Every year, there is a ton of material that I have something to say about, but never get around to saying it. Maybe I'm tired. Maybe I'm busy. Maybe "I love this!" doesn't strike me as an exciting enough sentiment to post. Anyway, over the next two days, I want to make right the wrongs of the 2009...but since I'm ultimately powerless, I'll just post about 20 things that I neglected when they first struck me...
I'm going to spend this week catching up, starting with some long overdue words on what's probably my favorite documentary of the year, The Rock-afire Explosion. But before I say my peace, here's a clip that sums up the delirious, animatronic-fueled joy that pervades the film:
Much has been gushed about regarding The Rock-afire Explosion, but no amount of hype could do it justice. While watching it, I wanted to pinch this movie's cheeks. In case you haven't heard, the Rock-afire Explosion was a Country Bears rip-off (this fact is never acknowledged by the film, btw, lest Disney get litigious, we can presume) group of animatronic animals that served as the house band for ShowBiz Pizza from 1980 to 1990. (ShowBiz, like the company it would eventually acquire, Chuck E. Cheese's, was an activity restaurant featuring poor dietary choices, arcade games and other fun things -- sort of a Dave & Busters with training wheels and inflammable prizes.) When ShowBiz Pizza went away, the Rock-afire Explosion stayed in the hearts of at least the five fans that are interviewed throughout this documentary, including Chris Thrash, a Mountain Dew-guzzling manchild who saved the pennies he made DJing at his local roller rink and doing other odd jobs to finally purchase his very own Rock-afire Band setup. He went on to program his band to "play" (really synch up to) contemporary pop songs like Usher's "Love in This Club." These performances were made into videos, uploaded to YouTube and, of course, went viral, and more importantly, led the way to the documentary, which chronicles not just Thrash, but Rock-afire creator Aaron Fechter.
If this sounds like a pedestrian portrait of a product that came and went and grabbed some fans along the way, you have no idea just how unreal it comes off. During the several montages of the Rock-afire's fans gushing about the band and the finer points of its characters ("I loved Rolfe's voice!" "[Beach Bear]’s almost like an English major. He always talks real appropriate and seems to be really smart."), this thing plays like a big put-on. Thrash earns his status as the documentary's non-animatronic focus, not by his slavish devotion to preserving the Rock-afire's legacy, but because he's responsible for incredible monologues like: "I guess I was curious as what do they do when the curtains close. Do they look around at each other, or...I mean, what do they do? And then when I walked up, they was just starin’. And to me, that was really like they was more alive then then it was when the show was playin’. ‘Cause they just starin’ down atcha like, 'What are you doin’ back here?' So I quickly got back off stage."
Besides the gleefully shared simple-mindedness, The Rock-afire Explosion ultimately all seems like a Guest mockumentary because it's hard to wrap your head around why these people care so much about an animatronic band (incidentally, equally hilarious is the venom spit by the Rock-afire fans when talking about Chuck E. Cheese's replacement house entertainers, Munch's Make Believe Band). The answer, we come to find through further examination of Thrash and his motivation, is the narcotic power of nostalgia. Thrash openly calls the Rock-afire his "escape from reality" and contrasts this investment with involvement in drugs or crime. He talks about "crying like a child" when he first turned on his own Rock-afire set-up, and accepts no payment for the children's parties he hosts because seeing the joy he experiences reflected in children's eyes is payment enough. "That’s what makes me love the show so much ‘cause you can just go back 20 years in time and you don’t have to worry about nothin’ for a little while," he says, putting it all out there because he can't seem to communicate any other way (when he breaks down the uniting powers of the Internet, I don't know if he's a genius of summary or a total fool). Maybe Thrash is pathetic, or a little slow, or a retroactive romantic, but he's undeniably Caulfieldian. He's an extreme case, but there is something ultimately relatable in his youth-preserving quest - he's like a fun-house mirror that reflects an entirely common condition. As a portrait of him, his brothers in Rock-afire obsession, and a failed business, The Rock-afire Explosion is so perfectly sad and goofy that it uncannily captures the spirit of childhood.
Ever seen those 10-second meatball commercials for Mama Lucia Meatballs that run during Judge Judy? You know, the blood-curdling ones? The knowing way that woman looks into the camera makes me wonder if Mama Lucia is people. We never see her lower half; perhaps Mama Lucia meatballs are made of Mama Lucia. The name would make that much more sense. Also, I never see these meatballs anywhere but on TV. It's possible that only a few packages were made: all that this woman's leg and butt meat would allow.
Anyway, here's my reedit that expresses how this woman makes me feel. I'll certainly see her in hell. For your reference, the original clip is below, as well as a still of my creation. Use it as your last-minute Christmas card.
Unlike every other person who's ever cared enough about pop culture (or culture culture) to discuss it, I will not be running down my favorite moments of the decade. The decade, simply, is not over: you don't start counting at 0, and Year 1 was so called from its start (the 1 signified a year's beginning, not a year's passing). Technically, only nine years in this decade have passed. I know that this is pedantic. I understand that culturally, we group decades by the digit in the year's tens spot, not the cumulative passage of time. But whatever, I'm taking advantage of the technicality. I'd be more comfortable running down the decade at its actual end, next year, but since no one will be doing that then, it would be irrelevant. And that would be stupid.
I other words: I just don't feel like it.
(Also, was Year 1 actually called that at the time? And aren't we up against time-keeping accuracy, anyway? Whatever. In game of numbers, I still win...mainly because I don't have to rehash this very vast decade!)
This is happening in front of the Viacom building NOW:
About four people were downstairs proclaiming Snooki the "dark lord" when I took these. I didn't feel like arguing over JS' cultural greatness, but I gather that this group's point is that they are nowhere near as trashy as the Jersey crashers appearing on the show. Photographic support below:
1. This exists in my neighborhood (click for bigger):
If it's confusing and decontextualized to you, great. That makes two of us.
2. I bought Winston a "weekender" New York Times subscription for Christmas:
I think the only section he's fluent in, though, is Pillows.
3. I guess I missed it entirely when the links were, oh, everywhere (as confirmed by a Google search), but holy shit @ ChaseNoFace, a blog about a cat that literally has no face (the skin was "sloughed off" as a result of a car accident, leaving her looking raw and delicate, since her marble-like eyes are entirely exposed). It's a very shocking sight, which is why I'm not posting a picture. But that also makes me feel like a hypocrite since what is truly touching is that her owner, Melissa, clearly loves her so much, despite her unnerving appearance. It's a nice counterpoint to the typical pet owner's obsession with cute (see above).
Most impressive isn't so much Chase's will to live (that's very typical for things that breathe), but that her severe trauma has seemed to do nothing to diminish her spirit -- there is photographic proof that she is sweet with other animals and humans alike. True, she has no concept of mirrors, but cats are so fucking sensitive that a draft is enough to send some in a completely different attitudinal direction. It's hard to keep your chin up when you go through some fucked up shit; it's harder to keep your chin up when you don't have one. This cat does. What an inspiration.