Lifetime of Simpsons

S01 E04 – There’s No Disgrace Like Home

11

Here we go, back to a good episode. Sorry “Homer’s Odyssey,” I’ll stop being mean to you now. This episode starts right off with a great joke, the kids arguing over who loves Homer more, with the loser of the argument loving Homer the most. It’s a great joke, but holy shit could you imagine if you heard your kids say that in real life. That would be devastating! But it’s a good joke, so, oh well
Anyway, we get into the setup of the episode, which is all that the family have to go a company picnic which is being held at Mr. Burns’ mansion, and the family has to behave. Now, I’ve only worked for one real office job, but it seems strange to me that the picnic is at the bosses house. That just doesn’t seem like it makes sense, but who knows. I also think it’s weird that Marge makes a bunch of Jello molds. I get that the joke is that they think he likes them, so they make a bunch, but maybe Jello just went out of style by the time I was a kid, because I don’t remember ever seeing anyone have a whole blob of Jello with little marshmallows and stuff floating around in it.
But logistical concerns aside, they get to Burns’ mansion where they see white Smithers, apparently he was just really tan last episode, and we see Burns needing cards to know the Simpsons family members. I love how callus and apathetic Mr. Burns is toward his employees. I would of course hate to have him as a boss, but man his lack of people skills delights me. Homer decides to curry favor with Burns by having the family pretend they get along, after all as Homer says “as far as anyone knows, we’re a nice, normal family.” Of course, things go down the drain pretty quick. Marge gets drunk off punch, Lisa is running around in the fountain, and Bart tries to actually win the mandatory sack race instead of just letting Burns win like always. Once the day is finally over, Burns kicks them all out of his home, and Homer sees some weirdly perfect family. And boy, do they seem like a drag. My family was never as dysfunctional as the Simpsons, but we were also never bland little perfect people. But it seems like it would suck to be in such a courteous family. You need to be mean to each other. But we do get a super creepy scene after the perfect family where Homer sees his family as really weirdly drawn demons, beckoning him to hell. We also get one of the Simpsons favorite references “one of us, one of us, one of us.” I just recently saw Freaks for the first time, so I feel like the joke tickled me more than usual.

Gah!
Gah!

Homer starts to feel bad about how boorish his family is, just sitting in front of the TV, eating their TV dinners, and makes them go sit in the dining room and say grace. I’ll say, I’m not a religious man. At all. And my family isn’t really either, so I never had to say grace, but my wife and her family is, and every time I hear them say it I really want to join in with “rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub.” Homer then makes them creep around the neighborhood to spy on other families, which is so sketchy. After they almost get shot though, Homer gives up and goes to Moe’s to get drunk.
Then there’s an oddly sweet barfight between Homer and Barney after Barney insults the family. That’s kind of sweet I guess, that Homer would fight for the honor of his family. But Homer gets his inspiration for the rest of the episode when he sees an ad for Dr. Marvin Monroe’s Family Therapy on the TV, which I find hilarious that a Family Therapy office advertises during boxing matches. But the family goes to the office, after pawning their TV to a super creepy pawn shop employee (which is guess is redundant. Zing!). I love that the perfect family from earlier is shown being angry in the waiting room.
So, like I said in an earlier recap, I studied psychology in college, but I’ve never once had any desire to be a therapist of any sort, I was more interested in the experimentation side, not that that panned out. And I think I realized watching this episode that Dr. Marvin Monroe is pretty much my model for a therapist. I’ve never actually been to one, but I kind of see them all as Dr. Monroe. Ineffectual and out for money. That’s probably a really skewed and wrong idea, but I’m curious how many things the Simpsons have put in my mind. Anyway, I love Dr. Monroe’s crazy electric chair therapy, because that could honestly be something that people would have tried back in the 50s when we had all sort of breakthroughs in psychology, and no ethics. They were a weird time.

Science!
Science!

But the family perseveres and scams Dr. Monroe and get double their money back from him. They’re then happy and decide to go buy a new TV. One that’s 21 inches! That may have been my biggest laugh in the whole episode.
Take Away: I feel like the thing I took away from this episode, besides my mental image of a therapist, is that families are going to be messed up. It’s boring to have some perfect little 50s family. You need the craziness. That’s what makes it fun.

“There’s No Disgrace Like Home” was written by Gregg Vanzo & Kent Butterworth and was directed by Al Jean & Mike Reiss

Lifetime of Simpsons

S01 E03 – Homer’s Odyssey

8

Gonna be honest with you guys. I forgot this episode. I spent like the entire episode trying to remember what was going to happen. And really…it was kind of a weak episode. They won’t all be winners, just like I’m sure in the later seasons, they won’t all be bad. There’s going to be ebbs and flows in this show. But still, there’s some great stuff in this one, even if the sum of their parts didn’t really work for me. I love that when they talk about their previous field trip to a prison, Bart responds with “I didn’t unlock that door.” That’s a great joke. I also loved the fact that Otto apparently woke up that morning with a new tattoo that he didn’t realize he had. I love Otto, but this episode had me thinking about something I’d never really thought about. How old is Otto supposed to be? I had always assumed that he was supposed to be like, a weird thirty year old loser, but I’m not sure if that’s really right.
Anyway, I was surprising to get a weird memory flash from this episode in regards to poor old Wendell. I definitely threw up on a bus headed to a field trip, and I know that pain. Poor guy. Even though “being sick” is basically Wendell’s only character trait. We then get to the Power Plant, and the weirdness of the off-model Smithers. Is he black? I don’t remember if he’s like this any other episodes this season…but it was a little strange.

9

Then we get one of my favorite things the Simpsons do. Weird old instructional videos! As a fan of the weird stuff they play in front of movies at the Alamo Drafthouse, or the subreddit “Obscure Media” I love these type of weird educational videos. I miss Smilin’ Joe Fission. He was a funny little mascot. It was also the basic way that I describe how nuclear power works to this day. Then the kids start taking a tour, and we get our first look at Blinky the three eyed fish. I feel like he’s not around anymore. Then Homer tries to look cool in front of the kids, crashes a little cart and gets fired. For the first time. I think I’m going to keep a tally of the number of times that Homer gets fired from the Plant. I’m guessing at least once a season.
We then get our first Moe prank call. I.P. Freely. Classic. The episode then gets kind of dark. The whole depressed unemployed Homer story line was really bleak. My dad had a period of unemployment when I was a kid, and it was never as bleak as Homer’s but it’s still a little bothersome to watch. Although I did love the joke that Duff apparently markets directly to sad unemployed people, which really made me laugh. I’m amazed that Budweiser doesn’t do that, at least that opaque. But it does lead to a super dark moment with Homer steals Bart’s piggy bank to steal his money for beer. The joke of Homer trying to figure out if it was enough to steal before he actually tries to take it is funny, but it’s still a weird scene. And it gets weirder! Home then decides that since he can’t provide for the family, he should just kill himself. I do love that he signed the suicide note with “warmest regards.” He then just walked to a bridge with a boulder tied to him, all set to straight up kill himself. They try to add some wacky stuff like Homer oiling the gate’s hinges and the old neighbors being glad that he’s killing himself, but it’s still a strange scene.
The episode then takes a weird turn, and just becomes about Homer going on a crusade to make the city safer. Just putting up stop signs. I really didn’t remember this plot. He then just goes to the Power Plant to protest their safety record, and Burns offers him a job. I guess this is how he becomes the safety inspector, but it’s weird that they start his job by showing how passionate he was about the subject, then just showing him as incompetent the rest of the series. Although I do love that Homer kind of cons Burns into getting the job, by implying that if he was busy working, he wouldn’t have time to protest anymore. And that’s the end.

10

Huh, I guess I’ll have to get used to talking about episodes that didn’t really do it for me, and I guess this is a good place to start. But I think the most important take away from this episode is that even if there’s ones that I don’t like, there’s still parts that make me laugh. No episode will be all bad, there’s still going to be glimmers of funny in them.

Take Away: Well, I suppose the take away could be that not everything is going to be great? Nah, that’s a little meta. How about we go with a line Homer has, that alcohol is a temporary solution to a serious problem? Too bleak? I guess the main thing I learned from this one is that being unemployed is a real bummer.

“Homer’s Odyssey” was written by Jay Kogen and Wallace Wolodarsky and directed by Wes Archer.

Reel Talk

The Cartoony Beauty of O Brother, Where Art Thou?

MPW-765

So for my birthday yesterday my wife and I went to a screening of one of my favorite movies, O Brother, Where Art Thou? It’s amazing, and after seeing it on the big screen, I just had to ramble about it. I love the Coen Brothers. Their films are all brilliant. I even love ones like Ladykillers and Hudsucker Proxy, their less popular movies. Their writing and directing are just perfect, creating some of the most memorable movies I’ve ever seen. And while I love when the Coen’s do drama, like True Grit or No Country for Old Men, I’m more partial to their stranger, more comedic films. When the Coen’s do comedy, they do it amazingly. They’re weird, almost surreal movies, full of homages and brilliant dialogue. It’s pretty clear and Joel and Ethan are huge film geeks, and are making the kind of movies they want to make, no matter how odd they may seem. And O Brother, Where Art Thou? is one of their greatest. The movie is a fantastic combination of mythologies. It takes the basic elements from Homer’s The Odyssey and elements of American mythology and 1930’s Americana, and sticks them together in an amazingly successful blend. The movie is trademark Coen zaniness, with very strange ideas and visuals matched up in a beautiful way. The Coen movies are set in reality, yet allow some rather strange scenes and gags that most movies wouldn’t allow. It’s like occasionally they slip in scenes that act like a live-action cartoon. It’s their ability to toss surreal scenes into an otherwise straight comedy that makes me love these guys.

O-Brother-Where-Art-Thou-o-brother-where-art-thou-10126741-400-278

George Clooney, as he usually is in Coen brother movies, plays an egotistical, obnoxious, but still loveable loser. He plays Ulysses Everett McGill, a con artist who manages to escape a chain gang with the help of the bumbling Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) and Pete (John Tuturro), promising them hidden treasure if they help him get back to his hometown as fast as possible. This begins the retelling of the Odyssey through rural Mississippi. Nothing about the homage is particularly subtle, having Clooney named Ulysses is one of the more obvious aspects, but it still works. It doesn’t need to be subtle, because it’s the setting that’s the real draw for this movie. Characters and scenes from the Odyssey are very cleverly added into the world the Coen’s create in this movie. There’s the beautiful women at the river who double as the Sirens and Circe, after Ulysses and Delmar mistakenly believe they turned Pete into a toad. The religious congregation heading off to get baptized that become the Lotus Eaters. Ulysses’ wife having left him and begun courting a new suitor is taken right out of Penelope’s pressure to gain a new husband after Odysseus has been gone for so long. And of course there’s John Goodman playing the role of the cyclopes as a one eyes con-man/bible salesman who pops up occasionally to give the characters troubles.

But beyond the Greek mythology, the movie also manages to bring in a bit of American history and myth to the film, creating an interesting mixture. You have the guitarist Tommy Johnson, a real life bluesman from the era, who sells his soul to the Devil at the crossroads in exchange for guitar skill. The real Johnson claimed to have done the same thing, and when Ulysses and crew find him, they too become hunted by the Devil. They also come across Baby Face Nelson, a real 30’s bank robber, in the course of their journeys, adding more history to the movie.

01122001_WDA_TDIDOBrother1

But as great at the plot is, it’s the acting and directing that really make this movie. Everyone is fantastic in it, getting down their simple, country characters perfectly. Clooney is a liar, a scoundrel, and just a downright lousy guy, but you can’t help but love him through the entire movie. He’s one of the most charismatic characters I’ve ever seen in a movie. Nelson and Tuturro also give great performances, really making their simpleton characters seem realistic and fleshed out. The supporting characters are fantastic too, all with their own unique and believable personalities and motivations. John Goodman is truly menacing, Charles Durning is fantastic as the slimy and corrupt governor, and Daniel von Bargen is great as the sheriff, possible Devil. The music in this film is amazing too. T-Bone Burnett got an Oscar for this soundtrack, and with good reason. A mix of modern singers rerecording classic Americana songs, and original recordings of classic folk and country songs, the soundtrack really help transport the viewer back to the 30’s, to this simple, yet bizarre world these characters inhabit. The film’s version of “Man of Constant Sorrow” is simply amazing, and has become the theme of the movie. But one of the greatest parts of this movie is the way it looks. The Coen’s color corrected this movie to have a sort of washed out, sepia tone throughout, that not only makes it look like something out of the 30’s, but gives it a drab, unhappy feel that the Depression era seems to always bring about. All of these aspects combine to create one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen, and a personal favorite.

images

O Brother, Where Art Thou? was written by Joel and Ethan Coen and was directed by Joel Coen.

Lifetime of Simpsons

S01 E02 – Bart the Genius

4

Well, here’s the first regular episode of the series. And it’s a great one. “Bart the Genius” is one of my all time favorites, with classic lines I still regularly quote with my friends and confused strangers. First of all, we get the first opening sequence! Even though it’s strange, and off model, kind of like the rest of the episode. It’s a pretty great Chalkboard gag too, “I will not waste chalk.” Not one of their best, but it’s it’s a good first one. It’s also funny to see the little differences from the opening sequence that we will come to know and love. When Homer is in the nuclear plant we see some dude eating a sandwich instead of Burns and Smithers watching him, and we see Lisa riding her bike with a bunch of books bouncing around.
We then jump right to the family playing Scrabble in the living room. We also see one of my favorite recurring jokes from the early seasons, Maggie is a secret genius, while she’s sitting there playing with blocks that spell out e=mc2. Then we get the great Kwyjibo joke. The big, dumb, balding North American ape with no chin. Such a classic joke. My friends I still say Kwyjibo whenever we play Words with Friends. Bart then goes to school where he’s busy spray painting some grafitti making fun of Principal Skinner, but while Milhouse, Richard, and Lewis are having fun, Martin comes and narcs on them. I love it so much when Martin talks about the alternate ethnic spellings of the word wiener, where Skinner says it’s a good point. Harry Shearer’s delivery is always so dry and fantastic as Skinner.

7
The whole plot of this episode is a little strange to me. To the best of my memory, I don’t remember ever taking this sort of aptitude test, especially in elementary school. I know when I used to watch this show as a kid, I always wanted to be Bart, but in reality, I was never the dumb troublemaker, so it’s hard to relate to some of the stuff he goes through in this episode, with everyone being so mean to him. Althought I’ve always loved how bitterly cruel Mrs. Krabappel is to Bart. Although, I will say that I completely sympathize with his hatred of those weird “a train leaves Santa Fe at 3:00” math problems. Those still don’t make sense to me. I was never a math guy, and that stuff always just flies right over my head. Bart’s plan is pretty great though. Pretty sure it would never work, but switching names on his test with Martin’s is great. I was also met with the realization that I was kind of a Martin growing up. I was certainly not a genius or anything, but I was definitely the type of kid who would want to go read a book under a tree after taking a test.
Because of the wiener prank, Marge and Homer are called into Principal Skinner’s office to pay for the damages where Skinner talks about how horrible Bart is. I love that Bart has his own drawer in Skinner’s file cabinet. And the joke with Homer’s handwriting being as bad as a child’s imitation. Of course, in true sitcom fashion Bart’s name switching idea goes exactly as planned, and the district counselor comes to tell the Simpsons that Bart is a genius, and suggests he should go to a school for the gifted. The show then really got me thinking about gifted kids. The show really makes a fun point about a gifted kid and a slow kid having similar experiences in school. I feel like kids are all so different, that it’s almost impossible to judge this kind of stuff.
And the school Bart goes to is so funny. The kids are so insufferable and horrible. They’re so pretentious and obnoxious, just like all the kids I’ve ever met that were told they were gifted and better than other people. The whole school seemed like a competition to one-up each other. And so snooty about comic books…and clearly that rubs me the wrong way. Anyway, we then get the second classic joke that I still think about. To this day, “you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t” is my favorite way to explain a paradox. So great.
I also love that Marge and Homer go full on-board with nurturing Bart. The opera they see was also pretty much my only mental image for opera until I went to college. There’s a lot of things that I never experienced in childhood that I really only understood in terms of the Simpsons. And when I actually did see Carmen, I was pretty much giggling the whole time. “Don’t spit on the floor, use the cuspidor, that’s what it’s for.” Wonderful. Homer and Bart playing catch and bonding was also really emotional. I love their relationship, and that they worked this hard on the relationship this early in the series.

5

Then of course we have the great science experiment gone wrong when Bart turns green, which leads to the conclusion of this story. I’ve always loved that pretty much every episode of the Simpsons ends in a way that resets any complication, and here was the first one. Bart confesses his misdeeds, and is put back in his regular class. Although I do love his attempt to bullshit with the counselor and convince him he wanted to study the “regular” kids. But he ends up confessing instead, and returns to his status quo, with Lisa’s great line “I think Bart’s dumb again.”

6

That’s right guys. Bart’s dumb again.

Take Away: I think for this episode, the take away is that it’s easy to bullshit people. I got degrees in psychology and criminology in college, and if there’s one thing I really learned from these degrees, it’s that if you argue well enough, you’re right. You can trick or bullshit people to get your point of view across. And Bart is the master of bullshit.

“Bart the Genius” was written by Jon Vitti and directed by David Silverman

Couch Potato

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons is a Masterpiece

My wife and I have recently been going back through Community in our downtime. It’s am amazing show. Our group of friends watched is all the time in college, and it’s really one of my favorite shows of all time. The writing and acting match each other effortlessly, and it was really one of the funniest shows on TV when it was going. Yeah, it hit some rough patches, and hit the classic problem of “geeks can’t have nice things,” because even though it’s super beloved and has a devoted cult following, it never really got any ratings or made much money. It really spoke to people like me, people obsessed with pop culture. I could probably ramble on for days about how much I hate the Big Bang Theory, and how mad it makes me that people call it a show for geeks, especially when a show like this exists. It spoke directly to the geek masses in a way that pretty much guaranteed it would never be successful to a mainstream audience, but beloved to those who got it and it’s sense of humor.

2x14-Pierce_throne

Community had one of the best batting averages of any show I’ve ever seen, pretty much all of their episodes are great, but there’s some that are masterpieces. I’ll probably talk later about the amazing “Critical Film Studies” episode, the crazy one that’s somehow a reference to both My Dinner with Andre  and Pulp Fiction. But the one that we watched last night, and the one I want to talk about now was called “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.”

This episode was from the later half of season 2, when the show as really hitting it’s groove. We were familiar with the characters and the strange humor, and the show was really clicking at this point. And because this show loved to tackle the unexpected, they decided to do a whole episode about Dungeons & Dragons. Now, Dungeons & Dragons is a huge blindspot in my geek/nerd knowledge. It’s right up there with Star Trek as one of those quintessential geeky things that I feel like I should know about, but I really don’t. I know the trappings of it, and I pretty much knows the rules, so I can understand a D&D reference pretty easily, but I’ve never played a minute of it in my life. But I think it’s fascinating. I’m not much of a video game guy, but the ones that I do love are typically Role Playing games, strategy, and Adventure, all of which really seem to have their roots in D&D. I also really enjoy listening to D&D podcasts, things like Nerd Poker  or the Adventure Zone are really interesting and fun to me, even though they’re literally just recordings of people sitting around playing an RPG. So, while I love this episode, I don’t know if it’s at all accurate. I assume that if the showrunners felt like they needed to make an episode about D&D they must have some familiarity with the property, so I’m just going to give them the benefit of the doubt.

ADAD_This_is_going_to_be_awesome_yo

The episode is pretty simple, there’s a character that’s popped up previously in the season that everyone calls Fat Neil, and after Jeff hears him make a cryptic remark that hints at depression, and the possibility that he’s suicidal, he decides to invite Fat Neil to the study group to play his favorite game, Dungeons & Dragons. Of course, they don’t invite the insensitive and rude Pierce, and when he finds out, he ruins the game and tries his best to humiliate Fat Neil, and the rest of the group.

Now, I could sit here and type out a bunch of great jokes from the episode, but Community is one of those shows that’s kind of hard to make a synopsis for, it relies so much on the jokes. So instead, I want to talk about the way this episode was constructed. Already the show had broken it’s usual sitcom formula to have an insane action movie episode, a claymation Christmas episode, and a crazy horror Zombie parody. So when the episode starts and lays the concept on us, I was assuming we were going to get a fantasy episode. The characters dressed up in medieval outfits out in the woods, acting out the things they were doing. Not like they were LARPing or anything, more like we were looking into the fantasy world. Or maybe even having the fantasy part be animated or something. But no, this episode is pretty much all spent around a table, with a lot of dice rolling and looking through papers. They didn’t make the episode a straight up parody with costumes and stuff, even though that may have been more acceptable to the general audience. With costumes and special effects, the mainstream people may have looked at it like a parody of Lord of the Rings  or something, and rolled with it. But instead they replicated what it’s actually like to play D&D. All the fantasy action was in our heads, it was just the cast at a table, letting both the fictional and “real” drama play out. That’s such a clever way to handle a topic like this, and it’s a perfect example of why this show was so amazing.

2x14-Study_Group_wins

“Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” was written by Andrew Guest and directed by Joe Russo.

Lifetime of Simpsons

S01 E01 – Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire

THE SIMPSONS: The Simpson family in the series premiere "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" episode of THE SIMPSONS on FOX.  THE SIMPSONS ™ and © 1989 TTCFFC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
THE SIMPSONS: The Simpson family in the series premiere “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” episode of THE SIMPSONS on FOX. THE SIMPSONS ™ and © 1989 TTCFFC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Well, here we go. Christmas in July! The Simpsons series started off with this Christmas special, which is now called “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire,” but the title screen at the beginning of the episode just calls it “the Simpsons Christmas Special.”
Now, I’m not quite sure yet how to do these posts, so for now, I’ll just explain the plot of the episode, and make random observations on it as I go. We open on Homer, Marge and Maggie arriving at the Elementary School for the annual pageant. I love Maggie’s weird star shaped coat that they used to put her in. Is that based on anything? Because it seems super uncomfortable and would suck for a baby. Anyway, we get to watch Homer become increasingly bored at having to look at other people’s kids do their pageant presentation, which was pretty funny and relatable. I think it’s funny to see such an early episode when they had these bland, nondescript kids fill out the rest of the classmates, since eventually they’d introduce so many characters they could use. Although, I like that you can notice some kids who would stick around, like Milhouse, Ralph, Wendell, Richard and Lewis. I also think that a rerun of this episode was probably the first time I’d ever heard anyone sing the “jingle bells, Batman smells” version of the song.
We then go back to the Simpson’s house to see them getting ready for Christmas. We’re introduced to Lisa’s obsession with pony’s, which will pay off greatly in a later season. I also love that Marge keeps the jar of the Christmas money in her hair, such a cartoony touch. When Homer goes into work the next day however, he learns that the plant workers won’t be getting a Christmas bonus, which becomes a pretty terrible realization since we also see Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie go to the mall, where Bart gets a tattoo. I love Bart’s justification that since it says “Mother” Marge will be cool with it. Of course, Marge stops him before it’s done, making it only say “Moth,” which I think would make a pretty great subtle Simpson’s tattoo, and they have to spend all the Christmas money on getting the tattoo removed. I absolutely love the scene with Maggie and Lisa poking Bart’s raw arm and him repeatedly saying “ow, quit it!” I have a younger brother, and I feel like it’s a pretty universal thing that if your sibling is in pain, you’re going to try and make it worse. To a reasonable extent.
We then get to the crux of the episode, which is the fact that Homer will do anything to make his family’s Christmas as happy as possible. He lies about the bonus, and sets off to try and make things better. Homer’s absolute devotion to his family is really the emotional core of this episode, and really the entire series, and I love that they set it down so early. Since these early episodes are so Bart-centric, I feel like they could have just made Homer the grumpy dad, but they really work on making him a decent person beneath everything. So Homer goes to Moe’s to get drunk, as per usual, which is looking like a much happier place with the blue walls, and learns from Barney that he could make money as a mall Santa. I love the weird German Santa teacher, and I still to this day will slip Nixon into the list of reindeer if I ever have to say it.

2

I really enjoyed that Bart and his friends are feeling so superior in the mall because they know that the mall Santa isn’t real. It bring back memories of actually being in fourth grade when I figured out that Santa was just my parents. You think you’re so clever for finally realizing it, and I know at least I was very smug to my brother, knowing something he didn’t know. I found out he wasn’t real when I overheard my parents talking about getting whatever it was I was getting from Santa that year (I want to say at least part of it was one of those crazy Beast War Transformer toys, which were pretty rad when I was in elementary school) and I know there was an intense desire not only to show the other kids at school that I was cool and knew the truth.
It was really sweet of the show also to have Bart fully be on board with Homer’s plan. Homer really bears his soul to Bart when he admits the family’s financial woes, and I love that Bart is completely game to help Homer help the family. This episode also taught me that they can really screw you over on your paycheck, a lesson that’s very valuable to anticipate when you get older, and anyone who has ever had a retail job where they make you pay for the uniform can attest.
Then of course we get to the dog track. Now, I don’t think I realized for the longest time that this was a real thing. I thought that it was a weird thing the Simpson’s made up, because it wasn’t feasible to bring home the losing racehorse…which they kind of do in a later season, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I also laughed very hard at one of the dog’s being named “quadruped.”I adore Santa’s Little Helper, and I think it’s so sweet that they take him in after being abandoned. The dog my wife and I currently has was a stray before we got him from the shelter, and it really hit me this time in a way that I don’t think that has before. There’s also a great scene that flashes back to the house where Lisa is defending Homer from the bitter anger of Patty and Selma that really gets me too. I was pretty lucky that all of my aunts and uncles got along with my parents, I can’t imagine having someone consistently criticizing your parents, and I think Lisa’s reaction is really sweet. Anyway, Homer and Bart come home with the dog, and Homer’s a hero, having accidentally saved Christmas. We end on a fake Christmas card from the family, and roll to credits.

3

Now, of course the animation is there yet, and the voices are a little off from what they will be, but I think this episode really still holds up. It’s sweet and good-natured without a lot of cynicism that I feel like a lot of sitcom Christmas episodes have. It’s kind of a weird beginning to the show, but it really hits home that this is a show about a family, warts and all.

Take Away: Every episode I’m going to try and find some sort of take away. It may be something silly, or something serious. It may be something that I think the episode taught me when I was a kid, or something that really only sunk in on this viewing. For this episode, I think I’m going to go with the take away concept of not taking Christmas too seriously. It’s so easy to get caught up in the pressure to have perfect presents, to give people what they really want. But I think this episode really talks about an issue I’ve had to realize, that what really matters is the thought, and the love for the people around you. Kinda sappy, but hey, it’s a Christmas episode, sappy’s what you’re going to get.

“Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” was written by Mimi Pond and directed by David Silverman

Page Turners

The Professor and the Madman Would Have Been a Great Article

When you look through the archive of the articles I’ve written so far, you’ll probably notice that there’s a glut of articles that comprise of me gushing about things that I love. Besides an average review of Ant-Man and several references to my loathing of Man of Steel, I’ve pretty much been focused on rambling about things that I love. Which is a good thing I think, I don’t really like to dwell that much on pieces of media that I don’t like. I would rather expound on things I love than things that made me mad to have wasted time on them. Now, I feel like this introduction is leading to a rant about how I hated something, which isn’t exactly the case. I’ll probably find things that piss me off and will compel me to spend time composing a bitter article about, but I feel like by and large things are going to stay positive here.

professor

After finally finishing Infinite Jest, I decided I wanted something a little lighter and quicker to read, so I finally read a book that’s been sitting on my Kindle for a couple of years now. I first heard about this book on a podcast, I’m pretty sure the Cracked podcast that’s put out by Earwolf but I’m not 100% positive, and the concept was enough to get me to download a copy. The Professor and the Madman: a Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary. Yep, I read a book about how the dictionary was made, because I know how to have a good time. The thing about this book is that it has a great premise. It’s nonfiction, telling the story that most people probably have never thought about. I certainly had never once thought about what it took to write a dictionary. It just seems like one of those things that have always existed, but as I started reading this book, I realized that it must have been a daunting experience. To catalogue and properly define every word in this crazy language of ours is a ridiculous task that most people would almost immediately give up on. It’s insane. And in the end it created something to so many people take for granted. But the book isn’t just about the dictionary, because that would probably be considered a prescribeable tranquilizer.

This book was about two men, Sir James Murray who was the chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, and Dr. William Minor, an American Army surgeon who was one of the most prolific contributors to the dictionary. Because the method that they decided worked best for the dictionary was to put out a general call to arms to all speakers of the English language, asking them to go through all of their book, find words that they think were weird, write down a quote from the book with that word, and send it to Oxford for them to catalogue and define. So anyone could just crack open a book, find a word that they thought was neat, and send it on to Oxford to get added to this enormous book. And one such person who took to this lexographical treasure hunt was Dr. William Minor. Now, at this point in my description of the book it still sounds like this is a super dull book. But the thing about William Minor is that he was a delusional schizophrenic who had been imprisoned in the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum in Berkshire, England. Minor was American, and had served in the Civil War as a doctor, but, according to him, after being forced to brand several Irishmen for desertion, he suffered a break from reality, and because convinced that he was eternally being hunted by invisible men who wanted to hurt him, and invisible women who wanted to make him sleep with them and sully his honor. This all came of a head after he was discharged from the military and went to live in England. While living in London, he regularly carried a loaded pistol, and shot and killed a man after assuming that he was one of his invisible pursuers. Minor then spent the rest of his life, forty-some years, in insane asylums. And it was in Broadmoor that he came across Murray’s project.

He then spent decades of his life combing through the library he was allowed to keep in the asylum, sending in a staggering amount of words to aid in the dictionaries creation. Sir Murray began betting an avalanche of submissions, all from a Dr. Minor who listed his address as the Broadmoor asylum, so he naturally assumed the man was a doctor there. He eventually found out that that was not the case, that Dr. Minor was an patient instead, but that didn’t really change anything .The two men became friends, Murray becoming really the only person that could calm Minor down at certain points in his life.

And that’s really all the interesting parts of the book. I just explained it all. Except for a strange part near the end where the increasingly insane Minor decides that the best course to shoo away the invisible women would be to cut his own penis off…which he does, the rest of the book was kind of odd. There are vast passages about failed dictionaries. There’s a lot of detail about Sir Murray’s life, which quite frankly, was pretty uneventful. And there was a lot of information about Dr. Minor’s life in the asylum when he wasn’t writing words down and sending them to Oxford. It’s just a little odd. The book was only about 250 pages, but boy did it drag. It was an interesting premise, but there really wasn’t enough meat for a whole book. It would have made a fascinating article, full of fun tidbits. But as a full book, it kind of fell flat. It was an okay book, but it felt rather rambling at times, like the author was struggling to get to a page limit. It was a fine book, but really, I’m just going to remember the main parts of the story, which was the premise that I heard on a podcast, and forget the rest of the book. I didn’t really gain anything from reading the book that I didn’t already have from hearing someone give a like, two minute summary of the story. If you’re super interested, check it out, but in my opinion, if you’ve read this article, you kind of get the gist of it, and there’s really nothing else to learn.

The Professor and the Madman: a Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary was written by Simon Winchester and published by Penguin Books. In the UK it’s known as The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words.