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PARKS AND RECREATION, or CAMPAIGN FOR CITY COUNCIL BY A BAND OF DELUSIONALS?

According to the servants of truth and accuracy over at Wikipedia, the phrase “jumping the shark” refers to ” the moment in the evolution of a television show when it begins a decline in quality that is beyond recovery” and/or “a particular scene, episode or aspect of a show in which the writers use some type of ‘gimmick’ in a desperate attempt to keep viewers’ interest.” If the expression is used, happy days are not being had. It’s usually also a signifier of a program long outliving itself, but in a few select cases is a sign of having utterly incompetent people at the helm (and in even rarer cases, can be an amazing tool which brings about brilliance, much in the case of the greatest vampire program of all time, ANGEL, and it’s best season, S05).  In the curious case of the government employed misfits from Pawnee, IN, no exact situation seems to aptly fit the still somewhat humorous wipeout this show has been rollerskating toward with manic aplomb, and yet this is no longer the same show, the same set of characters, or even a plausible world in which to exist, as a fictitious group of coworkers or as couch spuds. “Shark Week” no longer just applies to that annual event on the Discovery Channel or your monthly flow of raw meatloaf blood, ladies- it’s that thing of when you’re marathoning PARKS AND RECREATION and catch the tail of season three and all of season four within a span of seven days.

Supposing we use Occam’s razor to figure out where the derailment first occurred, one has to look only so far as Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope, a slave to ambition so blind she may as well be a headless chicken wearing a race bib. The current deputy director of the parks and recreation department, Leslie has been so gung-ho about anything, everything she happens to feel passionately about that she often finds herself with a foot in her mouth and a problem in hand, there to be saved by her dedicated coworkers. Unlike the show’s network counterpart THE OFFICE, where the boss was a psychopathic sociopath named Michael Scott, who occasionally had moments of sensible clarity and morality, Leslie Knope has always been a well-meaning fighter for justice, comradeship, and playground slides with amble wood chips at the base. And through her meaning well, the hijinks of living in the third fattest city in the nation (which notably has almost no obese people anywhere in sight, ever) and accomplishing the hard tasks have gone to display that despite the dysfunctions of her entire team, they’re good people who know what is important in work, in personal endeavors, in life itself. So why it that Leslie is in a relationship more unhealthy than the one she yearned for with the sorely missed Mark Brendanawicz? Why is Ron Swanson so willing to compromise his beliefs and ideals at every drop of a wildly strewn canopy of hats? Why do these people go to work less often than the characters of FRIENDS? Why is any of this happening?

To answer my own questions, I’d first like to inform you that you are completely wrong when you say that Adam Scott’s Ben Wyatt (I’m still profoundly perturbed he deserted his own starring vehicle, the excellent PARTY DOWN, for this) is right for Leslie, that Leslie is right for Ben, or any other insane rumblings you may have because Mary Sue is your life coach. These two characters literally have no direct connection to one another, no mutual attraction to the other person, and are quite literally denying all higher brain functions to be with one another. If you get honest for a moment, they coupled because Ben, tired of traveling so much, felt like an orphan, and came to love the city of Pawnee, for it being comprised of people as mentally disturbed and broken as he is. Leslie Knope, as it just so happens, loves Pawnee to such a horrifying degree that she embodies the city, thus Ben loving Pawnee means that Ben loves Leslie. That’s it. They didn’t connect over some shared series of experiences or by simply thinking the other was sexy- Ben fell for a city out of dysfunction and Leslie fell for the next guy to show her any level of attention (that isn’t Sewage Joe) out of desperation. Hell, Ann and Tom, who have no business even being in the same room together, make more sense than this cockamamie catastrophe. It’s not cute.

Ron Swanson, the mustachioed man with, once upon a time, the muster and might of a missile, may as well be a sentient teddy bear now. In the three seasons prior, his cool, calm, collected demeanor and unwaveringly desert dry wit made his character a cult icon and a veritable poster-boy for all things masculine. So why is he now willing to drop $10,000 to rent a few vans for a few hours, serving both the political ambitions of another, and thus, given the stipulations of Bobby Newport winning, his own, and sinking so low as to line the pockets of someone who means to extort him? Because his mother’s name is Tammy, his first wife’s name is Tammy, his second wife’s name is Tammy, and so is, apparently, every single person in the show’s writers room. You can say the words “character development” until you’re blue in the face and know even less of what it means than you already don’t, but he has completely turned around from his core foundation, all in the service of the writers’ moronic need to make the campaign the season’s primary focus, instead of it being Leslie’s personal arc which others occasionally come into. The Leslie/Ben thing is just wretched writing, but Ron, to cater to the awful writing, is his own shark jump. That man may resemble Ron Swanson, but it’s not him. It hasn’t been him for a long time, my friends.

A few episodes prior to the season finale, coming next week, we saw Aubrey Plaza’s April Ludgate at the office, poorly performing the job of Leslie, who cannot be bothered with her own employment because she’s an egomaniac and is resembling Michael Scott more and more with each passing episode, but is that enough? The show is titled PARKS AND RECREATION, but, as this article title implies, that’s not really the case. Aside from the debacle at the animal shelter, I cannot recall a single instance this season where anyone has done their job or dealt with the problems that made the city of Pawnee a character itself the first three years, whereas it’s now merely a backdrop to dealings and proceedings that have nothing to do with anything to do with the show or it’s premise, but for the fact that these things are inexplicably occurring. Going back to the reference I made earlier, a PARKS AND RECREATION where the main character doesn’t work for the parks and recreation department and no one else even shows up for their job is like FRIENDS being about a group of mortal enemies who would sooner go to prison for murder than be made to socialize with the others. Irony is for Shakespeare and that one hipster loitering your local shopping mall, two distinct levels of people this show isn’t good enough to pander to in it’s current state.

Why is this happening? I don’t know. I don’t work for the show, the network, the studio, nor do I know anyone involved in it’s production. If I had to guess, though, it’s because being creative is considerably more work than being easy, and going off on a tangent is remarkably simple, be it on paper, on screen, or in a classroom where you have to fill ten minutes of a time with the four minutes of an actual presentation you prepared. How can it be remedied? This I know! To be succinct, Leslie must lose the election. If she loses the election she, as a character, will be forced to feel an actual emotion for the first time in a year, the fallout of the loss to Newport will change the landscape of the parks and recreation department, it’s employees, and creates a new focus for not just doing the job they have been charged with in the first place, but in getting things back to how they were before. In this, the show is breathed new life and Leslie can still come to sit on the city council; Bobby Newport could take a trip to wherever he goes with the beautiful girls and boats, and simply disappear, giving Leslie the title, the power, and all the juice she needs for her camera testimonials to be as stupid as they have been as of late. Don’t think that’s a viable way to get her political career jump-started? Is it not realistic enough? Well, that big, lavish campaign bus with custom graphics all over it which she used for but a single day wasn’t either, and you didn’t seem to mind.

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Joseph’s Top 10 Concert Wishlist (Live!)

The Smashing Pumpkins

Let me start off by saying that I hate my life with a passion usually reserved for Shakespearean characters, and do you know why? Because I’ll never get to see all these acts. I may never see any of them (*), and why am I holding this loaded pistol? I try to be an optimist as often as I can and hold out hope that my dreams, from becoming physically capable of auto-fellatio to falling down a New York City manhole and meeting the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, will one day become reality. While both of those are fairly simple, modest requests from a modest and simple man, the prospect of ever being front row with a backstage pass for any these ridiculously talented musicians is the stuff of fiction. Or is it? Humanity has advanced so far that we can shoot video in a warehouse in Kansas and convince the world that a man had landed on the moon, so perhaps the words I’m now typing into this pornbox will reach my auditory idols and these demigods of music will lavish on me the kindness of allowing firsthand experience of what they do best- blowing eardrums and minds.

I will now, for your viewing and listening pleasure, list the ten musical acts I want to see in person, raw and uncut like your uncle’s meat whistle. Ready? I don’t care, I’m starting anyway.

(IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER!)

1. Dandi Wind

I don’t think it’s any secret that I have a soft spot (aka my asshole) for incredible music and artistic babes who may be craycray, and that’s what you get here in sharp, manic spades. Canada, despite it many obvious flaws, is a breeding ground for awesomiety and, as my second favorite musical act ever, getting to see Dandilion Wind Opaine and Szam Findlay tear the atmosphere into shreds would really fill me (again, my anus) with a joy unbridled. At the same time a bitter-sweetness would come over me as I’m incapable of wilding out as Dandi does, but getting the whole show on camcorder would help suffice as I would watch the footage over and over, bouncing on my couch until the springs give out. Party hard or don’t party at all!

2. Spangle call Lilli line

From the land of Hello Kitty and dirty panty vending machines comes what is easily one the the greatest post-rock bands of all time with what is clearly the silliest name possible. You got a problem with that, chump? If you do, just listen to the incredible sounds Kiyoaki Sasahara, Ken Fujieda, and vocalist Kana Otsubo squeeze from their instruments like drenched beach towels, and all that frustration will be washed away in a tsunami of elegance and mastery that comes not from practice but from soul, or so I imagine as a soulless beast.

3. The Shangri-Las

A real throwback that is obviously impossible to ever enjoy live at this juncture, but as deserving of a spot on this list as any other. A crucial band in the history of American music, the things the trio of Elizabeth Weiss and identical twins Marguerite and Mary Ann Ganser did are as fresh and relevant now as they were on release, perhaps even more so. Listen to their album “Leader of the Pack” and see what I mean with their serious songs of abandonment and frolicking teenage rebellion so simultaneously salty and sweet that as soon as the motorcycle sounds kick in, you’ll wish you could hop on and ride into the sunset with these honeys. But say I were able to see them perform: I would crawl out of my phallic shaped time machine in the middle of the audience. Girls around me would be like, “Why is he squealing? Excuse us, sir, why are you squealing like a pig being raped?” I would explain what a big fan I am and that I come from the future. After the unbelievable, timeless music show performance I would crawl back into my spacetime-dong and thrust back to the present. On the news, a retrospect on how 96% of the women of that generation refrained from mating. I would be happy, the world would be significantly less populated, and we all live happily ever after. You’re welcome.

4. Mike Patton

My friends have all seen him perform with one of his many acts- Fantomas, Tomahawk, Mr. Bungle, Faith No More, Peeping Tom, so forth into infinity- but I haven’t, and for this (and a plethora of other reasons) I secretly (somewhat) hope they get shot to death in home invasions. Boohoo, I’m evil (I am), and so is the talent of this man (this dreamboat). His many works and vast natural skills are a pillar of my inscrutable tastes (and if you don’t share my tastes, you’re wrong). While it’s true that I would like to see bands he’s fronted perform certain albums, specifically, I would take anything I could get at anyjuncture and with any collection of backing musicians with nary a peep of displeasure from my lips (but there would be plenty of moans). Plus, he’s really beautiful for his age and just looking at him might crack at my natural sexual preferences. (Or something?)

5. Elvis Presley

If you are actually reading this and looking for a reason you should do all the world a favor and commit suicide. No, nicknames were given out back in the day with no regard for anything resembling accuracy or truth. Not like today, Shithead. Yes, “the king” is truly The King. Need more? Kill yourself twice. I’ll help! P.S. Fuck those hype-riding losers The Beatles. They sucked, for real. Deal with it.

6. Glissando

Do you like your ambient to be more than a slowed down audio recording of a metropolitan intersection during rush hour traffic? So do I, and that is why the duo of Richard Ian Knox and Elly May Irving is the cat’s knees and the bee’s meow of soft, atmospheric music that will transport you places like astral projection. The town of Leeds in the UK has no idea how lucky they are to boast this group as their top export. The song below is absolutely to die for and considering this live version is a whopping 10 minutes and 6 seconds shorter than the full song it’s probably for the best if ever fortunate enough to see them live, so I don’t drift away and lose all control of my bodily functions. And you may when you see how comfortable I am with my own juicy body-squalor.

7. school food punishment

Likely the most “typical” selection from this list, though the music is anything but, I assure you. This band may be described as “J-Rock” by the layman but when you open the holes on the sides of your head a discovery is made of jazz and funk so rich that your mind may start to rot if you don’t give it a good scrubbing with more of their awesome tunes. From Masayuki Hasuo’s work on the keys to Yumi Uchimura’s adorable faces while singing, only a madman wouldn’t want to bop around to such fresh, original jams. Oh, and to hear the song “Killer” live would be nothing short of killer. See what I did there? I’m very clever.

8. Dexter Gordon

Having just spoken to jazz, it seemed natural that the next selection be the most talented jazz man I’ve ever heard, which is an accomplished statement in itself. A world class saxophonist and Academy Award nominated actor, men of the arts don’t get any better than this. It’s that simple, and his discography makes even more famous jazz artists look lazy by comparison. You know that bebop? You should! His doctor father counted names like Duke Ellington among his patients and it would seem that young Gordon was a vampire, sucking their blood and becoming a beast bigger, badder, and better than any of those around him until being staked to death by Jon Bon Jovi at party thrown by Vincent Price at an establishment called the “Goth Cunt” (Ed note: These statements are possibly true and should not be discounted unless your were there). The example below is slightly off for being of his Quartet, but who cares? Pour a cocktail, light a cigar, and chill like a man, you woman.

9. Our Broken Garden

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- this is one live show I’d perhaps sacrifice phalanges to see, yet all the same I would not enjoy having to walk off after every song to change my condom. I mean, how am I supposed to walk away if I’m missing toes, or constantly swap out rubbers when down three fingers and a thumb? It would be a complete mess. Seriously, anyone in need of my long lady fingers? Denmark’s Anna Brønsted has the magic touch as evidenced by the below example looking like a music video and sounding like a studio recording, but it’s actually a live performance. Pick your jaw off the ground; it’s very unbecoming of you. And I think a dog squatted there just before you walked over.

10. The Smashing Pumpkins

Confession time: I’ve seen them before, my favorite band of all time (*). It is a highlight of my already fulfilling and adventurous life. Adversely, I was originally supposed to see them in a sold out arena during the Mellon Collie tour but didn’t, a loss which will never be rectified no matter how many times I get to see Billy Corgan’s brilliant brainchild live and in person. True story: There was a class trip to Washington D.C., which I had been to before, but my parents made me go. The trip was horrible and I will remind dear mommy and daddy when pulling their mutual life support plugs that they wouldn’t have to die if they didn’t try to control me in 7th grade. In an ideal world, I would travel with SP, never missing a single performance and having safe, spectacular sex with hot chicks who think it’s cool that I have no life and have met Billy, which I haven’t but maybe would have in this ridiculous fantasy. If I did, I’d would tell him how important his art is to me and then he could be like, “Cool story, bro.” Man, that would be awesome!

Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

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