Kate Gosselin: a defense

May 31, 2009

Kate Gosselin is being slammed in the media these days. I’m not a big TV watcher, but I do watch the odd episode of Jon & Kate plus Eight, mostly because I think those sextuplets are cuter than a baby unicorn being nuzzled by a lamb with a teacup-sized otter on its head.

The blogosphere is lately full of people complaining about Kate, though, and I’m sick of it.


Criticizing Kate Gosselin really means that you have no idea how television works.

Despite the fact that it’s called “reality TV”, it should be noted that when you watch these shows, you’re not really seeing reality at all. Kate Gosselin exists for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and from those 168 hours- that’s over 10, 000 minutes a week- the show’s producers select only about 10 minutes to use as Kate’s screen time per episode. That’s 0.001% of her life that we see on this show. Do you think the producers go gaga for sweet moments where she quietly cuddles her kids or husband?

Or do you think it’s more likely that the producers might go out of their way to include clips where she’s doing something attention-grabbing, like maybe acting annoyed, tired, frustrated, and bossy, or reacting to the chaos of having a film crew and 8 kids in the house working on a tight schedule, or showing some other unpleasant (but human) emotion?

I agree that sometimes she doesn’t come off super-well on the show. But if you don’t think I could film YOU for a week and pick 10 minutes that made you look like a total jerk, well then listen, I have a videocamera. Name your week, sucka. I promise that I can capture that 0.001% of the time that you behave badly and edit you into a TV trainwreck, too.

Why would the producers go out of their way to make Kate look bad? Because making Kate out to be a jerk sells magazines and makes the show a topic of conversation. Because conflict drives stories, and reality TV is a story. Because every story needs a villian and the easy choice is often the meeeean woommaaaaan, in this case, Kate Gosselin. I’m not saying she’s perfect. But you gotta admit, she’s an easy target.

All the bloggers hating on Kate (and there are a lot), you might as well be screaming “She’s just not ladylike! And also I don’t like her haaair!” Oh wait, most of you couldn’t resist putting that in there, too.

Listen, I personally know dozens of people who have appeared on television, several on reality shows and many more in televised interviews. Not one of them seemed at all like their “real” selves in those situations. My real friends don’t cry profusely, burst into song, or wear golden bikinis when they’re just sitting on the porch.

Let’s all try to remember that edited TV is NOT impartial. The producers have a point of view and a financial agenda. Remember that their point of view is deliberately skewing your entire experience of “what really happened”.

What you see of Kate on the show cannot possibly be an accurate picture of what she’s really like- it’s just what the producers want you to THINK she’s like. Don’t confuse the semi-fictional characters you see on reality TV with real people, and for pete’s sake, let’s all find something better to criticize than her damn haircut.



Is this a joke?

May 31, 2009

Here’s a new invention. But I don’t really understand. I mean, I guess I can see how you might like to have one of these, but I think I’d feel weird about folding it up and putting it back in my backpack after everyone on the camping trip has enjoyed its use.

Also, what are you supposed to do with the filled baggies afterwards? The site vaguely suggests that you “dispose of them responsibly”, but surely we should define “responsibly” before we just assume we’re all on the same page about where the poo should go. I mean, Wikipedia suggests that in rocky areas one should “smear it over the rocks for faster drying,” an unsubstantiated claim which sounds like a 1980s interior wall decor faux-finishing idea gone horribly wrong, and also, uh, some of us might like sitting on those rocks for sunbathing and picnics. And not to mention, where are your friends while you’re a-smearin’? Are they just waiting for you a few yards away on the trail? And upon your return to the group, does anyone high-five you?

I think people will be more likely to just toss the bags in the trash like a doggie bag, which isn’t a great idea, as human waste has pathogens that are bad for other humans (don’t get me wrong, dog crap is gross too, but at least it’s not full of hepatitis). I’m not gonna lie to you, this whole idea makes me a little upset.

I was amused that the bags are “degradable”, though. Not biodegradable. Just degradable. Like, you can ask them to do things no self-respecting bag would ever want to do. Like collect human waste. Oh wait.
Promise this isn’t gonna become a scat blog. I was just confused, is all.
Via Metafilter.

Proteus Syndrome

May 31, 2009

Mandy Sellars, a 34 year old British woman, has a rare medical condition that confuses many doctors, but is most often diagnosed as something like Proteus syndrome (the same condition as so-called “elephant man” John Merrick). The congenital condition has caused her legs to continually and unevenly grow for her entire life.

proteus syndrome

proteus 2

Sellars’ legs now weigh over 200lbs (not counting the weight of her torso) which causes her mobility issues, ongoing medical complications, and pain. There’s a short print interview with Sellars here, and more photos here and here.


The other woman in the above photo also has PS and has had one of her legs amputated to increase her mobility; Sellars plans to do the same at some point in the future. She’s the subject of a number of documentary pieces, and lives in England, where she helps organize fundraisers for the Proteus Syndrome Foundation.
Via Metafilter.


May 30, 2009

Whack-a-Kitty is just what it sounds like: awesome possum.

Guest Post: “My Acting” – IT’S ALIIIVE, by Shannon & Shannon

May 30, 2009

Well wasn’t THIS the most delightful thing to wake up to.

A pair of friends, acting their very best acting to the tune of Pageslap’s recently-unveiled short play transcribed from reality, “My Acting”.

Oh the Shannons, how I adore thee. Some people spend their Friday nights bumping and grinding at revolting nightclubs. Others spend their Friday nights wandering into strangers’ houseparties and trying to flirt. But you two? You two get cozy in your jammies with some chardonnay and a webcam, and what do you do? YOU DO YOUR ACTING.

Shannon and Shannon for the win! Next time I see you I’ll be sure to have a trophy of some sort to present to you. Hopefully it will be shaped like acting. Or possibly like Tim Allen.

– Shannon and Shannon are actors. And so much more.

Miranda July’s “The Hallway”

May 30, 2009

5-minute video of a conceptual art installation. Online here.
Via Metafilter.

Garfunkel & Oates – Update

May 29, 2009

Remember those funny chicks who sang “Pregnant Women Are Smug“? You can download a whole album’s worth of their songs for freeeee! Wheeeee!
Via Metafilter.

Chords of Pop: G-C-Am-D

May 29, 2009

Ever notice how many pop songs use the exact same chord progression?
Axis of Awesome noticed.

One online commenter notes that this progression naturally tells a story:

“Start out with your main character (tonic).
Heap on some adversity (subdominant).
See how character responds to this adversity/climax (dominant).
Then wrap up the story (tonic again).”

Via Metafilter.

Zach Galifianakis profiled by NYT

May 29, 2009

Comic Zach Galifianakis, as profiled by the NYT.

“This advertising firm from Sweden called me out of the blue and asked me to do an ad,” Galifianakis said. “The one request they had was to not make it look too ’80s, since Absolut is perceived as kind of an ’80s brand.” He paused there for a moment, clearly savoring the memory. “That’s what gave us the idea to make the skits a kind of homage to ‘The Golden Girls.’ ”

Also, clips of Zach as his own twin brother, Seth, are pretty awesome.

Thanks to Charles for the tip.

Cats talking, and how to film & voice rodent actors

May 29, 2009

Watch a little of this clip first (if you are not a crazy cat lady, you don’t need to watch the whole thing)

Then watch this clip:

Usually in animation, the voices are recorded early on and the animators match the picture to the voice performance. But when speaking for animals, the actors have to match the voice performance to the animal behaviour, since the animals’ timing is so difficult to control.

I do a couple voices on a really cute kids series where all the characters are rodents: the lead is a hamster, and there are mice, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs (I know rabbits and guinea pigs aren’t technically rodents but let’s just relax with the taxonomy for a sec) and a chinchilla (what did i say about your taxonomic rigidity).

Anyway, the scripts are written ahead of time, the sets are built to animal scale (using a lot of dollhouse props), and then they pop the animals into the set and film them running around interacting with things. Lots of seeds, bits of broccoli, and peanut butter are strategically placed to get the animals to hit their marks and interact with props.

Convincing a dwarf hamster to flop over on its back and point its tiny right foot?  NOT EASY

Convincing a dwarf hamster to flop over on its back and point its tiny right foot? NOT EASY

The director shoots the animals like they were human actors, taking wide shots and closeups of them, and because you can’t really tell a chinchilla what to do, the crew ends up rolling until the animals finally approximate the behaviour that he needs, more or less by chance.

With human actors, this director usually shoots about 3-to-1 or maybe 5-to-1, which means 3 or 5 takes in order to get the 1 take you need. With furball actors, he shoots 20-1: it might take 20 takes before he gets the hamster to walk down the stairs and pause to eat the broccoli.

The hamsters are paid extra for stunts, as per the ACTRA upgrade system.

The hamsters are paid extra for stunts, as per the ACTRA upgrade system.

One thing I love about this particular director is that he goes out of his way to choose takes where the animals’ behaviour is extra-cute: for instance, perhaps all that he needs at a given moment is a closeup of the rabbit that lasts 3 seconds.

But if on one take, the rabbit were to sneeze, you can pretty much guarantee that’s the take he’d use in the episode, which means the voice actor now has to sneeze midway through his line to match the rabbit’s behaviour. It adds richness and humour to the series.

They tried to use this glossy baby gerbil in an episode but it was so cute that I ate it.  Oops.

They tried to use this glossy baby gerbil in an episode but it was so cute that I ate it. Oops.

Later, in the voice record sessions, the director plays us the footage, along with a “scratch track” of himself reading the lines at approximately the right pace, with many of the little extra details included.

He gives the actors tons of freedom and lets us create lines that reference what the animals are actually doing. I’ve gotten to improvise lines where Burfy, my shy salesmouse character, is talking, and out of nowhere she shakes herself (“Brrr! Is it cold in here or is it just me?” or where she’s speaking and the hamster randomly starts licking her face (“Sir, please! Too close! Too close!”).

You can see some examples in this clip- in the beginning a rabbit cleans his face while he’s talking, and later the hamster has one of my favourite lines from the whole series: “What the–? How the–? Blublle blubble bluuble blubble-the–?”

This series was double Gemini-nominated last year, which I thought was well deserved.

Anyway, all this to say that’s why I love the talking cats video so much. Having to match performance to an animal’s behaviour can lead to some really awesome little moments, and the cat video has lots of these. When he muffles his mouth for the cats as they hunch down and whisper while licking each other? Man. Canadian YouTube user Klaatu42, the dude who did those cat voices, totally rocked it. I wonder if he does animation?

Or maybe he just wanders around with small animals sitting on his shoulders and interprets their innermost thoughts for them, like he’s totally insane, yet oddly saintly.