how fucking old is wilford brimley anyway?

wilfred-brimleySo I’m watching TV tonight and there’s Wilford Brimley (again…always…forever) pimping the medical supplies services he’s been pimping for what seems like an eternity, and I turn to my wife and I say “How fucking old is Wilford Brimley anyway? He was an old man twenty-five years ago!”

I’m thinking, of course, of the Wilford Brimley of “Cocoon” (1985), and “Our House” (1986), either of which starred a 97-year-old Wilfred Brimley, right?

In Cocoon he’s an OLD man in a retirement village. And in Our House he takes in his teenage grandkids… I mean Shannon Doherty is like 14 in that series.

So I check out his IMDB. The man was born in 1934, which makes him about 75 today. Which means that 25 years ago, when he made Cocoon and Our House, he was about 51 or 52 years old.*

WTF? I’m 49! You mean the Wilford Brimley doddering around in Cocoon was two years older than me? The cranky old man in Our House, and shortly after selling America instant oatmeal from behind that grandfatherly mustache, was two years older than me? Holy crap on a stick!

So I got two choices… either I’m way the fuck older than I like to think I am, or Wilford Brimley has made a career out of playing really old dudes when he could have been playing leading men. I mean seriously, Bruce Willis is 55 and he’s still kicking ass and taking names.

Dude, which 50-something guy do I want to be? Which one do you want to be? The Bruce Willis or the Wilford Brimley**? No offense, Wilford, but I’m going with Bruce.

Hey, when I’m 75 I’ll be happy to be the cranky cantankerous old coot. But not before I have to, okay?

*Which means he was 38 when his granddaughter was born… which means he was 20 when his kid was born… which isn’t impossible, I guess, but still… **Okay, maybe with a name like Wilford Brimley you’re simply predestined to be an old man from birth. I mean, really. Wilford Brimley is no action hero name, right?

Daily (Talk) Show with Jon Stewart

Cruising through the onscreen guide for my Comcast cable… noticed that “The Daily Show” is listed as (talk) while “The Colbert Report” is listed as (comedy). Is this a recent change? Does this mean that “The Daily Show” is legitimized as an actual talk show rather than comedy? Hmmm. Was that before or after he tore Jim Cramer a new asshole?

The Daily Show — best news show ever!

According to who?

Acting class today. Had a scene from According to Jim. I played the electronics store clerk.

The store was called “Lazy Al’s”. The script said I was wearing a bathrobe over my clothes, hands in pockets. My dialogue is clearly “scripted customer service” — stuff like “Welcome to Lazy Al’s where we’re too lazy to raise our prices.”

I figured the guy was lazy. Bored. Hated his job. So I played it lazy, slow, and understated.

Clearly I made the wrong choice.

Ralph asked me to try it again, with his notes. Play it up. Which I did.

Then we watched it back in front of the class. Both ways.

His comment?

“You do know this is a comedy, right?”

Um, ouch.

It’s tough enough if you don’t get the tone right. But shit, when you don’t even hit the right genre? How hard do you have to suck?

But then, I’ve seen a couple of minutes of According To Jim. I may not be the only one who doesn’t know it’s a comedy.

Ew, sour grapes. They’re tart.

My neighbors are moving.

I’m very disappointed to announce that my neighbors are moving. Not just one set of neighbors, mind you, but both neighbors. The folks on the left, and the folks on the right.

Now, contrary to what you might think, this really has nothing to do with my quality as a neighbor. In fact, I’ve been told that I’m a damn fine neighbor. I’m always fast to accept cookies promptly as they exit the oven, on a number of occasions I’ve been kind enough to return most of the magazines that were accidentally delivered to my box, and it’s been my pleasure for several years to make my front patio available to anyone that wants to nurture flowers, trees, bushes, or anything else that’s green that I might neglect to death. And just the other day I graciously accepted a donation of a spanking used piece of exercise equipment, that would otherwise be sitting in my neighbor’s home, the source of guilt and anxiety simply by virtue of its disuse and a symbol of a poor investment.

I was doing her a favor.

And I needed another place to hang dirty clothes. The stationary bike, the Nordic track and the weight bench are all full.

My neighbor turned this stair stepper over to me the other day before she even knew for sure she was moving. She claimed she didn’t have room for it, and never used it. I’m convinced it has nothing to do with her concern over the growing spare tire I’ve been sporting, after this, our winter of inactivity.

I know this, because my wardrobe has been carefully selected to hide this new addition to the family. Sweatpants and shirts that don’t tuck. A closet full of ’em.

Anyway, I get my exercise kicking out the footrest on my recliner, and hollering at the television. I’m angry at the crappy quality of American game shows, and the crappy quality of British game show hosts. Have you seen this Weakest Link? “Scariest Woman on Television” my ass.

“Whose intelligence has no beginning? Where is the village that is missing its idiot? Who’s one eggroll short of a poo-poo platter?”

Ooh, I’m so scared. Give me a break. You want a scary host, give that show to Denis Leary. Give it to Dennis Miller. Hell, give it to Dennis Franz. But please, this broad is about as scary as a cranky small time bureaucrat who just got passed over for an annual COLA. Dumb as dirt, but still holding you by the short-hairs ‘cuz she’s the only one who can sign off your Jury Duty.

Since I’m on the subject, by the way, I have to say that this new show, Fear Factor, is really bringing me down. This is like Jackass with lovely prizes. [can I say ‘jackass’ on the air? ‘jackass’ is the name of the show. if I’m not allowed to say ‘jackass’, let me know.] American game shows have always been about skill and knowledge. You got your Jeopardy, your $64,000 Question (scandal notwithstanding), your Millionaire and your Win Ben Stein’s Money. You win prizes here in America by knowing which philosopher studied with Pliny, the name of the guy who discovered the source of the Nile, or the price of a beautiful dining room set and a lifetime of free rentals from RugDoctor. Now, all of a sudden, not only do I have to watch some idiot on MTV volunteer to get kicked in the naughty bits by a mule in the name of cutting edge entertainment, but I got a whole new show where I watch people win money being the one who can handle getting kicked the most times.

I might as well move to Japan, where skinny guys win money trying to knock fat guys off a greased balance beam into a wading pool full of scorpions with the bumper from an Isuzu in an effort to win a can of chocolate flavored cheezwhiz.

I might as well move, because I’m losing my damn neighbors and I’ve hardly got any reason to stay here any more. Hell, I work for a dot-com, so my career’s wildly stable, and my kids are old enough to fend for themselves.

I was born and raised in this lovely little bedroom community of the Silicon Valley. So was my Father. My children’s family, on their Mother’s side, goes back to the original Mexican land grants. And I’m renting my home, because I’ve never been able to afford to purchase a home here. And I’ve watched my rent go up 47 percent in the past 5 years. 47 freaking percent. And now, I watch my neighbors priced right out of being able to justify paying $1400 bucks for a 30 year old apartment that has an ocean view if you climb out the bedroom window and stand on the dumpster.

I’ve grown up listening to Johnny-come-lately residents, folks commuting the forty minutes from the fog to the smog, complain about traffic and crowding and tourists and prices. People who claim “I’ve lived here ten years, and I’ve watched this place go to hell with all these new people moving here. I’ve got mine, close the damn floodgates!”

If anybody ought to be able to say “close the damn floodgates” it’s me.

So I’m losing my neighbors. That’s the important point in all this. They’ll move away to Oregon, or Idaho, or Utah, or wherever a person can still afford to make a home for two, three or four spouses and a passel of kissing cousins. I hate to see them go, because they’ve been fast and loose with the cookies and casseroles, and because God knows what kind of freak show is going to end up moving in after them. It’s a slim chance I’ll get another neighbor that will quietly put up with me screaming and yelling while watching America’s Funniest Home Rescues or Nordic Strong Man Alligator Wrestling. I’ll probably have to start watering my own plants, and I may have to learn how to make something besides frozen potstickers.

So I’m going to abuse this on-air privelage to say so long to David, Stephanie, Terri and Richard, Tessie, Hannah, Paisley and Lincoln. I’ll miss you, and I’ll never forgive you all for leaving me.

Now, if anybody knows of any hot young co-ed lesbians looking for a place to live, have I got a place for you.

One on the left, and one on the right.

That’s it. That’s all I got.

FOOTNOTE: Original publication date – sometime in 2002. Who moved in? The woman who became my lovely wife (she’s the one in the green). Things worked out pretty good, eh?

RIP Bob Wilkins

Rest In Peace.

Bob Wilkins, the cigar-wielding host of “Creature Features,” the late-night movie show that aired on KTVU’s Channel 2 through the 1970s, died Wednesday in Reno from complications of Alzheimer’s disease, his family said. He was 76.

For a generation of science fiction and B-movie enthusiasts, Mr. Wilkins was the bespectacled TV host who drolly introduced underground flicks with titles such as “Attack of the Mushroom People.”

“Don’t stay up tonight,” Mr. Wilkins sometimes told viewers. “It’s not worth it.”

I grew up on Bob’s shows, was baptised by monster slime, had night terrors seeded by the images from his movies.

I had the privilege of meeting Bob once… at 15 I entered a local sand sculpture contest, of which Bob was a judge. He walked past, gave an approving nod, and shook my hand.

He’ll be missed.

Snap Into A Slim Jim

Y’know, I’ve long held that people are idiots.
But that’s easy to say. What’s hard is finding a good tool for proving it.

One of the gauges with which I measure the idiocy of people is television. More so than movies, and more so than music. Eminem’s success notwithstanding.

Of course, there’s some movies on television. And some music, too. Then there’s music in movies. All that probably skews the results.

But this isn’t science. It’s inference. And I’m okay with that.

Now, before I start, let me acknowledge that we haven’t resolved the question of whether TV reflects our culture, or directs our culture. Do we like the things that we like because we see them on TV, or does TV just show us what we already like? Do we respond to the commercials because we are the idiots that they think we are, or because we are turned into idiots by the subtle influences of mind-numbing, homogeneous pablum, and we become the consumer drones they need us to be?

What we do know is, it works. If it didn’t work, if the demographic suppositions about television shows were wrong, and the ads that were running during the show didn’t really appeal to the people watching the show, the products wouldn’t sell, and they wouldn’t waste millions of dollars running the ads, and the ads would disappear. The fact that they are pumping millions of dollars into those ads infers, if not proves, that people are idiots, because they must be responding to the ads; because these marketing execs may be foul, but they’re foul and smart. They’ve got this crap down to an art.

So if the ads you see on TV are designed to actually appeal to the mentality of the people that are watching the show, and you see a “snap into a Slim-Jim” ad on Big-Ass Time Wrestling Federation Smack Down Thump-fest Mania, and again later on America’s Funniest Home Rescues, you can freely assume that the same kinda people that watch Big-Ass Time Wrestling Federation Smack Down Thump-fest Mania watch America’s Funniest Home Rescues, and that they are assumed to like Slim-Jims.

You won’t see Lexus commercials there. You won’t see Macy’s ads there. You’ll see Daewoo and Kia ads there. You’ll see Bryman School of Orthodontic Assistantship and Dog Washing ads there. You’ll see K-Mart ads there. And if you’re seeing these ads, if you’re watching these shows, you, my friend, fall into that demographic.

Of course, if this were science, we’d ask for causality. In other words, if what I believe is true, it infers some mechanism by which the advertisers can measure the relationship between showing a particular dumb-ass ad, and the increased sales of their dumb-ass products. And although certain paranoid delusionals may argue to the contrary, nobody really knows what you’re watching on your television. So they can infer, from an increase in sales after the launch of an ad, that the ad works.

But how can they know?

Focus Groups.

Those mysterious, privileged groups of select citizens, chosen to best represent a cross-section of our diverse culture, ushered into plush screening rooms where super-secret cuts of unreleased commercials, films and television sitcoms are beamed onto a silver screen, and extensive, revealing personal profiles are assembled from interviews and delicately structured questionnaires.

So I’m in the mall the other day, and this pimply faced kid with ill-fitting loafers and a wrinkled dress shirt with the folds from the package still in it walks up to me with some hand scrawled notes on a lined yellow pad on a dirty clipboard, and he asks me how I’m doing.

We quickly assess my age, my general income, and will I answer a few questions and watch a little TV for an easy five bucks, all paid for by GM?

Pay me to watch TV? Have I died and gone to Heaven?

So he takes me into a little office in the back of the mall and into a small room with one door, a VCR and TV, a computer monitor, and a two-way mirror, and escorts a fat chick in a black dress in to join us.

Suddenly, this is looking kinda kinky, and five bucks is looking like not enough money.

The two of them ask me a bunch of questions, and then inform me that they want me to watch some commercials to gauge my response.

I see a yogurt commercial, an applesauce commercial, one for a Chevy car, and an Advil spot.

“Do you remember the car commercial?” they ask.

Yes, I respond.

They ask me what car it advertised. Malibu, I say. Or Monte Carlo. I’m not really sure.

He sighs. “Let’s look at the ad again” he says. We look at the ad again. I have failed.

It was the Impala.

“Now do you remember the car?” they ask again.

Impala, I say.

This time I pass.

They want to know how the commercial makes me feel, on a scale of one to five. One is good. Three is neutral.

I pause.

“You can just say three” he says.

Okay, three. I just want my five bucks.

They ask how I feel about the character in the commercial. One is good. I can relate to him. Five is bad. I think he’s a “loser”.

“You can say three” he tells me.

Okay, three. I just want my five bucks.

Finally, they hand me three sheets of paper with a list of words. “I was supposed to ask you about these earlier,” he says. “I forgot. Just check off the words that match how you feel about the commercial. You can leave a bunch blank if you want. It doesn’t really matter.”

I check some off. He gives me five bucks.

I’m not sure if GM knows any more about their Impala ads. But I have five dollars I didn’t have before, and I don’t even feel dirty.

But the cool thing is that now I have a new insight on my tried and true mechanism for gauging the idiocy of the American populace, and I feel a little better. Because, you see, while the commercials that play during my favorite show may suck, and may be offensively belittling to their apparently intended audience, they don’t necessarily reflect the nature of the actual audience.

When you see the Chevy Impala ad, what you’re seeing is what the fat chick and the pimply kid thought a 40-something year-old guy with bad knees and no money who doesn’t want to buy a car might want to see, after they’d hurried him up to answer the questions so they could get to the food court and grab a Squishy and a Cinna-Bon. So now I can watch Big-Ass Time Wrestling Federation Smack Down Thump-fest Mania and America’s Funniest Home Rescues and know that I’m not necessarily the kind of person who buys curly fries and shampoo because the Ho in the commercial is bump-grinding to Eminem in short-shorts and a halter-top made out of baloney.

I might become that person if I see it enough. But I didn’t start out that way.
The television doesn’t necessarily reflect our idiot culture. But it may very well direct it.

Because, don’t forget, the audience is still a bunch of idiots. My mind hasn’t changed on that.

We just may not have been born that way.

And I’d have paid five bucks to know that.

That’s it. That’s all I got.