Howard the Duck (1986)
Two words: George. Lucas.
Oh, how I recall laughing at this clever, irreverent masterpiece, which just goes to show how mentally retarded children are. Rewatching it I found I couldn’t even muster the kind of nostalgic embarrassment I generally reserve for pop-culturey 80s movies. The dialog has a kind of leaden, rote humor; the eponymous Howard T. Duck is not so much sarcastic as stating facts, the jokes are pun-heavy and the few good ones are a matter of delivery and not writing (as all good jokes are). The potentially entertaining line between humans interacting with Howard (talking to him) and reacting to him (screaming, dropping groceries) is too distracting – not to mention that Leah Thompson in her underpants “joking” about making out with Howard while actually making out with Howard induces a revulsion I still can’t genuinely describe as “funny”. There are enough uninspired one-liners in this movie to warrant a Will Smith remake.
The Water Babies (1978)
Dear god, what the fuck is that supposed to be?
Such clear memories of singing along, wanting to be a chimney sweep waif, wanting to dive into a river and find the Water Babies. Joke’s on me, though: the animation of this film is terrible even beyond late 70′s standards and the storyline draaaags on for an eternity. Did I really have a longer attention span when I was 5? There’s no other explanation. To make matters worse, the original story and Jessie Willcox Smith illustrations are gorgeous works of art in their own right:
It sounds harsh, but the movie just doesn’t have anything going for it at all. I thought I’d at least still enjoy the music, but the sound of cocky stage children singing along with the stilted, Korean-slave-labor animation is enough to give me a seizure.
Oh man, I imagine the first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting is like this. Shame. Slight edge of defensiveness. Pride. Self-loathing. Wondering how soon I can leave so I can get a drink. Before you wonder why I’m writing about this here, I’d like to remind you that energy drinks are the actually on the Nerds, Dorks and Geeks national flag.
I’m a Red Bull drinker. Here’s why:
- I like the taste: it’s sour, which masks the sugar (sugar is one of the key components of feeling “vitilized”), and generically fruity.
- It is only 8 ounces. I don’t like drinking a lot of fluids (result: I’m dehydrated more often than not) and those giant 32oz or whatever Monster Energy drinks make me nauseated just looking at them.
- It does not have high fructose corn syrup.
- It’s only “speed” product is caffeine.
- It actually does increase a sense of well-being and brain activity. I get no fast-up, fast-down crash like I do from even a cup of coffee.
Now, the first explanation I get from people who dislike Red Bull is the flavor, which is something I can’t really argue. Okay, you don’t like it. I happen to. I prefer sour beverages over sweet as a rule and I appreciate that Red Bull tastes, well, like Red Bull. Not strawberry or piña-colada, or melon. It is what it is.
Now, the second explanation I get is generally that that person “can’t drink” energy drinks. Meaning they can’t physically deal with the speedy, jittery mess that comes from most of these products. My dad, for example, rather notoriously gets light-headed, fluttery and freaked out on them despite liking caffeine. A lot. And to be fair, most of these drinks have a whole cache of questionable South American fad-of-the-moment jungle drugs in them, probably explaining the lab-rat nightmare my dad experiences. As a side note, one of these drugs, guarana, is merely a source of caffeine, albeit in doses about 5x those found in coffee beans. It’s a fancy way of saying “a fuckton of caffeine”.
But this is where it gets interesting.
The caffeine is all the “energy” that Red Bull has going for it, and a mere 80mg per 8 ounces – that’s less than a cup of coffee. So its a $2 a can rip-off, right? Weeeee! Now for the science!
Famously, Red Bull brags about its taurine content, and taurine, kids, is an interesting thing. Its a serious chemical workhorse, not only found in the body naturally already, but critical in a variety of functions. Heavily researched, it can be said to reliably do the following:
- Decreases blood pressure.
- Protect against excitotoxicity (the damaging aspect of consuming aspartame and MSG).
- Is an antioxidant.
- Prevents muscular stress during exercise.
- Generally reduce risk factors of heart disease.
- Helps the brain regulate body fat (read: fights obesity).
- Lowers bad cholesterol.
- Helps to regulate blood sugar levels.
- Regulates hydration.
- Regulates electrolyte balance.
- Studies have shown that taurine intake results in reduced hangover symptoms (true!) ¹
There are a shit ton of resources on the net, but the general consensus is: it’s not damaging, at least not immediately so. There aren’t a lot of long-term studies on excess taurine consumption, but since it occurs in naturally high doses in fish and meat, it seems like our bodies can handle it. The flip side is that we may not be getting enough taurine, especially vegetarians and vegans.
The inclusion of taurine in Red Bull is not a speed or an energy boost, but an aid in both the function of the brain (reaction time, memory and stress regulation) but in the body’s ability to process physical strain. It’s a regulator, a throttle. Some research shows it might better allow the body to utilize caffeine, limiting the caffeine depression the body feels after the high fades.
Now we come to glucuronolactone. Glucuronolactone occurs naturally in the body as the liver processes glucose. It, like taurine, is not a speed or energy booster, but a carbohydrate that assists in detoxification. But research showed a strange side-effect: it made people happy. Not outrageously happy, but there it was, an unexpected sense of well-being and satiation.
All other ingredients in Red Bull are B vitamins, which in high doses create an increase in blood flow to the face and a kind of energetic flush. Feels a little like caffeine, but it doesn’t result in an elevated heart rate or have the accompanying jitters. More interestingly, B vitamins cannot be stored in the body, so we have to consume them on a regular basis. All fine and dandy, except that caffeine, nicotine and high fructose corn syrup all draw B vitamins from the body. So, if you’re smoking, drinking Coca-Cola and over the age of 30, chances are you’re burning through B’s faster than you’re replacing them. And are some of the first signs of B deficiency? Fatigue, irritability and depression. So you drink more coffee, smoke more cigarettes. Round and round.
So! As I am not a doctor nor a chemist, I can assure you of at least one thing: Red Bull is not some insane, Faster & Furiouser legal speed. Nor is it hooey. I think the $2 price tag could come down a little, but my honest feeling is if you’re going to drink a cup of coffee in an attempt to slap your brain into shape, you might be better off drinking a Red Bull. And, if Lindsay Lohan suddenly gets brain cancer, let’s all stop.
¹It should be noted that the caffeine in Red Bull probably counteracts this element. You might be better off buying a taurine supplement and popping a few of those.
Negativity has been popular on the intertubes since, oh, it started – like, the first ARPANET test packet sent from one military base to another read:
- – - *** TEST *** – - – SILENT RUNNING SUCKED AND YOU’RE A FAG IF YOU LIKED IT – - – *** END TEST*** – - -
I scan all the popular scifi news sites¹, and for the most part, I do this because they are devoid of a lot of personal opinion. My cross to bear in this lifetime is that while I love science fiction, I can only take small doses of fanatic nerd-boy commentary. In particular, the mean stuff². And lately, there’s been a lot of it, at least where I’ve been reading.
And while I won’t make this personal, there is in particular one big resource that spreads as many negative rumors as they superficially try to clear. For example, let’s talk about Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse.
What the fuck is going on with Dollhouse? Well, I’ll tell you: nothing unusual. Except, dear reader, for the small issue of the internet deciding that production of Dollhouse was fucked and by fucked I mean doomed. What began as a legitimate “Uh oh, is Fox going to do this to Whedon again?” snowballed rapidly into a few of the major scifi sites gleefully crowing about the imminent failure of the entire show. Like, in gruesome, excess, speculative detail.
At first I was swept up in it. Poor Joss! Here they go again, every single decision being taken from him, his vision being trampled, his choices ignored – someone start a betting pool for the program being canceled before it even airs. But then, as many of these posts as there were, there were rebuttals from Whedon himself saying, “Look, don’t worry kids.” And indeed, I began to ask myself, do I truly understand how television works?
Suddenly, I started reading the reports of Dollhouse‘s doom with a kind of critical doubt. Two questions arose for me:
- Is this a normal part of the show-making process, only just now revealed to us to be an irritating back-and-forth of changes and reversals?
- How much of this disseminated negativity is making its way back to the studios and paradoxically dooming the show?
Indeed, even an offhand remark from one of the shows actors (Tahmoh Penikett) joking about confusion over the show’s plotline was immediately twisted into “EVEN THE ACTORS DON’T UNDERSTAND SHOW – DOLLHOUSE DOOMED!” After reading both his commentary and the blogs’ responses, I wonder: whose side are we fucking on? Are we turning into a social version of America’s Funniest Home Videos ball-to-the-crotch routine? Don’t misunderstand me – I think Joss Whedon is fallable. He’s just a dude, he fucks up sometimes and I don’t think his involvement with the show makes it free from criticism. But it hasn’t even aired yet. But since when do we, as fans, actively encourage the failure of one of our own? Not to get all Heisenberg on you, but the more you discuss failure, the more it seems likely to happen. Wait, that’s not Heisenberg, that’s the Golden Rule. Or no, wait. You know what I’m trying to say.
¹The notable exception is io9 – man, those kids need to get off the fucking Adderall. Quantity over quality, eh ladies?
²I know it seems all hand-in-hand, like with science fiction comes seething, pent-up geeks, but I find myself wondering if like, wine-nerds sit around on message boards telling other wine-nerds that they are retarded faggots for liking beaujolais.
∞I’m listening to “Forever Young” by Alphaville and realizing what total fucking nonsense the lyrics are – “I don’t want to perish like a fading horse”???!? That can’t be right.
It’s been shame that has kept me away from the Dear Diary of web-logging. But, like that maggot cheese that everyone is so delighted in reporting on lately, I find myself wanting to share it with you all anyway. Raise your glass of larvae-infested, putrefied cheese and toast with me to… Stephanie Meyer.
Yes, that Stephanie Meyer.
The only statement in my own defense is that I was sitting in the airport when I finished my only book on hand (Man Plus by Frederik Pohl – fun, but awkwardly retro writing) and went to go purchase a magazine. Paper magazines, which you may or may not be aware, are now the same price as a fucking novel. Which are expensive. With this knowledge, I, with great embarrassment and guilt, purchased Twilight.
The backstory here is that I have been superficially following this Twilight obsession almost exclusively because many of the blogs I read. Yes, once again, I blame blogs. Anyway, as an adult who reads YA fiction (for the record: I think the Harry Potter books are just okay, Scott Westerfield’s Uglies series is pretty good and Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy is canon) I paid some attention. Matthew Baldwin’s review in particular caused me to chuckle with delighted dismissal. In summary: romance novel – minus sex + nearly pointless vampirism = Twilight.
And then I read another blog, one I won’t link to. In it the writer seethed about the negative impact the books will have on fragile-minded teen girls. It teaches girls that stalking is acceptable behavior from a man! And that it is thrilling to have your boyfriend want to kill you! In a good way! Blah blah blah, I didn’t really pay attention because I’m a misogynist.
Anyway, there I am, standing in an airport where I am surely to escape the eyes of anyone I know, purchasing the book. Because I had to know! Which was it: was it a comically embarrassing attempt at ‘literature’ or a manual for abusing women?
The answer if of course both! Delightful!
I can’t add much to the masses of criticism for the books, other than to make a few personal points.
- Based on Baldwin’s report, I expected no less than 642 uses of the word “exquisite”. Sadly, I noted only in the realm of two uses. However, the point he may have been trying to make is: but damn, this woman is repetative. Once she latches on to an adjective or an adverb she gets lockjaw. So instead of 642 instances of “exquisite” we get probably literally 50 instances of remarking that Edward – the vampire heartthrob – having marble skin, or skin like marble, or marble-cold skin, or a cold, marble chest, or cold marble coldness marbleness. Likewise how many times he is simply described as “perfect.” Sigh! Perfect! I ran out of adjectives for cold and marble. I need a rest.
- As many have noted, I can see how the teens are wack-a-doodle over these books. They’re broody, moody, vaguely sensual and chock full of forbidden things like lying to your parents and dating the undead. For the rest of us that have actually experienced sex, they’re pretty boring.
- The vampires are, for all intents and purposes, not vampires at all. They’re Supermen. Do they have to drink human blood? No, they just prefer it. Does sunlight/crosses/garlic/stakes repulse them? Nope. In fact: sunlight makes them “LITERALLY SPARKLE”. Meyer made sure to include the word “literally” in the actual novel in case we mistook her thin narrative as metaphorical. So, they avoid sunlight to avoid dazzling humans with their glittery beauty. Like unicorns. They are impossibly fast, impossibly strong and to make it the most delightfully hyperbole-saturated book ever, many of them have special superpowers like mind-reading or precognition. Oh, and also: they’re rich. Alright, alright, I’ll fuck them already, jeesus.
- The main character, Bella, is intolerable. In what I think was Meyer’s clumsy attempt to make Bella someone the average teen girl could relate to, she instead made Bella improbably klutzy (really: every time Bella leaves the house she either falls on a heap of razorblades or rams her head into a crowbar – you think I’m joking, I know) and argumentative. Everything she does is counterproductive. In fact, the entire final showdown that results in Bella’s near-death is the direct result of Bella just not telling someone what was going on. Listen, teen girls of the world, if a mean vampire threatens to kill your family unless you submit yourself to him, a tip is to TELL THE WHOLE POSSE OF SUPERHEROES YOU’RE HANGING OUT WITH. Dude, delegate the problems, and in particular, delegate them to friends of yours that are immortal supermen.
In penance for giving the Stephanie Meyer machine $8 of my money, I will make sure my next few book purchases are for authors I actually care about. In fact, I’ll buy extra for friends. Because I don’t know how else to make things right. When the second book gets made into a movie the madness will start all over again, and then repeat with the last two books. My only hope is that the actors will look haggard and dumpy by the last two, like Ralph Macchio suddenly got in the Karate Kid movies even though supposedly no time had passed between them.
This is the first I’ve heard of it, but I came across a trailer for a Tim Burton, how The Matrix should have been, LittleBigPlanet mashup: