19 Lessons We Can Learn From the Success of MARVEL’s “The Guardians of the Galaxy” and What It All Means for Comics, Blockbuster Movies, and the Season We Call “Summer.”
1) Good is good but better is better until it’s great.
2) Watching with a friend isn’t a thing of the past.
3) Don’t count out character.
4) Just when you think it’s gone, bring it back.
5) Saturation is often relative.
6) Network those platforms. Again.
7) Always reach for the good stuff.
8) But what if they didn’t?
9) Sometimes happiness IS all it’s cracked up to be.
10) Space is the new Orange is the New Black.
11) If you like it, you will come.
12) Slippery gets to be a tricky wicket.
13) Better think twice a third or fourth time.
14) You can own it.
15) The “Peanut Butter” Corollary.
16) How often have I thought that?
17) Tentpoles are the new fishing rods.
18) Summer is the big one.
19) Take a long walk off a short diving board.
Hi, I’m Jeff and I’m a reliable narrator.
Look, I get it, that’s not super-cool in books these days. Those weird, brooding buttholes, the UNreliable narrators, have somehow tricked the whole wide world into thinking they’re “cool” and “interesting” and “worth being discussed in a college class.” Apparently reliability isn’t that big a deal anymore? Oh wait, unless you’re driving a car! Or using the microwave! Or soaring in a hot air balloon! Or doing pretty much anything where you don’t want something to go TOTALLY FUCKING WRONG!
Still, everybody looooves unreliable narrators to tell their stories. Oooo, so dangerous! So rebellious! Hey news flash, juvenile delinquents: loving unreliable narrators is like crushing on a douche with a barbed-wire arm-tattoo! BORING! Grow up!
I mean, seriously, I just want to narrate your book, OK? All I’m gonna do is say exactly what’s happening, without a lot of mumbo-jumbo that might make someone have to read more carefully or consider multiple interpretations. I’m gonna give you the straight shit, exactly as I see it, which is exactly as it happens.
All I want is a chance. I’m a stand-up guy who likes stand-up comedy, like Foxworthy. “You might be a narrator IF…” Haha. Right?! I also like pro football, wheat beers, and golden retrievers. I fly an American flag on my front porch and even bother to take it down every time it rains. What I’m saying is: you can trust me!
Unreliable narrators give dorky lit-nerds with bad breath a way to try and impress the chicks they wish were their girlfriends. Reliable narrators, like me, let you know WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING AND WHO IS SAYING WHAT AND WHERE EVERYBODY IS STANDING RIGHT NOW. How does that dog look. Is it raining. How many shoes is she wearing.
Your book doesn’t have to be all confusing! It shouldn’t have to be read more than once. It doesn’t have to be all twisty and turny and stuff. It can just be a story about people going places doing things and saying words to each other.
I should know. I’m Jeff, the reliable narrator! Oops, it’s Lights Out. I gotta go or Nurse Grummonn takes away my snack privileges.
Is everyone enjoying the school play? My daughter is the horse. Well, one of the horses. It’s not listed in the program but I guess she’s the main horse? She was complaining that her costume was itchy, so I said to her, I said…uh oh here comes Bathroom Jack, everyone stand up to let him through! So I said to her, “You can’t change horses mid-stream!” We laughed at that. OK, so before intermission is over I wanted to show all of you parents and, I guess, guardians how would I know, I wanted to teach you all how to clap like an utter moron who has no regard for other people or common social standards.
There are three parts to unleashing the most perfectly obnoxious clap you’ve ever heard. Timing, Form, and Commitment. I call this TFC. We’ll walk through each of these quickly so save your questions until the end.
Timing. You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, folks. Kenny Rogers was right on that. In this case it’s your hands, this is a lesson on how to clap like a preposterous fool. In general, you want to clap at anything that pleases you. Anything in this entire godforsaken world that makes you laugh, smile, chuckle, or even raise your eyebrows is probably worth a good frantic clap sesh. That’s the lingo for a regular unit of clapping. My buddy once said “What would you call applause at the end of a wild Eric Clapton guitar solo? A Clap sesh clap sesh?” I haven’t talked to him in over a decade, I heard he may have died.
Next up is Form. Ask any Olympic diver, form wins the gold. No room for bellyflops when a vital clap is on the line. Everyone hold your dominant hand high in the air. Really get it up there in the air, like you’re stretching for a ripe peach on a resplendent summer day in Georgia, that peach is way up high but you’re gonna get it! Keep that hand up there, loose but responsive, half-dead but ready, until every fiber in your being is screaming for mercy, “Let the hand go, you’re hurting your hand, it’s too much for one hand to take!” but you don’t care, you have a completely ordinary life moment to commemorate with a sudden, frightening blast of sound.
Then, right when you are about to pass out, you’re past the point of dizziness and on the verge of a certified fugue state, you start your descent. You bring that hand down with the fury of a thousand conquering kings, you aim it for your base hand like it wants to murder that hand, like it wants to destroy its own hand brother into a pulp, erase it from all the pages of the hand history books.
It is at this moment you must shape your dominant hand into what I’m calling a Power Tent, an inverted V shape so meticulously designed for destructive sound that all nearby artists faint from a simple glimpse of its beauty. Birds pause mid-flight to marvel at the masterful construction of this shape, braced firmly by the thumb and pinky to create a stunning mass of cupped air.
Then, it’s show time. You explode that missile of a hand down onto its target, fingers fitting squarely into the concave pocket of awaiting palmflesh, and you behold the thunder.
But you can’t stop there. This is where Commitment comes in. You have to dig deep within yourself and do it again, over and over, the whole terrifying and painful sequence, until your unwarranted whimsy is sated. That’s right. The Peach Reach, the Power Tent, the whole thing. Until your arms ache and your whole face is sweating and everyone around you is physically affected by your gesture. Then, and only then, can you rest. You’ve earned it.
Oh, the lights flickered. OK, I think you have the basics. Keep an ear out for any time I even think a horse is about to gallop out onto that cafetorium stage. Class dismissed.
Hard to argue that AC/DC is the lifetime champ of ball-related rock ditties. Some might even say they built their enduring empire on a towering foundation of innuendo. But which of their titular ball tracks reigns supreme LET’S SEE.
Song: “She’s Got Balls”
Album: High Voltage
The first to be released chronologically on their debut album, this song doesn’t really truck in puns or allusion. I mean, Bon Scott is just like, “OK, this woman is great and she has balls. Do I mean literally? Probably not but you can’t be sure. What? Don’t judge me, I’m Bon Scott and this is the mid-seventies Australia. Get off my property.” (You went back in time to interview him at his ranch.) As a rock song, it does fine, featuring the mid-tempo blues march that Angus Young basically reinvented as his gift to the world, but it’s certainly not a standout on the album. Some of the lyrics are a little unnerving, seeing as the the lady is crawling around on the floor at one point. Probably in a sexist way, but maybe because of the discomfort of her aforementioned balls? Hard to be certain.
Song: “Big Balls”
Album: Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
AC/DC’s second meditation on balls appeared on their second album, perceived by many as the chronological thematic prequel to “She’s Got Balls.” In this one, Bon Scott dons his satire newsie cap and pens a straight synonym-based extended metaphor ditty. She’s got the biggest Victorian galas in the land, get it? Not testicle balls, how dare you, why I never, etc etc. Even when I was a kid this is a song you’d roll your eyes at and fast forward on the tape. Same blues strut as “She’s Got Balls” but with the fanciful addition of harpsichord accents to really drive home the joke.
Verdict: TOO CLOSE TO CALL I’ve really been thinking about this for a few days, doing careful comparisons, eating little snack bags of Cheetos at work (possibly unrelated but have you had a Cheeto lately? Every time they delight me like 80% more than expected. Actually Cheetos are the winners here, they are better than both of these songs BANGS OVERSIZE NOVELTY GAVEL).
Dear Future Leaders & Their Parents,
Lane (Mr. Grobe) and I could not be more excited about our upcoming trip to India! The students seem raring to go, and if the immediate side effects of the malaria medication is any indication, it’s almost time to leave! In an effort to assuage some fears and prevent anymore phone calls and emails from Mr. Schoon, here are some final notes about the trip, some FAQ’s that came up a lot at the parent meeting, but seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Maybe seeing it again in print will help?
Is there such a thing as Raging Elephant Fever? Why aren’t we planning for it?
No. No, I don’t know where anyone heard that - I can’t see how that could even possibly be a thing.
Should my child bring beads with which to barter?
Not necessary. All expenses are paid at this point, and for any others we will use cash. The duffel bag of exotic beads that was left outside of my office needs to be returned to its rightful owner, so please, if that person could speak up, I will get it back to you immediately.
Does Kenny Dofen have a barfing problem? Will he be barfing the entire trip?
Yes, Kenny has a barfing problem, but it shouldn’t be any different than when he is here at school. The same protocols apply.
Why isn’t the trip to Hawaii?
I don’t know how to answer that.
Is India like it is in all of the movies I’ve seen?
Um…yes and no? I’m not sure what movies you’ve seen. Some of them may have been filmed in India, but some of the characters may have been exaggerated. And no, Hotel Rwanda took place in Africa. Aladdin was also not filmed in India. And it was a cartoon, so it was not filmed at all really.
Have you seen that Harvey Keitel film “Holy Smoke!”? That disturbed and aroused me. How about that one?
No, Mr. Schoon.
Can my son bring a small bootknife for protection? It’s pretty small with a cool handle.
Absolutely not. That is really upsetting and now I probably have to take some kind of action simply because you’ve mentioned it.
Can the Raging Elephant Fever drive you to murder?
I know we covered this already, but there is no such thing as Raging Elephant Fever.
Can you confirm some of the colorful characters you will meet?
I can give you the name of our contact and tour guide that will meet us in Delhi, and he seems like a really nice, normal guy. I’m not sure if that’s what you mean, though. I fear it’s not.
What time does the school field house open? Sometimes I’m driving by in the morning, and I have to use the restroom. It would be really convenient if I could just stop and go in there.
That is a question that I’m sure the school front desk could answer.
What are the chances my son can bring back a wife?
For…for whom exactly? For him? It doesn’t matter. I can promise you there is ZERO chance anyone will be bringing back a spouse, that’s awful.
Is it possible that Terry can fly first class? He has a pus capsule in his knee that needs to be elevated and drained bi-hourly.
Unfortunately, the school cannot assume the costs of a student flying first class, even for medical reasons. Terry will have to drain his knee in the bathroom, and I’m sure Lane would be willing to help, although don’t tell him I said that.
I have a friend who loves Indian food, but some of the various curries give me indigestion.
Definitely not a question, but if it helps, know that I mildly concur.
I once bought a cricket bat on eBay. Can my daughter bring it to get signed?
If it fits in her suitcase, sure. I guess we’ll just have everyone we meet sign it, is that the idea? Yep? Okay.
Will my child be spiritually awakened? Is there a waiver I need to sign for that?
Hard to say and no.
Is this meeting over yet? Castle is on.
We will see you at the airport!
Hey, I brought some snacks in with me today. Want some? Let’s see. I have some raw veggies in a ziploc.
Want this entire cucumber? No? How about this dense, flowering broccoli? Hm, no prob. What else is in here.
How about this red bell pepper? It is so so red! Just like taking a crunchy bite of super-caustic sunshine, right?! You sure? Huh.
Well, no problem, I have a couple more ziplocs in the ol’ tote here. You into cherry tomatoes? I pop ‘em like popcorn! No? Regular tomato? Sink your teeth into this big juicy bad boy? Ok…
Dang, what else. I just skinned this onion this morning…have a bite? Not an onion fan. No bigs!
Mmm. Some kale leaves? I know they look a little wilted, but that’s how I like them as a snack, they kinda cling to your palate and the shards linger in your gums. Keeps the flavor going. Oh sure sure, hang on, gimme a second, let’s see.
A couple fennel bulbs? Chunk of yuca? Some turnip stalks? This clump of rhubarb strings?
Cool cool cool. Ain’t nothin’ but a veg thing baaaaby! I just like it raw is all! Ha Ha Ha!
Well, what were you thinking for lunch then? I was going to suggest going to the empty lot over by the movie theater and foraging for dandelion greens?
Yell indoors noticeably less
Google Blair Underwood to explain role in Men’s Wearhouse commercials
Organize t-shirt drawer, put pit-stained ones on bottom
Throw out old condiments, probably save the one expensive mustard
Stop reading comments on sports articles
Mentor a wayward youth, have him lose his way again many years later, then find salvation by re-reading some of my advice in his journal
Cause a bus driver to say, “Hey, you’re alright, man.” to me
Ride a bike with a pizza in my hands
Write Harlem Globetrotters film treatment
Buy a coat without trying it on
Find a lost dog, spurn the reward
Hand a homeless person a pristinely-wrapped Subway sandwich
Punch Papa John
Think about how insects feel for a second before going apeshit on them
Urinate inside a Foot Locker shoebox without being detected
Really think SUPER hard this time about researching my genealogy before watching a Dual Survival rerun instead
Make a non-English-speaking friend and walk around the city with him, pointing and grinning
For some reason this cereal box copy haunts me. MORE GRAINS LESS YOU MORE CHEERIOS LESS REASON FOR YOU THE MORE FOOD YOU EAT THE MORE YOU RECEDE INTO THE BACKGROUND OF YOUR OWN LIFE THE MORE YOU CHEW THE MORE YOU JUST LET YOUR BROTHER-IN-LAW BASICALLY TAKE OVER YOUR BIRTHDAY PARTY PLANS I DON’T EVEN LIKE PAINTBALL
Oh hell yes, there are two prime pieces of sourdough left. I thought all I had was that death-dry whole wheat that I only bought out of guilt. How did these two middle slices make it this long? I can’t even believe my luck. This is some kind of sandwich omen.
I know I def have some turkey dregs in the meat tray, OH SWEET it’s not slimy yet! I totally thought it would have a sheen but it’s still mostly appetizing. This is unexpected. OK, turks and sourdough. A spicy brown mustard drizzle. Not bad, not bad. A little basic but…
Well, wait now. Are there…YES we have some cukes left! From the fancy salad! I can’t even believe it. They’re even sliced already. Still got some crunch too. Someone even seeded and peeled these mothers. Let’s stack these up.
Looking like kind of a legitimate sandwich here. I think I need to get a plate at this point. This is a little more formal than I was expecting. Given this new height provided by the salvaged cukes, I can’t risk something flopping out the side.
Since I’m getting a plate, I suppose I can investigate a little more. There is some brick cheese that wouldn’t be too hard to slice into little chunks. I bought that recently to try and lure a mouse out of hiding. I mean, a sandwich without cheese is kind of embarrassing, really.
While I’m walking around the kitchen with a little cheese knife, is there something else I should slice up? Should I commit to this red onion I somehow have? Why not? You only live once! Why not really max out this sandwich event with the high-end tang of a fresh onion? I deserve it. The colors would really make it memorable too - the purple burst of the onion with the green flash of the cukes, the bright orange of the cheese clumps. Pretty appetizing! I would prob take a picture if my hands weren’t covered in mustard.
I wonder if there is a good side dish to slide onto this extra plate space. Make it a real meal. How about this pasta salad? Someone brought this over for our BBQ last May. I feel like pasta salad is like, preserved? Safely suspended in mayo? HOLY GOD FALSE THAT IS A FALSE STATEMENT.
OK, close the door. I don’t want to bother HR with this. This is strictly a marketing emergency for the time being. Sorry to cut into everyone’s lunch, but we don’t have a minute to lose on this.
Clonch has pulled together some consumer data on our recent product line of frozen chicken wing party-packs. He has compared our slumping sales figures to that of our main competitors, and broken it down by region and store. What he found is alarming. Clonch, can you advance the…oh, I just click Enter? OK, yeah I wasn’t sure if this keyboard was controlling…OK, I see. What he found is that our rank as number 9 Midwestern manusnacturer, number 8 in the sports-style snackegory according to some studies, is in real jeopardy. As the Creative Director, I’ve been wracking my brain about this all night and have determined there is only one way to right this ship…we need a more exciting way to spell “wings.”
AND BOOM, here we go, we’ve shifted into a spontaneous brainstorming meeting. HOW CAN WE SPELL…This marker is garbage, I need a new marker WHY are the markers never in their little holder…OK, HOW CAN WE GET WINGS TO TAKE FLIGHT? I just made that up right now. I have a few ideas to get the juices flowing:
That last one is more of a cipher, something to really get consumers to stop and puzzle it out, feel some real intrigue. You know, to get the target demographic of teens at Target to stop in the freezer aisle, pull out their ear buds, and be like “Hold up, what’s the deal with these? Hey, mom, check this out!” Ploop, in the cart. OK, seeing some blank faces, maybe it’s a little early. We should get some coffee pumping. How about Wayangz? I thought maybe there’d be some implied, but legally defensible, connection to the Wayans brothers. I don’t think it’s “racist” so much as “racy.”
Meredith, you always have good nuggets to throw out. Any wing nuggets? We can’t be traditional here, folks. The traditional market is already cornered by your Tysons and your Perdues. We need to reclaim our place here. Are we still the rebel snack lover’s go-to brand? The self-styled leper king of medium-to-large sports-themed party buffet foods? I feel like I don’t even know anymore.
OK, let’s take five here. Check your emails, mill around a bit, get some air. Then we’ll reconvene and start really jamming or else we might as well burn down this whole building.
As I stand here in this damp basement, humbled and not without a modicum of shame, I issue forth a challenge. Though it may seem daunting, and it will involve effort from all of us, I henceforth decree, though we live in the same building, that together, we can successfully ignore each other’s presence completely. It may not be a model well represented in many condo associations, but I know, based on numerous occasions where we have displayed extraordinary stubbornness toward one another, that we can, without exception, pretend that everyone else is dead or nonexistent.
You may be saying to yourself, “How?” “How is this possible? I hate everyone else in this building so much, and with such an abnormally aggressive vigor! Though it would represent all of my wildest dreams come to life, how can I pretend that every other resident died in their sleep while I laughed and pranced around my corner unit?” Well, I will not lie to you. It will not be easy. It will not be easy to ignore Miguel’s assaulting Norte music blast around midnight, or to not gag instantly when Michelle apparently broils turds for dinner every night. It will not be easy to not scream with rage when Dennis spray paints the concrete walkway white as he clumsily tries to re-finish his kitchen cabinets. And no, it will not be easy to not topple to your death when the Kendall’s choose to litter the primary stairwell with oversized children’s toys. But persevere we must, for it is in our best interest. Otherwise, someone here will probably murder someone else. None of us want to speak to cops or testify in a trial. Mr. Manesh, I’m looking at you, because you would likely be killed first since your wet, old person coughs rattle the very infrastructure of the building, leading many to have already fantasized about your death in lurid detail while folding laundry in the first floor common area.
OK! I believe in us. I have personally seen you all do things that are reprehensible. We none of us should be living this close to other humans, and in some cases, allowed to walk the streets freely. However, while we cannot always decide our fate, it is always worth attempting to thwart it. Especially when the new person in 3F is constantly leaving the outer door wide open for anybody to enter. Or when the Cardonza twins are apparently staging a production of Noises Off with all the needless door slamming.
Assuming we’re all on the same page here, let’s bang out some action items before adjourning. I’ll write them on the boiler room door since everyone else seems to have declared this door a public art project. First, nobody look at anybody else, unless it is sternly. This is key. Ambiguous eye contact can lead to empathy and ruin everything. Next, don’t make any sounds when outside your unit but within property lines. Third, any personal belongings left unattended on common area will be immediately destroyed and thrown into the brown Dumpster out back. We’re all going to have to chip in on that one. Last, for now anyway, is to strongly consider moving far away from this building. Use the internet to research a different neighborhood or city to live in, one that will miraculously tolerate your disgusting habits.
Also, suicide is an option, as long as no mess is created on the property. Mr. Manesh, this one’s for you. What? We’re just spit-balling.
I FORGOT TO TELL YOU THAT THIS HAPPENED TO ME. The ol’ loose shaker lid bit! Perfectly executed by some cunning diner, I was the ideal mark for this classic prank: overeager to eat, a haphazard condiment sprinkler, chronic pizza tunnel vision. I really wanted the waiter to appreciate this display more than he did. He def let me down with his completely bored glare.