The Hess Report


Monday, June 30, 2003

Two weeks ago, SciFi!Joy and I went to see Matrix: Reloaded again. We first saw it in a West Philadelphia theater of mixed and vociferous patronage, which can be fun. Our viewing this time was in subarban north Pittsburgh, which is about as white a place as you're likely to find. There were maybe ten other people in the theater, tops, and I was viewing that as God's own personal message to me that I could watch the movie in the attentive silence that I can usually only achieve when watching something at home, alone, which is to say, never. So that's probably why I overreacted to Joy's upon-reflection-not-really-so-noisy gum chewing. But she did crack it once. And blew a bubble that popped and made a bit of noise. Willful neglect, I think.

But I did over react a bit, and as such deserved the comment moments later that I was picking my nose and that it was gross. Extra irony points would have been given had she said that the sound of me picking my nose was distracting her.

But it was a trumped up charge, I guarantee you. First, by my even saying that I was "picking my nose" grants a temporal continuance and longevity to the event that did not exist. Here's what happened: I'm sitting there watching Keanu Reeves say something with his silly accent like "Hello Boys" or whatever, when I feel a startling little itch on the portion of my upper lip that extends vertically to become the divider between the nasal cavaties. Some would describe this as being part of the nose, but others would not as the location of the itch was not past the plane of the nostril. So, as one would do with the occasional itch, I placed the clean edge of the nail of my right index finger upon it. It was at this point I realized that the was not the silly, spontaneously appearing-then-remitting kind that you get on your calf or your triceps, or wherever. Nay. There was an irritant at hand. Apparently, a collection of ambient dust had combined with certain self-produced materials to create what I would like to call a "formidable solid irritant." Already being halfway there, I effected its removal by the most efficient means necessary. Ahem.

So if you want to say that I engaged in the expiditious relocation of serendipitously discovered pseudo-organic nasal irritants, then be my guest. But don't tell me I was picking my nose. That's just gross.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

I'm road testing a comments system. If anyone wants to leave me some love, or otherwise, just click on the No Comments link at the bottom of a post. Incidentally, you don't have to fill out the email address and whatnot on the comments form. Just your name will do.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Movie Review

Magical Adventure! A Wiggly Movie

This is the 2003 rerelease of the 1997 utter fiasco originally titled The Wiggles Movie. If you have young children, you have probably seen the Wiggles in their latest incarnation as vile, hypnotic whores for the Disney corporation. Even if you don’t have kids, you still may have seen them. Imdb lists Dean Covell as the director. Click on his link, and you see that this is the only project that he has ever worked on. Ever. It shows.

This movie is completely insane. And not good insane. Bad insane. I watched about a half hour of it with my kids last week. We got it from the library. Strangely enough, I had been under the impression that libraries were supposed to educate America’s youth or something, as opposed to shooting steaming bazooka-loads of Wiggly turd-missiles through their brains and the unsuspecting brains of their respective parents.

The storyline is nothing more than an insulting sham (even by kids’ show standards), designed to have the Wiggles visit each and every one of their costumed friends in sequence. The scenes are peppered with half-assed non-sequitors, almost as if they said “Wouldn’t it be wacky if we X’ed?”, but when it came time to actually X Y or Z in front the cameras, they were too embarrassed to really pull it off, and the director just let it ride. The special effects can only be called special in the same sense as the Special Olympics. The pathetic (and yes, literally, the poor souls who were compelled to produce this are deserving of pity) underwater effect during the Henry the Octopus scene is made worse only by the Wiggles half-embarrassed lame-ass walking underwater acting that they would sometimes do and sometimes not.

The songs that are listed on the DVD case are all present, in a manner of speaking. I’ve seen enough of the Wiggles half-hour show to know pretty much all of them. But this movie managed to make a mockery of even these semi-sorry artistic endeavors. At one point, the intro bars to one of the girls’ favorite songs came on, as the Wiggles were driving their Big Red Car across the countryside (which for no reason, by the way, spontaneously changes to a claymation long-shot, and then back to the live action closeup). The girls were excited. Woo hoo! But the Wiggles don’t actually sing the song, even though it’s listed on the DVD as being in the movie. Instead, each one does some kind of vocal rhythm along with the melody. The dog barking wasn’t too bad, and I can understand it, sort of. But the sneezing was pathetic, and Murray’s sneezes didn’t even sync with the soundtrack. When Jeff finally snored the song – that’s right, he snored the song – it was just snoring. It wasn’t to the beat or anything. He was just snoring. I know that Lucy and Maddie must have been like “What the freaking heck?” and I wanted to console them. I really did. But I felt like I had just seen something horrible, like Les Nessman watching the turkeys falling from the sky in Cincinnati on that fateful day. I could offer them no solace in the face of such a tragedy.

Other bit and pieces that I remember through a nightmarish haze include a child actor that was far too old to be playing the part she had, several songs in which the editors didn’t bother to even attempt a lip sync, and a horrible curly-haired man and a person in a dinosaur costume grabbing and arguing over a magic stick in front of a ransacked hay stack.

I’ve watched other kids’ shows. Some of them aren’t bad. Some of them are great. This is not. This is horrifying. What was Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International doing in 1997 when this movie was being made? They should have been rescuing the poor poor children who were forced, probably at knife-point, to be in this movie. I think that this might honestly be the worst movie I have ever seen in my life.

Of course, these days, the Wiggles are a Disney property. They’re clearly in better shape now then they were in 1997. Their choreography is tight. Their music is well produced. They have snazzier haircuts and snazzier outfits. They appear on the syndicated Playhouse Disney kids’ show cavalcade and have recently begun to tour the United States. I have this vision of a Disney bruiser with an automatic weapon, just off camera, forcing them to work out, and learn their dances, and sing songs about how kids should love Playhouse Disney (seriously, that's one of their songs). I'm picturing Will Eisner smuggling Odai Hussein into Orlando, and he beats the holy crap out of the Wiggles whenever they slack in their Disneyrific training regimen or get the slightest bit snotty with a spoiled kid who has forty posters for them to sign. They are carted from gig to gig in a dank, windowless van, locked into their seats lest they try to flee at a random stoplight, making their way back to the safe and peaceful semi-star existence of the land down under. They’re coming to Pittsburgh in August. I'll be looking for a van driven by the mustachioed Ace of Hearts.

The one and only thing that the Wiggles have going for them is that it’s one of maybe three shows that the girls can actually agree on to watch that will hold both of their attention for a half an hour. One precious half hour of sleep on Saturday and Sunday each weekend. So they had that going for them. But then they had to rerelease this movie. And now I hate them.

So that’s it. Do you want to see the worst movie ever made? One so bad that you can’t even ironically enjoy it? This is way worse than Battlefield Earth, which I watched. Everything that was wrong with that movie – incoherent “plot”, embarrassing acting and writing, people who obviously had to be on sedatives just to be in the proper frame of mind to participate in such an ego-shattering train wreck – is wrong with the Wiggles movie, but it’s not fun this time. If you do decide to watch this movie, you’ll need lots of alcohol, or something like a jellyfish on hand that you can press against your face every now and then to remind yourself that you are, in fact, still alive, and not trapped in some lower circle of Hell.

With all that said, if they had just included the psychedelic Wiggles puppets with their crazy-man eyes and squeaky voices, then I might have been able to forgive them. But until they give me a ninety minute adventure featuring said puppets and the sombrero wearing lizards and the burping crab, with fast motion and drug-like swirling backgrounds (“Can you point – urp! – your fingers and do the twist? – urp!”), they are on my Wiggly list.

I swear to you that my next post will be coherent.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Congratulations to Eric and Debra Eisenstein! Brand new baby girl arrived today, via UPS I think. Maybe we'll have a naming announcement up on Eric's blog or on the official Eisenstein family web site (password required).

Speaking of babies, Maddie informed us tonight that if she does decide to have kids someday (which is in doubt, because "it will hurt"), she has it all figured out. If it's two girls they'll be named Kate (after her sister) and Olivia (after her best friend's little sister). Two boys would be Tom and Johnny. A girl and a boy would be Tommy and Kate. She then told Joy that she wouldn't be happy with two boys, the optimal configuration being a boy and a girl.

She told me a few weeks ago that if she's going to have two kids, she'd rather do it at the same time and get it over with. Twenty years from now, you may be able to drop off your eggs somewhere and then pick up your babies several months later, so this might not be a problem.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

I had a superior Father's Day on Sunday. Maybe the best Father's Day ever.

The summary, for those not inclined to stories of domestic happiness: kid-made cinnamon toast, three kinds of cereal, sock-horse, restored stuffed animal, semi-free money, purchasing computer equipment, sandwiches, cookies, relaxation after an easy kids' bed time.

The long version: Maddie woke us up at 7 AM, which is sleeping in to me, and said the requisite HFD stuff. Then she ran out to the kitchen, and there was much rattling and crinkling. I asked Joy if she knew what was going on, which she didn't. Several minutes later, Maddie comes back with a cup and a plate that holds a single slice of cinnamon toast. She had used one of the bar stools to get butter from the fridge and a cup from the upper cupboards. She'd toasted the bread, applied both butter and cinnamon-sugar in something approaching the correct proportions. And she'd filled the cup with tap water.

"I know you like cold water from the faucet," she said. I wouldn't say that I prefer it to good filtered or bottled water, but I do drink enough of it to give that impression.

So that was a cool way to start. Lots of little presents followed, some artwork from the kids that will make its way into the growing portfolios for them to gawk at twenty years from now. My parents saved a decent amount of my creative paperwork from my tiny days and recently bestowed the lot on me. It's fun to look at. I can actually remember making some of the stuff. Hopefully it'll be fun for the Hess girls when they're older, too.

Anyway, we lazed around, and I denied all further offerings of hand-prepared breakfast food. I don't usually eat breakfast (Bill Cosby would be sooo disappointed), and I love breafast cereal. So I had three different kinds of cereal for my Father's Day breakfast. No need for omlets when S'mores cereal is close at hand.

Church is now on the summer schedule, which means no Christian education classes (which we still call Sunday School) and service starts at 10:30. This is the absolute perfect time. It should be like this all year round, just like Daylight Savings Time. So we finally get dressed and van our way to church. A lot of people go to the 9 AM outdoor service, so it wasn't a full house today. Incidentally, I was responsible for the childrens' "sermon", which included treats like me juggling stuffed animals and asking the kids if they thought that Jesus could juggle. (Could he? The Talmud mentions several Rabbi's who juggled, so I say, Why not? It should would have pleased the kids, and they really seemed to have liked him.)

So way make our way home and grab and growl for lunch. Then it's a couple more FD presents. Present!Joy sort of went crazy this year, but in a nice, unstated way. (Disclosure: I can't remember if we did the rest of the presents before church or after. Time itself can feel free to sue me.) Cool and very thoughtful presents included: an old tin I've had since college, lost to some storage closet and full of change - found change collected, counted, turned into nice paper cash in an envelope; a sock-monkey-style stick horse, hand made by domestic!Joy and Maddie so that "you can be the King when we play stick horses" (said by Maddie, not Joy you perverts); and best of all, my favorite stuffed animal from when I was a kid, Moony the monkey, whose bell-filled ears had rusted through and whose seams had split and whose ratty filling was pouring from the three inch gash in his throat that made him look like he had double-crossed a West Philly crime boss. She dug him up and had restuffed and restitched him. I think that seeing Mooney all in one piece again added at least two years to my life span.

So, a pretty good Father's Day? It's not over yet. I had some money to spend, and a couple of things that I needed, so it was over to Best Buy. I bought some DVD-R's for my new DVD burner and a USB hub, because I'm sick of crawling behind the computer every time I want to stitch between digital camera and MP3 player. I bought some nice t-shirts at Kohl's, but that's girly stuff, so we can all just pretend that it happened on some day other than Father's Day.

We grabbed Subway on the way home. We ate our sandwiches while Joy pondered her baking options. You see, she had been planning all week to make me this awesome chocolate-orange torte that we had seen in an oh-so-fine cuisine magazine while on vacation several weeks ago. It was a ton of work, though, as in several hours over a couple of days, and life had intervened, so I said that she should scrap it. In case you have never tried it, chocolate and orange is an exceptional combination. And in case you've ever seen Joy when she won't be able to do something that she had planned and prepared for... well, it isn't pretty. Disappointed, cooking!Joy had to come up with something, so she invented a new recipe for big (5" diameter) chocolate-orange cookies with chocolate chunks, topped with what I think was candied grated orange peel. They were fincredible. Unbelievably good. They were easily the best cookies I've ever eaten. Wow.

So, to make the rest of the day short, the kids played on the Slip'N'Slide until bedtime, which went easily. The only thing that could have made the day better would have been to drink a good home-brew beer, or a little bit of whiskey, or even a glass of wine, but alas! According to the MD's, my stomach is still healing from being violently ill several months ago, and alcohol isn't the best thing for it right now. So I settled for a sip of boozer!Joy's wine and called it a day. As I said, superb.

The summary again: kid-made cinnamon toast, three kinds of cereal, sock-horse, restored stuffed animal, semi-free money, purchasing computer equipment, sandwiches, cookies, relaxation after an easy kids' bed time. Perfect.

Now, one could argue that the inclusion of motorcycles or something to do with The Matrix or seeing the apartment buildings down the street from us swallowed by an extremely localized earthquake would have made the day better, but that kind of goes without saying.

Sorry for all of the sweetness, but it's going to hard to write a pissed off Hess Report entry for at least a couple of days, when the happiness from my great Father's Day has a chance to wear off. But I promise that as soon as it does, I'll write something funny.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Nothing special, but I just want to say that I'd like to contract monkeypox, just to show my appreciation of its wonderful name. It makes me laugh when I say it. Monkeypox!

Saturday, June 07, 2003

In other family news, Maddie has lost her second tooth. Lucy, in an unusual turn, was pleasant and sweet all day long and threw not a single (complete) fit and actually refrained from the things that we had, in the past, told her not to do.

Also today, domestic!Joy sewed a satin edge around Lucy's blankey, which was becoming hopelessly frayed. Lucy was quite proud of her newly strengthened blankey and insisted that we all smell it.

Last night, we tried to sleep in the back yard in our new tent, as practice for camping later in the summer, but Lucy pulled a total freak out, and the rain kicked in about eight hours sooner than it was supposed to. We slogged into the house at 3 AM to escape the water. Inside, dry, and in our own beds, Maddie deadpanned "That went well." Ah, my girl.

Summer is almost here. Yippity freaking do.

Already, the three neighborhood orphans have begun their daily rounds. One of the families from down the street has two daughters, ages 8 and 5. For pretty much the entirety of the daylight hours, they run around the neighborhood, completely unadorned by parents. I know that I did that when I was their age, sort of, but times really were different then. They're not bad kids, these two, but I just don't know how to take them. Yesterday, one had roller blades and one had a bike. For hours... yes, hours... they motorvated the same half-mile loop, one end of which was in the cul-de-sac on which my house sits. Now, this was no mystery to me. I've seen repetitive behavior like this before. It's usually in Discovery Channel footage of bad zoos, where the animals are driven mad by their poor living conditions and find comfort walking the same path over and over. Am I saying those kids are crazy zoo animals? Naahhh. Or, to put it another way, yeah.

Of course, the third member of their band is the true neighborhood orphan. She's about the same age. Some days, school days even, she will walk the loop, including our cul-de-sac, ALL. DAY. LONG. By herself. With a zoned look on her face. Freaking weird, scary and sad all at the same time. She lives with her mom (we think) in the apartments around the bend. The consensus is that her mom in not quite right. She just wandered into our back yard one day last summer and joined in playing with the girls and I. Okay, I thought, kind of kooky, but whatever. She didn't say much, and I could tell that she wasn't used to playing the way that we were all playing, which was heavy on the interpersonal role playing/imagination stuff. And she just wouldn't leave. When we went inside for dinner, she was still out my yard, standing on one of the pieces of play equipment, just staring off into space. I gave her a couple of minutes, figuring she'd get bored and leave. I had to eventually go outside and tell her that she couldn't just hang out in my yard. I didn't like having to do that, and if I were her, I probably wouldn't have wanted to go home. But, you know, I have two kids, not three. If I had wanted three, there were other, more fun ways to go about getting another one. So, once again, weird, scary and sad.

Well, during the summer, she has the two aforementioned semi-orphans (who aren't nearly as weird, just mildly annoying) to team up with. And team up they do: biking, marching, running, non-stop throughout the day. Check that. Not exactly nonstop, and this is where the annoying part comes in. If any one of us (myself, Joy, Maddie, Lucy, anyone) is visible from the street, whether we be just inside the front window or screen door, or outside over the hill on the swing set, or in the front yard, they will stop, right at curb, and just stand there and look at you. And Heaven forbid that you even open your mouth or smile at them, because then they have you. That's all the invitation they need, and they're stuck to you like a booger sticks to your finger when you're trying to surreptitiously fling it off. And it doesn't help that Maddie, if she sees them will yell "Hi!" and Joy and I cringe, and try to varnish the explanation of why we can't say Hi to them. You see Maddie, some people are like vampires...

I know. I know. The poor kids probably just want adult attention. I think that most kids do. If they can't get it from their parents, then they'll get it from anyone who seems willing to give it. Eventually, they'll go so far as to read a simple smile as the go-ahead for surrogate parenthood, and then latch onto you a robot-handed death grip.

And maybe the kids just really like running in obsessive circles around the neighborhood all freaking day, and their parents are at home begging them to just cuddle on the couch for five minutes so they can read them a book. Maybe they really are. Who knows? Well, me, for one. When we had our perv/home invader several months ago, one man on our street kind of went ballistic when he heard about it. He said, in all seriousness, that had he known where the perp was going he would have run him over with his truck. He was really earnest about it. He seemed quite concerned about the whole situation. Nowadays, while Maddie and Lucy are under my supervision, I do not let them out of my sight. Period. Joy more or less does the same. But this guy who was so disturbed by our intruder and so ready to deal out death by monster truck, well he's the one letting his kids run all over the place. And that doesn't make any sense to me. "I love my kids so much that if anyone tried to hurt them, why, why, why I'd plow him over with my truck! No where’s safe anymore! This world is sick! Oh, what? No I don't have time to play, kids. Just go outside or something. Daddy's busy ranting."

But other than that, summer’s going to be great. Well, other than that and the humidity. And the bugs. And the AC-from-hell-bent electric bills. And the West Nile Virus. Mmmmmmm... West Nile Virus....