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"Ben Calls the Shots...and Calls Them Right"

Well, I just got back to Austin today. And we all know what that means. That means classes start tomorrow! And we also means that Ben will probably be updating his site more often with various things as he desperately tries to procrastinate by doing work for his OWN baby, the site, instead of keeping a naggy, old professor happy by deluging him with compliments and reassurances that he wouldn't have been better off as a slick New York lawyer!

Woo. Well, it's a relief in a way. I'm getting back into the swing of things and it's comfortable. You know, living a life. I highly suggest it. I've sort of kept myself holed up to sulk and feel sorry for myself, and even me, the self-proclaimed king of pouting about injustice and unfairness, can't handle that for too long.

So I was watching the Golden Globes last night... Shit, I should get into market analysis or something. 'Cause I know how to pick the winners. I've talked about this before, I think.

You know Ally McBeal won best TV show or something like that? What did I tell you? Sure, the show is geared more towards a female audience. But it is an extremely well-written show. Perhaps one of the most clever shows in its genre since 1990. I've watched it since the premiere, although I missed an episode or two over the break, but that's okay.

"Ben, what are you doing watching that show? We need another guy to play a game of basketball... Man, that show bites the big one." Okay, well, first of all, I hate being told what to do, like what I'm doing is not right or correct or whatever. Like everyone else has any frigging idea what's good or not.

What's wrong with a show that doesn't take itself entirely seriously? Ally McBeal is FUN to watch. It's basically about a single female lawyer who is rather good-looking and has to deal with the fact that her work and her feelings for her ex, who works as a lawyer at the same firm, keep her from finding other men. As anything good does, the show also has dozens of other more subtle plotlines dovetailing into Ally McBeal's life, which she has to worry about. But most importantly, the show has FUN.

As a teenager, although one who won't be one for much longer now, it's easy for me to pick up on trends and moods in our society. And for quite a long time ago, the swing has been towards seriousness and brooding in popular media. That's why I think the grunge scene hit it so big with Nirvana and its offspring.

The 80's were kind of swingy and happy. Cheerful, silly stuff. Lord knows the evil rock music which formed from the 80's. As much as we loathe Madness, Billy Ocean, Bobby McFarrin, and Def Leppard, we sing along to them with gleeful abandon. Er, don't we, folks?

Then you had the sudden popularity in Guns'n'Roses and Metallica and the goth, metal, alternative, rap genres. Music got hard. Harsh. Tough to listen to if you didn't feel like shit. Teens related to it because they could feel sorry for themselves and feel like they shared something with these drugged up figureheads on the stage.

I feel as though movies followed the same path, eventually. The popularity of the horror genre has sort of faded away in the 90's, although supposedly Scream and Scream 2 (haven't seen them) recapture the experience. Instead of trying to scare the viewer or make the viewer enjoy himself, movies got really, really depressing. You have se7en, Devil's Advocate (bear with me -- my memory's bad and only the most recent stuff is going to come to mind first), and the generic movies where people with great lives ruin what they have and then turn into lifeless corpses who wish they were dead.

We've gotten pretty good at feeling sorry for ourselves, haven't we? Don't I know it.

The Internet certainly didn't help. Prodigy should've boosted its failing subscriber rate earlier by launching an ad campaign cashing in on our depression: "Other services promise your business that you'll have millions of new customers. At Prodigy, all we promise is that you'll have millions of potential shoulders to cry on and burden with with all your problems." Yeah, I should be in marketing...it really clicks for me...heh.

Cheer the Hell up! Getting back to my original topic, I think as we get nearer to the year 2000, what's trendy and stylish and popular is swinging back to what is cheerful and what is artistically excelsior. Shows like Ally McBeal, Beavis & Butthead, South Park, and Seinfeld, plus movies like Starship Troopers, Clueless, and all those silly movies that we all see but never admit to (Wayne's World, anyone?)...to me, they reflect a change that's coming very slowly. We're making fun of how we've become and we really, really just want to have fun right now, dammit.

Most people aren't having enough fun. I see it as a yearning...a yearning for just enjoying yourself and your family and not worrying about all those problems that arise. You think Tickle-Me-Elmo, beanie babies, and other cute, cuddly things are popular because they're useful? Hell no! They're popular because there's nothing bad about them...they're just silly and fun to talk about (well, I don't think so, but I'm assuming the voice of every American consumer so get off my back or I'll sue you for something we both enjoyed when you become president).

So Ally McBeal is FUN to watch. It's fun to see what happens next to Ally. She always pulls through, but not after completely embarrassing herself. Professional lawyer made to look silly. See the connection? And the show is in touch with its audience, its Fox audience, which is notorious for being familiar with the Internet. The Simpsons is perhaps the most popular show overall on the Internet (although the Highlander series newsgroup gets the most daily messages) and the X-Files has the second busiest newsgroup daily traffic. The creators of Fox's popular shows have acknowledged their fan bases on the Internet. That does great things for a show, paying attention to viewers. Now if only Clinton would do something like that...<combs over his hair to complete the George Stefanopaulos tone of voice>

Ally McBeal just had an episode which featured the dancing baby. You know, the animated one all your 'Net illiterate friends have sent five times to you as an attachment because they keep finding different versions of it and think it's super kewl. What's important about the baby is that the writers are in touch with the Internet, even though I saw that damn baby half a year ago, being the proud Netizen I brag about incessantly. Ally dances with the baby, and although I haven't seen it, you can tell that the writers were just having fun. Not worrying about how silly it would look or how stupid an idea it was...just enjoying it.

It's time we started having fun. Go watch Starship Troopers, one of my favorite movies in a long time. Not because it's unique or anything... The lines are extremely cliche and the propaganda film it's designed to be is appropriately cheesy...but it's a blast to watch high school kids blast the innards out of slimy aliens and foolishly succeed in saving the human race. Good timing, what with Men in Black's huge success and all. Right now, we don't care if the movie's good...we want the movie to be uplifting. For once.

Goddammit, have fun! Stop worrying about every little thing. If you're reading this, you've probably got a cool place to live (or, at least, a place to live, which is more than what many people have), a family, good income, and an excellent education. Do something nice for yourself. Spend some time with the family. Go to an amusement park. Crank up the Lenny Kravitz, or if you HAVE to have something new, listen to Aqua or something.

Remember, folks, the happier you are, the less annoyed I'll get when I run into you. And that means less ranting and more content in the Soapbox. That'd make everyone happy.

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