Tag Archives: items of joy

A Love Letter to Glove and Boots

So there are certainly no shortage of horrors to be found in 2017. No shortage at all. But in the midst of it all, a few special people, a groundhog, and a red thing tried to make the world a little brighter, only to get cut down by YouTube deciding to screw over creators worldwide. They are Glove and Boots, the funniest non-Henson puppets on YouTube.

Mario and Fafa. No, nobody is actually named “Glove” or “Boots.”

Based out of Brooklyn, New York, they’ve been doing puppet-based YouTube comedy blogs for a few years now. In 2017, they decided to try to grow their channel with an ambitious plan to crank up their output. They set out to make 100 videos in one year, from their usual work to various new mini-episode series to monthly live shows on their main channel and weekly streams on Glove and Boots Gaming, where Fafa the Groundhog and Mario the… Mario would try out games for our amusement. And all of it was fun, but all of a sudden it wasn’t working, because YouTube changed its algorithm.

And anyone who’s noticed how social media channels have been getting progressively worse lately just reflexively clenched up reading that. Facebook pushing “Top stories” and hiding things from your news feed, or demanding that Pages boost posts just to reach their audiences; Twitter taking a perfectly functional chronological feed and ruining it with “In case you missed it” tweets from days ago; and now YouTube is screwing over small-to-medium channels. Algorithms ruin everything. Mario and Fafa try to explain what they think happened here, but basically viewership was taking a bigger hit than they could handle.

But I come not to bury Glove and Boots, but to praise them. First of all, they’re not dead. They’re just taking an unplanned and indefinite hiatus while they try to figure out how to deal with their viewership issues. But while that’s happening, there’s a lot of great material on their channel that I suggest you check out. Every view and subscriber could help bring Fafa and Mario back faster.

And also someone has to point viewers at their A-material, because the only video YouTube’s algorithm thinks to recommend is the one where Gorilla dances to Gangnam Style. Goddamn algorithms ruin everything.

The Blog

I mean they called it a blog, but really it was a series of comedy videos starring puppets. Which isn’t to say that they didn’t occasionally try to inform. Witness this explanation of the characters found in the Monomyth, with assistance from Fafa’s toad cousin Johnny T, and why their absence makes Adam Sandler movies suck now. (Sure, that’s the problem.)

Once upon a time a friend and I were considering writing a modern-day Robin Hood movie. This video really helped me break the general story, as I figured out who would fill which roles, and where that took us. And then Hollywood greenlit like half a dozen Robin Hood movies and there didn’t seem to be a point to writing ours anymore, but that’s hardly Fafa’s fault.

Another time, once again with Johnny T’s help, they tried to teach the internet a much-needed lesson about grammar.

And tips on visiting New York I wish I’d seen before my 2014 trip, when I blew an evening seeking out the Original Ray’s.

That was the first one I ever saw. Took me a couple of videos to learn that Johnny T wasn’t the star. And for the record, if you’ve been walking the Coney Island boardwalk for a couple of hours and it’s really sunny out and you just want to eat something indoors, maybe, maybe, there’s a valid reason to go to Applebee’s.

Maybe.

I mean the next time I was in that area we found multiple better places to be than The Applebee’s of Last Resort but at the time… anyway, he’s not wrong about Olive Garden. Times Square hosts the worst Olive Garden in North America, this is known.

But they’re not all educational. Sometimes it’s just about how life would make for a pretty terrible video game.

I could go on and on, because this channel is a gift, but I want to move to some of their other categories.

Product Testing

Sometimes they’d watch a bunch of infomercials, order the products, and field test them for our education and enjoyment, beginning with the most famous disappointing products of Vince the Shamwow guy.

Or witness their experiments with the Rollie: a device for people who find placing eggs over heat and then eating them to be too taxing.

(I have heard a theory that all of the infomercials showing people finding every day tasks to be too challenging are actually, on the DL, trying to sell products to people with disabilities who legitimately find these things hard, but that’s another post, innit.)

And since the end result is just a cylinder of basically normal cooked egg, they had little option but to get weird with it, and see what kind of nightmare tube-omelette they could create.

Now, this process involved watching a lot of infomercials, and this sometimes resulted in tripping over comedy gold, as explored in their first-ever live broadcast. Join me now for the saga of “I LOVE.”

You know, coming up with comedy is hard, coming up with comedy on the spot is harder… coming up with comedy on the spot whilst operating a puppet? You have to give it up for that.

Songs!

Turns out Fafa the Groundhog can also belt out a tune. So since YouTube is sometimes just a long Weird Al Yankovic album with zero quality control, Glove and Boots got into the song parody game. Sure, some of them are simple parodies, like turning “Uptown Funk” into a ballad honouring Shaolin kung fu, but they’ve done some fun music videos over the years. Here’s a for instance… when Canada’s king of space, gentleman astronaut Chris Hadfield, did a cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity while actually in space, Glove and Boots decided they wanted in on it and snuck Fafa into space with him.

Well… not literally. But even if you don’t want Hadfield trivia sung to the tune of Rocket Man (it gets away from them a little), it’s mostly worth it for Mario’s initial confusion over who’s who.

Mario’s failure to get how the song goes is also what makes their cover of “All Together Now” so damned charming. Well, that and Fafa’s stuffed bear. And frankly the original doesn’t have enough references to old-school rapper Biz Markie. Good add, Mario.

Now, if you want to understand who the rest of the puppets are, and why two of the are Wolverine and Thor, you need to get into the back catalogue, but I’m fine with that since that is what I’m trying to get you to do.

Want to hear Blurred Lines turned into an explanation for Robin Thicke’s legal issues over the song? They’ve got you covered. Want to see The Beatles end some pop culture rivalries? They damn it I used “covered” too soon this one IS just a cover the wordplay would have been– anyway here it is. They also taught me what “mumblerap” is, and why it’s awful, yet still created something enjoyable by parodying someone calling himself “Lil Yachty,” and more egregiously, calling himself “talented.”

Moving along…

Shooting for 100 videos

Making 100 videos in one year was an ambitious goal, especially since the main videos have backgrounds to green screen and occasionally puppets to fabricate. So they came up with some easy-to-shoot shorts. Mario attempted to improve our vocabularies through “Mario’s Word of the Week,” sometimes to his own detriment…

Johnny T. tried to show us all a better way of living with “Don’t Be a Dummy…”

And one of their uncles was turned into a squirrel for some true stories that became some of their weirdest material since that countdown to Christmas from two years back, “Santa’s Secret Stories.” Man, those were odd.

Plus there was their gaming channel, which… look, Slime Rancher doesn’t seem, on paper, like a good game. Seems like an FPS merged with Farmville. But watching Fafa play it… or more accurately watching Mario watch Fafa playing it… if I hadn’t been having budgetary issues, I might have bought it and started playing it that day.

Really looking forward to resuming a lifestyle where spending $25 isn’t intimidating. But that’s neither here nor there.

Look, you guys, I know I just threw a lot of videos at you right there, but I promise you, watch even half of them and you’ll thank me, because these guys are delightful, and as someone who tried to launch a YouTube channel of his own, it’s heartbreaking to see them put so much work into providing free entertainment and then hit a wall that forces them to stop because of a goddamned algorithm. 

The worst part, the worst part, isn’t just knowing that Facebook and YouTube and Twitter aren’t adding these algorithms for us, they know we hate them, but are doing it strictly for monetization. The worst part is that knowing that and pointing it out doesn’t help, because as long as it is helping monetization, they’re going to keep doing it, and they’ve got us by the short-n-curlies on this, because I am not going back to calling people to see if they want to see Star Wars when I’m seeing Star Wars. And while new streaming sites are happening, none of them are YouTube killers.

That got away from me.

I had a dream. A dream that one day, my webseries would grow to a point where I could talk Glove and Boots into doing a guest appearance. That Jeff would do a bunch of peyote, end up on a vision quest, and have Mario and Fafa pop up to guide him, or possibly just point out just how badly he’s tripping.

Keith (my co-writer) and I would have guest starred as well. After a few seasons of us being background extras, Jeff would have snapped and demanded to know why we were always in the background of everything he did. Man that would have been a fun episode. But I knew it would be a hard sell. Our first season didn’t break out the way we wanted, so would we ever be worth their attention? And getting funding to keep it going proved daunting, and now it’s been long enough I’m chasing funds for something different… but I liked the idea that it was possible. And I always thought they’d be there if the time came.

Glove and Boots was never supposed to end.

And maybe it hasn’t! They certainly want to keep going. They have an absurd amount of fun making these videos, if the amount of shots that end in one or both of them cracking up tell us anything. But nobody knows when or, more importantly, how yet.

But in the meantime, check them out. Enjoy their back catalogue. There’s great stuff in there and more supporters are always better.

Hurry back, Fafa and Mario. My day was always better when you were in it.

Writing Frenzy

So there came a time, after Christmas and into the first days of January, when I found myself in kind of a bad place. Always feeling run-down, ill, and completely unable to maintain a positive mood for more than a couple of minutes.

It has been seven years since I’ve had THAT little fun at a New Year’s Eve party.

I think I know what the problem was. See, right at the beginning of this rough patch, I ran out of synthroid, the pill I take to replenish the thyroid hormones that my immune system targets when it could be taking less than four god damn months to get over a cough sorry, sorry, digressed a bit there… anyway, it’s the pill I take every morning so that I have anything approaching a metabolism. I’d had to switch to my hoard of older, lower dose pills while I went through the process of getting a re-up from my physician.

Ugh. See what I did there? I could have just said “I was under-medicated,” but instead I spent an entire paragraph making sure you knew this was a physical ailment, not mental. I don’t know if it was out of fear that people would assume I suffer from depression (which is a crap fear to have, that should be less embarrassing than needing to take pills for my cholesterol), or from not wanting to be one of those people faking a mental illness or disability to get attention or justify crap behaviour (“It’s not my fault, it’s my self-diagnosed Asperger’s”), but… you know what? On January 28th we’re having a conversation about this. But for now I’m moving on.

Getting out of a place

Right around the time I returned to a proper dose of synthroid, I also decided that it was time to stop looking without for solutions to my bad headspace, and look within. It was time to double down on the thing that always made me feel, well, if not always happy, per se, at least satisfied. Writing. Creating. Storytelling. So I threw myself into whatever writing project I could find. I blogged about movies, Oscar-bait or Hobbit-based. I finished a first draft of a short one-act play for a possible anthology show. I took a stab at a skeleton of an outline for a screenplay my Writers’ Circle co-writer and I want to do this year. I felt… calm. Fulfilled. Myself again. Ready to let go of some of the anxieties and bad thoughts that had been dragging me down. Not all of them, no, it was a three small writing projects, let’s not ask them to work miracles, but still, a start.

Of course, then my projects all hit the usual wall: the wall of needing someone else’s input. The short play was done (for now), I’d gotten as far as I could on the outline without input from my co-writer, and I was back to blogging about old plays. I wanted more. Writing, creating, this was my way out, and I wasn’t ready to stop, sit back, and play Assassin’s Creed until it was time to do a new draft of something.

I needed a new project. And, yes, sure, there are some ongoing projects I could have been paying attention to, at least I think there are, I haven’t checked in a lot lately, but… something got into my head.

The Spark

An old idea. One I’d cast aside a long time ago, but found that there were aspects I didn’t hate. Sure, nearly a decade ago, I couldn’t pull it off, certainly not for the stage. This wouldn’t be a dust-off or a quick polish job. This would be, if anything, only slightly less drastic than the process that turned Jade Monkey into Tyler and Selena. And it would be easy to look at everything else I’m doing, stage, internet, and possibly screen, and say… why bother? Leave it in the past. Move on to the next thing. But first, as we established, all of my “next things” are waiting on workshops, other feedback, or meetings with partners. And second…

There was one scene. One scene that I felt should have been the turning point. Where the protagonist finds his first taste of redemption, where the character I wanted to be the Kaylee-from-Firefly of the cast (the sweet one whose affection for the main character tells us we can like said character as well) is rewarded at long last. And in my first attempt… it failed. It failed as purely and utterly as everything else I tried to do with that story.

And that started to stick in my craw a little.

I didn’t want this scene to be awful. I thought there was potential for a moment of beauty here. A moment where the joy of the characters could seep through to the audience. And maybe I’m wrong, maybe that moment’s impossible, but damn it, I could get closer to it than this. And I wanted to at least try to see it realized.

And that notion lingered. How this moment could be improved. It grew from a “what if” into one of those things, where the only way to exorcise the idea from my mind was to write it down. So I decided… take a crack at it. Write that one scene. See how it turns out. And if you think it’s closer to the effect you wanted… keep going.

That was a few days back. I’m still at it.

Friends old and new

There is something… liberating about this project, for the simple reason that I’m not writing it for anything. It’s not a stage play. Scorpio Theatre needs not worry or care about it. It’s written to be filmed, but I haven’t picked a medium. If it’s not too long, maybe it’s a movie. If it keeps stretching, maybe it’s a series. I don’t know and it doesn’t yet matter. I’m just… writing it until I feel it’s written. There’s miles to go and mountains to climb before it’s even worth thinking about rolling cameras. Couldn’t begin to afford it now, have other things I want to do first if we start convincing people to give us money to make things. I’m writing it for the joy. For the rush. For the indescribable way the characters become like friends, and the pleasure of spending time in their world.

That’s when writing stops being a chore and becomes a passion. As, one by one, the cast becomes people I like, that I care about, that I want to see triumph. Well, after I’m done being awful to them in the name of the story. First things first.

It’s been a good feeling. Good enough that I’m not even sweating the fact that eventually I’ll be done, and will have to deal with wanting to do something with it, yet being largely unable to. Or the fact that despite throwing out every word of the first draft and starting over on a white piece of paper, there might be enough flaws in the basic premise that it can’t be saved. I’ll cross those bridges when I come to them.

For now, it’s just nice to be tinkering away, spending time with friends old and new, hoping that nobody thinks the amount of time I’m spending at home with my computer and DVDs is a bad sign and threatens an intervention.

Thought a “here’s the writing projects taking all of my time” post would be a better than a “here’s why there hasn’t been a blog in three weeks” post, which has been my usual approach.

‘Till next time, then.

Favourite Things Speed Round!

There’s something missing from my life.

Who Knows, the Doctor Who tribute play I’d been directing since March, came to an end a week and a half ago. And for all my attempts to stay busy and avoid the typical post-show crash of depression… I miss it. I miss seeing my delightful cast every day. I miss waiting for the gasps from the audience when the Dalek made its appearance. I miss the cheers we’d get from certain houses when a notable costume turned up, like when Roger entered as the Master at the top of act two, or when Sarah James emerged from the vent in Amy Pond’s kiss-a-gram outfit. I miss it all… but I can’t have it back.

So, rather than dwell on things left behind (after all, first rehearsal for Frost/Nixon is but 12 days away), let’s do a speed round of Favourite Things that never really seemed worth a full post.

Allons-y! (Damn it, now I’m just depressing myself…)

Welcome Back, Potter

I would do a whole piece on Cracked Studios, and attempt to review each of their three (thus far) series, but every time I try I lose steam something hard. It’s like, “Why am I writing this down, and why would anyone read it?” So instead, let’s just cover everything I like about the latest (and most publicized) series, Welcome Back, Potter.

First, let’s be real, I find Michael Swaim and Daniel O’Brien hilarious, and Katy Stoll to be funny, engaging, and super cute. Put these three together in a parody of anything and I’m going to watch it.

One of my favourite After Hours episodes, also written by Swaim, is the one where they tear apart Harry Potter. It’s not that I dislike Harry Potter (I don’t), but whether we’re talking books or movies, that series has some holes, and Swaim knows how to exploit them for laughs. The notion that 12 year-old Harry Potter (should have been 11, but whatevs) would, upon learning he’s destined to fight the most evil wizard who ever lived, simply book it for America and hide tickles me. As do various other shots at Potter lore, from wondering if they tried to fight Voldemort with anything besides young orphans to the fact that wizarding school gives you zero prep for life in muggle world, to the fate of the Dursleys in a world where Harry lacked adult supervision (they had a run-in with some water moccasins).

It’s a fun series, and Daniel O’Brien’s take on Ron Weasley as a Jersey Shore guido (“I deeply regret so much of how I look and act. OH!”) is reliably amusing. Michael Swaim has been pushing it with behind-the-scenes videos and articles, so he clearly want to make more, and I’m hoping he gets to. Thus, me plugging it.

5-second Films

The mission statement of 5-second Films is a simple one: wasting your time, but not very much of it. For several years, the team put out a video every day, each lasting only five seconds (well, plus two seconds of opening credit and one second of closing). Somehow I managed not to hear about them until just recently, despite the fact that they got popular enough to feature guest appearances from Patton Oswalt, some of the Cracked staffStan Lee, Larry King, Weird Al, and Freddie Wong.

Look, this one’s pretty simple. And if all of those links aren’t swaying you, here’s a sampler.

Their output has diminished recently, as they’ve been working on a feature length film based on one of their videos, Dude Bro Party Massacre Three. Or maybe they actually were concerned that the rise of Vine made them obsolete. I don’t know. I’m not internet-famous enough to have spoken to them personally. But it’s probably the movie thing.

That said, if you’re just discovering them, like me, there are hundreds upon hundreds of five second comedy films to check out (and five really depressing ones from Bummer Week), so have at.

The Flash Trailer

I watch this a lot.

Okay. Lightning round.

  • Even people I know who don’t watch Arrow are talking about how good this looks. For me, a massive fan of Arrow? I cannot wait.
  • Harrison Wells (guy in the wheelchair, aka JD’s brother from Scrubs) seems to have a secret room somewhere. Six to five and pick ’em he’s betraying Barry by the end of season one.
  • Some people complain that they’re giving Flash his own team right off, instead of building it organically like Arrow did. On the other hand? One of his team is Caitlin Snow, better known to comics fans as Killer Frost, so between her and Wells this might not be the reliable inner circle that Oliver Queen has.
  • They call the bad guy, generally believed to be classic Flash villain Weather Wizard, “Clyde Mardon,” which is actually the Weather Wizard’s brother, and the man he stole his weather powers from. So if he doesn’t survive the pilot, don’t panic. I’m sure the Rogues are coming.
  • Barry’s father is being played by John Wesley Shipp, the star of the last Flash TV series. Come on, that’s cool.
  • The addition of legit super powers to the Arrowverse is everything I’ve been waiting for.
  • I’m not saying that if enough people watch this, they will cross over Arrow and Flash into the Justice League movie (in fact it is all but assured that they won’t), but it could not hurt.

My webseries films soon

It’s coming, dear readers. Writers’ Circle: the Web Series is mere weeks from rolling. When that starts happening, you’re going to be hearing about it. A lot. I’m not sorry. It’s just what has to happen.

Also, it’s going to be amazing, so you’re going to want to be in the loop.

Next time… I don’t know. I’m hoping by next time I’m past this “Nothing seems worth blogging about” thing and ranting about nerd stuff again. Or, you know, something like that. Well. Until then.

Items of joy: An open letter to Who recruits

So I hit a chord with many people in writing an open letter to one of my great regrets. Thought I might see if I could strike a similar chord talking about things that bring me real joy. Some of those things have to do with television. I know, it doesn’t seem like a proper subject for such discussions, but until such a time as I can fly to Australia on a whim to watch the sun set over Uluru (formerly known by its slave name, Ayers Rock) or take off to Chicago to see an old friend in a play and then take said friend out for the deep dish pizza I’ve been craving since 1996, well, television just has to do sometimes.

As long as it’s good television.

Which brings me to this: an open letter to a friend I’ve been introducing to Doctor Who, which may prove enlightening to others I’ve tried to convert.

Sad is happy for deep people

Hey there friend. So one day, months ago, I convinced you to try out Doctor Who. The new series, not the classics. Not yet, anyway. And you were hooked fast, amazed when I said these first few episodes that had captured your attention were “the rough patch.” But it hasn’t been an easy journey. This show does like to mix its wit, charm and adventure with frequent doses of heartbreak. Maybe the BBC feels that even what they consider “family programming” should be delivering some important lessons to young viewers: people leave, and sometimes there’s nothing to be done about it but be sad for a while; no matter the tragedy, there may be a triumph right around the corner, you just need to be willing to look for it; bad things happen to good people, and it’s not fair; sometimes humanity is the real monster, whether it’s malice, greed, or the simple laziness that makes people not care how their products were made or by who as long as they stay cheap.

But I digress. Heartbreak comes, and it comes kind of often, and we tease you about that. There were some extremely sad goodbyes already, and you can tell another’s on the horizon, and you’re dreading it. Which our constant reminders don’t help. Well, they’re not supposed to, we’re specifically tormenting you with them because we’re terrible people.

But what we don’t frequently remind you of is the moments of joy that this show delivers. For every “I’m burning up a sun just to say goodbye,” there’s a moment like “Just this once, everybody lives!” Or the simple emotional climax of one of my other favourites: “Not now, not again Craig, the planet’s about to burn, for God’s sake kiss the girl!” Moments like the end of The Big Bang, where you want to cry not because it’s sad, but because it’s so beautiful. So… perfect.

Which is not to say the sad moments won’t come. Just that they’re worth it. Vincent and the Doctor is one of my go-to episodes to rewatch, yet it brings a tear to my eye every time. It may end sadly, but before it does there are moments of such incredible beauty that they can make you, for a moment, see our world for the incredible miracle that it is, and that the occasional tragedy can’t change that. An hour that’s beautiful and tragic at the same time. No wonder it’s about Vincent Van Gogh.

Doctor Who is these things in (relatively) equal measure, and that’s why I love it. Stephen Moffat put it best in his episode The Girl in the Fireplace: one can tolerate a world of demons for the sake of an angel. Those moments when the Doctor works his magic and everything’s wonderful make the moments when he can’t worthwhile. The tear-soaked goodbyes are worth it for those moments when the Doctor realizes he’s thrown on his old bow tie without realizing it, and that the old madman with a box is still alive, even after he thought he’d lost everything. (That doesn’t make sense to you but it will eventually, it’s a nice moment in The Snowmen.)

Or maybe it was Blink that put it best: “Sad is happy for deep people.”

Feeling is good, feeling is human

And what it comes down to is, why would you want to watch anything that can’t make you feel things this strongly? Yes, it breaks your heart now and then, but the fact that it can is part of what makes it amazing. I’ve been looking at my TV viewing, and making some cuts from my line-up as I realize that I’ve been missing out on amazing shows like Homeland and Breaking Bad because I’ve been too busy keeping up on Nashville. Nashville. And I spent most of my time watching that playing Minesweeper while waiting for a plotline I cared about to happen. So I dropped it. Because I’d rather be watching something that grips me, even if it’s not always a laugh. Like Game of Thrones, even if I dreaded The Red Wedding so much it damn near gave me nightmares. Skins might enrage me from time to time, but at least it’s engaging me. In 18 episodes (per generation) they made me care more about some of those stupid self-destructive British teenagers than I ever cared or could possibly care about the Glee kids, even before Glee became an engine for churning out iTunes singles. Hawaii Five-O… still having second thoughts about dropping that one, but for all the witty banter and decent action, it is no Justified and never will be.

Doctor Who is going to crush me later this year. The biggest, most painful goodbye in nearly four years is on the horizon. And yet I still can’t wait to see what happens afterwards. I mean, I’ll have to, there’ll be about nine months in between, but still.

And that is its power. It is a source of wonder, of excitement, and of pure joy, a joy made all the more powerful by the pain that comes along the way. And that’s why I try so hard to share it with people. To spread wonder, excitement, and joy. Isn’t that worth a few tears?

Thanks for bearing with me, folks. Next time, I’ll be hilariously angry about pop culture. That’s always fun, right?