Review: Chowder

by Melissa

Right now my kids are watching a show called Chowder.  It’s possible I’ve never been more confused.  I would attribute this to my having joined them midway through the episode, but as I’ve sat through at least four episodes previously I have no excuse.

Here’s what’s going on.  Chowder is a purple racoon.  The only reason I know this is because my kids, All-Knowing Child (AKC) and her sister Condescending Girl (CG), have explained this to me.  Chowder wears clothes and has a crazy afro which may actually be a hat.  I just watched him throw up the contents of his stomach which included, but was not exclusive to, several large vegetables and an entire marching band.  This is probably funny, but AKC and CG are watching with serious intensity, their faces pressed close enough to the TV that I have to trot out the old “You’ll ruin your eyes if you don’t scoot back,” to which CG explains “I’ve been watching it like this all day.”  Oh, well, that’s better then.

Chowder has friends, or possibly relatives, like a blue guy with strange growths coming out above his ears which may indicate his species, but may not.  Blue guy is trying to teach Chowder to cook, but whatever they have concocted has turned into a giant green hand and is chasing Chowder around an industrial kitchen.  Chowder eats it, then regurgitates part into the bowl of a customer of what appears to be a restaurant.

The episode ends.

Next episode begins.  A pink animal is in love with Chowder.  I ask my kids what kind of animal she is, and am told “She’s like a bunny.”  I concur.  They stand outside some kind of farmers market where the vegetable proprietor is a furry elephant thing.  Pink Bunny tries to hold Chowder’s hand and he spit-takes through several scenes that include sweeping, brushing his teeth, and going to bed.  Now he’s talking to an amorphous cloud trapped in a cage about how he doesn’t want to be a boyfriend.

He and Blue Guy are trying to make balloon animals in the industrial kitchen, and I’m not sure if this show is actually nonsensical or if I’ve lost the ability to follow an episodic story line.  There are green creatures stuck to Blue Guy’s face.  I ask my kids what Blue Guy’s name is, and CG says, and I quote, “Mom.  That’s his mom.  Well, it’s actually his dad, but he doesn’t know that, yet.”  What the what, now?  This confirms my biggest fear that children’s television is officially too complicated for me to understand.

Chowder tries to tell Pink Girl that he’s not her boyfriend, but she misses several enormous hints to that effect, so at least neither one of us knows what’s going on.  A tall guy who speaks nonsensically joins him onstage and they sing jazz.  The stage explodes.  People run.  I finally get what’s going on.  Someone took the idiotic concept that was Family Guy, kept the premise of randomness, and replaced the family with unidentifiable creatures doing things for no reason.

I think they live in India?

It should come as no surprise that this little gem is the creation of the Cartoon Network.  Which is really pretty much all I could have said.

Do not watch this piece of garbage unless you want to feel stupider than your kids.



In Which Present-Day Melissa Critiques Current Children’s Shows Starting With On Super Why

by Melissa

Now that I have children of my own, it’s come to my attention that children’s television is terrible.  I could make them turn off the TV and do something productive like learn to play the violin, but.  Nah.

Instead, let’s critically review these shows, starting with Super Why, which has a great premise what with being about words and being made by PBS, the mother of all educational channels.  Still, I’m underwhelmed.

In episode #14 a little girl shows up late to a tea party and has missed the entire thing.  She calls the Super Why team for help.  This is where our philosophies part ways: in my world the only “help” this little girl would get would be of the “you snooze you lose” variety.  Instead, the Super Why team coddles the spoiled brat into believing this is an actual emergency, and enlists our help.  First they ask our names, which I register only slightly too late and blurt out “Mommy!” for which I am immediately corrected by my all-knowing 5-year-old who reminds me that Mommy is not my actual name.  It is Melissa.  She gazes at me for a moment with a thinly veiled look of pity.

That’s when each character names their superpower.  I learn that they each have a word-related superpower, yet none of them have the power of punctuation.  That’s a lot of properly-spelled high-syllabic bad grammar about to happen.  I ask if my superpower can be apostrophe-related and am told by the All-Knowing Child that there is no such thing.  Our superpower, she says at the exact same moment as the TV, is the power of HELPING.  What kind of bullshit superpower is that?  That’s like trying to convince the water boy he has an actual position on the football team.  I’m no idiot.  Helping is not even a regular power.  Fuck superpower.

Next the show informs us that when we need help, we need to look in a book.  I value this advice, as I ask All-Knowing Child to please stop licking the TV.  She complies.  I wonder what kind of book we’ll find that will read “Buy a fucking watch, you dumb spoiled twat,” when the Super Why team picks Alice in Wonderland.  They think that following the White Rabbit will help us learn how to be on time.  This clearly defies logic.  Why would you learn how to be on time from the most famously-late character of all time?  If you recall, for the entirety of the book (OK, fine, the movie, fuck off) the rabbit is running around announcing that he is already late.  What’s next, learning boat-patching skills from the characters on Gilligan’s Island?

Fine, we chase the white rabbit and encounter various types of ridiculous scenarios that involve guessing words and spelling and which lead All-Knowing Child to believe that adulthood is laced with secret doors that can only be opened by playing an elaborate version of hangman.  She’s in for a rude awakening, but I’m not going to spoil the surprise.  We’re interrupted by a discussion in which All-Knowing Child announces that I have failed to bring her an apple, as she requested.  I point out that she never actually asked for an apple, she simply declared about 20 minutes ago that she wanted one.  My superpower is literalism.  Also, the power of get it your damn self, you know where the apples are.

After apples are procured (she brought me one, too, and that’s what I call parenting) we meet the Queen of Hearts, but in this version of events she’s super nice and understanding.  What the actual fuck?  The entire point of Alice in Wonderland is the off her rocker crazy bitch at the end.  It’s a hyperinstensive acid trip.  Without Off With Their Heads, it’s just a boring midday jog on weed.   And that’s why this show sucks.  That isn’t the real world.  You don’t unlock a secret door with your ability to spell the word spoon, trespass on royal territory, and somehow get the spoiled brat to her next tea party on time.  This is a world without consequences, or punctuation.  And that’s not helping anyone.

Oh well, at least I got to stay on my space ship couch and zoom home with the team.  Now All-Knowing Child is watching The First 100 Days of something only she’s stuck on day 21 which has cookies.  She has it paused and is trying to eat the cookies off the screen.  Before we tackle spelling, maybe we should master Real versus Not Real.

And that, my friends, is why our kids will all need therapy.


Entry in Which My Sixth Grade Class Collectively Illustrates Their Opinion Of Me

by Melissa

4-20-89 [age 11, sixth grade]

[Current-Day Melissa:  As you will see in my previous entry, I tried out for the role of a princess in the school play.  Roles are determined via a vote by the entire class.]

Yesterday I tried out for the second witch.  Heather tried out for the first witch.  Raquel and Tiffany tried out for the second witch.  Somehow I got the part of the first witch, heather didn’t get any part and Raquel is the second witch.

[CDM:  Here’s what happened:  We tried out for roles in order of importance, then voted on them immediately so that if you didn’t get that role you could try out for a different one.  The princess try-out was first, and Heidi won.  My second choice was to play the second witch, who was nicer (read: prettier) even though it wasn’t a very big role.  Only one person, Heather M., decided to try out for the first witch (mean and ugly, though it’s a big role).  

Mrs. C, realizing the first witch part was basically a given, sent the first witch candidate outside into the hall with the second witch candidates while the class voted.

I peeked in through the glass next to the door as we waited outside and wondered what was taking them so long.  There appeared to be an animated discussion.  After much raising of hands and calling-ons, Mrs. C went up to the overhead projector and wrote a second name as a candidate for First Ugly Mean Villainous Witch.

My name.

Then the class took a vote.  I won unanimously.

Was this a compliment?  I think no.

Still.  I took the part.  I was so good that for the rest of the school year little kids ran from me screaming.]


Entry in Which I Aim to be a Princess

by Melissa

(spring 1989) [age 11, sixth grade]

We’re having play try-outs today.  I want to be a princess but so does Heidi so I’m probably not going to win.  If I don’t get that I’ll be the second witch.  The second witch is nicer than the first witch.

[Current-Day Melissa:  This is important, so pay attention.  Every year the highest reading class in Sixth Grade does the school play.  Roles are auditioned for in front of the entire class, and voted on by class members.  Our play was The King’s Creampuffs, in which the leading roles were a Princess, a King, and a Witch.  Everyone wanted to play the princess.  No one wanted to play the witch.  Proceed to next entry.] 


Entry in Which I Dabble in the Paranormal

by Melissa

(no date, sometime in March or early April) [age 11, sixth grade]

I used a Ougi board.  It was weird and it said I would meet angelo garcia in 4 years.

[Current-Day Melissa:  It’s strange that this is the only time I allude to my fascination with the paranormal.  I was convinced I was psychic; not in a talk-to-the-dead way, but in a tell-the-future way.  One day Lisa S. brought a Hasbro ouija board to school.  For some reason my friends and I were given permission to use it in the teacher’s room in the dark.  We contacted a dead man named Jake who was in hell for murdering someone.  We all took this very seriously.  A little too seriously.  For the rest of the year a small off-shoot of friends spent every recess becoming possessed by the devil via Jake, speaking in tongues, and generally acting really strange.  I started to get really scared because I believed these friends to be actually possessed.  After awhile I realized they were faking and found it kinda dumb.  I didn’t feel like playing devil possession (not like I had any moral objections, but mostly because since I did take these things seriously, their mockery was not amusing), so I drifted away from those friends and started hanging with a different group of friends.  This is explained in this post.

Lisa and I spent several evenings at her house pouring over the ouija board, talking to Jake the killer, when I wasn’t practicing my psychic abilities using methods I learned from actual library research.  I card-catalogued that shit–that’s how for real I was.]


Entry in Which I Summarize a Majority of This Rather Boring Journal

by Melissa

Age 11, sixth grade

My school journal is not very exciting, so I’m going to give you a bullet-pointed highlight reel.  Hm, let’s see  we have:

  • Several entries where I miss Julie Miller, including one that is kind of a letter to her that I never sent
  • Several in which I discuss “hating” patrol, which is the team of sixth graders who bosses little kids around near the buses before and after school in the name of safety.  (Though I claimed to hate it, I actually reveled in the ability to shout “WALK!” to little kids who dared to break into a run on my watch.  We had orange reflective vests and everything.)
  • Four entries in which I mention what kind of pen I am using/the pen’s origin.
  • 75% of entries mention how much I love Coffie Break.  By about December I begin to call it Coffee Break but in April it’s Coffie Break again.
  • Entry in which I name my favorite songs:  Kokamo by the Beach Boys (“It’s number one on the American Top 40!”), Locamotion (“I can even do the dance to it.”) Also Naughty girls need love by Samantha Fox.
  • One entry which simply reads: “Today is a miraculous day.  I can’t tell you why.”
  • Five entire pages of me going “I’m writing writing writing writing writing writing” (etc.)
  • One entry in which I declare that I am going with someone, but am not allowed to say who.  (My stipulation, or his?)
  • Several entries in which I like, dislike, then relike individual friends.
  • One entry that begins: “Today is the first day of the rest of my life,” which then devolves into boringness.  Anticlimactic, that.
  • An entry in which I declare a hatred for basketball.
  • Entries in which I channel future Facebook users and simply write the lyrics to songs
  • Etc.

Entry in Which My Disdain for the Half-Page Requirement is Overridden by My 3 Pages of Things to Say

by Melissa

(no date) [age 11, sixth grade]

Hello, today is the 7th.  [Current-Day Melissa:  Of what, Sixth Grade Me?  Seventh of WHAT?]  That’s cool.  I have to write half a page.  That’s stupid!  Really really stupid!  I hate it!  I write in cursive because it’s fun to write in cursive.  I have a pen with a bear on it.  I got it at a bizzar.  I don’t know a George.  My sisters going with an 8th grader she met at the skating rink yesterday.  Maureen was there to an there was an adorabale guy there named Stormy and he likes Maureen!  That’s very cool!  He asked her to slow skate with him.  She might be going with him instead of Justin Helms.  She’s lucky!

Julie is in Disneyland right now.  She’s lucky!  I wish I were.  I went to disneyland over the summer [CDM: It was Disney World.] and my favorite ride was the Haunted Mansion.  I went on it 3 times.  Then it was Peter Pan.  Than the world of motion.  Than Horizons.  I loved it there.we stayed in the poloniesion Resort.  It reminded me of Hawii.  [By reminded, I mean: it is probably similar to this other place I have never been to.] It had a beach and alot of stores.  I bought 5 tee-shirts and alot of other stuff.  It was cool. Than we went to Conneticut and saw my cousin Julie and my Aunts Corri and Louise and my uncles Jim and John.  We went to new York and saw a Brodway play called Romance Romance.  It was good.  We got to get a tour of Harvard the collage.  It was NEAT!  I want to go there when I grow up because they have a good acting school.  I want to act on Broadway.  It would be a really good expiriance.  Than I want to be on T.V. on a comedy show.  Like full house or Growing pains or Cosby show.  I really hope I could be an actress.

Yesterday was Monday and I had math and science.  I’m writing with a pen that has a bear on it!

I have a slam book today only two people have signed it.  Heidi and Gina.  I’m mad at [person].

King 5 News is today.  [A curriculum in which we are asked to watch the news on TV and are given a quiz the next day on the material: clever marketing ruse, King 5!]  I didn’t study.  I’m in love.  BAD!  He’s not in any of my classes.  I’m very mad at [person].  she is so rude.  Mostly to [person] but to me too! We’re going to get back at [person].  It’s called operation G.[P].B. Get [person] Back.  [CDM:  That doesn’t mean what you think it means.] I thought of the name.  My slam book is neat!


Entry in Which 874 Form is the Original TPS Report

by Melissa

(no date) [age 11, sixth grade]

Today is Friday.  Coffie break!  I wonder what movie we are going to see.  I might not be going because of something in Social Studies.  I hope I will be going.  I LOVE coffie break!  I got my 874 form in the first day but our sub didn’t know there was a contest so she didn’t turn our into the office.  THAT’S STUPID.

[Current-Day Melissa:  I reeeeeeeeally wish I knew what the 874 form was for.

Did I ever explain coffee break?  Or as I like to say:  coffie break?  Every Friday the kids who have turned in all of their assignments and didn’t get in trouble all week are allowed to skip class and watch a movie.  We get to bring in our own hot chocolate packets and DRINK IT AT SCHOOL.  This is the best thing that had happened in our young lives.  You could sit anywhere you wanted.  Even with a BOY.  The teachers would turn off the lights, even, and sometimes boys and girls would HOLD HANDS.  The movies were sometimes pretty cool, too.  I remember we watched Beetlejuice.  That movie was rad.]


Entry in Which I Ramble for Exactly One Page

by Melissa

(no date, though context clues tell me it is October 28, 1988) [age 11, sixth grade]

[Current-Day Melissa:  I skipped a bunch of similar entries that are mainly nonsense, but as this one has some content, here you go!  My favorite part is that I cut off mid-word because I’m apparently finished.]

I have to write a page in my journal.  It is boring.  I wanna go to P.E.  On pe days we have to write a page.  On music I have to write a half page.  It is VERY cold today and I walked to school.  Today is Friday.  Monday is Halloween.  I’m gona be a spider for halloween.  My sister is going to a costume party.  She’s going with Tyson.  She is going to be a drillteam person.  My fingernails are pink today.  They were red.  One (my thumb) is very long.  I like it.  I want to go with someone.  He’s not in any of my classes.  I’m going to ask him two reasons why he won’t go with me.  When he doesn’t answer amy is going to grab his neck and squeeze.  I’m gonna say she won’t let go u

[CDM:  Hey, Sixth Grade Melissa, why not skip the dumb question and just go with the neck squeeze?]


Entry in Which I Leave You Hanging

by Melissa

10-21-88 [age 11, sixth grade]

I will write half a page in my jernol.  That’s not how you spell journal!  Last night I called Raquel.  We talked for 45 minutes about everything.  First homework, than music, than movies, than coffiebreak, then boys, then our friends.  I’m not CLOSE to half a page!  I have to do it to go to coffee break.  On Monday we have to write a hole page!  That’s stupid!  I wish I were still  [Current-Day Melissa:  My handwriting morphs from tight cursive to a wide scrawl] in 5th grade.  It is easyer.  I’m going to coffee break.  I’m going to write the same thing.  I hate journal writing.  I hate jurnal writing [CDM:  you get the idea]

[CDM:  Clearly I did not hate journal writing, considering I also kept a private diary at home.  This is another example of me acting the way I suspected a regular sixth grader was supposed to act.  Psssh.  Skool sux.

The mysterious boy from the previous entry is never mentioned again.  This either means he said yes and our whirlwind romance lasted a stunning 3 days (big time romance in 6th grade) or he said no and I got over it thirteen seconds later. Either option is equally likely.]