This week on Why Japan Kicks our Ass in the World of Technology: I am sorry to report that our judges have not been replaced with four poo-flinging monkeys. New York has completely failed to live up to expectations (thanks, Black Cougar, for trying). Chicago’s going strong. Finalists for the two cities will be announced. The show’s gotten so touchy-feely about the pursuit of the American Dream that my viewing experience is ruined. I’m no longer reeling with schadenfreude when I watch an inventor-hopeful get shredded by the judges. And how I love it (see: “pleasure taken from someone else’s misfortune”) when it comes to reality television. Damn you, American Inventor!
But you know where I can get a dose of mega-awkward ridiculousness and epic schadenfreude that rivals what I feel when I watch reality TV?
Anime Expo at the Long Beach Convention Center. That’s right, I said Anime Expo. Don’t look at me like that! I can explain.As a belated birthday present for my little brother, who resembles a Japanese cartoon character himself with his stylishly spiked hair, I bought two-day passes to America’s largest anime convention. Anime culture extends far beyond the reaches of Pokemon, “Spirited Away,” Pocky, and characters with ridiculously large eyes that get teeny tiny when they smile. Really. Think Comic Con with tons of Ramen.
Pikachu, I choose you! And you! You all look the same!
People go all out for this annual festival, spending months making elaborate costumes that are scarily accurate and often disturbing to look at. You’ll see what I mean. I figured my lil’ bro would get to watch some new anime, drink some Ramune soda, and see how much cooler he was than the other kids. (Not that there’s anything wrong with memorizing the dances and lines from your favorite anime episodes and then re-enacting them in full costume on stage. In front of like, 45,000 people. If that’s your thing.)
Probably the most normal looking person besides us.
Cosplay (short for “costume play”) is surreal when witnessed up close. There were a lot of 30+ year old virgins with Asian fetishes in attendance. As a small Vietnamese girl, I took the precaution of not dressing up in any sort of schoolgirl/maid/dungeon mistress outfit. With my Spanish boyfriend and some college friends for protection, I navigated Anime Expo without being harrassed. We actually felt out of place in our ordinary clothes.
So instead of tiring you with pictures of the judges about to die of boredom, I’ll regale you with pictures I took of people who have a LOT of extra time on their hands. Let me just preface this with this: While I admit that I did laugh at a lot of the other attendees for their level of intensity and um, wardrobe decisions, I do admire their commitment to a vision. A lot of them invented ways to create things that had previously only existed on a drawing board. It takes dedication to make sure your toy weapon is exactly to scale — in some cases, over seven feet tall. I’m not bullshitting you. Look:
Bear with me, please — the normal, snarky episode photos will be back next week. I promise.
Oh. About that show that I’m supposed to be recapping…
We’re back in New York on a quest more futile than the search for WMD’s in Iraq.
America’s fetish for toilet-related inventions has not diminished in the least. Sigmund Freud would say this nation is overly fixated with genitals and anything involving the use of them, no?
Building engineer Wigberto Delgado, 47, graces us with the Urinator, a toilet add-on that will revolutionize how we use the toilet all over the world. You’ll never have to lift the toilet seat again. That is, if you have a penis or if you’re a woman who feels comfortable peeing into a funnel. A funnel that’s attached to the equivalent of a giant adjustable bendy straw so that you can extend it to different heights. That’s probably the fastest way to get that pungent public restroom smell into your home.
Power Rangers would not use the Urinator.
“Do we expect men to go to the toilet in a cone everyday?” asks British Man. Unanimous no’s.
Wigberto departs as his “ideas are flushed away,” notes Nick Smith. The robot that writes the script of this show comes equipped with a random bad pun generator.
Pressure is mounting for the inventors, but not for 28-year-old Darrell Fertakos. This self-proclaimed inventor (he has no other occupation) is inspired by Edison, Ben Franklin, and Walt Disney. Darrell’s given a lot up to invent, like social skills and self-awareness. From the way he tosses in wild spins and leaps during his presentation, I’d guess he was a failed figure skater. He makes up for this in self-righteous indignation and cockiness. And a ton of bulky posterboards and paper.
“Do you want this to happen to your kids? Do you want to look like this?” he demands. He looks like the stereotypical 28-year-old nerdy male who’s never seen boobs. Of course I wouldn’t want my kids to end up like Darrell.
The ideal woman has gigantic eyes. The better to see with.
He’s referring to when he fell off his bike ten years ago and banged up his face. While wearing a bike helmet, mind you. I think the beat-up, scabby face was an improvement over the constipated “serious inventor” face, personally.
His miraculous invention is a white safety band (i.e. terrycloth headband) that inflates with carbon dioxide upon impact, much like airbags in cars. I’m pretty sure you’ve already eaten cement by then, buddy, if there was even any way that there could be enough impact to trigger the device before the impact flattens your body. Remember that public awareness commercial where a watermelon that doesn’t wear a bike helmet splats itself to pieces?
That’s not all, though. If your kid falls in the pool, a pair of glorified water wings will inflate as soon as they detect water. Surfers can have a band around them inflate to save their lives. Like, after they’re knocked unconscious by their board or a rock and end up drowning anyway? Not so much.
But can your inflatable device save you from this?
He’s a runaway train of ideas and looks like a high scorer on World of Warcraft. Pat interrupts Darrell mid-idea. SPANX’s pantyhose is squeezing the blood from her brain today. “I see potential in this, and what went through my mind was surfers,” she comments. “My brother surfs a lot – if there was a band, it could save people from drownding.”
That’s right, she said “drownding.”
With a yes from George, Darrell only needs one more judge to sign up for the Crazy Train. Ai, ai, ai!
Bowel Movement, I mean, British Man, says no. Pat declares that he’s never going to give a yes to a headband. Head on! Apply directly to the head!
The Crazy Train is leaving the station! Oh wait, it’s not.
“That’s what they said about computers, there’s no market,” Darrell protests. “Did you meet any other inventor with over 300 ideas? I do.”
Darrell is a bag full of hot air, so the producers let him have a montage all to himself and his premature ideas.
On Cancer: “GUESS WHAT, GUYS? Cancer did not exist back in 1900. In 1996, Cancer was the 2nd leading cause of death.”
Stupidity: the 1st leading cause of death.
On Healthy Cigarettes: “Healthy filtered air – I wanna create vitality stick, a healthy stick with flavors!”
On Clumsy Old People: “I want to incorporate this [inflatable device] for senior citizens. A lot fall, break their hips, so garments that inflate…”
On Megalomania and gross inventions: “What can I do with a tissue in a bag? Ziploc bag with tissue. I have a better prototype, I just wanted to show you. I’ve got hundreds of ideas…”
I really don’t want to know what he does with a ziploc bag and tissue. Darrell sounds just like the spastic, creepy nerd-stalker Jason Schwartzman plays in the film Slackers. Maybe he’s even made a hair doll of the girl he’s obsessed with.
British Man flatly rejects all of Darell’s ideas.
Puberty is hard.
“I just don’t feel like giving up,” whines Darrell.
“Don’t give up! Today, you must,” says Pat.
“Inventors like me prove history and time wrong, again and again,” declares Darrell. Bush said the same thing about his presidential legacy.
In Chicago, Nick Smith continues to patronize all the contestants as if they’re on food stamps and have no running water. Three yes’es from the judges will give these people a shot at living the American Dream. The notion of the American dream used to be that prosperity could be achieved through hard work, courage, and determination, but I’m pretty sure the American Dream is to get rich quick without doing anything. While eating deep-fried food, using an iPhone, and playing Nintendo Wii.
The beginning of a phallic motif.
Truck dispatcher John Stark, 44, has invented the Easy Squeeze earplug. The prototype is made out of balloons that you just stick it in your ear and squeeze. The balloons inflate and impede your hearing (and if they pop next to your ear drum because you over-squeeze, you’ll probably never hear anything again!).
British man grills Stark on his device.
“So is your invention a balloon that sticks in the ear?”
“Well it’s gonna be more than a balloon.”
“What does it do, inflate?”
“Yeah, it inflates.”
“Inside your head?”
“Has it done it already?”
“Excuse me? I’m having a hard time hearing that.”
All this despite the fact that the balloons are clearly a prototype. The judges crack up like it’s comic gold, this show just sinks to new levels of the suck (as my father would say) every week.
“A balloon in the ear? No. I’m afraid for my children to even be playing with this,” comments George. Unanimous no’s send Stark packing.
And now, to meet ABC’s quota of heartwarming stories about overcoming poverty. We’re in Nashville, home to Graceland and lots of sorority and fraternity national headquarters! Go Chi O!
A part-time real estate agent and the director of the Black Miss Tennessee pageant, Elaine Cato, 39, is a single mom with two adorable daughters. She does not want her girls to experience the hardships she had while growing up such as low-income housing, poverty, and food stamps.
Among the six children in her family, Elaine’s the first to pursue college. She’s a former Miss Black Tennessee and was the first Miss Black USA. Elaine seems much more grounded than a lot of other competitors in her desire to seek a better life for her children, explaining that determination and faith are part of the journey. Sanity helps.
Could this qualify as talent in a beauty pageant? Doing the splits ain’t easy.
Five years and three months salary have been invested in Elaine’s six-in-one convertible bra. She walks right up to the judges with her mannequin, Annette, and the backless brassiere. It’s for women with a large cup size but doesn’t turn your breasts into padded torpedos. The detachable straps loop around your shoulders and under your armpits, enabling you to wear backless shirts. Charming and poised, as a beauty pageant director is apt to be, Elaine ably demonstrates her invention on herself to the delight of the men. They’re silently hoping for a bra malfunction. They don’t get it, but she’s unanimously voted into the finals as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I hate to be a party pooper, but Victoria’s Secret boasts a bra that can be worn 100 ways (which probably includes “off, flung on the floor in haste” as one).
You know who could’ve used Elaine’s invention (and some panties)?
Seriously. There is no pantyline here.
Back in Chicago, George Foreman reaffirms that he is a consumer whore in a montage dedicated to his love of everything.
David Skotzke, a 46-year-old laborer, has invested $6,000 and over four years into his hands free toilet seat lid lifter. With a simple bike cable attached to a foot pedal, the seat lifts to a 75-80 degree angle. The Japanese are laughing at him, because their toilets kick American toilets’ asses (and wash them too, with a bidet feature built in). He begins a story about how he met his wife on July 4, 1997 in a bathroom but is stopped by the judges, who give him three no’s. “I could use one of those, especially when you share a restroom” says George. “I say yes.”
To Weston Hindon, 43, inventor of the Snake Rake, the leaf rake plus mop head: “I love the mop. I’m the best mopper in the world, so I’m gonna give you a yes.”
To project manager Jessica Bilski, 30, whose “Mark-in Time” clock/ dry erase board is for parents and teachers to schedule kids: “This would really save me a lot of arguments and disagreement, I’m gonna give you a yes.”
George doesn’t even discriminate against inventions that are already on the market. Jeffrey Bretz, 46, and Andrea Thomas, have bought a Black and Decker SnakeLight and brought it in as their own invention. They claim it’s the first hands-free flashlight. “You can even wear it around your neck!” chirps Andrea.
This took more effort than their flashlight.
“Once she said they [the flashlights] can point up, I say yes,” says George. “I tell you, I’d buy that.”
“George, you’d buy everything that came on this show!” laughs Pat. Truer words were never spoken.
P.E. teacher Chris Brooks, 38, is confident that he’ll get a yes from all the judges. For all the men who don’t want to fight with their wives and make them happy, it’s…a dick in a box!
This is awkward.
I mean, what else could it be? It’s wrapped so gaily and everything, like a Christmas present.
Chris and his wife were watching TV one day, he says, and “she put her head down on me.” For a blowjob?
Remember when you showed up to prom and someone had the same dress as you?
Just kidding. She wanted a massage, but he had the TV remote in his hand and didn’t want to relinquish it. In a moment of idiot savant-like genius, he strapped a wooden handheld massager to his remote so he wouldn’t have to stop flipping channels! What a winner.
SPANX is shocked and appalled: “I cannot think of anything less romantic than my man rubbin’ me down with the remote.”
“Isn’t it better than nothing, though?” points out Chris.
“If only this machine had some vibrating device on it,” comments George. “But I say no.” Oh, George. You’ve never heard of the Hitachi Magic Wand, have you?
“You are an incredible robot AWESOM-O, I was just wondering, are you by chance a pleasure model?” — South Park
Alvin Quiles, 51, puts on his signature hat (a leather porkpie complete with its own American flag), kisses his wife, and goes to his workshop everyday. His workshop in his mom’s house. “He’s a little cuckoo, sometimes,” confides Alvin’s mom. Sometimes? How about all the time? “He drive me nuts for three weeks, come and using my garage, making mess!” Yes, that is how she talks.
Alvin’s quest for inventor glory begins and ends when he skates into the room. Yes, “skates.” His invention is the giant walker that he’s holding onto. He jokes that it’ll turn George into a cruiserweight from a heavyweight. Alvin’s only tested his invention for a day, and it’s evident as he starts to drift away from the judges. British Man immediately shoots Alvin down with a no.
Pat: “Peter (British Man) gave me a choice no or no.”
George: “You can refine this a lot better because there a lot of people who really want to be able to skate, and they fall a lot. This could stop them from falling. Yes!”
Pat: “George, how did you give a yes to that?”
New York has been a disaster, overtones Nick Smith. We know this because we have to listen to Chopin’s funeral march(Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 35) playing over the montage of rejects.
ExecuPet, a battery-operated solar blender/juicer, parents telling their kids they got rejected, and hot, salty tears! That’s what the death of the American dream tastes like.
“I can feel myself going,” says British Man. I concur. I can barely make it through my recaps these days. I’m feeling light-headed and a bit nauseous as I type this. Must…go…on…
New York is really not all that screwed. Our first finalist is David Mallet, 23, a union electrician with a posterboard named “The Wingman.” If the posterboard ever becomes an actual handheld digital device (complete with matchmaking website), it’ll help you get laid by pairing you up with compatible matches at the bar. It does not guarantee against STD’s, so watch out for the clap. David is doing this so that his mother doesn’t tell him that she wishes the condom didn’t break when she hooked up with his father. Oh, and she wants him to buy her a house. SPANX wipes the drool off her face after salivating over semi-cute David to vote yes.
Dough Vetter, 35, is a high school math teacher who wants trash cans to clean themselves. His can lid will do just that. Kristie Miles has produced the Vibe ‘n Ride (dirty!), a vibrating car seat cover.
Ridin’ dirty. I mean, nerdy.
11-year-old Deryk Artioli wants to prevent babies from rolling to the end of their cribs with the Baby Wedge, a foam incline. His baby model promptly falls out of the Baby Wedge after he gets a yes from the judges.
Tofu for everybody!
David Moeller, and Craig Forest, both 28, are grad students from Harvard Business school and MIT’s department of mechanical engineering. They want to be spokesmen for the science community with their device, The Claw. Improving on the standard J-hook, they present their bike hook with a well-rehearsed skit. The Claw clips on needing only vertical movement, not lateral movement from many directions. Simple. Effective. Deadly? It’s revealed that British Man has a 22-car garage after he insists it’s just a stupid reverse hook and is dangerous.
You know what’s dangerous? Hooking up with completely random (and probably drunk) strangers using an electronic device that doesn’t ask for a history of sexual disease, British Man.
Ann Marie Bryan, 41, is a deaf filmmaker originally from Jamaica. She spent one year and $5000 dollars, on her prototype. She created the ready to wear speaker gear to appreciate music along with her music-loving family. The vest, with built in speakers serving as the deaf version of headphones, allows you to feel the vibrations of the music. Everybody, dance now! The judges come up to feel the vest working and are astounded. Unanimous yes’es, duh. Not even British Man can resist the charm of this incredibly poised woman. Hugs all around! Please, no “Jamaican me crazy” jokes.
Our top three finalists for each city:
New York: The Claw, The Wingman, and The Wearable Speaker Vest.
They all sound like episodes of “Seinfeld” to me. Pat’s in love with the bike claw, insisting, “I need it.” British Man loves The Wingman, but George thinks it’s too complicated. They’re concerned that the speaker vest will not appeal to a mass market.
Chicago: Whiz Ball, Expert Racers, and the 6-in-1 convertible bra.
British Man raves about Whiz Ball, and George likes it too. Pat’s all for Expert Racers, reminiscing about his Hot Wheels days. Sarah and British Man also like the bra, but Sarah concedes that there are definitely competitors on the market.
What do you think? Who got the most background story in the editing of this episode? Duh.
FINALLY. OMG. IT’S OVER.
Nick Smith presents slightly tattered, printed-out checks to David and Craig, inventors of The Claw and to Elaine Cato, of the convertible bra. Congratulatory posters. An orgy of hugging and screaming. A roomful of women cheer for Elaine. Nick is totally going to hit that. One of her daughters announces, “Mommy– they’re going down.”
You cannot resist my cuteness.
I would pay to see someone get into a brawl on this show. Hair-pulling and trash talking and a good left hook or two.
Next Week: I smash my TV and become a Luddite after watching the Tampa and Houston tryouts.