Watching TV with My Grandpa
The other day I learned about something too good to be true - a free, insanely quick, and virtually effortless way for citizens of free countries, like me, to help Iranian revolutionaries and other oppressed people. No, I'm not talking about liking a Facebook page, I mean something that actually helps people. If you install the Tor Snowflake extension on Google Chrome or Firefox, people anywhere in the world can use it to circumvent government censorship of the internet. Download it here. Do it do it do it. The little icon turns green when someone is using it, and it displays the number of people who have used it in the last twenty-four hours. Right now mine is at twelve. The highest it's been is sixteen. Already I've gotten my money's worth out of it. I also embedded it in the code of my website's footer, so I have no idea how but I guess people can visit my website and then use it to do other things. That one says it's helped one person. Good enough for me. We now return to our regularly scheduled post.
Almost the only thing my grandpa does is watch TV, especially since his wife died, so during my recent visit I watched it with him for a few hours every day. It's nice to just be able to enjoy someone's company without talking. Mostly he watches on the YouTube app, and since the search function isn't working very well, nowadays he just scrolls through the recommendations that tend to fall into a few distinct categories that I feel like discussing in no particular order.
I'm not a fan of Fox News but I stuck around for some of it to get out of my echo chamber. And it's not that I think Biden is above criticism. I'm not a die-hard fan or anything. I didn't even vote for him. I just don't notice a lot of things to criticize because I'm too busy being grateful that he's not Donald Trump. So I didn't mind that, but when Tucker Carlson started bashing Volodymyr Zelenskyy, I had to leave the room before I threw something at the TV. Zelenskyy is eight hundred thousand times the man Carlson will ever be. He has more class, courage, and integrity in the dead skin cells he sloughs off in one night than Carlson will manifest in his lifetime. But while millions of his people are losing their homes and their livelihoods, he had the gall to not wear a tie to the White House and to request more military aid, and that triggered this shitflake. (Really, the US is doing the bare minimum required by basic human decency. It should have sent Navy Seals to kill Putin months ago. I'm not even joking. This war is almost entirely his fault, and he has so little support in his own country that his death would probably end it overnight.) Then there was this other guy with his own show, Greg Gutfeld. He's a jerk but sometimes he's pretty funny. So help me, I like him. I guess he reminds me of me.
This show is like a cowboy-themed version of Laugh-In, which I didn't find funny either. A lot of humor from the seventies doesn't seem to land the same way anymore. This even applies somewhat to The Muppet Show, but in that case the goofy characters' delivery saves it, and anyway they're constantly making fun of how bad their show is and that works as a kind of reverse psychology. This also partially explains The Star Wars Holiday Special, though the only thing that can fully explain The Star Wars Holiday Special is lots and lots of drugs. So when I visited for Thanksgiving I just thought Hee Haw was painfully unfunny with some decent music. My sister and brother-in-law concurred. This time, though, I enjoyed several clips and an entire episode from start to finish. Maybe I was just glad not to be watching Fox News. But I thought the same thing I thought the second time I saw The Croods: Either this show got better, or I got stupider. My favorite joke was when this guy showered praises on this lady and she responded to all of his lines with "Olé!" and he asked her why and she said, "That's what they say when the bull comes out."
Ray Stevens Music
My grandpa used to watch a lot of Home Free, which is, get this, it will blow your mind, an all-male acapella group that covers other people's songs, but he doesn't anymore for some reason. Now it's usually Ray Stevens. Some of Ray Stevens' songs are hilarious, some are just weird, and some are very right-wing and/or somewhat racist, but fortunately we didn't watch any of those. This is rightly considered one of his best.
America's/Britain's Got Talent
These shows live up to their names. Great music and incredible feats abound. I cry sometimes. This time we got a blast from the past watching Susan Boyle. I remember hearing about her appearance on the news in the airport coming back from my high school's Spanish Club trip. I didn't think as much then as I do now about how crappy everyone was toward her before she sang. They didn't even try to hide the fact that they assumed she would suck because she wasn't young and beautiful. People are really awful. Oh yeah, and then there was the teenager that everyone thought would suck because he was fat, and he put them in their place. But then Simon Cowell suggested that he should dump his friend who supported him through everything and just did the duet with him, because he was phenomenal and she was just good and she would hold him back, and she was standing right there pretending not to be hurt. What a jerk. Oh, here's a nice clip that made me cry. I watched it at Thanksgiving but that's close enough.
I've watched bits and pieces of Western movies with my grandpa. When I was there for Thanksgiving I watched Hang 'Em High in its entirety. This time I watched Sonny and Jed (originally La Banda J.&S.) in its entirety. A brief synopsis with spoilers follows.
Jed is an outlaw who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. He also swears a lot more than necessary. Sonny rescues him from the sheriff and says she wants to join him. The second time he talks to her, he's surprised to realize she's a woman, which surprised me because it was pretty obvious, but then I remembered that this movie is set in an era when women weren't supposed to be cowboys. But he also makes a weird joke about her being "castrated at birth" and for a couple minutes I thought he was serious and that it was going to be an interesting plot point. Anyway, as soon as he finds out she's a woman he's like "Do you know what I do to females?" and then tries to rape her but gives up in disgust when he discerns, through some means I don't want to know, that she's a virgin. At that point, for me, Jed crosses the line from anti-hero or likeable villain to someone whose death I'll actively root for throughout the rest of the movie. His redeeming qualities don't balance out this monstrous act. But Sonny keeps following him anyway.
He belittles her nearly every time he opens his mouth, whether he's addressing her or someone else in front of her. At one point his brothel-owning friend wants to buy her and pins her to a bed and tries to take her clothes off, and he just sits back and watches for an uncomfortable length of time before intervening, at which point she's crying not because of trauma but because she loves him. They get married and immediately rob the priest, which is pretty funny. Then there are some more funny scenes of them robbing people as a couple. I feel like this should have been the focus of the movie, but it doesn't last very long. He's nicer to her for a while but then he's a jerk again. Eventually she betrays him to the sheriff, then rescues him from the sheriff (again), then leaves him while he hobbles behind on his injured leg and begs her to come back. Earlier in the movie he told her to walk five feet behind him "like a dog;" now she tells him the same thing.
The best part of the movie is a recurring motif in Ennio Morricone's score with a banjo and then voices singing, "Sonny... Sonny..." Not Jed, which is just as well, as he doesn't deserve to have his name in a song. It's like unseen angels urging Sonny to get out of this terrible relationship. I'd have to go back and keep track of when it comes up to guess at its actual intended meaning.
We took a break from YouTube to watch two of the finest Christmas movies ever made on VHS (ask your parents what that is) - The Muppet Christmas Carol (without the heart-wrenching musical number "When Love is Found" wrongfully excised) and It's a Wonderful Life. They both made me cry. I was a wreck, y'all. The next day, Christmas Day, I suggested Miracle on 34th Street and we looked on Netflix but it wasn't there so instead we watched Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas instead. Then my grandpa just scrolled through Netflix and asked if there was anything I wanted to watch. I saw The Man from Toronto and mentioned that it was funny, so he put it on, and I realized with some chagrin that it's not nearly as funny when I'm not watching it with a bunch of college-aged friends, and this was the day before we watched Sonny and Jed so I wasn't sure how comfortable he'd be with the content, but he slept through most of it anyway.
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C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.