Monday, May 30, 2011

The Best Stupid Questions About 80s Songs Used In Commercials.

Rogue Mutt yesterday, reading my post about how the only area of pop culture attuned to my likes is commercials, raised the Philosophical Question: Which song has been featured more in commercials, "Melt With You" or "Tempted" by Squeeze?

Never one to miss an opportunity to take advantage of a chance to eke out a post without having to use my own ideas, and also never one to actually get up and do some real work for a change, I decided to pick up the gauntlet Rogue threw down and find out the answer to his question -- and to raise my own questions, in a post I cleverly titled...

... well, you read the title, didn't you? Let's get on with it.

1. Did Def Leppard really steal a line from The Archies?

There's your Pour Some Sugar On Me, and I sympathize with the guy because I, too, thought they said something about Ramen in there. Here's the full song, sadly minus Catherine Zeta-Jones:

Now for the stupid question's answer: Yes. At the end of The Archies' decidedly non-metal hit Sugar, Sugar, the Archies repeat, over and over, Pour a little sugar on me baby.

They also say "I just can't believe the loveliness of loving you," which is a great line. Admit it. Rolls right off the tongue.

Here's a bigger question, though: What's the deal with 'pouring a little sugar on me?' What's that supposed to mean? The girl the guy is singing about is sugar, right? That's the only way it makes sense. And here's a bigger question: whatever happened to Def Leppard? The answer is: They became Nickelback. It's true: look it up. (Don't look it up.)

2. Why was dancing so dangerous in the 1980s?

Between John Lithgow staring down at Kevin Bacon, that one movie with Sarah Jessica Parker having to sneak out to go to the dance competition, and the dangers of breakdancing, dancing might have ended up as Public Enemy Number One, had not "drugs" and/or "rock lyrics" been seen for the threats they were -- and had not Men Without Hats announced, partway through the decade, that it was safe to dance:

Was that an homage to inception, in the middle of an 80s parody? I don't get it. But that's not the original, of course. Here's the original, featuring the original dwarf, too. :

Was the dwarf an homage to This Is Spinal Tap? Or to that other great threat of the 80s, Dungeons & Dragons?

That song, too, begs another question: What was the Safety Dance? Nobody's really clear. The lead singer of Men Without Hats supposedly said that the song was about New Wave dancers being allowed to dance the way they wanted to, when bouncers would try to stop them from what they viewed as dangerous dancing -- so the song was meant as a big stick in the eye of those counterrevolutionary bouncers.

Hence the nuclear images at the end of the video.

3. Can you get the telephone number 867-5309?

Everyone who was anyone... well, everyone who worked at Chenequa Country Club, and was stuck there late one night but realized that the bar had been left open and so was able to make mixed drinks with their friends in a story that I'll leave hanging because to finish it implies that we then drove home extremely drunk in Bob's white Impala...

... tried dialing that number:

But only a few businesses tried to actually use the number, ending up in court over who had the right to pretend they had once dated Jenny and that's why they use the number, man, to remind me of Jenny, marking the first time ever that plumbing companies became interesting to people when there wasn't poop flowing into their living room.

That lawsuit in turn got Tommy Tutone bothered, because for years he'd claimed it wasn't a real number at all, but if someone's going to get rich off the number, it might as well be him: "It's ridiculous," he said. "If I wanted to get into it, I could probably take the number away from both of them."

But he'd mostly be doing it because he didn't want people thinking he'd spent the 80s pining away for a plumber.

But you don't have to fight Tommy for the right to have people drunk-dial you at night and sing you a song; you could have bought the number yourself on eBay...

... for $365,000.

Imagine how easy it would be to balance the budget without killing senior citizens, if we just taxed stupid eBay auctions.

4. Do extra charges apply if I attach my soul to the text message?

If you were one of the people unlucky enough to be left behind on May 21 -- sure, we all joke about it, but can you swear this isn't the six-months' tribulation? I saw video of Sarah Palin in black leather at the Washington Monument, and if that isn't one of the Seven Signs, I'll eat my hat -- then you might still be able to sneak in the back door of Heaven (the ungated side) by getting a Cingular phone:

That commercial uses Peter Gabriel's Solsbury Hill, a/k/a "That song that wasn't Sledgehammer,":

with good reason, too: using a cell phone is pretty much the closest any of us will ever come to a religious experience like the one that inspired Peter Gabriel to right a song about... um... renouncing material things and going to Heaven. The song is explained on thusly:

By February 1977 Peter had passed through a period of relative inactivity, frustrating piano sessions and a slightly bizarre obsession with vegetables notwithstanding (quite understandably, his wife Jill was convinced he had flipped)...

Okay, that doesn't really explain anything, but I did want to quote it here, because anytime I can do a post that ends with the phrase a slightly bizarre obsession with vegetables, I call that a good day's work.

P.S. According to my sources, I Melt With You (which is the actual title) was used in 7 commercials, counting cover versions not done by Modern English. I was only able to find three commercials which used Tempted, and that's counting its use in Grand Theft Auto:

But Tempted was also covered by (I think?) The Waltons:

Whereas I Melt With You was covered by high school girls who play the harp:

So make of that what you will.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Best (Movie) Sequel

Newsweek, from where it seems that I get all my news but from which I actually get very little -- because I only subscribe to Newsweek anymore out of habit, "habit" in this case meaning "way back when, I paid for enough subscriptions that I will continue to get issues of Newsweek long after they have stopped publishing it" --

... and don't ask yourself how that can happen. It's quantum mechanics, and you don't have to understand it, you just have to make up something silly sounding and eventually scientists will claim to have actually witnessed that in a laboratory, only to then be unable to reproduce the results of the experiment until they get $1,000,000,000 in grants, a hot lab assistant, and a margarita...

... Newsweek recently ran an article by Roger Ebert, because apparently the print version of Newsweek has opted to try to stay relevant by printing only articles written by famous people, whose opinions count for more than those of regular people. (The "written by famous people" angle is Newsweek editor Tina Brown's one trick pony, the same thing she did when she was at Vanity Fair. When Newsweek fires her, and she winds up at Life + Style, expect "Stars: They're Just Like Us" written by Jack Nicholson and Michelle Obama.)

Where was I? Oh, yeah: The famous opinions of the famous Roger Ebert, who in the latest issue of Tina Brown's Personal Blog opines that sequels are ruining the movie industry, noting that according to some website or other -- there's a website for every statistic, now -- this summer will feature more sequels than any summer before it, a travesty of sequelization that to Roger Ebert (who previously opined that 3D was what was killing the movies, and, had he been around for The Wizard Of Oz would likely have railed against this color that was destroying the integrity of movies) is worth taking up a few pages moaning about.

I've got a contrarian streak a mile wide, and when someone in a position of famousosity takes a stance, I am 99% likely to immediately decide just the opposite, and that is almost as many percents as you can have without resorting to quantum mechanics (using quantum mechanics, you can do all sorts of crazy things, like have "Yellow Percent" or "velociraptors").

So I was immediately taken with the idea of complaining that there are not enough sequels, simply because Roger Ebert said there are too many.

Then, too, there's the fact that complaining about something is far easier than celebrating something, and the whole point of this blog, before it admittedly became rather mean-spirited in recent times, was to celebrate The Best Of Everything (or didn't you get that from the title?), and so I decided that unlike Roger Ebert, and others, I wouldn't bemoan sequels, but would celebrate them by determining what was The Best Sequel.

And then I turned the page on that Newsweek article -- yes, I thought that all between finishin Ebert's article and turning the page, because I'm very smart -- and saw that Newsweek had in fact stolen my idea before I'd even had it -- I told you, almost anything is possible with quantum mechanics, including but not limited to quantum mechanics itself -- and had run down what it figured was the best sequel (they don't get capitalization. Only I do.)

Newsweek came up with, as their best sequel, The Godfather Part II, which is about what you'd expect from a bunch of navel-gazing baby boomers who figure they are the most significant thing that ever happened to the planet; a blip in birth rates caused by a generation that was far greater than the Baby Boomers coming home from a war has raised 50 million people whose sense of self-importance is inflated far beyond any rational basis. So you popularized rock 'n' roll and cocaine; get over it.

As I pondered the chart that Newsweek had created, and the article that Ebert had emitted, I began to consider just how loosely people were using the word sequel. Included in the list of sequels Ebert complains about are, for example, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two, and the new Winnie The Pooh movie -- with Ebert complaining that the former is "itself a sequel," which I thought was the point of his article.

(As an aside, Ebert tries to broaden his attack on Hollywood's supposed lack of creativity by somehow equating reliance on sequels with the "upbeat" feeling instilled by the trailer for The Beaver. No, I didn't get it, either.)

Other "sequels" Ebert includes in his list are X-Men: First Class, and Madea's Big Happy Family. Which I suppose are sequels, depending on how you define the word -- except that First Class is actually a prequel, which means that it converts the earlier X-men movies into sequels themselves, only sequels that were made before the movie they sequelled, which is the kind of time-bending thing that results in people being their own grandfather, so I don't like to think about it.

Which Ebert, and Newsweek, and everyone else, don't seem to be doing very strictly. I've always been bothered by people who insist that Kill Bill Vol. 2 was a "sequel" -- it was simply the second half of the movie, which was originally too long to be released, and so was cut into two parts. Really, there was just a long intermission there.

And are the Lord Of the Rings movies made up of The Fellowship of the Ring, and two sequels? Or are all three sequels, of a sort, to the as-yet-unmade The Hobbit, which was a sequel, too -- in a way. Tolkien wrote various stories about the mythology of Middle Earth, but was unable to get them published initially; it wasn't until 1936, when the book The Hobbit was published (a book he'd written for his kids) that anyone paid any attention to them -- and Tolkien then wrote The Lord Of The Rings when people wanted a sequel. The story itself was one book, but publishing costs in the 1950s forced Tolkien to break it into 3 separate volumes. ("Publishing costs", and "We want to make people pay 3 times for one book." So people who criticize Harry Potter for stretching out the final film: Tolkien did it first.)

It was only decades later, that Tolkien's original stories were published as The Silmarillion.

Which makes the three movies -- one of which won an Oscar -- all sequels to a book nobody's ever read.

At least Tolkien did it right: his first story didn't dispose of all the major plot lines and create the ultimate weapon, the way George Lucas*

*Mandatory Star Wars Reference

did in Star Wars. What was left to tell at the end of that movie? The rebellion had been growing, the Empire had the greatest weapon ever made, Luke got off of Tatooine, blew up the Death Star, and that was it. Sure, there might be some mopping up to do yet, but the main story was over.

That's what makes The Empire Strikes Back a "sequel", a real sequel: To me, a sequel is a story that shouldn't have existed, a story that was never contemplated when the original story was written.

That's an easy definition to come by. If you look at The Hobbit, it's pretty clear that Tolkien didn't give any thought to any stories to come after. Bilbo found that ring in a mountain, owned by a frog-thing, and the ring made him invisible: pretty standard stuff for fantasy. When people began demanding a sequel, Tolkien had to come up with more story for characters who were at the end of the line. (The Silmarillion, after all, takes place way before the events that Bilbo and Frodo took part in.) So he crammed some details into the backstory: that ring that Bilbo found? Actually a tremendous ring of power. But it just seems to turn people invisible. That's because you don't know how to use it. It was created in Mordor. Funny we didn't hear much about Mordor in the first book. Hey, look, here's "rangers." Funny, we didn't hear much about them, either.

And what was the deal with Tom Bombadil? I mentioned in a tweet a while back that I'm pretty sure he was Tolkien's Jar Jar Binks and I stand by that.

The Lord of the Rings, I bet, was never contemplated, and don't tell me otherwise: Tolkien had written The Hobbit as a kid's book, and initially started writing LOTR as a kids' series, too.

The Empire Strikes Back, also, was not a movie that George Lucas ever contemplated making when he filmed Star Wars. He can say whatever he wants, now, but nobody releases part four of a series first, and there's no way that part four of a planned six-part series has the ultimate battle and showdown. As I've said before and will go on saying, the very fact that Lucas threw a second Death Star into the series is proof that the first movie was never intended to have a sequel. Frodo didn't get to Mordor in the first 1/3 of Lord Of The Rings.

Sequels -- continuations of a story -- are not a problem when there's more to tell about characters, after all. That's why Ebert doesn't have any problem with James Bond movies, which are all sequels: James Bond's whole life is a movie, making each movie not so much a "sequel" as I define it but simply a continuation of one single story: James Bond's life as a secret agent.

That's how it works on TV. If Lost had been a series of movies, Roger Ebert (and everyone else) would presumably be complaining, saying "Here we are again, another summer, another of those Lost movies" and suggesting that it showed that Hollywood has lost its creativity.

But because Lost was on TV -- where each week we are treated to a sequel of the entertainment we liked the week before -- nobody thought anything of it.

Consider another movie. Let's pick one at random... say, um... hmmm... Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

There's a movie that doesn't need or deserve a sequel, right? (Even though I've actually written one for it.) It doesn't deserve one because the whole entire point of the movie was to look at one day in Ferris Bueller's life.

There were probably other things that could be examined in Ferris' life -- the movie could have been focused on how he and Cameron became friends, or how he met Sloane, or what he did to become so big a hit in school, or anything. But it chose to focus on one single day in his life, and therefore never really contemplated or needed a sequel -- so a sequel to the movie would have been ridiculous (unless, of course, it was my sequel, which clearly should be optioned and make me rich.)

There is, in fact, a move towards more sequels -- as people gravitate towards long-form storytelling on cable TV. Breaking Bad, with Hal From Malcolm In The Middle, was nothing but a series of sequels, but sequels that were necessary because the idea was to tell his whole story. (I assume; I only watched the first two or three episodes ever. But I hear it's great, and I don't hear people complaining that each week there's another Breaking Bad sequel.) Then there's that one historical-era TV series where Kate Winslet decided to get naked a lot in order to compensate for the fact that Lucy Lawless was getting a lot of attention for getting naked in her historical-era series, and there's the new HBO series based on that Thrones book that I'll never read because Michael Offutt confirmed for me that I shouldn't.

Really, it's only movies where people complain about sequels. Books have sequels all the time. Nobody's complaining that Patricia Cornwell slathers together another Kay Scarpetta book every thirty minutes or so. (Except me.) Everyone was thrilled to death that J.K. Rowling was writing 7 Harry Potter novels (although part of the "thrill" might have been faked to keep her from suing them) -- only to then complain that there are sequels to the movie versions of her (sequel) books.

In music, too, people want sequels: they want reunion tours and new albums by artists all the time. When was the last time you heard a music fan say "Oh, God, REM is releasing a new album?! I wish they'd just retire and let someone new come along." (Or Beyonce, or fill-in-your-artist of choice.) People are still mad that The Beatles aren't making new music -- sequels to their earlier albums.

Comic books are monthly sequels, sometimes running for nearly a century, in Superman's case.

And people love babies, too, and isn't a baby a sequel to the parents?

You get the point. So why do people hate sequels in movies? The answer is simple:

They don't.

People don't really hate sequels to movies. They just like to pretend they do. They pretend they hate sequels because it's the "in" thing to do -- but if everyone really hated sequels, we wouldn't go see them and they wouldn't be made.

No, we like sequels just fine, but we pretend we don't, the way we pretend we don't really watch much TV and the way we pretend we don't let our kids eat pizza for breakfast: we do these things because society -- in the form of Roger Ebert, writing in Tina Brown's Vanity Project -- tells us we're not supposed to like them.

And we're not supposed to like them even though the snobs like Ebert like them, too -- if the sequel is one they happen to approve of.

Ebert liked the Star Wars sequels, and The Dark Knight, among others. So he's fine with sequels that he happens to approve of, which makes his opinion snobbery of a pernicious kind: sequels are bad if they're the kind that appeal to people who aren't me, Ebert (and others) are saying.

I don't happen to like Fast Five, but I'll defend the people who do, because there's nothing that makes that sequel any worse (or better) than the Thin Man sequels (whatever those are) Ebert approves of; people like 'em, and that's why they're made. Nobody says you have to like them -- although you probably do, even Roger Ebert -- and they're not the reason Hollywood is churning out so little of what you think passes for entertainment.

No, the reason Hollywood isn't making more movies you approve of is simple: most people don't like what you like.

(Partly because what movie snobs like Ebert like stinks.)

That's a fact of life that I've come to terms with: my own tastes, in music, books, TV, movies, and most other entertainment, are unpopular -- so my shows are always getting cancelled. I preferred Web Soup to Tosh.0, but have to watch the latter. I loved all of Andy Richter's shows and they all were cancelled. Better Off Ted? Better off the air, according to the rest of you.

My bands don't get played on the radio. My author's books go out of print before they go in print. Movies I want to see barely register at the theaters. And so on.

I'm resigned to this. I think the rest of you are all bohemians who wouldn't know entertainment from a hole in the ground, and I'm right because you all go see Beverly Hills Chihuahua and I didn't (all right, I bought it for the Babies!, but I still haven't watched it.)

But I don't curse and moan and wail and gnash my teeth and rend my garments about how uncreative Hollywood is simply because they won't make more movies that I like -- which is what Ebert are really doing. By not complaining about all sequels, they've revealed their bias, without admitting it to themselves.

I don't mind sequels: sometimes, there really is more of the story to tell. Sometimes there's just another place to take the characters. Did anyone really mind that Indiana Jones got to spend some time with his dad and find the Holy Grail? (I also didn't mind the fourth Indy movie, which I found to be very entertaining and I'm including the refrigerator scene. It boggles my mind that the same "fans" who had no trouble believing in the Ark of the Covenant, whatever those Indian stones were, and the Holy Grail had difficulty accepting Indy getting exploded out of a town by a nuclear bomb. Really? That is where you could no longer suspend disbelief?)

If you like characters, or a story, or simply an idea enough, you want to keep going back there. I'm a little disappointed that I don't get to find out what Harry Potter's kid will be like. There are probably other stories to tell about Hogwarts, and about the X-Men's academy, and Spider-Man, and the rest.

And if that's true of them, it's probably also true of those guys from The Hangover (although I hear H2 is a drag and not very good) and Ferris Bueller and pretty much anyone else that you liked.

Growing up, I read all the Dune books -- one after the other, which is really an accomplishment, now that I think of it. They were all sequels, but I never wanted to leave Frank Herbert's universe, and was sad when they were over. I read all of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker books, too -- sadly, in the case of the rather disappointing last one. And I loved his Dirk Gently series, which had only one sequel but which would have supported 30 or 40, at least, had he lived long enough to write them.

The point is, anything can be a sequel if enough people like the idea and want to see it. It's only a problem if nobody wanted or needed it (all those Shrek movies) or if it's done badly -- but that goes without saying, as entertainment people don't want or which is done badly is a problem. (Goes without saying, that is, unless you are Roger Ebert and Tina Brown needs you to fill some space.)

A sequel doesn't show a lack of creativity; L. Frank Baum wrote magically creative novels about Oz, more than I can count. A lack of creativity shows a lack of creativity.

So that's the ground rules: A sequel is, as I've defined it (and of course I'm right), a movie that should not have existed because the original was written without ever contemplating that a sequel would be created -- wrapping up all the important points of the characters' lives in the first one.

With that said, there have been good sequels, movies that came about simply because the first movie was so popular that a second one had to be made because studios, after all, are in the business of making money, and if McDonald's can sell you a second hamburger just like the first and make you happy, a studio can try to do that with a movie.

So what's The Best (Movie) Sequel, using those rules -- a movie that shouldn't have been made, by all rights, but which was, anyway, and somehow turned out to be great?

You can rule out superhero movies, right off the bat -- and that includes people like Indiana Jones and the like. Superheroes, like James Bond and other interesting people, have lives that are meant to be serialized. Superman's entire life is one story, so his movies aren't really sequels so much as simply chapters, like Kill Bill.

That leaves one-off movies, and the ultimate one-off movie is a horror movie. What other type of movies so obviously are not meant to be continued beyond what happened in the part we just saw? Whose life is so bad that they have to battle ghosts, or giant spiders, or the Devil, more than one time? Why would we ever want to see that -- having seen our heroes, the characters we love, get out of that house, or through the graveyard, or whatever, why would we want them to go back and do it all again?

We wouldn't. Horror movies are made to be one-shot movies: Freddy Krueger fights some sexy teens and loses and it's over (even though the original of that movie left a set-up for an obvious sequel, making it a horrible example that I'm too lazy to go back and change.)

And that's how I decided on The Best (Movie) Sequel, which is:


I know that many people were expecting some kind of twist or unique look at things here, but that's it: Aliens.

It was just a great movie, and yet, one that was never intended to exist and had no right to be as good as it was, but somehow overcame all of that (and the fact that it was made 7 years after the first) to be one of the greatest movies of all time.

There's a rule for sequels: everything has to be bigger, faster, louder. Call it the Sequel Expansion Rule: everything must be more. Superhero sequels have to have two, or more, villains when the original only needs one bad guy. Teen sex romps have to have more boobs. Cop movies need more car chases over ever more exotic terrain.

I can't prove it for sure, but I suspect that the Sequel Expansion Rule came about because of Aliens. Aliens, after all, promised more right in its title, with that s. There was only one alien in the first movie, after all, and it was killed by Sigourney Weaver, who then went to sleep for a while.

In the second movie, that one alien was still there-- but it was bigger and faster and stronger and meaner and Mom-er, and it was joined by hundreds of other aliens, and the single woman battling the single alien was now a team of marines and a robot and a little girl, and it wasn't just on one ship but instead was on a planet... bigger, better, faster, more-er.

Aliens packed in great performances: Anyone who's seen it has Game Over, man, ringing in their ears, a career-maker for Bill Paxton. And great ideas: The robot suit Ripley uses to battle the alien has been ripped off by movie after movie (including the Matrix trilogy). It even inspired our actual technology. When I saw Aliens, years ago, I thought how great it would be if people could actually sit in a ship and watch Marines battling over cameras installed in their helmets. Twenty-five years later, President Obama watched live as Seal Team 6 (TM, Disney) shot Osama Bin Laden.

I've gone on long enough -- this post should have been chopped into two parts, a la Kill Bill, so that years from now people could debate whether they liked my post about sequels, or the sequel to my post about sequels. Suffice to say that Aliens set the bar for all sequels that came before it and after it, proving that just because something didn't need to exist doesn't mean it can't be good.

Play me out, Bill Paxton:

P.S.: For a while, I seriously considered choosing Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. Can you blame me?

Click here for The Best Of... Movies.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

And now, I take a strong stance against the idea that cats, or any photographers, are great artists. (Star Wars References)

How far gone is Western Civilization, in terms of the inability to refer to anything other than Star Wars? So far gone that even our fuzzy decorations can't help but focus on a galaxy far, far away, too.

Evidence that even animals, or sentient throw pillows, are affected by the Star Wars Reference gene exists in the form of Cooper The Photographing Cat, a Seattle cat that was equipped with a digital camera on its collar and has 58,000 "Likes" on Facebook -- a stat that simultaneously proves the stupidity of Facebook, claiming photography is art, and people.

But this isn't about that. This is about this:

During the past three years of his fur-tuitous career, Cooper has churned out a veritable cat-alogue raisonné of photos taken on weekly jaunts around the neighborhood, during which he pussyfoots through brambles, along fence-tops, and under cars armed with a camera collar that snaps shots every two minutes. Indeed, the super-pet and his “human affiliates,” Michael and Deirdre Cross — who lucked out in adopting a certain talented stray in 2005 — are now basically just lapping up the phenomenal success of the cat artist. For Cooper’s no untalented tabby — he’s a regular Henri Catier Bresson, Eadweard Meowbridge, or Catget, you might say.

I don't get the references, but I do appreciate the puns. But you're waiting for the Star Wars Reference, right? Wait no further. Or longer, I should say, I guess. Wait no further/longer/weirder:
As revealed in the “Best of the CAT CAM” album on Facebook, Cooper’s photos are vernacular visions of the feline artist’s environs, captured in saturated, sunny colors ...One work, titled “Risqué,” takes a saucy look up a lady’s skirt, while others present ominous close-ups of Cooper’s (human) baby brother, Cameron... Still other photos capture tulips, the corner of a “Star Wars” poster, tall grasses, a lily-white statue of the Madonna...

The only good thing about this is that the constant presence of Star Wars references in everything our modern society can do/see/feel/eat/argue about makes me not so sad about the impending collapse of our modern society heralded by the fact that Cooper made news around the world.

Click here for a list of all the OTHER Star Wars References.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I'd rather see "The Phantom Menace" than read "Dragon Tattoo." (Star Wars References)

From Scandinavian Thriller Obsession, which Newsweek wants you to think is a thing that also affects people who aren't employees of major publishing houses, comes a review of what should be best described as the Scandinavian-thriller version of Hunger Games, in a world where "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," et al, is considered the Scandinavian-thriller version of Twilight...

... although I've read portions of both Twilight and Dragon Tattoo, and, honestly, I'd rather read all four of Stephanie Meyers' books and be forced to see the movie than try to work my way through more than 50 pages of Stieg Larsson's terrible writing...

... where was I? Oh, yeah: Newsweek wants you to think Americans are all crazy about Scandinavian thrillers all of a sudden (Smilla's Sense Of Snow not having lit a fire under us years ago), and then goes on to pan the book it was reviewing because the book it was reviewing was too American, a realization that Newsweek's Bryan Curtis says is

as depressing as when you discover a talented European director who wants to be the next George Lucas.

Wait a minute. I know what everyone says about Lucas' ability as a writer, but is he really the first American director you should think of as a negative comparison descriptor of talent falling downhill? The guy who singlehandedly created a franchise that forms the entire basis of Western Civilization? Star Wars was pretty good, and Lucas directed that, didn't he?

So it's a Star Wars reference and a misguided one, at that. But it proves my point: There have been (by my count) as many as a dozen American directors, and Bryan Curtis dug deep and came up with... George Lucas. Star Wars rules us all.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

In retrospect, I wish we HAD all been Raptured before I heard this news. (POP!Best!)

It was only a matter of time before Seth MacFarlane realized that it would be far easier to just go ahead and use other people's material directly, rather than continue to insist that scratching out the name "Han Solo" in a script*

* Mandatory Star Wars Reference

and writing in "Peter Griffin" constitutes parody.

And that matter of time has now passed, as Seth MacFarlane has been hired to remake The Flintstones: what we can only hope is a "gritty reboot," because as grimly overused as the gritty reboot is these days (even Charlie's Angels is getting a gritty reboot, albeit one which features fancy purple tops alongside what the producer promises will be people actually dying), a gritty reboot of "The Flintstones" would be far preferable to what I'm sure we're going to see, which is simply The Flintstones recycling Family Guy episodes, which themselves have simply been recycled Flintstones plots.

Not that I'm criticizing; if I could get paid $100,000,000 to just keep writing the same damn script over and over, but spice it up with poop jokes, I'd do it.

I'd hate myself, but I'd do it.

Click here for more POP!Best!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Off The Top Of My Head: The Best Obscure TV Shows I'm Pretty Sure Only I Watched.

And they're not available anywhere, so far as I can tell -- so all I've got are my memories of these (great to me) shows:

1. Herman's Head.
2. Brother's Keeper
3. Andy Richter Controls The Universe
4. Buffalo Bill
5. Cop Rock
6. Andy Barker, P.I.
7. Joey

Click here for more Off The Top Of My Head Lists.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The future of magazines does not require your cynicism. (POP!Best!)

If it is true that starting a blog is like starting a magazine, as Slate writer Tom Scocca recently pointed out, it appears equally true that running a magazine is increasingly like writing a blog, judging from two recent examples of "journalism" that I thought bore examining.

Exhibit 1: The "hit"(?) "movie" (?) Something Borrowed, which you may or may not have known was adapted from the "hit" (?) "book" (?) Something Borrowed. In last week's Entertainment Weekly, you will find a guest column from Emily Giffin, the author of Something Borrowed (the book). Emily took time out from writing other important things that might someday be a movie to tell us about her experiences from the making of the book Something Borrowed into the movie Something Borrowed, an experience that Emily Giffin feared might be horrific but which to her amazing surprisement, or something like that, turned out not to be so bad after all!

More importantly, Emily Giffin was also very concerned that the movie version of her book would not be very good, so you will be heartened and not at all surprised to learn -- from Emily Giffin, writing in Entertainment Weekly, that that's not the case! According to Emily Giffin's guest column in last week's magazine, the movie version of her book is very good!

("Magical," I think was a word she used; if she didn't actually say "magical," it can certainly be inferred.)

So, to recap: Emily Giffin, who wrote a book called Something Borrowed, and who then had a movie made from her book, took the time out from writing other things to fill us in on the important knowledge that having a movie made from your book can often be a fun, heartwarming experience made all the better by the fact that the movie made from her book is pretty much the best movie ever made.

As I read Emily Giffin's advertorial, I could only think to myself not just that it read pretty much as you'd expect a blog post from Emily Giffin to read if Emily Giffin had a blog, but also that getting Emily Giffin to write about the magical experience of how magical her perfect-book-turned-perfect-movie was likely a much better, and cheaper, advertisement for Something Borrowed than taking out an actual full-page advertisement in Entertainment Weekly would have been.

It turns out, too, that Emily Giffin does have a blog, which I'll get back to in a minute, but first I want to talk about Tina Brown's adventures in journalism-come-blog, as expressed in last week's Newsweek (an increasingly misnamed magazine, at least as to the first half of the title).

Tina Brown took in the royal wedding, but she didn't just take it in: she "covered" (?) it for News(?)week, and provided us with just the journalistic facts in an article entitled "Notes from a Royal Wedding."

(The first thing I noted is that Tina Brown very journalistically did not declare this THE royal wedding, as so many non-journalists did; Tina Brown, like me, remembered that there is more than one royal family in the world.)

Tina Brown covered a royal wedding in the very objective manner that you would expect from Newsweek, beginning with a quote that I imagined could have come from a younger, potentially more romantic Walter Cronkite:

The great thing about a royal wedding is that it’s the ultimate national Groundhog Day. All those cartoon faces doing all the same things, except it ends in a gloriously different way. And however cynical you feel at the outset, it’s impossible to resist the potent images of historical bonding.
(The link in that quote sends you, if you click it, to an even fuller coverage of what is on that page called, after all, THE Royal Wedding; but, both Newsweek and I at least agree that "chockfull" is a word.)

(Kudos to Tina Brown, though, for referring to a movie other than Star Wars. Although how much better would it have been if she had compared Wills-and-Kate to Anakin-and-Padme?)

I question whether any wedding ends in a "gloriously different way" than any other wedding; don't they all end with the couple getting married? Then again, maybe I'm just cynically resisting potent images at the outset.

Tina Brown (whose "sharp, witty prose" is celebrated by Wikipedia) goes on:
You just succumb. You just roll over. Nothing to be done except count up the score of past versus present. The couple—their chemistry lit up the screen. Compare it with the tango of uneasy body language every time Charles and Diana appeared as a couple. When Catherine’s eyes met William’s over the marriage vows at the Abbey, there was a powerful vibe of contented sexual understanding. Her gaze was level and demure, secure in the long years of his affection. He returned it with a look that said, I trust.

The link in that quote goes to a page that takes a long time to load; I was hoping for a close-up full-screen shot of "a look that said, I trust," but instead ended on a page titled (journalistically), "William's Royal Giggle Fest."


Also: Lit up the screen? Was Tina Brown reporting on watching the royal wedding on TV? So she didn't go there to cover it? NPR even sent someone -- a pop culture blogger, at that. But Newsweek coudn't sent Tina Brown (who is, I believe, a member of British nobility)?

I should note that I read Tina Brown's startling expose of a royal wedding in a magazine, so I did not have the benefit of those links illuminating the experience; my reading (which I did while shaving one morning) was limited to words on a page, words like:

The best single takeaway from the wedding is how fast Catherine has morphed into a future monarch. The new Duchess of Cambridge has a sleek, natural poise. Forget her new status as a duchess and a princess. This woman with no patrician forebears is ready for the throne already.

Yes, if there is one thing that can be learned from a royal wedding, it is that the woman at the center of it, who has been at the center of public attention for 8 years now, is ready to be at the center of public attention in a ceremonial role. After all, Now-Princess Kate has already learned to use the Royal Barristers to sue commoners for publishing pictures of her playing tennis.

Is Tina Brown's "article" (?) news? Or merely the private musings of someone who gets to treat a magazine as her blog? For answers to that question, I went back to Emily Giffin's blog, because it turns out that Emily Giffin, too, blogged about a royal wedding -- which she non-journalistically called "the" royal wedding. (The picture at the start of this post is from Emily's Royal Wedding blog entry, which she titled "wedding fever!" [lower case in the original].

Emily took the long-term view of the proceedings, declaring that "thirty years from now" she would most remember things like the way the trees placed along the church aisle ("Kate's idea, natch") brightened up the Abbey and made it both "formal and intimate at once," or
3. Picture-perfect Pippa and hot Harry. In contrast to the hideously comical, Dr. Seuss-esque selections of the Princesses of York, Eugenie and Beatrice. Oh, no they didn't.

Oh, she went there! (Cue audience to warningly go "ooooooooh!") Emily Giffin's takedown of Eugenie and Beatrice was echoed, in part, by Tina Brown, who called Beatrice "Sarah Ferguson’s unfortunate older daughter," without explaining why she was unfortunate.

I could go on, but I won't. Much has been written about the fact that several million blogs are started every day, or whatever the figure is, and much has been written about the fact that magazines appear to be losing readers faster than Prince William is losing hair...

...Oh, no, he DIDN'T!...

... but nothing (until this post) has been made of the fact that magazines appear to be combatting the threat posed by blogs by becoming blogs, only they come out in print, without links, and about a week after everyone else has already said them. (Emily Giffin's blog was posted April 29, 2011. Tina Brown's Notes has a date of May 1, 2011, but, to be fair, Emily Giffin did not have a helpful link to William's Giggle Fest; had Emily taken her time to post such a thing, she might have won this round.)

The real point is that Tina Brown's article made me wonder why I still subscribe to Newsweek; I don't read my morning newspaper anymore, and if Newsweek is going to simply provide me with a written version of Tina Brown's blog, while my Entertainment Weekly is just going to let me hear directly from authors how great the movie version of their book turned out to be (while later in the magazine giving a review that disputes everything the author said), why should I bother reading those, too?

Amidst all the blather about whether people will pay for content on the Internet, you'd think there'd be some talk about whether people will pay for content that is, simply, terrible.

Perhaps we could have Tina Brown and Emily Giffin debate that, in print.

In the meantime, if there is one thing you can take away from this post, and remember for thirty years, it is that the Internet is best used for descriptions of butt itching:

Right, Rogue Mutt?

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Off The Top Of My Head: The Best Movies In Which A Dance Featured Prominently

Prom is huge this year -- or so I'm led to believe, what with there being a movie about Prom and This American Life featuring four stories about prom last week, and I'm not one to miss out on cashing in on a trend, so here's the Off The Top Of My Head List of

The Best Movies In Which A Dance Featured Prominently:

1. Pretty In Pink.
2. Footloose.
3. Grease.
4. Dirty Dancing.
5. Pulp Fiction
6. Black Swan

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Best Jesus-es.

James Frey got at least reasonably wealthy and famous by making up a story and claiming it was true -- something that more and more authors are finding easier and easier to do, giving us absolute proof that many Americans now subscribe to Stephen Colbert's reasoning for real.

The Christian Science Monitor proved as much when it said that the book 3 Cups of Tea had an "essential truth" about it despite being (allegedly?) riddled with lies and essentially about as true as Where The Wild Things Are, upon which it appeared to be based.

Having kicked off that trend, James Frey is at it again.

Frey, who owes his continued ability to be able to make a living doing something most people wouldn't consider to be "work" at all to the extreme gullibility -- excuse me, deeper truth seeking-- qualities exhibited by the kinds of people who watch Oprah (and who now watch the show about the making of Oprah), has a new book coming out, and he would very much like this book, too, to be a best-seller, which poses a bit of a problem for him, in that nowadays, to have a best-seller, you pretty much have to write a controversial-but-possibly true book, a book in which you claim to have built a school for Osama bin Laden's kids, or at the least a book in which you threaten to kill a kid's rabbit if she doesn't play violin at a virtuoso level. (I'm assuming that's what the "Tiger Mommy" book is about; I haven't and won't read a book which promises to be full of exaggerations... I mean, deeper truths.)

(Although, as long as I'm on the subject, I have to admit that it's possible that Tiger Mommy and its ilk are not exaggerations or simple lies/ deeper truths. As someone who chronicles many aspects of his life, I can tell you that it is possible for a writer to try to find things which are more interesting to write about; one way to make your writing zing is to do something interesting, and then write about it. David Sedaris went to Japan to quit smoking, and wrote about that, because, I assume, writing about quitting smoking somewhere less interesting would be somewhat less interesting. I've fallen prey to just that temptation: once, I decided that I would write about a trip to a midnight movie that Sweetie and I took. [Although I decided to see the movie first, then write about it later, so that's not quite apt.] Given that some writers seek out a way to make their life interesting, I have to allow for the possibility that Amy Chua didn't make up how bad a mother she is simply for the purpose of writing a book, but instead simply deliberately decided to be a bad mother in order to get a book published.)

(It's also possible that the concept of "doing boring things in interesting locations" would translate well to reality TV, so I call dibs on Help Me Do This!, the reality TV show where we help people achieve their goals by sending them someplace weird: Watch as Ron tries to start his bakery business... at a monastery in southern France! Meanwhile, Angela is going to finally take the plunge and learn to bowl... while scuba diving on the great Barrier Reef!)

Back to the point: James Frey has a problem, because at this point, even if he were to be filmed live building a school for the Taliban with the help of his Mandarin-Chinese speaking children who he found while praying to spaghetti during the time he spent traveling with Reese Witherspoon's circus, nobody would believe it, anymore than we believe that Barack Obama isn't really the same person as Osama bin Laden (ever seen them together in person? And why do their names seem to be anagrams of each other?). So Frey has to do something else to justify his existence/sell books, and that something else, in this case, is to pretend that modernizing Jesus and seeing what he'd be like in today's world, is a new and/or controversial idea.

Or, as Fox News put it: "James Frey's New Book Has Messiah Smoking Pot, Sleeping With Hooker."

With a headline like that, any author is more or less deemed to be immune from such writer-ly maladies as "humdrum sales," "lack of publicity," or "needing to write a good book," and I don't doubt that Frey has done the bare minimum to justify the controversy: I am certain that he has supplied his publishers, who recognize the value of not one, but two controversial names associated with the book (James Frey, and Jesus), with an actual book full of actual words arranged, more or less, into a narrative structure; I'm also reasonably certain that in this book, Jesus will in fact, smoke pot and sleep with a hooker.

But will the book be good? All signs point to no, for a couple of reasons: First, most books aren't very good. Have you noticed? Most things aren't very good, and books are no different: the cream rises to the top, because there's less cream and it's something different than the elements it is initially surrounded by. So it is with most human endeavors: many of them are not very good.

Which means that the odds are against Frey's book, or even my books, being very good. (Although, in my case, I beat the odds. My books are very good, and you should read them.)

But Frey's new book -- called, hopefully controversially, "The Final Testament of the Holy Bible" -- has more going against it than that.

It is, for instance, written by James Frey, who has proven that absent controversy, he cannot sell a book. Good writers can sell books simply by writing good books. Bad writers have to invent a fictional friend, or throw a three-year-old into the snow, to get people to buy their books, a move that works because you can't return a book once you've bought it, so the author gets to keep the money you threw away on what turns out to be a collection of words spattered over a fake controversy. (Although, in Frey's case, his publisher actually did offer to give you your money back, but the refund wasn't specifically because the writing was bad.)

Frey's new book -- which I hesitated to mention because I don't want to publicize it, because you should not buy it, as I guarantee you it is awful, and you will hate it, but won't likely get a refund because even class action lawyers have not yet figured out a way to sue God -- is also guaranteed to be awful because Frey has chosen to make it so deliberately controversial...

... which it isn't, really, but which Frey desperately wants you to believe it is, so that he can sell you a poorly-written book on the basis of all the controversy a pot-smoking, hooker-bedding Jesus can generate...

Interviewed by Newsweek, Frey "opened up" about his controversial choice of this controversial subject which he contoversially would now discuss:

Your new book follows a modern-day messiah in New York. How did you choose the subject?

I’ve always wondered what it would be like if the Messiah, or Christ Returned, were actually alive and living in our society; who would that person be, how we would identify them, how would they live, and what would they believe in, how would society react to them?
That kind of thinking is what sets Frey apart from other, lesser people: who else wondered what it would be like if Jesus lived in our society, with the Internet and all! That's a concept that's never been explored, I imagine. I mean, we've had Hamlet retold as a story about dogs, and Anna Karenina updated and moved to New York City, and even a modern-day Romeo And Juliet, but Jesus in modern times? I can't possibly imagine such a thing. Lucky for me, James Frey can, and even luckier for me, James Frey can do so in the most artful way possible: by having someone who's not even a traditional publisher publish his book:

You’re publishing this work in partnership with art dealer Larry Gagosian. Why not go through a standard publishing house?

I wanted to make a really beautiful book. Something readers would be excited to own as an object.
So, if you're keeping track, note that now James Frey is a self-publisher -- but because he previously snookered a publisher into putting his "writing" into print, he's not described as such; instead, he's artfully not going through a standard publishing house.

This is the beautiful book the "formidable" James Frey has published with the grateful help of the art world:

And it is artfully unlike anything you've ever seen before, provided you've never seen these four images I found in Google in about 40 seconds:

But those books don't have Jesus in them, and they don't have Jesus as (re)imagined by the "formidable" James Frey, who, you should know, "is not like other writers." That quote comes from his website, where you can learn that his book is available for pre-order and will be shipping April 12 (from which you can also learn that James Frey does not update his website at least monthly), and also you can learn that someone, somewhere, once confused James Frey himself with Jesus, as demonstrated also on his website:

He has been called a liar. A cheat. A con man. He’s been called a saviour. A revolutionary. A genius. Now he has written his greatest work, his most revolutionary, his most controversial. The Final Testament of the Holy Bible.

That's actually when it hit me: James Frey might not be writing fiction this time at all; he might be telling the absolute truth this time, that Jesus really is alive and living in New York City, and that in fact James Frey might be Jesus.

He doesn't come right out and say it, but it's there if you want to see the Truth. Not only has James Frey been called a saviour (note the British spelling, suggesting that Frey was called a saviour by someone of higher class than you), but also the website notes that Frey lives in New York City (just like the Jesus in his book!) and also the website notes that in writing this new book, which may or may not be fiction, according to James Frey:

My goal was not to retell the story of Christ. ...My goal was to create a new mythology. One that is relevant in a world with nuclear weapons, advanced physics, the internet, genetic testing and manipulation, one where we know homosexuality is not a decision. My goal was to create a mythology, ...James Frey

I like to think that, if that quote were read aloud, the final two words would be said in a wistful, windswept voice: Jaaames Freeeey.

It isn't just James Frey who thinks that perhaps James Frey might be Jesus, though: it's people who comment on his web chats, like when he interned at Gawker, (which I imagine Jesus would also totally do in between all the homosexuality and murder he'd be doing, too), and Frey was asked this question, which amused him but which he also thought was "just plain weird:"

Q: “You look like you’re from the Bible. What’s your favorite part? Don’t say “all of it.”
Yours in Christ, Lornetta Churchypants”

James: “My favorite part is when the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are riding around. I want to follow them and see what kind they shit they stir up”
So you know what the next Final Testament will be about: What if the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse came back to our modern world, where we have nuclear weapons, and physics, and telephones without cords, and what if they were totally unlike how they were pictured in the original Bible, and instead were a fun-loving bunch of people, like maybe if Rex Ryan were an Apocalyptic Horseman?

But we're still on the current Final Testament, which may or may not be fiction -- Frey's own website suggests that he still believes A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard were true-- and which may or may not show us that Jesus/James Frey is, in fact, living in New York City with his wife (and his dog -- the site has a link to the dog but when I clicked it was, sadly, broken, so I was unable to determine what kind of dog Jesus would own if he came back and lived in New York City with his wife.)

There are also links on the home page of Frey's site where you can click through to find video answers to questions you didn't even know you had -- suggesting that Jesus would totally approve of Youtube, if He came back (and who says He hasn't?), and that Jesus also would ask people on the street whether they could judge a book without reading it:

You can also find out, if you'd like, "What kind of music is James Frey into?" (I'll save you the trouble of going to look: mostly Bob Dylan, with some AC/DC mixed in.)

You can also find out how James Frey writes, the short answer to which is: weirdly. His essay on how he writes mentions how he may find himself sobbing at the keyboard... or listening to Bob Dylan. Or not. He also listens, while he writes, to:

Happy music, sad music, cheesy music, angry music. I listen to beautiful music and repulsive music, music that I don’t understand, music that confuses me. I listen to hardcore punk, gangster rap, heavy metal, love songs, the latest teenage pop hits, classical symphonies, classic rock, opera, jazz, disco, new wave from the eighties, funk from seventies. I have a two thousand song library of music on my computer and it is always on while I write.

I don't remember Jesus being into music, much, but, then, this is the Modern Jesus, who maybe likes cheesy music, perhaps as an ironic counterpoint to killing someone and defying the government.

Did I mention that Modern Jesus, in Frey's Maybe-True Book, defies the government? Because he does:

What if the Messiah were alive today? Living in New York. Sleeping with men. Impregnating young women. Euthanizing the dying, and healing the sick. Defying the government, and condemning the holy.

Don't bother asking why Jesus would condemn the holy; he's probably doing it ironically.

Frey's writing sounds more fun to watch create than to actually read:

If anyone were to ever watch me write, they would probably think I was either an idiot or lunatic or both. I dance, I yell, I throw shit and kick shit and break shit. Sometimes I cry and sometimes I shake and sometimes I’m sick. I talk through all of it, say the same sentences over and over and over.

Which proves my suspected point even more: If Frey must throw himself into his writing by becoming the very thing he writes about, getting angry to write the word angry and curling his hair whenever he writes calamistrate, then if he wrote about Jesus living in New York, what does that tell you about what Frey had to do to achieve those literary heights (?)?

(But, Jesus or not, I question his taste in music:

While writing this essay, every single word was spoken before it was written, most of them several times. I listened to Bruce Springsteen, Anthrax, Run DMC, Taj Mahal, Queen, Journey and Debbie Gibson.

I bet the Journey song was Don't Stop Believin'. Because Modern Jesus totally wouldn't stop believin'.)

So is Frey Jesus? He won't say:

Probably because he's still living in the Matrix. Take the red pill, James Frey!

So it falls to me to determine whether Frey is, in fact, Jesus, here to help you by helping himself (or something like that, with some government-defying and genetic testing thrown in), by comparing him to other Modern Day Jesus-es, to see how closely Frey hues to what has become a not-new concept at all: That of Jesus living amongst us, taking part in our modern-day life and befuddled by our modern-day foibles, but still being Jesus, and possibly sleeping with hookers.

Note that I am not saying that Frey hasn't come up with something totally new that hasn't been done in any way, shape or form before, because clearly he has; the other Modern-day updates of Jesus fell far short of Frey's all-new, controversial concept of a Modern Day Jesus, because all these other ones I'm going to mention weren't trying to create a new mythology that would be relevant in a world where we genetically test hookers with nuclear weapons, or whatever.

Also, note that I'm completely unfamiliar with Frey's book beyond the blurb and the Newsweek interview, but I'm not going to let that stop me, because truth is a slippery concept, as James Frey/Jesus and I both know. "What is truth? Pontius Pilate asked, only nowadays, that question would be asked by a homeless man on 5th Avenue, because that's very controversial.

So, to help you determine whether or not James Frey is, or is not, Jesus Come To Live Amongst Us In New York City With An Unpictured Dog, I have put together a list of The Best Jesus-es, which I will explain to you and rate on a scale of 1-5 Fake Friend Leonards, 1 being the lowest score and furthest from the actual truth of what Modern Day Jesus is, and 5 Fake Leonards being the highest score, but also the furthest from the actual truth of what Modern Day Jesus is.

(I'm using that kind of scale because I'm not trying to create a system of measurement, but a new standard of ratings that will be relevant in a world where we have genetic testing and where women are free to paint their sons' toenails pink. Try to keep up with me, and James Frey, here.)

1. Jesus of Suburbia:

Background: "Jesus Of Suburbia" was more than just the eponym of a song on a moderately-good Green Day album; he also (going by what I understood the concept of the album to be) might have been a kid living in suburbia and selling drugs. Or something like that.

Jesus of Suburbia hangs around a 7-11 a lot, and takes Ritalin, and tries to avoid the "moms and brats," while being mad that nobody ever died for his sins in Hell, and he does drugs but there's nothing wrong with him because "this is how [he's] supposed to be."

According to Wikipedia, which exists specifically for things like this, "Jesus of Suburbia" was created when Green Day's lead singer, apparently tired of singing about masturbating, asked "himself what sort of person the title of "American Idiot" referred to," and came up with "a powerless everyman."

It turns out that Jesus Of Suburbia isn't just a powerless "everyman," but also a character named "St. Jimmy," who dies. Oh, and [SPOILER ALERT! ] Sorry.

How Relevant Is Jesus Of Suburbia in a world where women are free to genetically test artsy publishers, or something?

2 Fake Leonards: So, not very relevant. The fact that Jesus Of Suburbia turns out to also be a regular guy makes him seem kind of relevant to our life, but Jesus Of Suburbia did not, so far as I can tell, kill a single hooker, and killing a hooker is the bare minimum for what has to happen in order for we, as every men who may or may not live in New York City, to relate to a person.

2. Family Guy Jesus

Background: When Jesus is discovered working in a record store, he's invited to dinner at teh Griffins, where he and Peter trade stories and he magically creates sundaes for the kids. But things take a turn for the worse when a newly-celebrified Jesus overdoses in Mary Kate Olsen's apartment and needs to be bailed out of jail by Peter. The Second Coming is delayed for a while because Jesus feels he needs to be more mature.

How Relevant Is Family Guy Jesus in a world where nuclear weapons interview people on the street, or something?

37 Fake Leonards:
so, not very. Despite the way I subverted your traditional notions of "counting from 1 to 5" by including 37 in that -- something I did to create a new numbering system that is relevant to our world, where women are free to count any old way they want-- Family Guy Jesus just doesn't relate to our world. He doesn't defy the government, for one thing, and Jesus would totally do that, just the way Jesus defied the Roman Empire back the first time around by refusing to submit to their rules and not going to be crucified. Jesus was a rebel, man.

3. Sexy Jesus

Background: Technically, Sexy Jesus is only a fictional character ... or is he? The star of "Hamlet 2," Sexy Jesus uses a time machine to go back and save Hamlet, defeating the devil and working through his issues with his father, all while helping save the reputation of a small-time recovering alcoholic drama teacher. With his surfer body and catchy theme song, Sexy Jesus is a messiah for the pop age.

How relevant is Sexy Jesus in a world where we know the "internet" is not a decision, or something?

4 Fake Leonards, so, not very. Jesus, if he were alive today ... if?... would definitely be sexy because he'd be having all that sex with hookers and homosexual affairs that were not decisions (?) but time travel is not possible, at least not until James Frey writes a book that involves time travel and must actually invent a time machine in order to write about it, which he will likely do just after he finishes writing a book about curing cancer.

4. South Park Jesus:

Background: Jesus may live in South Park, Colorado, but his influence is worldwide, as he and his other "Super Best Friends" battle evil (including Satan, who threw a boxing match against Him to collect on a bet), organize Rod Stewart concerts, and start cable TV talk shows. Jesus' powers in South Park are mainly resurrecting himself, but he does throw a mean glaive.
How relevant is South Park Jesus in a world with genetic testing and manipulation of mythology, or something?

You can't judge a Fake Leonard without reading it, so not very. I think the key point to take away from this is that despite the many numerous efforts in the past to modernize and update Jesus, nobody ever actually modernized and updated Jesus in such a controversial and formidable way as James Frey has; that's likely because nobody ever had the sheer guts to put on some Debbie Gibson music, writhe in agony, and really tell the story of Modern Day Jesus the way it was meant to be told: On a very special episode of Oprah.

But watch out, Jesus/James Frey. You may just get some competition:

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