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Nuclear Boy’s Radioactive Poo March 19, 2011

Posted by alwaysjan in elementary school, TV/Film.
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How to explain a nuclear meltdown to Japanese children?  This 4-minute animated film was shown on Japanese television and likens a meltdown to Nuclear Boy having Irritable Bowel Syndrome. (Think Everybody Poops with translation.) From the looks of it, Nuclear Boy’s stinky poo would even make Godzilla’s eyes water. But he’s faring better than Chernobyl Boy who had an accurate diarrhea attack – in the classroom.

So far Nuclear Boy has just farted, but he’s being monitored by Sniffer-Man who bears more than a passing resemblance to an Easter Island head. There’s also a trio of doctors giving Nuclear Boy his medicine (Sea Water and Boron), but the middle doctor looks eerily like Dr. Jack Kervorkian, which is not very reassuring. Now, the only thing left to protect the Japanese people is… a diaper. And we all know how effective that is.

True Blood July 2, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in TV/Film.
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After reading Twilight, with its endless descriptions of Edward’s chest, I swore off vampires.  Later, when my book club read Three Cups of Tea,  I even threatened to make a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast adjectives used to describe Edward’s chest with those used to describe the mountains in Afghanistan.  

But,  I have to admit that I enjoy watching True Blood on HBO.  First, it’s got a mighty fine theme song by Jace Alexander.  And how can I not love a show that, with all seriousness, has characters spew lines like “Clearly, she’s no fan of the fang.”  

I’ve written before about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and used the vampire analogy.  So last week when a character said, “He used me up and sucked me dry.  It was like I was his snack machine!” it was music to my ears.  Yeah, I’m a fan of the fang.

Computer Says No June 15, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in TV/Film.
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SORRY to say that the video has been taken down by YouTube. Looking for a replacement. Jan

My friend Bev in England introduced me to British comedienne Catherine Tate when she posted a link to one of her sketches on Youtube. (You’ll find it in comments on Seeing Red.) Tate has appeared on Little Britain and The Catherine Tate Show. Whooies know her as Dr. Who’s most recent companion, Donna Noble.

When I mentioned Catherine Tate to my English friend Lesley (who I think could do a spot on impression of Tate’s cheeky Lauren Cooper character), she told me her favorite bit from Little Britain is “Computer Says No.”   Comedian David Walliams plays Carol Beer, who provides the world’s worst customer service.  In the first season, Carol worked at a bank, then at a travel agency, and most recently at a hospital.  These sketches are so well known in the UK, that “Computer says no” has become part of the lexicon.

In each sketch, every inquiry from a customer is answered with the “computer says no,” which is followed by a cough.  There are probably a dozen variations of this on Youtube, and in each one the cough comes at a different point, which always keeps you guessing.

Lesley, who manages the local library in Framlingham, England, relayed this story.  A 95-year-old woman came into the library and asked if a book was available.  Lesley typed in the title and couldn’t help but say in her most deadpan voice, “The computer says no.”  The woman paused for a second and then said, “Aren’t you going to cough?”  Enjoy.

Jonathan Winters LOL April 7, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in TV/Film.
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For the last four years, my husband, Richard, has been working on a film about the legendary comedian Jonathan Winters.  This has been one interesting ride.  While Richard schmoozes with Sarah Silverman and Jimmy Kimmel, I’m at school on yard duty and confiscating Hot Cheetos.  

Sometimes I do get lucky though and come home to find leftovers from one of Richard’s infamous lunches with Jonathan at Piatti’s in Montecito.   Then I get to forgo Lean Cuisine for a day and chow down on Pappardelle or Pollo Parmigiana.  I also settle for leftover stories about the day’s shoot.  After a long day in the trenches of public education, I can use a good laugh.

I grew up eagerly anticipating The Jonathan Winters Show.  He was the real deal – a total original.  Hand him something – anything, and he could do a shtick with it, and a damn funny one at that. 

Through a chance meeting in Santa Barbara, Richard and his partner, Jim, met Jonathan, who is also an accomplished artist.  What started out as a documentary about Jonathan and his art, evolved into a “mockumentary” with a supporting cast of some of the funniest people I know.  But then I think Ryan Stiles (from The Drew Carey Show) is a poker-faced scene stealer.  

Certifiably Jonathan includes clips of Jonathan’s original comedy routines from his show and from The Jack Paar Show.  I still laugh every time I watch these. You could call it a “heist movie,” as the plot hinges on Jonathan having his sense of humor stolen.  A stellar cast tries to cajole Jonathan and advise him on how to go about regaining one’s sense of humor.  If nothing else, it’s a film for the times we live in.

When I finally met Jonathan, he was wandering though my house wearing a cavalry hat and looked a bit like a long-lost Kamikaze.  The title of the film. Certifiably Jonathan, was inspired by Jonathan’s commitment in a mental institution.  Jonathan, who is bipolar, is candid about how his childhood and this disorder have shaped him as a human, and ultimately as a comedian. They always say that all comedy springs from a dark place, and Jonathan’s been there, done that.  Yet he still has that twinkle in his eye.

It was while making the film that we met Nora Dunn (SNL, Entourage) and her brother Kevin Dunn (Transformers, Samantha Who), people I now count as friends and are way fun to hang with.

What amazed me most was that at the screenings, it was the 20 somethings, many who’d never heard of Jonathan Winters, who laughed the hardest.  The film is brilliantly edited (and no, my husband, the producer and editor, didn’t tell me to write that), and Buddy Judge’s score is perfect AND quirky (Now there’s something I’d wouldn’t mind on my tombstone).  Jonathan is indeed certifiable – as a comic genius who paved the wave for a generation of improvisational comics to follow.  You can see the trailer and find out how to order a DVD on the Official Certifiably Jonathan website.

Dexter Bobblehead April 3, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in TV/Film.
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Whoa!  As one who’s used to straddling the boundary between good taste and – well, fun, I couldn’t help but get excited when my personal trainer, Louis, showed me his Dexter Bobblehead doll tonight. Louis also shares my addiction to all things Dexter (see Why I Love Dexter), so we have lots to talk about besides deltoids. (I think that’s a muscle group, but he could be talking about Altoids for all I know.)

The box says “America’s Favorite Serial Killer” and “Some might say he’s making the world a better place – one murder at a time.” And what’s Dexter holding behind his back? No need for a spoiler alert cause I’ll never tell. This is the OFFICIAL bobblehead produced, no doubt, by hardworking children in China, who are wondering what sport this “Dexter” guy plays.  But as the package warns, this is only for those 18 and older.

To find out more, go to BIFBANGPOW.com   You can also order Dexter’s sister Deb’s bobblehead, or opt for the Dexter action figure instead (duct tape and trash bags sold separately). Call me sick, but it beats those Bratz dolls! At BIFBANGPOW, you’ll also find a sh@tload of pop culture merchandise. Buoy the economy by buying a Rod Serling action figure or check out the Twilight Zone stuff.  (Cue Twilight Zone music).  Wow, I can just picture Rod Serling narrating what’s been happening with the economy. I wonder how this episode will turn out?

Why I Love “Dexter” September 13, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder, TV/Film.
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Who wouldn’t love Dexter Morgan? He’s such a nice young man, and he’s got that CSI thing going too, what with his job as a blood spatter analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department. What’s that you say? He’s a cold-blooded serial killer! I’m sorry, but with his professional manner and that disarming smile, that’s a little hard for me to fathom. This is a guy who is so thoughtful, he brings donuts in every day for the office. It’s not like he has horns. And THAT is exactly why I find Dexter so fascinating. I, for one, am counting the days until Sept. 28th when Season 3 premiers on Showtime.

Least you think I’m one of those women who has pen pals on death row, think again. I’m happily married to the original model, have two grown sons, and teach adorable third graders, who think serial is spelled “c-e-r-e-a-l.” But after spending G-rated days with children who still believe in the tooth fairy, I’m ready to go to the dark side – of humanity, that is.

There’s another thing you should know about me. Just like Dexter Morgan, I too have a dark side. After I’d just given birth to my second son, my friend Wendy visited me in the hospital. What she remembers most is that I was reading The Stranger Beside Me, Anne Rule’s account of her friendship with serial killer Ted Bundy, as I nursed my newborn son.

But I have an excuse (or should I say alibi?). I may not come from a family of criminal psychopaths, but my family had more than a passing interest in them and crime. When I was a kid and we visited my uncle in a small town in Iowa, my brother and I unearthed his collection of True Detective magazines. All of the stories seemed to involve the murder of “nude coeds.” After reading the breathless and lurid accounts of these crimes, I ascertained at an early age that any “clothed coed” was a moving target.

My dad also liked to tell about how when he and my mom first married, the man who shared their duplex in Boulder, Colorado, was arrested for killing – you guessed it!  –  a college coed. (It turned out the one in the trunk of his car was one of many.) Years later, when my parents talked enthusiastically about where I should go to college, I couldn’t help but wonder if they might be trying to get rid of me.

When people gasp, “I can’t believe someone could do something so horrible!” I don’t bother to feign shock or surprise. I’ve always been fascinated by human behavior. As a teenager, when I wasn’t reading books about crime, I read The Diary of Anne Frank. So I knew that seemingly ordinary people are capable of doing unspeakable things. I know that there really is a bogeyman, and he looks a lot like you or me.

After college, I worked as a reporter at a newspaper in Hammond, Indiana in 1978. I was supposed to generate ideas for stories and, low and behold, I discovered that the Indiana State Crime Lab was located nearby. It was during that interview, I first learned of a new forensic technique – blood spatter analysis. I was in hog heaven. Cue that sound of snapping the latex gloves on (that’s music to MY ears!). But this was B.C. – Before CSI,  Before Court TV, and Before Cold Case – back when a cold case meant beer.

Which brings me back to Dexter. Based on the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, Dexter is brilliantly played by affable Michael C. Hall. Dexter is a real living breathing psychopath yet most of his co-workers, even his sister, and girlfriend, think he’s the proverbial nice guy. But seriously, how could they not know? This is a guy who has a Costco-size stock of black plastic trash bags and duct tape at the ready.

Hey, in Anne Rule’s book, she describes working side-by-side with Ted Bundy at a suicide hotline, never suspecting her “friend” was a serial killer. It’s not like serial killers have a secret handshake or froth at the mouth. Remember this – charm disarms.

I began watching Dexter when I was still reeling from my “friendship” with a person I later realized had Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).  (You can read about THAT experience in my 3-part Close Encounter with a Narcissist series.) NPD is one of the Cluster B Personality Disorders in the DSM-IV, which are often referred to as “The Drama Club.” Other members of this “club” include Antisocial Personality Disorder (sociopath) and Psychopathic Personality Disorder (psychopath aka Dexter).

I was surprised to learn that all psychopaths are narcissistic, while people with NPD aren’t psychopaths. Following this logic, psychopaths would be “Papa Bear”, sociopaths “Mama Bear,” and that would make narcissists the “Baby Bear” (Can you tell that I spend way too much time with small children? Don’t worry, I won’t bring the Three Little Pigs into play.) The Cluster B personality disorders share many similar traits. Unlike psychopaths, however, who derive pleasure from hurting people, narcissists hurt people due to their indifference.

The similarities though between these two personality disorders can be jarring. Dexter often worries that “his mask is slipping.” Just like a narcissist, Dexter, the psychopath, wears a social mask (his False Self) that he presents to the outside world to pass for “normal.” Dexter’s constant attempt to “read” human emotions, so he can react accordingly, is also painfully reminiscent of my friend with NPD.

In Season 2, Dexter met Lila, his “soul mate,” who exhibits strong NPD traits herself. But when Lila got too emotionally close, Dexter gave her the ultimate D&D – Death. So, I eagerly await Season 3 to find out what America’s favorite prime time psychopath is up to. Remember that knowledge is power.

Dexter is officially a psychopath. If you’d like to see how he stacks up using a diagnostic tool called the Psychopath Checklist-Revised (PCL-R), a clinical rating scale, you can visit the following link. Scroll down to Dissecting Dexter – it’s an interesting read. Dissecting Dexter – The Official Diagnosis

NOTE:  Since first writing this post, Dexter’s diagnosis on the official Dexter site has been softened, which I feel is a strategy to make the character more likable. From all of my reading, I’ve never heard that a traumatic event produces a sociopath. Make no mistake, Dexter is a psychopath. If they keep fiddling with his profile, before you know it, he’ll be Santa Claus.  Jan

As a public service, I also feel obliged to inform you that I believe clowning is the gateway drug for serial killers. Anyone willing to don a neon wig and red nose has already gone over to the dark side. (Cirque du Soleil clowns are exempt, but should still be monitored closely – just in case).