When I am King: The Rating Game

When I am King...

Movie ratings will be clearer.

Warning: This blog has been rated by the Malicious Blogger Association of America (MBAA):

I've always found movie ratings so helpful. They take two hours of complex content and boil it down into a single letter that tells me exactly how appropriate it is for my children. Were the rating any more involved, or any closer linked to the actual material in the movie, then I would have to read and think about it to decide what to do. But the fact that it's such a simplistic measure of the maturity level needed to enjoy the film means that I can quickly ignore it.

Rating are not about providing real information. They're about making us feel just slightly guiltier about things we're going to do anyway.

I was particularly pleased with the rating of The King's Speech, which I saw when it came out in 2010. It was a serious film, well executed, that provided that perfect mix of drama, history, education, and entertainment. It was a film that I enjoyed for myself, and enjoyed taking the kids to as a cultural and historical lesson. Or at least I would have, except that the film was rated R.

I had to watch the film again to determine why it got this adult rating, checking the several obvious categories:
  • Nudity: This was Englad in the early 20th century. All of the characters were at least 5 layers of clothing away from naked.
  • Violence: True, the climactic speech was on the eve of a horrific war. But they only showed the speech itself, not the fighting. No blood, no shooting, no punches. Not even a hearty backslap.
  • Swearing: Oooooh, that's right. He drops the F-bomb a handful of times.
So it turns out that I'm advised to not take my kids to this excellent movie because they might hear a bad word. My kids hear worse language in my house when I stub my toe; what possible reason would I have for sheltering them from it in the movie theater? More significantly, how can the rating agency possibly put that kind of language on the same footing as, say, the gruesome death scenes or graphic sex acts in other R films?

When I am King, ratings will be more meaningful. Instead of obscure references like "inappropriate language" and "adult situations", the ratings will have concrete information about why the film got this rating, to help the responsible parent make the right decision. Or at least to make the wrong decision for the right reasons.

Here are some example ratings for existing films:

Space Buddies: A film that I was subjected to because of my youngest kid's abject love for anything related to dogs:

Star Trek: The Motion Picture: This film was pretty darn exciting when it came out, because it was the first Star Trek thing to come out since the original "5 year mission" was killed in its third season. But it only got a G rating, which is pretty a-typical for action movies. In hindsight, a better rating description would give some helpful information to the unwary moviegoer:

I enjoyed watching Airplane! with the kids last year. The hairstyles are totally dated, but the comedy still works. But some parents might want to know why Parental Guidance is avised:

The Hunger Games is an interesting series of books, now movies, delving into the loving and under-served genre of child genocide. Here is a more helpful rating:

We watched The Blues Brothers again recently, and were curious about the rating. Blues songs can be racy, but not quite enough to get an R rating, or so we thought. Maybe a more descriptive rating would have helped:

And finally, here's a more accurate rating for The King's Speech:

Maybe when I am King, I'll even make a speech about it. And I'll throw in a few bad words, just to get a juicy rating.


Things I Believe: Thoughts for Friday

History repeats itself itself.

Ignorance is Bliss. Complete stupidity is Bliss's sister, Irene.
They're both very nice and have lovely hair.

Marriages are made in heaven.
Divorces are down the hall to the left, then take the elevator all the way down.

No man can serve two masters.
Serve one of them for dinner tonight, and leave the other in the fridge until supper tomorrow.


If Girlfriends Were Like Phone Companies

Going out with Jenny has been fine, but you really need to move on. You thought you were compatible during that early, blissful phase of the relationship when you passed out drunk on her floor every night, but since sobering up you realized that she's, well, dull. And mean. And dating at least five other guys that you know about.

So it's finally time to call her and end it.
them: [Ring... ring … ring … Click!]

you: Hi, Jenny, it’s me. I -

them: I apologize for the delay. A representative will be here momentarily to assist you. In the meantime, I will hum for you.

you: … Um, Jenny?

them: [Hum, hum, hummmmm...]
Hello, and thank you for calling Jenny today!

you: Hi, can you tell Jenny I want to break up -

them: Por españoles, por favor presione el número dos

you: Uh...

them: For assistance in English, please press or say “one”

you: one?

them: Are you calling to ask about Jenny’s shoe size?

you: nooooo...

them: Okay. What can I help you with today? Say a phrase, such as “Is Jenny free for a date this Friday?” or “What is Jenny’s favorite restaurant?”

you: I want to break up with Jenny

them: What was that? Did you say “Jenny’s Spring Break photos?”

you: NO

them: Let’s try that again. Try a phrase such as, “Send Jenny a dozen roses” or “Apologize for not noticing Jenny’s new hair style”

you: BREAK. UP.

them: Sorry, I’m still not getting it. Try spelling it out on the keypad. For example, the letter A is entered by hitting the 2 key, followed by the 1 key. The letter B is entered by hitting the 2 key twice. The letter Q is entered by hitting 7, then 4, then 9 three times in a row. Try it now.

you: [pause], 2 [pause] 2. [Spend several minutes entering the rest of the numbers for ‘break up’]

them: Did you enter the word "bickerbot"?

you: NO

them: It's still not making sense to me. Are you using a rotary dial? If yes, say or spin the dial from “one” now.

you: No

them: great. Now, what did you call about today?


them: I’m not sure I understood that. Was that “Argyle sweater size”?

you: no

them: I'll get a customer service representative for you. One moment please...
[more humming ... Click!]

Hello kind sir, my name is ‘Gary’ and I have the honor of being your most excellent customer service representative today. How are you feeling this fine evening, sir?

you: um, fine

them: That is wonderful to hear, sir. And what may I help you with this evening?

you: I want to break up with Jenny.

them: Excellent. I will try my best to help you with that request. Please hold for a moment while I bring up your account information.

them: [more humming...]
Here it is sir. I see that you have been going out with Jenny for just over 3 years

you: I guess so

them: And now you wish to end the relationship, is that right sir?

you: Yes

them: Ah, that’s too bad sir. May I ask what the reason is?

you: Um, it’s just not working out?

them: I’m sorry to hear that sir. I will put “customer's inadequacy” in the form.

you: what?

them: are you certain that we cannot convince you otherwise?

you: no, I just want to end it.

them: I see sir. But first let me tell you about some specials that might help you change your mind.

you: I -

them: First, we have a two-for-one special this month only. It appears that Jenny’s roommate Barbara is also available, and you may date her at no extra cost for the first six months.

you: No, I -

them: Also, I see you are a customer who has been in good standing with Jenny for a long time. We have a ClientCare(TM) program available especially for you. In this program, you will accumulate Reward Points toward future transgressions, or you can spend them at birthdays, Valentines day, or other holidays during which you would normally spend too much money keeping Jenny happy. No longer, sir - just log on and spend some of your accumulated Reward Points to keep the relationship in good standing.

you: Really, I just -

them: Also, I see that Jenny has recently purchased a large, desirable present for you. You have a birthday coming up, I presume?

you: Yeah, but -

them: Just for calling us today, we will double that present and get you two of whatever it is.

you: No really, I -

them: Finally, I have my manager’s approval to add one more item to this growing and amazing list.

you: Er...

them: If you agree to stay with Jenny for just one more month, with no further obligation, we will not forward your complaint to her and she will not have her brother Ted come over and beat the living crap out of you. Guaranteed! So what about it sir? Wouldn’t you like to stay with this relationship a little longer and avoid joining the ranks of the sad, single men? I see that the area you live in has a much higher proportion of single men than women, and that you are not, if I may be so presumptuous, of an age to get into another relationship very easily, especially given your weight, IQ, and income level. Statistically speaking, it is more likely that you will kill yourself in a depressed, drug-induced haze than that you will find yourself in a happy relationship anytime in the next five years. So why not give Jenny another try?

you: No. I’m out. That’s it. It’s over. Kaput. Dead. I want it done. NOW.

them: I see sir. Well, I will see what I can do to help. First, I need to schedule a time for Jenny to come pick up her equipment at your house, for which there will be a $295.00 early-termination charge, as per your service contract.

you: What?!

them: I see we have an opening next week, from Monday-Wednesday, between the hours of 6am and midnight.

you: Uh, do you have any smaller window?

them: No, I’m sorry sir. We do have a two-day slot next year in July if you’d prefer.

you: No, next week is great. Come get her stuff.

them: Great sir. I will schedule that. Oh, I see here that we cannot process break-up transactions at this time. Please call back during normal business hours. It has been a pleasure to help you sir. Have a good evening.


Things I Believe: Thoughts for Friday

A woman's place is in the home, plotting to kill the man that told her that.

If you can't be good, be careful.
If you can't be careful, be armed.

Beware of geeks bearing grift.

A man's home is his castle; cold, leaky, and with bodies rotting in the dungeons below.


Little Olympics Ditty

The Olympics, this year,
Is something to see;
So many people, so much
Better than me.

Better at running, and
Jumping around.
Better in air, and
Better on ground.

Better at shooting, and
At putting shot.
I'd like to compete...
But I'd better not.

But I'm a bit muddled
On details of all sorts.
So here are some questions
And thoughts on these sports.

In archery (one of the
Games in the joint),
If the arrows bounce,
Are they missing the point?

Badminton, this year, really
Messed with my head.
I thought they used rackets,
But some threw it instead.

In cycling, a sport that
I really admire,
When a bike gets a flat,
Is it time to retire?

For judo, here's something that's
Been in my head:
Do they wrestle to win,
Or flip for it instead?

Swimming seems like it
Really takes drive.
But do they really compete,
Or just take a dive?

Tennis players may think,
As the ball sails past,
While the food there might suck,
At least the service is fast.

Volleyballer teams play on
Court or on sand.
The only difference is that
One is more tanned.

And so the games will soon
Come to a close.
What the athletes do next,
Nobody knows.

They'll all go home
For a well-deserved rest,
After giving their all
And trying their best.

But after that's done,
What will they do?
Will they party like crazy?
Will they start sniffing glue?

Maybe they'll stay on the
Straight and the narrow…
And train for the games in
Rio de Janeiro.

For olympics jokes from the previous games, try these:


Things I Believe: Thoughts for Friday

Hard work never did anyone any harm. Unless you're an assassin.

Good fences make good neighbors. Good fencers make scary ones.

If you want something done well, do it yourself. And leave it on the grill for a long time.

It's better to be on the safe side; the safe is where all of the money is.


Sky Mauled

Air travel is so awful these days. It's a good thing they give us such great things to read on the plane. There are the instructions on how to die properly in the event of an air accident, the label on how to use the barf bag properly, and the fascinating articles in the magazine on cities you've never thought about going to that have paid to have articles written about how fascinating they might be.

And then there's SkyMall: the home of products so ridiculous that they can't be sold on late-night shopping networks. They can only be foisted onto bored travelers whose common sense is distorted by altitude and cattle-car claustrophobia.

Here are a few ads from the latest issue.

Doggie Singlet
Remember: it's never too late to embarrass your pet.
My favorite bit here is that it's "The best solution for dog anxiety, guaranteed"
That may be fine for dogs, but I bet the cat in the lower right will appreciate that even more.

Portable Mind Controller

Stop, Roomba, that tickles! I don't -


Fake Boogers

Don't wait for a cold or allergies to sport your snot!
Now available in green and other colors!

Heaven and Helmet!

Pretend to be the astronaut you were never capable of becoming! Scare away your loved ones! Even your pets!


When you love the look of the Segway, but hate all of that convenience!


Why make your pet work any harder than you do to sit in your chair all day?
Coming soon: the escalator version.


Tired of your color? Why not try white?

Tree Faces

A quick and easy way to tell visitors, "An idiot lives at this house."

Strings Attached!

Tired of watching your kite have all the fun? Now you can play, too! Don't worry about getting stuck in the tree - we'll get you down with sticks and rocks, too.