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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Perving Out: I'd "grind" all up on her "house," if you know what I mean...

There's just something about Michelle Rodriguez in Machete that's got me perving out right now. When she jumps out of the back of that taco truck with an eye patch and a gun the size of the Empire State Building...damn.

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

100 Songs I Hate: 6-8

6. "Another Postcard" (The Barenaked Ladies)

Canada's Barenaked Ladies had at least a plastic Food Lion bag full of decent songs before they broke big time in the US with 98's "One Week," a song that, for better or worse, still endures in the national consciousness, if only because of its enduring stupidity. I had been a fan of the Ladies for awhile before "One Week" barged in and ruined everything. Still, I thought, if "One Week" inspires people to check out Gordon--a solid album to this day, in my opinion--or, to a slightly lesser extent but still an extent, Maybe You Should Drive--I still have soft spots for "Jane" and "Everything Old Is New Again"), then all is not lost. I also wondered what Barenaked Ladies would do next. Perhaps another pop classic in the vein of "Brian Wilson" or the immensely hummable, pleasant enough "If I Had $1000000." That'd be nice. I couldn't have been more wrong.

I remember the day "Another Postcard" premiered on my local alternative rock station ('member those???). It was the same day I lost all interest in not only the Barenaked Ladies, but in all Canadian music. When I heard Stars for the first time, I decided the Canadian rock community deserved a second chance. I've never turned back.

"Another Postcard" is awful. In its attempt to recapture the quirky magic of "One Week," it fails more miserably than anything has ever failed before or since. It is pure garbage; an assault on the ears and brains of a naive nation that had invited these funny, musically talented Canadian lads into its hearts five years earlier with magical results. "Another Postcard" was the last straw for me and I'd guess many others.

7. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (Tori Amos)

I know a lot of you don't agree with me on this, but hear me out. First, however, a story. My high school girlfriend and I made mountains of mix tapes for each other. I usually stuck to a theme ("The Best of The Smiths & Morrissey"; "They Might Be Giants: My Favorites") while hers were more scattershot. She used to decorate her mix tapes beautifully as well. I think I still have most of them lying around. They really are quite nice and I still enjoy most of the music they contain. Anyway, one of the mix tapes she presented to me included Tori Amos covering Nirvana's biggest hit of all time. My reaction was to laugh, exclaim "what the fuck," and fast forward to the next song, which was the style at the time. When next we were together, she asked me how I'd enjoyed her latest mix. I said I liked it, but asked, probably a little harsher than was necessary--I could be kind of an asshole when I was younger--"What was up with that awful Nirvana cover?" To my surprise, she teared up, saying, "I thought you would like it!" This exchange probably ruined the evening. May have led to one of our hundreds of break-ups. Sigh. Young love.

But, yeah, I still can't get into this. "But she's slowed it down and turned it into a stirring piano ballad, Matt!" Sure, she slowed it down and enunciated the words, but doesn't that just sorta expose how dumb the lyrics are? I mean, when Kurt Cobain was yelping and growling, it didn't matter what he was saying. The guitars were loud, the drums caved your face in, and he said something about guns or whatever. Awesome! "Smells Like Teen Spirit" isn't a tinkly piano tune whispered by a flame-haired pixie, it's an angry, stompy grunge diatribe grumbled by a heroin addict who used to live like a bridge troll. Trolls are always smashing pixies with their clubs. It's the law of Faerie, and I think that is something Tori Amos could appreciate.

8. "All Star" (Smash Mouth)

In 2000, Smash Mouth's "All Star" was king. You couldn't escape it. Humanity's only comfort came from knowing that some day--some beautiful day--it would dissolve into the ether and become lost forever, unable to taint future generations with its schlocky mediocrity.

But it didn't go away. And it will never go away. It's like Dracula. Or the AIDS virus. It won't die! Turn on your TV for five seconds and there'll be a commercial with its haunting refrain taunting you with its shittiness. Pop in a DVD for your kid and more likely than not one of the characters is going to break into singing it before the closing credits. Could be a sass-talking donkey or a farting ogre, but it's going to happen. In fact, according to the Wikipedia entry dedicated to "All Star," Steven Harwell, Smash Mouth's lead singer, originally considered simply selling the song to advertisers rather than put it on the band's second album, Astro Lounge--available now at flea markets, thrift stores, and bottoms of fetid dumpsters everywhere.

Listen, simply put, if you have ever liked the song "All Star" by Smash Mouth, me and you will probably not get along. Clearly, we will never see eye-to-eye on not only music, but a variety of issues. So, let's just agree to disagree and go our separate ways, all right? Good. Have a nice life, you dummy.

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Perving Out

Before 2011's San Diego Comic Con fades from our collective memory like a monster-infested fog from a Stephen King short story adapted into a big budget Hollywood flop, I think it's important to point out that America's first Next Top Model, Adrianne Curry, was kicked out of the yearly event for wearing an Aeon Flux outfit that was just a little too sexy. I'll let you guys decide, as I am currently dealing with this massive nerd boner and cannot think straight.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Food Porn Friday: Food Clothes

Meet Twinkie Chan. She makes super cool clothes that look like super cute foods. These are just three examples. To see more visit her Web site: You can also follow her on Twitter (I do!): @twinkiechan




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Thursday, July 28, 2011

What the WTF?!?: Let's Buy Me a Town

Earlier this month, I found myself tempted to purchase a lighthouse after reading that the General Services Administration (GSA) was selling off some of America's premiere lighthouses to any and all interested parties. "Think of all the things we could do with our very own lighthouse," I told my wife. She told me to think about it and gave me the number of the hotel where she and my daughter would be staying until I got this whole "lighthouse-owning business" out of my mind.

Thankfully, I didn't waste my money on any stupid old lighthouses. Who needs a lighthouse when you can own A WHOLE DAMN TOWN?!? That's right, plebs, you're reading the blog of the future owner/mayor/chief parade planner of
Scenic, South Dakota. All I need is a 800,000 dollars and a mayoring hat.

You're probably saying to yourself--or to the person in the next cubicle, I don't know what you do--"800,000 dollars? What do you get for 800,000 dollars? Not much probably." Well, my friend, you--and your cubicle neighbor--are dead wrong. When you buy Scenic, SD you not only get the streets, dirt, and any wild animals that wander by, you also get " a dance hall, a saloon, two jails, a train depot, two stores, and some more empty buildings." Yeah, you read it right: two jails! I don't know what "two stores" I've got, but as long as one of them is a Bed Bath & Beyond, things are gonna be A-OK.

Now, here's where you come in! Obviously, I don't have 800,000 dollars, but I'm willing to bet at least one of you does. If you are that one loyal reader with 800,000 dollars just lying around, can I have it? For reals? If you give me the 800,000 dollars I so desperately need to make my dream of owning a ramshackle ghost town in the middle of nowhere a reality, here's what you'll get:

*Free admission to the dance hall FOR LIFE!
*2 free nights in one of the "empty buildings" I will be turning into a Comfort Inn or something.
*A complimentary Bud Lite at our saloon.
*Half-off a walking tour of beautiful downtown Scenic led by me, the owner/mayor/parade planner/ominipotent overlord of Scenic.
*Two of the "some empty buildings" to with whatever you'd like. (NO Hostel-style torture dungeons, please!!!)

So, c'mon, rich guy--or girl--give me money. Or, heck, I'll settle for donations. Just contact me at and I'll let you know how your money can reach me. Thanks in advance. Next summer, I'll see all of you in Scenic, South Dakota: Home of the Matt Lawson Memorial Indoor Waterslide & All-You-Can-Eat Pizza Buffet!

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

GEP's Initial Listen Report Card: Newermind

2011 marks the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's Nevermind, an album that changed my and I'm sure countless other's lives. In celebration, Spin magazine released a free downloadable tribute to this seminal record, titled Newermind. As a service to GEP readers and Nirvana fans alike, I have accepted the task of downloading, listening to, and assigning each track a letter grade. You're welcome.

1. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (The Meat Puppets) -- D
Can we all finally agree that it is just not a good idea to cover this song? Every attempt so far has sucked super hard and the Meat Puppets take is no better. In preparation for recording this sub par "tribute," whichever Kirkwood brother singing lead vocals seems to have either swallowed a handful of open safety pins or had his throat caved in with a baseball bat. Not an auspicious start by any stretch.

2. "In Bloom" (Butch Walker & The Black Widows) -- C-
Again, not only not great, but not even pretty good. The chorus is sunnier and sounds like it was performed by a netherworld Beatles.

3. "Come As You Are" (Midnight Juggernauts) -- F
To borrow a phrase from The Best Show's Tom Scharpling, this tuneless "bedroom techno" take on "Come As You Are" is a "five star flop." Monotonous garbage.

4. "Breed" (Titus Andronicus) -- A
Here we go! Visceral, loud, and dirty! It stays true to the spirit of the original song by mostly sounding exactly like the original song. Newermind's first highlight...hopefully not its last.

5. "Lithium" (The Vaselines) -- C-
When Kurt Cobain covered a Vaselines song, the results were some of my favorite Nirvana tunes. Unfortunately, the Vaselines fail to return the favor. This is "Lithium" as a boring funeral dirge. Nothing interesting.

6. "Polly" (Amanda Palmer) -- B+
Eerily schizophrenic and beautifully creepy, Palmer's cover of this song about the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a 14-year-old concert goer sounds like it was recorded in a broken music box full of rusty chains, shattered glass, and ghostly banjos.

7. "Territorial Pissings" (Surfer Blood) -- B
Solid, fairly straightforward take by a band I actually listen to regularly. The song isn't the same without Cobain's signature yelp, but the Surfer Blood boys do an admirable job.

8. "Drain You" (Foxy Shazam) -- F
Nirvana as musical theater--shitty, shitty musical theater. I'm still uncertain whether or not this is a joke. If so, good one???

9. "Lounge Act" (Jessica Lea Mayfield) -- B
Country-tinged take I'd expect to hear on the main stage at a small town apple festival or inside a used bookstore/coffee shop/apple buttery located in the same aforementioned small town.

10. "Stay Away" (Charles Bradley & The Menahan Street Band) -- A
Amazingly funky cover that, surprisingly, really works! Totally belongs on a 70's blaxploitation soundtrack. I could see Shaft punching Whitey in the face while this plays or, like, Coffy kicking some drug dealing jive turkey in his balls.

11. "On A Plain" (Telekinesis) -- C
I used to fantasize that if I was ever in a moderately successful band and we were asked to participate in a Nirvana tribute album, we would cover "On A Plain." Telekinesis' cover is a straightforward adaptation--which I appreciate--but after "Stay Away," it sounds kinda boring and obvious.

12. "Something in the Way" (JEFF the Brotherhood) -- C
Again, straightforward and fine, but uninspired. Everything after that electric cover of "Stay Away" just seems inessential.

13. "Endless Nameless" (EMA) -- C
A hidden track, I guess? I'm embarrassed to say I never stuck around long enough after "Something in the Way" to hear it. It probably sounds about the same as the Nirvana-version, and thankfully, unlike the title suggests, there is an end. "Endless Nameless" is nothing more than garbled screams, whining feedback, and crunchy bass, but it's still a million times better than Midnight Juggernauts' "Come As You Are," which, if I haven't made clear yet, is pure shit.

In summation, I'm glad this was free.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summer Jam...Or Is It???

It's Summertime! Time for jams! You remember jams, right? No, not the horrible pants! I'm talking about summer jams; those songs that put a spring in your flip-flopped step and and a summery feeling in your bathing suit area. The kind of tunes you'd blast from, say, a "boombox" or a "ghetto blaster" or a "cassette playing-device perfect for hoisting on one's shoulder and sauntering down the beach with." Now you're gettin' it.

We here at GEP are so in love with the notion of the "summer jam," that we've decided to devote a new feature to seeking out possible entries in what we're calling the Summer Jam Canon and deciding whether or not they are Summer Jam Canon worthy. Sort of like when you die and float up to the pearly gates and God decides whether to hand you a harp or flick your sorry corpse into the bowels of hell. Only with summer jams! Yay!

1. "Summertime (DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince)

Will Smith's exploration of "summer madness," a disease that infects 100% of Americans from mid-June to early-September, recounts the lazy days of summer's past spent jumping rope, attending neighborhood barbecues, and watching Grandma and Grandpa cut-a-rug at the family reunion.

Evidence that it might be a summer jam: listeners are encouraged to "sit back and unwind," a common activity performed during the summer months; everyone in the song's video is wearing shorts; the song is called "Summertime."

Summer Jam?: Without a doubt! In fact, this summertime classic might be the most summer jammy summer jam of all time.

2. "My Summer Girl" (The Rentals)

"My Summer Girl" is a melancholy story about the break-up of a mismatched relationship--I'm guessing it's between two teenage camp counselors, a boy that would commonly be referred to as a "nerd" or "spazz" in his civilian life and a sweet-natured popular girl seeking a summer romance with a "nice guy" for once--at the end of a magical summer.

Evidence that it might be a summer jam: the word "summer" is in the title.

Summer Jam?: As much as I love this song--and I love it so--and The Rentals, "My Summer Girl" is just too darn sad to be a summer jam. Plus, walking down the street with this one blasting out of your boombox speakers is just asking for a beat down from some bored high school jocks on summer vacation.

3. "Wiggle It" (2 in a Room)

A frightening party rap dance jam about a pod person-type groove that stalks teenagers and young adults, "penetrates" both their skin and soul, and forces them to dance, or "wiggle it," but only a "little bit." I don't know whether to get down or contact the authorities.

Evidence that it might be a summer jam: the video features scores of bikini-clad women dancing on a beach, the most common of summertime environments; lookit that boombox!--it's gargantuan!--and its got summer party necessities sprouting out of it!

Summer Jam?: Totally!

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Food Porn Friday: Penuche Fudge

Happy National Penuche Fudge Day, everybody! What is penuche, you say? Well, according to Wikipedia it is "a fudge-like candy made from brown sugar, butter, and milk, using no flavorings except for vanilla." Of course, as we all know, Wikipedia is full of lies and half-truths, so the world may never know what penuche truly is. Alls I know is that this is a picture of penuche and today is the day we celebrate its mysterious existence. Huzzah!
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Monday, July 18, 2011

Movie Penguin Monday After Dark: #9. Cheeky (2000)

[Something a little sexy (see also, gross, perverted and boring) from the vault of shame.]

London is a truly swingin' place to be if everything in Tinto Brass' 2000 film Cheeky! is to be believed. Full-on sexual intercourse in the park! Scantily clad young women flashing their lady bits at whoever happens by! All female bathhouses that require one to be nude at all times! There's, like, a whole last days of the Roman Empire thing going on there and I want in on the action.

Sadly, the England of Cheeky! could only exist in the mind of a gross old man, in this case, Tinto Brass, the infamous director of 1979's equally infamous film, Caligula. I'd like to say he's come a long way from those days, but that would be a lie. Brass is still up to his dirty tricks, only this time, he's fully in charge and, surprisingly, the film suffers because of it.
If I were to award a star rating based solely on the hotness of it's star, Yuliya Mayarchuk, Cheeky! would receive 17 stars (mind you, I am working within the standard 4 star paradigm). Mayarchuk, who plays Carla, is insanely sexy, the kind of beautiful that makes you want to punch a brick wall repeatedly until your hand shatters to bits because you simply cannot comprehend how so much beauty can exist in one human being. She giggles and galavants. She flits and flirts. It is just as erotic to watch her dress as it is to watch her undress. Her stroll through the park during Cheeky!'s opening credit sequence is the sexiest Dentyne commercial never made.

So there you go. Sexy starlet equals feel-good erotic romp, right? Unfortunately not. Cheeky! is not a sexy romp but a sexless dirge that drags viewers down into a pit of human sadness and degradation. How can casual sex between two large-breasted women even remotely be described as sexless and depressing, you ask? Cheeky! will make you believe it is possible. No matter how many exclamation points you slap after the title, this film is a waste. Essentially it's just like every other soft-core porn film you watched with your cousin when you used to sleep over at his house when your parents visited Baltimore. You had to sleep on a beanbag chair, but you dealt with it because you knew you were going to see some sweet boobs. I'm sorry. I've said too much.
It seems offensive to even suggest that Cheeky! has a plot, but it took five (?!?) people to write the screenplay, so let me at least attempt to describe the useless tripe I spent 90 minutes watching. Carla is a young Italian woman who comes to London to work as an administrative assistant in a hotel. We never see her work or spend any time in a hotel or do much of anything other than walk around town sans panties. Carla needs to rent a flat because her boyfriend, Matteo, is coming to London to learn English. Moira, a real estate agent, agrees to set Carla up in a sweet apartment for an affordable rate. Then she molests Carla.

This happens a lot to Carla throughout the film. Apparently, among Italians (all of the characters are Italian, but living in England) it is perfectly acceptable to grope any woman you please. Not only that, but most women invite this groping or, at least, tolerate it. Hey, Italian-Americans, add another offensive stereotype to your growing list.

So, Matteo, still in Venice, begins to suspect Carla is some kind of slut (which she kind of is) after he finds naked photos of her taken at the beach. Meanwhile, Carla continues whoring it up in London. She bangs Moira's ex-husband in the bathroom of Moira's apartment, allows a randy old man (Tinto Brass in a stomach-turning cameo) to penetrate her with his finger, and enjoys a labia massage from a young man at her local female-only orgy center (it's kind of like the YMCA only totally nude, and groping is encouraged). In the end, Matteo agrees to move to London, extols the virtues of jealousy and lying, and happily allows Carla to flash her cooch at a passing police officer to get out of a ticket for littering. Ah, young love.

I want to add that Cheeky! is full of vagina close-ups, but every penis shot contains the same veiny, rubber member. It's as if Brass made his male actors share the same ersatz cock during filming. Eww.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

100 Songs I Hate: 4-5

4. "So What" (Pink)

Proving that everyone everywhere had either forgotten what rock music was or simply no longer cared, singer-songwriter Alecia Beth Moore, otherwise known as Pink, announced in 2008 via this trifle of a song, that she was, in fact, a "star" of the "rock" variety and nobody called her out on it. Is she a star? I would argue that she is, though I think it would be the shortest argument on record as I don't believe anyone would refute me. Pink's output is a Top 40 mainstay, regardless of the fact that her music gets less and less essential as time marches ever onward. Really. Has she had a legitimately enjoyable song since 2001's "Get the Party Started?" I submit that she has not. None of that really matters right now however, as we are here to discuss "So What" and how much I loathe it. And I loathe it so.

First, Pink does not perform "rock music" so therefore she cannot be the "rock star" she claims to be repeatedly in "So What." Secondly, "So What" falls squarely into a category of pop song that I hate above all others: the "I'm-rich-and-famous-but-woe-is-me" song. Granted, "So What" isn't as bad as say "Lucky," Britney Spear's ode to celebrity loneliness, but that's only because it's got one of them infernal toe-tapping beats. Confound it! The song is still all about how her marriage didn't work out and how Carey Hart is a dick or something. Ugh. Scream-sing that broken-home, my-love-life-didn't-work-out-because-I'm-a-rebel-who-can't-be-domesticated horseshit to someone who gives a rip. And thirdly, "So What" proves once again how funny Pink isn't. The jabs at Jessica Simpson and Hart--she is especially brutal to him in this song, indicating in the song's opening lines that he can't even afford to pay his rent without Pink in his life--fall flat and the video--oh boy, this video--is just one unfunny set-piece after another. But maybe it's unfair to use a music video against somebody. That's fine. This song sucks, with or without it's video. How's that?

Pink's "rock moves": driving a riding lawnmower down a busy city street; beating up a nerd at Guitar Center; performing her own tree removal; assaulting newlyweds with a eggs and beer cans.

5. "Coming Out of the Dark" (Gloria Estefan)

Yes, I am aware that this was the first single Estefan released after she was almost killed in a horrendous tour bus accident and was therefore, in a way, a miraculous return to form for the internationally beloved singer. But I remember the day it premiered on my local radio station--it was January 1991, 18 days before my 13th birthday--and I couldn't have hated what I was hearing more. My musical tastes were changing. I used to accept whatever Detroit's radio DJs thought appropriate for my young earholes, but in early '91, I wasn't so sure anymore. Eight months later, my rejection of Top 40 radio would be complete with the additions of Nirvana, REM, Primus, and They Might be Giants to my life. "Coming Out of the Dark" was the spark that lit the fuse, so to speak. In a way, it signaled my "coming out" of uninspired pop music's darkness. On that level, I should thank Ms. Estefan.

But, yeah, I'm kind of a dick for hating this song as much as I do. Oh, well. Such is life.
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Friday, July 15, 2011

Perving Out

You should really be watching Community. Stuff like this doesn't usually happen, but that shouldn't stop you from checking the show out.

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Gotta get down on Friday!

It's finally Friday! Time to party! But what is there to do on a Friday night for someone on a tight budget? It costs ten bucks to see a movie and that's before popcorn, soda, Twizzlers, and three games of Big Buck Hunter. Dance clubs are loud, sweaty and full of morons and there's a darn good chance you won't even get in, you nerdy loser. I guess you could go out and have a nice dinner with your friends. Oh, I forgot, you don't have any friends and, face it, most restaurants won't serve someone who refuses to wear a shirt and we all know your history with shirts (I know, I promised I wouldn't tell anyone. And I won't. I'm just sayin'.). What is a party person to do?

Well, I don't know if you've heard, but things are heating up over at Walmart. Yeah, that's right: Walmart. You were still under the impression that Sam Walton's omnipresent, omnipotent corporate behemoth of mass consumption and instant gratification existed merely to provide poorly dressed yokels with great deals on frozen pizza, straight-to-video Steven Seagal movies, and everything else their enlarged little hearts desire, not to mention single-handedly end the tyranny of local mom-and-pop operations? No way, man! Walmart is, apparently, a happening place to be, at least when you do it the way up and coming rap semi-star Mr. Ghetto does it.

Wow! Let the good times roll, right? Looks like all you need is a video camera, a shopping cart, and some ample-buttocks friends with tight-fitting shorts and it's on. I'm going to Walmart right now! Who's with me?

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Most Horrific Thing I've Read This Week

Nothing ruins a vacation--or shatters a child's fragile pysche--like witnessing an accidental death. Well, nothing other than being the victim of the accidental death, I guess.

I think we can all agree that death is probably the last thing we'd want to experience when taking a summer trip with our families. A little sightseeing. A few nice meals out. A couple hours of lounging on a secluded beach. These are the hallmarks of a successful vacation. Getting sucked into a blowhole and drowning OR watching a man be sucked into a blowhole to his drowning death would be pretty low on my vacation "to-do" list, as I assume, gentle reader, it would be on yours.

Last Saturday, tourists in Hawaii were treated to just such a sanity-shattering sight when California resident, David Potts, was sucked into a blowhole where he, presumably, drowned. Now that's pretty sick, but even sicker is how Potts was described just before his watery death

Witnesses who watched a Northern California man get sucked into a Maui blow hole to his apparent death say that the tourist was dancing around and frolicking in the sprays of water moments before a wave knocked him down.

Rocco Piganelli, of La Jolla, Calif., said he stared in horror as he watched a large wave push the tourist into the hole off Nakalele Point on Saturday afternoon. The man popped up briefly with the next wave, then disappeared.

He was dancing? And frolicking? I don't know why, but these simple details make the story so much more disturbing to me. There Potts was, hanging out in Maui with his lady-friend and her brother, dancing around a famous
blowhole, cavorting and being goofy and BOOM! He's gone; sucked away into an underwater tunnel of death. The fact that he popped up briefly before disappearing into the briny deep forever, just makes me nauseous.

You might be thinking to yourself, "Hey, at least Potts spent his last moments on Earth--besides those few seconds when he popped back up before being dragged to his final resting place at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean--engaged in summertime frivolity. It could've been a lot worse." Feel free to put a positive spin on it, man, but if I'm in Maui, frolicking and dancing, the last thing I wanted to do is get sucked into a fucking blowhole. If I'm dancing, I'm probably on top of the world. Maybe he'd just proposed to his girlfriend and she'd just said "yes." Did you ever think of that, Happy McBrightside?! Huh, you jerk!

It's the tourists (and anyone who reads this HORRIBLE article) that I feel sorry for, however. Potts is gone, but a bunch of people trying to get away from the daily grind for awhile watched him get gone. How are you supposed to enjoy the luau you have scheduled for Saturday night? Is watching beautiful Hawaiian girls perform a sultry hula dance while muscley, tattoed man whip fire all around (yeah, that's right, I've been to a luau!) going to erase the memory of watching a man be sucked into the ocean to his demise? Not bloody likely. Not only is your vacation ruined, but your life is ruined as well. That's not how kids are supposed to learn about death. They're supposed to have a goldfish die or watch Bambi. No kid needs their first experience with death to be watching a happy dancing man on vacation get dragged into a blowhole. Ugh.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Great Casey Anthony Debate

One week ago today, a Florida jury found Casey Anthony, a young mother accused of murdering her two-year-old daughter and lying to the cops about it, not guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated manslaughter, and aggravated child abuse. Facebook and Twitter--and I assume Myspace, unsigned bands care about verdicts in child murder cases?--exploded with rage, young and old alike condemning the jury, the lawyers, and Casey Anthony herself. "This was a miscarriage of justice," they typed angrily. "Good job, Florida!" they commented sarcastically. "Another child killer set free by the Obama administration," one misguided Tea Partier I follow tweeted. "At least she'll burn forever in Hell," said some nice church folk.

Giant Electric Penguin remained notably silent during the whole thing (Trust me. A lot of people told me that they noted it.). After all, we're in the business of ha-ha's and goofy fun times. We write about tanuki testicles and post close-up photos of unhealthy food. We're not in the travesties of justice game. We leave that stuff to Nancy Grace and her cronies. But as I read the tweets and the Facebook comments and watched the news reports--I'm kidding...I don't watch the news--I began to think that perhaps I was doing my readership a disservice. Maybe, just maybe, they were turning to GEP for the answers Nancy Grace and @justice4caylee173 couldn't provide.

So, I sent an e-mail to a select few of GEP's most loyal readers, asking them a single question, the one question that has been on everybody's lips since the verdict was announced last week: Is Casey Anthony hot? Here's what I got back.

Ronnie B. (t-shirt designer/Mountain Dew aficionado)
"Of course Casey Anthony is do-able! It isn't even up for debate, bro! You think just because most of the US population thinks she drowned her kid or whatever, I don't get rock hard--pardon my French--whenever I see her on TV or whatever? C'mon, bro. You gotta be half-a-fag--pardon my French--to not think this chick is smoking hot! Dude, I would totally take her out to a nice dinner, get bottle service or whatever--you know, a classy-ass evening. I'd wine her, dine her, and if she could keep herself off of my piece--pardon my French--on the car ride home (and I doubt she could...THAT'S WHAT'S UP!!1), I'd give it to her so hard. And from behind. Is that enough for the blog, bro?"

Jason N. (barista/amateur slam poet)
"Ugh. What's to debate? Of course Casey Anthony isn't hot. She looks like a heroin-addicted Alyssa Milano. And I don't mean Charmed-era Alyssa Milano either. I'm talking Who's the Boss, Samantha-era Alyssa Milano. Only hooked on heroin. And have you seen any of her crying pictures? Woof! She looks like Cesar Romero if his face was melting. Or, like, Snagglepuss if he were a human woman and had his face smashed in with, like, a hundred frying pans at once. The whole "I-killed-a-baby" thing doesn't bother me, I mean, my high school girlfriend had, like, three abortions sophomore year, it's just, I mean, look at her. She's, like, a dog. She looks like one of those pug dogs got mashed in the face with a weedwacker and then had plastic surgery to look like Vern Troyer but then she, like, fell down the stairs through a window or something. (Hey, I attached a few of my poems to this e-mail. You can post them on the blog if you'd like. I think your readers would get a lot out of them, 'specially "Ladybug in my Ear on a Summer's Evening (Nancy Drew Remix II)" Thanks!)"

Aileen L. (grandmother/prayer warrior)
"hi, matt. so nice to hear from you. hows the baby? your dad showed me a picture and she looks sweet as sugar. i'm doing fine. my leg still aches in winter but its summer now so it will probably be fine. did you mean to send me this e-mail? would love to hear from you. not sure i have your correct phone number. i keep leaving messages by noone ever calls back. oh well. love you. it was my birthday yesterday. bye."

Erin J. (lady-lawyer/mother of "three feisty felines")
"As your lawyer, Matthew, I feel I should advise you that this journal post is a VERY BAD IDEA. I don't know how many of these e-mails you sent out, but if you can somehow get them back...? I don't even know if that is possible. Hm. I really wish you would talk to me about these things before you just go and do them. My best to you and the "List Lady." And, heck, I'll play along, but just this once. Is Casey Anthony hot? Well...I wouldn't go lesbian for her, but maybe things get frisky one night at a bar and...who knows... OK. Seriously. Stop this."

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Movie Penguin Monday: #8. Pom Poko (1994)

[Sorry 'bout missing the last few Mondays. Comes with caring for a newborn, I'm afraid. Anyway, it's Summertime, which means the kids are at home for the next 3 months with nothing to do. Nothing to do but sit in front of the TV and offer up their precious brain cells to filmed entertainment, that is! Today we're reaching WAAAAAAY back into the (recently locked forever) Movie Penguin Vault to bring you a really weird, pretty great, scrotum-filled animated film from the land of Japan.]

Pom Poko is an animated documentary that tells the story of a group of tanuki (Japanese raccoon dogs) that use their shape-shifting ability and gigantic scrotums to wage war on the Japanese land developers who are turning their beautiful Tama Hills home into a sprawling Tokyo suburb. The film, from Studio Ghibli, is chock full of gorgeous animation, quirky characters, and gargantuan nutsacks, making it the obvious choice for your next family movie night. Order some pizzas, gather around the big screen, and watch raccoon dogs pummel a Japanese police force with their mammoth-sized balls or spread their scrotal sacs wide enough to cover the windshield of a bulldozer.

Years ago I worked for a non-profit summer camp program for at-risk kids in Harnett County North Carolina. It still ranks as one of the most rewarding jobs I've ever had in my life. Everyday after lunch we had Quiet Time. Campers were encouraged to bring sleeping bags and pillows, spread them out on the floor, and take a nap. We'd also put on a movie for those who didn't want to sleep. The whole idea was to relax for an hour or so before the second half of the day commenced. I usually took my lunch break during Quiet Time, but I was often back in time to catch the end of whatever movie we were watching that day.

After seeing the thrilling conclusion of Good Burger for the fourth time in one week, I asked the camp director if I could share one of my favorite films with the students. That film was Hayao Miyzaki's My Neighbor Totoro. At Quiet Time the next day we watched Totoro. Instead of leaving the center to eat lunch, I stuck around to observe any reactions. Those who stayed awake were glued to the screen, captivated by Miyzaki's cheek-pinchingly cute furry monsters.

Things were going swimmingly and then...the bath scene. Yes, there is a scene in My Neighbor Totoro in which Satsuki and her little sister, Mei, take a bath with their father. Surprisingly there were few giggles, but some of the older kids turned to look at me with confused faces. I took that opportunity to tell everyone that family baths were perfectly normal in Japan and that seemed to eleviate the momentary weirdness. Shortly after this scene, I left to grab a quick lunch. When I returned, my boss told me that the kids had loved the movie. The next day we were back to Good Burger. God, I hate Good Burger.

It was easy to explain away an awkward bathing scene. I mean, I don't know of any American babies who were able to bathe themselves successfully having just popped out of the womb. That's something your parents teach you. That's right--your parents have bathed you and you were probably (gasp!) naked when they did it. And who hasn't bathed with their siblings or cousins at some point? American families tend not to take communal baths, but there certainly isn't anything sinister about the proceedings. I was quite proud of the kids at the Think Smart Outreach Center for reacting so well to something they were not used to seeing. They certainly did not react the same way when I played Bjork for them. My feelings are still hurt over that incident.
Stop calling me Mr. Raccoon! I'm a tanuki, dammit!"

I found myself thinking about that day at Think Smart while I watched Pom Poko. I wondered how I would have explained the testicle thing. Not what testicles are, but why furry cartoon creatures were using said testicles as baseball bats and parachutes. There's nothing sexual going on, unless you're some kind of masochist, but it's still off-putting to watch a tanuki's scrotum grow to epic proportions and be used as some kind of battering ram or sail for a boat bound for nirvana. The simple answer is that's just what tanuki do in Japanese mythology--they use their balls in all kinds of ways American animals do not. Perhaps American folklore is missing out on something. Maybe our stories suffer from lack of scrotal-manipulation. The fact is, explaining to a roomful of American children that tanuki and testicle-play go together like peanut butter and jelly succeeds only in opening up the floor to even harder questions, questions best left for Japanese Studies professors or actual Japanese people.

Moving on. Pom Poko tells the story of two warring factions of tanuki (raccoons in the Disney dub) who unite to stop mankind from infringing on their environment. Tokyo is growing and there isn't enough room for all of her citizens, so construction companies are buying up farmland in and around the Tama Hills area and erecting new housing developments and apartment complexes. This is unacceptable to the tanuki clans who are now forced to live together in an abandoned shrine where they use a stolen television set to monitor the humans' activities. Elderly chief, Tsurugame, and holy woman, Oruku, decide that the clan needs to re-embrace their mystical shape-shifting abilities to scare the humans away from Tama Hills and thus the training begins.
Some tanuki are quite talented at shape-shifting, especially Shoukichi, voiced in the English version by forgotten-idol Jonathan Taylor Thomas. What happened to Jonathan Taylor Thomas? Remember when he was the next big thing? Yeah, neither do I.

Anyway, while Shoukichi and his various friends go about spooking construction crews, war-loving Gonta desires a more drastic approach to ridding Tama Hills of humans: death. After several failed attempts at scaring humankind away from their home, including a rather disturbing scene involving tanuki disguised as faceless human ghouls and a monster parade called Operation Specter which is co-opted by a corrupt amusement park CEO, Gonta and his merry band of pissed of raccoon dogs declare war on some riot police who've invaded the forest.
And you can new jack swing from my nuts!

Gonta and his crew come out with their giant nuts swinging, but unfortunately they are all killed. Before they die completely though, Gonta and his pals fuse together to form a giant, demonic head that bounces around the highway and is eventually hewn in two by a truck in just one of many super weird, but beautifully animated scenes in the film.

Meanwhile, the aforementioned amusement park CEO who took credit for Operation Specter, hires a shape-shifting fox (kitsune) to find those responsible for the parade. He wants to hire them and pay them large sums of money to make his amusement park more, uh, amusing, I guess.

I should say a little more about Operation Specter before going any further. It can be described in one word: horrific. Giant skeletons float through the sky, demonic spirits crash through drive-in movie screens, tiny people march through the streets, etc. It's all kinds of creepy. And Fatty McBaldguy wants this to be a daily occurence at his flailing theme park? Operation Specter is how I imagine it would be like to drop acid and sit through Disney's Electric Light Parade, only the parade is not marching down Main Street USA, but crashing through your front door and stomping through your house and the only way to escape the horrifying beasties trampling your belongings is the sweet release only a bullet to the brain can provide.

Anyway, the kitsune, who in human form looks unlike any human being in existence, suggests that the tanuki take the job and join the human race. This of course will mean becoming human permanently and leaving those who cannot shape-shift behind to, in all probability, die. This horrifies the tanuki who take one last crack at reminding the citizens of Tokyo how beautiful Tama Hills was before their construction crews and cheaply built McMansions. Using their shape-shifting abilities, the tanuki create a kind of collective halluncination. People are reunited with their dead relatives and trees grow out of the cement and bloom instantaneously. The tanuki, also hallucinating, see themselves as cubs and are so overjoyed that they lose focus and the mass hallucination disappears. It is at this point, that Shoukichi, Oruku, and the others who are skilled at shape-shifting decide to join the human world for good.

Depressing, eh? Well, don't worry, Pom Poko gives us a beautiful epilogue, in which a now fully human Shoukichi, walking home from his unfullfilling desk job, spots some tanuki running through the streets. He follows them to a clearing where some of his old friends are having a kick-ass tanuki dance party. As he runs towards circle of dancers, Shoukichi pulls off his tie and kicks off his shoes and once again takes on the form of tanuki. He is welcomed back with open arms and swollen nuts.

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Monday, July 4, 2011

Courage is the thing that keeps us free

Professional wrestling truly sets us apart from the rest of the uncivilized world! God bless Terry Gene Bollea and God bless America! Happy 4th of July, everybody.

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Friday, July 1, 2011

All Outta Chances

I realize this is the season of second chances, but you've got to draw the line somewhere. I mean, how many chances does Pixar's Cars franchise deserve before it is socially acceptable to thow up my hands and ask, "What about this am I supposed to like?" How many times must one man be burned by a clunky, cliche-ridden James Cameron script before he spends his hard-earned ten dollars on something worthwhile, like a meal for a sad homeless man or two bags of beef jerky for himself? As far as I'm concerned, there are some things/people in this world that are all outta chances with me. Here are five of them:

1. Cantaloupe

The first time I tried cantaloupe--visiting my maternal grandmother in Dundalk, MD--I could barely choke it down. I ate a single chunk and expressed my extereme distaste for it through a series of facial grimaces and puke noises. I may have moaned something like, "Ugh, this is the worst thing I've ever put in my mouth so far." My mother explained to me that humankind was often at the mercy of "bad melons." Apparently, there is no way of telling when one has purchased a "bad melon" until one has purchased said melon, sliced it up, and taken a bite. Knowing this, but waiting several years before having another go, I once again sampled a bit of cantaloupe and--surprise, surprise--it was every bit as horrid as the first. I believed then, as I do now, that there is no such thing as a "good" cantaloupe. They are all either "bad" or just cantaloupe. Sorry, cantaloupe, but you are ALL OUTTA CHANCES!!!

2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre I've given Tobe Hooper's 1974 film about a family of weirdo cannibals living, loving, and slaughtering wayward travelers in the Lone Star State THREE chances and I still abhor it. In fact, after each viewing I find myself hating this ugly little film a little bit more. Am I bummed about this fact? Sorta. I mean, I like to think of myself as a connoisseur of the horror genre, and as such, I understand that the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a classic, I just can't get into it. Maybe it's the creepy reality feel of it. There are parts of the film that seem almost documentary in style, and while that gives the film its peculiar power, it also gives me a sick, sad ache in the pit of my stomach. On that level, I guess Massacre has had the desire effect on me. I have, however, discovered a film that provides the same queasy feeling I get from Massacre, but is infintely more entertaining called Tourist Trap, which I like to refer as "my Texas Chainsaw Massacre" Sorry, Leatherface, but you are officially ALL OUTTA CHANCES!!! (Matt Fun Fact: I have only once referred to Tourist Trap as "my Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and that was right now in this article.)

3. "Adam Sandler" Movies I have been accused on several occasions of being a "movie snob." I am willing to accept this label, but let me be perfectly clear: Billy Madison remains to this very day--nay, this very minute!--one of my all-time favorite film comedies. The silly standard set by Madison guaranteed that I would be in attendance at every "Adam Sandler" movie throughout the mid- and late-90's. Shockingly enough, The Waterboy was not the film that killed "Adam Sandler" movies for me. It was, in fact, 1999's Big Daddy that finally forced me to take stock of my movie-going ways. I remember sitting in the theater on opening night, surrounded by a sea of braying fellow Sandler fans, thinking "This isn't funny. Why is everybody laughing? What am I missing here?" I decided that night that I had officially ceased to be the audience for Mr. Sandler's signature brand of lazy goofiness. I'll admit that I did watch the follow-up to Big Daddy, Little Nicky, but it was years after the fact and I borrowed the DVD from a friend. I may have also seen large portions of Mr. Deeds on TV, but that doesn't count. Here is a quick list of the Sandler films post-Little Nicky that I successfully avoided and never plan to watch: Anger Management, 50 First Dates, Click, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.

Regular readers of the blog know that in 2008, against our better judgement, me and my friend Jonathan paid to see You Don't Mess with the Zohan. I don't remember why we did this. I think it had something to do with Robert Smigel and Judd Apatow's involvement. It couldn't be all bad if those two agreed to be a part of the thing, right? Sadly, Sandler had burned me again. Things had not gotten better since Big Daddy, they had gotten far more dire than I could have ever imagined. And what's on the way from Sandler: Jack and Jill, the film in which Adam Sandler plays twins, one of which is a woman. Ugh. Jack and Jill alone guarantees that "Adam Sandler" Movies, at least in my life, are ALL OUTTA CHANCES!!!

4. Sea Urchin Sushi

I mean, look at it! They look like little orange tongues. Gross! ALL OUTTA CHANCES!!!

5. Michael Bay

I haven't been burned Adam Sandler-style by the films of Michael Bay, simply because I've never been a fan of Michael Bay. I have seen exactly three of his movies, including the one I was promised was better than his usual output (It was The Rock. It sucked.). The first Bay film I was forced to suffer through was The Island. At the time, I was dating a girl who had the absolute worst taste in filmed entertainment. Regular readers of this blog will remember her as the girl who got mad when I revealed the ending of Hitchcock's Psycho one evening. Anyway, I saw The Island and I hated its guts. Next, the aforementioned The Rock. Blech! Finally, in 2007, I took in a matinee of Transformers. It was there, in that mostly-empty theater, Bay's fate was sealed. Sorry, Bay, but you and your dumb transforming space robots are ALL OUTTA CHANCES!!!

(Yeah, that's right, June, July, and August have joined forces and been dubbed THE SUMMER OF 1ST, 2ND & 3RD CHANCES! DEAL WITH IT!!!)

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