Author: Gabriel

Retrospecticus: Season One

Retrospecticus: Season One

This one time, I moved to Melbourne for a job. Now I don’t mean a career, like one of those fancy gigs where you have a salary and a future. No, I mean a job, like with hours and shit that directly pertain to whether you get paid or not. I was also really drunk when I made this decision. I was really fucking drunk and made the decision to move to a whole new city for a whole same 21 dollars an hour goddamn job. I made that bed and I lay in it for 6 months of way less than expected hours. This one time I also decided to write about every episode of The Simpsons.

There’s a small trickle of money coming in for me now via Patreon. It’s small, but when you are used to living on the bottom that small is large enough. Enough that I felt obligated to it. I felt I needed to do more than the video yammering as, exhausting as a day of that can be, I struggle to honestly treat it like work. I spent a weekend stripping weatherboarding one time, that was fucking work, a lack of air conditioning and Aaron’s peculiar shape don’t add up to the same level of hassle. “So”, thinks I, “I’ll put my degree and decades of honed skill to some use and provide the paying audience with some bonus material. I’ll write about The Simpsons, I think about it at least once a day, how hard could it be to write about it once a week?”

I think I’ve committed myself to over a decade’s worth of work. It’s my bed and I’ll fucking lay in it. Speaking of which, I’ve finished season 1.

I’ve been aiming to make these a mix of entertaining and educational, both a challenge as “The Internet” is a broad target audience, but I’ve not seen much (if any) discussion on any of the major forums outside of mere spouted opinion so I believe I’ve brought up useful ideas. Spouting your opinion is fundamentally selfish. You do it to vent or to feel meaningful, it doesn’t deconstruct or educate, nobody can use it to structure more effective art. People use IMO as a defensive tactic when they lack the vocabulary or knowledge to explain their actual point about a work, if they even understand the difference between taste and assessment at all. So what’s the point? If I’m not going to learn anything deeper than what xXm0viefanXx likes, why should I give a shit? Your taste is meaningless and your assessment is only useful if you’ve managed to separate the two. Otherwise you’re another blithering internet numbskull operating under the delusion that their taste and objective quality are parallel tracks by some amazing cosmic coincidence. Practise by liking something by someone you hate. If you can separate artist and art, you are on your way to being useful.

Go to any thread and you’ll see this in action. It’s a shame as text response is, in the age of mid and post episode threads, probably the most actively engaged form of writing for the average person and the problem is fundamentally an issue of a little education. If this can accomplish anything, a probably naive hope, I’d hope it stimulate a desire to learn a little more about how to better approach the art you like.

So I’ve yammered on about things like reality balancing because that’s at the root of the more vague posts people make when they go on about how something “feels”. In that, the first series has been a fun experience. The balancing act that gave The Simpsons it’s cultural status couldn’t have existed out of the box, at least not in the era it came from. The earlier seasons needed to be simpler to create the baseline reality and character core. It’s this that grounds the wackier absurdity of the golden age and separates it from things like whatever 10 minute animated nonsense-vomit Cartoon Network is currently playing after 10pm. The thing about these grounded points is that freezing them in time is absurd, and eventually the frozen grounded reality dies and leaves only the screwball shit. But between the frozen and the burnout is a Goldilocks zone of yellow cultural institution that couldn’t have existed without the others.

I’m looking forward to season 2 as it is a far more confident season. The intro is solidified into the familiar one which lasted the show’s quality span and then some, only being retired after 19 goddamn years. The story world is on much firmer footing too, with the idea of Springfield being a theatre stage with a variety of semi-regular background characters giving the writers more points to craft jokes around. I’ve not watched any of it in quite some time so I’m hoping for some funnier fare. When I started this, the idea was to explore some of the weirder jokes if only to better understand why some of them have remained with me for so long. Season 1 didn’t give me that, but it proved a nonetheless fascinating journey into the foundations of the show and good fodder for explorations of character, tone, and the construction of fictional realities.

I’ve no idea how many of you read these. It is possible that I’m preaching to digital birds. But I undertake things like this selfishly so I’ll be pressing on, regardless. I tend to flip a coin to see if I lock any behind the Patreon wall but now that there’s a decent backlog of example material, more if not most subsequent pieces will become patron content. It’s an incredibly small wall so if you complain about it, congratulations on ousting Mugabe and I hope your money is worth something again one day.

Beefily yours, Gabriel.

From the Desk of Gabriel Morton: Home is where your Truth Beetles are.

From the Desk of Gabriel Morton: Home is where your Truth Beetles are.

Ah, home! Ah! Home!

My collection of Truth Beetles confirmed what I had already cleverly deduced, Janice had nothing to do with my mysterious disappearance. I was already sure of this but decided the Truth Beetles needed a bit of practice and, after that particularly slipshod performance, I was correct. Janice wasn’t even fazed. About the most perturbed she got was when the Truth Beetles mussed up her hair, which, considering she’d just had modified androconial organs pissing chemicals into her lobe-folds, is indicative that the Beetles are a bit off their game. That or Janice is getting stronger. A nightmare scenario I’ve several fail-safes in place for, even though screaming paranoia tells me that exercise is just building more hulls on an ironically described ocean liner.

Well, as Janice re-applied the various snake oils and toad balms the business folk continue to trick women into using, I got down to business.

Full disclosure: I had no idea where to begin. Normally, something is either Janice’s fault, not Janice’s fault but I blame her anyway and amuse myself punishing her, or not annoying enough to really warrant any significant action on my part. Here we had a bit of a puzzle: I wanted quick and preferably drawn-out revenge but had no real clue as to the culprit. Most of the staff were of Sapience Level Frowny Face or lower meaning the building was able to scrape their mental metadata for evidence of whether they were involved in abducting me or not. Turns out not. A pretty much forgone conclusion given I’m a Sapience Level Gold Star Premium but it’s underneath the unturned stones that the best stuff hides so I wasn’t going to skip the process. Bleak feedback on the scan from my Psychophrenologists down in HR, though, apparently there’s a being in the Mail Room whose inner monologue is the theme to Get Smart on repeat. I don’t know if that’s even something that needs fixing let alone whether I’ve the means to fix it but I’ve decided to imprison it in a Headball playing nothing but Popcorn just to see what happens. It always pays to be sure, even if you’re not sure what you are being sure about.

So my normal lineup of degenerate malcontents were content meaning I was plumb outta ideas. I’m Sapience Level Gold Star Premium enough to admit when I need help and so I decided to rent the cheapest private detectives I could yell at Janice to find. I hated them on sight but, having spent enough time outside the office to last me several vampire hormone fuelled lifetimes, they were the least hated option.

About when the mentalmod fad took off is where you began to see some real goddamn syndromes walking around. Turns out the human brain has about x amount of energy that can be spread across a variety of intermingling domains so provided you don’t breach that x you can spec the thing to do an awful lot. Don’t give a fuck about shapes? Great! You’ll never identify a circle again but now you can describe the thing mathematically in ways that frustrate and amaze most of the lesser AIs. Ha ha, pretentious cunts.

Naturally people took this too far and ruined it, first by producing all sorts of boutique savants and other natural crimes, then by rendering the whole hobby unfashionable. India used to do this quaint thing with the chromosomally abhorrent monkey children the abundant unnatural chemicals and radiation produced where they’d figure the horrid little pinheads for monkey gods and treat them accordingly. Modern society wasn’t so kind to the thrice autistic memory machines who traded recognising faces for more musical talent and they were of the more pleasant examples. Now these things bumble about, usually unable to experience the kinds of despair their condition would cause a normal, in an uneasy truce with greater society. A peace that will hold out as long as nobody shits on a bus.

The one looking at me had to have been one of these. He was far too friendly and everything he did got passed my defences. Fortunately, these were only the superficial defences of my firewall personality but having to nearly seriously think was annoying enough to register. He’d be dangerous, possibly Omega Plus, if he weren’t an otherwise empty golem. Social savants, I’d heard of a few, specced the mentalmods in the whole opposite direction to the wannabe droids. Most went way too far and either killed themselves or became famous celebrities, a few are said to have stumbled on Artificial Zen but that would be like an alchemist stumbling upon a particle accelerator. The firewall personality told me I wanted to be his friend again. I didn’t but damned if I didn’t respect the artistry.

The other one was a refugee from a Castalian cult that eschewed artificial evolution for the more stable natural form, albeit in an unnaturally well organised fashion. Most breeding cults fell apart after about 3 generations but the Castalians had hung on rather admirably and produced some interesting, if a little behind, results. Their weird philosophy of organised chaos was reflected in the other one having the calmest eyes and twitchiest hands I’ve ever seen on a human who hadn’t caught that disease that makes you sleepy and grow hands. I’m pretty sure he can fight, too. One of the Anti-Virals sizzled up out of the ground to look at him earlier and the Baboon Collective had actually scurried off as he exited the elevator. Both suggest a worrying mix of Castalian refinement and batshit savagery.

I hated both of them and hired them immediately.

In office news, Aaron was in the United States Socialist Soviet earlier in the week for some get-together of all the useless video trash Max Headroom tried to warn us about, so we’ve not made any new amusement-records for you to piss your lives away viewing. This upsets you terribly so take some pharmaceutical-grade opiates, which I am suggesting you take out of genuine concern for your pain and not because I get five American Socialist Value Tokens for every one of you gut-blobs I get hooked on Oprah-Grade smack pills. Chow down, you doped out pac-men.

Gelatin is dried ghost cum

Gabriel.

From the Desk of Gabriel Morton: I should set fire to the great outdoors

From the Desk of Gabriel Morton: I should set fire to the great outdoors

[dication mode activated]

[proximate thunder]

AAAAIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

[dictation mode deactivated]

[dictation mode activated]

[helicopter noises]

I once fell down some steps and got my own toe stuck in my eye. That was the biggest toe I’d ever seen until today. I know it’s perspective but you don’t ever really expect to see a giant toe. Nobody gives themselves a giant toe and I’ve seen a lot of giant things. I saw this forehead once whose John C. Riley-eque ridges had been expanded into balcony seating. Three standard sized dwarfs and a teacup dwarf, each impeccably dressed for the occasion, were sitting in them using opera glasses to peer about at the world and quietly comment to each other. I was insane with curiosity but didn’t know whether to approach the forehead’s owner or the dwarfs about it, so I left the matter a mystery which is something that torments me to this day.

The toe belonged to what I’d originally mistook for a large rocky outcrop.  It was large in the sideways sense not the upwards one so myself and my butterfly were confident of scaling it and saving a lot of travel time. In my youth I’d participated in the hip fad of Obese Meth Rodeo before People for the Ethical Treatment of Fat Cunts had it outlawed. I was reminded of it as I gripped into the beige quartz ridges of the rocky outcrop, and took the moment to show off my considerable grip strength to nobody but myself. Nothing builds grip like clinging to the psoriasis hardened ridges of a scooter-bound dugong made furiously mobile by a recent interest in designer stimulants. The outcrop I was pawing my way up felt like a sugar-crusted jube that had been left out, something I should have paid attention to but missed amidst the general absurdity of the Open Zone. Of course the rocks here are weird. Why would they be anything else?

I was deceived! Twice, actually. I’d thought the far side safe enough to simply walk down, leaning back to ensure gravity’s arseward pull kept me on my surface, but the damn thing was a notch too slippery and I fell. I’ve never been a fan of momentum. Motion should always be the reward for active work, dammit. Momentum is, naturally, incredibly biased toward me and takes any opportunity it can to cause me unjust harm, so down the far side I went. Never one to let the forces of the universe have the last laugh, I grabbed for whatever I could and found what I presumed to be some kind of tree root. Presumption normally makes a pre out of sum and ed but here I felt justified in mine as I was still operating under the belief that what I was climbing was a geological feature and not the sleeping form of 500 meter tall Vinnie Jones. The root was a hang nail that my weight ripped from the toe, taking a large stream of delicate toe flesh with it like a magician’s novelty scarf. A far off hill tore itself from the landscape. The surface rippled like cornflour gravy as a face fought through the years of accumulated soil. Eyes screamed themselves into existence above a sneer and focused themselves remarkably quickly on my tiny, escaping form.

I’m the first to admit that I’ve made my mistakes in life. In retrospect, doping up the monstrously obese with painkillers, stimulants, and various infuriants just to make sport of clinging to the buggers is a bit of a dick thing to do. And yes, I tried my hand at some high scores in the city’s Vinnie Pits. But it was a different era! Seeing how many clones of Vinnie Jones you could slaughter in a 15 minutes time limit wasn’t viewed in the same light as it is today. It’s not like people kept a single operating consciousness across the lot of them to ensure the Vinnies would learn and grow ever more savage at the injustice of their predicament. I think. So no, I don’t think there’s a certain poetic justice in being chased by the 500 foot version some dingbat made. Get off your high horse, because they too were outlawed as cruel.

You don’t run away from something that’s about 250 times taller than you are so much as you scoot from various hiding spots in a generally away direction. Applying some of what I learned dealing with my infestation of office gnomes, I managed to keep out of the thug leviathan’s sight while making for the edge of the containment field. My eyebrow was twitching in the Z pattern of the old shoryuken notation so I knew I was close to the omnipresent invisible communication systems of the modern day. The gargantuan novelty actor was ignorant of my plans, and a lot otherwise, so a small rockfall a few hundred meters away the colossal cretin had itself caused so occupied it that I could pretty much walk away calmly. Charles Grodin Butterfly fluttered by and all was well. And then the sun went down.

The sight of a standard monstrosity like Vinnie Jones is breathtaking if you aren’t used to it, but I’ve seen enough for it to be just another building-sized man trying to stomp on me. But goddamn, the Imperator Class Titan Character Actor Michael Chiklis blocking out the sun makes even the Vinnie look small. I think it’s something to do with Mr Chiklis’ head to face ratio massively favouring the head that does it. That and his pectorals are still classified as mixed use suburban lots. He must have heard the active Vinnie Jones, decided that the fight wasn’t over, and gotten up to continue the pair’s endless duel. A quick scan of the horizon had me certain that there was a missing mountain, though perhaps I’d simply miscounted. Its weight shook the ground as it barrelled in Vinnie’s, and unfortunately my, direction. A testament to the engineering marvel that were its knees. Vinnie Jones shrieked, unfurled the membranous wings he’d kept concealed for most of his career, and in one slow, billowy flap, took to the sky.

I, even at my distance, was blown arse over tit but fortunately in a tit-arse-tit-arse pattern that suggested I’d been blown in the direction I was already heading in. My eyebrow spasmed and I hooked the edge of an old emergency signal which I patched through to a Scout’s First Pain Amplifier I’d had implanted in Janice during last year’s Christmas party. Apparently it took the office a little while to realize her squealing and clutching her eye were actually the dashes and dots of Morse Code which explains why it still took so long to rescue me. Ah, Samuel Morse, you inventor of a strangely immortal communication method and stabber of lady’s eyes, how you’d smile to see today!

I’ll admit a kind of kinky thrill at being close to a giant monster battle that actually has the potential to do me mortal harm. The ones in the city are so safe, they’re about as fun to watch as bumper bowling. That said, I have no intention of ever dying, let alone in as ignominious a fashion as getting crushed in the Outer Zone. I’d look like a hipster. So I ran, leaving my view of the battle just a scarce few glances over my shoulder. Chiklis’ raw might was something else. The Vinnie was no small sight but his lean, ropey arms were being easily held apart by the Chiklis’ thicker counterparts. The sight of a shrieking bat Christ attempting to smother the star of TV’s The Shield with its wings was a doozy. Chiklis mouthed at the membrane of the wing like a baby gorilla gnawing at its egg, presumably trying to find a point of purchase on the shimmering surface to bite into. His sandworm like lips pinched into one and tugged until the Vinnie brought its knee up and pushed out of the Chiklis’ grip. Vinnie Jones had flapped into the air and was maneuvering around Michael Chiklis’ laser breath as the drone copter flew me back toward civilisation and some level of revenge for all this business.

It will be nice to get back in to the office and see what calamity the cheap dunderchuds I hire with your Patreon funds have created for me. Until then, I know I’m behind on a few things but it’s been tough to find a moment to write, what with all that’s been going on, so you can write all your complaints down in a letter, poison the envelope, and then eat the fucking thing.

Gabriel

Witness the Cryptid

Witness the Cryptid

One of the things my childhood taught me is that inbreeding is a funny joke until you meet the results. This itself is not a joke. You’ll think it is because your distance from it will make it seem absurd but I’ve seen this absurd throw a chair at a teacher in year 5. He looked like the banjo kid from Deliverance but didn’t need the makeup. On our school camping trip to Moreton Island, this absurd stood behind a camp organizer who was fixing our tent and mimed aggressively raping him on a pillow effigy. This absurd then peed in that corner of the tent. I don’t mean like he peed in his sleep or had some kind of bladder distress, he was looking over his shoulder at us and laughing while he actively peed in his rape corner. There was a 3 minute scuffle between the rest of us, 10 to a large tent, to fight for sleeping positions farthest away from him. That was the trip where he told us he fingered his cat one time.

There’s a kind of sub-class of feral human being that most of the other classes don’t see outside of news reports on either a guy holding a knife to his de-facto wife’s neck or the RSPCA rescuing a small horde of animals from a home plastered in newspaper and shit. I’m from this class, both of these things happened on my street, it’s just dumb luck granted me the mobility to mingle with my betters undetected. There’s a bleakness to the Brisbane suburban sub-omeguloid. There’s not the population density, drugs, or weapons that would make anything these beings do severe enough to get noticed, let alone be romanticised in movies or rap lyrics. There’s just a crushing malaise that, like the summer sun, is enough to stifle every attempt at action but not enough to just kill you. The resulting madness is appropriately analogous to a melanoma: small, quintessentially Australian, and typically only noticeable when you really look.

I was grumbling about this place in high school when my English teacher piped up. Typically, when you are badmouthing a place and its people, a teacher will interrupt to chide or offer an alternative view. Mine could only add an anecdote that went like this: She was organizing a drama day for kindergarteners, between 4-5 year olds, and one of the little ones didn’t have a permission slip. My teacher called the child’s home to get verbal consent. When the parent was told it was for a drama day, it replied, “I’m sick of all this fucking kike shit” and hung up.

Australia’s Jewish population is about 112,000 people, 95% of which live in Sydney or Melbourne. Brisbane’s population of Jews is about a few hundred and I’ve met most of them which is a side-effect of being friends with one. This person has never met a Jew and is probably more than 3 degrees of separation from any interaction with one, and yet they are sick of kike shit. While it’s not always antisemitism, this is indicative of a kind of thought process you see in these places. One so divorced from reality it becomes a cryptid for the normals to repeat as an anecdote to incredulous friends, like an inbred cat fingerer. And so we come to Logan. More specifically, we come to a demented tweet’s live theatre cousin hanging over the M1 there.

 

Don’t try to take this all in at once. There’s a lot of moving parts here and I don’t want you to hurt yourself.

If you’re anything like me, the first thing you noticed was the lack of a web address. I’m used to seeing shit like this as I live in Brisbane and have the kind of face that makes strangers hand me small cards about white supremacy. They all have a web address on them somewhere because they all want you to go to their website. You can’t explain a far-reaching conspiracy to make white babies retarded with fluoride in just a couple of sentences. I mean, that doesn’t even leave room for sources. That this doesn’t have directions to any further information is the easily missed linchpin of the whole thing. This isn’t a thread, you can’t write “1/10” on that thing and hang more from subsequent overpasses, everything they want to communicate and how they want to communicate it is all there. Through this, we can explore the mind of the scorched Brisbane imbecile.

Getting the obvious out of the way first, the drawings. This is just bad design. Why have two penises and two vaginas touching only to have an isolated red X to symbolise a negative? Passersby are going to be drawn to the images and all they’re going to see is a homeschooled 8 year old’s understanding of homosexual activity next to a red cross over nothing. Do you hate homosexuals or asexuals? You’re expecting your audience to read the rest of the text and then use that to understand that a picture of two moustached birds kissing actually means you don’t like lesbians? A billboard has to explain everything at a glance, you should have drawn a red crossed circle around the disembodied vulvae and medieval family crest made of dicks. I absolutely know that this wasn’t done for fear of making the already sub-webcomic quality art less legible. This means that someone stood musing, either to a sympathetic party of a baffled universe, whether or not to get another bedsheet and try drawing them again or to just give up and stick a red cross over white oblivion and hope that it makes sense.

To their credit, at least they remembered lesbians. This does suggest an operant principle beyond being grossed out by dude-on-dude which is a commendable level of coherence from the homophobe community and a fucking miracle coming from this creature. The thing about remembering lesbians, though is that you’re stuck drawing vulvae and that shit’s hard. It’s not like drawing a dick. Dicks are so obvious they impose themselves. You have to work just to make the innocent things you’re drawing not look like dicks. Conversely, you have to interpret a vulva. You have to tilt your head and have someone point it out to you, so avoid drawing them whenever you can because unless you’re an actual artist who can frame them with hints of thigh and leg you’re left with something that looks like a pair of dusty doritos. Now people are driving under this thing and thinking the author has a bone to pick with homosexuals and a hairy hourglass.

Maybe the traffic was bad that day. Maybe the cars weren’t really moving that fast and the drivers had a moment to look beyond your crossed weens. This is the big time for conspiracy theorists so deranged they can’t even work the computers at the local library, and here too our tragic author has fallen short. The selection of different colours for your text is a time-tested way to draw your audience’s attention to the important elements of your presentation. Typically, one would leave the function words the standard black and highlight the content words in red but this only works if your red isn’t washed out by back lighting and if your sentence is more classically structured, not a stream of consciousness ending in a sheep laughing at me. The result is now a distinctly visible sentence amongst red mess that reads, “Only and want marriage!! Wake up, research baaaaahahaha” which sounds just enough like real instructions to veer into deliberately ironic surrealism. And you know the writer thought about this too because the WAKE UP in black has clearly been painted over an original WAKE UP in red. This poor organism has been thinking exactly this, that their emphatic font colour has been so used that it’s become the default and their sentence now features weirdly emphasised function words, so they’ve launched into an hilarious half measure to fix it.

Now, to the sentence itself. What it actually says is remarkably incoherent for something like this and why I was really surprised there wasn’t a website on it somewhere. When I say, “incoherent” a lot of you may be saying, “but Gabriel, it clearly says NEW WORLD ORDER, ILLUMINATI, and JEWS. Also, you’re looking good today”. Thank you but what makes it incoherent is that it tells me to research a new world order without specifying the one I should be looking for. The first new world order that shows up in my google searches is the dark mirror of Hulkamania and I’m already a member of that 4 life so further research is just unnecessary. The thing is, there are a lot of Illuminatis, NWOs, Sell-out governments, and homosexuals. The potential combinations of these outnumber the possible moves in chess. How am I supposed to find the right one amidst the false flags, wrestling stables, and unresearched maniacs who litter the internet? What if a reader went home, researched Bash at the Beach ’96, and came away with the idea that Scott Hall and Kevin Nash were conspiring to sell homosexuals to the Liberal Party?

The conspiracy itself is remarkably unremarkable. There’s no hint of the kinds of personal creativity you usually get with local maniacs. It’s such a haphazard collection of other people’s conspiracies that it can only be a poser lunatic’s first attempt at impressing the other children with entry-level villains. Jews, really? In Australia? Suggesting that Jews run the local media is so incredibly offensive to Rupert Murdoch that it’s downright un-Australian. This was your time to shine, Loganite, and you’ve given me something that reads like madlib filled in by an algorithm and a comment section. Now all that time spent in a garage huffing paint fumes was for fun instead of liberating the minds of your fellow countrymen. Though that would explain the baa that degenerates into laughter. This is actually my personal favourite bit of it, an artistic achievement given it shares an installation with attempted lady genitals. Under any other circumstances I’d assume the writer meant it as some addition to the insult but here I can’t be sure it’s not because they started laughing while they were writing it.

Speaking of huffing paint, it’s the only explanation for the use of “sheeple” twice. Sheeple is the kind of word you use when you are 13 and have just tried opinions for the first time. A lot of this does suggest that a 13 year old is responsible but you can tell it isn’t because a millennial would never forget to send you to their website. This whole thing screams both “thirteen years old” and “irony” so loudly it can’t be either. If it’s irony then it’s like me marching in a Nazi gathering is irony. I’m not a Nazi but I wouldn’t look out of place among a group of them. The irony is hinged so heavily on knowing that I’m personally super-not a Nazi that the joke becomes esoteric to the point of invisibility. If this is a joke, it’s so perfectly structured that it only appeals to dipshits like myself who can appreciate homophobic bedsheet manifestos as outsider art, and there’s less of us than there are people who think Jews control suburban Brisbane kindergartens so it’s gotta be legit.

What the hell is this person’s life? What Escherian labyrinth of madness is it stuck in that this combination of paranoid free association, grade-school genitals, and the word “sheeple” amounted to a thought so profound it required this? Don’t bother thinking about it, you’ve a better chance of understanding the inner monologue of a sea cucumber. A cryptid is often defined by the thing that makes it an exception in the first place, the Mexican Goat Sucker isn’t called the Mexican Tends Its Young Until the Age of Two, and I’ve no doubt this worldview defines its holder. There must be real a real lure in the excitement of it all. I wake up and try to remember if I have any yoghurt left or if I ate it all at 3am ’cause I couldn’t sleep. Waking up and knowing that I have to finish making a banner to fight the good fight against The Illumifaggy seems much more exciting. As attention grabbing as glimpses can be, the cryptids aren’t capable of affecting change any more than bigfoot numbers can rise to pest levels. One can only marvel at them when they emerge from the underplace.

By Gabe.

 

 

The Crepes of Wrath

The Crepes of Wrath

My Recollection

Bart goes to France. The cherry bomb in the toilet always interested me because fireworks were outlawed in Australia so the idea that kids could get a hold of explosives was amazing. I would later download the Jolly Rodger Handbook and make a few of the more basic things that explode along with one remarkably effective smoke bomb. I stopped mucking about with it for fear of injury and because a I had a selection of dirtbag friends who were happy to do it all themselves. Nobody ever got seriously injured, though one time Shane tested his homemade mace on Kyle by saying, “Hey, Kyle” and spraying him in the face with it. It was mostly isocol, tabasco, and salt. I don’t know what the real ingredients of mace are but Kyle screamed and swung blind for a while so this was a fairly effective approximation. It also gummed up the water pistol it was in, so one screaming, blind Kyle was all it was good for. Not great for self-defense purposes but I laughed for 15 minutes, so at least some good came of it.

The Episode

The thing about season one is nobody quotes season one. It’s not that the episodes aren’t ever funny, but the forms of humour that more naturally arise from within the family narrative don’t lend themselves to focal lines. Most of season one has supplemented the lack of great comedy with the kinds of character episodes a show five seasons in can’t. The Crepes of Wrath is a bit of an oddity in that it’s a novelty episode that exists before the show could really commit to the premise or at least fill with good lines. It’s not technically the first of the international stories, that goes to Bart vs Australia, because it’s only Bart visiting France. This split in the family means the action that takes place in France is limited to a few brief scenes that are more about torturing Bart than they are about revelling in the writer’s grasp of international stereotypes. This was probably for the better, given that a combination of the season one writing staff and French jokes would probably be embarrassingly hokey. So the episode is a fairly weak. Limited by the narrative in its ability to really explore character and by its historical position in exploiting more memorable absurdist humour.

Bart arrives home from school to greet a pet frog that has never been referenced again. I get the feeling it’s some long-shot French joke, but its distance from that part of the narrative and later irrelevance suggest otherwise. It may have been an idea for Bart to either have a long term pet, or a series of them, that was abandoned. So now there’s a weird amount of attention to Bart having a pet Froggy that sits in the episiode like a Chekhov’s replica. Bart”s strewn detritus winds up sending Homer down the stairs, where he lays listening to a Krusty doll repeat, “I’d like to play with you” until the batteries die. It’s the best joke of the episode and Homer’s simple, squinting reply of, “The boy… Bring me the boy” when Marge and Lisa get home still makes me chuckle. Adding to this is that Bart is upstairs this whole time. An oversight on the writer’s part but it has a way of adding to Homer’s suffering as he’s either too injured or stupid to call for help, or Bart didn’t reply when he did.

When a real child misbehaves, it is typically spared the level of judgement reserved for adults as there is less expectation of complete agency; instead, behavioural management with the goal of correction becomes the focus. This always starts with environmental factors because, even at their most socially entrenched, these are easier to find and address than the dreaded alternative: nature. Bart has legitimate frustrations, injustices, and abuses that one would expect to see in a misbehaving child. The worst being the prison of his own identity. The self is something people defend, even to one’s own self-detriment, as a terrible but known self is less existentially terrifying than an unknown or changing self. The attitudes about Bart that surround him make even the thought of change the impossible ceding of vital land in an eternal war.

But…

Homer and Marge are neither bad nor inattentive parents, Lisa and Maggie are evidence of that, and later episodes confirm the dreaded alternative. Bart’s behaviour and personality are born out of comic necessity rather than an understandable result of his upbringing and this puts an irreconcilable tension at the heart of it. Bart’s behaviour is destructive, to himself and everyone around him, but sitcom fate makes growth or realisation impossible. Sympathy will never last in the face of constantly avoided, and very much deserved, meaningful consequences so the show does the only thing it can: hurt him. Bart cannot be fixed so he needs to be made to suffer. Even if it’s just to balance scales visible only to the omniscient audience, the child must experience real pain.

Bart suffers in this episode, and it is beautiful. Bart is every child that screams at the injustice of first world luxury, not because of an explanation that veers frustratingly into exploitable excuse, but because “FUCKWITTED CUNT” is written in his DNA. His torture in France is every time you’ve wanted to smash some perspective into a brat’s face. It’s the justice of injustice.

A piece of shit can make itself the focus of any teacher’s class time to the noticeable detriment of the ones trying to learn. To someone like Principal Skinner, Bart is a sinkhole people keep paying to cover even as it devours more of the town. Skinner’s hate for Bart is completely counterproductive but completely understandable, the three months without Bart will have been the easiest of his working life. This is also his most successful revenge. Typically Bart serves as the Roadrunner to Skinner’s Wile E. Coyote, which is funnier when it’s a mute bird who may not really deserve it. Bart blows up a toilet and injures Skinner’s mother so he has all of this coming. Speaking of Skinner’s mother, Agnes is first seen here and she is wildly out of character but considering the things that have been done to Skinner’s canon, this is trivial and easily ignored.

So Bart is mailed to France for 3 months while the family receives an Albanian called Adil Hoxha. Albania is kind of an odd duck. It stumbled into it’s own kind of Stalinist Communism after WW2 under Enver Hoxha (whom either Adil is named for deliberately or because it’s the only Albanian last name any of the writers researched) without any actual input from the USSR at all. The hostility it maintained toward the US was the result of indirect American political interference in Albania in the late 40s rather than as a part of Cold War allegiances. It wandered between Yugoslavian and Soviet influence over the years and, funnily enough, had its democratic revolution two weeks after this episode aired. I think it’s a bit of an odd choice of nation to supply a nefarious spy, but they had to give Adil some kind of great fault to make Homer’s preferring him over his own son a more visible moral fault.

Adil dupes Homer into taking him about the plant and taking photos of it for his sinister Albanian masters. There’s a sense that Homer is supposed to be an idiot here but when the intelligent alternative is a suburban dad suspecting a foreign child of being a spy, a plot that would be a message about prejudice in most other shows, the whole thing collapses. The reality of Bart is something Homer notices while Adil is in the house. Without the misfiring cylinder that is his own son, the house is one of near stereotypical familial bliss. Adil’s spy status is an absurd and desperate punishment for this, and serves only to highlight just how right Homer is. Bart, meanwhile, is treated worse than a mule by his French consequences, Cesar and Ugolin. A story that culminates in Bart’s realization that he’s the problem while on a trip to buy anti-freeze. There’s a catharsis to this, both for the viewer and Bart, and his acceptance gives way to the sudden manifestation of the French language skills that save him. It plays out a bit like sudden rain on Dune, but it’s necessary given the constraints of a 23 minute show.

Pursuant to my point about character immobility, Bart’s realization changes nothing. By the next episode, comic fate has reset him back to what he was before and this is why he was made to suffer and will be made to suffer again. Conversely, Homer doesn’t change his mind at all. Even after being arrested as a spy, Homer is sadder to see Adil go than he is happy to see Bart arrive. There’s scarcely even an attempt at having Homer undergo some kind of realization that he actually loves his eternal burden of a child. It’s an odd counterpoint to leave in the show, but better than the typical use of unconditional love to forgive behaviour that is certain to be repeated.

The anti-hero or heel who grows in popularity enters risky territory. An underdog can escape consequences in manners that would be wildly unfair for a champion. An environment of zero growth means smaller consequences and character moments can’t add up, so the show has to create character balance with blowoff episodes where their new god is tormented. Nothing changes in the narrative but the viewer’s scales get reset or tipped away and the process can begin again without fear of overload. The Crepes of Wrath serves as enough torment to make Bart’s bullshit palatable to the audience. It serves this function well but lacks much else to distinguish it. It’s a novelty episode that misses out on the novelty and a character episode with only half a cathartic epiphany. All we really have is the joy of watching a ten year old boy suffer.

 

Yours in needing civil defence plans, Gabriel

 

Jokes, lines, and stray thoughts

 

Homer falling down the stairs is funny and a testament to Dan Castellaneta’s voice acting. There’s a high pitch to Homer’s shrieks of pain that help them straddle a difficult line of believable but humorously exaggerated.

Agnes Skinner is just a lovely old lady here, both because she needed to be to add to Bart’s crime and because they were yet to turn Skinner into a Norman Bates without the courage to do anything about it. DVD commentary mentions that this was probably the event that changed her, though this is more a throwaway joke than a real explanation. I can’t even bother to really address it outside of this as it’s irrelevant given what happens to Skinner’s back story later on.

Bart drives through several paintings of the French landscape by Monet, van Gogh, Picasso, and Manet. Running a nice mix of impressionist, post-impressionist, and post-post-impressionist (cubist) art styles.

Apparently Cesar shows up in an episode from season 27 but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Homer really doesn’t end the episode with any kind of revelation that he should love his child and I find that really funny.

Life on the Fast Lane

Life on the Fast Lane

My Recollection

Homer buys a bowling ball for Marge’s birthday. The raw sexuality of bowling. Homer no-selling getting hit in the head with a baseball.

The Episode

This episode was originally titled Bjorn to be Wild because it was about a seductive Swedish tennis instructor but that would have necessitated Homer buying a tennis racquet which would have required the audience believe he was remotely fit enough to play tennis. This was scrapped and Bjorn was turned into Jacques because French people are funnier by virtue of nobody knowing enough Swedish stereotypes. The episode was renamed Jacques to be Wild which is fucking stupid and so they settled on Life on the Fast Lane a timeless tale about the raw, almost feral erotic energy of the suburban American bowling alley. I was at a party once and a guy was bragging about getting his dick in one of the bowling ball finger holes. The abyssal silence after someone pointed out how fucking small those holes are is something I still think about.

The episode begins on Marge’s 34th birthday, a nice piece of canon utterly obliterated by the rampaging bull that is The Way we Was, and Homer forgetting it. This itself is a fine, and oft repeated, piece of Homeric stupidity but the gag is overdone by having Homer think it’s his birthday. As Homer grew from comic buffoon to a parody of a parody of a parody of a retarded person I can only begrudgingly respect Family Guy for at least making Peter medically retarded and getting it over with. This is an early glimpse of that level of stupidity but it does lead to the first instance of one of my favourite gags, the audible footsteps leading to the car as Homer races to the mall to buy Marge a birthday present.

Later episodes have focused on Homer’s failures to accomplish this basic task through the lens of a more believable character flaw. Sometimes he’s cheap or legitimately poor. Sometimes it’s the fact that he hasn’t planned at all that makes the gift a desperate, last minute thing. He’s selfish, certainly, but it’s a kind of ignorant selfishness that eschews the planning that would indicate active malice. Homer buying Marge a bowling ball, one engraved with his name, is a character damaging level of contempt and not a moderately understandable side-effect of comic boobery.

The pair are a somewhat tragic couple as the sitcom format can rarely give either their due spine or brain. The episode explores this well and, though it ends on a glossed over romantic moment to essentially reset the status quo, it’s done in a way that gives Marge a much needed sense of identity separate from the family structure. Marge’s response to Homer’s stupid gift, the hilarious decision to bowl out of spite, is the episode’s first look at this identity. This leads her to the Bowlarama, and to Jacques, the bafflingly seductive bowling alley guy. Jacques is another one of A. Brooks’ contributions but he’s not really given much to work with aside from “seduce Marge”. This binds a lot of what Jacques says to the context of the moment and stifles Brook’s natural absurdity leaving Jacques to be a fairly forgettable character. Aside from a few background appearances in later episodes, this is his one and only, and it’s unremarkable.

I’m operating on the idea that the whole concept of a bowling alley as a place where a Lothario will loiter to demonstrate his bowling skills and bang bowling groupies is an overt joke and not a reference to the now lost historical significance of bowling alleys. I refuse to believe that bowling alleys were ever a place that could encourage sex. It is impossible for the bowling motion to appear attractive to any sexual orientation or gender, you look like a bloated ibis trying to shake off a parasite, and bowling has the social capital of an ashtray full of light beer. The idea that a creature who looks like a haunted pear could be deemed seductive while excelling at a sport played primarily by cholesterol is too demented to be taken seriously but a fairly good gauge of how starved Marge is for the sense of value Jacques provides.

The episode differs from others that focus on the marriage in that it’s not about one party making amends but about how an event can drive a wedge into a relationship. The bulk of the narrative agency is in Marge, and Homer’s more passive, internal scenes serve as an excellent narrative balance point that keep the focus on the split as opposed to the sides in it. Coming off the stupidity of the ball itself, the internal focus  of Homer’s narrative moments keep the writers from making him launch into any screwball crap that would pollute the core of the episode. Aside from a small early gag where Homer tries to do dinner, his appearances hearken back to the realistic misery of a man too stupid to fix the problems that hurt him. He tries talking to Marge after she comes home from another sexy bowling lesson with Jacques, but simply gives up after briefly staring at the wall. “Nothing” is all he says when asked, and the fade out returns some dignity to the man that the ball purchase took away.

His discovery of a glove that Jacques bought for Marge is enough to send him into a deep depression that leads to one of the best moments in the episode. After Bart pelts Homer in the face with a ball during a game of catch, with Homer reacting to neither the ball nor the pain, Bart panics and gives Homer the advice that he’d once given Bart.

“You said, when something’s bothering you and you’re too damn stupid to know what to do, just keep your fool mouth shut. At least that way, you won’t make things worse.”

The moment is beautiful because it’s Homer’s advice, so everyone ignoring it turns it into good advice. Bart ignores it when he, in absolute panic, blurts it at his father with no idea of the situation let alone how this advice would apply to it. Homer ignores it, probably more willfully, as he takes a moment the next day to tell Marge how much he appreciates how she makes his sandwiches. It’s a gentle moment that fits the episode’s construction and counters the earlier scene where he actually did keep his fool mouth shut. Most of what happens is really the result of a lack of communication between the two, and the episode emphasises this by keeping Homer and Marge apart for the bulk of the scenes. Homer doesn’t try to make some great speech or promise anything he can’t deliver because season one Homer may be stupid but he’s smart enough to know that he’s stupid, it’s why he ignores his own advice, and there’s a vulnerability to his last ditch effort being something so innocent and innocuous that makes it more honest than any confident assertions of change.

Marge is a woman bound by innumerable ruts and stifled dreams so the personality that results from this is little more than a cheerfully blithe coping mechanism, a fact even she is unaware of. Her naivety is something the story emphasises as she’s easily overcome by Jacques’ paint-by-numbers seduction. But there’s something behind the facade her life has beaten into her, and this episode hides a glimpse of it in the space the narrative leaves unfilled. We never see why Marge changes her mind and the audience is never overtly reassured as to her commitment or reasoning. She is simply presented with a choice and makes it, her reasoning is her own and its invisibility to anyone else both emphasises this and casts the rest of the episode in a different light. We’re seeing the surface of Marge be easily overcome, and we expect a naive dingbat who thinks bowling is hurling a ball anywhere in a bowling building to be an easy mark for someone like Jacques. But at each point with him she is fully aware of what is going on. She reminds him she’s a married woman because she absolutely knows what he wants. She agrees to meet him anyway. None of her decisions were those of a rube being fooled, the Marge within was actively choosing. Her invisible decision at the end was the last in a series of them, it was just the only one influenced by Homer making an honest effort to appreciate her.

A sitcom relationship is always going to be a grossly stupid one as the combination of format stability and absurd hijinks is an impossible one to support. This tends to put a use-by date on characters, as they’ll either have to fold back in on themselves to keep the format going or be dragged down into the pit of stupidity. Marge and Homer have suffered these fates a the years have dragged on and, in all fairness, the first gentle descent did make for a funnier show during the high period. But comic gems like season 5 were elevated to cultural icon status because of the combination of depth and humour, and that depth is born in episodes like this one. Life on the Fast Lane is, save for a few moments, consciously unfunny but the reality of a relationship like Homer and Marge’s isn’t a funny one.

 

Yours in keeping his fool mouth shut, Gabriel.

Jokes, lines, and stray thoughts.

The opening shot of the house is one that I don’t think was ever repeated and is canonically incorrect for a number of reasons.

Certain strains of humour and horror work best when we they work on what we can’t see. I’ve seen my brother slip over a few times and it’s funny. One time I took a shower and the bath mat was somewhere else so the floor was completely wet as I was leaving. I tried to warn my brother as he went in but he ignored me because we were arguing about something. As I’m walking away I hear: SQUEEEK, THUD, “GAAAAAAH!” and laughed so hard I cried. This is the principle the “running out of the house” gag works on, the THUD THUD THUD THUD THUD of Homer sprinting out of the house leading to the sound of a car screech away while the shot lingers on the silent family is funny where just showing him leave the house in a hurry isn’t. It’s a great joke template they expanded on a few times to great effect.

Homer buying Marge a bowling ball with his name on it is retarded and not comedy retarded. They kind of set up for it by having Selma remind Marge of Homer’s other shitty gifts but this still requires so much thought that it becomes actively cunty and not humorously stupid.

A restaurant where people sing at you seems fucking awful. I’m pretty sure these existed as some early 90s fad.

Taking up a whole hobby to spite someone is fucking magical and it’s made funnier by the fact that Marge goes to a bowling alley with a ball and seems to think you just throw the ball anywhere within the building. What did she think this was? Like some kind of Frisbee golf with a bowling ball?

The Simpsons and King of the Hill have both made jokes about how the wives have large feet. This must be some kind of joke template leftover from the 50s or something because Jesus fucking Christ, who cares? Unless you have actual flippers that aid your movement through water or feet that are like gorilla hands, women’s feet are only interesting to people who want to fuck them.

Jacques screaming, “FOUR ONION RINGS”  from the lane makes me chuckle. It’s an example of one of those innocuous phrases that kind of slips into a meme because its initial use is so peculiar it makes any subsequent use seem contextually valid by comparison.

The bowling references in the background art, like the 3 hole moon, were a novel touch for 1990, particularly as they were not part of a dream sequence.