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Weird Karma meets Weird Al!
Jan 31st, 2010 by Dr Karma

As loyal readers know, last weekend was Al-Eddie-Al. The boyfriend even made T-shirts to celebrate the occasion. Here’s what happened with the Al parts (Eddie to follow in a later posting).

After an amazing lunch at Angeline’s in Berkeley, we arrived at Cobb’s Comedy Club. Unfortunately, many people arrived before us, so we had to sit near the back. Weird Al Yankovic was in “in conversation” with Chris Hardwick, the host of Web Soup. I will freely admit here that I didn’t know who he was; even though he’s had lots of gigs, I’ve never watched something that featured him. Hardwick began by talking about Al as his idol (I could relate). The third time they met, he asked Al to lunch, and they’ve been friends ever since. (I’d seen Al in concert three times, but I’d never met him before).

The conversation was good, though I suppose many of us in the audience knew the basics–where Al went to school, etc. I’m glad that we were sitting in the middle, as Al kept turning to Hardwick, which put his hair in his face and blocked the view for one side of the audience.

There were also video clips.

One of the things we were able to see was this clip from Al’s “Eat It” years. He was invited to perform on what was described as Japan’s Saturday Night Live. He assured us that his look of total confusion was not acting: <object width=”425″ height=”344″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/mJEvTCqToCk&hl=en_US&fs=1&”></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param><embed src=”http://www.youtube.com/v/mJEvTCqToCk&hl=en_US&fs=1&” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”425″ height=”344″></embed></object>

They also showed this absolutely awful rendition of “My Sharona,” which Al agreed to do for a friend’s school project in college (this was way before MTV, btw). Apparently, this is an easter egg on his video collection, but I’ve never once found an easter egg, perhaps because I don’t randomly hit buttons when I’m watching DVDs: <object width=”425″ height=”344″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/1BnfhNNaFgQ&hl=en_US&fs=1&”></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param><embed src=”http://www.youtube.com/v/1BnfhNNaFgQ&hl=en_US&fs=1&” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”425″ height=”344″></embed></object>

Then came the audience questions. Most of them were banal and some were below banal (can I take a picture of you; would you sign this?). I wanted mine to be special.

Hardwick was choosing the audience members, so when he got close, I kept my hand up and gave him a flirty look (the things I do for Al!). When my time came, I could hear my own heartbeat. I managed to thank Al for allowing Du and I to use the lyrics to “Weasel Stomping Day” in our book. And then I told him that DJ and I saw a street sign in Maui that had been corrected: drive-slowlyWhen we returned to the mainland, DJ found out who fixed that sign.  Yes, it was Al. (See the video of him altering the sign here: http://www.twitvid.com/BF9B7). I asked Al if he always carried sign fixing stickers around with him. He said usually not and that his wife made him take down the sticker after a few days.

This means two things. One, when DJ and I said the sign was proof that there are intelligent people in the world, we should have known it was Al. Second, Al and his wife were there at the same time as DJ and I.

After the questions, Al graciously signed things for people. He signed a shirt for me and the picture of the sign for DJ. I gushed and had a total nerd freak out when I  got to shake his hand.

Look how happy I am:

Dr. Karma & Weird Al

Dr. Karma & Weird Al

We saw Al again at midnight, after we’d reunited with the boy. Al was introducing a midnight screening of UHF (after which he left, presumably to get some sleep). DJ and I weren’t sure we were going to make it through the film, but it went at an amazing pace, as usual.

All in all, it was one of the best days of my life. Al is not a disappointment as a hero, as so many people can be–he’s kind and smart and is my favorite star in the world.

The real lesson of the day, though?

The third time I meet him, I’m definitely asking him to lunch!

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The News This Week
Jan 21st, 2010 by Dr Karma

A few thoughts on the news:

The Supreme Court has just reversed precedent that limited how much corporations can spend on political campaigns. On a theoretical level, I’m torn. I believe in free speech, and the corporations are claiming that money IS free speech.

On a practical level, however, I’m not torn at all. I’m not convinced that money is free speech. If it is, then I don’t really have any access to free speech at all.

If money is free speech, we can’t call it “free” anymore.

The way corporations run everything is already frightening. This decision opens the door to America fully becoming a corpocracy. It’s already absurd that insurance companies get to be “consulted” on health care reform bills (um, they profit when you pay but then they get to deny you the coverage you paid for). Imagine what their “free speech” will be able to accomplish now.

In other news, hearings have shown that one of the major problems that caused the Christmas day Detroit flight near-bombing was a spelling error. That is, the person putting the terrorist’s name into the system spelled it wrong.

Congresspeople yesterday were assured that the government was now using a spell-checker program to prevent this from happening again.

Two things: 1. a spell checker program will not help, because names aren’t in the spell-checker’s dictionary. A spell-checker doesn’t know my last name to know if it’s spelled correctly; it’s not going to know likely bombers’ names, either.

2. To all those people who thought I was crazy for saying that proofreading could sometimes be the difference between life and death . . . I was right.

Finally, Conan’s last show will be on Friday. This is such bullshit. Conan is funnier than Jay has ever been. Jay Leno left The Tonight Show because he wanted more money in prime time. He bombed. And now he’s being rewarded by getting his old job back? Fuck him. If I left my job and my job was filled–with a talented person with a contract–I wouldn’t get my job back after I totally failed at the other job.

In fact, am now boycotting Jay Leno. Yes, he joins Domino’s, Six Flags, Coors, Continental Airlines, and Long John Silvers.

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New Column!
Jan 20th, 2010 by Dr Karma

My new matchflick column is up. http://www.matchflick.com/column/2089

And I’m sorry I haven’t written lately. I’m down with a cold (and with teaching and with the rain). Luckily, I wrote this column two weeks early.

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In Praise of The Simpsons
Jan 9th, 2010 by Dr Karma

simpsons-20Living under a rock? Then you might not know that The Simpsons is celebrating its 20th anniversary tomorrow. (More importantly, you may want to reconsider your living arrangements. And how are you getting the internet under there?)

Tomorrow night my family will gather around the tv, which has spent more time raising the boy than I have, to enjoy the 450th episode of this groundbreaking series, followed by Morgan Spurlock’s documentary.

As some readers know, I talked to one of the producers of the documentary. (And she said she found my name in her first day of research!) Du and I were hoping to get into the documentary. We’re superfans, right? I mean, our book on The Simpsons is coming out in May and is available for preorder: http://www.amazon.com/Simpsons-Classroom-Embiggening-Experience-Springfield/dp/0786444908/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1263072262&sr=1-1 (See what I did there; it’s all about subtlety.) embiggening

Apparently, Du and I are not crazy enough. Well, we are, but it’s not that apparent upon just talking to us for a few minutes–we’re a simmering and longer-lasting kind of crazy. But we don’t have our whole back tatooed with images from the show. Who does? Watch the documentary and find out.

A few notes on the anniversary: if you’re counting from the first time the Simpsons family was on the air, the 20th anniversary would have been April 19th, 2007 (we first saw the Simpsons on The Tracey Ullman Show). If you’re counting from the first time the show was on the air, the anniversary would have been December 17th, 2009 (the first full-length episode was “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire“). Sunday night is relatively close to the next possible anniversary date, January 14th, when “Bart the Genius” appeared.

I know, I know, I sound like Comic Book Guy (Jeff Anderson). Well, I sound like him in nerdy-knowledge, but a lot of other bloggers out there sound like him in their constant irritable yammering about how The Simpsons isn’t funny anymore and about how it shouldn’t be on the air. Even my own boyfriend complains about The Simpsons–he got irritated with the show a few years ago when they had too many un-funny guest stars. Admittedly, there have been a few irritating guest stars, mostly of the sports-variety (they don’t card read good). Luckily, the show has gotten better on this particular front.

But I want to address the critics’ repeated concerns. First, if you think the show shouldn’t be on anymore, don’t watch it. Some of us do still enjoy it, so let us have it. However, when you turn from The Simpsons, don’t be surprised when you realize that the vast (vast) majority of what’s on television doesn’t even deserve a discussion about continuing quality, as it never had quality in the first place.

Let’s address the quality issue. Some argue that The Simpsons isn’t funny anymore. I will agree with most critics that Seasons 4-8 were amazing (the Conan years were the best!), but there were some duds then and some winners then. There are dud episodes now, but there are some winners, too.

In fact, I don’t think the show has changed all that much. We’ve changed though. Yes, like Kent Brockman, I’m placing the blame squarely on you, the viewer! Think back to those early years of The Simpsons–it was innovative and scandalous not because of anything inherent, but because we found it so. It was new–we were shocked & pleased. Arguably, The Simpsons and our reaction to it changed television. Now we have South Park and Family Guy and the myriad shows on Adult Swim. Those shows often seem to be the innovative and scandalous things we long for. But note how the older a show becomes, the less scandalous we find it.

A show can only push an envelope in the beginning. Then we get used to the new position of the envelope and something else has to come along to push it into a new place. That doesn’t mean the show changes or gets less funny. In fact, it means the opposite–the show is the same–our expectations have shifted. The Simpsons and South Park often seem quaint today compared to newer shows because we have become immune to their brand of shock. That’s what repeated innoculations do.

I will readily admit that I’ve changed as a viewer. I’m not the same person I was in 1989. I have become desensitized to a lot. But I still believe that The Simpsons is superior to its cartoon progeny. Why? Because it’s still well-written. Because I actually care about the characters and the community it’s built (I actively dislike most of the characters on Family Guy, in comparison, no matter how funny the constant references to the popular culture of my childhood are). I enjoy watching the shows repeatedly–the layers of jokes and references in the show are unparalleled in contemporary cartoons (Arrested Development came close in the non-cartoon world). Thus, I see new things every time I watch. While jokes may be funny on the second viewing of the other shows, I don’t see anything new in the watching.

The Simpsons provides us with a language we speak, a perfectly cromulent language in fact. It gives us something to talk about with people from other cultures–laughter is universal & so is laughing with the show. And please don’t forget, whatever  you think about the show now, that The Simpsons paved the way for the currently edgy shows you love. Wanna take bets on whether your favorite show will reach 450 episodes?

I didn’t think so.

Happy Anniversary, The Simpsons!

Love, Karma your_image1

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