Tag Archives: The Simpsons

May 4th is for all of us

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Well, another Star Wars Day is upon us. I’ve already done my celebrating in traditional fashion, by buying a discount Star Wars comic volume (this year to get the Infinities stories which include the comic adaptation of the original screenplay).

But I thought that since most other great Sci-Fi franchises don’t have a day, that Star Wars might be willing to share. Below is a list in no particular order of shows and comic books you should check out instead of re-watching Empire Strikes Back for the 20th time (or maybe afterwards at least).

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Babylon 5 – A show that delivers on its concept of a five season novel arc. There are imperfections: Boxleitner’s acting is overdone, the CGI has NOT aged well, and of course, Byron. But if you can look past these you’ve got a great show that was equal parts epic, funny and moving. Also, at least 3-4 strong female leads (passes the Bechdel test all over the place) Ivanova is my personal favorite. Season 4 is the high point, but I think you need to at least watch Season 3 prior to get the full effect. And if you like the epic space-battles of Star Wars, wait till you meet the Shadows, the Vorlons and the White Star.

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Red Dwarf – A man stranded millions of light years from earth, all of humanity long dead, with his only companions a holographic recreation of his snotty roommate and a creature evolved from his cat. The show is a little long in the tooth now, but the first 5-6 series are great. My favorites are the early episodes when it is much more isolated, just a couple of people playing off each other to great comedic effect. We could lose the cat from the show, and Kryton doesn’t always grab me, but Rimmer and Lister are worth the price of admission. Also bonus, really early Craig Ferguson in the first series.

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The Fuse – Comic book previously reviewed on the blog. Procedural murder in space with six issue arcs for each case. Set in a large power generation station in space with a community of drifters, technicians and society elites. Has some of the same beats as Babylon 5, but better explores the homeless situation with the “cablers.” Three volumes currently available with more coming soon. The dynamic between the two lead detectives is great and not always what you’d expect. And again features a grumpy older female lead.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – If you’re like me, you grew up thinking The Next Generation was the best Star Trek. But you need to give DS9 a look (as I’ve argued earlier). Characters grow and change from season to season. I’m doing a rewatch of early seasons and can’t believe they never shoved Bashir out an airlock. At least (to coin an old Simpsons joke), his name comes with instructions (“bash-here”). DS9 has all the things NextGen doesn’t, continuing story lines, epic battles, and a mix of comedic and dramatic plots. The Bajorans are a weak point, but there’s so much this show has to offer it’s worth another look.

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Saga – Not for the faint of heart. Just completed 36 issues of its planned 60 issue run. Bold, imaginative, epic, and deliberately unfilmable. NSFW in so many ways. My favorite post and rundown of the first 12 issues gives you an idea of what’s coming. But for all that shock value, it delivers on the space opera epic story centered around family. What more could a Star Wars fan want?

This is just a ridiculously small sampling of what’s good out there. So enjoy your Star Wars viewing if you must, but you can also feel free to swim out into the deep end. The water’s fine.

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Pledge Drive

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It’s the NPR spring pledge drive this week. When I tuned in last Friday during my commute (at the start of the drive) I actually made a Homer-like groan. Not that I don’t love supporting my local NPR station, but the pledge drive is kind of annoying.

NPR has taken a more tongue-in-cheek approach to the drive over the years, from the Alec Baldwin pieces, to Ira Glass calling up individual listeners and asking them why they don’t give. A variation I heard this morning was from Jacob Goldstein calling up listeners and asking if one of them would be willing to cough up the $46 million to make pledge drives unnecessary for all NPR stations in the country for a full year.

Turns out they should have just called Homer. In the 11th season episode “Missionary: Impossible,” Homer anonymously pledges $10,000 to attempt to get back to regularly scheduled programming. Unfortunately the Pledge Enforcement team, headed by Betty White, tracks him down, forcing him to leave the country and teach gambling to natives. It gets a little fuzzy from there.

Another bit of evidence toward my theory that The Simpsons is relevant in every discussion. Have a happy Monday!

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Ben Trube is the author of the noir/technological mystery Surreality and a lot of books on fractals, including this one.

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The Simpsons – Best Episodes for Writers

People who know me well, know that I try to keep up an encyclopedic knowledge of The Simpsons, and have a belief that a list of episodes can be created for just about any topic imaginable (something I often do at holidays or whenever some topic comes up in conversation, most often with my wife *sorry*).

Writing isn’t a topic you’d think would be well covered on The Simpsons, but actually there are a number of references to almost every member of The Simpson family putting out a book or two.

Bart Gets Famous – Season 5 Episode 12

A future jump ahead finds Lisa at the typewriter as a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist with Bart polishing all her awards. Best quote “Impaled on my Nobel peace prize. How ironic” after Lisa gives Bart a swift kick.

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They Saved Lisa’s Brain – Season 10 Episode 22

Several episodes involve impassioned letters by Lisa to the populace of Springfield, this one inspired by the riotous behavior at a low-fat pudding gross out contest. Her plea for more dignified discourse earns her a place in the local chapter of mensa.

Treehouse Of Horror VII (The Thing and I) – Season 8 Episode 1

Though not officially canon, unsold copies of Homer’s autobiography are seen in the attic. Apparently the book wasn’t very popular.

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Bart of Darkness – Season 6 Episode 1

Bart is trapped in the house with a broken leg, and TV is all reruns. Apparently his only alternative is writing his own play. “Is it St. Swithens day already? Tis!”

Diatribe of a Mad Housewife – Season 15 Episode 10

Marge writes a popular romance novel in which Homer is portrayed as a boor, and Flanders her sexy lover. Confrontations at the edge of cliffs ensue. Apparently all you have to do to succeed is write and you’ll immediately be popular.

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I’m sure there’s many I missed. Any other flavorites?

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Sex and The Simpsons

Long time readers of the blog know that my weekly Friday afternoon ritual is to listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour and enjoy a little reportage on the latest movies and musings on pop culture. Last Friday featured a discussion on the way sex is portrayed for parents with children, whether its played for laughs or if the people involved actually seem to have some passion. Usually I can count on fellow nerd Stephen Thompson to be right there with a way to relate almost any discussion to The Simpsons, but this week he let me down. Maybe you were just feeling you bring up The Simpsons too much Stephen, though I don’t know how such a thing could be possible. The Simpsons touches on almost all the areas you discuss when it comes to its portrayal of sex, something I will now demonstrate for you with 12 episodes.

Homer desired by other women

Despite being bald and overweight, Homer has had several opportunities for extra-marital affairs, all of which he has declined even in times of marital trouble. In “Colonel Homer” (Season 3 Episode 20) after a fight with Marge, Homer takes country singer Lurleen Lumpkin from cocktail waitress to country TV star when a song of hers relates to him. Lurleen is both grateful for Homer’s interest and faith in her, and lack of expecting something in return. She tries to invite him to “bunk with me tonight”, but Homer declines (and later asks Lurleen to clarify if she would have gone all the way, to which her reply is an enthusiastic yes).

Great line from this: “It takes two people to lie. One to lie, and one to listen.”

More notably in “Last Temptation Of Homer” (Season 5 Episode 9), a new employee at the nuclear plant, who shares Homer’s love of donuts, beer and sports, causes a real conundrum for Homer. He’s obviously attracted to her, and she to him. Despite being shown by the ghost of Colonel Klink that both his and Marge’s lives would actually be better if he left her, and being told by a fortune cookie that he will find happiness in a new love, Homer stays and shows Marge the night of her life. “Oh Margie, you came and you brought me a turkey, on my vacation away from workee”.

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Marge desired by other men

Marge has been pursued by a lot of would be Letharios, from Moe to Mr. Burns to a Manatee loving Alec Baldwin to old high school flame-out Artie Ziff. But the most notable is Jacques from Season 1 Episode 9’s “Life on the Fast Lane”. A selfish birthday present from Homer sends Marge to the bowling alley, where she meets a sensuous bowling instructor who invites her back to the Fiesta terrace. Marge is annoyed at Homer, and enamored of Jacques, and was saved only by “an ironic street” depicting love’s blossoming, to old age, to death, to skeletons in a shop window. This leads to one of the most classic endings of The Simpsons where Marge meets a depressed Homer at the power plant, and he carries her out in his arms. “I’m going to the backseat of my car with the woman I love, and I won’t be back for ten minutes!”

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Season 14 Episode 4 “Large Marge” also brought Marge a lot of attention, from her husband and other less desirable corners. Her new bazoomas even inspired Homer to song, though they did prove to be an awful strain on her back.

Grandpa vs. Sexual Inadequacy

Season 6 Episode 10 brings a double whammy to the discussion of sex, “Grandpa vs. Sexual Inadequacy”. Here we see Marge and Homer’s problems in bed frankly depicted, with reasons for lack of loving being TV movies, enchiladas, and the classic TV trope of the kids running in. Grandpa has the solution, and while the idea of old people having sex is mostly played for laughs, Grandpa provides a tonic that puts the spring back in Homer’s step, so much so that the two decide to go on the road selling the tonic to everyone.

Both Abe and Mr. Burns fight over the hand of Marge’s mother in “Lady Bouvier’s Lover” (Season 5 Episode 21). Notably Mrs. Bouvier turns both Burns and Abe down for sex and marriage, but while some moments are still played for laughs, particularly Homer giving his Dad “play it cool” advice to get a kiss, some moments are really sweet and show Grandpa can be more than just an old coot.

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Homer’s weight is rarely discussed as an issue with his relationship with Marge (less than you might think), though a notable exception is “King Size Homer” Season 7 Episode 7, in which a scheme to get disability payments by gaining weight forces Marge to make the admission that she is less attracted to Homer.

Homer goes too far

Homer does occasionally get himself in real trouble with Marge on the issue of sex. In Season 1 Episode 10 “Homer’s Night Out” a photo of Homer dancing with Princess Cashmere circulates through Bart’s school and Homer’s work, eventually leading to Marge throwing him out. Homer redeems himself by teaching Bart that women are not just objects (sort of), but his impassioned plea is good enough for Marge.

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More ruinously, Homer reveals many of Marge and his private moments in Season 5 Episode 22 “Secrets Of A Successful Marriage”, thoroughly embarrassing Marge, and causing her to believe she can’t trust him anymore. His plea for forgiveness of “complete and utter dependency” is a little weak, but while Homer doesn’t always say the best things, he says them in the right way.

Homer the Lover

Homer and Marge have on balance a fairly healthy sex life, with some ups and downs. They do occasionally engage in roleplay (or at least winter coatplay) “That name again is Mr. Plow”. When the kids are away in “Kamp Krusty” (Season 4 Episode 1), Marge and Homer get frisky in the shower, though all the lost weight, new hair and love life evaporate as soon as the kids return.

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In “Natural Born Kissers” (Season 9 Episode 25) Marge and Homer’s dull anniversary leads them to believe the passion is gone. But after nearly getting caught hiding in a farmer’s barn, the element of danger adds new zest. This leads them to try nookie in all sorts of dangerous places, leading to nearly being discovered in their old love nest in the putt-putt windmill, and finally ending up standing naked in a loaded football stadium. While a lot of this is played for laughs, and there is definitely some “ew, gross” from the kids, much of the episode does show the two of them having fun.

So, as we have now learned, The Simpsons belongs in every discussion of pop-culture. You would do well to remember this, Stephen 🙂

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The True Meaning of The Simpsons

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Though many judge The Simpsons by its annual Halloween themed Treehouse of Horror episodes, I think some of the best yearly episodes actually happen at Christmas, starting with very first full length Simpsons episode ever. Unlike the Halloween episodes, most of the Christmas specials fall within the accepted Simpsons universe (though in recent years there have been a few in the anthology format). Especially in the 90s, The Simpsons treated these holiday episodes in the same ways as other sitcoms of that period, as an opportunity to tell a family story centered around Christmas.

Two of my favorite Simpsons Christmas episodes are “Miracle on Evergreen Terrace” and “Marge Be Not Proud”. In “Miracle” Bart tries to sneak a look at his presents early, only to accidentally set the tree on fire and destroy all of the gifts. Rather than fess up, Bart hides the evidence and blames the disappearance of the tree and gifts on a burgler. The story of someone who stole Christmas airs on the local news, and the people of Springfield dig deep to give the Simpsons the Christmas they deserve. Bart is already feeling guilty, but this is made even worse by the donation of a dollar from a couple of kids at the local orphanage who are obviously very sick. Bart doesn’t want to take it, but the kids insist. The Simpsons proceed to buy a new car with the money which is promptly totaled (falls through a crack in the ice and explodes) and Bart’s lie is exposed to the whole town just after he admits it to his parents. The town turns on the Simpsons, who attempt to earn back some of the money on Jeopardy only to go even deeper into debt. The town eventually forgives the Simpsons, collecting their debt by taking everything out of the Simpsons home except a washcloth.

While “Miracle” is more of a gags show with no particular message, “Marge Be Not Proud” shows us a badder and a better Bart than usual. Personally, as bad of a kid as Bart seems to be, and as poorly as he does in school, I don’t like the Simpsons future episodes that posit he’ll be a loser with no job prospects. I actually think Bart is just a normal kid who will grow up and find some happiness. Even Homer has a loving wife, and a beautiful family and I think Bart will have this too, as evidenced by episodes like this one.

Bart desires a violent video game called “Bonestorm” which Marge refuses to buy. After seeing Nelson and a couple of the bullies shoplifting, Bart tries to steal a copy of the game but is promptly caught. The store security guard bans him from the store and calls his parents but only gets their answering machine. Bart is able to intercept the tape and keep his parents from finding out, until they decide to get Christmas pictures taken at the same store where Bart tried to steal the game. Bart’s theft is revealed and Marge is very disappointed, unable to specifically punish Bart, who begins to realize how much he has hurt his Mom. The Simpsons carry on with typical traditions, including making snowmen, but they fail to include Bart.

Bart worries that he’s lost his mother’s love, and tries to make it right. He returns home with another bulge in his jacket, which Marge takes for stealing until she realizes its a picture of Bart to replace the one he ruined by being yanked out of frame by the security guard. Taped to the frame is the receipt. Marge tears up and  hugs Bart, and even lets him open a present early, a putting video game which is pretty dull but Bart feigns happiness anyway.

What are your favorite TV Christmas specials?

Some additional “Holiday Flavorites” can be found here:

“Mr. Plow” – Homer runs a snow plow business, but soon must contend with his rival, Barney “The Plow King”.

“Grift of the Magi” – If you ever needed a reason why Furbies should never be sold again, this is it.

“Simpsons Roasting on an open Fire” – First episode ever, and explanation for Santa’s Little Helper.

 

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My Social Media Experiment

By now many of you will have heard about the Facebook study that manipulated the moods of 700,000 of its users. While most people may feel outraged or violated that their feeds were massaged to give you an optimistic or pessimistic view of the world, I had a different reaction.

Why does Facebook get to be the only one who toys with your emotions?

So here’s a little story that’s sure to send you on an emotional roller coaster. You did agree to this in the terms of service, so I don’t want to hear any complaining.

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Lisa loves her cat, Snowball II.

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But Dr. Hibbert ran over Snowball II with his car.

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Bart: “I know how you feel Lise. No kid wants to outlive their pet.”

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It was difficult but Lisa moved on. And in an animal rescue shelter she found the perfect kitty. She named him Snowball III.

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He didn’t last long.

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Marge: “Oh, Lisa. Honey, it’s okay. You’re a Buddhist. So you know your cats are now reincarnated as a higher form of life.”

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Lisa wasn’t sure about replacing yet another kitty. But her love of jazz, and an aptly named cat convinced her to love again.

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When she got him home, she decided to play him some music from his namesake.

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He didn’t care for it.

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So much so, he jumped out the window.

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Marge: “Lord, if you think I’m making lemon bars for your bake sale Sunday, you better stop killing our cats.”

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Lisa had almost given up hope, but then the lord sent her an angel.

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Or a crazy cat lady. Whatever.

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Lisa: “Look, you don’t want to get involved with a girl like me. My cats have a nasty habit of waking up dead. Now go. Cough me out of your life like a bad fur ball.”

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Things weren’t looking good for this cat either.

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But at the last second the car swerved and ran into a tree.

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Lisa named her lucky cat Snowball V, but to save money on a new bowl, she calls her Snowball II.

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But it’s okay. At least Gil’s gonna have food tonight.

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Or maybe not.

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So how does this make you feel?

 

All stills from Season 15 Episode 9 of The Simpsons – “I (annoyed grunt)-bot”. Thanks to Springfield! Springfield! for episode scripts to check the quotes.

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A Thanksgiving Haiku

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Yearly jellied can
cranberries with the ridge lines
still makes my wife sick

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