Thursday, July 03, 2008

Children's Cinema

I saw Wall-E last night, and I could write something about the allegations of "fattism" because of its depiction of a dystopia in which humans have become too reliant on entertainment, machines and convenience foods or the rampant Leftist Propaganda allegations that go along with a children's movie which would dare suggest that maybe you should exercise and not throw garbage everywhere (though, notably, it doesn't touch the concept of global warming; humans didn't leave earth because the climate changed, but rather because there was simply too much trash to move, which is I think to its credit). Yes, there's probably some anti-consumerist propaganda latent in the whole Buy 'n' Large corporation which runs the world (though that New York Times opinion piece does well to point out that Wall-E depicts a future where big business has merged with Big Government, which, at least traditionally (though I'd suggest that the current administration has been characterized by huge increases in government power), conservatives are supposed to be against. I've always held that the first purpose of going to see a movie is to be entertained, not to nitpick any part of the plot where you disagree with the writers and get all whiny about it, and I can't think of another way the plot they wanted to tell could have been set up. So yes.

No, I'm not going to write about any of that. Instead, I was stunned into silence by what happens when you go to a children's movie. The audience was fine, though I was worried about that in the beginning. They laughed at the appropriate times, there weren't kids screaming about "yay robots" and it was generally a pretty well behaved group. What got me were the previews. Now, given the types of movies I typically go to see, the last few previews I've seen were for comic book movies (during Iron Man, including one preview for a showing of the live-action Death Note movie), independent films (during Redbelt, which if you haven't seen, you should) and generally something exploding (during Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). I'd mostly forgotten that children's movies exist, because I'm sort of totally divorced from any media outlet where they're going to be advertising. But, having bought a ticket for Wall-E, I was suddenly right back in the center of "marketing-to-kids".

First, I don't think there was a single movie that was previewed which had human protagonists. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, The Tale of Despereaux, Bolt and a movie which I won't mention just yet were all previewed, and it appeared that only in Bolt were there significant roles for human characters. Have I missed something? Were my childhood movies completely devoid of people? I mean, sure, talking animals, but no people? Where is the lovable misfit baseball team? Where are the adventuring pre-adolescents lurking around in phenominally dangerous scenarios? Where are the giant death robots?

I'm old.

The film I didn't mention above (because it deserved special note) was Beverly Hills Chihuahua, which, frankly, made me hate children merely with the insinuation that they would be entertained by it. The trailer is here, though I've got to warn you that you probably shouldn't watch that if you like having the will to live. There's just no part of that that doesn't offend me on some level by merely existing. I don't even get the reason it exists? I guess there was the whole "small dogs which go in purses and are used as accessories" thing, but the last time I recall a Chihuahua in popular culture was eight years ago for those awful Taco Bell commercials. I don't know who pitched this, or who thought it would be a good idea to make this, but the idea that kids are going to grow up in a world that contains Beverly Hills Chihuahua horrifies and infuriates me. There are a few reaction videos of people watching that trailer on YouTube, a lot of which seem staged and as though the person in the video is playing up being shocked at how bad an idea this is, but there are a few that seem to be genuine, characterized by speechlessness.

So yes. Beverly Hills Chihuahua has succeeded in making me lose hope for the future. Thanks, Disney.

Addendum: Why on earth was there a Billy Ray Cyrus music video during the previews?
Second Addendum: Wall-E was actually rather good. I'm not sure you would have gotten that from my post, but there was indeed enough time between the Beverly Hills Chihuahua trailer and the movie that I could stop seizing and enjoy the film I'd paid to see.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Columbus Voyage

I've traveled by bus before. Not for very long distances, but when there's something like Megabus which offers (as long as you purchase it far enough in advance and are going somewhere that no one actually wants to go) $1 tickets, it's hard to justify flying over the bus.

Until you've been on it for nine hours.

Before last weekend, I'd only ever used Megabus to get to Milwaukee, which is a 90 minute drive that I'd make if I had a car and is nowhere near far enough to justify actually flying there, even if this was back in the dark ages when fuel was actually affordable. It was an hour and a half on a bus, but I think I got some reading done (I think that was when I was reading The Fountainhead) and it was tolerable enough. I have it on good authority that even the four hour bus-ride from Chicago to Toledo is relatively painless, as “by the time it gets unbearable, you're there.” After nine hours on a bus between Chicago and Columbus, I think I've found that point at which it becomes not worth it at all.

To start with, some of you who have made this trip (and know it should be six hours) might be wondering why it took us nine. Evidently, you're supposed to go through Indianapolis if you want to get to Columbus, but throwing in Cincinnati, which is about an hour out of the way, throws the whole thing off.

If that was all it was, that the bus went a bit further south out of its way than it had to if it were strictly a Chicago-Columbus route, I'd have no problem. It told me that on the ticket, after all, and if I'm bad enough at geography to have not known how far out of the way Indianapolis and Cincinnati are, well, that's my fault, not the fault of the Megabus. Nor can I blame them for not being able to fall asleep. I can hardly fall asleep anyway, and being on a bus didn't help that any, particularly when the ride down was filled by listening to podcast after podcast. I would like to question their judgement in picking sites for dropoffs.

Both Chicago and Columbus are fine in this regard. Buses in Chicago stop at Union Station, which is useful because it's somewhat of a hub as far as both Metra and Amtrak trains, and is pretty close to the loop, where you can pick up any inner-city train you'd want. In Columbus, there's a stop at Ohio State (which is useful, because that's just as likely as not to be the reason you're going to Columbus) and at some sort of bus depot, which is at least still in the city. Getting off in Cincinnati at 5am in what appears to be the middle of the damn city (stopping on a street corner) is a bit of a stretch, but at least it seemed to be a pretty nice part of the city, and so that's fine. Indianapolis looks a bit better during the daylight, but stopping there at 3am is a different story. The lights come on, everyone wakes up and about a third of the passengers de-bus, while the rest of us sit and look. It appeared to be kind of an open plaza, which I'm fine with. Open plazas are fun. The seven 24-hour bail bondsman locations on the street perpendicular to ours were... something other than that. They were the only thing open, and though now it seems like not that bad a part of the city, when the only things that are open are “hey please get me out of jail” shops, well, I'm not sure what you're supposed to think.

Either way, it got me down to my friend's bachelor party without much trouble, and got me back to Chicago the next day (an hour late, due to the bus driver's frequent stops, leaving us all on the bus while he went to the restroom, and the ride up until Indianapolis was next to a woman who just flat out refused to do anything about her baby who was screaming its lungs off, but what are you going to do? Be a parent?) and while I wouldn't recommend it for nine hour trips, it was less expensive than a plane. So there's that.

I'm glad, even with gas prices, that I'm driving to Cleveland for the wedding this weekend. At least there'll be no screaming babies.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Wonders of my Adventure Spoon

I was planning, initially, on writing another post where I whine about how maybe it'd be nice if I could run into Dominick's at 12:45am looking to buy some and soap and not have the five people in the only line open be doing their shopping for that month all at once. I pretty much fulfill all the stereotypes of the “lonesome bachelor”, but sweet mother of God, there's no reason to buy thirty Lean Cuisines all at once. The store's going to be there tomorrow.

So yes, I was planning on kvetching about that for a few paragraphs, especially as I rode home at one in the morning over roads which can charitably be called “paved”. But then, something happened.

I allowed myself an indulgence, you see. I don't have the best diet, but I've been trying to fix that, and decided to give myself yet another allowance. If I buy a sugary cereal (rather than something bran-y), well, I'm at least still getting milk, and that's good for you. So I bought a box of Frosted Flakes because it was on sale. I had settled on opening it as soon as I got home for a late night/pre-sleep snack (which considering how difficult I find it to get to sleep, was probably not the best plan) and wonder of wonders, there was a prize. I'd forgotten about prizes. I think most of the prizes I'd run across in the past few years had been some kind of lame temporary tattoo stuck somewhere in the middle of the box, or an advisement that you save up UPC codes in order to get some barely-worth-the-effort , piece of merchandising. When you get something solid, plastic and potentially useful in box, though, it's (apparently) a joyous experience.

Upon opening the box, I found a small plastic spoon in two parts. So that's actually the first thing. Not having to dig through a box of cereal and open a sugar-coated plastic bag is a bonus. And if you're completely unaware of the promotion, you don't find out on your fifth straight bowl of cereal at 3am on a Monday. You get to enjoy it straight away.

Apparently, it's an Indiana Jones Adventure Spoon, by which I mean a two-part plastic spoon emblazoned with a skull and other logos from the recent Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It's not going to affect whether I see the movie (I saw it the week it came out, and was somewhat disappointed, but thought it was a fun ride nonetheless. I could go in to exactly what I found objectionable about it, but I'll save that for another post), and so for me, it's just an extra spoon, which is good, because I don't have that many. And there's a small yellow light at the end of the (grip/barrel/whatever you call the part of the spoon you hold on to), such that when you press a button, the bowl of the spoon is yellow and glowing, like it's The Spoon of the Ages. Furthermore, simply pulling the bowl off results in a somewhat effective if low powered-and-yellow flashlight, which was effective enough to help me find my keys.

Before adventuring, please check your firearms, your satchel of survival gear and your nifty-plastic-spoon-that-lights-up.

And so, from what seemed to be a bad night at the supermarket, I now have a brand new utensil perfect for eating bowl after bowl of sugary cereal in a darkened apartment at five in the morning, staring into the middle distance and weeping quietly.

3.9/5 for the light-spoon.