Thursday, December 31, 2009

In which some things own but others do not

This post was a toss-up. I was torn between a New Years pop-culture-in-review post, or a fake Prog Metal newsletter written by a psychotic dork. You've drawn Option A, mostly because I'd like to keep that "Correspondence throughout History" post as this blog's high-water mark for Weird Shit. "But Tony, wasn't the 'Lovecraftian demons conquer the world' post weirder?" I thought so too, but people actually liked that one. Clearly I have no idea what's going on.

2009 was a difficult year. Because I try to live my life like a Replicant, I prefer blow everything up and start over again every four years. To pursue this goal, I got rid of my job and my girlfriend and my home. Not that these weren't fine things, but I needed to move on before Harrison Ford showed up at my door and shot me. That guy is an asshole.

Sci-Fi Movies
In 2009 these took a serious upswing. Specifically, District 9 and Avatar dick-slapped the industry and put everyone on notice: things are going to be a little different going forward. Ain't gonna be no Dennis-Quaid-on-a-dark-soundstage bullshit. Things are going to blow up early and often. There will be all kinds of giant space battles. I was going to make one more funny joke here, but I want to save it for the inevitable "Avatar" live diary. So, uhh...BALLS. Hahahahahaha!

Was it really that hard to just throw 'mechs into these movies? Consider this: James Cameron made 'mechs own in 1986. That loading 'mech Sigourney Weaver used to fight the Queen in Aliens? It was made of plastic and metal; it didn't even have weapons on it. And that scene is still give-you-chills amazing 23 years later. It took us this long to get back to heavy 'mech representation in our sci-fi movies? Really? People in Hollywood don't know anything.
Verdict: OWN. This judgment is based on prognostications of 'mech representation in future Hollywood feature films. I expect everything I have just written to be undone by the announcement of a "MechWarrior" film starring Freddie Prinze Jr. "From the team that brought you 'Wing Commander!'"

Toby Gerhart
Thanks to this plucky fellow, white kids the nation over will start begging their Pop Warner coaches to play them at RB! Which the coach will do, until the white kids suck ass and he puts the black kids back in. Because the only thing a white kid can do with a ball (any ball) in his hands is pass it. This is why we (white people) invented Ultimate Frisbee: not only do we hope the lack of a traditional ball throws minorities off the scent, but we created a game where every single player has to be a competent passer. I don't mean to suggest non-whites are stupid or poor passers; simply that white people need all the help we can get. We hope this will give us enough of an edge to hang on, at least for a while. Don't make us play hockey.

Anyway, Toby Gerhart is the best RB in the country. He is the best despite being a white boy playing at a non-power, and playing some of the uniformly deepest competition in the country. Pac-10 schedules leave no room for Montgomery State or whatever joke programs Mark Ingram got to pad his stats against. Despite his historically excellent numbers in both college and high school, Gerhart is not projected as a top draft pick. I'm not sure as to why (hint: HE WHITE) but I'll venture a guess here. Gerhart currently holds the all-time rushing record (9,662 yards) for California high schools. The previous holder of this record was a former NFL RB, one Orenthal James Simpson. Without getting into too much detail, he probably murdered some folks a few years back. And while this doesn't seem to have much to do with Toby Gerhart on the surface, the fact remains that NFL scouts are stat monsters and holders of the California high school rushing record are statistically much more likely to murder people than running backs who don't hold that record. You can't argue with those numbers. So here's hoping you get a shot in the NFL, Toby. Stay away from knives and Al Davis.
VERDICT: OWN. It would be pretty sweet for him to become the first quality white NFL RB since...well, I can't remember and neither can you. That's the point. I also have a secret fantasy that he will slip to the Patriots in the first round, allowing me to root for him even harder, but let's be honest: when your team is lacking explosive skill players, you probably shouldn't be hoping they draft that white RB. Just keeping it real.

Prog Metal

HAH! Found a way to inject my unrelenting dorkery into the proceedings without the cover of a "fake newsletter" motif. Just FYI, I'm declaring this section a pre-emptive OWN because I can do whatever I want. Music's internet age has created an environment where niche genres and bands can make a living for themselves, and we end up with this sort of thing. Mastodon is, along with Green Day, one of only a few major-label acts that still make honest-to-God albums. Of course, they do so in an environment where the "album" has already ceased to be the primary unit by which music is sold. So it's not like they're keeping the idea of albums alive; they're more paying homage to something that's no longer practiced.

The Mastodon song embedded above is the title track from their most recent release--about an astral-projecting crippled kid who loses track of his body and must be summoned back into the world by Rasputin (that's right, the crazy Russian monk). So...that's pretty neat, I guess. Prog music is especially popular with the ladies, just like all those other musical genres where the songs are 7 minutes long and filled with screaming and can't be danced to. It's also quite beard-heavy; you'll notice that the album cover for "Crack the Skye" involves no fewer than three righteous beards. Oh, you only count two? Well that bear's fur covers its chin, and that's a beard. Here's a song (this time with an awesome video) from another major band in the genre--like all really appealing pop songs, it's long as shit and filled with crazy time signatures. Here's the music of Isis to play us! NO! FUCK IT! WE'LL DO IT LIVE! Fucking!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

So I woke up in some blood...

But it turns out it was only mine so everything was okay. I'm not sure exactly what happened; I put on Mutant Chronicles pretty late and next thing I know, Rob is barking at me for grossing up the floor. Which is outrageous; if you'd seen our apartment recently you'd understand. Suffice it to say, it is somewhat overdue for its monthly scrape.

Mutant Chronicles was considerably worse than I anticipated, and this is coming from a guy who not only went to see Doomsday but also owns it on DVD and will fight anybody WITH HIS FISTS WHICH ARE ALSO MY FISTS to safeguard its reputation. This movie can't decide what it wants to be: does it want to be a low-budget straight-to-DVD action romp, as indicated by its 100% blue-screened effects and spaztastic cuts during action scenes? Or does it want to be a big Hollywood "effects-driven event film," as indicated by its hiring of Jon Malkovich for a single scene? I don't really know the answer. Here's what I do know: this movie is now my official Jon Malkovich Conversation Starter.

What does that mean, exactly? Imagine you run into a famous celebrity on the street or at an airport. What is your reaction going to be? I'll tell you what it's gonna be: you're going to do a cartoonish double-take as you realize who that person is, and then you'll hesitate as you ask yourself "Should I talk to him? What should I say?" And then you'll either say nothing, or just gush and say you think that person is awesome and would they sign this napkin for you? The point is, you'll be unprepared and you'll look like a jackass. But if you keep an internal data bank of Celebrity Conversation Starters, you'll never be in this awkward position again! Let me tell a story that illustrates my point:

Last year, I was down in L.A. for BlizzCon with my friend Tim (not you, Tim. The other Tim.) I do this because I have a really great life full of exciting prospects. We went to lunch with a friend in Santa Monica. While looking for a quality restaurant, we rounded a corner and I almost literally bumped into His Imperial Majesty the Governator of SkyNet and California, Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger. I had to take a quick step to avoid the collision (which, let's be honest, probably would have killed me). He was out with his wife, the frigid and terrifying Maria Shriver. A number of thoughts rushed through my head and I will attempt to piece them back together in the order they arrived:
1. "Holy shit that's Arnold Schwarzenegger."
2. "Really? He looks too short." (This was a rookie mistake. Everyone in Hollywood is short as hell. I expected "short as hell" for Ahhnold to mean 6'3". In fact, he was maybe 5'10" in shoes.)
3. "Oh God that's his wife. Avoid her gaze!"
4. "Shit, what do I say? 'Afternoon, Governor?'"
5. "Awww they're gone, what a waste."

That's right, I ran into King Conan of Cimmeria and his gorgon bride and I blew the opportunity. As I munched my Subway foot-long minutes later (GOOD THING WE LOOKED FOR A RESTAURANT FOR 20 FUCKING MINUTES) I knew I'd blown it. When you meet a celebrity, particularly a movie star, you need to immediately reference as many of his embarassing career moments as you possibly can. I shouldn't have mumbled "Afternoon, Governor." I should have yelled, "You need to let off some STEAM!" "Let's kick some ICE!" "What is best in life: To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you and to hear the lamentations of their women!" I bet Maria would have loved that last one.

So that's the idea: whenever you see a truly embarrassing moment by a Hollywood actor, you need to tuck it away in your brain so you can use it to start a conversation in the event that you ever meet him. Because of Mutant Chronicles, I will always be ready for Jon Malkovich. I won't even yell lines from the movie, because honestly he doesn't have a single memorable line. It's the performance I'm interested in: a singularly wretched mail-in that really has to be seen to be believed. I'd ask him, "At what point did you realize this movie was beyond your help? If the deal was for three scenes as opposed to one, would you have still done it? Were the odd looks you and your co-stars exchanged in that one scene 'Holy shit we need to get out of this project ASAP' looks?" It's hard to really criticize Malkovich for being bad in one scene when Tom Jane and Ron Perlman shit it up for two hours, but this guy was in Burn After Reading! I'm supposed to believe his "pauses in dialogue = acting" farce? When I finally come face-to-face with Jon Malkovich on Judgment Day, I will talk Mutant Chronicles and only Mutant Chronicles. Honestly, unless he's going to put the blood back into my ears and eyes--that works, right? If blood comes out of somewhere, you can just pour it back in?--he owes me.

I will say that this movie broke some new ground. I personally have never seen so many people stabbed in the head in a single scene, let alone over the course of an entire film. Understand, the movie's titular mutants are just extras with makeup. They run around in fog (there is always fog in any "mutant" scene) and stab other extras in the head. They have big plastic claws, but it looks like the studio ran out of money so everyone only got one claw. This reminds me of high school, where in Biology class we never had enough money for gloves and every student only got one. The key to success in the dissection unit was finding a partner who was so grossed out that she'd let you use her glove. See, Adrian, I used the pronoun "she" so nobody will know that I'm really talking about your pansy ass. It's our secret.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Hot Christmas Gifts for 2010

I hope everyone's having a nice End-of-Year Holiday Eating Marathon. This is the time of the season when the alien starships hovering in orbit warm up their tractor beams, because in about four days the Harvest will begin. They'll only take a few, mostly from the American South and Samoa just because that's where they grow 'em the biggest. My roommate Rob is classified as veal. Nick is beef jerky that you find three weeks later on the floor of your car. Ultimately, our little rock is just one station on a giant interstellar buffet and our galactic overlords rotate between them. Next up is the pasta bar, but everyone knows to stay away from the pasta bar. A boatload of stomach-filling starches at an all-you-can-eat buffet? IT'S A TRAP!

There are an awful lot of post-Christmas sales going on over the next couple weeks, but I thought we'd get next year's consumerist orgy kicked off in advance. I've read my share of market research and consider myself eminently qualified to comment on emerging consumer trends. So, uhh...put that in your cap and smoke it!

Zhu Zhu Pets: The Bivalve Series
These adorable little saccharine bombs were one of the top gifts of 2009. That's right; as a direct consequence of reading this blog you now have a browser tab entitled "Zhu Zhu Pets Hamster Num Nums." And that wasn't even the joke! We roll pretty deep around here. Anyway, we're taking this to the next level. If kids are falling over themselves to play with toy hamsters, they'll play with anything. Let's be honest: the appeal of hamsters is that they might as well be toys. They are stupid creatures that do nothing besides meet their biological needs and snuffle around. They scamper through tubes if you set them up, but the tubes are really there for your amusement. You haven't changed the hamster's life, you've just provided it with a means to entertain you. Moving from a live hamster to a fake one is different only in that one doesn't eat real food or poop real poop. Next year, we'll take change this up and advance the concept at the same time. Behold the Zhu Zhu Bivalve Series, a series of battery-powered plush toys from across the mollusk family! They feature the latest in adaptive behavior programming; your children will shriek in delight as they watch their little friends feed with realistic plankton-filtering action. The shells for all models (clams, mussels, oysters and scallops) are fully articulated with German-engineered hinges. Every type of sound and movement produced by honest-to-God bivalves is lovingly reproduced here by Zhu Zhu. WARNING: Toys manufactured in the People's Republic of China may contain poison. Like, a lot of poison. This is not illegal in China, but Grandma gets 20 years for dressing up in yellow PJs and stretching in public. Go figure.

A God Damned Cardboard Box
See that kid to the right? That kid is an asshole, because in about 20 minutes that book is gonna be underneath and couch and he'll be playing with the leftover wrapping paper from somebody else's gift. When you get your children nice things, you are wasting your time and money. They can't pay attention to anything for more than 10 minutes unless it's on TV. So why go through with the farce for another year? In 2010, buy A God Damned Cardboard Box, fill it with packing peanuts, wrap it up and put it beneath the tree. The kid will go berserk. All I wanted as a child was really just free license to roll around in styrofoam peanuts, and if I had a giant cardboard box I could have pulled that off without my parents yelling at me. So tap into your inner child and give your screaming pooping outer child something he'll really appreciate. On top of that, stop throwing away your money! Spend it on your spouse, because that person (occasionally, grudgingly) has sex with you. And that's something.

The iPod Clench
Let's face it: with modern advances in technology, things are getting smaller all the time. Ten years ago, a computer twice the size of my current one had a 4GB hard drive and that was pretty freaking amazing. I mean, who's ever gonna even need that much space? There's no way you could even fill that big a hard drive. Nowadays, you can carry your favorite porn star's entire portfolio in HD on a flash drive attached to your keys. For the 2010 holiday season, Apple is pulling out the stops. Behold the iPod Clench, the first-ever MP3 player to be offered in anal suppository form! After years of shipping iPods with cumbersome and unsanitary armbands, Steve Jobs has found the solution in a "streamlined" design. Runners, cyclists and other music lovers with active lifestyles can enjoy their tunes without the hassle of a sweaty slab of neoprene. Much like the popular Shuffle model, the Clench is manipulated via controls on its headphone cord. Don't be the only runner in the park without that trendy bow-legged gait! Lubricating fluid and cordless headphones sold separately.


I'll take some time at the end here to comment on futtbawl. The Indianapolis Colts are a punk-ass organization run by a petty blowhard (Bill Polian) and an empty shell (Jim Caldwell). If somebody accidentally plows into Caldwell on the sidelines, I expect his face to pop open and reveal a wizened little alien at the controls of a diabolical machine a la Men in Black. The decision to tank yesterday's game against the Jets was reprehensible. In the words of Reilly Freeman, "That's a bitch move, Santa!" Understand this: I am a big Patriots fan, and as such I really really really did not want the Colts to go 16-0. But I wanted them to try. New Orleans lost their perfect season to Dallas, but at least they went down fighting. Pulling your offensive starters gradually over the course of the game sends the message that not only are you tanking the game, but you want to avoid criticism for your decision no matter the outcome. I don't even blame Peyton; from the severity of the Manning Face I observed on the sidelines (see above), he wasn't on board with the decision. And no, this isn't defensible from a "this helps them win a title!" perspective. You know why? Because football players can be severely injured in any game at any time. Tom Brady blew out his knee on a routine snap in the first quarter of the first game in 2008. Peyton could have blown out a knee in the fourth quarter of the Jags game last week (where the starters played until the very end). You know what doesn't help you win a title? The same thing that has never helped the Colts win a goddamn title: tanking the end of your season with the attitude that you can just turn it on and off. You'd think with their history of shameful first-round playoff exits (despite resting starters!) they might want to roll the dice with actually playing the game. Indy will host a playoff game on Jan. 10, having not participated in a meaningful contest since Dec. 17th. I hope they choke on it.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Xmas yo

The second half of "A Very Zombie Christmas" is done, published and posted. I hope everyone enjoys it. For ease of reading, I've gone back and added Part 2 to the end of Part 1. They're just one story in one post, but I kept the END PART ONE so it's easy to see where the new material got added. I really believe that Christmas is whatever we want it to be. I hope everyone is having the Christmas they wanted; and failing that, the Christmas they needed. Thanks, Mick Jagger.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Very Zombie Christmas, parts 1 and 2

Jacobs was dead to begin with. There can be no doubt about that. His certificate of death was signed by the doctor, the nurse and his wife. Donny signed it; and Donny’s name was good for anything he put his name to. Except for the 55-inch television, but in Donny’s defense we live in difficult times. The point to take away is this: Jacobs was dead before our story begins. It is important to understand this, or nothing later will make sense.

He was in the cabinet for four hours, though afterwards neither Donny nor anyone else at the hospital could remember exactly. It was two days till Christmas, after all, and no one puts quite the same effort into his work the week of Christmas. He hurried through the business of the day, cataloging a liver failure here and a car wreck there. No attention whatsoever was paid to poor Jacobs, who in his fashion had died without putting everyone to a whole lot of trouble. At the end of the day, Donny pulled on his coat and walked out into the dusk of Christmas Eve with a head clear of worry.

Donny thought nothing of the cold. Day or night, his simple wool coat sufficed. His eyes glittered blue above cheeks flecked with stubble. Passers-by breathed short and shallow into their scarves, and their mouths left patches of gooey damp-smelling rime. Lumps of gray slush cowered in the shaded foundations of buildings. Street lights winked alive and the salt-streaked sidewalks shimmered. Men and women swaddled in dark coats bellowed season’s greetings to one another. Their lungs threw out great plumes of white like steam ships.

It was twenty-six steps from the lawn to his front door; four to the front step and two flights after that. Ingrid had laid a wreath on the door, a real one that had begun its life as an actual plant. It smelled so strongly that Donny was afraid to touch it, knowing his hand would come away sticky and the sticky would last for hours. Through the door and down the hall he marched, taking care to remove to his shoes just inside the doorway, and when the hall ended he stepped into kaleidoscopic light.

Yellow and orange flared like the sunset and dimmed, making way for blue and purple and the night sky. Green came next and Ingrid was wrapped around him with the sweet-sour smell of thick wool. The tree squatted along the west wall of apartment—a malformed but quite well-needled shrub of a thing standing maybe two-and-a-half feet—and in truth it did not look out of place. The apartment was itself a tiny affair, kitchen and living room and bedroom all in the same wide-open space. A tall, wide counter and a layer of worn formica demarked the kitchen’s boundary and a curtain was strung across the alcove into which they’d wedged the bed. The tree’s irregular boughs were laden with baubles and lights, so many that the poor appendages sagged comically under the weight of them.

“I know I was going to wait, but I got impatient and put the lights up anyway.”

“It looks great.” She laughed at this.

“It looks as good as it’s going to look.”

“I sawed that tree with my own two hands off of the tumor-like growth on the side of another tree. It is a sacred relic of the Winter Solstice.”

“It’s actually pretty cute, isn’t it? In a Charlie Brown kind of way.”

Donny kissed the top of her head and opened his mouth as though to say something, and then his stomach dropped. The blood rushed to his face and he patted Ingrid’s back as he broke from her embrace.

“I forgot something.”

“What is it?”

“I forgot your present at work. I have to go back. I know exactly where it is.”

“You already got me something! You put it under the tree.”

“It’s something else.” He was headed down the hall already.

“You can do this later!”

“I love you!” And he was out the door. She heard it close and the apartment was silent. “WELL, YOU BETTER HAVE GOTTEN ME SOMETHIN’ GOOD!” she yelled, to nobody in particular.

He jogged back to the hospital. With two strong legs beneath him and an irritated girlfriend behind, to say nothing of the winter night, this was an obvious choice. The streets were emptying out as the last few miserable drudges who couldn’t get Christmas Eve off filtered home. The last holiday shoppers went with them and all who remained were the patience-drained employees of the retail stores who’d stayed open late. At last he came to the broad grey expanse of the hospital, dotted with windows and lit outside and in with clinical white. A pair of police cruisers sat on the curb outside the front doors.

The front lobby was empty and most of the lights were off. Donny made his way to the elevators and got in a car headed down. “The Little Drummer Boy” was playing, and Donny recalled a time long ago when he had seen David Bowie singing it along with an old fellow named Bing Crosby. Donny didn’t know who Bing Crosby was, but he had a nice voice and he had the look of someone who could have been famous long ago. A chime sounded, the doors opened and Donny took a right down a long corridor.

At the end of the corridor a woman in a hospital gown lay face-down. Donny ran over to her and dropped to a knee. There was quite a lot of blood on the floor beneath her. He yelled for help. She wasn’t moving and her still eyes were half-lidded. Donny felt as though he should search for a pulse, but he had no desire to touch her. He yelled again and heard nothing back. There was a telephone in his office, twenty yards down the hall and not five feet from where Ingrid’s gift lay.

When he got there he saw the door was ajar. The frame was damaged and splintered; the catch assembly lay discarded in a cloud of jagged splinters. He peered into the darkened morgue and might have gone inside had he not heard movement. When he looked up she was already on her feet, her weight shifting from one foot to the other. She brought glassy eyes to rest on him, and it was here that a truly remarkable thing happened. We take a moment here to recognize it because it is something seldom seen. For Donny did not live his life in a fantasy world, some conjured parallel reality where films and books and stories never once imagined a phenomenon such as the one he now faced. No; he immediately saw the situation exactly as it was. This woman, whose bloody form he’d just stepped over, was on her feet and advancing towards him. She did so with a glassy stare, slack jaw and unnatural gait. Her arms and hands were adorned with bloody scrapes, none more gruesome than a yawning wound in her shoulder which was not scabbed over yet did not bleed. This, Donny knew immediately, was a fucking zombie.

It’s fortunate that Donny understood the situation before him, because that knowledge immediately had an effect on his decision-making. Whereas a typical person observing another person in distress might approach and try to render assistance, Donny immediately moved away from this poor woman and tried to find something with which to hit her. He quickly laid his hands on a fire extinguisher, liberating it from its spot on the wall and gripping it upside-down by the nozzle. The woman continued her slow, deliberate advance. As he prepared to swing, his mind raced. He’d never engaged in any real violence, certainly had never killed anyone, and honestly doubted whether he’d even be capable. Is it difficult to bring someone down that way? What if he had to beat her for a long time? Surely there had to be some kind of optimal technique. He was out of time. Red bubbles ran down her chin, forced from her throat by ragged breathing. He pulled the heavy red cylinder back, took a breath and swung.

The blow connected with such surprising force that his hands slipped a little from their purchases. A wet crack sounded in the corridor, and as a softer ffssshhh as the extinguisher’s nozzle erupted all over Donny’s pants. The creature went down in a heap with the slightest of gurgles. It had been easy; stupidly easy, in fact. Donny dropped the extinguisher, and with his bare hands he began to wipe the cold odd-smelling foam off his jeans.

It was very cold in the morgue. You misunderstand; obviously, being a morgue, it was kept cold at all times. But a window had also been smashed and the winter breeze was swirling inside the room. It had begun to snow and the flakes were a fine dust on every surface. It was an unholy mess in the office, with papers and equipment strewn about the room and the wounded door hanging by a hinge out into the hall. The lights responded when Donny flipped the switch, but he got only a busy signal on the phone. He dropped to a squat—at this point, he had every intention of grabbing the present and running—and his heart sank once again. Without thinking he began to run his hands along the undersides of shelves, as though somehow he thought he’d gone blind, but it wasn’t there to be found. The reader will be spared the list of expletives that burst forth from our hero’s mouth; suffice it to say these were not emotions lightly felt.

Who could have taken it? And why? He had left after all his colleagues. There simply wasn’t an explanation, for this or for the creature he’d dispatched out in the corridor. Donny stormed about the morgue, casting about for answers, and it was then that his eyes lighted on an odd sight. The cabinets were open; not all of them, not even most of them, but by his frantic count there were a dozen. They were empty and it was not difficult for him to scry out what had happened. He turned to the broken window and peered out. Most of the glass had been knocked out of the frame, clearly by an individual trying to escape, and black rivulets of frozen blood ran down the walls. On the floor lay a white card, dabbed in blood and attached to a broken string of elastic. It must have come off while the creature struggled in the window frame. Donny picked it up and read the name: JACOBS, RICHARD.

Bloody footprints led away through the dusting of snow that fell and continued to fall. Red and blue lights flashed on the spotty white surface. He could hear sirens. Taking a heavy blanket from the supply closet, Donny laid it down over the window frame and gingerly made his way through to the outside. The tracks led across the lawn and down to the road. As that snowy Christmas Eve set the stage for the first white Christmas in a decade—an exciting fact which would lead off the local news that night—Donny set out to keep a promise he didn’t really make to someone who didn’t really want him to keep it.


Donny made his way through darkened streets. Police cruisers roared by him headed in the other direction, towards the hospital, which he decided could only be a positive thing. Because there had indisputably been a zombie in the hospital, however it had come to be, and Lord only knew how many others there were. The cabinets were not encouraging and he counted himself truly lucky to have gotten away with a single swing of the fire extinguisher. As his damp jeans attested, the business of killing zombies was not a business for Donny. He found it curious that such a creature would have any use for Ingrid’s gift, wrapped up as it was with iridescent blue paper and gold ribbons, but there was no better explanation. There were only the footprints, fading step-by-step as the creature’s bleeding slowed but unmistakable in the deepening snow.

They wound their way, staggering and uneven but never meandering, into a residential neighborhood within earshot of the sirens. Jacobs, it turned out, did not live far from the hospital where he'd spent his final days—as well as a few hours afterwards. The blood was all but gone from the prints when they veered through a lawn and up to a doorstep, as though the creature had been taken by a powerful and sudden fancy. Donny walked up to the door; like his own, it was gaily wreathed, but the driving snow and cold kept the scent of pine tar from his nose. Bright yellow light poured through small panes of glass like molten butter. Neighbors' houses fairly buzzed with electricity as lights flashed and spun. Across the street eight twinkling constellations hauled a neon sleigh and a glowing red Santa Claus drive them merrily onward. The Jacobs house was, by contrast, quite dark and spartan; a few fistfuls of blue lights lay strewn atop the hedge row by the door, and somehow they only made the scene more gloomy. Donny felt terrible at once for thinking this, as he imagined in the last few unhappy days of Richard Jacobs' life there had been no time to adorn his home. He even imagined Jacobs' fate had come as a punishment, some kind of macabre divine retribution for a life of insufficient Christmas displays, and he counted himself lucky that Ingrid had taken the initiative to decorate the tree. What if he had perished that very evening with a tree left un-decorated, and been forced by the circumstances into an eternal twilight? It was nearly as ridiculous a thought as the one that had led him out of that window back at the hospital and there, he knew, lay the danger. In the corridor with his fire extinguisher, he had behaved as one is supposed to behave towards a zombie: one is supposed to stave its head in and run. One is never meant to pursue it to its original place of residence and attempt to retrieve a holiday gift from it.

Donny took the brass knocker, so cold it burned his skin white, and rapped twice. After a moment's hesitation he rapped once more, as though anyone inside might believe that two strokes were an accident of the wind while three were not. A silent stillness followed and he stood perfectly still with a knot in his stomach, as though he were a child selling cookies door-to-door. Muffled footsteps sounded inside and the door opened. Light poured out into the snow and soaked into it like buttered grits. A thin woman, perhaps as old as his own mother with deep lines in a serious face, peered out the portal.

"Can I help you?"

"Yeah, hey, my name's Donny and, uhh,"--how does one approach this?--"well, I think there's been a mix-up."

"What kind of mix-up?"

"I don't really know how to put it." He thought furiously. "Is there an extra present here? I think it's mine, because I lost one."

She stood up straight and breathed in, all at once, and became a different creature entirely. There was a sudden edge to this woman, something she'd kept hidden to this point, and Donny's heart began to thump in his ears.

When she spoke, it was apparent that she was choosing her words carefully. "Would you like to come in? We're about to sit down. Have you eaten?"

"To tell you the truth, ma'am, I've got a meal waiting for me at home. I've just got to find this box. I don't know if you've seen--"

"The blue one," she interrupted. "I wondered about it. You'd better come inside." He obliged.

Inside the house looked much like his parents'. There was an abundance of photographs framed and mounted in the foyer. They were portraits, family mementos hearkening ie ack to a time everyone agreed to agree was just a little simpler. The lighting was bright but cozy, the wallpaper's floral print faded with age. He heard the scrape of chair legs on tile and a man about his own age stepped out around a corner from the dining room.

"Mom, who's this?"

"Your father picked up something of his by mistake. The blue box. Will you go get it?"

"My father--"

"Please, Tim. Everything will be all right. Get the box for me? I think I put it under the tree. I didn't know what else to do!" She beamed at Donny, who did his best who smile back. The woman walked into the dining room herself, beckoning Donny to follow, and it was then that his blood ran cold.

The creature was seated at the dining room table. It wore a robe and its mouth hung open, a thin strand of drool stretching down to the table, and its blue eyes stared holes in the wall. Fresh gauze bandages adorned its hands and legs. There was very little blood on them. Donny recoiled and the old woman laid her hands on his shoulder, which caused him to twist away from her as well. When he spoke it came out much faster than he meant it to.


"Calm down, son. He's okay. We're all okay."

"What the fuck is that?"

"It's my husband."

"Lady, that's a zombie. It's a fucking zombie and I alreadykilledoneandit'sgonnafuckingkillusifwedon't--"

"Settle down! If he's here, he's okay."


"If he's here, with me in this house, he's okay. Harmless."

"I heard you! I meant 'what,' like, 'are you fucking crazy.' Because that is a zombie."

"I know what it is. It's here because of me. Now, pipe down while I explain."

"I don't want to know."

"He's my husband. He's Tim's father--Tim's our son. I won't tell you everything, but I will tell you that it's because of me. Not that he's dead, that he's like this. I didn't know what would happen. It was a mistake."

"No. No, there were others. I saw them. I killed one, I think. She fell down. I don't really know how it works."

"God, I'm sorry. That sounds awful, I can't imagine. The spell--it seems so silly, using that word--it wasn't as precise as I thought. It's a big thing, you know? And it's become a mess." It was then that Tim walked in with the box.

It was gorgeous, even with the paper torn in places. Jacobs' indelicate fist had crumpled a corner as well. The paper showed no water damage from the snow, and in fact it gleamed and bent the light just as it had in the store while the resentful cashier folded it. It rested comfortably in the other man's arms, and as Tim tilted it into Donny's waiting grasp he rejoiced in its comforting weight. It was here in his hands--the thing he wanted most in the world that night--and in a moment he would walk out the door with it to make his way home. He hoped he could flag down a cab or find a bus late on Christmas Eve. It would really suck to walk home.

"What's he doing?" Tim asked his mother.

"I'm going home. But I have a question. What's your name?"


"I'm Donny."

"You told me already."

"Okay. How'd you do it? I can't imagine how anybody'd pull off that kind of...I don't know, ritual? Incantation? Because you want to bring somebody back from the dead? Which really shouldn't have worked. Can you do magic? Was this an accident? Why did a zombie steal my girlfriend's Christmas present? I don't understand!"

She opened her mouth as if to respond, then closed it and smiled. After a moment, she appeared to collect her thoughts and said, "I don't think it was anything you'd call magic. I wanted something very badly. I wanted this Christmas very badly and I think sometimes when you
want something badly enough...well, I don't know. Maybe it changes things."

Tim and Lacey led Donny back out to the front door. Outside the snow was still coming down, nearly ankle-deep by this late hour. Ingrid was going to be furious. He thanked the Jacobs family for their time and wished them a Merry Christmas.

"Hey, what's in the box?" asked Tim. "You went through some shit to get it."

"It's a pair of speakers!" Donny answered gaily. "Surround-sound enabled, and they've got the subs built right into them so you don't need a separate unit! These things will blow your ears off." Tim nodded in appreciation. Donny turned to Lacey.

"Why'd you do it? What pushed you so far?"

"Well...think of it this way. What would you do if you lost the most important thing in the world?"

It was a simple question with an obvious answer. "I'd try to get it back."

The door swung shut. All around him snow fell like powdered sugar.

A dark bargain

Here's how this is going down: there will be no Wednesday update this week. Instead, I'm working on a big Christmas two-parter that will go up Thursday and Friday. You're deferring your enjoyment for one day in exchange for a holiday mega-post, and you'll still get your three updates. Deal? Well, tough shit because you don't own me. I'm an adult.

If you're not a regular reader, check out the archives or the rest of the front page. And make this blog appointment viewing, because the Christmas updates are going to melt your face off. That's what people want out of Christmas, right? Melted faces? Sure.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The State of the Union, 2019 edition

Merry Solstice Holiday, my fellow citizens! Another year has come to an end--the fifth since the Great Awakening. How time flies! It seems like only yesterday we were debating the merits of universal health care, obsessing over trivia and mourning the deaths of minor Hollywood actresses. Has it really been eight years since the throne of our mighty overlords lifted itself from the depths of the sea? Life can be genuinely confusing these days and we thought we'd provide a digestible run-down of the year in current events.

Our nation has changed in many ways since the Awakening, but the State of the Union address is an enduring tradition. President Yog-Sothoth changed it up by delivering the first-ever speech broadcast by telepathy! For previous addresses, the Beyond-One simply touched the minds of blind scribes who transmitted His will to the rest of the Earth. This year, owing to an unexpected shortage of blind scribes not already driven mad by His Yogness, adaptations were necessary. Broadcasting the speech on television was ruled out, as cameras attempting to capture the image of Yog-Sothoth are notorious for melting. The networks were willing to compromise, but ultimately nobody was willing to foot the hefty equipment bills. The President eventually settled on the telepathic option, though the decision was not without controversy. The Madness rate is up 3.2% over the last year--as high as 5% depending on whose poll numbers you believe--and opponents take this as an indication that the telepathic broadcast had negative consequences. Supporters point out that this uptick is fundamentally in line with the inflation number for the past year. On this issue at least, the jury appears to be out.

This month saw one of the more subdued Valentine's Days in recent history. Surgeon-General Shub-Niggurath's "horror-only" sex education program has been universally adopted in public schools for some time now and Administration sources say it has begun to pay dividends. "A generation of American adults has grown up with the appropriate attitude towards sex," says an HHS spokesman. "They see it as an extension of the daily terrors with which we are surrounded. The meeting of a penis and a vagina is, let's face it, pretty horrible. We're conditioned by our hormones to see this as a positive thing, but really few things could be more appalling. All the hair, the fluids, the slapping noises--to say nothing of the horror of childbirth! Secretary Shub-Niggurath wants a poster of her Thousand Young in every classroom in America, saying 'this is what could happen if you have sex.' Chlamydia may not scare students straight, but the cries of ten thousand black toothless mouths sure do!"

Congress approves funding for an Exploratory Committee on Madness. Over the next six months, the committee would hold hearings and investigate the root causes of the so-called Madness Epidemic. Cable news explodes as experts debate the issue. Public opinion remains divided: at least two-thirds of Americans personally know someone who's gone mad, yet 55% of them "agree" or "strongly agree" with the statement, "There is no Madness problem in America today."

Spring arrives to the chirping of birds and the moaning of twisted abominations! Secretary-of-the-Interior-cum-Oriental-mystic Tenzing Rashaar-Sabul posts warning signs in a number of National Parks in anticipation of the big Summer rush. There have been increasing reports of Shoggoth sightings on Federal land, and the Department of the Interior assures Americans it takes the safety of visitors to National Parks very seriously. The signs advise tourists to keep their distance from these dangerous creatures. If cornered by a Shoggoth, you are advised to throw large objects at it. The beast may attempt to absorb them into its foul body, giving you time to escape. Do not attempt to drive it off with prayer or eldritch sorcery, as these are likely to anger it and escalate the situation.

Dan Brown releases his latest novel. In it, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon pursues the mystery of a treasure lost for centuries and protected by a web of lost secrets and dark conspiracies. He plows at least one exotic hottie during the book, and resolves any mysterious situation with just the right combination of can-do machismo and quiet sensitivity. Female readers love his confidence and determination, but they also respect his intellect. They know he'd protect them from harm and resolve their various crises, but he'd also take them on vacation to Florence and read them poetry on the Ponte Vecchio. He is perfect.

In other news, Yog-Sothoth reads Dan Brown's latest novel. Mr. Brown is found in the green room of The View having mysteriously bled to death through his own eyeballs. The paramedics who handle his body eventually go mad.

The hottest Summer on record kicks off. Despite his almost limitless power, the Beyond-One cannot force people to abandon fossil fuels. Global warming's latest casualty is the magnificent algal growth at the Dead City of Rlyeh. Yog-Sothoth's seat of power, submerged for millenia beneath the raging waves of the South Pacific, is coated completely in a layer of lush green algae and it's gotten dry in the suffocating heat. Ultimately, the United States Navy is deployed to Rlyeh so its aircraft can drop huge amounts of water on the city. This massive re-deployment of our military forces fundamentally alters our global priorities, and the war in Afghanistan ends almost overnight.

Greenpeace protesters journey to Rlyeh en masse in order to protest the Navy's water-displacement efforts. Yog-Sothoth is amused by their struggles and for a time he tolerates the dissenters. After nine days--what His Yogness determined to be a sufficiently "metal" waiting period--Mighty Cthulhu is loosed from his tomb. He lays waste to the entire Greenpeace fleet, but also destroys the bulk of the United States Navy in the process. Left-wing commentators on the cable news channels are horrified and say the Right has gone soft on sea monsters. Right-wing commentators admonish the Left for questioning the Commander-in-Chief's military prerogatives. Dick Cheney goes on national television and says if he had his druthers we would have deployed sea monsters regularly during the Bush years. Money quote: "we'd have showed those whiners in New Orleans a thing or two about maritime disasters."

Celebrations erupt across the globe as the world celebrates the anniversary of the Great Awakening, when Rlyeh was raised from the sea. Geologists concur: this event was directly caused by the magnitude 8.3 earthquake off the coast of Chile that year. A shifting of tectonic plates brought the Dead City out of the water and awakened the ancient beings entombed therein. Yog-Sothoth was a late entrant into that year's Presidential race, but nonetheless managed to win a popular majority in a chaotic political environment. Even now, former President Obama acknowledges, "we weren't prepared for the arrival of such a compelling third-party candidate, certainly not that late in the race. Honestly, I have to say looking back that we weren't adequately prepared for the Sothoth camp's talking points on the stimulus. If the job numbers had come up, that might have changed things. But our efforts were too little, too late."

Talk shows explode after an embarassing gaffe by Press Secretary Nyarlathotep. Specifically, the Secretary made the mistake of acknowledging a link between the Sothoth administration and the rising incidence of madness. On a contentious Meet the Press, Nyarlathotep stated in response to a question, "the numbers for staffers coming out of Rlyeh are surprising. I certainly wouldn't go so far as to say that working there leads to madness, because I don't think the data bears that out, but the numbers make it hard to, uhh, to just dismiss these concerns out of hand. It's something we're discussing." After the public outcry, the Secretary clarified his remarks weren't intended to suggest President Sothoth was in some way responsible for the trend. "I was referring to the possibility, referenced in numerous scientific journals, that the unusual geometry, layout and architecture of the Dead City contributed to these findings. It is also possible that the isolation of a South Pacific city inhabited by the hideous thralls of The Mighty and Infinite Yog-Sothoth contributes. We just don't know right now. There is no scientific consensus."

The New York Yankees win the World Series in five games. Their payroll for the 2019 season was $624M. President Yog-Sothoth, perhaps the world's most preeminent Yankee fan, reaches out telepathically to the Yankees' manager to congratulate him on the victory. He is reduced to gibbering lunacy but retains his job. Says team President Hank Yog-Steinbrenner, "We've got twelve of the top fifteen players in the league. Hell, we play in the American League. I don't see our coaching as a limiting factor going forward."

The Exploratory Committee on Madness releases its findings. They are delivered as a single volume, hand-written in a water-damaged leatherbound journal. The journal's first twelve pages are filled with intricate fractal patterns and arcane symbology. The next twenty-four pages are written in an unknown language, which uses fundamentally European characters but is devoid of both vowels and straight lines. The only legible passage is the acknowledgement: "Thanks to our friends and families for their patience. Special thanks to The Limitless Yog-Sothoth, without whose cooperation and efforts this report could not have succeeded." All members of the committee vanish within 24 hours; only their still-warm clothes are found, stained with black ichor. These events are regarded as suspicious but not terribly sinister.

One of the toughest holiday seasons in recent memory. The consumer economy seems to be very much in flux, as traditional Christmas gifts like high-end electronics are shunned in favor of heavy coats and heavy metal albums. The global economy staggers under the weight of this re-alignment, as well as the fact that a significant portion of the world's population no longer possess the faculties to earn or spend money. These people would be an even greater burden on American society, but with the rousing success of the Death Panels championed by the President the wheat can keep the chaff at arm's length. In sporting news, the Oakland Raiders continued their domination of the NFL and advanced to 12-2. Team owner Al Davis, currently splitting his time between Northern California and Rlyeh, attributes his team's resurrection in recent years to the inspiration of the world's new overlords. "I'm over there all the time and it can get pretty wild," crows Davis. The longtime football luminary, sporting a full head of dark hair, feels a close kinship with those in power. "We really get each other. It's one of those relationships where you were always meant for each other but never had the chance to meet. I couldn't be happier with the direction things are going."

Friday, December 18, 2009

In which we explore the motivations of Pokemon

As anyone who's made his way to our house in the last week or so knows, we've gotten into some Smash. I insist that Melee was the best game, but this is something about which reasonable people can disagree. Similarly, character selection is a intensely personal affair. For many people it's about throwing power or speed or attack priority. For my roommate Rob, it's about selecting a character who can bail him out of as many mistakes as possible (floaters). For me, it's all about attitude.

This little dude is by far my favorite. Understand, I started playing as Pikachu way back in the day because I was terrible at the game. Pikachu was the most logical choice of character because he was awesome both in victory and in defeat. If you win with Pikachu, you have some of the most adorable taunt animations ever created by Japanese people at your disposal. Hell, if he wins a match he's been known to lie down and take a nap on the post-fight summary screen! And if you get your ass kicked as Pikachu? Still adorable as his Doppler-shifted PIIIKKAAAAAA-shriek hangs in the arena air like dust motes.

It's more than that, though. Pika is adorable, but he's still a badass. Most of the characters in this game come from candy-ass backgrounds. The Mushroom Kingdom? Really? Well, Pikachu here has spent his whole life in the murderous gladiatorial arenas of Pokemon Stadium. He's seen shit that would turn you white. Don't let the idyllic smile on his face fool you; his only thoughts are of death. Look for a moment into his eyes; those black, lidless shark eyes. There is no soul in there; there is a creature who lives from one kill to the next. The moments that define his life are ephemeral: the quiet before the match begins, and the roar after. The flash of lightning and the moment of the kill. When he calls down that thunderbolt to pluck Kirby from the air, to lance him like a butterfly under glass; only in that precious moment is Pikachu truly alive. When his opponent's last breath slides out her mouth and into his like a desperate promise.

Captain Falcon is also a favorite. Although they made him really bad in Brawl ("Your attacks no longer have priority over anything. Have fun.") the character isn't something I'm going to drop because of petty balance changes. Those are for people who would rather win than rock. What draws me to Captain Falcon is his versatility and can-do attitude. You hear his name and see his moves and you assume he must be some kind of fire-oriented superhero. Not so! He's just a racecar driver; he pilots his F-Zero thingamajig and that's how he makes his paper. That's how he gets them stacks. However, it's not enough. This may be his professional calling, but the universe demands something greater and so he assumes the mantle. With moves like the Knee of Justice and the Long Arm of the Law, he demonstrates his mastery of both ground and sky. The mighty Falcon Punch might draw some laughs, but I love the statement it makes. Falcon says, "I am gonna load up the biggest goddamn punch you've ever seen, and with the power of fire I will cleanse the holy fuck out of this little space directly in front of me. That space will be cleansed utterly. If you happen to be standing in it when this happens, woe betide you."

Well, he doesn't literally say it. Like the boys in Spinal Tap, he doesn't literally mean it either. He literally says "Falcooon PAAAAWNCH!!!" because he's inhaled an awful lot of F-Zero exhaust in his time. Those things basically run on raw mercury, so you can imagine Falcon's mental condition at this point in this life. He wears the mask to cover up the fact that he can't move one side of his face. He had a wife once, but that same mercury poisoning led to a string of monstrous stillbirths and one day she just took off. Even the Captain couldn't really blame her. But still, every day he's in the ring throwing nerfed Falcon Kicks around the place. It's all he has to live for. Even if they worry for him, his trainers can't pull him out. It's all he has to live for.


I have very little desire to talk about Eldrick Woods, but since he keeps losing sponsors I'll chip in. I've never cheated on anybody, but I would have nailed all 14 (more? I haven't really been paying attention) of those chicks. It's not even a question of morality or honesty, because I'm not the sort of person who's motivated by chasing tail. Just not a part of my personality. But still, I would have done it. You would have too. I don't think most people realize this: if you are a famous megamillionaire, particularly a professional athlete who is instantly recognizable anywhere in the world, you will have gorgeous women throwing themselves at you all the time. Every day, every night, every minute, temptation will be punching you directly in the nuts. I don't see how anyone could be expected to hold up under those conditions. Consider this: most human beings wouldn't be able to keep themselves from eating a bag of M&Ms if you put it in front of them. I see people smoking cigarettes and eating fast food and taking drugs every day. If the vast majority of people on the planet can't resist these petty temptations, how the hell can anyone be expected to deal with Big League Temptation on a daily/nightly/hourly basis? Honestly, they can't be.

Unless you are his wife, who has what could charitably be described as a "legitimate beef," don't dump on Tiger. So what if the man sees a Bennigan's wait staff the same way a shark views a bucket of chum?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Live diary: "Inglourious Basterds"

I was pretty excited to see this movie in theaters. But I didn't because I needed those $10 to buy pornography and drugs. Hah! I'm just kidding, nobody buys porn. The last live diary was pretty well-received so you guys have earned yourself another one. Pat yourselves on the back; you did good. The biggest revelation after all was said and done, without spoilers: the bearded steely-eyed French dude in the first scene gets more lines and face time than Brad Pitt does through 3/4 of the movie. All right, let's get it on. As always, time stamps are from the theatrical release and begin with the start of the credits.

0:20 Sorry to join you so late, but the first thing just happened! Some Germans killed some Jews and a teenaged girl (who will probably be a major character later) escaped. I'm not sure I had to sit through 15 minutes of colorful expository dialogue just to determine that Nazis Are Evil, but I'm glad we made the journey together.

0:22 Cut to Brad Pitt talking to the entire cast of the movie about their upcoming mission. There is no preamble or introduction. After the first scene, I'm inclined to believe a good chunk of the script got lost.

0:23 I'm not entirely sure why the U.S. Army has assembled a squad of ultimate badasses with the ultimate mission of torturing and murdering some inconsequential German infantry grunts. Brad Pitt talks a good game about the evil the Nazis are and how the enemy will think of their Torture Squad when they do evil things, but here's my question (and I honestly don't know the answer): how much day-to-day evil was the average Nazi soldier in occupied France responsible for? From everything I've learned about the military, it's essentially 90% sitting around and waiting for something to happen. I'd bet your average German soldier in the French countryside had a weekly Evil Quotient of about 0.83. Put in more conventional terms, this is the equivalent of inappropriately touching one barnyard animal every 5 days.

0:25 Props to Mr. Tarantino for not extending his German dialogue past my high school German education. Nice slow delivery, too.

0:27 I guess Brad Pitt's Jew Squad has already been operating for months by the time this scene happens. 5 minutes into "Chapter 2" of the movie, we've progressed through months of activity. 5 minutes into "Chapter 1," a sweaty French dude was still washing his face. Pacing!

0:28 Brad Pitt is a famous actor and all that, but does he really deserve that much credit considering that all of his characters are a) badasses, b) goofballs or c) both? I'll give you a minute to think about that. You could do his job, if only you were that good-looking. But you're an ugly hump and have no chance.

0:28 Sweet guitar riff for Stieglitz. Sold.

0:33 They talk a lot about Eli Roth's character, who is famous for braining Nazis with a baseball bat. My first thought was, "is this really so intimidating?" but then I remembered that Nazis are, fundamentally, video game henchmen. They fear melee combat more than anything else, and that's why they're quaking in their boots.

0:34 Eli Roth is the most fearsome 5'10" 180lb Jew I've ever seen! I see he and Zachary Quinto see the same eyebrow specialist. Also, he is from Boston; in case you couldn't tell from his second, fourth and fifth Fenway references. The first and third were pretty subtle, I'll give Quentin that.

0:40 There sure are a lot of reasonable German soldiers who speak good French.

0:50 The director of "Chapter 1" is apparently the director of "Chapter 3" as well. I understand most of the German and I'm still bored out of my mind. You don't get to throw APACHE ALDO RAINE at me one scene and then expect me to tolerate 10 minutes of pedestrian expository dialogue in French.

0:51 Oh lord, Dr. Goebbels is speaking in German which is being interpreted into French and subtitled in English. My head is filled with ache and bore.

0:54 Just in case you weren't completely aware that the woman in Chapter 3 is the fleeing girl from Chapter 1, Mr. Tarantino threw in a flashback to something we saw 45 minutes ago. Which might be okay if the original shot hadn't been pretty freaking dramatic to begin with. I get it, just keep this beast moving.

0:58 After some momentary excitement, we are returned to lengthy subtitled dialogue. We learn many things, like how this woman has a black projectionist at her movie theater and how the Nazis don't approve! They are racists, you see.

1:00 The Evil SS Colonel just extinguished his cigarette in an apple strudel. I could handle the racism, but it burns my blood to see quality baked goods defiled in this fashion.

1:02 Sammy L as narrator: yes. A thousand times yes.

1:05 Thank God, Chapter 4. I wondered where Quentin Tarantino got to.

1:06 I lied, he's still not back. Lengthy discussion of film theory between some Brits and Mike Myers in the most underwhelming cameo since Jack Nicholson appeared in "The Departed."

1:08 So Brad Pitt's guys are legendary in Germany (who would have every reason to cover up their activities) but Allied soldiers (who would have every reason to be told about their activities) have never heard of them.

1:13 Why is it necessary to develop the characters of random-ass German soldiers when the entire construction, development and deployment of the titular Basterds got only 30 seconds of Brad Pitt drawl?

1:19 Stieglitz demonstrates the great strength of the German people: getting shit done by yelling.

1:24 This scene keeps rolling on but violence is inevitable. Stieglitz is hankering for a shankering.

1:26 Okay, this is Tarantino. But it's not glib/violent/awesome Tarantino; rather, it's the self-indulgent-dialogue Tarantino. Remember the scene in Kill Bill vol. 2 where David Carradine prattles on about comics forever? It takes forever for Uma Thurman to get her ass in gear and hang him naked in his closet.

1:29 Oh hey, they have those neat boot glasses from "Beerfest!"

1:32 Finally violence. Solid.

1:34 Brad Pitt and German Soldier have a conversation about the meaning of "Mexican Standoff" and waste an opportunity for comedy. For shame.

1:40 The name of the big kill-the-Nazis-in-a-theater plan is Operation Kino. "Kino" is a German word for movie theater. The secrecy is imprenetrable.

1:45 This super-secret Nazi-killing squad not only left three of their dead comrades in a shot-up bar for the Germans to find, but they also left two pieces of evidence which clearly incriminate their secret contact. No wonder they've been able to operate absolutely undetected for months behind enemy lines.

1:48 I caught myself wondering why Quentin didn't get Uma Thurman in this movie like he does with all his others. But then I realized that the woman playing Shoshanna (the young Jewish woman who flees in the first scene) looks exactly like a shorter Uma. She's also in love with her projectionist, who's black. Controversial! In fact, so controversial that their relationship is entirely implied. They kiss once in the whole movie; that's it. Yet we are subjected to the life story of some German soldier in the cellar/bar scene who gets shot in that very scene.

1:51 "The Bear Jew," legendary terror of the Allied Armies, who had a whole scene devoted to his notoriety, is standing in the middle of dozens of German officers without being noticed. On the other hand, Brad Pitt speaking Italian more than makes up for the missed "mexican standoff" opportunity.

1:53 Brad Pitt stands around making a funny face. He's been in like four scenes and all of them appeared in the trailer.

2:03 The SS Colonel is by far the best character in this movie. He's had more quality lines than every other character combined. From here on out I'm switching sides and rooting for him.

2:04 Brad Pitt sounds like Matthew McConaughey on Vicodin.

2:05 The whole "Little Man" joke is actually funny despite B.J. Novak not having a real character or even really getting a speaking role until now. Imagine how funny this might be if we actually gave a shit about his character or even heard him speak before this scene. Seriously, how do you fill a whole movie with badass characters, even give them nicknames, then ignore them completely?

2:07 These Americans are such jerks. They're all focused on killing and toughness and Saving the World, but all the SS guy wants to do is work things out.

2:16 Watching a movie based on his combat exploits is more horrifying to this young German war hero than the actual exploits. Pathos!

2:19 But now he's yelling at Almost Uma Thurman. Anti-pathos! But now she shot him. Pathos! But now he shot her and they're dead. I'm confused.

2:24 Eli Roth just shot Hitler. With a gun. It was about as anticlimactic as the actual death of Hitler.

2:28 Still sympathizing with the SS Colonel. Why'd Brad Pitt have to kill his buddy? The whole swastika-scar thing was fair.

2:29 I was wondering where the last Brad Pitt clip from the trailers would be in the movie. Turns out it's right at the end, letting us bat 1000 on those scenes. Officially, every scene featuring Brad Pitt appeared in the fucking trailer. All five of them. This movie was totally about the SS guy. Hell, the total number of Nazi soldiers killed in this movie couldn't have been more than a couple dozen. Hundreds of Nazi civilians were killed, and uhhh...I guess that's something. It's kind of what made the Nazis evil in the first place, massacring civilians, but who am I to judge?

There are some unfortunate gaps, especially near the end of the movie. Those were filled with straightforward plot development--which was kind of boring, but a welcome change of pace from all the intensely boring other scenes. When the SS Officer or Brad Pitt aren't on-screen hamming it up, there's nothing going on here. It's the self-indulgent execution of a plot that might have been conceived in the head of a seventh-grade boy studying for his Bar Mitzvah. From all of us at "We Drop Things," thanks for reading.

Monday, December 14, 2009

News Round-Up

It's not every day you wake up, fire up the Google news aggregator and are treated immediately to some front-page Thizz Face. I learned just this weekend what a Thizz Face is, so I was really excited. And before you roll your eyes thinking "Tony is such a white-bread noob, how could he not know this?" let me tell you exactly how much of a white-bread noob I am. I learned this because I was at a party watching a documentary about Bay Area hip-hop and the "hyphy" culture with a bunch of other white dorks. This is how I spend my time.

Today's post is a round-up of online stories--"news" doesn't really describe all of these--that I think are awesome, ironic or otherwise worthy of comment. I will comment in a humorous fashion on these stories and you will read them before reluctantly resuming your work day.

Boogie Nights: Where are they now? I happened upon this as I was looking at a legitimately interesting "A Christmas Story" slideshow. These features work for movies like that. It was made 25 years ago, starred numerous child actors who've now grown up, had an older generation of actors playing their parents--"where are they now?" is a legitimate question. Not so for "Boogie Nights." Not only was the movie made barely a decade ago, but it is so goddamn loaded with marquee Hollywood talent that "where are they now?" is a silly question. Oh yeah, Mark Wahlberg. Now I remember! Whatever happened to that dude? And who the hell was Julianne Moore? Heather Graham? John C. Reilly? Burt Reynolds? I can't believe this movie even got made with the bush league talent the no-name director had available. Honestly, the least-famous people in this entire slideshow are a couple TV actors who played minor characters in single scenes (meaning I have no connection to them or their characters). Everybody associated with this movie is so goddamn famous that even the cherry-picked no-names on pages 15 and 22 are celebrities. The first guy is Ralph Lauren's nephew, married one of the honeys from Saved by the Bell and paints nudes for Hollywood actors. The second guy is a famous soundtrack composer and is married to Aimee Mann. See? This is probably the worst "where are they now" concept ever conceived by human people. Crab people have done worse, but their online dailies are notoriously shitty and I think it's unfair to pick on them.


It was nice to see Italians engaging in their culture's typical form of political discourse: punching each other in the face. The French are really envious of this kind of freedom, but their most hallowed tradition has been outlawed. Progress never comes without cost. Here's my favorite part: the man who attacked Mr. Berlusconi is apparently a disturbed individual. He has a lengthy history of mental illness and in most societies the discussion would end there. But in Italy, this guy was just doing what most Italians wanted to do anyway. If President Obama were punched in the face, Americans would be horrified. Even the right-wing folks who despise him would be upset. I'm sure Fox News would find some way to offend the senses, but the guy wouldn't be hailed as a national hero the way this tchotchke-wielding dingbat is. The media doesn't even care that the dude is deranged, because honestly any one of 200,000 people would have loved to punch the Prime Minister in the face. They just don't want to be arrested because of the bad wine in Italian prisons.

As a person of Italian descent, I can say we are very good at some things. We can handle any activity where emotionality and passion are assets (painting, opera, sex). We fail at activities requiring precision and temperance (government, automobile design, war). This is the way of the world, and it's why the typical European model of parliamentary democracy was a really bad idea for the Italians. It's a form of government that is wacky and unstable by its very nature. The British have joke political parties and allow heckling in Parliament. They can barely keep their shit together, and these are people who design great cars, saved the world from Hitler and have terrible sex. Did Italians really think they could handle this? Really?


One more slideshow--this one's gone pretty viral by now but missing it could get you prosecuted in the Hague (it would be a crime against humanity. Ugh, this blog needs footnotes.) These pictures defy description, so please take a few minutes to absorb them. There is a distinct possibility that Mr. Steele is intoxicated for this shoot, and honestly I wouldn't blame him. The seething awkwardness of these photos practically sears my eyeballs, and props to Mr. Steele for hamming it up in what I'm sure was a really terrible situation for all involved. This is the sort of shit that comes out in therapy down the line.

Please try to understand my dilemma as a humor writer viewing these images. I am an impoverished coal miner who descends the shaft and finds himself in an undiscovered chamber filled to bursting with gold. The stuff is practically falling out of the walls into my pockets. Now, in this scenario does the miner proceed deliberately and with caution? Does he ensure he's always given himself a way out? No, he just starts swinging. He hews the shit out of anything and everything in reach because there's so much and he's never going to be able to carry it all back anyway. This sort of thing happened a lot in "The Oregon Trail." BEHOLD THE DESPERATE FLAILING OF A MAN WHO HAS LIVED OFF BISQUICK WAFFLES AND LITTLE CAESAR'S FOR THE LAST THREE DAYS.
**Either the GOP is employing midgets as interns, or Michael Steele is a lot more intimidating than I gave him credit for. Both scenarios are possible, but I think we need to see some 1-on-1 half-court between Steele and Obama. I would watch it and so would you.
**This is how I imagine most transactions between Republican staffers go. No human interaction is complete until money has changed hands.
**He's not really crushing her; she has severe scoliosis and he wants her to feel less self-conscious. You can even see the back brace outline through her shirt.
**Mr. Steele opposes same-sex marriage, but here we catch him proposing to what is clearly a live Pterodactyl. The Christian Right doesn't even believe these animals existed, and you want to marry one?
**"I'm 'a get all these white bitches pregnant." If you think that was offensive, just wait. Remember, I need these gold nuggets to feed my family.
**Imagine a giant old-timey chemical apparatus, with dozens of beakers and tubes and Bunsen burners. This is a special assembly that, through processes both chemical and arcane, can distill into liquid form the Platonic essence of awkward.
**This young man is not an RNC intern. He was actually Photoshopped into this image from a Yale promotional brochure, circa 1982. Nice belt, dick.
**Steele had never met this guy before in his life. After several frames that were too awful to even make it into this slideshow (seriously, can you imagine the stuff that didn't make it out of the darkroom?) the photographer bailed them out by suggesting they point to something off-camera.
**Trig Palin, best-case scenario, circa 2029. In 2034 he'll take over on Fox News for the retiring Glenn Beck. See, I told you to wait.

Happy Monday to everyone and especially to Rob on his first day of work! This has been a big few days at 245 South Humboldt, with Nick (the Wild Card) celebrating a birthday and Rob (either The Fat One or The Techie, he hasn't picked yet) celebrating his triumphant return to the work force. Congratulations to both you little lemmings. Thanks to everyone else for reading.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Correspondence throughout History

Our understanding of history changes all the time. We reach new perspectives and we uncover new information or primary sources that alter our understanding of what came before. In years past I was privileged to attend a Great Institution of Higher Learning and I still have some friends there languishing in History grad programs. By "languishing" I mean "gainfully employed." They've been kind enough to furnish me with some transcribed letters from ages past. These are actual historical figures holding forth on the issues of the day. It's fascinating stuff and I hope everyone is enlightened by it.

Tsar Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov, to Grand Duchess Olga, 1915

My Dearest Olga,
It snowed again in St. Petersburg. Your mother believes I should not spend so much time at the Winter Palace, but if I am not here the serfs swiftly demonstrate all the worst signs of sloth and idleness. I have put them to work tilling the fields to the East of the palace grounds and their bounty is everything I expect from servants of the crown. Captain Grigor informs me the response from the serfs has been nothing but positive. For I see with my eyes what my people see with theirs: the fallen snow represents a bounty of fresh water that we ought not take for granted. These are not wasteful people; when water falls from the sky, they will drink it with their mouths. When it is on the ground, they will likewise drink it with their mouths. Such is agriculture. Wnd when the spring comes around, these people will not have the sleep of Winter hibernation in their eyes. A Winter spent working prepares one for a Spring spent working and I have no doubt the fields will yield the greatest mud harvest in half a century! My advisors tell me the Palace's mud is the envy of the Empire. This is something I take great pride in, for I take great pride in all my endeavors. Remember this, my little steppe thistle.

I do not bear many new tidings, except to say we had to massacre another dozen protesters last Tuesday. This has become something of a chore, and honestly I fear the ennui it elicits in me. It has been nearly a decade since the unfortunate events at the Winter Palace and we still have found ourselves unable to top it. You tell me I build up my expectations too high and perhaps you are right. But nonetheless, I am disappointed. A dozen is insufficient for the Tsar of Luxembourg, to say nothing of myself! It was like that time Rasputin dragged us out to Tunguska. I am sure you remember; Alexei got a splinter and nearly bled to death before we could apply the poultice of pomegranate and quicksilver. But we got there and there was nothing but dead trees. A mighty empire full of living trees and that daft old monk drags us to the only place where they are all dead. I am simply a man who expects the best. This is what the Tsar is supposed to do, after all.
I hope this letter finds you well, my dearest caribouska.
-Papa Nicky

William Randolph Hearst, to himself, 1937

My Dear William,
Bully for us on a great legislative victory! With the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act we've not only secured our material interests with respect to publishing, but also deprived countless thousands of degenerates from enjoying its smoky embrace. Armenians and Sodomites all! There's no place in decent American society for such vices; and is it so unreasonable after all to think that the planet's smaller folks might enjoy their nightly relaxation out of a snifter, as the Lord intended? Heed not the braying and neighing of the opposition--for they are by preponderance Appalachians, and Appalachians as every man of Science knows hold no real authority in public debate. Their hips and wrists are wider than the common man's, leading oftentimes to a persistent ague that can over time drain the wits and turn the libido towards bestiality.

Blood and thunder! Millicent is making a racket downstairs. I write from the Ranch and she takes no pleasure in the present arrangement of poolside statuary. I have given her the authority to speak directly to Havier. He is our statuary manager, an Hispanic, and insisted at first on spelling his name as his people do. I would have none of it. They take their meals by eating out of corn husks and this I will endure. I will not see the English language miscegenated! But I digress. The pool will be arranged as Millicent wishes. It is impossible to feel attraction to a woman named Millicent, just as it is impossible to convince a she-Pole to wash her clothes with both soap and water. With any luck, Caucasians of good breeding will retire the name permanently.

I tire of writing and will retire soon to my customary nightcap of cigars and bourbon. My doctors have insisted that I begin drinking vinegar regularly, as it improves the constitution. I will endure this. Doctor Jameson comes from the finest stock (not a drop of Welsh in the man!) and I trust his advice. One last event of note: the mongrel writer Steinbeck wrote to me once again. He wishes me to expand cultivation on the Ranch's grounds. I am sure he misunderstands the function of my estate. It is a place of relaxation. How, precisely, are Millicent and I to relax when the grounds are filled with common laborers? I am told Mr. Steinbeck is something of a novelist (an artistic form that appeals to lactating mothers and Mediterranean types), so his whinnying does not surprise me. California is a magnificent country, but its open spaces lend themselves to degeneration.
You are my truest friend, and the one man on whose judgment I may always rely.

Goblin King Jareth, to his sister Cecily, 1986

I'm at my wits' end and don't know who else to reach out to. It's been too long since we spoke and for that I apologize. Ever since Dad died and we sold the house it's hard to think of family. As I've said, if I could reach out to somebody else I would.
I've put myself in a sticky situation. Without getting into too many details, I kidnapped a baby from Earth. I'm not proud of it. As soon as I re-materialized in the castle with him I asked myself why I did it. I couldn't answer my own question. I mean, I kidnap Human babies to turn them into goblin muppet slaves. That's what Grandpop did, that's what Dad did and that's what I do. I know my responsibilities. Hell, the kid's sister summoned me to the human world just to grab the kid. But you know something? I hate muppets. Every one of the goblins in my castle is just fucking obnoxious. I hate them; you've seen me go off on them when you've come to visit. I'm trying to uphold my responsibilities here, but honestly the last thing in the world I need is another dumbass muppet hanging around the castle. The kid isn't changed yet and in all probability I'll turn him into a goblin anyway, because I'm a moron who could never say no to Dad.

I hate this.

There is another problem. The sister; I've fallen in love with her. She's 15. I know you've been reading this letter all the while, wondering "when is the other shoe going to drop?" Well, here it is. I can't get this girl out of my head. I don't want this, not really, but sometimes the heart gets greedy. I'm only so strong, even after they passed those laws and I had to register online...I know you think less of me. I'm doing my best. But it's impossible. She's resisted everything I've thrown at her. She asked that the child be taken; I took him. I have re-ordered time. I've turned the world upside down, and I've done it all for her. And it's not enough. I'm exhausted from living up to her expectations of me. I don't expect you to understand or to condone, Cecily. I suppose I just want you to listen. I will find a way through this darkness. Please believe in me. I need some faith about now.
All my love,

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

This one isn't funny

Palin, though notoriously ill-traveled outside the United States, did journey far to the first of the four colleges she attended, in Hawaii. She and a friend who went with her lasted only one semester. "Hawaii was a little too perfect," Palin writes. "Perpetual sunshine isn't necessarily conducive to serious academics for eighteen-year-old Alaska girls." Perhaps not. But Palin's father, Chuck Heath, gave a different account to Conroy and Walshe. According to him, the presence of so many Asians and Pacific Islanders made her uncomfortable: "They were a minority type thing and it wasn't glamorous, so she came home." In any case, Palin reports that she much preferred her last stop, the University of Idaho, "because it was much like Alaska yet still 'Outside.'"

This slayed me. The full New Yorker article is worth reading if you have the time, but I'm only concerning myself with the Hawaii segment. I'd never before realized Sarah's connection with one of my childhood homes (I claim both Hawaii and Boston as separate-but-equal origins. Shut up, I contain volumes). A humor writer shouldn't become a blowhard, so without getting into politics I'll say this. I don't believe that Sarah Palin is a racist who hated Hawaii because, as the first link suggests, there were "too many yellowfaces." I think she was a sheltered young girl with a severe case of culture shock; disoriented by her surroundings and the sudden absence of the ubiquitous whiteness (with everything that entails, from skin color to diet) she'd come to expect from her upbringing.

Hawaii is hard to understand for people who aren't from there. I don't know what a good parallel would be--maybe a white South African?--but as a white person living in Hawaii, you are a minority. Not an oppressed minority, and that's an important distinction, but the fact remains. You suffer the petty indignities of your minority status (there will be certain restaurants where you get looks, certain areas where you get looks and you may occasionally hear a minor toothless epithet like "haole") without the larger indignities (less access to jobs, education, housing, low-interest loans to name a few). For a very sheltered person accustomed to being part of an overwhelming majority, this could easily be uncomfortable.

The other thing is that acceptance, love and hospitality practically ooze from the pores of Hawaiians. Uptight closed-minded people probably wouldn't do too well in a giant melting pot like UH. Fun story: the large numbers of Japanese-descended people in Hawaii are largely a result of the huge numbers of native Japanese brought in to work the cane fields. At first, the plantation owners brought in Chinese workers. But the Chinese workers would quickly marry Hawaiians, leave the plantation and never come back. The Japanese were brought in because they were the only people uptight and racist enough to NOT get it on with Hawaiians, who will make attractive brown babies with anyone.

So yeah, I bet Hawaii didn't suit Sarah Palin. The ironic thing is, the most cherished values of Hawaiian society are the values Palin claims are most important to her. This is a society that shuns elitism and snobbery, is composed almost entirely of poor people, is highly religious (Filipino Catholics and Muslims, Mormon converts, Jehovah's Witnesses), emphasizes unconditional love and generosity, prizes family above all else (Hawaiian children are brought up to consider friends as family members and address them as Auntie, Uncle or Cousin) and even surrendered their sovereignty to U.S. Marines rather than risk war and violence on Hawaiian soil. Sounds almost...Christian.