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Monday, June 20, 2016

Like/Don't Like: June or Whatever

There are plenty of things I don't like this month: guns, homophobia, radicalized religion, alligators, the Jeep Grand Cherokee.  But Giant Electric Penguin is a safe place, a spot on the internet where we can forget the troubles of this world (unless I feel compelled to drag said troubles into my infamous "Spotlight of Shame," and go to town on them like some kind of verbal Rocky Balboa) and laugh for awhile or make fun of a TV show or praise a fast food item or recommend a film or talk about a burrito in almost pornographic detail.  GEP is a place for happy good times, and so that is the spirit in which I present to you this week's/month's super-sized edition of Like/Don't Like.  Please understand that I know what's going on in the world right now, I just want to forget about it for awhile.  I invite you to do the same.  For awhile.

Like: I enjoy pizza.  Aw, hell, I love pizza.  I might even be in love with pizza.  But I'm a simple man.  Not unlike Comedy Bang! Bang!'s Big Sue, I like a round pie, with some cheese, sauce and toppings.  I prefer what is commonly described as New York- or Brooklyn-style slices--flat triangles bigger than my face, dripping with grease.  I've eaten my fair share of corporate pizza, and enjoyed it.  And I'm not immune to the charms of a frozen pizza, be it fancy schmanzy or of the 'party' variety.  As long as there is pepperoni present, I'm a happy man.

That said, I don't usually eff with Chicago-style pizza.  I'll do a Pizza Hut pan, but that's about as thick as I'm comfortable going most of the time.  I am by no means a healthy man, but Chicago-style pizza feels a bit much to me.  Like, what is Chicago-style pizza trying to prove?  That it can give me a bigger, more painful heart attack in half the time?  I don't need to be reminded of my own mortality when I'm eating a pizza.

That said, Acme Pizza Company in Holly Springs, NC makes on of the best Chicago-style deep dish pizzas I have ever eaten in my entire life.  This thing is something special.  You might currently live somewhere in this great nation that has a pizza parlor famous for it's deep dish pizza, and I encourage you make plans this week or the next to give it a try.  If you live in the Triangle area of North Carolina, like I do, go ahead and set a course for Acme, because, I promise, you will not be disappointed.  The sauce, the cheese, the crust, the meat--it's like a pizza and a lasagna made sweet love to each other one night, and nine months later gave collective birth to the most delicious pizza baby imaginable.  We ordered a medium, and had leftovers for days.  And here's a fun fact: Acme's deep dish pizza, like a fine wine, gets better with age.  I can't explain it.  It's like they inject it with eerie Italian pizza magic or something.  This pizza defies all laws of time and space.  And deliciousness.

Also try the wings.

Don't like: I have a nasty habit of falling into YouTube rabbit holes from time to time.  I think we all do.  The holes I'm attracted to however are clogged with the very worst of humanity.  I will spend hours watching compilation videos of people engaged in fisticuffs in a fast food restaurant or screaming at one another on the side of a major highway after a perceived injustice has occurred or an angry customer berating the teenage employee of a phone store because said employee refused to treat said customer like the heavenly gift to all humankind said customer feels her or she is.  Most of these compilations include heavy doses of people being racist on subways and city buses.  Per my extensive and nauseating research, the most racist place in the world is a city bus anywhere in Australia.  It's true.  And weird.

Recently, I witnessed something in a public freakout compilation that really bothered me.  This particular compilation featured an inordinate amount of customers complaining about the dumbest shit imaginable.  The catch: these videos were being filmed by the complaining customers themselves.  See, most of the compilations I watch of this nature are third party videos, videos in which we watch a fellow member of the human tribe bitching and screaming about something or other.  This video I'm about to describe however was filmed by the complainer, which leads me to believe that the complainer thought his cause was just and that his complaint was unquestionably valid, and that anyone who watched his video would immediately join his side, hold him aloft as a hero, a hero who isn't afraid to look like a whiny racist cheapskate who finds it appropriate to repeatedly use the word 'fuck' in front of children.  Pardon my language, but, fuck this guy.

We join the complaint already in progress, but it isn't difficult to figure out what's happened.  An angry dad has returned to the front counter at McDonald's to return three cheeseburger Happy Meals.  He says several times that this is the third time the restaurant has gotten his order wrong, and he wants a full refund.  The manager is not willing to provide this customer with a refund, and here's why: ALL OF THE FOOD HAS BEEN EATEN!  

Well, hold on, I'm sorry, all of the food has not been eaten.  My bad.  See, Angry Dad specifically asked that his children's cheeseburgers not include pickles and onions, but, oops, the McDonald's employee who made the order forget.  Now, granted, that's annoying, but here's the thing: the guy in the video is trying to get a full refund while returning A PILE OF SCRAPPED OFF ONIONS AND PICKLES!  The kids have finished their cheeseburgers, enjoyed their delicious fries, sucked down their sugary soft drinks and cracked open their Angry Birds: The Movie bobblehead keychains.  But here's a pile of pickles and onions--give me all of my money back.  FUCK.  THIS.  GUY.  FOREVER.  

I apologize for my language.  Earlier I gave this idiot shit for so freely using the word 'fuck' in a public place, and now I've gone and used the f-word myself.  It's just...just...this clip made me so livid.  The man who made this video uploaded this video to YouTube because he thought we should all have his back.  "You guys get it," he's saying.  "McDonald's is run by incompetent non-English speaking garbage people who think it's perfectly fine to put pickles and onions on a hamburger sandwich.  Can you believe these pieces of shit wouldn't give me all my money back when I tried to return my order?!?"  But here's the thing, bro, you didn't return your order, you returned three bags of trash!  You and your dumb kids ate the food your given, so, you take the hit.  Quit asking the man at the counter if he speaks English.  He is ignoring you, fuckstick!  Stop hanging around the front counter like a weird stalker.  Other reasonable people are trying to order their food.  They don't care about you or your whiny kids or you pickle pile.  If you can't handle the occasional fast food franchise fuck up, maybe you should stop going out to eat.  We don't need you out there making the world safe for pickle-haters.  We need you to shut up.  GAHHHAHHGHGH!  This guy makes me so mad!  I want to punch a pickle into his eye socket!!!!

Like: Earwolf's premium podcast app, Howl, just added the first 13 seasons of comedian Jimmy Pardo's Never Not Funny podcast, which is kind of like 150 Christmases all happening simultaneously and each brightly wrapped present waiting under the tree is filled with doughnuts, freshly baked Totino's pizza rolls and orgasms.  I've basically listened to nothing but NNF since the first 13 seasons dropped, There's never been a better time to pay for a premium podcast app.

Don't like: A few weeks ago the above picture of actor J.K. Simmons started popping up everywhere online, accompanied by declarations "look at that hot old man" and "dayum, son, the Farmer's Insurance guy is ripped."  I think he looks like an anorexic Santa Claus with He-Man action figure arms.  Creepy.  Thumbs down.

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Sky Sharks and the end of an era

I can remember a time--let's call it late 2015--when something like Sky Sharks, the trailer for which is featured above, would've filled me with the kind of joy reserved for a child at Christmastime.  The neighborhood covered in blinking lights and inflatable, farting Santas; the thick-as-an-encyclopedia toy catalogue from JCPenney; every available surface of the kitchen covered in cookies in various holiday-appropriate shapes; vaguely creepy stop-motion Christmas specials on TV: December is filled with non-stop delights for every kid (provided they're not Jewish or Jehovah's Witness), and the accompanying feelings are what I imagine older people are trying to recapture when they turn to hard drugs in adulthood.  Believe it or not, that's how stupid movies used to make me feel.

I can't remember how I stumbled upon the trailer for Sky Sharks this week, but I know I watched it because I read the description as "Street Sharks," and immediately thought to myself, "They made a movie out of Street Sharks now?!?"  

They haven't.  Yet. 

I realized my error pretty early into Sky Sharks' trailer, which, if you didn't watch before reading this, is riddled with Nazis.  I'm not terribly familiar with Street Sharks--I imagine they were, much like the Samurai Pizza Cats, an attempt to grab some of that sweet cash the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were bringing in--but I'm pretty sure they didn't live in World War II times.  And if you were wondering, yes, I do know how to read.  I guess I just saw what I wanted to see.  The important takeaway here is that I watched the Sky Sharks trailer.  And my reaction to it perplexed me.

I didn't laugh.  I didn't shake my head, wryly smile to myself and mutter, "What'll they think of next?"  I didn't immediately post the trailer on social media for everyone to revel in.  I didn't Google, Bing or Ask Jeeves for more details on the film's production.  I just let the YouTube player move on to the next trailer, which was for Jeepers Creepers 3, by the way.  Ugh.  

Am I growing up?  Have I lost my childlike wonder?  A movie about flying, machine gun-firing sharks controlled by Nazi zombies used to be enough for me.  Bad special effects, poor acting, a dumb tagline: this has always been my bread and butter.  But the Sky Sharks trailer left me cold, numb, bored even.  So, what happened to me?!?

Quick answer: nothing.  I still like fun, crazy movies, but maybe I like my wackiness with a side of skillful filmmaking, a dash of class, and at least 75% less crap.  And like the Sharknado series before it, Sky Sharks appears to be focused directly to the pre-made "so-bad-it's-good" market, and I've never been fully on board with that, first Sharknado excluded.  And also, I think it's because I'm 37-years-old now. That isn't old, but upon entering your late 30's, one is reminding that time only marches forward, and it's all a barrel roll to the grave from here.  I can't justify wasting my time with tripe like Sky Sharks anymore when I still haven't seen Godfather 2 or The Deer Hunter.

So, today, I pass the job on to you, younger generation.  It is now your duty to watch these terrible movies, find the ones that should be praised for sucking so hard they are unmissable, and toss the pretenders to the shit throne in the crap pile.  I can't do it anymore.  I'm too tired, too bitter.  My bones ache.  Plus, I'm a dad, and all the time I had for bad movies is now time I need to watch kid's movies with my daughter, and that's more fun.  Have your parties, drink your beers and smoke your weeds, and watch Sky Sharks and laugh your drunk/high heads off.  And then write about it on a blog, so I can read it on the toilet.  Because I'm old, and I've put my sky sharks away.  R.I.P., me.

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Monday, May 30, 2016

Like/Don't Like: May 22 - May 28, 2016

Like/Don't Like is a little late this week.  I'm sorry.  This Memorial Day weekend has been chocked full of pool parties, fine Italian dining, Disney musicals and a hot air balloon festival (which my wife cleverly and accurately nicknamed the 'Fuquay-Varina Festival of Failure') that ranks amount the worst events I've ever had the misfortune of attending.  So, yeah, I've been busy.  But that doesn't mean I've stopped 'liking' and 'not liking' stuff.  I 'like' and 'not like' stuff all the time!  So, this Memorial Day (which I've cleverly and accurately nicknamed 'Who Loves the Troops the Most On Facebook Day'), fix yourself a freshly grilled wienie, pop open a Pineapple Fanta, sit back, relax and enjoy this late edition of GEP's wildly popular new feature Like/Don't Like!

Like:  I dropped off the M. Night Shyamlan bandwagon in 2004.  I haven't seen any of his films post-The Village.  In fact, a handful of months ago, I revisited The Village, just to make sure my full-scale shunning of the director and his work was justified, and I can say without a shred of doubt that I made the right decision.  I've trusted the criticisms of accomplished film critics and bad movie podcast hosts since then, avoiding things like Lady in the Water, The Last Airbender and everyone's favorite celluloid punching bag, whether they've seen it or not, The Happening.

When the trailer for 2010's Devil came out, I remember reading stories about people laughing and groaning when the credit "from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan" flashed across the screen.  I remember my own reaction to the Devil trailer quite explicitly: "Oh, good.  Don't hafta to see that one."  This was most likely followed by fistful of popcorn straight to the mouth hole.  But that was where we were at in America.  We were all fed up with Shyamalan's shenanigans, and, unbeknownst to us all at the time, it was only going to get worse.  Way worse.  After Earth worse.

That's maybe why I didn't watch Wayward Pines when it first came around.  That and the fact that it looked like a blatant Twin Peaks rip off.  I can report now, having watched (i.e. binged, fistful of popcorn-style) season one, that Wayward Pines is in no way a Twin Peaks rip off (however, the author of the books on which the series is based points to the David Lynch program as inspiration), and Shyamalan's presence hasn't spoiled the proceedings.

I understand why Shyamalan would want to be involved with Wayward Pines.  It's got a helluva twist!  But it's a twist we learn about early--first or second episode as far as I remember--and then from there, we get an amazingly solid sci-fi mystery show.  I described it to my father as such: "It's like they saw the mistakes they made with Lost, and fixed it."  I don't know who "they" are in the above sentence.  I had just eaten a torta the size of a toddler's head filled with barbacoa, so I was flying on a pretty significant Mexican sandwich high, but you get what I'm saying.  Wayward Pines succeeds where most, if not all, other weirdo sci-fi mystery shows fail.  And best of all, it's 10 episodes long, which I think is the most essential part of it's greatness.  You drag something like this out too long (see again: Lost), and you end up with a soggy newspaper falling apart in your hands, Foxtrot virtually unreadable.

And since Wayward Pines is only 10 episodes long, I refuse to describe its plot to you.  You have no excuse not to watch.  You can watch 10 episodes of something, you bum.  What else are you doing?  Working a job?  Raising kids?  Sharing your feelings with your significant other?  That can wait.  Fire up the ol' Hulu and get watchin'.

Don't like: One of my favorite things about animals is their lack of religion.  Which is why these videos of dogs being made to pray before they eat make me, um, less than enthused. That's the nice way to put it, I guess.  The videos actually make me angry, but a lot of people, possibly even yourself, think they are cute, so I'll crank my fiery rage down to an easy-to-handle don't like.

Praying dogs is just another example of how religion ruins everything.  We already expect our pets' undying love and devotion, now we're going to require them to adhere to our religious superstitions and copy our weird rituals before they are allowed to dine on the crummy slop we plunk in their food bowls every day?  I say, if you've decided to require your dog to pray before he eats his kibble, you, as the dog's owner/guardian, are now required to set your dog a place at the table, complete with napkin and utensils.  If you are going to treat your animal like a human being who can fully grasp concepts like God, then said animal gets a seat at the dining room table.  The nerve of someone who makes his puppy pray before eating and then serves puppy's dinner to him ON THE FLOOR!!!  

Or maybe videos of dogs "praying" before dinner is cute.  You're allowed to think that.  You can like whatever you like.  Or maybe you think the videos are harmless.  That's fine too.  I think they are a symptom of a greater sickness that has infected American culture.  Maybe I'm overreacting.  Maybe it's because I'm a cat person, and cats, as we all know, are godless followers of Satan.  Maybe my cat wrote this because he hates dogs and his sole desire is to mock all canine-kind, all the time.  It could happen.  McWorld!!!

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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Like/Don't Like: May 15 - May 21, 2016

America's new favorite feature is back, baby!  Like/Don't Like has taken the internet by storm.  The perfect storm.  The kind of perfect storm you might think George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg won't survive, but then they do.  Cloons makes it to the end of that one, right?  Granted, it's been a long time since I've seen The Perfect Storm, but there's no way they kill off Cloons, right?  I mean, yeah?  Anyway, here's something I liked and didn't like this week.  #RIPClooney

Like: The Sword and Scale podcast is a true crime podcast that takes you so deep into the minds of the weirdos and degenerates whose stories it highlights, you may find yourself at the end of an episode--brain in a haze, stomach in knots--questioning why you just voluntarily subjected yourself to a full hour of depravity.  The show can be a horrifying, scary, depressing, engrossing, vile, fascinating and mind-altering experience, but one worth trying.  Maybe.

Remember when the first season of Serial came along, and you listened to every new episode the moment it appeared in your podcast app because the story was so interesting and twisty and it felt important sorta?  And then remember when the second season of Serial came along, and you realized while updating your blog one Saturday night that you were roughly seven episodes behind, but you didn't care because Serial didn't feel essential anymore?  Well, Sword and Scale is like the first season of Serial, only shorter and sicker.  And better.

I can't listen to every episode of Sword and Scale.  I had to turn one episode off when during the cold open a detective was heard describing his arrival upon a grisly murder scene in which the victim had been decapitated and then had his head replaced on his spine in an unnatural way.  Even a horror fan like me can't stomach stuff like that these days.  Plus, I don't particularly enjoy serial killery stuff, so, I skip those episodes, but most of the stories host Mike Boudet chooses to tell, while undeniably upsetting, are engrossing in the way a good episode of 20/20 used to be, you know, when you didn't go out on Friday nights and watched 20/20 crime stories instead.  Remember that?  We all did that high school, right?  Chose to stay home and watch glossily produced "news" stories about homicidal pastor's wives and angry teenaged parent murderers?

I'm currently taking a small hiatus from Sword and Scale to catch up on the live Comedy Bang! Bang! tour episodes, because as a new and enthusiastic listener to the podcast, I kind of overdosed.  I listened to a few too many stories about murderous husbands and vicious killers who post their deadly handiwork on social media for all the world to witness, and I found myself a little dizzy and disconnected.  It was the two-part episode about Luka Magnotta (Episodes 33 & 34)--the Canadian psychopath who ruined New Order's "True Faith" FOREVER!!!--that made me step back for a second and take a much needed breather.  The show is that intense.

If you'd like to take the plunge and check out Sword and Scale, something I do recommend, but only if you like this sort of thing, I recommend starting with Episode 62, which recounts the story of Jenelle Potter, a severely sheltered young woman who somehow convinced her parents she was a CIA agent and encouraged them to murder a couple in town she'd had a series of social media altercations with.  It is one of the strangest stories I have ever heard, and it's made all the better by having the district attorney who prosecuted and wrote a book about the case as the guest.  I also enjoyed the two episodes highlighting incidents of "Satanic Panic" both here and abroad (Episodes 47 & 51); a nearly two hour episode about cult leader Jim Jones (Episode 50), which includes most of the infamous "Jonestown death tape," which is so deeply depressing and something I regret listening to so much of; Episode 49, which is one of the craziest stories I've heard in my life, but one I cannot even begin to explain here; and Episodes 45 & 46 about the Carnation Murders.

Don't like:  Look, I don't know what you call it--The AM Sausage Crunchwrap; The Breakfast Crunchwrap w/ Sausage; The Tortilla Filled With Breakfast Shit--I just know it sucks.

I love Taco Bell, but I have been avoiding Taco Bell's breakfast menu for years, convinced they'd give it up eventually, like Wendy's before them, and return to what they do best: late night eats to soak up the booze.  But, nope, Taco Bell has hung in there, wrapping breakfast meats and scrambled eggs inside tortillas, and serving it to the public without a second thought.  They should be ashamed.

The Taco Bell Breakfast Crunchwrap tastes how I imagine those protein bricks in science fiction stories about dystopian societies taste: bland, rubbery, possibly made out of people.  The Crunchwrap, for those of you who haven't tried one, consists of a fried hashbrown square (think McDonald's hashbrown, only devoid of all flavor), topped with the blandest sausage patty money can buy, which is itself topped with college-cafeteria-grade scrambled eggs and shredded cheese made of some variety of space age polymer that doesn't melt.  This tower of meh is then wrapped in a tortilla, crisped up somehow, and served in a paper sleeve for easy consumption while commuting to work.

It is important to note that I was eating the Crunchwrap while driving to work, so I was unable to apply any of Taco Bell's wide variety of sauces to it.  Perhaps with the application of a packet or fifteens-worth of "Hot" sauce, the Crunchwrap becomes more palatable, but that's bullshit, because the Crunchwrap is clearly designed to be eaten while driving.  There's no mess since everything is contained in a tidy, edible package.  So, arguing that the flavorlessness of my Crunchwrap is my fault is a notion that I wholly reject.  Maybe some people feel comfortable tearing sauce packets open with their teeth while driving to the office, but I don't, and I refuse to run the risk of being pulled over by a police officer or cause a horrific multi-car accident killing thousands of commuters that might one day be a story featured on Sword and Scale just because I want to add a little pizzaz to my gross, fast food breakfast pouch.  Put some salt on the hashbrown or toss some pico into that tortilla before you panini press it, and give me something that tastes good in my mouth, not a brick of sawdust wrapped in paper towel.

Taco Bell should just serve their entire menu all day.  In fact, that's what every fast food joint should do.  I could care less that McDonald's serves breakfast morning, noon and night now.  Let me order a Quarter Pounder with Cheese Value Meal on my way downtown in the morning, and you've got a customer for life.  I don't want breakfast tacos, well, ever, really, I want a good old Doritos Loco taco for breakfast.  I want to roll into the office with my fingers stained orange and my ass ready to explode.  Because that's how I like to start a morning dammit!

(I think you can get steak in your Crunchwrap rather than sausage.  I haven't decided if that's worth giving Taco Bell a second chance yet.  Stay tuned.)

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Like/Don't Like: May 8 - May 14, 2016

Welcome to Like/Don't Like.  Every Saturday, I'll take a look back on the week that was, and find one thing I liked about it, and one thing I didn't care for much.  It's as easy as that.  It might be the laziest regular segment I've ever come up with, which means it'll probably stick around for a good long time.  Anyway, here's the first one.

Like: This week I finally caught up with Hulu's The Path, which is absolutely not about Scientology.  It is, in actuality, a fictional television program about a made up religion, called Meyerism, that involves praying to The Light, strapping electrodes onto your forehead from time to time and making your way up a mystical ladder, which was revealed to Meyerism's founder during an ayahuasca trip.  Defectors of the faith are hunted down and intimidated, members who "transgress" are expected to participate in a program that looks a whole lot like imprisonment and the de facto leader is megalomaniacal secret alcoholic who has definitely murdered someone.  See, no relation to Scientology at all.

This show is like catnip to a cult/religion enthusiast like me.  I find it endlessly fascinating.  And the cast is amazing, from Aaron Paul as the onetime lost soul who just happened to marry into the most intense and influential Meyerist family around, but has started to have doubts after his own journey down the ayahuasca highway; to Michelle Monaghan, who plays his wife, whose devotion to the Meyerist movement is both inspiring and terrifying; to Hugh Dancy, who plays Cal, the sociopath left in charge while the founder is, um, elsewhere, who can't seem to keep his temper in check or his dick in his pants.  Dancy is truly frightening in his role as a man whose hunger for power, history with alcohol and penchant for horrifying violence has turned him into a demigod capable of commanding unwavering loyalty in his followers, but a lax attitude toward maintaining an even temper when it comes to the bloody work of maintaining his position of power.

The Path is a great show, and one I wish was on Netflix, only because Hulu makes you wait every Wednesday for a new episode.  I started late, so I was able to binge the first 8 episodes, which I did in three days.  There are only 2 episodes left, and things are really ramping up.  I recommend you give it a try.  Just remember: It. Is. Not. About. Scientology.

Don't Like: Without any hesitation, I am able to say Wendy's is my very favorite fast food chain.  I enjoy those wacky square burgers oh so much, and their fries, well, don't get me started.  And as far as I'm concerned, Wendy's Spicy Chicken Sandwich is the greatest innovation in fast foodery since the drive-thru window.

That said, I hate when Wendy's thinks outside the box.  Whenever Taco Bell introduces a new tortilla-based goodie, I'm front and center, my fat man beard dripping with taco grease before I'm even halfway home (On my list of noteworthy fast food items, the Doritos Loco Taco comes at #2 right behind Wendy's Spicy Chicken).  But when Wendy's trots out something new--like pork barbecue or a gouda burger--not only am I not interested, but I'm usually actively disgusted.  Wendy's has got a good thing going.  Nothings broken, so nothing needs fixing.  The 4 for $4.00 combo is great, so, just stop there.  You're King of Grease Mountain, Wendy's!  Revel in it!

I lied.  There actually was a limited time only sandwich Wendy's released one time that I LOVED: 2007's 4-Alarm Spicy Chicken sandwich.  If you were lucky enough to cram one of these tasty creations into your mouth 9 years ago, you'll remember how truly special it was.  I believe I enjoyed 3 total before they disappeared into the ether forever and ever.  And nobody remembers these things.  I bring the 4-Alarm up all the time--I always refer to it as either the 3-Alarm or 5-Alarm Spicy Chicken sandwich--and people stare at me like I'm some kind of headless freak talking out of his tooth-lined neck hole.  The 4-Alarm did exist, but like everything beautiful and perfect in this world, it was destroyed by society's indifference and condemned to the warehouse of forgotten foods, along with IHOP's International Burrito, the discontinuation of which is truly the worst tragedy in chain restaurant history.

But Wendy's is back with another riff on the spicy chicken situation, and, guess what, it sucks.  The Jalapeño Fresco Spicy Chicken sandwich is a joke; a damp sack of lies between two pieces of disgusting bread.  

First, the "ghost pepper sauce" that covers the requisite spicy chicken filet like a scum-slicked pool cover is as bland as a Trump Tower taco bowl.  The ghost pepper is pretty high up on the Scoville heat scale--about three rungs down from actual pepper spray--but somehow Wendy's ghost pepper sauce tastes like nothing.  The only heat comes from the diced jalapeños trapped within the viscous yellow sauce, and it's not a pleasant heat.  It's aggressive without being tasty.  I like spicy foods a lot, but if they aren't also tasty, I've got no time for them.  I'm not competing on Fear Factor hosted by Joe Rogan, I'm eating dinner.  That said, I wouldn't mind the ghost pepper sauce, if they fished the jalapeño bits out and called it what it actually is: cheese sauce.

The bun has jalapeños baked into it, I guess.  I saw no proof of this.  It sucked.  Its consistency was slightly gummy, kind of like Play Doh, only less flavorful.

It was also covered with raw onions sliced into very thin rings.  I liked that quite a bit.

Wendy's needs to bring back the 4-Alarm, and shove this monstrosity back into the pits of fast food Hell where it came from.  You're still my boy, Wendy's, but we've really got to talk about where your head's at.

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Saturday, April 9, 2016

I'm lovin' it? Meh.

Look, I love McDonald's.  I know they're a giant evil company, and their food is bad for you, but come on, man.  I'm old.  I'm tired.  This is a fight for the millennials to wage.  I've done my time in the "pretending-to-care-about-issues" trenches.  Now I just want to eat the occasional Quarter Pounder with Cheese (or once, by accident, the Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese) Value Meal, alone and fat in my garage after getting out of a late showing of 10 Cloverfield Lane, and not feel like I've compromised my liberal values.  Or cram a greasy Sausage-N-Egg Biscuit into my face, wash it down with a large Diet Coke and two salty hashbrown slabs and crow about how tasty it was on social media without having a Bernie Bro vegan accuse me of hate crimes against my "barnyard brethren," while at the same time mourning my own death preemptively.  I don't eat at McDonald's a lot, but when I do, I don't want to have to explain myself.  Deep down, I kinda hate myself, and when that self-hatred reaches a particular notch in my psyche, I push it back down with a 10 piece McNuggets and a large fry.  Simple.

What I'm not particularly fond of regarding Micky D's is that current slogan.  McDonald's used to introduce a new slogan every few years or so.  Remember "Food, folks and fun?"  I loved that.  It was the perfect distillation of every McDonald's experience I had when I was a kid: The food I craved, eaten with the folks I loved, and the post-meal fun/high that one experiences after eating American fast food, you know, the one that makes you feel like a million bucks for roughly five to ten minutes before you find yourself sweating on a toilet, cursing the creation of the drive-thru concept?  That probably wasn't the fun they were talking about.  They were probably referencing that awesome McDonald's dance party scene in Mac and Me.  Damn, that looked so fun!

"I'm lovin' it" has been around since 2003.  That's a long time.  Too long as far as I'm concerned.  But it works.  I mean, I guess.  I'm pretty sure people would continue to line up at McDonald's counters all over this great land if McDonald's commercials were nothing more than a list of heart disease facts and figures accompanied by somber acoustic guitar strumming.  People know it.  Let's put it that way.  If you run into a middle school cafeteria or a prison yard at recreation time or Bingo night at a retirement community or graduation at a School for the Deaf, and shout out "Da-da-da-da-da...," you'll get a resounding "I'm lovin' it," in return.  It's become canon.  Scripture.  It is wired into the brains of newborns from birth.  It must be something they coat the fries in.  It worms into your DNA.

But is it accurate?  Are we, in fact, "lovin' it?"  Short answer: Not really.
"But, Matt, you started this whole thing off saying you loved McDonald's.  What gives?  Are you a dirty, godless liar?  I don't get you, man."

Look, I love McDonald's like I loved cigarettes when I smoked.  I knew what they were doing to me, but, wow, did they ever make me look cool and feel good.  I looked cool until I realized my t-shirts smelled like shit, and I felt good until I woke up at 2:30 AM unable to catch my breath most nights.  McDonald's feels good on the way to the restaurant--I call this the "I'm Lovin' It Phase"--and it is enjoyable going down, but when I reach that final, aforementioned sweaty bathroom scenario, yeah, I'm not really in the mood to declare my love for anything. So, am I lovin' it?  Yes.  Kinda.  I love the idea of McDonald's and it tastes so good in my mouth.  But then I find myself at 37-years-old at the doctor's office being warned that if my fatty liver gets any worse I'm going to die (it wasn't said that way at all--I'm being dramatic...for comedy?). I can't really say I love something that is killing me.  "But the act of living is killing us," you might say.  Then, ok, I can't say I love something that is killing me faster.  Does that work for you, person I just made up?

I think it's time for a new slogan, and I think I actually found a good one this week.  And I mean this.  I didn't write all of the preceding to end on a hacky joke slogan that I dreamed up in the midst of a Taco Bell coma last night (That's right--the wife and I ate Taco Bell at 11:00 PM last our bed.  Marriage is awesome, guys!  Don't let anybody tell you any different!).  No, this week a woman in Dallas, TX came up with the greatest, most perfect slogan for McDonald's that has ever been.  It didn't hurt that she was overdosing on a variety of synthetic marijuana known as Brainfreeze at the time, in fact, I'm pretty sure I should be giving the manufacturer of said product the credit.  Anyway, here's what happened:
Police say a Dallas woman was driving with her two children last week when she overdosed on a drug called Brainfreeze.
Angela Williams, 37, remains in the Dallas County Jail on a charge of driving while intoxicated with a child under 15, as well as a hot check charge. Her bail is set at $7,000.
About 8:20 p.m. last Thursday, Williams parked on a median at Samuell Boulevard and St. Francis Street, apparently having a seizure in her Chevy Malibu, a witness told police.
Her two children, ages 11 and 13, told officers that Williams was driving “crazy” and acting irrationally, laughing at nothing in particular. The witness removed both children from the car for their safety, the police report says.
Officers found two packets of Brainfreeze, a synthetic cannabinoid, in Williams’ purse, according to police documents.
When police got her out of the car, Williams grabbed one of the officer’s gun belts numerous times and repeated, “I want my McDonald’s,” the arrest warrant affidavit says.
Officers took her to Baylor University Medical Center for treatment. She was later released and booked into jail.
And that's what McDonald's is, man; the salty, greasy, delicious fuel only a crazy person would want to ingest.  You are grabbing at the gun belt of life when you invite a McDonald's Big Mac into the fragile ecosystem that is the human body.  You don't "need' your McDonald's.  You "want" your McDonald's, and you're willing to reach for a police officer's weapon to get it.  Obviously, Ms. Williams is a terrible mother, but even terrible people can stumble into something brilliant.

All I'm saying is try it, McDonald's.  "I want my McDonald's."  I mean, that's a slogan right there!  No tweaking, no focus groups necessary.  We aren't eating in your restaurants for nourishment.  We're addicted.  Our parents threw a Happy Meal into our laps because they were too tired/lazy/angry to cook a proper dinner, and we've continued the trend because we're heroin addicts, only for French fries.  We're grease zombies with dead, Mayor McCheese eyes, wandering through the night with ketchup on our shirts and sesame seeds in our beards.  We want our McDonald's, and we don't care how many cops we've got to manhandle to get it.

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Monday, March 21, 2016

Food Newz Presentz Food Reviewz presents The Foodz Canon

Another election year is upon us; that magical period in America where we the people choose a brand-new leader to soldier us onward into oblivion.  Personally, I'm still on the fence.  Am I a Ted Cruz man?  Sure, he's the candidate a majority of Americans say they would want to party with because he looks so fun and cool, but then there's John Kasich with his apparent saneness and his boast that he's been to exactly one gay wedding.  However, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't at least a little bit excited about that wall Emperor Trump says he's gonna build and force Mexico to pay for.  From what I've heard, it could "trump" the Great Wall of China, and that's a pretty substantial wall.  My own thoughts and ideas are probably most in line with those of Bernie Sanders, but Hillary Clinton is certainly still in the running, even if she starts her first few months in office from the inside of a jail cell.

Look, I'm not going to pick a president right now, OK?!  What I am going to do is pick a cereal, in fact, I'm going to reveal to you, gentle reader, my choice for THE BEST CEREAL OF ALL-TIME.  The answer may shock you.  It may anger you.  But, dammit, you will respect my choice and eventually you will come to accept it as fact.  Ladies, but most likely, gentlemen, I give you my favorite breakfast cereal of any and all times...
That's right, my choice for best cereal is General Mills' Superman cereal, based on the upcoming film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.  My favorite cereal is a promotional tie-in.

I know what you're saying, and I shall address your concerns point by point.  

First, why would a 37-year-old man with a documented weight problem pick a sugary cereal for children as his favorite cereal of all-time?  Good question.  My answer: Superman cereal's deliciousness makes it nearly impossible to consider any other cereal for this highly coveted honor.  It's sweet, though not sickeningly so, with enough of a caramel twist to give the appearance of decadence while remaining down-to-Earth.  After all, though he himself is an invincible alien being who could easily snuff out all of humanity in no time if he needed too, Superman is essentially a man of the people, and I think the cereal that bears both his name and the shape in which his emblem is enshrined on his muscular chest, represents this dichotomy effortlessly.  

I understand I should choose something like Cheerios or Special K or Grape Nuts or Kashi or Gluten-Free Oat Clusters With Iron, and by refusing to do so, I am setting a bad example for America's youth, specifically my 4-year-old daughter, but, as the millennials say, sorry not sorry.  Perhaps it would ease your mind if I informed you that I am the only person who eats Superman cereal in my household.  My wife refuses to touch it (though she has no problem keeping me supplied with boxes--thanks, honey), and the one time Quinn tried a bite she responded, "Gross!"  She's wrong, by the way, but see, I'm not setting an innocent child on the road to diabetes.  I'm taking a bullet for her.  A sweet, crunching, carmally bullet.

Allow me to speak to your next concern.  I picked a sugar-packed children's cereal as my favorite cereal of all-time, by which I mean in all of the history of the planet, but I picked one that a) literally just appear on shelves last year and b) is a promotional tie-in to a movie a weird cross section of the internet is not excited about.  Look, I'm not here to get you pumped up for Dawn of Justice, OK?  Maybe you're not excited about it, like 90% of the people I'm friends with on Facebook.  I can't help that all of those people are wrong idiots.  I'm super stoked.  Go ahead and hold you're weird grudge against Ben Affleck, nerds.  This March 28th, while you're whining on the internet, I'll be grabbing a box of my favorite cereal and taking it down to my favorite cineplex and watching Batman and Superman punch the crap out of each other.  And it's gonna be great!

To answer your first point, sure, there may be some Saturday morning classics more worthy of holding such a lofty title--Captain Crunch, Fruity Pebbles, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Apple Jacks, Kix, Frosted Mini Wheats, Nintendo Cereal, etc.--but I refused to let my choice be dictated by pure nostalgia--there's too much of that around right now anyway.  I had to be true to myself.  Superman boasts an interesting flavor, bold, yet simple packaging, and, most importantly, it doesn't fuck up the milk!  Your milk starts white, and it ends white, and as far as I'm concerned, that's half the battle.

So, let's make it official: General Mills' Superman cereal you are the first inductee into the GIANT ELECTRIC PENGUIN FOOD NEWZ FOODZ CANON!  

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