The kiddie pool

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What. The. Fudge.

Those are (approximately) the words that accompanied the three Kodak moments above. It’s not often that you understand something less as you get closer to it, except for maybe that one museum in Seattle.

Eventually, I remembered that someone in one of my classes had mentioned an on-campus carnival. She’d failed to note that entering said event would involve passing under the buns of a hairy man doing a squat. It all looked very freaky, so of course I had to return…

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…In the night.

Carnivals are so bland and flat in the day, but at night everything glows and tilts and swirls. It’s hard to tell if the world is about to tip over or you are.

The event turned out to be a giant promotion for Adult Swim, the cable network that has nothing to do with swimming or adults. I was disappointed, as analyzing artvertising almost always feels like selling out. Then I was distracted by this:

Yes, that is a unicorn helmet on the girl’s head. No, you didn’t see the same stunt in the trailer for Project X. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s in the sequel, though. In one corner, a drunk dude with a unicorn helmet. In the other, a high dude in a zorb ball. Who will win the duel?

I realized that I wouldn’t be reviewing the art of carnivals that night, but the art of a carefully targeted marketing stunt. The targets? Teenage boys who think they’re 20-something frat boys, and 20-something frat boys who think they’re teens.

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Unicorn Man and “Breathe if you’re horny” jellyfish (???)

The carnival world of Adult Swim is populated by a horde of bizarre cartoon characters. I’m sure they all have names, but we can just talk about them as a group. Let’s call them the Bad House Guests.

Any house guest stinks after three days, but the Bad House Guests clearly come pre-musked. They’re the kind of people who show up and claim to be friends with one of your roomies, but change the subject when you ask which. They dominate the television and watch The Real World repeats. They eat your Cheetos and leave orange streaks on your drinking glasses. They wet the couch.

Could you imagine letting one of these things stay in your home? Now imagine claiming the “Breathe if you’re horny” jellyfish as your hero, your role model. What does Unicorn Man (who appears to be about 40) say to his perma-adolescent viewers?

“Neigh. I’m an immortal unicorn. Want to play Grand Theft Auto, like, forever?”

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A rather large group of people had gathered for the carnival. They looked like they were in the end stages of a rave (dazed, crazed, spent and wet), but they were valiantly trying to win crappy Adult Swim merchandise in various carnival games.

All of the games were harbingers of the emotional spiral ensured by the couch-wetting lifestyle. There was “Baby vs. Man” (the inner struggle), “Toilet Bowel” (the post-Cheetos physical battle), and a game where you have to climb into the mouth of a giant cat:

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(Maybe this represents the discontented girlfriend?)

So perhaps this whole Adult Swim thing is actually a giant public service announcement.

“Don’t go down this path!” it says. “It will lead to bald loneliness!”

All of the warnings seemed very clear to me, but everyone else was having too much fun to catch them. Maybe I’m just a spoilsport, or a snob. Maybe I’m judging a TV network by an inflataman’s weird crotch bulge.

Or maybe I’m right. Take note, youngsters.

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