Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ben & Jordan Watch Bachelor Pad: Episode 5

The bonds of brotherhood between Ben Morse and Jordan Geary were forged during their time as students at Connecticut College, where they spent four years losing at intramural sports (except softball in 2004!), forming their own fraternity because the school wouldn’t let them, making student films one professor called “unfortunate” and regularly beating their friend Dan Hartnett in Goldeneye.

Today, they live 20 minutes apart in New Jersey with their respective lovely wives, sharing passions for miniature golf, diner cuisine and the music of Motley Crue. They also both watched and blogged about Games of Thrones this past season to the thrill of perhaps a dozen.

For years Jordan has been trying to sell Ben, who has never watched an episode of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, to watch Bachelor Pad. Despite their youthful enjoyment of reality romance classics like Temptation Island and Paradise Hotel, Ben was skeptical, but decided to go for it.

Bear wit to their wit, wisdom and frequent allusions to Mark L. Wahlberg as they try and bring some much needed dignity to these people’s search for love/money/fame/a place to crash for a few weeks.

Bachelor Pad Episode 5: “Jordan Has Stopped Titling Episodes”

Jordan: The episode opens with the group returning to the house after last week’s rose ceremony. Blakeley and her super shiny lips have their eyes set on Chris, and by “eyes” I mean “donkey punching in the throat fists.” Michael stokes the flames by pointing out to Blakeley that Chris really hates her. Nice! When not acting forlorn, I have to agree with Ben that Michael is awesome.

Ben: I’m kind of glad I didn’t watch Bachelor Pad last season so that all I know of emo Michael is your ranting and of course this.

Jordan: Lovable psycho Kalon gets confronted by unlovable jackass Chris, and suavely lies his way out of it. Conversely Ed, who has a conscience, is confronted by Chris and stutters and stammers an excuse out with the weight of his decision on his mind. To be fair, this stammering may have been from 20 off-screen Tequila Sunrises. Ed and Chris start yelling at each other, while comically the other guy who isn’t Nick (Tony?) just sits in the middle in a sad attempt at 5 seconds of screen time. Ed stalks off, saying, “This game is stupid,” a blasphemy I will only allow to my favorite character on the show.

Ben: I’m not sure Kalon so much lied his way out of anything as much as bluntly told Chris he was a loose cannon—actually using the phrase “loose cannon,” which sent his credibility with me through the roof—and of course he didn’t trust him. Chris only seemed sated by the combination of alcohol/fatigue (I can never tell with him if he’s drunk or just really tired) and impending sex with Sara.

Ed does not have a conscience. This is a man who won an internationally televised dating show and then cheated on his fiancée as publicly as possible. He just has no ability to think on his feet, so his answer to confrontation is to stutter, stammer and try to apologize. I find him entertaining too, but not nearly as endearing as you do.

Jordan: At this point I have to point out that Kalon’s bio says he is a “Luxury Brand Consultant.” I think this means he only kills people in Audis.

Ben: I’ve got nothing that can top this. Nicely done.

Competition: People Carrying Plates and Cups (Has it really come to this?)

Jordan: Blakely is born for this competition, having “worked at Hooters for 13 years.” My how she has grown, now being a prestigious “VIP cocktail waitress.” The women start and Blakeley is off to a huge lead. Chris is shown saying to the camera he is pissed she is winning. Then a second later in another clip he reiterates it. The difference between the clips? IN ONE CLIP CHRIS HAS A FULL BLACK BEARD AND IN THE NEXT HE IS COMPLETELY CLEAN SHAVEN. Yes, we all know this show is heavily edited, but this was a 5 second gap between clips that made it completely hilarious to me.

Ben: Chris Harrison obviously edited this segment with all the care and professionalism he puts into hosting the show.

Jordan: The girls are dropping cups left and right. Everyone in the cast simultaneously yells that Sara messed up and cheated and as she crosses the finish line Chris Harrison happily yells “And Sara wins the race!” This truly highlighted the obvious fact that Chris Harrison is watching Breaking Bad on a portable television while filming for this show is happening. Upon further shocking review, it is shown Sara cheated and Blakeley winds up winning. Cue clip of Chris mumbling with half closed eyes that he is upset while he sports an entire beard of bees.

Ben: I don’t think Sara really cheated, she just grabbed her plates and saucers to steady them out of habit and didn’t notice, much like Chris Harrison who was as always preoccupied with finding ways to bring Armageddon to Earth so that he can take his place in the army of darkness. To say she cheated is to imply she went into this competition with any sort of plan or forethought whatsoever.

This event really hammered home for me how much of a Stepford Wife Lindzi seems to be, as her smile never even cracked as she dropped and picked up her stuff dozens of times. Also, I don’t think she blinks. She’s perfect for Kalon!

Jordan: Time for the guys to go. Graceful Michael, the dancer, again is the heavy favorite. Somewhere as I write this David (Bing Crosby) carries cups and plates across his room and sobs that he misses Bachelor Pad.

Ben: Man, I totally forgot he got eliminated until you just mentioned it. Hey, do you think the guys at his MMA gym will kick the crap out of him more for being on Bachelor Pad or getting eliminated? Or do you think most MMA guys would be reluctant to admit they watch Bachelor Pad? Also, what are the odds Chris from week one has been fired from his SWAT squad or injured while trying to take a phone photo of himself with a terrorist?

Jordan: The guys drop their cups and plates left and right and somehow TONY WINS! TONY, TONY, TONY! Wait, this just reminded me…is fellow never-seen loser Nick still on this show? I have no idea. This question genuinely leads to a confusing conversation between me and my wife about whether we missed an episode, only to have us come to the conclusion Nick is still on the show somewhere in the background. NICK YOU ARE RUINING MY LIFE! A POX ON YOUR SUNBURNED BICEPS!

Ben: In your existential Nick crisis, you neglected to mention that Tony won because Blakeley was walking alongside him the entire time “coaching” him, which irked Sara and Chris to no end. I’m pretty sure Tony won not thanks to Blakeley, but out of the terror of knowing she would donkey punch his screen time if he even flinched a centimeter the wrong way.

Jordan: Chris and company stare at Blakeley’s giant teeth grinning after the competition, and she agrees to take her teammate Tony on the date (second week in a row this happens!) Blakeley gives her extra rose to Kalon, which is great because both dates are officially centering around a pair of unhinged freaks.

Ben: Who is Nick’s partner? Does he even participate in competitions? Can anybody besides you and me see him? I’m scared…

Guy’s Date

Jordan: The producers LOVE watching Blakeley go crazy as much as I do, so they obviously do what we would all do and give the good date to Kalon for the simple pleasure of seeing Blakeley’s reaction. As they give Kalon and his date Lindzi diamonds and a sports car, the cameras crash zoom on emotional Blakely looking on with wide eyes and fake cackle. It’s a terrifying and glorious sight.

Ben: Almost—but nowhere really—near Blakeley’s madness is Lindzi’s deer-in-the-headlights blank stare as she puts on her lovely diamond earrings. I’ve seen enough Melrose Place to assume that at some point over these five weeks Kalon introduced her to the wonders of electroshock therapy like Kimberly tried to do to Peter in that story arc with the insane asylum run by Elvis Presley’s widow from Naked Gun.

Jordan: Kalon and beautiful (but still with too much makeup) Lindzi have a date on a closed down bridge. Upon further inspection, Lindzi is the perfect combo of looks, fame, and trophy wife potential for Kalon to wind up with and, one day, cheat on.

Ben: I’ve really starting to question Lindzi’s humanity/sanity, as no rational person who would run away in terror at the prospect of being anywhere near a bridge with Kalon, crew and viewing audience as witnesses or no.

Jordan: Kalon says all the right words to both the viewing audience and Lindzi, endearing him to all he hopes to eventually slay and wear their skin as a vest. Even with this, he is head and shoulders on the likeability scale over Chris. Kalon will undoubtedly ruin the lives of those around him, but at least he doesn’t mumble, sulk, and have the overly macho swagger of flannel shirt douche.

Ben: Kalon could spend an hour talking about how Kim Jong Il was an underrated filmmaker and still be more likable than Chris right now.

(You’ll never know how close I was to a probably ill-advised Hitler joke right there, but I stopped myself; you’re welcome, Internet)

Also, did I imagine it, or did Kalon start to full-on mount Lindzi on their dinner table while the cameras were still on?

Nope, didn't imagine it.

Jordan: As we come back from commercial, over the montage of people waking up we see a split second of Jaclyn and Ed waking up in what looks like an emptied out pool. The show HAS to minimize the screen time of these two if there is any way of making Tony interesting during his date.

Ben: I would hire Michael Bay to direct Tony’s date. Nothing to lose at this point.

Girl’s Date

Ben: Wait, why is Tony going to get the card? Wasn’t this Blakeley’s date? Where is the internal logic and continuity we love you for, Bachelor Pad?!

Jordan: Tony’s date involves seeing stars and keys to something. A cabin? A Camaro? A box of crayons? Whatever it is is GOING TO BE SHITTY just to see Blakeley’s expression. Ah HA! Cue the reveal that they’re keys to a crappy Jeep. The houseguests pile on by trashing Blakeley and Tony off-screen, calling her trashy and him a boring lumber salesman. This all is true. Regardless, the rest of the date takes place at a broken Winnebago in the desert and the slow process of the producers driving sanity-on-a-thread Blakeley crazy continues.

Ben: Tony is a lumber salesman? That’s truly destiny’s cruel joke, putting him so close to the awesome profession of lumberjack and then dumping him into a mundane sales position.

Nick is a lumberjack. On Tuesdays.

Jordan: Back at the house, Chris tries to snuggle up to Ed and get him to vote out Kalon. The show tries to hide the fact Ed is slurring his speech through the whole conversation. I predict this doesn’t go well for Chris as anything involving Ed during his “drink n’ yodel time” is quickly forgotten by Ed as if it never happened.

Ben: Kudos to Chris for going after Kalon though, and by recognizing since he can’t vote him out, he can be a douche and eliminate Lindzi instead. Chris really goes the extra mile on being a petty jerk, determined to do as much damage on his way out as he can, and on this show, that earns him my respect.

Jordan: The Blakeley-Tony date continues and is so hysterically awkward. Tony flirts with her with a beet-red face and about a pound of sweat dripping over his eyes. The silence between them is deafening, and you can see Blakeley regretting her expert “YouGotIt YouGotIt YouGotIt YouGotIt YouGotIt” coaching back when Tony was carrying those plates.

Ben: I fell asleep during this segment (not really, I was probably just playing Words with Friends), but did Tony bring up his son again? It was pretty funny when he brought him up back on the Rachel date and how he had to “win this for him.” Actually, it’s generally pretty funny whenever any of these gainfully-employed, well-groomed, fashionably-dressed people go on about how they “need” this money.

Jordan: Back at the house, Michael and Rachel kiss and go on a quiet date of their own. Michael has finally found true love. They will be together forever. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could mess this up. Michael, feel free to put all of your hopes on you and Rachel being together forever. Everything will be fine.

Ben: You’re a horrible man.

Jordan: On the Tony-Blakeley date, a huge shocker happens with loser Tony and Blakeley kissing and going into the trailer to presumably bump uglies. They may have not actually had sex but BOY did the show want us to think that. In retrospect I should have seen the two most emotionally needy people in the house (now that Jamie is gone) getting together. Pathetic was never so adorable.

Ben: In my mind, the minute the door to that trailer closed, Blakeley donkey punched Tony in the jugular, bitched him out for daring to think anybody who had been on screen as little as him could lay a hand on her, then went to sleep in the bed while he wept on the ceramic floor.

Jordan: Tony and Blakeley come back to the house and kiss and tell. The guests look on, which leads to a Sun burnt Nick sighting! Aw, Nick, I could never stay angry at you.

(Yes, that's the same picture of Nick I used last week...I could not find another one ANYWHERE ON THE INTERNET -Ben)

Chris says to Tony he wants the guys to vote out Lindzi to get back at Kalon. Blakeley says to Tony OH HELLLL NO and Tony nods in agreement quickly because he is not ready to lose the one person in the world who knows he exists (thus making him disappear). Ultimately, they give the rose to Jaclyn. I honestly have no idea what this accomplishes other than to anger Ben’s dad.

Ben: On the contrary, my dad informed me this week that Jaclyn is his pick to win it all. He may not have been able to teach her how to play goalie, but he provided all the guidance she needed to win a reality show based around lying, backstabbing and emotional manipulation.

Jordan: Chris Harrison clinks on a glass with a spoon, calling for attention. No sooner does he do this than Ed speaks up and says he does not see any romance with Jaclyn, bringing her to tears.

Ben: And the Jordan Geary Award for Nice Guy with a Conscience goes to…

Jordan: Obviously Chris Harrison can ruin lives by the simple act of clinking on a glass with a spoon. Then, as if this wasn’t enough proof he was Satan, Chris Harrison says EVERYONE will vote for ONE GIRL and the VOTED OUT GIRL will CHOOSE WHICH GUY GOES HOME WITH HER!!! IT’S CHAOS! I LOVE CAPS LOCK!

This. Changes. Everything. Actually, it doesn’t, but I just wanted to type that.

Ben: But it seriously did. Chris and Sara were dead locks to go home, but this forced everybody else to scramble because they couldn’t eliminate Sara without losing one of their own. It was a pretty great twist, actually.

And I don’t begrudge you wanting to type that. It’s a dream of us all.

Jordan: Michael concocts a surprisingly evil plan to vote out Erica Rose so she thinks Chris did it (and thus she takes him home with her). Even at his most evil, Michael shrugs and says, “This is devilish,” coming across as a nice guy. Wow, I never, ever want to cross this guy. He could massacre me with a chainsaw, shrug and say “That was bad of me” and America’s housewives would swoon.

Ben: It was an…interesting plan, but I will hold off explaining Michael’s fatal flaw once we see if it goes south.

Jordan: Ed tries to explain his way out of the doghouse with Jaclyn…saying the equivalent of “Look I want to BANG you, but I don’t want to LOVE you.” Jaclyn is truly an ugly crier, someone whose whole face scrunches into a bitter beer face. Ed sees this and, being sober for the first half hour of his life, OBVIOUSLY doesn’t want to bang her now.

Ben: Sensitivity at its finest!

“This was devastating. And exactly what she deserved.” – Ned Norse, warrior poet

Jordan: The votes are cast. Michael wears some sweater that looks like a magic eye test. Erica flips out. It’s Bachelor Pad at its finest. I am riveted.

Then…the unthinkable happens. Chris shows Michael’s grand plan is poop by taking Erica in to vote WITH HIM. BRILLIANT! As much as I hate the guy, I do a have to do slow golf clap on that.

Ben: It was an incredible move. Doubly brilliant in that they never explicitly stated that you couldn’t do it, though I wager they may change the rules after this.

Worth noting though is a small but crucial detail. Chris was just musing about doing this, only as a joke, but then somebody egged him on. Who?


Seriously, this guy has influenced EVERY vote, and this week was no exception. The beauty of it is that nobody realizes how much he’s pulling the strings. Chris was starting to catch on, but then he got played this week. It’s amazing.

Rose Ceremony

Jordan: As I stare at Ed’s maroon-colored blazer, the girls one by one get their roses from Chris Harrison. It’s down to Erica Rose and Lindzi. The music swells, aaaaand ERICA ROSE IS GOING HOME!

Ben: There was never any doubt in my mind. Michael set up the perfect plan…almost.

Jordan: She taps her lips, takes her time, and delivers the death blow: MICHAEL THY TIME HAS COME! Ben’s favorite guy is gone, now forcing him to root hardcore for Nick. This is a drastic turn of events. Even Nick's parents were likely rooting for Michael.

Ben: I am seriously at a loss as to who to root for. My head says Kalon, because I’m in awe of his evil genius, but my heart says “Dude! He’s a young Hannibal Lecter!” and my head is like “Shit, yeah.”

I’m honestly angry at Michael for going home because he brought it all on himself. His fatal flaw is that as intricate and well-thought-out as his plans are, he’s a bit of an egomaniac and inevitably makes them all about him, so thus he’s putting himself on the hook each time and not giving himself an escape hatch. If he had played the game better, he would have had the other guys in his alliance spending equal time to him trying to convince Erica that Chris was the one to blame for her ousting, but he got too wrapped up in being the leader and put all the responsibility for conning her on himself, guaranteeing that if the plan failed, she was going to pin the blame on him. In a way it’s admirable, but I don’t think that was his intention, he was just being shortsighted.

Jordan: Erica then trashes Michael on television, exposing him…but then of course pushes it WAY too far in typical crazy Erica Rose fashion by bringing up Holly from last season who broke Michael’s heart. Once in the car ride home, Erica Rose says perhaps my favorite line of the season, “People can think for themselves, they don’t need a tiny little man dictating their every move.” She is a brain dead poet.

Ben: And of course Rachel is devastated. I would love to see her turn the corner from “that girl who is blond and not brunette” to being a crazy wild card with nothing to lose out for vengeance.

More likely she gets paired with Nick next week and they both go home.

Jordan: To make this episode even better, the show concludes with Ed slurring through a conversation with an oven mitt while the house looks on.

Ben: Words can’t do justice to how brilliant this segment was.

Jordan: I don’t know how it is possible, but I already miss this show and it’s not even the end of the season.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Paragraph Movie Reviews: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

If you don't have plans to see this movie, you can check the spoilers here and then come back.

Regardless of how well-crafted they are, documentaries ultimately live and die by whether or not their primary subject is compelling. Jiro Ono, and 85 year old sushi chef who runs a small restaurant in a Tokyo subway station and through decades of dogged work ethic and single-minded focus has become perhaps the most respected and revered practitioner of his craft is eminently compelling. His sons--one of whom continues to serve as his father's second-in-command despite being in his 50's, the other whom has left to open his own restaurant--and their stories of living within the shadow of and under the strict rules of their rigid perfectionist father are compelling. The young men who struggle to come near Jiro's level and the day-to-day operations of the restaurant are compelling. The film itself is impeccably shot by director David Gelb; every frame is art with the tight focus on single pieces of sushi that present them as art, the slow motion sequences of the restaurant in action and even the moody shots of mundane scenes like Jiro riding the train are masterful. The interview subjects are well chosen from the expert food critic in awe of Jiro to the quirky fish market experts who seem like each have a movie's worth of material in their own stories. And yet, it's far from perfect. All the pieces are there and at most times the finished product is something to behold, but it all feels like it's meandering rather than making any real point. Gelb dances around the idea of Jiro's sons being shackled by their father's achievements even when they've assumed his day-to-day work without recognition being the through line, but backs away any time he comes close to making any real headway. There are interesting bits about how more commercial sushi ventures are destroying the aquatic resources, but again, Gelb doesn't dig deep enough. Even after spending nearly two hours with Jiro, I felt like I didn't truly get to know what makes him tick as much as that he's really good at what he does (they never show or even mention the boys' mother). A compelling film, to be sure, and one I recommend, but it had a chance to be even more and falls short.

Friday, August 24, 2012

First Impressions: Robin

A couple years back I did a post about the history of the Robin character(s) and how more than most in comics he’s always represented providing different generations of fans with what they both want and need; here’s how I found my way with the Boy/Teen Wonder.

My first remembrance of Robin is Burt Ward hamming it up on the 1960’s Batman live action series which I saw via syndication, which truth be told is how I came to know Batman period, as I watched that before I was a regular comics reader and don’t think I saw any of the movies in the theaters until “Batman Forever.” However, while a general cultural awareness probably fueled as much by Tim Burton as anything else clued me in that Batman himself was a far darker and more serious character than Adam West portrayed him at a fairly young age, Dick Grayson remained to me the smiling kid who made the ridiculous quips, as opposed to the emerging adult Marv Wolfman and George Perez were evolving him into in New Teen Titans at the time I was growing up.

The first Batman comic I consciously remember reading was Batman #425 (I think this is either Chris Sims’ first or favorite Batman comic if I recall correctly). I got it randomly as I did all comics when I was young (six in this case), so I was experiencing it pretty much in a vacuum, not knowing until years later that it was the last issue before “Death in the Family” (or what “Death in the Family” was). All I knew was that in this story, decisively darker than the TV show Batman I knew or any other I’d experienced, Robin was kind of a nutjob, having apparently let a bad guy fall to his death in the previous issue (shown in flashback) and having to be essentially pulled off another one here by Batman. This Robin was angry, didn’t make jokes, and seemed on a hair trigger to say the least.

Now I of course know this was Jason Todd, originally a Dick Grayson clone but by this point a soon-to-be-aborted attempt at creating a more edgy Robin for the post-Frank Miller Batman. However, at the time, given that visually he looked identical to the comic book interpretation of Robin I’d always been familiar with, I just assumed they were the same character, and over time something had made him snap (I don’t think I even knew then that Robin was an orphan, as his and Batman’s origins were never really addressed on the kid-friendly TV show, for obvious reasons).

I was the rare comic book-reading kid who had no real interest in Batman. I honestly never bought a run of any of his titles regularly until Grant Morrison came onboard. I checked in for stuff like Knightfall and whatnot, but never stuck around. I’ve since gone back and read a lot of the classics in trade, but to this day, I don’t really consider Batman one of “my” characters, for whatever that’s worth (not much, I’d presume).

The point being that I didn’t try to untangle the knot of how Burt Ward/Dick Grayson Robin became Jason Todd Robin in my mind and really never gave it much thought until one of the covers from the Robin II: The Joker’s Wild series (the first issue, I think) caught my eye at the shop and I grabbed it. I was intrigued enough to snap up Robin III: Cry of the Huntress as it came out and then go back to collect what I’d missed of Joker’s Wild, along the way getting to know Tim Drake, who would become very much my Robin of choice.

I think I’m cribbing a bit from my own aforementioned history of Robin here, but while Dick Grayson was created for the rough and tumble young men of the Golden Age and Jason Todd was meant to reflect the hardening youth of the 80’s, Tim Drake was less and imposing physical specimen and more of a thinking lad’s Robin, intended to appeal to a generation increasingly captivated by video games over athletics and a society where brains had gained value over brawn. I was definitely one of those kids who was ok at sports but better at being clever, so Tim Drake was a Robin I could get behind.

Indeed, Tim Drake seemed very much like a wish fulfillment character to me and likely many other slightly nerdy boys in Chuck Dixon and Tom Lyle’s excellent Robin III. This kid, not the biggest or baddest dude on the block by any means, uses his wits to take down the guy who essentially is just that—KGBeast—and along the way gets the nice teen girl, spends time with and outwits to a degree a hot adult lady (The Huntress), and kicks butt, all while both his birth father and adopted mentor are “out of town” or otherwise occupied; he’s Ferris Bueller with hacking skills!

I followed Tim Drake into Dixon and Tom Grummett’s Robin ongoing series, where I really started to understand for the first time the chronology of the character as I was also broadening my grasp of overall DC mythology at the time. The Zero Hour crossover issue of Robin gave me the chance to actually see Tim team with young Dick with even a mention of Jason thrown in to really drive it all home. From there, I swung over to Zero Hour proper for my first significant exposure to Dick as Nightwing with an actual awareness that this was the original Robin all grown up.

While Tim Drake was the Robin I could most relate to as being like me (still is), I developed a separate kind of affection for Dick Grayson both in his original incarnation and more over as Nightwing in a way that emphasized my aspiration. He actually reminded me of my cousins.

My aunt on my mother’s side has six kids who were all born at least 10-15 years before me, so as a result, when I was young and went to holidays, I was surrounded by these teenagers and twentysomethings who were the coolest and almost most intimidating people in the world to me. In particular, my male cousins, two of whom were (and remain) twins, were the guys I dreamed of growing up to be; while I was still nerdy and awkward, they were all athletic, wise cracking and popular. All three of my aunt’s sons wrestled in high school, which played no small part in leading me to do the same.

Anyhow, I saw the relationship and dynamic between Tim and Dick as being very much how I idealized the one I had with my cousins: the smart and eager younger kid learning from but remaining fairly in awe and the shadow of his impossibly cool “big brother.” Like Tim, I was (and still am) pretty satisfied with the person I’ve grown into, but I’d be lying if there wasn’t some small part that still wanted to be Nightwing someday.

Following my hiatus from and return to comics, Robin wasn’t a going concern for me anymore as a solo character. I followed Tim Drake via Young Justice and Dick Grayson via back issues of New Teen Titans and both grew to be among my favorite characters—Dick more than Tim, probably due to Superboy fandom—I had no interest in either of their solo books.

By the time Damian Wayne came into the picture, I was pretty far past my period of Robin being a point of view character for me and more into appreciating the concept over whoever was behind the domino mask (worth noting, I was not paying any attention during Stephanie Brown’s stint, so I’m not omitting her out of disrespect so much as ignorance; please don’t come to my house crazy Stephanie Brown fans, I dug her as Spoiler and Batgirl). Robin has come very much to be the tail end of “Batman and” for me, even not being an avid Batman guy. I suppose just as I’ve never been attached to Bruce Wayne but as a fan of comics am intrigued by Batman as a concept and archetype, I’m interested in what Robin adds to the mythos as a counterbalance, whether Dick as the light to the darkness, Jason as the rededication to the stagnation, Tim as the deliberate thinker to the ask-questions-later figure of vengeance, and even Damian as the unruly child to the reluctant adult.

Robin has always forced Batman to do or be something he’s not naturally (lighten up, hold back, stop and think, be a father) and thus made him a more interesting character. I rather like that every few decades we get a new one and indeed look forward to seeing who we get next.

I also wonder if some kid is confused that Damian doesn’t look or act like the guy from the Teen Titans cartoon.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ben & Jordan Watch Bachelor Pad: Episode 4

The bonds of brotherhood between Ben Morse and Jordan Geary were forged during their time as students at Connecticut College, where they spent four years losing at intramural sports (except softball in 2004!), forming their own fraternity because the school wouldn’t let them, making student films one professor called “unfortunate” and regularly beating their friend Dan Hartnett in Goldeneye.

Today, they live 20 minutes apart in New Jersey with their respective lovely wives, sharing passions for miniature golf, diner cuisine and the music of Motley Crue. They also both watched and blogged about Games of Thrones this past season to the thrill of perhaps a dozen.

For years Jordan has been trying to sell Ben, who has never watched an episode of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, to watch Bachelor Pad. Despite their youthful enjoyment of reality romance classics like Temptation Island and Paradise Hotel, Ben was skeptical, but decided to go for it.

Bear wit to their wit, wisdom and frequent allusions to Mark L. Wahlberg as they try and bring some much needed dignity to these people’s search for love/money/fame/a place to crash for a few weeks.

Bachelor Pad Episode 4: “The One Jordan Didn’t Give a Title”

Jordan: We start this episode with Ed celebrating staying, while Bing Crosby sulks. It’s paranoia city as Bing tries to figure out who flipped on him. He tells Jamie he wants to partner with her, which makes her stare blankly at him and wonder what the word “partner” means.

Ben: I don’t know whether it’s that he’s really smart, that they’re all really dumb or simply that we’ve got omniscient knowledge of the events taking place in Bachelor Pad Manor to explain why none of the cast suspects Kalon is the mystery flip vote every time out. Probably a combination of the three. But mostly the second one.

Jordan: Chris Harrison shows up with questionnaires. He throws them at our contestants and dashes away quickly, like he has with all of his screen time this year. This season is way more fun if you imagine Chris Harrison sprinting to pick up a check and yelling, “I get paid per episode, so that’s the same for 10 minutes or 2 seconds of screen time, bitches! C.H. OUT!"

Ben: Chris Harrison absolutely has a bet going with the guys in the truck on whether he can top his previous recording for getting on and off set each week. If they win, he buys them all cars. If he wins, he gets their souls.

I noted the disdain Jaclyn had for receiving any sort of written questionnaire and silently mourned the efforts of every teacher in the Newton public school system.

Competition: Game Show of Doom!

Jordan: “Time to be Mean.” That should be the name of this thing. You could see it coming from a mile away. Lowball questions with things like "who was on what season"…and then the devil horns come out.

Ben: How did they all know all those details about seasons they weren’t on? Weren’t they all aghast that there were fans on the show and yet clearly they are/were fans before/after being on the show as well? These are the types of questions I would ask myself in my sophomore year Philosophy class had Bachelor Pad existed in 2001 and I was awake during my sophomore year Philosophy class.

Jordan: Favorite questions? Who said, “The person in the house who accomplished the most in the house is ME! I’M AMAZING!” …ED! Of course!

Ben: I also enjoyed the part where Chris made fun of Ed for being old and wanting to extend his 15 minutes of fame, doubly because Ed then fired back that Michael was on the same season as him and Reid, which I totally did not know because there are not helpful labels to tell me so every segment of every episode (if you only read this blog and don’t actually watch the show—and I’m assuming there are scores of you—this is me employing sarcasm as a defense mechanism because I’m an idiot).

Jordan: Who said the person who has accomplished the least in life is Blakely? NICK SAID THAT! (who the hell is Nick?)

Ben: I bet Nick’s questionnaire was filled with horrible things about Blakeley, Chris, Jamie, Ed, Jaclyn, Michael and basically anybody interesting because he desperately wants screen time. It’s the same reason he hooked up with Donna last week with one eye blatantly checking that the camera was on him the whole time.

Nick’s my new pick to win.

(Nick is not my new pick to win)

Jordan: Who said the person who would be the worst parent is Erica Rose? EVERYONE! (Actually it’s Kalon the Psycho, but we all know we all think that Erica would probably eat her kids or something demented).

Ben: The worst parent would be Chris, who would get bored of his first child, have a second, tell that one to leave him alone because he’s tired, then run off with his third born.

Kalon would raise meticulously neat, well-groomed and physically fit children who would rule the corporate world by day and bury bodies by night.

I believe Erica Rose would not reproduce by human means, but by mitosis.

Jordan: And JACLYN WINS! Cut to Ed smiling and finally exhaling for the first time in weeks. You KNOW he is going to drink to celebrate. Cue oral sex yodeling.

Ben: And now, let’s get our weekly Jaclyn inside analysis from our resident expert…

“Jackie’s win here did not surprise me at all. She excels in anything manipulative, narcissistic and that will destroy a group dynamic.” – Ned Morse, retired youth soccer coach and role model

Jordan: Time for the guys to guess which lady said what. Men can say mean things, but truly ruining lives with words is women territory.

Ben: Sorry ladies, he’s spoken for.

Jordan: Lowball questions, blah blah blah. Then the dirt:

Who said the amount of men they have slept with is 11, no 10, no 9? Yup, we ALL know that is Blakely.

Ben: I was confused by how in her cutaway she said the answer to this question was nobody’s business, but if she didn’t give the real answer on camera, she still painted herself as a ditzy woman of loose morals and did nothing to deny it, right?

Jordan: Who said the most scandalous place for sex they’ve had sex on top of a car in a parking lot? Sarah…who I predict will sex up at least 20 more guys before this season is over (for those of you wondering how that number is so high, remember that there is a crew of guys filming this on location).

Ben: What I want to know is, was the parking lot full at the time? Was it a garage? Daytime? At an elementary school? The answers to all of these could be “yes,” because Sarah is a freak, and Chris Harrison is not asking the tough questions because he’s not paid by the hour and his war with heaven is nigh.

Jordan: Who said Jaclyn is the most fake because she lies constantly? Jamie. Wow. Not smart, Jamie. Eliminate the comma in that last sentence and that becomes a perfect nickname.

Ben: In her defense, she probably didn’t think these answers would be shared with anybody. Because she’s an idiot.

Jordan: Who said Jamie is the most annoying in the house? THE ONE WHO WANTS TO KILL HER! BLAKELY! (Cue psycho stabbing music).

Ben: I love how much Jamie wanted Jaclyn to be the one who said that, and how happy Jaclyn was that she wasn’t the one who said it (I wager she didn’t actually remember whether or not she did until Chris Harrison read the answer).

Jordan: AND ED WINS! Wow, I am so happy with the two that won this week. What happens when two people on the same team both win? Have the producers through this out? My guess is no....and "no" usually means some sort of bizarre twist is coming.

Ben: When I’m happy with the two people who won (well, one at least, I can’t really in good faith root for Jaclyn) because at least the philandering womanizer and stuck-up brat are more entertaining than the more emotionally needy people, well, I know I’m watching Bachelor Pad.

Jordan: Cut to Jamie weeping hysterically to Michael after she feels bad about calling out Jaclyn. Cry me a river, sister. Psycho Kalon then does his best to comfort Jamie, comparing comforting her to murdering a dog…yikes. Speaking of murder, Chris talks to Blakeley and accurately jokes that he envisions her stabbing him one day. This WILL happen, folks.

Ben: Man was this segment ever a perfect encapsulation of these characters, from Jamie being an emotional succubus, to Michael’s magnetism for charity cases, to Kalon’s not-even-moderately-veiled sociopathic behavior, to Blakeley’s instability to Chris’ inevitable downfall of his own devising. If you only watch one segment of Bachelor Pad…watch the bit from last week where Ed can’t climb up a ramp covered in chocolate, it was hilarious.

Girl’s Date

Jordan: Jaclyn’s choice! She chooses Ed, of course. Sarah acts shocked, somehow thinking she is the only one who has slept with him. We all have.

Ben: Sarah reached her nadir with me here, as I was so sick of her pining for Ed in ridiculously fond remembrance of their one drunken hookup.

Jordan: The date begins, fittingly with glasses clinking. Screw cotton, liquor is the fabric of Ed’s life. They date turns out to be them standing in an empty Dodger Stadium, which is as boring as it sounds.

Ben: Honestly, is a full Dodgers Stadium that much more exciting these days? (I looked up how they did last season to verify that it is not)

Jordan: They hit balls, they sing over the PA system, and then go on a picnic on the pitcher’s mound. As the duo tries to figure out how to screw on the pitcher’s mound, the big shock comes in…the producers have screwed THEM. Jaclyn has to give a rose to someone else! Dun dun DUUUUUN!

Ben: I like Ed and Jaclyn as a couple because Ed has no allusions of romance and if Jaclyn does I won’t be unhappy when she gets her wakeup call.

Jordan: Back at the Bachelor Pad house, Chris calls Blakely a nutjob, which (as much as we all hate Chris) is accurate. Chris then goes to Jamie and plants the seed, so to speak, in her brain dead brain for her to sleep with him. Jamie smiles blankly. The world watches on, wondering if she thinks she is fooling anyone into thinking her 20 ft long eyelashes are real.

Ben: And again you speak for both “we all” and “the world.” You are the Ed of this blog in more ways than one, friend!

Jordan: Ed and Jaclyn talk about who to give the remaining rose to. They debate whether to give the rose to Chris or Kalon, OFFICIALLY killing any hope I had of either of them being smart enough to win this thing. Ed says he trusts Chris, which after last week’s “I trust Reid” makes me want to meet Ed and sell him a plot of land in Siberia.

Ben: You thought Ed could win this? Oh, buddy…

Between the lothario skills of Chris, the emotionless manipulations of Kalon and the experience of Michael, Ed is lucky if he cracks the final four.

Jordan: Chris and Jamie talk in the kitchen in their bathing suits. The slow seduction continues. By “seduction” I mean Chris belching out “let’s bang” and Jamie somehow seeing the romance in it.

Ben: Pretty much all the best moments this week came from Jamie rationalizing all of Chris’ actions into grand romantic intentions as she quickly leapt from dim pretty girl to in denial maniac.

Jordan: Ed and Jaclyn kiss each other on the mound by being put on the Kiss Cam. Fireworks then go off, and Ed does his big, loud yodel thing while he watches. I want this yodel to be my phone’s ringtone. When a call goes to voicemail. It will say “What was your name again?”

Ben: This is a fantastic idea!

Jordan: Jamie and Chris are in bed and the night vision is on. This. Means. Sex. Chris attempts to stop her incessant chatting the only way he knows how: kissing her and making fun of her. Millions of ladies at home all simultaneously say they wouldn’t fall for a guy like Chris and ignore the fact they all have at one point.

Ben: Taken!

Jordan: Cut to Jamie telling all the ladies how much Chris likes her, while Chris practically burns an effigy of her and defecates on it. True love.

Guy’s Date

Jordan: Jaclyn and Ed must pick someone to go on the date Ed won. My wife turns to me and says, “Here is what I think will happen: Ed will choose Chris and Chris will choose someone OTHER than Jamie or Blakely. Specifically, I think it'll be Sarah. This will make Jamie and Blakely go completely batshit insane.” I tell her if this is true I would be elated. Being able to predict the evil in reality shows AND using my favorite phrase (“batshit insane”)? GOD, I LOVE THIS WOMAN!

Ben: Why am I writing this blog with you and not Chloe?

Jordan: Jaclyn chooses Chris…oh my gosh. Can my wife really be right? Oh please, oh please, oh please! Drum roll…


Ben: I’m going to give Chloe the benefit of the doubt that she did not watch last week’s “next week on” and did accurately predict all this on her own…because they did kinda show all of it.

Note from Megan: They did show that Chris would be going on a date with somebody who was not Jamie or Blakeley, but not that it was Sarah, just that it was a different girl with dark hair.

Jordan: Blakeley, the paragon of rational thought, confronts Chris and stares at him with the wide eyes of a Tarsier (look it up). Chris waffles on whether he can be faithful to Blakeley as a partner, which is surprising since everything in her demeanor says she can’t wait to have him get his guard down so she can cut off his dong and throw it in a field. Blakeley bursts into tears and Chris politely comforts her by stalking away from her and speaking to Jamie. Chris then tells Jamie he couldn't pick her because it would make the house angry at him, which makes no sense, and Jamie nods happily and grins. I kinda want Chris to tell Jamie that the sun no longer exists, just to see her get really sad and start shivering after believing him.

Ben: Ha!

Again, Jamie obliviously smiling and gushing about how Chris took another girl on a date and stayed overnight at a hotel with her “for them” was the highlight of this episode for me. I have become a monster.

Jordan: Chris and Sarah go on a date and Sarah points out, much like I did a few entries ago, that Chris looks like Gerard Butler (though I said he looks like Butler’s uglier twin). The limo they are in then flies at 80 mph around a parking lot and Chris stares on blankly, meaning it is a stuntman theme date. During stunt training, Sara accidentally kicks Chris is the face, then tries to kiss him. This is how I imagine most of Sarah’s dates going throughout her life.

Ben: This date made me do a 180 on Sarah, because she seemed to be the first girl to recognize that Chris is not there for love, but he’d be a good dude to partner up/have a good time with because he’s got sway in the house and has no problem being man candy. She’s honestly the perfect match for him.

That said, if next week when he has a threesome with Erica Rose and one of the twins she pulls a Jamie and falls in love with him or pulls a Blakeley and…I dunno, goes after him with garden shears, my newfound fandom will be curtailed.

Jordan: Back at the house, Chris Harrison surprises the remaining contestants by actually appearing onscreen and then saying that neither Chris nor Sarah will get a rose on their date! ED is the one that gets gets to hand it out to a remaining lady. I want Ed to put on a wig and give it to himself.

Ben: You are on fire this week! I want you scripting this show yesterday.

Jordan: Chris and Sara kiss again on their date, which warms my heart because smug, "I'm so cool" Chris is officially accepting Ed’s sloppy seconds. ED’S SLOPPY SECONDS!!! Billy Bob Thornton then high fives Ed because Brad Pitt has his sloppy seconds.

Ben: Wow, I didn’t even think of it that way. I now like Sarah even more! And Ed even more more!

Not Billy Bob Thornton though. Mr. Woodcock was horrible.

Jordan: Speaking of Ed, it’s rose giving out time! He picks gravel throat Rachel, which is obviously a move to make Michael happy. Ed somehow falls ass backwards into a good decision! Go Ed!

Ben: I never thought I’d say this, and my dad may well disown me, but I think Jaclyn is the brains of this operation.

Jordan: Sarah and Chris make out on their date. Somewhere as this is happening Ed is urinating off of the roof.

Ben: I even kind of like Chris more after this episode, because he seems genuinely into a girl, or at least willing to be up front with her. I don’t want him to win, but he showed glimmers of humanity.

Jordan: Blakeley and Jamie talk. With Chris out of the house, they can talk rationally about him. They can figure out that he is playing both of them and doesn’t care about anything except sex, not shaving, and flannel shirts. Oh wait! They are both dumb, emotional, opinionated, and under his spell! Never mind! They go crazy and start yelling at each other. Hoo boy, I am already anticipating the beating Chris is going to get on the “After The Final Rose” special from Jamie and Blakeley while the housewives in the audience shake their heads at him. On a side note, someone needs to install a sign between Sarah’s legs with an “open for business” sign.

Ben: I have nothing to add, other than to give readers a little “behind the scenes” tidbit: Jordan always spells “Blakeley” as “Blakely,” so I have to correct it every time. He also usually leaves the “h” off of Sarah’s name, but started adding it in beginning with his comment about Ed urinating off the roof. He did not go back and change the other ones. The more you know…

Jordan: I must point out something: In a previous episode, Blakely mentioned that she finds it super weird that Jamie just seems to pirouette in place at random times. After seeing her do it twice in one episode…yeah, I concur. That is WEIRD!

Ben: I do this several times a day, it’s great for posture.

Jordan: Chris and Sarah enter, disheveled and proudly telling the house they did it.

Ben: HE’S BACK TO “SARA” WITHOUT AN “H”! This man is a mystery.

Jordan: Jamie then says to the camera she is saddened by this. Wait, is she wearing a TOGA? Whatever, I'm done with this chick. Chris Harrison comes in to say, “Time to vote out people”. He then says “well, my work is done here” and jumps into a hot air balloon to go on some wacky adventure while the contestants gameplan.

Ben: In my mind, there was cartoon smoke coming out of Jamie’s ears as the steam engine powering her brain strained overtime to try and figure out how Chris having sex with Sarah was something he did to clear the path for their fairytale romance.

Jordan: Unwanted losers Bing Crosby and Jamie talk about working together to stay, because frankly no one would want to keep around either of their loser faces. Even sweet, nails on a chalkboard-voiced Rachel is shown voting out Bing! Nick, who looks like he has sunburn on top of his sunburn, tells Jamie he will keep her if she agrees to vote out Bing. Can someone vote off Nick, by the way? I want to stop feeling guilty for forgetting that he is even on this show.

Ben: When Nick was attempting to scheme, it honestly felt like one of the stage grips wandered on to the set on a dare from his buddies that he could con Jamie into thinking he was a contestant.

Jordan: While Mr. Crosby looks obvious to go home, for the girls to go home it seems fairly split between Jamie and Blakeley. At this point, Psycho Kalon decides to just screw around with people’s heads for the fun of it. Say what you want about psychopaths, with their propensity for lopping people’s heads off and whatnot, but they DO know how to have fun.

Ben: I’m not actually sure they do, I believe that may be among the emotions they’re unable to process.

Jordan: Ed’s head spins and he frets because he is an actual nice guy with human emotions who can’t comprehend Kalon’s craziness.

Ben: Yeah, Ed is a sweetheart who was unable to make his reality TV engagement work because he was unfaithful on multiple documented occasions. He’s a nice guy on the Chris sliding scale maybe, and maybe not even then. There’s a distinction between “fun to watch make a jackass of himself on TV” and “nice.”

Jordan: Ultimately, by the time people vote it’s all just one giant shitstorm and I’m fairly convinced Kalon didn’t even submit a vote but instead used his time to rig the house full of explosives.

Ben: All I could focus on by this point was how Kalon’s lips are never not unreasonably moist.

Rose Ceremony

Jordan: The rose ceremony comes and Blakely makes another mention of donkey punching someone in the throat if she goes home.

Ben: I was wondering if I had imagined her doing that already or not. Thank you for confirming I am not crazy. In this instance.

Jordan: This wins me over and I OFFICIALLY want Blakely to stay. This show just wouldn’t be the same without her special level of insanity. For the guys, I want Bing Crosby to go home because he is boring and doesn't bring anything to the show. This is no small feat as he is up against Nick, who I am fairly convinced just delivered a pizza to my door tonight.

Ben: I think we went to college with Nick. We may have roomed with him and never caught his name.

Jordan: And the verdict is….

BLAKELY AND NICK STAY! Exactly what I wanted to happen! And to top it off, smug Chris feels betrayed by Kalon and has to deal with looking like an idiot on television. America heaves a collective sigh of relief that their favorite son, Nick, is safe. I now realize I am happy Nick stayed just so I can make fun of him.

Ben: Seriously, I can’t believe we hadn’t tapped into this comic goldmine until this week.

Jordan: In the loser limos, Bing Crosby defies logic by calling his time in the Bachelor Pad house the best four weeks of his life. Wow, what a SHITTY life!

Ben: Bing’s blank eyed smile as he went on for what seemed like a half hour about how great this experience had been and how it’s all downhill from here simultaneously terrified and depressed me. Every time it seemed like he was done and the camera guy was ready to power down, it seemed like he came up with another way to stay the exact same thing and extend his relevance one more precious second. I’m not convinced Bing didn’t cease to exist the minute we cut away from him. I think he may just be the collective psychic energy of everybody watching this show given form. Shame on us.

Jordan: Toga Jamie handles her expulsion with typical grace by breaking down and crumpling into a ball on the limo floor. Those in Vegas who had Jamie winning it all must now spend a long evening looking at themselves in the mirror.

Ben: Her confrontation with Chris over what a horrible person he was on the way out was unsatisfying to me. His “ladies first” gesture dismissing her to the limo was not. I assume we’ll get much more on the reunion show you mentioned.

Jordan: That's it for this week! Next week looks awesome, with Chris getting his comeuppance and scheming aplenty.

Ben: Also, Kalon attempted to express the human emotion of affection toward Lindzi. I’m assuming this will end with him voting her out because any sort of connection clashes with his prime objective and a single tear rolling down his cheek as she departs then hitting the ground and bursting into flames. It will be glorious.

Jordan: Jordan OUT! B.P 4 life!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Art Attack: November 2012's Coolest Covers

-I'd be very interested to see what color the logo and other trade dress elements will be for Artifacts #24. That sepia piece by Stjepan Sejic is gorgeous, and I'm curious to if setting in more muted shades would work best or if bright colors would pop it more.

-Is Iceman creating the suits on those ice cards on the cover to Astonishing X-Men #56 through force of will and concentration? Would that mental energy not be better served in another way if he's in the midst of battle? Regardless, it looks cool.

-Nice tease of the new Joker look by Greg Capullo on Batman #14. You see the key added element (that buckle), but no more, plus all the other key characters are worked in.

-Dustin Nguyen, man. Put him on a line-wide crossover.

-That Colder #1 image is one of the more disturbing ones I've seen in a bit, and thus one of the more memorable; it's gonna stick with me for a spell. Kudos, Juan Ferreyra.

-I'm no art expert (thanks for reading my monthly blog post about art that I like!), but I dig the foreshortening (right?) Dave Johnson uses on Creator Owned Heroes #6 to draw my attention straight to the barrel of the gun and then carry it through to the figures.

-Geof Darrow drawing Deadpool and a bunch of cats fighting Godzilla. As a fan, I say thank you. As a Marvel employee, I say you're welcome.

-More design excellence by Dave Johnson on the variant to Fantastic Four #1. The man knows how to use the fundamentals to make his stuff work. One of the masters.

-Mike Allred drawing Ant-Man, She-Hulk, Medusa and a lady in a Thing suit. See my Geof Darrow comments.

-More repetition from me, but as I said last month, my favorite Alex Ross work in immediate memory are those Ghost covers. He really seems to get that design and enjoy painting it. Beautiful.

-I'm not including the Joe Kubert Presents cover as a memorial or tribute, I'm doing so because even among 29 other great pieces, it stands out.

-Spoiler alert: Esad Ribic will need to work hard to not get every Thor cover he draws included on these for the foreseeable future.

-I love the idea and the execution of the X-Men Legacy #1 cover. I like it more every time I see it. Gotta make my way down to Daniel Ketchum's office sooner rather than later to ask about conception and process.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #698 by Paolo Rivera
AMERICAN VAMPIRE #33 by Rafael Albuquerque
ARTIFACTS #24 by Stjepan Sejic
ASTONISHING X-MEN #56 by Phil Noto
AVENGING SPIDER-MAN #14 by Gabrielle Dell'Otto
BATMAN #14 by Greg Capullo
BATWOMAN #14 by J. H. Williams III
COLDER #1 by Juan Ferreyra
DARK AVENGERS #183 by John Tyler Christopher
DEADPOOL #1 by Geof Darrow
ELEPHANTMEN #46 by Shaky Kane
FANTASTIC FOUR #1 by Dave Johnson
FF #1 by Mike Allred
GHOST #2 by Alex Ross
GREEN LANTERN CORPS #14 by Scott Clark
IT GIRL #4 by Mike Allred
THOR: GOD OF THUNDER #1 by Esad Ribic
THOR: GOD OF THUNDER #2 by Esad Ribic
UNCANNY AVENGERS #2 by John Cassaday
UNCANNY X-FORCE #33 by Julian Totino Tedesco
WHERE IS JAKE ELLIS? #1 by Tonci Zonjic
X-MEN #38 by David Lopez
X-MEN LEGACY #1 by Mike Del Mundo