October 1999

1999
Oct
22

Eagles May Soar, But Weasels Don’t Get Sucked Into Jet Engines

originally published, and incredibly still accessible at epinions.com

Pros
Positive role model and practical life lessons

Cons
Too much baboon butt

Some other epinionators have cast negative aspersions (or should I say e-spersions) upon what may be the best program on Cartoon Network today: “I AM WEASEL”.
The toon’s semi-eponymous protagonist, I. M. Weasel, is clearly the finest animated role model on television ever. Just think of some of the flawed personalities infesting most of CN’s characters: Johnny Bravo is an idiot, Scooby Doo is a coward, Daffy Duck is a greedy schemer, and Ed Edd and Eddy are all of the above (in that order).
In contrast, I. M. Weasel is defined by his upstanding honor and high achievement, having been, in various episodes of his series: doctor, architect, judge, diplomat, medical researcher (at least twice), ping-pong champion, and foremost authority on volcanos. Even in the rare installment where he portrayed a mere grocery clerk, he was employee of the month for five years straight.
Truly a high irony, and hopefully an intentional one, in light of the (might I say undeserved) lowly reputation of the weasel. Considering that one of the two species of weasel in North America (mustela frenata) is on the endangered list, and the other (mustela erminea) is being used to make ermine coats, the weasel needs every PR break it can get, and I. M.’s PR is AOK.
Not to mention the noble toon has a strikingly un-cartoon-like voice, a positively stentorian baritone provided by actor-of-color Michael Dorn, also known for his long-running role as the noblest Klingon in the history of “Star Trek” (the fact that I am a life-long trekkie and collector of Klingon memorabilia has nothing to do with my opinion of I. M. Weasel; I would admire him even if he had the voice of that Ferengi bartender on DS9).
Of almost equal import to the quality of the I AM WEASEL cartoon is its fun-house-mirror-image antagonist to the honorable Weasel, the grammatically incorrect I. R. Baboon. Possessing almost all the negative characteristics of the rest of the CN program lineup in one, he functions to provide useful life lessons in two ways. In one common scenario, he incompetently attempts to compete with the far superior I. M., ultimately resorting to cheating, at which he is also incompetent, proving that, if you’re not smart enough to compete fairly, you’re probably not smart enough to get away with competing unfairly either. In the other, I. R. is hierarchially subservient to I. M., and envious of his position, an envy which drives him to try to prove his nonexistent worth in a way that ultimately sabotages both of their efforts, to the detriment of the entire world – an important lesson to all of us: some people know what they’re doing, so get out of their way!
Now, I must admit there are negative aspects to everything, even to the I AM WEASEL show. As others have accurately noted, the program’s creator/producer, David Feiss, often places an obsessive focus on grossness in general and prominent body parts, like I. R. Baboon’s red butt, in particular. He shows the same flaw in his other Cartoon Network series, “Cow and Chicken”, where his depiction of Cow as the rarest-of-rare, a fully-realized multi-dimensional female cartoon character, is diminished by an animated overemphasis on her udders. I am sure this problem originates with some traumatic experience in Mr. Feiss’s childhood, and a program of appropriate cognitive and behavioral therapy would do him a world of good and he can produce even superior cartoons in the future.
But let us not denigrate what is certainly one of the most life-affirming programs for children and adults, and a much-needed positive influences in today’s media. Let us hold the banner high for “I AM WEASEL” and sing its praises, so everyone will know and understand, and I can use my I AM WEASEL screensaver without some poophead asking me “What’s that on your computer? A ferret?”

AND NOW A WORD FROM SOMEBODY WHO MAY HAVE NEVER HEARD OF ME...
1999
Oct
15

The Incredible Truth About Minneapolis

Originally published, and amazingly still accessible at epinions.com

This is not so much an ‘e-pinion’ as it is an ‘e-xpose’, intended for those of you who are considering to include Minneapolis, Minnesota in your future “See America” plans.
It started when I attended an event at Hollywood’s Museum of Broadcasting saluting “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”. The emcee, Gavin Mcleod, announced that all of the show’s original writers were present “except for Allen Burns, who, as you probably know, is so busy with the Minneapolis Project.”
There was a general murmur of approval from the audience, and I, puzzled, asked the sunglasses-wearing-indoors person next to me what the writer/producer was doing in Minneapolis.
“No, man, he’s not doing anything IN Minneapolis, he is DOING Minneapolis.”
And he went on to explain that the metropolitan area of Minneapolis/St. Paul was the totally fictional creation of Hollywood writers, devised to provide a location for the popular ’70s sitcom.
“Now wait a minute, I know there was a Minneapolis before that. Didn’t the Lakers basketball team start there?”
“Yeah, that’s where the name Minneapolis got started. It was some deal between the NBA and Hubert Humphrey Sr. to avoid admitting that the state didn’t have a single city with a population larger than 20,000. The MTM Show people picked up on that, and, of course, Allen Burns was the perfect guy to put in charge.”
“Why was that?”
“Hey, he did the same thing before when he wrote for ‘Bullwinkle’. You know… Frostbite Falls.”
My mind was reeling as he explained how, after the series ended, Burns was hired by the State of Minnesota to “produce” the city. Their most successful project was the “hometown entertainers project” which helped give breaks to performers in exchange for their claiming to be from Minneapolis.
“I mean, think about it, do you really think a character like Prince could have come from anywhere in the midwest?”
“Yeah, that one’s a stretch, but what about Garrison Keillor?”
“Oh, now that was genius. A perfect example of what magicians call misdirection. Everybody thinks Lake Wobegon is a fictional town…”
“It’s real?”
“Yep, just before the 1980 census, the state house passed a law re-allocating a percentage of the population in all the towns to go toward Minneapolis. Trouble was, a few of them lost enough numbers to fall off the map. Keillor picked one with a good name, and the rest is media hype history.”
“But his Prairie Home show…”
“Done in New York City from day one. I think he’s renting the Ed Sullivan theater on weekends these days…”
“And what about the Mall of America?”
“Oh, that’s for real, and another great bit of misdirection. I mean, after you’ve been in that mall, you just forget whether you’ve seen any
part of a real city…”
The story was amazing, but as I thought about it I realized, I knew people who moved to L.A. from rural Minnesota, but nobody from Minneapolis. Therefore, either it’s such a great place to live nobody ever moves away, or it really doesn’t exist!
I found the City of Minneapolis office in a North Hollywood strip mall, next to a “99-Cents Only Store”. The office manager refused to speak on the record, but declared that they had nothing to hide.
“We’re awfully busy right now trying to fix some problems with the population reallocation.”
“What kind of problems?”
“Well, somehow, it got Jesse Ventura elected governor.”
“I’d better let you get back to work.”
“Hey, at least we’re doing better than the Arkansas Project.”
The Arkansas Project?