barbarian from 2011
Friday the 13th from 2009
Ghostbusters: Answer the Call from 2016
It’s Alive from 2009
Mr. Deeds from 2002
Planet of the Apes from 2001
Poltergeist from 2015
Power Rangers from 2017
Pulse from 2006
Rob Zombie’s Halloween from 2007
Rollerball from 2002
Shutter from 2008
Straw Dogs from 2011
Michael Bay’s two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies
The Karate Kid from 2010
The Eye from 2008
The Omen from 2006
The Stepford Wives from 2004
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre from 2003 and its 2006 prequel, TTCM: The Beginning
The Wicker Man from 2006
Total Recall from 2012
Walking Tall from 2004
To think, too, that there are plenty of potentially eye-opening ideas out there that would more likely than not translate into excellent movies, if handled right, and possibly even be successful at the box office, should said movie receive the right kind of marketing. Alas, it’s proven to be much less of a financial risk for some studios to remake an already established product than to create a brand new one, regardless of whether doing the former or the latter is the wiser or more popular thing to do. It’s a shame, really, for if Hollywood doesn’t soon establish a keener production balance between new projects and the remakes it’s been churning out, who knows just how severe its already established creative drought will further blight the whole motion picture scene in the long run? Not only that, but if movie producers would learn to look at films from an artistic standpoint as well as a financial one, then if nothing else, they would at least come to the realization the real reason to remake a film: to do something new with its narrative that would help to improve it, such as telling it from another perspective or focusing on an element upon which the original had neglected to focus.
I could go on with this topic by talking about how many belated sequels to previously established films suffer from problems similar to those of film remakes as well as how this whole remaking trend has affected the television and video game industries as well as the world of cinema. The truth is, however, that I’d just be repeating a lot of the same points I’ve already made concerning the movie industry. Plus, let’s not forget that even though these studios are the ones responsible for putting out all these remakes the masses have taken issue with in recent years, we consumers are just as much to blame for buying tickets to see these flicks in the theaters. Even spending our hard-earned money on the home edition of these films puts cash into the producers’ pockets, which only further proves the profitability of their kind in this day and age, regardless of how many people take to the Internet to complain about them. Taking that into consideration, it seems as though the only way for us to put an end to this whole trend—or, at the very least, slow it down—is for us as a collective whole to stop paying to see these movies. Then, when the studios start to receive less and less cash flowing into their bank accounts on account of these remakes that we’ve all been taking issue with, they’ll learn to rethink this whole remakes fad and how we’ve grown sick and tired of seeing so many time-honored films receiving one subpar reincarnation after another. Granted, that’s not to automatically say that whatever original films they’ll be giving us from that point forward will automatically be instant classics. If anything, we’ll still be receiving a mixed bag as far as originals movies are concerned, just as we always have. We can still at least hope that the brunt of them will be good, however, although in that case, it’d be a matter of whether or not movie studios will have the wisdom to regard the hits of the past artistically, find out which elements made each of them work, and apply those same elements to their newer flicks.
One final note about remakes, cinematic or otherwise: If there’s ever been a time I refused to see a remake of anything that I’d seen or neglected to see back when it first came out, it was never out of fear of the remake “ruining my childhood.” If anything, as I’ve said before, even a terrible remake only confirms the original’s worth to some degree. Rather, I’m more of the opinion that the entertainment industry give today’s young people a childhood of their own of which they can be proud rather than be fed that which the people of my own generation had already been fed when we were young. Quite frankly, the sole exception to this rule is the only product out there that I personally want to see receive a remake in the near future, and that would be Bloody Roar. Simply put, BR was an IP that never reached its full potential back in the day and deserves a chance to redeem itself after the much-maligned latest entry in its franchise, 2003’s Bloody Roar 4. I mean, hey, if Killer Instinct can be brought back to life after seventeen years of inactivity with a game that retells the original story with greater clarity than the first two games combined did, then why can’t BR receive similar treatment? Aside from BR, however, I’m more apt to look forward to more original products rising up from this moment forth so that new creators can have the opportunity to change the entertainment scene for the better.
Knock it off with the snark and other forms of lazy, lowbrow humor.
As it’s been said before time and again, humor is subjective, and that which makes one person laugh could very well annoy or even offend another. That being said, I’ve grown so sick and tired of most of what passes for humor in the media today that it isn’t even funny…if you’ll forgive the unintentional yet admittedly predictable pun. Trust me, too, when I say that I can go on for quite a while about how ironic it is for most modern-day humor to be as consistently raunchy, tone-deaf, mean-spirited, and simply lowbrow as it’s been for the past decade-plus in an age where PC culture has been playing as proactive a part as it has been. Truth be told, I can see why to some extent, but just because I can doesn’t mean I’m at all among the masses who’ve jumped on board such a bandwagon. To be fair, too, I haven’t seen every single sitcom, sketch comedy show, or standup comedy act of this era. Most of what I have seen, though, has given me a bad taste in my mouth. Toilet humor, sex jokes with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the back of one’s head, graceless slapstick, blatant and ceaseless profanity—I’ve seen and heard all of the above and then some in recent years through various outlets, and none of it has ever made me laugh. If anything, such material simply makes me roll my eyes, shake my head, and wonder about the kind of mentality one has to be in to appreciate anything so lazy, thoughtless, and cheap.
I know I’ve already touched upon this topic back in my original article from last year, but honestly, I feel as though I can’t stress it enough. After all, you don’t have to be “edgy” or offensive to be funny. Just look at the success of such comedians as Gabriel Iglesias, Ellen Degeneres, Jim Gaffigan, Anjelah Johnson, and especially Brian Regan—all of whom have garnered many a laugh from audiences over the span of their careers with jokes that didn’t need to rely on foul language, “shocking” ideology or imagery, shameless pratfalls, or any other form of below-the-belt humor. Granted, there have been instances in which a couple of these comedians have strayed from their usual path, such as with Gabriel’s “racist gift basket” routine and even Ellen dropping a couple of S-bombs during her famous Taste This comedy album from 1996, but even then, these comics relied more on their wit than on straight crassness to tickle their audiences’ fancy and make them think as well as laugh. Such is the key to timeless comedy, as has been proven time and again not only by the aforementioned comics and other, similarly successful comedians, but also by many a well-remembered sitcom or sketch comedy. Even The Cosby Show’s Claire Huxtable herself, Tony Award winning actress Phylicia Rashad, can attest to this based on the following piece of information she once shared in an interview with the Huffington Post:
“Drama appeals to the emotions. Comedy appeals to the intellect.”
Such were the words that the late Dr. Frank M. Snowden, Jr. of Howard University in Washington, D.C., said to Ms. Rashad after she’d answered a question he’d posed to her and the rest of her classmates concerning whether they preferred drama or comedy, and considering my own personal comedic tastes, this comparison makes a lot of sense to me. After all, as Ms. Rashad goes on to say in the same interview, most of the sitcoms from “back in the day” that the masses know and love today had writers working behind the scenes who all worked with each other in the same room day after day as they fleshed out each episode of the show they were putting together. Such would explain why the plot and character development of these programs flowed in a smoother, more logical fashion than it would on a more recent show such as, say, the not-too-distantly-cancelled Mike & Molly. Honestly, the two titular characters first cross paths with each other at an Overeaters Anonymous conference, yet subsequently stop attending meetings that the support group hosts after they marry each other, and Mike subsequently reverts back to his rapacious couch potato ways every now and then with only the occasional reminder of his original objective to lose weight. Add to that Mike inadvertently no longer sleeping with the help of a respirator around the same time, the couple moving out of Molly’s old bedroom and into the Flynn family basement only to eventually move back into Molly’s bedroom, and so forth, and it can be pretty easy to see where viewers can be disenfranchised with such a show, regardless of M&M having lasted six seasons on CBS from 2010 to 2016. On a similar note is how M&M and a good number of other 21st century sitcoms tend to repeat the same tired jokes over and over again with little to no payoff, usually within the same episode and—worse yet—within the same scene. You know…in case the audience hadn’t gotten them the first time. Then again, even that practice isn’t as annoying and insulting as when the writers of a given sitcom decide to change certain characters that either don’t make sense within the show’s narrative or go against their established personalities altogether. I can certainly say that I could have done without the writers of Everybody Loves Raymond turning the once-sensible Debra into a bitter, self-pitying shrew who takes every opportunity she gets to throw a tantrum at Ray and the rest of the Barones or start weeping and sobbing as though someone had just run over the family dog. Come to think of it, the whole show, in my opinion, went downhill when everyone within the Barone family started yelling and screaming at one another on a regular basis. It wasn’t pleasant, clever, or fun in the slightest…only dull, grating, and utterly obnoxious. It didn’t challenge my mind at all, only my sanity, which is exactly why most of the sitcoms I’ve seen these days have turned me away from them. Stereotypical characters, predictable situations, exhausted jokes, and a bitter tone that practically everyone has seen in so many other shows of its kind—all of the above are elements that have dumbed down many a recent sitcom that I’ve regrettably watched and made me pine for the days when Night Court, Golden Girls, Cheers, Frasier, and the like ruled the airwaves with their keen wit, palatable charm, and the kind of punchy sophistication that has time and again managed to put a smile not only on my own face, but also on countless other people’s faces from one generation to the next.
Of course, as irritated as I’ve become with the banality and vulgarity that I’ve discussed earlier, there’s one more trait in today’s comedic scene that I’ve grown to abhor: snark. Now, sure, I get that the world can be a very unforgivingly (and unforgivably) unkind and frustrating place within which to live, and sometimes, one needs to just let off a sarcastic remark here or there to cope with it all. Likewise, there have been plenty of people popping up all over the Internet who’ve made snarky remarks about this, that, and the other since blogging first became a thing and editorials were no longer limited to opinionated journalists. All the same, as with everything else that has made comedy so nasty these days in comparison to what it used to be, snark has reared its ugly head so much and so often that I wonder as to whether or not I’m the only one who’s noticed it, much less has grown fed up with it. Don’t get me wrong, either, for once upon a time, I used to like characters like Dr. Peter Venkman from the classic Ghostbusters films and Chandler Bing from the earlier seasons of Friends for their wry charm, world-weary wit, and occasional sliminess. However, these two specific characters and all others like them back in the day actually had charm on account of having writers behind them who knew how to pace these characters’ sarcasm effectively and only had them pop off with a remark at moments that called for them to say something flippant so as to keep them from being completely rude, disrespectful, malicious scumbags. Additionally, no matter how despicable and depraved characters like Peter and Chandler might have come across as being at times, their writers wisely made sure to give them characteristics that would have made them at least somewhat likable to their intended audiences. For instance, Peter’s shrewdness, streetwise sociability, and secretly sweet disposition easily balanced out with his course, flippant, womanizing charlatan ways, especially when he uses his diplomacy to help free himself and his fellow Ghostbusters, Ray Stantz and Egon Spengler, from prison. Similarly, Chandler’s refusal to quit a job that he otherwise hates (i.e., an IT procurements manager) and dedication to his girlfriend-turned-wife Monica, best friend Ross, and everyone else in their social circle temper his otherwise bitter, cynical nature. Sadly, I don’t get that same feeling from more modern comedy characters such as Charlie Harper from Two and a Half Men or Dr. Leonard Hoffstadter from The Big Bang Theory. I know that’s probably going to earn me the wrath of Chuck Lorre production fans everywhere, but honestly, the way each of these two leads is written—which I could also say for the rest of the show to which each man belongs—is so thoroughly grating that it’s easy for me to forget about whatever good there might be in either of them. In fact, the further I stay away from Charlie with his hedonistic, misogynistic, scoffing self-absorption and Leonard with his needy, spineless, self-pitying, and at times ironically condescending pessimism, the more at ease I ultimately feel. Sadly, Charlie and Leonard are only two of many characters who define sarcasm according to 21st century humor, and unless there’s a more recent example of a character out there who can be sarcastic with the same grace and deftness as Peter Venkman, Chandler Bing, and the like used to, then by all means, let me know. Otherwise, I’ll remain convinced that snark is here to stay, much to my chagrin. It just isn’t appealing to me in the slightest, as it isn’t at all endearing, witty, or clever. Rather, it’s simply bitter, jaded, spiteful, and outright repulsive.
Worse yet, snark not only makes characters within fictitious works come off as unlikable assholes, but also real-life people who try to be all cute, funny, and “personable” when the situation doesn’t call for such behavior. Just read AgentQuery.com’s guide on how to write a query letter, and you’ll see the kind of annoyance I mean. Seriously, though, AgentQuery staff, grow up and knock it off with your smart-ass remarks about people’s imperfect manuscripts, query letters, and so on, and the whole idea of the “Generation Y” having a collectively short attention span on account of only a select portion of “Gen-Yers” living up to that idiotic stereotype. People come to your website to discover information that would help them procure someone who can help them get their books published. There’s no need for any of your members to act like a bunch of flippant, pompous brats in the process. It isn’t the least bit funny, as I’ve mentioned before…only tiresome, predictable, pathetic, oblivious, and obnoxious. Knock it off and act your ages, please.
Bottom line, I really hope comedy evolves soon, if it hasn’t been evolving already. After all, I read humorous books, tune in to comedy shows, and watch comedic movies in hopes of finishing something to make me laugh and forget about my cares for at least a little while. Alas, very little of what we call comedy these days is intelligent or thoughtful enough to do just that and instead merely backfires and makes me feel even grouchier than I otherwise would have been, had I not come across it in the first place. It’s not even so much that all of which I’m taking issue with here is necessarily offensive, either, as I’ve said. If anything, it’s all just so irritating, tactless, immature, and straight up nauseating…almost as if the people making these jokes are going out of their way to alienate those who see it for whatever reason. Again, I know one person’s trash is another’s treasure as far as this topic is concerned, but since when did it become comically mandatory to deliberately set forth to annoy or offend people? What happened to simply aiming to make people laugh or, at the very lest, smile? Whatever happened to using one’s intellect to stimulate people’s minds and ultimately put them in a good mood as opposed to stooping to the lowest common denominator? Are the days of merry banter, quick-witted quips, sharp wordplay, and the like forever dead? I sure hope not, for with all the crap that’s still going on in this mess of a world within which we live, we all more than ever need material that brings joy to our lives, not more pain and anguish. Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen from these past couple of decades, there hasn’t been enough of that substance going around, and quite frankly, it’s enough to make me sick.
Smarten up your writing…PERIOD.
I’m pretty sure you’ve all noticed this by now, but there have been times in the past where people have proven to be pretty stupid—not merely uninformed or unobservant, either, but simply and utterly witless. I know that sounds disparaging and rude, but let’s face it, folks: We’ve all more likely than not seen, heard, discovered, and probably even known people in our lives who’ve habitually said and done things that make us question whether or not they even know how to think at all. Heck, even now, such people continue to thrive and contribute to what one can very readily call the continued downfall of society as we know it, and even the most intelligent amongst us have forgotten how to use our heads, even if only for a brief moment, and succumbed to saying or doing something that has made others question our own sensibilities. That in mind, is it any wonder as to why certain forms of entertainment that a sizable portion of the audience considers to be pointless, tasteless, or otherwise idiotic still exist these days? Is it likewise any wonder why so many people tune in to such garbage, even when they know it’s bad for their brain and doesn’t warrant their attention? Thankfully, there do exist certain forms of entertainment, comedic and dramatic alike, that appeal to folks who despise having their intelligence insulted. Sadly, even they don’t last forever. In fact, too many of them never catch on well enough to last longer than a handful of years at best and are cancelled before they can truly make much of a mark upon American pop culture as we know it. So severe is the problem, too, that one could write up an entire essay on it if one wished to tackle the issue in depth. Who knows? I myself might do just that on this blog, should it remain standing long enough for me to do so…and should I get the gumption to follow through with such an idea. For the sake of simplicity, though, there are some key traits that indicate why a given piece of fictional media might not be as well written as it otherwise could or should be:
Poor character portrayal and development. Have you ever watched a TV show or movie that featured a character that the writer had meant for audience members to perceive one way, only to come across as being completely different? That’s basically poor characterization in a nutshell, and to be quite frank, I’ve seen it happen in one form of storytelling too many. It’s never worked for me, either, regardless of the excuse that the writer or writers of a given work may offer to excuse the character in question acting in a way that doesn’t make sense for him or her. Maybe the writer(s) didn’t know what to do with said character beyond a certain point and felt the need to pull something out of thin air just to keep him or her relevant…even if that very something more or less made no sense in regards to who or what he or she already was or had already experienced according to the story’s overall plot. Maybe the writer(s) had meant to have him or her progress beyond a given point, yet had failed to do so out of negligence and thus either gave up on him or her altogether or forced him or her into a situation that would have him or her grow in the direction that he/she/they had initially intended for him or her. Whatever the case, failing to allow a given character to evolve naturally during the course of any given production is a great way to ruin any kind of story—even one that was already unimpressive to begin with.
Poor plot progression. This next trait tends to ruin just as many stories as poor character development and portrayal do and, more times than not, works hand-in-hand with the former to create some of the most negatively received forms of fictitious media that humanity has come to know. Far too often do these particular stories feature character actions and other events that simply don’t make any sense, usually on account of the writer either compulsorily or carelessly stringing events together in an attempt to show and/or tell the story at hand. Sometimes a character will react to an event in a fashion that portrays him or her as having more knowledge than he or she should, such as a young girl automatically deciphering the coded glyphs that adorn a bizarre ancient compass that she has just received. Sometimes an event will occur in a way that betrays the rules of reality, such as an alleged murderess in a mansion turning off all the mansion’s lights when she is located in the mansion’s basement while the power source to the lights is on the ground floor. This later occurrence can even happen in science fiction, fantasy, and even some horror stories, which are notably more lax in their rules of reality. Say, for example, you were watching a fantasy film in which it has already been established that trolls can regenerate wounds caused by anything but fire, and it just so happens that the heroes are caught in a violent confrontation with a troll. Would it make more sense for the heroes to dispatch of the hostile creature with flaming arrows and a bow…or a simple silver stake through the heart? Even choices that a given character makes can mess up a story’s plot, such as the protagonist and her friends finally coming across the crime lord they’ve been gunning after throughout the course of the tale, only for the protagonist to agree to become the crime lord’s right-hand woman without any prior foreshadowing of or motivation for her betraying her allies. Such is the kind of stuff that would make any audience member scratch his or her head and wonder just what the writer(s) were thinking—if, of course, he/she/they were even thinking at all.
Deliberate shock value. Call me a prude all you want, but many has there been a movie, television show, comic book, novel, or video game that just had to go that extra mile into “adult territory,” only to turn out to be a tacky, hollow, shallow, pandering, lowbrow, soulless mess on account of such a misguided decision. Granted, there have been instances in which extreme violence, foul language, sexually explicit content, and the like have been used in fiction to great effect and paint a rather bleak mental picture for audiences to perceive the story’s overall themes and message. At other times, however, such content has been thrown into such works haphazardly “just for the hell of it” for the sake of drawing in viewers, readers, listeners, and/or players. The result: an egregiously incognizant product that may draw in the morbidly curious for a while by promoting its “shocking” content, only to send such an audience off either offended once said content rears its ugly head or disappointed once its effects upon them wear off. It is in such works that extreme violence becomes less about dramatic, heart-pounding action and more about wanton gore. Similarly, characters spew forth so much profanity to the point where they come off as petulant and immature more than they do tough, sex scenes become more nauseating and lust-based than genuine and even alluring, and all other adult-themed content similarly loses its necessity throughout the course of the story. Granted, some people may end up enjoying these products ironically, but in the end, what more are they to these people than guilty pleasures? Worse yet is how the brunt of these pieces have shown to have very little to no substance lying beneath their “gritty” and “edgy” style and end up coming across as the blatant smut that they truly are, and even those pieces that do happen to have substance aren’t always guaranteed to tell a better story than their tamer counterparts unless their storytelling is spot-on from start to finish. As a result, such productions are either doomed to live on in pop culture infamy for their schlock value or die off almost as quickly as they’d come. Either case is usually for good reason, too, especially within the presence of so many other works just like them out on the market waiting for curious eyes to fall upon them and said eyes’ owners caving in to temptation and giving them a watch, read, listen, or play…only to discover the cold, harsh reality in the end.
Pandering to the lowest common denominator. This final flaw, in my opinion, has got to be the most fatal of them all when it comes to providing audiences with decent fiction. After all, even the most intelligent viewer, listener, reader, or gamer may want to shut his or her brain off every once in a while, but that isn’t reason enough for the producer of a given work of fiction to offer them something that treats them and the rest of the audience as though their brains don’t work at all. Even so, many is the moment in which the audience’s intelligence is either flat-out or accidentally insulted, such as when a joke or other occurrence is explained in-work for those who might not have “gotten it” or when random scenes successively take place with little to no context between them. I could say the same for events that occur with little to no buildup (particularly major ones, such as the reveal of a narrative’s chief antagonist) or when seemingly important information comes up during the plot’s unfolding, only to go on ignored later on either by the writers reducing its overall irrelevance or even outright refuting said information altogether. Don’t even get me started, either, on when a writer offers his or her audience a scene that defies conventional wisdom or logic simply to steer the plot in a given direction. Trust me, folks, for I, too, have felt as though I’d been talked down to when situations like this have played out in the fiction that I’d come across, and it’s not a very flattering feeling in the slightest. I’m sorry, but if a writer feels the need to explain to me the context of what had just happened, expects me to simply go along with a seemingly nonsensical chain of events taking place without any common ground between them, or demonstrates anything that is similarly jarring in his or her story, then I can’t help but question his or her mindset. Personally, I would like to think that the writers who commit such errors do so on account of just not paying close enough attention to their work. Otherwise, they would catch these mistakes in their screenplays, manuscripts, and demos before their ultimate production. I’m certainly no different, as I myself have fallen prey to my own anxiousness and have let a mistake or two slip through my fingers upon publishing my work. I’ve been making efforts to avoid repeating that process, however, and hope that other writers—regardless of the form their fiction takes—do the same. Alas, not every writer has proven to take note of his or her botches and done anything to correct his or her creative approach in the future. In fact, I’m sure there are plenty of writers out there who are unconvinced of how weak their grasp on storytelling actually is, and my gut instinct tells me that we all will be seeing more intellect-insulting narration down the line. Hopefully, though, it won’t be as bad as it’s been in recent memory.
All this in mind, let it be known that in order for intelligence to at long last claim a hold upon the realm of fiction, it’s up to the masses to recognize the poorly written stuff for what it is and do everything in their power to not support it. Sorry, folks, but it just isn’t worth it. Schlock is schlock, no matter what form it comes in, and even morbid curiosity—especially in the vain hope of liking something ironically—should never be considered reason enough for people to spend their time or money on it. Doing so, after all, only rewards the creators of such filth for making it, and if people are as adamant about the television, motion picture, video game, and literary industries smartening up and consequently creating more intelligent products, then they need to actively demand better. That doesn’t mean simply voicing one’s opinion about certain forms of media whenever and wherever one can, either. Sure, speaking out against the world’s dreck is a good start, but as the old saying goes, actions do speak louder than words. On that note, then, always regard that which you see and hear with caution when it comes to certain products, and if what you perceive doesn’t sell you completely on the product being advertised, then follow your gut instincts and keep your money and your time to yourself. Remember…first impressions might not be everything, but they still carry quite a bit of weight when it comes to determining the value of a given piece of media.
In short, despite what progress we may have made recently in improving the quality of fictional media, we’ve still got a long way to go in achieving the level of storytelling excellence that I at least expect from this day and age. I’m sure that there are plenty of other obstacles that I haven’t even mentioned that creators need to overcome in order to tell the kind of stories that they think would captivate today’s jaded, demanding audiences. The apparent death of originality in modern-day media and the pressure of certain interest groups to create films, TV shows, and the like that appeal to their own specific tastes are certainly two that come to mind that are definitely worth tackling. However, without thoughtful, creative, intelligent writing serving as a foundation, no story can hope to win audiences over. After all, no matter how many people within the entertainment business will tell you that talent is “overrated,” we need talented and attentive writers more than ever nowadays to create the very works we need to immerse ourselves in from time to time and give us a break from this cold, harsh, and unforgiving reality we’ve all come to know. I sure know that as a writer myself, I have been improving my craft since the day I first created this blog, and hopefully the day will come when I can leave a positive grand-scale affect upon the literary market. Until then, though, I encourage the creators of today’s fictional media to step up their game and give us masses something we can support on a regular basis with sincere pride and satisfaction. Not only that, but I also hope that the undiscovered talent of today at long last get their time to shine and have their stories published, filmed, and presented for the masses to enjoy, thus proving to the world that artistic vision has more value than the detractors may realize. After all, considering the kind of crap we’ve had to endure over the years up to this point, I believe the time has come for us all to change things for the better in one way or another.
All rambling aside, thanks again for stopping by, and as always, be sure to visit my author pages at Smashwords.com, Amazon.com, and Amazon.co.uk to see what I have available, and please stay tuned for more content in the near future. Until then, happy reading!
Dustin M. Weber
PS: All credit for the pics used in the above article goes to as follows:
Lampray and Laser Unicorns
Phylicia Rashad’s April 6, 2014 Interview with Huff Post Live
MegaGrey’s Streets of Rage (Genesis) Blaze’s Bad Ending
The opinions discussed within, however, are the author’s own.