Monday, September 10, 2012

Interview: John Cheese


Pretty much all the readers of this blog come from Pointless Waste of Time, the forums at Cracked.com, so no doubt John Cheese needs no introduction. However, since he insisted on drawing up a legal document before this interview began, I am now contractually obligated to write one.

Mack Leighty was born, like so many great men before him, in a log cabin that he built with his own hands. Then, like Jesus (and Shakespeare!), his childhood years are lost in a fog of mystery, until we finally catch up with him joining his best friend David Wong to write for Wong's website Pointless Waste of Time, writing articles as John Cheese (also like Shakespeare!). This incarnation of John Cheese was a little different than the John Cheese his newer readers might know and fear today. John then started the website Juvenile Comedy after an argument with Wong over whether or not to spend the ridiculous amount of money they'd accumulated on illegal mongooses or a nice set of Wedgwood china.

They had completely forgotten about the Xbox 360.

John Cheese later became a regular article writer, and then a columnist, at Cracked, while also gaining a permanent layout job behind the scenes and offering his services to the Editorial team as a contract killer.

 
He usually does all three jobs without pants. (Again, like Shakespeare. The parallels are downright spooky.)

I had the contractually-obligated pleasure of sitting down and talking with John a few days ago, and managed to get a fairly professional interview. We discussed his early work; his opinion on the old media vs. new media issue; his friendship with David Wong, the man who made the FBI's Top Ten Most Wanted Criminals list famous once he was added to it; John's upcoming marriage; giving him one good reason not to kill me where I stood; why he was holding a knife; me not being a hired assassin, really, John, I swear, I've never even heard of the League of Squancho; and which was the quickest way to get to the hospital.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * 

I arrived at the restaurant ten minutes early, eager to begin.


As I waited for John to show up, I looked over my notes once more, steeling myself for the most important and so far only interview for a blog that I need to pay more attention to, and would if I got more feedback,which I think you'll admit is quite an obvious hint.

He entered the restaurant and I tried to catch his eye, but the hostess had begun talking to him and so his attention was routed to her. Their exchange lasted an unusually long amount of time, and when it was over her eyes were different colors and he had somehow exchanged his necktie for a bow tie that closer inspection would prove to be made of construction paper.

He sat down, de-napkined his silverware, and spent a moment glaring at it. When he had finished, he looked up at me expectantly.

I started with the most important question.

"Did you manage to see where the restrooms are?"

He pointed me in a direction that was somewhat correct, and when I returned from my adventure, I discovered that John had already ordered for both of us, and that he'd already eaten the food he had ordered for me.

I sat back down at the table and cleared my throat. John settled himself into an attentive pose.

Suddenly I realized that somewhere on the way back to my chair I had become extremely tense. I clutched my legal pad like a life preserver and felt my panic-freeze sweat soften its edges. This man was one of my idols. Not, like, in a Martin Luther King, Jr. way, where you idolize him for a world-changing achievement--

(his mustache)

--but more in the way that doesn't make him or her into a legendary figure. I guess a closer phrasing would be that I looked up to him.

I decided to launch into my first question before I could think about all the ways I might end up disappointing him.

Nimby: How do you think your writing style has changed over the years?

John Cheese: When I first started out on the net back in 1997, all of my writing was based on the surreal. I used to set up innocent sounding, fictional situations and then make them progressively more corrupt and bizarre as the article went along. Since it was all character based, I could take an article like that anywhere I wanted. There was no research. No facts. Just silliness.

Not long before I came to Cracked, there was a transitional phase where I mixed reality with surreality. For instance, I'd write about finding a new girlfriend, but during the course of the article, I'd have it break down into a ninja type of fight, complete with back flips and ridiculousness.

Now, I've stripped out the fiction completely. There is no character. And it turns out that the reality-based articles that have a personal touch pull an absolutely insane amount of traffic. People want to read something they can relate to--and though my old fiction pieces had value on a comedy level, they never had the support and following like my Cracked pieces.

John Cheese Interview: Watch This Space!

Later today, I'll be publishing my interview with Cracked.com's John Cheese. I'm just tidying up the layout.

Friday, August 31, 2012

An Excerpt from James Cameron's Spider-Man Script Treatment

(Note: These are all real.)

An arm, wearing red spandex and a red glove, drops down from the roof of the newsstand. The news-guy whirls as the arm slaps two bucks on the counter and grabs a Newsweek. The owner rushes out the door... looks on top of his kiosk. There's nothing there. He looks up, all around... nothing. He grins and holds his fist in the air. 

OWNER
ALRIIIIIGHT!

CUT TO THE FIGURE, atop the WTC. Still hanging. He pulls the Newsweek out of his belt and stares at the cover in the moonlight.

SPIDERMAN (V.O.)
How can I expect them to get it.
I don't even get it.
I do wish they'd at least get my
name right.  It's Spider Man...
not The Spider Man. Jeez. Boneheads.
I need a better publicist.

He rips the magazine easily in half, then in quarters, then in eights... somewhere in here we realize that this takes more strength in the hands than you or I have. He releases the stamp-sized shreds. Camera drifts with them as they flutter down over the city like confetti.

SPIDERMAN
Wouldn't they have kittens if they
knew Spiderman wasn't even a man.
Just a kid named...

yeah they would have kittens, that would be groovy and the bee's knees and the cat's pajamas

PETER!

CLOSE UP on an elderly lady yelling. "Peter... you're going to be late!" It's morning and she's calling up the stairs to...

PETER PARKER. Age 17. Peter is in the bathroom, popping a zit in the mirror. He puts on his glasses and checks his look in the mirror. Still the same. Nerdy. He doesn't care. Screw 'em.

James, where's the real Peter Parker? Is this like a movie about the Clone Saga or something?

He grabs a big stack of books and heads downstairs. Over breakfast we meet his aunt MAY and Uncle BENJAMIN. Nice people but way too old to be the kind of role-model parents a kid needs. Still, he loves them even if he forgets to actually mention it 99% of the time like any kid. Aunt May is thin and fusses over Peter too much. He indulges her. When he has time, which he doesn't this morning.

I agree, James, I've read a couple of the comics and in no way are Uncle Ben and Aunt May ever good role models because they are just too OLD to understand KIDS. Well, except you, you seem to be doing a great job.

Peter's parents were killed in a plane crash when he was six. He woke up one day without a family. Somehow he always felt guilty that they went away. As if he had done something wrong. His 17 year old mind tells him it was just fate, just a random accident... but deep in his subconscious that scared 6 year old still cries, begging for them to come home... he won't cause trouble anymore... he'll go to bed when they tell him.

ugh.

[...]

Peter is a bright kid. He doesn't have many friends. He is ostracized for his interest in science. Our MTV culture frowns on people who think too much. Intellectual curiosity is decidedly un-hip. Who cares about where the universe came from or how the Greeks hammered Troy? Did you hear the new Pearl Jam album?

Peter is defiant. He thinks they are the real losers. They'll be flipping burgers while he's discovering the cure to cancer.
We'll see who wins in the long run.

He wears his isolation like a badge... with an air of superiority.

James, I want this Peter Parker to get punched in the face. Is that what you're doing here, like a... parody or something? Something that's bad?

[...]

He has the 17 year-old's sense that he knows everything about the world, and can see so clearly all the things that are wrong with it. In fact he is very insulated and knows almost nothing about human nature in all its complexity. He doesn't even understand himself very well. Because his life of the mind is his badge of superiority, he frowns on the pursuits of the body.

Sports? Forget it. Bunch of jock boneheads crashing into each other. Like stag elk in rut. Senseless violence. Girls? Good in theory, but how do you talk to them? Dancing? No way. He tried it once. Not a pretty sight.

Peter is a virgin. And apt to remain that way for a while. He's your basic sexually pent-up adolescent.

Thank you for clearing that up James, it really helps me understand the character better.



Later in the treatment:

At the same time, in some neighborhoods, he is a local
legend. Crime is down, and the friendly neighborhood
Spider Man is a welcome sight. And everybody wants to
claim him.

Black kids think he's black. White kids white. Hispanic etc.

"Spidey man ain't no white dude. He too down. What I'm sayin. You see his moves? He definitely a brother."
"No way, home. My brother knows a guy that talked to him once, man."
Italians say he's Italian.
Gays think he's gay.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

This is Not a News Story

(but it's the BEST JOURNALISM EVER!)

Every. Single. Time. some tragedy happens, members of the "New Media"--or "Old Media" outlets with web content--release, and promote, the same article (both the same as before and the same as everyone else's). It is quite possibly the most template-y, "insert X here" type of article imaginable. Therefore, it is the best. It's ingenious. Journalism is supposed to be easy, after all--easy to do, easy to write, easy to read. As a reporter, you just repeat stuff that other people repeat! How much thinking could you possibly need for that? Again, it shouldn't be hard--if it is, you're doing it wrong!

When you hear about a tragic event or major news story, your first thought, save perhaps concern, prayer, or both, is to ask for more information.

And The Huffington Post, among others, ingeniously answers a question you didn't even ask.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

How to Get People (Especially Women) to Take Comics Seriously



Yeah.


Notice how V-Shield-Girl's breasts manage to stay perky inside her armor! And Lightning Cleavage's breasts manage to stay perky in spandex!



Displaying this in a bookstore will definitely attract women to comics! Look, she's saving some pathetic clod who's just wearing tacky boxers and is a loser yet somehow also muscular! See? It's not sexist at all!


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Art Deco (Images)





I know, I know, this is not what was supposed to be coming next, but the interview is proving surprisingly hard to put into a post.

Anyway, this post goes out to the lady behind GOD! GIRLS! GUNS! PIE!






Thursday, June 28, 2012

Roland Emmerich's anti-Shakespeare movie "Anonymous" Completely Ignores the REAL Truth

So I read this article a while back. It's about Anonymous, Roland Emmerich's film about how Shakespeare wasn't Shakespeare and was instead a dude named Edward de Vere. An excerpt:
Orloff [the writer of the movie --N.] brushes off such criticism of his movie as a knee-jerk response to an “academic subversion of normality.” “When you learn it’s not fact, it’s a bit unsettling,” the screenwriter said. “Why not question everything you’ve been taught?”
Well, yes, in that situation I can see how that would happen, although as far as I know Orloff hasn't begun questioning the moon landing or the traditional dates of Ancient Egypt's Second Intermediate Period.
The studio plans to concurrently release Last Will. & Testament, a documentary about the authorship debate, through First Folio Pictures (a production shingle whose president is none other than Roland Emmerich) and has been providing materials to educators that encourage teachers to “make this thought-provoking new film part of your class plan.”
And this worries me. I think teaching class materials based on Anonymous is a bad strategy: it's giving kids an inaccurate and incomplete picture... because Anonymous didn't go far enough. It's true that conventional views of Shakespeare are completely false. But not in the way most people think. Let me elaborate.

*  *  *

When I heard about Roland Emmerich's Anonymous, I was excited. Finally, a movie that wasn't afraid to take on conventional scholarship and challenge long-held beliefs about Shakespeare. But then I saw a photo of Shakespeare from the movie:

Apparently the film thinks so little of Shakespeare that he doesn't even know which direction to bow in

I'm sure you see the problem here.

You see, Anti-Stradfordians (people who don't believe Shakespeare wrote the plays) often say that we don't have any evidence that Shakespeare ever read a book, and that we don't have anything that shows he wrote the plays besides copies of works that were allegedly by him and had his name attached to them on the cover somehow, and some obviously mistaken contemporary accounts.

But that brings us to an urgent, basic issue that needs to be sorted out before we can begin questioning identities:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Okay I Accidentally Lied

I've been busy. There will probably be something here Friday, though.

EDIT: Or Saturday.