Daily Archives: August 17, 2013

“Aunt Ma-ay! Phineas and Ferb are making a crossover!”

Disney Channel is mostly banned in our house, other than watching _Phineas and Ferb_ and the Marvel shows and a couple others On Demand, where the kids can fast forward through commercials, after the debacle about the _Good deLuck, Charlie_ episode featuring a lesbian “married” couple with a child, and depicting the father as a buffoon for apparently a) not realizing what lesbians are and b) not approving. It’s sad because I have really enjoyed that show, and I found it to be at least a relatively decent show compared to the other Disney “live action” comedies that promote bad behavior of various sorts: it’s always been more in the vein of an 80s or 90s family sitcom.
However, we watched the _Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel_ as it aired last night, and, other than the commercials, it didn’t disappoint. Hilarious from the beginning, in which Spider Man comes down over the title and whines, “Aunt May! Phineas and Ferb are making a crossover!” It features the voice actors from the current set of animated series (_Ultimate Spider-Man_, _Avengers Assemble_, and _Hulke and the Agents of SMASH_), though it’s set in the “world” of Phineas and Ferb (I assumed it was going to be some kind of parallel universe thing).

At the beginning, the title characters and their friends have already (by 10:30, it’s noted at one point, as the special follows the series’ running joke about doing everything in “one day”) built a space station and are surfing on asteroids (I guess tidal waves are passe). “Agent P” is also already in the process of thwarting Dr. Doofenshmirtz, who has developed a “Power Drain-inator” to take away his hated brother’s “special mayoral powers”:

I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but my brother, Roger, is the mayor. (Perry just gives him a look indicating that he was, in fact, aware of it.) Alright, I may have touched upon the subject from time to time, but, y’know, I figured why not mention it again just for clarity? Anyway, that job gives him all these cool mayoral powers. So I created the Power-Drain-inator to drain all his powers into this canister, and then I, Heinz Doofenshmirtz, get to wield them! Just think, I will have the power to raise taxes, pass legislation and even cut the ceremonial ribbon at openings

Meanwhile, in New York City, Spider-Man joins Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor as they battle Red Skull, MODOK, Whiplash and Venom. The ray from the exploded “Power-Drain-Inator” fires into space, hits the kids’ Space Station, and deflects to NYC, where it drains the superheroes’ powers. Back at SHIELD, Nick Fury has traced the beam back to Phineas and Ferb’s space station, and the space station (which looks like Phineas’s head) to them. As Spider-Man puts it, “Man, that kid’s got a weird-shaped head!”

Doofenshmirtz: Y’know, Norm, the Power-Drain-inator did get one shot off before it died. I wonder if it hit anything.
Gordon Gutsofanemu: (on television) Dateline: New York City. A mysterious ray has drained the power from four of our beloved superheroes. We now return you to Horse in a Bookcase, already in prog–
Doofenshmirtz: That was me! Th-Th-That was me! I drained the power from those superheroes! Winning! Ooh, ooh, I should update my evil blog on the L.O.V.E.M.U.F.F.I.N. site! (sits down at the computer and types) OMG!! I drained all the powers from a group of superheroes in New York , and those powers belong to me now! Happy Emoticon (Typed out as >:D >:D >:D) And send! Norm, let’s get the powers out of the canister so I can start wielding them! I-I can’t wait to fly and run fast and carry a big hammer around for no reason!
Norm: Uh, sir, I hate to be the bearer of empty canisters, but this canister is empty.
Doofenshmirtz: What?! So I don’t have the powers?
Norm: Time to blog a retraction, I guess.
Doofenshmirtz: Uh, y’know, I’m not gonna change it. Everyone exaggerates on the Internet.

Back in New York, Red Skull & co. try to trace the beam as well.
MODOK: I, MODOK, the perfect combination of human intellect and machine, have interfaced with all of the digital information stored on the vast network, the World Wide Web!
Whiplash: I can do the same thing with my phone. Plus I got free roaming!
Venom: Nice!
MODOK: As I was saying, I have found some puny inferior human known as Doofenshmirtz claiming that he has drained the heroes of all their superpowers.
Red Skull: Hmm, Doofenshmirtz. Zat sounds Drusselshteinian. I have a cousin who married a Drusselshteinian. She is dead to me!! So, who is zis Doofenshmirtz?
MODOK: I’m projecting his image now.
(Doof’s image appears.)
Red Skull: He is beautifully grotesque.
Whiplash: All hideous and deformed.
Venom: He must have some backstory.
Red Skull: Vere can we find zis sideshow freak?
MODOK: (showing an image of D.E.I.) He’s in the Tri-State Area, Danville to be precise!
Red Skull: Danville, eh? Gentlemen, it looks like we’re going on an evil road trip.
MODOK: Ooh, shotgun!

They arrive, and Red SKull introduces himself and the others to Doofenshmirtz. After a joke about Red Skull’s accent, in which he tries to say, “Show us your devices,” and no one understands him, Doof replies:

Oh, you want to see my inators! Man…Man, you’ve got quite an accent there! Alright, (walks up to an inator) here’s what I’m workin’ on now. Behold, the Slothinator! It will give me the powers of a sloth…which are super-slowness and super-leaf-eating.
Red Skull: (to MODOK) Are you sure zis is ze right guy?
MODOK: MODOK is infallible!
Red Skull: Then he must be toying with us. Playing us for fools! He is even more diabolical than we thought!

That brings us to the SHIELD/OWCA match-up:

Major Monogram: Have a seat, Agent P. (cut to reveal Monogram on an old black and white TV set) Due to the gravity of your mission today, the gentleman on the big screen will be addressing you (Wide shot to reveal Fury on the big screen) while I use this old TV monitor Carl found in the basement.
Carl: (offscreen) Sorry, sir, I couldn’t get the split-screen to work.
Major Monogram: Anyway, this is director Nick Fury of S-H-I-E-L-D.
Nick Fury: That’s S.H.I.E.L.D.! It’s an acronym.
Major Monogram: Oh, like “OWCA”.
Nick Fury: Yes, except it’s cool. Now, where is your agent, Major?
Major Monogram: He’s sitting right there.
Nick Fury: You mean behind the platypus?
Major Monogram: No, that’s Secret Agent Perry the Platypus.
Nick Fury: Is he some kind of super-platypus with super-platypus powers?
Major Monogram: (suddenly wearing an eyepatch) Uh…no.
Nick Fury: Does he have some kind of robotic platypus exoskeleton?
Major Monogram: He, uh, he has a fedora.
Nick Fury: Hey, wait a minute, were you wearing that eyepatch when we started?!
Major Monogram: Oh, this? Uh, yeah. It’s, uh, doctor’s orders. I have a stye.
Carl: (offscreen) He thinks it makes him look cool.
Major Monogram: No I don’t.
Nick Fury: I’m going to proceed as if this were going really well. Agent P, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Spider-Man have lost their superpowers to a mysterious power-siphoning ray, which we believe originated somewhere in the Danville area. We fear a group of supervillains are closing in. We need you to monitor the situation and report back. (Monogram is now wearing eyepatches on both eyes.) Francis, I’m gonna need you to—Now what are you doing?
Carl: (offscreen) He thinks two eyepatches make him look twice as cool.
Major Monogram: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
(Fury groans.)

(Cut to D.E.I.)
Doofenshmirtz: Welcome to my Hall of Inators. Ah, here’s a good one. This is my Oatmeal-to-Porridge-inator. I know. It’s a fine distinction. Don’t get me started. And here’s my Multi-Helio-Tactical-Baboon-Glom-inator. I-I-I think that one is self-explanatory. Oh, and, uh, here’s my Waffle-inator, and the Junk-Mail-inator…
Red Skull: I do not understand. Zees machines are useless. What is wrong wis zis man?
Whiplash: Maybe he is a misunderstood genius.
Red Skull: Or maybe he is a perfectly understood idiot.
Doofenshmirtz: And, finally, my Disintegrator-inator. Pretty impressive, huh?
Red Skull: Vere is ze machine zat took away the powers of the heroes?
Doofenshmirtz: Oh, my Power-Drain-inator! Ooh, that was a cool one! And it was…destroyed by my nemesis, Perry the Platypus. You just missed him.
Red Skull: Perry ze Platypus? Is he a super-soldier platypus?
Doofenshmirtz: No.
Venom: Was he bitten by a radioactive platypus?
Doofenshmirtz: No, he’s, uh, just a regular crime-fighting platypus.

As the villains team up, the Flynn-Fletcher kids and their friends escort the Avengers to SHED (Secret Hideout for Emergency Defects.”

Iron Man: I think we’re gonna need something a little…bigger.
Phineas: Oh, the rustic exterior’s a facade. Wait’ll you see the inside!
(They go inside S.H.E.D. to reveal it is much larger on the inside.)
Iron Man: Oh, man! You guys are good!
Ferb: Just a little British sci-fi technology.
Thor: Iron Man, looks like someone raided your armory.
Phineas: Oh, you like that, huh? This is The Beak Suit Mark 2. We’re still working on the waterproofing so we can’t take it out in the rain.
Iron Man: You know, Stark Industries offers summer internships.
Phineas: Thanks, but this summer’s pretty packed.
Iron Man: Apparently.

They learn where the villains are when an emergency news broadcast announces “Chaos at the Googolplex Mall! An evil entourage of three supervillains and what appears to be a pharmacist and a giant chicken egg with a face are bustin’ up the place somethin’ fierce!”

The episode continues with similar in-jokes to both franchises.
When Perry the Platypus appears in a costume he got from SHIELD, they try to figure out what or who this “masked beaver duck?” is.

Phineas: You know, he seemed vaguely familiar.
Spider-Man: Ya think that was Howard the Duck?
Iron Man: Time is of the essence. We’ve gotta—No, it wasn’t Howard the Duck!

Later, Candace accidentally sabotages an attempt to restore the heroes’ powers and turns Baljeet into a Hulk. Phineas kicks her out, and she walks out sadly to a tune parodying “The Lonely Man” from _The Incredible Hulk_ TV series.

Buford: I’ve always told her: Don’t ever make Phineas angry. You wouldn’t like it when he’s angry.

Buford later shows up as “Bear Boy,” an apparent parody of “Squirrel Girl.”
At another point, Nick Fury tells Agent P that: “the supervillains are holed up in downtown Danville in an oddly-shaped building with its own jingle.”
So, in the climactic scene, when they confront the villains again, Red Skull says the heroes are helpless against them, and Iron Man replies with a parody of Tony Stark’s famous trailer scene from _The Avengers_:

Iron Man: We have a Baljeet.
Hulkjeet: Hulkjeet.
Iron Man: Oh, my bad. Apparently he prefers to be known as “Hulkjeet”. (The Beak arrives.) And this thing.
The Beak: Bacaw!
Iron Man: If it’s a bird, it’s with us, too. (Agent P flies in) The flying duck with a beaver tail. We got him! (Waffles fall from the sky) But I gotta level with ya, I have no idea who’s shooting waffles.
(Cut to D.E.I. to reveal Doof firing waffles from his Waffle-inator.)

“I am the very model of a modern Major General . . . “

Here is “The PowerPoint rant that got a colonel fired”, which says, in part, that what Gilbert and Sullivan parodied in 1879 holds true today.
It is quite good, and Col. Lawrence Sellin ought to have a great career in writing and/or comedy. What he says of the Army is true of most organizations: endless meetings with no clear purpose other than to give jobs to managers and “consultants.”
It makes me think of so many quotations, like Krusty the Clown’s “aren’t ‘paradigm’ and ‘proactive’ just words that stupid people use to make themselves sound smart?” As Sellin puts it:

For headquarters staff, war consists largely of the endless tinkering with PowerPoint slides to conform with the idiosyncrasies of cognitively challenged generals in order to spoon-feed them information. Even one tiny flaw in a slide can halt a general’s thought processes as abruptly as a computer system’s blue screen of death.

The ability to brief well is, therefore, a critical skill. It is important to note that skill in briefing resides in how you say it. It doesn’t matter so much what you say or even if you are speaking Klingon.

I was once waiting in line at a fast food place and saw some management poster on the wall, to remember the five principles outlined in the acronym (I forget what it was, so we’ll just call it ACRON). The poster then had an acrostic of the acronym: each letter was the beginning of another acronym! So it really wasn’t “five simple principles”: it was more like 25, and they made about as much sense as Barney Fife’s “There are only two rules. Rule Number One: Obey all rules. Rule Number Two: see Rule Number One.” However, that at least made more sense than most of the “motivational” posters and PowerPoints I’ve seen. Usually, they’re too nonsensical to even remember.
PowerPoint is a powerful tool but is too often abused. To truly convey information, it must be detailed in a manner that makes it difficult to read or to add special effects to. Usually, when I’ve attended meetings that had what I found to be an effective PowerPoint, the information was also provided in hand-outs, and the PowerPoint was a guide, not the center of attention. When speakers focus on making fancy PowerPoints, they create the kind of unintelligible flow charts and acronyms I’ve already referred to. It’s like, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the Dark Side.” “But, Master Yoda, in your first appearance, one of your most famous lines was when Luke said, ‘I’m not afraid,’ and you said, ‘You will be.'”
A typical PowerPoint is something like: Charity -> Stewardship -> Compassion -> Love -> Sacrifice -> Charity.
Or, better yet, the “Greatest Presentation I have ever heard” scene from 30 Rock

(With apologies to all who, like me, are literally dumb or partially so),