Author Archive - JessB


Book Review: Look At My Striped Shirt

Look At My Striped ShirtLook At My Striped Shirt - Confessions of People You Love To Hate by The Phat Phree $10.36 @ First off let me admit that this blog - or at least me - is somehow related to The Phat Phree. I'll give you 3 minutes to Google it and figure it out. If you can't, well then it's of no concern to you. But I did get this book sent to me for free with the understanding that I would review it. Such is the duty of a "Blogger" - we are here to spread the word where no one else gives a damn. Now let me explain a little bit about The Phat Phree. It's an online humor magazine that is about two hundred times more popular than Unsought Input. But then again, uhm...we like it that way. The guys from The Phat Phree are those kids who probably beat you up in elementary school, played sports in middle school and by high school they were all of a sudden really in to drama club and the school newspaper because they were slightly too intelligent to stay in football. They weren't in drama to sing and dance (cuz "that's be gay, dude") or on the newspaper to write scandalous op-ed pieces, but because they like when people listen to them talk or read what they write. They're those guys who fill the large gap between the over-smart introverts and the air-headed extroverts. Now they work office jobs but hope to someday make it big in a way that people will pay money to hear what they have to say. So, nothing wrong with that. Someone's got to fill that gap. They're honing their skills by following the TPP credo: Target. Observe. Ridicule. They're taking "observational comedy" to a different level than we're used to - different than the droning of Jerry Seinfeld's sly jabs at everyday annoyances and not so far as the over-done "people of [my ethnicity] are funny because..." yawn-fest of Carlos Mencia. Look At My Striped Shirt - Confessions of People You Love To Hate contains 73 essays written from the point of view of all of the quirky lamers you work with, ring up at the cash register, run into at parties and, God forbid, are related to. A Spoon River Anthology for the modern day, if you will. The characters in the LAMSS book are those idiots you know you know, but really never cared to think about before. The dude who's "really into philosophy." The jackass with the "GONFISHN" license plate. The guy who wanted to be "fuck buddies" but maybe without the "buddies" part. Your "cool" teacher. The lady who collects ladybugs. And of course, that fella sportin' the striped shirt at the bar who knows that he is totally going to get laid tonight. The Phat Phree writers (all 28 of them) put together an interesting menagerie of characters for this book. They were smart enough to leave out the painfully obvious targets of ridicule - fat people, non-Americans, IT guys, soccer moms, the religious Right - and delve a little bit deeper into the idiocracy that truly makes up most of the American population.
This gangbang is so awkward This gangbang is so awkward...
Many of the pieces do fall flat while others are stand out. Like most Saturday Night Live sketches (and really, a good chunk of Monty Python as well), some of the essays come out swingin' and die halfway through as if they'd be better minus the last three paragraphs. My favorite part of the book is actually the essay titles and accompanying pictures (yes, I read like a six-year-old, thanks.) "You Can't Plinko For Shit, You Dumb Bitch," "This Gangbang is So Awkward" and "Having a Huge Penis Isn't So Great" are some of my favorites. Also much like Python, and the Kids in the Hall, it seems that the Phat Phree writers can't write for women. There's only a smattering of essays written from a female point-of-view (two of the contributing writers are women) and they aren't quite as strong as the others. Although "Seriously, Get This Sweater Off Me" written from the point-of-view of a woman's "rat dog" is one of the best pieces. Maybe chicks just aren't that interesting.
Seriously, get this sweater off me Seriously, get this sweater off me
Since the boys at TPP are so wildly different (read: popular) than us here at Unsought, the book gives me a chance to learn a little bit about people that I would know only if I only left the house once in a while. People that go to clubs, go to after parties, drive nice cars, think they're "just like Sex and the City," etc. I think those sort of people are more ubiquitous than I had previously imagined - although MySpace is changing my perception of the world quite rapidly. Now, thanks to this book, I have some basis for my "who the hell are all these people on MySpace?" snark. If nothing else, this is the perfect bathroom book. The essays are short enough to get through a few at a time during your morning constitutional. Or, if you're like me and spend more time eating than excreting, it's a nice little lunchtime accompaniment. I guarantee if nothing else you'll be remembering a character or two the next time you run into someone annoying, or emailing your friend about how this essay you just read reminds you of him. Check out The Phat Phree Web site which is updated daily with lots of new content. Some of the pieces from the book can be found there, most likely in their "Hall of Fame." Fifty of the essays are brand-new, and can only be found in the book. The Look At My Striped Shirt Web site has a few excerpts plus pod-casts of performances of the essays and some pretty funny wallpapers (see, even they find the titles and pictures funny!) Go forth and read, my friends. Don't read too much, though. I will have more television reviews for you shortly.

Deviant Artist Becomes World’s Greatest Fan-fic-er

An artist named *spacecoyote posted two "fan-fic" anime-style drawings of The Simpsons and Futurama characters to the popular art site Less then a week later, she was signed on to work for Bongo Comics - owned and created by Matt Groening (creator of both series) on anime-style Simpsons comics. She also might be working with 20th Century Fox as well. How's that for a nice little bit of happiness from this "Web 2.0" world? Post some junk online that you think your friends might dig and instead of a lawsuit (more common) you get a job? Please do check out *spacecoyote's drawings - I especially like her realization of Marge, Patty and Selma in the Simpsons drawing. Here's the official deviantART posting on the topic if you'd like to leave her some props.

What You Should Be Watching: Extras

Extras Sundays @ 10 PM on HBO In a nutshell: The Office + Curb Your Enthusiasm Aren't you Americans lucky? Ricky Gervais's second hit BBC show (since The Office) is here on Pay Cable! Gervais plays goofy and awkward (sound familiar?) bit-part actor Andy Millman who spends his time playing the role of an extra in crappy British TV shows and movies. His agent, Darren Lamb (Office co-creator Stephen Merchant) can't actually get the guy a good part to save his life - his role is really that of being more pathetic than Andy than actually getting him work. Ashley Jensen (the wardrobe closet manager on Ugly Betty) plays Gervais' co-extra and best friend Maggie, who, while not more pathetic than Andy is actually more clueless. But sweet. She plays Andy's conscience. Andy gets some local recognition - mostly from people on the street who hate him or directors that dispise him. Like Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm, he is pretty good at unintentionally pissing people off just by opening his mouth - a role not too far off from Gervais' Office manager David Brent. By the second season (the current HBO season), Darren manages to land Andy his own TV show to write and star in, but the show quickly spirals into a dumbed-down version of his vision. Andy plays a factory supervisor with a funny wig & glasses and a catch phrase. Andy's popularity grows but he is miserable - the running gag of this season is that the show caters to the lowest common denominator - which happens to also be the largest tv viewing audience. Now instead of sneering at him, people on the street ask for his goofy catch phrase. But his peers still think he's crap. The absolute hilight of this show is the guest stars each week - famous British actors playing a cartoon version of themselves. A lusty Kate Winslet, an insane Ian McKellan, a horny bragging Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), a pretensious Chris Martin (Coldplay), a slimy David Bowie, a dispicable Ronnie Barker and of course the over-the-top vain Orlando Bloom. The "real" famous people give the show an edge over just the humdrum of Andy's life. Another great part of this show is getting to see more GervaisdespiseTVhighlight and Merchant ipretentiousnterplaydespicable, which was missing on The Office where Merchant was not a principle. Merchant & Gervais's podcats became hugely popular in 2006. So much so that they became pay-for podcasts. But the two work brilliantly together, like a pair of British Napoleon Dynamites, two idiots playing off each other. Add in Shaun Williamson as Darren's lackey Barry - a sort of Karl-like character (see podcasts) - and the so-dumb-it's-funny just drips out of the screen. Unfortunately, this series is only available in the US on HBO...but if you are clever you can lap it up elsewhere. Or really if you're that clever, you can afford HBO. If you're really serious about this mission, get the first series on DVD. For those of you who just aren't clever...I guess you'll have to wait until season 2 comes out on DVD. You're also reading the wrong blog.

What You Should Be Watching: Post-Holiday Gifts to Yourself

By the time Christmas is over, you're going to have some gift cards to spend and some returns to make. Forget buying books or CDs with your Borders gift card (dude, CDs are so 2005) - instead, stock up on some television show boxed sets. Instead of shoveling the driveway or doing whatever people do in the winter in places where it doesn't snow, stay inside and rot your brain AGAIN with these hours upon hours of television goodness. All commercial-free! The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThis is hands-down the best Holmes series out there. Jeremy Brett (as Holmes) basically turned himself into a raving lunatic to bring us the most true-to-story Sherlock possible, and the writers of this first series worked hard to keep true to Doyle's works as well. Fans of House and CSI will appreciate the original "so clever it hurts" character after which Greg House and Gil Grissom are often cited as being modeled after. Brett is a sexy bastard as well. There's other Granada Television (of Great Britian) Holmes series starring Brett, such as The Return of Sherlock Holmes and The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, which are also good but Adventures is the place to start. The original 13 episodes, included in this set, had the best scripts and Brett was still at the top of his game. As the later series came about, the quality of Holmes stories left from which to choose became a stumbling block for the writers. Brett also started losing his mind a bit and his health got worse. By the time The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes was shot (the final series), Brett was literally having to be propped up in order to appear in the shows. But this first series is can't-miss. Sets are amazingly accurate, Brett and David Burke/Edward Hardwicke as Watson give spot-on performances and the scripts couldn't be more accurate. Investing in this series will definitely up your geek cred by letting you discuss Holmes with your bookstorecoffeeshop buddies as if you've actually read the books. Freaks & Geeks Freaks & GeeksI'm a sucker for all things 80's and also for all things geek, so when I picked this box up I immediately joined the ranks of the fans crying "why was this show cancelled?!" The show is about the Geeks - Sam, Bill and Neal - and the Freaks - Daniel, Nick, Ken and Kim - who go to high school in Michigan in the 80's. Their paths both parallel and cross, as Sam's older sister tries hard to get in with the loser/stoner Freaks while trying to shed her actual identity as a Geek. The acting is great and the writing is even better. It stands to reason, as writer Paul Feig has gone on to work on shows such as Arrested Development, The Office and Weeds. And the show's executive producer, Judd Apatow, worked on The Larry Sanders Show, The Ben Stiller Show, and was co-creator of The 40-Year-Old Virgin. So how did this amazing show get canceled so quick? The Jocks, of course. No one wanted to watch a show about those kids no one talked to in high school. Well no one but the millions of people who identified with said kids - but they aren't the ones in charge. Put this one in the pile with Newsradio and Arrested Development as "shows that were too good for television" and trust me on this one. And, if you're buying it from Amazon, don't be afraid to bundle this purchase with the Undeclared boxed set too. Undeclared is sort of a follow-up to this show, also created by Feig and Apatow. Different characters and different time frame, and it takes place in college, but the quality is still there. The Simpsons (Seasons 1-9) The Simpsons"But I've already seen all of the episodes of The Simpsons!" I know you have, Spiff, but I think you can watch them again. Each boxed set comes with over 9 hours of episodes PLUS commentary on every episode. The first couple of seasons got off to a rocky start, but once the writers and actors hit their grooves the show became a classic. Now that the show is in season 18, people are complaining that the air is slowly leaking out of the Simpsons bag. Fair enough, but this didn't become one of the top television shows ever for no reason. For those of you who feel a little left out when your pals start quoting every line, picking up the boxed sets and watching every episode through will not only make you more culturally aware but kill a lot of time. For those of you who are doing the quoting, the commentary for each episode is worth the price of the set. And watching The Simpsons without commercials sort of takes away the pain when an episode isn't wowing you right out of the gate. Seasons 4 through 12, I think, are the best to look for (obviously, they've only released up to 9) so if you're not seriously into it you can pass up the first few seasons. This may not be a series you can watch again and again but you can be sure that if your current Netflix selection is a little dull or if you need some indoor activity for these insanely long hours of winter darkness, popping in a few episodes of The Simpsons will bring you a few dozen hours of solid comedy television. The Office (UK) The OfficeI can't believe how people love The Office (US) so much and keep telling me they're not interested in the UK version. The ORIGINAL version. Starring Ricky Fucking Gervaise for God's sake. What's your hangup? Sure, Steve Carell is awesome and that kid who plays Jim is alright but they can't replace the original. Gervaise is, to put it in words you will understand, "off the hook" - an even goofier boss. And Tim (the UK's Jim) is more sad (and played by Arthur Dent!), Gareth (Dwight) is more pathetic and the entire office has a bit more of that very creepy and depressing vibe to it. Now, I'm not knocking the US series. From what I've seen of it, it's cool. Plus it's on TV right now which is more than we can say for the UK version. But you've got to see Gervaise doing "the dance" and see Mackenzie Crook (Gareth) wearing bike shorts. You've got to see the pub quizzes and the Christmas parties and "the kiss." Everything you love about the American version is here and perfected the first time around. The UK show only lasts 2 seasons (with a Christmas special) and is quite neatly wrapped up with no loose ends. Trust me on this one - it's like the difference between American Coke in a can and Mexican Coke in a bottle (made with real sugar). The American version is great and handy but if you can get your hands on the "original" it'll be pure enjoyment. The Kids in the Hall (Complete Set) The cleverest sketch comedy show ever. Took forever to get these shows to DVD so count your blessings and pass the Tim Horton's. Newsradio (Seasons 1-4) When was the last time you thought about this show? Oh...every time I mention it on this blog. Right on. Well, what are you waiting for? Jeeves & Wooster (complete set) I said it before in this entry and I'll say it again - Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry kick ass. This is one of those shows you can watch over and over again and not get bored. Like Holmes, it's a perfect adaptation of classic British literature. It's fun to watch and it makes u look sm4rt. Arrested Development (complete set) I know it's almost a cliche to say this is the funniest show on television ever (American television - see The Office (UK)) but it really is friggin' hilarious. It goes by so fast, you have to watch it a couple times to fully appreciate it. Which is why you need the boxed set.

What You Sould Be Watching: Studio 60

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip Mondays @ 10PM on NBC In a Nutshell: The West Wing meets The Muppet Show Man, this show was tough to pick as a recommendation. I actually only snagged it at first (for research) because I thought it was the "new Tina Fey comedy" but I was wrong (that one is 30 Rock; review coming soon). I watched the first 4 episodes and was frustrated all to hell. I'm not a West Wing watcher so I am not up creator Aaron Sorkin's ass. With this show, I figured out why I'm not a West Wing watcher - Aaron Sorkin makes me dizzy. This whole "pedaconferencing" (or the walk-and-talk) puts a serious crimp in any laid-back tv watcher's style - especially when one is being introduced to the characters and trying really hard to follow the plots that will set up the stories for the rest of the show's life. Things happened so fast that I had to visit the Interweb to have it explained to me. Oh yeah, and the whole show takes place in the dark. You know, to give it that, I mean, old theater look. What I found was that everyone from the Interweb was tuning in because they WERE up Aaron Sorkin's ass. Fair enough - I hear West Wing was good. I read that people were quite disappointed in the show thus far (by episode 4-ish) but were amused with the West Wing/Sorkin "shout outs" and eager to see the show get better. The Collective Mind told me (every week, for about four weeks) that I MUST keep watching because the show WOULD get better. Well, it didn't. Not for a while. Everyone continued to talk fast (while walking) and managed to be not funny. That's kind of a downer considering the show is about making a comedy show. The writers tended to beat us over the heads with plot concepts so we would obviously know what's going on (Tom's parents are soooo Midwest, that they don't even know who Abbott and Costello are! Ha ha!). There was waaaay too much dwelling on the "we just broke up but we've still got to work together" angle between Matthew Perry's character and Sarah Paulson's character. There wasn't enough banter between Perry and the other male lead (West Wing's Bradley Whitford). And the comedy sketches the crew was working on/performing in in the show-within-a-show were pretty much as lame as a lot of Saturday Night Live is today. The best part of the show was Timothy Busfield's character, the show's director, who didn't get much face time anyway. If you're curious, Matthew Perry doesn't suck in this show. He's toned down his Chandler-ness and gets in some pretty good quips with Whitford - when he's not having to concentrate on his ex-girlfriend as his employee. A dislike of Friends shouldn't keep you away. So..has the show gotten better since the beginning? It HAS gotten better. And I'd really, really like to think it was due to the addition of Kids In The Hall's Mark McKinney joining the writing team for the 2-part 7th and 8th episodes. Somehow, the show picked up a bit at that time and became less grueling to watch and more entertaining. Now, to my surprise, McKinney is also appearing in the show as a re-hired ex-writer who is seriously depressed/ing but somewhat astonishingly good at being a mentor to some of the greener writers. Maybe it's not McKinney...but let's just pretend it is. Nothing makes me happier to see one of the Kids bringing good comedy to American TV (Newsradio, anyone?). Fancy that, though - the show starts focusing more on the main premise (the creation of a sketch comedy show) and less on the banality of the boring main characters, and it gets better. (For those of you who are The Office (UK) fans, Lucy Davis (Dawn) peeks on the screen a couple times as a writer in the first few episodes, and by the time McKinney joins the cast she becomes a central character.) So, the only reason I can recommend this show is that it doesn't suck so bad, anymore. You can go ahead and hop right on this train mid-season and rest assured that you didn't miss much in the first 8 episodes other than some fast-paced setup and some really bad writing. Besides, it's free.