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These Trying Times Vol. 7

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It’s no secret we’re living in trying times. Here’s what’s helping the Merry-Go-Round staff stay sane this week. 

These Trying Times Jackass

Jackass

My mom didn’t let me watch any of the Jackass films as a kid, and I can certainly see why having torn through them at the age of 26, even if I’m retroactively upset that I was denied such a powderkeg of cultural chaos. Johnny Knoxville and company’s id-distilled shenanigans still have to be seen to be believed nearly two decades since the first film hit theaters back in 2002, all the more impressive to consider when you think about all of the horrid viral and shock videos we’ve been subjected to across that cavernous stretch of time, and there’s something that still rings so genuinely true and “punk” about the entire proceedings that really resonates in a time where all of us are being kept from doing dumb shit with our friends, albeit in presumably less destructive interpretations than we see on screen. There’s a certain magic present in the Jackass crew’s complete lack of self-preservation and care, a cowboy-like giddy-up present in the decision to see a lake to jump across on a rocket-powered bicycle, see a firehose to try to ride like a rodeo star, see an angry bull and play a game of seesaw horn-dodging with it, and simply… do it. Jackass wraps around to show that the human body truly is an instrument, and is oddly uplifting as far as showing how resilient and strong of an instrument it is. But what’s most important of all is the oddly heartwarming sense of family and camaraderie present in each of the skits. The Jackass crew love each other deeply, and while certainly a very rock-brained masculine take on affection, there’s something oddly tender about seeing Ryan Dunn agree to get pummelled with riot control rubber balls simply because his best friend Johnny Knoxville asks him to. Seeing Chris Pontius get his penis bit by a snake, seeing Ehren McGhehey crawl through a field of mousetraps dressed as a mouse, seeing Steve-O affix a leech to his eye and have it start sucking away… performance art in its own right, but also encouraging in the sense of proving just how much we can endure. Maybe I can wake up tomorrow and do this all again after all. [Thomas Seraydarian]

These Trying Times Terrace House

TERRACE HOUSE TOKYO 2019 – 2020

I’d like to reiterate this whole magazine’s stance on Terrace House for those who haven’t tried it out yet: no, seriously, it’s brilliant television, and the reality art form on a new level nearing full completion. It’s good on the level of something that is genuinely mind-blowing, where you can’t help but keep questioning the existence of the piece as it progresses. How can a reality show be this soft and sincere, functioning on a plane of cinema that calls to mind slow cinema and the greater hits of mumblecore—please don’t beat me up, but I think about Joe Swanberg often when watching this show. The pace and tone are beguilingly quiet in a way that draws you in, and the cinematography, while gorgeous, is also brilliantly staged, often giving the sensation of turning the moments in life we sometimes feel are “straight from the movies” and actualizing the imagination.

It’s a treat for the eyes, mind, and heart, as the drama also dips its toes into the messy dealings one would be accustomed to on a more western/traditional reality show. The personalities you exist with unfold themselves in such a slow burn, into truly jaw-dropping moments of growth and exposure. Right next to illuminating sincere coming-of-age moments up against a microscope, perhaps pushing people into even harsher truth thanks to the metaphysical glass pane between us and the participants. It’s the most productive and scary I’ve found a reality show to be, though it always points to something mostly hopeful, driving home the point of trying one’s best at being their best. The payoff for living with these crews can be simultaneously gut-bustlingly hilarious, heartbreaking, and deeply thrilling. You go on journeys with these folks that feel truly organic, within and outside of the meta context of these folks being on a TV show. The passing nature of the seasons and our characters’ individual lives tick by slowly, creating a sensation of development and sincerity only the best prestige TV has been able to capture.

Of course, this show also has the panel, filled with very funny personalities, all dressed incredibly, discussing the show and dissecting every moment, piece of dialogue, and body language worth bringing up as it goes on. It’s a novel, and very Japanese concept for a reality show to maintain, and the particular structure in which it’s implemented really lets it sing as an equally enthralling element of an already enthralling show. It also opens the floor for active watching and analysis as the show goes on, encouraging the viewer to focus a little extra hard as the proceedings go on. While this might sound contradictory, it’s just how it turned out; this show has especially been a beautiful bridge for my girlfriend and I to connect over since we’ve been separated cross-country from each other. Since we do not speak or understand Japanese, it’s kind of like we’re reading the same book and reacting to it/discussing it at the same time. Many laughs and gasps and “awws” have been shared throughout this most recent season of Terrace House. Characters coming and going brings emotional weight, and we suddenly feel like our own panel of very well-dressed comedians discussing the little details of young, metropolitan life. In a way, it’s therapeutic, getting to observe the pains and hopes of life mutating into moments of truth, big and small. The romance, the humor, and the pain all add up to a sort of televised Rorschach test that we can dissect together, thus bringing us a little closer, even if not physically, but by heart and mind. I do miss holding her while watching this show, and also when we watch bad TV. It’s a deeply communal sensation, and has been one of the biggest things I could look forward to during these trying times (date turns to you and points out “That’s these trying times”). [Rocky Pajarito]

“Wartortle” by Dogleg Music Video

When I think about Kevin Smith, I think about three things in this order:

  1. This absolutely unhinged Tweet, which I assess every time I think about it and decide  that even by 2020’s horny quarantined standards would probably still get flack (but I almost respect it—almost).
  2. The fact that, despite living in a splintered world where we share next to nothing in common with our neighbors or our fellow man, we all agree that CHASING AMY (1997) should absolutely not be in the Criterion Collection.
  3. The well-circulated story Kevin Smith has told about his failed SUPERMAN LIVES and how producer Jon Peters was obsessed with having a giant mechanical spider in it, so much so that he would find a way to shoehorn it into the unfathomably bad 1999 Will Smith blockbuster WILD WILD WEST (you can hear him tell that hilarious story on the WILD WILD WEST episode of HOW DID THIS GET MADE?).

(Side Note: the first line in Jon Peters’ Wikipedia identifies him as an “American film producer and former hairdresser,” which is the funniest way to identify someone who at one time ran Sony.)

I hate that this is the way my brain processes the name “Kevin Smith,” but it does. Probably sixth on that list (behind the hockey jersey and the fact that his daughter’s name is “Harley Quinn Smith”) is the 1994 film CLERKS, which isn’t just a masterpiece, but genuinely one of my favorite films of all time.

When I think about Dogleg, I really only think about one thing, and that’s that their new album MELEE is probably my album of the year. When all of this quarantine business was first starting, I wrote about what a surreal text it was in the midst of the world ending (you can read my review here) and that’s more true today than it even was back in mid-March. I don’t know if the nice folks in Dogleg have the same associative thoughts with the name “Kevin Smith” as I do, but clearly we both fucking love CLERKS, them so much so that the music video for their absolute ripper “Wartortle” is just a faithful send-up of the movie. If I was in an indie rock band with one of the hottest debuts of the year, I too would just make music videos based on my favorite movies and put all my homies in it. I have no idea what the Venn diagram of CLERKS fans and Dogleg fans looks like, but I hope that video finds those that sit in the center, because watching it has brought me a great deal of joy. Plus, if you’ve ever seen Dogleg live (as I have), you know just how delightful it is to watch Chase Macinski perform, and watching him Randal out of the building at the end of the video is so much fun. Long live Dogleg and long live CLERKS. [CJ Simonson]

Bonus: Here is CJ in a Dogleg shirt holding his parents’ new dog, Hank

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