What happened to Cracked.com?

There once was a humour website called Cracked.com, and it used to be quite funny. However, something seems to have changed in the site’s ethos, and now, much of what they’re writing seems more like a weekly news magazine than a humour website. For example, they recently published an article where the writers sat down with a former IRA bomber, and wrote based on what he told them.

Cracked screen

Is it me, or is this starting to read like TIME magazine rather than an actual humour site? Even their Photoplasty contests aren’t hilarious anymore. In fact, they’re more like educational slideshows, or so they would be if they still kept the slideshow format. Now they’re just a collection of images with condescending facts on them.

What happened to Cracked.com to make it this bad? It’s as though they’ve dedicated themselves to correcting idiocy wherever they find it, while trying in vain to give loyal readers life advice with a paternalistic, condescending tone.

Also, the number of post that begin with a number seems to indicate both how lazy the writers are, and how lazy the writers think the readers are. Literally every recent written article is split into several parts. For God’s sake, are we really that lazy?

To be fair, I think this has more to do with the fact that not a lot of people would read humour articles, not when there’s plenty of entertainment on YouTube. If acting like condescending know-it-alls is the Cracked.com way of competing with everything else on the internet, then that site is doomed to survive only on loyal fans. I just hope the writing doesn’t get any dumber than Mike Scully.

Enough with the superheroes already!

guardians of the galaxy
Seriously, it’s out of control.

Since the year 2000, we’ve seen a tidal wave of superhero films, to the point that some of the highest grossing films of the past 10 years were superhero movies. This would be fine and dandy except for the fact that every superhero movie repeats the same formula, and they always feature established comic book characters in sequel after sequel, because apparently people will pay to see the same thing over and over again.

The superhero film has become one of the most repetitive genres in movie history, with almost no original ideas left, all because producers think they can only take ideas from comic books, the rights to which they’re always swarming to get their claws on. After X-Men became a box-office smash, every Hollywood studio wanted to cash in with their own superhero flick, throwing so much money at them that you’ll wonder where all that money comes from.

By the way, why aren’t there any original superheroes in cinemas? You know, brand new superheroes who haven’t had an established franchise yet? How about a new take on a genre that has gotten incredibly stale over the past five years? Will classic Superheroes like Batman, Superman, or Spider-man pass the torch to a new generation, or are the producers so scared of taking risks that originality is simply forbidden?

There are already so many superhero movies it could make your head spin, but what’s even more insane is that there are even more coming up, with each one seeming even more ridiculous. We even have a Batman vs. Superman movie coming out in 2016, which itself is set to be followed by a freaking Justice League movie with an unknown release date. I can’t help but think that by 2016, audiences will quickly grow tired of superhero movies. With cinemas set to be bombarded by big movies in 2015 alone, I kind of expect Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to fail, and be the thing that causes the superhero bubble to burst.

While some of these superhero movies are good, the superhero fad isn’t going to last long. Hopefully, when this fad dies out, the Hollywood producers will start having some sense. But then, even if the superhero craze dies out, something else will take its place, and then the whole pattern repeats itself.

Does the N64 hold up today?

nintendo 64
That looks like the N64 I have, just without the blue controller.

When I was a little kid, the two biggest consoles of the day were the Nintendo 64 and Playstation. It’s not that the Sega Saturn didn’t exist, but most people I knew didn’t seem to give a damn about the Sega Saturn, mainly because it was an inferior console. Thankfully, I have both the N64 and the PS1, so I think I can judge whether or not the N64 holds up today.

The Nintendo 64 is one of the most famous and well-remembered consoles in the history of gaming. It was definitely one of the first home consoles I remember playing. It’s also the home of some of the most critically acclaimed games of 90’s, such as GoldenEye 007Super Mario 64, and Star Fox 64. Unfortunately, the N64 went out of style when I was 8 years old. By then, the PS2 dominated the scene, and the Gamecube had just come to the UK. However, I was more fond of the Game Boy Advance than both the Gamecube and the N64.

Meanwhile, I also grew up with the Playstation, but I was unfortunate enough to not have a memory card for it. In fact, for some reason, I wasn’t able to acquire a memory card until I was 16 years old. Anyway, some of my favourite games came from the Playstation, including Crash Bandicoot 2Spyro the Dragon, and Kula World. Even though I liked to think of myself as a strong Nintendo supporter, I always had some affection for the PS1, mainly because it had a better controller, and also better graphics.

With that brief moment of nostalgia out of the way, I’d like to talk about the N64 from a design point of view. I just mentioned at the end of the last paragraph that the PS1 had a better controller than the N64. I say this because the PS1 controller is simple and efficient. The N64 controller, in retrospect, still looks a bit weird. My guess is that Nintendo didn’t want to repeat the same design that was present in the SNES controller, so they went for a typically weird 90’s design.

My biggest problem is that using the analog stick requires you to hold the centre prong coming from the middle of the controller. Occasionally, this made the analog stick seem quite stiff, and it made Ocarina of Time harder for me to enjoy. Also, this was before every analog stick had round edges, so the N64 analog stick felt like a pain on my thumb if I used it long enough. To top it off, some games didn’t use the analog stick, as though they thought the analog stick would be somewhat uncomfortable.

n64 controller
It doesn’t look like an awkward position, but sometimes, it can be.

Another thing to note about the N64 is that it’s one of the last consoles to use traditional plastic cartridges. Nintendo chose cartridges over the more conventional CD format because they worried that having a CD-ROM drive would make the N64 more expensive. It does some a little outdated, but the cartridges are more durable than CD’s, and the load times are so fast that loading screens are usually non-existent on N64 games. However, the cartridges have less memory, which meant that N64 games were usually incapable of achieving the same high-quality graphics as the PS1. Also, the N64 cartridges didn’t have end labels, which would allow you to conveniently identify a game on your shelf without having to pick it up. This is especially weird sense PS1 games came in boxes that showed the name of the game on the side.

In conclusion, the N64 was great, but in my opinion, it’s not as great as the Gamecube, or the SNES. For me, the Playstation was the best console of the fifth generation of consoles, but the N64, though outdated by today’s standards, still holds up today.

Don’t let kids watch the news

Even though I know absolutely nothing about parenting, given my childhood experiences, I think there’s one piece of advice I should give – never let your kids watch the news. I say this because, unlike the countless other things parents accuse of corrupting children, letting your kids watch the news can do real damage a child’s mind. I should know this because when I was a kid, some of my perceptions of the world came from the news, which is a dreadful shame because the news is basically the pulpit of liars in suits.

bbc news 2007
Because in this business, lying can earn you fancy clothes and a paycheck.

When I was a kid, the news was flooded was stories of war in the Middle East, terrorists on the loose, kids getting killed on the streets, and of course, the seemingly neverending global warming crisis. That’s the kind of junk that can really mess up your child’s fragile little mind, and yet parents somehow think it’s okay to expose their kids to this crap. How is it that parents complain about sex, cartoon violence, rap music, violent video games (which they bought for their kids in the first place), and the Internet, but they think it’s okay to tell kids about Jesus’ violent, agonizing torture, or let them hear some false prophets tell them about how the world is going to hell.

I think the news media has more potential to warp a child’s mind than a cartoon, not just because kids are largely unaware of how the adult world works, but also because news reporters have the power to trick you into thinking that what they say is always true. As soon as you assume their words to be true, you leave yourself vulnerable to their mass-produced deception. It’s bad enough for adults, but try imagining your kids exposed to this?

No good parent would want this for their kids.

If you want your kids to turn out okay, don’t let them watch the news. Come to think of it, why would anyone watch the news in this day and age? It’s basically just a bunch of scripted, overdramatic sermons in the guise of information. I’d rather let my kids watch “Basic Instinct” than the news. It’s a way for the media to brainwash people into being vulnerable to deception. The only way I managed to avoid being brainwashed myself is because I know this is going on. A trick doesn’t work on you if you know it’s a trick.

With that in mind, I have a solution to this problem. All parents need to do is teach kids not to believe everything they see on TV, because every news reporter has his/her own agenda, and you may not even know what it is until it’s too late.

They just won’t let Bond die

007 sean connery
This is the most iconic image of James Bond, which is the one that’s been implanted in our brains for over 50 years now.

If there’s one character who remains in Britain’s collective imagination, it’s James Bond. He’s the archetypal secret agent, and the first Bond movies paved the way for the spy movie genre as we know it. However, there’s one huge problem. Every spy movie since the mid-1960’s followed the Bond formula, and for many decades, the Bond films were stuck in the 60’s.

Before I talk about the character, let me briefly talk about the movies. I’ve seen just about all the 007 films, except of course for Skyfall. Out of 22 Bond films, only 11 of them were good. My big problem with the Bond film franchise is that the films tend to get repetitive, particularly the Roger Moor films, which shamelessly recycle the whole stupid formula. GoldenEye was the first Bond film that was radically different from the traditional formula, but now that movie became the template for every Bond movie released after GoldenEye, not to mention that each movie after Tomorrow Never Dies just sucks harder and harder.

All that aside, I’d like to focus on the character himself. Bond as we know him in films was a product of the swinging 60’s, a time when we were afraid of being annihilated in a nuclear war that would never happen. Bond was always portrayed as this suave character who could get any woman he wanted by saying the right things. Back then, there must have been some kind of appeal, but as the 60’s wore on, attitudes began to change, with feminism becoming more popular.

Meanwhile, throughout the tenure of Sean Connery, George Lazenby, and Roger Moore, Bond’s character never changed with the times, but perhaps even more bizarrely, neither did the women. A staple of the 007 film franchise is the so-called “Bond Girls”, James Bond’s numerous passing sexual fancies who are used as ubiquitous sex symbols. One thing I’ve always wondered about is how Bond seems to have a different girl in almost every film. Is he sex mad or something? Does he view women as objects? Does he view real love as inconvenient, or is he too busy to think of love in a more complex manner?

This trend doesn’t seem to happen as much on GoldenEye, but then again, GoldenEye was more or less a reflection on how stale the old Bond formula had gotten. One of the best moments of that movie was M’s critique of everything Bond was up to that point. She refers to Bond as both “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur” and “a relic of the Cold War”. I like this for two reasons.

  1. It sums up everything about Bond up to the time when GoldenEye was made.
  2. It shows that, after over 30 years of the same mojo ad nauseum, people had finally gotten tired of the kind of man Bond was.
roger moore
Especially after they had to endure seeing this jackass for 12 years.

As true as this was, the Bond films still made plenty of money, so Eon Productions, the producers of the Bond films, kept making more Bond films, and will continue to make Bond films until the franchise becomes unprofitable. On top of that, James Bond, and everything that comes with him, have been ingrained in British popular culture, as well as the rest of the world, as the ultimate spy.

I can’t exactly blame them, but for me, the 007 franchise was over after the 60’s ended. Today, the 007 franchise now has 23 major films, with another one coming out next year. With Daniel Craig, it’s almost as though the series is on life support. Why can’t they just pass the torch to a new generation of spy films?

Today, there are so many spy films that it could make your head spin, but sadly, none could meet the challenge of replacing 007. I think we should face the fact that the spy film is a dead art form, mainly because we no longer live in the climate of paranoia and Cold War espionage required for those films to be relevant.

We can’t keep idolizing a relic of the Cold War forever. In fact, how long will it be before we finally shed all the Cold War nostalgia that’s being reinforced by dozens of ageing producers? If it really is true that nothing lasts forever, then I say that Bond is due for a major decline. After 52 years, when will Bond finally retire?

Why there is no karmic justice

endless knot
This is the endless knot, generally used as a symbol of the cycle of karmic cause and effect as believed by Hindus and Buddhists. Its relevance should be obvious soon enough.

Karma is the belief that the actions and intentions of an individual directly influence what happens to said individual either at some point in this life, or sometimes beyond. In the Western imagination, this means that doing good is rewarded with a good life, and doing bad means being rewarded with a bad life. Unfortunately, the Western version of this belief tends to utilize Christian morality, and being taught this kind of tricks you into thinking that bad things always happen to bad people, even though the truth is quite different.

In the real world, bad people can worm their way through life, while good, honest people who try to play by the rules get screwed over a lot of the time. If there really was karmic justice, this shouldn’t happen. If there’s one thing about it that’s true, it’s that bad deeds can come back to haunt you, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll pay for it, because there’s nothing enforcing any notion of karmic justice.

In this world, bad things can happen to good people, and good things can happen to bad people. Ever noticed how everyone who’s ever tried to change the world for the better ends up being snuffed out, all while the people who do nothing good for society live long, often luxurious lives? It’s because karmic justice is a myth. For me, this is because justice cannot exist without someone who believes in justice and can enforce it. Even the most primitive concepts of justice needed someone to act on them.

My point is simple. The world can’t wait on a vague spiritual judgement, especially when morality can be subjective. If you keeping waiting for karmic justice to happen in your lifetime, then you’ll get yourself stuck in an endless knot of your own suffering. The justice mankind can ever hope for is the justice they make for themselves, and by hoping for karma to bite people in the ass, you may not get justice at all.

Mike Scully’s “The Simpsons”: When everything went wrong

Most people agree that The Simpsons started to go downhill after Mike Scully took after. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t think that way at all, probably because I wasn’t clever enough to notice that when I was a ten-year-old boy. When I was a kid, I enjoyed The Simpsons no matter what season it was in. Today, every time I watch a Simpsons episode from Mike Scully’s tenure as showrunner, it’s gotten harder and harder to deny that under Mike Scully, one of the greatest TV shows of all time had begun to degenerate into everyday trash.

the simpsons
It may as well just be any other sitcom if it were just a cartoon.

In my opinion, no TV show should ever last more than at least six seasons. For me, The Simpsons’ golden years were over after season 9 ended, but evidently Mike Scully didn’t see it that way. Rather than keep the show as a clever alternative to the mainstream trash that was on TV, Scully went about turning it into another brand of mainstream trash to be eaten up be middle America.

To be fair, season 9 was still really good. In fact, it was the last of the classic seasons, despite some dumber moments. By season 10, however, Mike Scully had turned the show into just another cartoon. It even looked different to season 9. From here on out, the show becomes just another cartoon, complete with exaggerated personalities, cheesy dialogue, and nonsensical premises.

What’s really interesting is that the seasons under Mike Scully tend to centre around jerkass Homer. The problem here is that Homer is a guy who’s not only stuck in the 70’s, but he’s also a complete slave to the perceptions given to him by TV and movie stereotypes. In “Kill the Alligator and Run”, he tries to jam in the same crowd as a Kid Rock concert. When he takes the stage, he sings the god-awful “We Built This City”. Then again, he’s the same person who’d ask Bachman-Turner Overdrive to play “Taking Care of Business”, then skip to the “working overtime” lyric.

Another problem is that jerkass Homer reigns supreme here, but even with that, Lisa is still given special status here, even though by now she’s become a preachy know-it-all who’s never happy unless everyone does things her way.

All the other characters got royally screwed during Mike Scully’s tenure. In the old days, Marge was simply a level-headed parent who detested violence. By the end of Mike Scully’s tenure, she had become a nagging wet blanket who can only exist in a bland environment with no surprises whatsoever, believing only what she’s told.

In the past, Bart was simply a troubled kid whose misdemeanours were the result of Homer’s negligent parenting. By the time Mike Scully was done with him, he became nothing more than a dumb, attention-seeking prankster whose antics has no meaning, and I don’t think the ADD theory posited by “Brother’s Litter Helper” makes a shred of sense.

brother's little helper
Then again, does this make sense?

During the Mike Scully years, Mr. Burns’ character had been reduced to the kind of cartoon supervillain that Smithers predicted he would be in the beginning of Season 7. In season 10, he decides that he would rather be hated just because there’s no effort to it, and in season 12, he makes Homer to a bunch of degrading pranks (which including posing as a female panda) in return for money, and when Homer doesn’t want to do it anymore, he tries to coerce him with money. However, he doesn’t really do that much in those seasons. There are plenty of other cartoonishly cliché villains, and each new one that gets introduced keeps sucking harder and harder.

The big problem with Scully’s episodes is that they leave very little to the imagination. Everything’s put in front of you, as though the show is now meant for children. To be fair, some of these episodes are still funny, and they’re definitely better than all the newer episodes, but under Mike Scully’s tenure, the show became so dumb and formulaic that it has become a facet of the low-brow culture that it sought to mock.

In 2007, Mike Scully onced jokingly said “lower your quality standards. Once you’ve done that you can go on forever.”

If that’s Mike Scully’s lesson, then it’s a horrible one. I’m guessing that’s the solution the writers preferred, because after Al Jean became the showrunner in season 13, the show became even worse than ever, to the point that it eventually became the noisy, unwatchable corpse that it is today.

In conclusion, the Simpsons should have retired after season 9. The worst part is that the writers and the producers didn’t even try to fix the mess that Mike Scully made, as though they knew it was too late to undo the damage. As a result, we have a show whose writers and producers are unwilling to see that the show has past its prime, and are thus unwilling to pass the torch to a new generation.

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