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Entries in dick cheney (73)

Monday
Sep102012

In Which We Believably Impersonate Mindy Kaling

Writing For Us

by DICK CHENEY

The Mindy Project
creators Howard Klein & Mindy Kaling

If I were to distill my hatred of the media into one shining example, it would be coverage of the new Fox comedy The Mindy Project. Nothing emphasizes more the utter bankruptcy of white people than having to read the pathetic lines they have written about the Los Angeles comedienne's new show.

The very idea that you would think of a fictional character as a ROLE MODEL disturbs me to no end. But perhaps I should take it easy on the Los Angeles Times. After all, print is dead so they probably need to idealize someone who is good at writing for the internet.

Yes, writing for the internet. First there was writing for the Greek chorus, then there was writing for the King, then there was writing for your freedom, then there was writing for your mom, then there was writing for William Shawn, and now there is writing for the internet.

I teach a course in Writing for the Internet at the Learning Annex. The first question I ask is, is there anyone with a first name of Tierney in the class? If there is, I drive to Los Alamos and introduce them to nuclear fission research, because there is no good they can do under my instruction.

Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling, born Vera Chokalingam) is an obstetrician who works in a hospital where everyone looks exactly like B.J. Novak and no one is over 5'6". The actual set more resembles a doll house than a hospital. The Entertainment Weekly article about The Mindy Project uses the word "crush" sixty times, and takes for granted that her readers find Ed Helms and Bill Hader attractive, and would enjoy the idea of them being romantic options for Mindy.

A nuclear option isn't sufficient to defuse this kind of inanity. Of one particularly strange relationship on the show, EW writes, "It’s a bit like the relationship Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler’s characters had in The Ugly Truth, only crueler, thanks to those jabs about his ex-wife and her being even more attractive if she’d lose 15 pounds." You and I saw a very different The Ugly Truth. (I did not see The Ugly Truth, I am over the age of eleven.)

I guess the reason for the sexism boils down to the idea that once a woman suggests she may not take herself completely seriously in all facets of her life, even in jest, it's seen as OK to diminish every part of her. The Mindy Project gives hints that it will not be following this formulation, but it's difficult to know how it will keep armageddon back.

As soon as the media figures out we have a comedy about a single girl, prepare the c, r, u, s, and h keys on all typewriters, reductionism sets in. This is a shame, because Kaling's comedy is unlike any other on television.

The first internet writer was of course Alex Balk. He had (anonymously) a blog called The Minor Fall, The Major Lift. Everyone read it, and thought about who might have been writing it. It was very honest, and this appealed to people; although I suppose by hiding the identity of its writer, it wasn't completely truthful. It was still the finest blog of its time.

By being candid Ms. Kaling attracted her own kind of audience. Of course, the same thing happened to her that eventually happened to Alex Balk before he moved into his massive mansion in the tax haven of the Philippines: she met all the people she'd been writing negative things about, and started mounting a subtle defense of them by no longer being candid.

COUNTRY SINGERS Y'ALL

What better time to move to television, where the only response you get to your work is message board posts where people write, "I really hope that guy stops making fun of Mindy's weight!" and the sound of money flowing into your bank account.

The Mindy Project feels like a variety of jokes made on twitter dressed up as a theatrical production. The jokes themselves are funny; the attention to detail in the diegesis is I suppose also funny. Mindy at least is somewhat believable as a doctor, but the rest of the cast looks (1) exactly like a B.J. Novak lookalike audition call and (2) completely unbelievable as doctors, nurses or medical professionals. I am not attracted to B.J. Novak; it says as much on my driver's license.

Fortunately, what's great about America and the wisdom of the crowds is that they look beyond what the media thinks is good or worth watching, because the media has absolutely no idea what is worth watching. Working at a major newspaper website consists of "What are we going to write today?" Some of the writers answer, and the white editor says, "OK, that's the next big thing", tells someone else to write a listicle about Kristen Stewart's vagina, and then asks the intern to prepare a page-long summary of what people think is cool while he googles pictures of Christopher Nolan's wife and posts comments on Atrios.

The Mindy Project would be so much better without the artificial star power channeled into the pilot. Just seeing Ed Helms' face is enough to make me squeeze my Joe Biden voodoo doll. There's a reason The Office is ending; I don't want to have to look at every character actor in Hollywood in a slightly new role. In fact we would all be better off if Mindy were surrounded by actual medical professionals. Acting died with the newspaper. In the future all acting will be done by CGI Michael Fassbenders.

Mindy's Dartmouth-educated comedy is the only thing that does feel fresh in this environment. Her deadpan intonation and appropriately self-centered worldview make her fully realized even when her surroundings are not. Her mind grips the world in the way that we are all trying to - as if we were completely disengaged with how it operates, and are perennially on the brink of just being able to understand things. CRUSH

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in an undisclosed location. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about J.J. Abrams' Revolution.

"Flower" - Deerhoof (mp3)

"Bad Kids To The Front" - Deerhoof (mp3)

The new album from Deerhoof is entitled Breakup Song and it was released on September 4th.

Thursday
Sep062012

In Which It Is Bad News For Everyone

A Certain Low Profile

by DICK CHENEY

Revolution
creator Eric Kripke

Revolution begins when the world loses electricity. This is J.J. Abrams' idea of hell, because then he can no longer abuse Tom Cruise's mental illness further in Mission: Impossible sequels where Ethan Hunt is a grandfather. Even batteries don't work anymore. Earth reverts to a pre-industrial society in every facet except one: there are still jokey allusions to Lost at every possible moment. It's not another show from this fuck unless it's a show that proves Lost wasn't shit in retrospect.

It's still hard to talk about Lost. I blame Lynne for ruining Lost, I never knew it was bad until she told me. It was like how for many years I thought Mona Lisa was a man.

Guys are a lot more into horses, they seem to have replaced girlfriends. Everyone has shifted to a straight razor without even so much as an adjustment period. There is one rule followed at all times: Gus Fring must ride a horse, and the cast of Lost has a chance to play a significant role.

Revolution is so painfully bad it's unclear if this was actually meant to be a show or just a means by which Jon Favreau can express his shame by making young girls cry after Gustavo Fring, in a purple one-piece, shoots their father. It's a morbid and confusing sort of pornography, as crass as anything completely absurd can be.

Presumably it will be harder to manufacture birth control in subsequent episodes. That means America will soon be great again. After all, the world couldn't go on if Juliet was unemployed for more than a month? Remember when she kissed a pre-DUI Matthew Fox, or when she lived with Sawyer like they were bros? No, you don't, because it didn't make any fucking sense.

For now, Revolution only depicts a small number of people in the United States. In further episodes questions such as the following will be answered:

Does anyone have the time or means to get circumsised?

How many times was the phrase "That's the truth" included in the pilot script for Revolution?

Wouldn't people be scavenging power lines in like two seconds?

Would Google really stop existing without electricity? Wouldn't they all just spend their time in that gorgeous cafeteria?

Can Benedict Cumberbatch just shut the fuck up for once?

Did everyone just forget about bicycles?

Was there ever electricity at Wrigley Field?

The main hero of Revolution played a serial rapist on The Closer. "Don't worry, that's not Philip Stroh," I told my wife. I spent forty minutes explaining to Lynne what mise en scene is. Then I spent another forty detailing why I felt Mike Ehrmantraut was an unbelievable asshole who deserved to die. It was dark by the time I was finished, probably because I went off on a tangent on how stupid Fringe was. The Avengers also sucked, but try telling my wife that.

Everything that matters to me or Walter White is pretty much gone. The worst part is, we destroyed it ourselves.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in an undisclosed location. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

"All Things Conspire" - Katie Noonan & Karin Schaupp (mp3)

"I Hope I Never" - Katie Noonan & Karin Schaupp (mp3)

The new album from Katie Noonan & Karin Schaupp is entitled Songs of the Southern Skies.

Tuesday
Aug072012

In Which There Is Nothing To Be Afraid Of

Lady Banjo Eyes

by DICK CHENEY

Breaking Bad
creator Vince Gilligan

True Blood
creator Alan Ball

Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is distracted from his job for a moment, but no more. On his 51st birthday, his wife slowly walks, fully-clothed, into the family pool. She can't get good with the way things are now that Walt is running his own business. She chainsmokes in the home, she begs for his cancer to return, she can barely manage to bake a chocolate cake. Her behavior is so exaggerated that she has turned into the Danielle Steele version of an adulterous wife.

It's a lot harder to write a character sketch like this about the protagonists in the eighteenth season of HBO's True Blood. What's that you say? It only feels like the eighteenth season? No matter. The typical scene on True Blood lasts only the thirty or forty seconds it might take you to get bored of it before moving onto the next character. It's like skipping from YouTube to YouTube, and in every episode, there are over a thousand.

not casting Fred Savage as Godric was an almost unforgivable mistake

The character I least understand on True Blood is Eric Northman. When the show began he was completely committed to the superiority of vampires over humans, now he walks around acting like he's Saint Ignatius. You have never seen a man so completely convinced there is no vampire god. He's become a Christian message board troll who waits for someone to espouse their faith in under 130 characters and then chimes in with a "Not likely!"

Understanding the motivations of a drama's personages is the first step to empathizing with their predicament. I almost admire how much True Blood eschews this. The only time it has its characters even react to the madness that surrounds them is when they cry afterwards. By the next episode, they are generally fine. The rule on True Blood - that everyone gets a storyline - extends even to the most peripheral characters, especially if they were kind enough to offer Alan Ball an on-set blowjob.

Alan Ball and Anna Paquin will not be doing any USO tours, of that much we can be certain

After a time, playing with the lives of fictional people becomes like moving things around on your desk. Alan Ball hates God so completely he had to become him.

Everything bad on True Blood is associated with religion, even the eating of a child. Ball believes that faith is the corruptor, the scapegoat instrument by which evil is wrought. His most sincere and good-willed individuals on the show are completely without faith; they feel lost in the world as he does, and simply by virtue of not knowing exactly what they are, are blessed and imagined as heroes.

No such luck for Walter White. He spent his entire life before he got brain cancer afraid of things, unable to decide who he was or what he should be doing with his life. Once he realized that, his new problems began.

I have lived longer than anyone I have talked about so far in this essai besides Eric Northman. One of mankind's most enduring cliches is that success comes with a price. (This cliche was first associated with Jesus, and later, Kristen Stewart.)

Whatever truth there is in this statement exists completely outside the realm of human experience. For those who aren't successsful, no price is too high. And for those who are successful, like the creators of Breaking Bad and True Blood, there must be some other reason for their unhappiness, an explanation that lies outside themselves. If they actually found they liked being miserable, success would feel like a curse.

taking Nancy Pelosi's dream and bringing it to life

Basically, it's easy to forget that you are the one who knocks. Many years ago my daughter came to me and explained that one of her classmates was afraid of me. What was I going to do about that? I offered to meet the young man, and he came over to our house for dinner. I asked him if he still felt afraid of me. "No," he said. I told him to wait.

Walter White is happy, perhaps the happiest he's ever been, but there is no one to enjoy it with him. Is this what it is truly like to run a critically acclaimed television series? Must there be a feeling in everything that they will be found out as a fraud, a charlatan? Did Matthew Weiner put his blood in a syringe and infect everyone in Hollywood with his identical insecurities?

I noticed some years ago that I find myself happier in the company of sad people, simply by comparison. And when I meet truly happy people - Oliver North comes to mind - I feel sorry for myself, that I cannot be as they are. Even more astonishing is that I am allowed to behave this way by the people in my life.

Beel, drain this woman while I watch the uneven bars

There might be another reason that this cliche keeps reoccuring in our popular fictions. Vampire leader Salome Agrippa (Valentina Cervi) has quickly become the worst character on True Blood. Her scenes are completely boring; she speaks with a vague monotone that is supposed to come off as threatening but in reality just lulls the viewer to sleep. Her idea of acting consists of brushing back her bangs. If I have to view her bare chest one more time, I'm going to start missing the acting "skills" of the guy who played Lafayette's top.

But besides the fact that Salome can't act and looks completely unappealing without clothes, the various travails of Salome don't interest me or my wife because she is truly satisfied with herself. Salome is incapable of change. Eventually this will be her downfall as she tries to take over the world for her vampire God, but until then I guess I have to keep watching Bill (Stephen Moyer) penetrating her with his ass raised high in the air, like he's about to hammer a nail.

you killed off Christopher Meloni FOR THIS?

True Blood and Breaking Bad, as they ascended to their first heights, made a point of portraying strong and powerful women. Now that these dramas near their conclusion, these women are actually revealed only as exceptions to the general rule of female archetypes - power and vulnerability can no longer exist within one human person. There may be sexism behind this, and I'm sure there is, but I can suggest another cause as well.

sexism, yoWhen a man changes his mind, or becomes something different than what he is, it is not a betrayal. This is expected of him: it happens when he begins a household, settles down with his partner, has children. These are all changes for him, and the responsiblities are said to improve who he is.

When these things happen to a woman, it is thought to be no more than a natural extension of herself. Lies. This vicious canard is completely subsumed in how men think of the opposite sex. But the reality is not that women aren't changed by the contours of family and marriage. It is that, on a conscious or even subconscious level, women are better at understanding what change implies than men will ever be.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is the former vice president of the United States. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about the beginning of Breaking Bad's season.

"We Are Not Good People" - Bloc Party (mp3)

"Octopus" - Bloc Party (mp3)

The new album from Bloc Party is entitled Four, and it will be released on August 20th.