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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What the WTF?!?: Must Train Ruin Everything?!?

Sorry for the delay, dudes, but I've been at the beach.  We had a nice time.  Quinn played Skee Ball for the first time; the wife and I celebrated five years of wedded bliss by stuffing ourselves full of animal meat; and I set more than a few kids straight when it came to proper usage of the resort's Lazy River.  But now I'm back, and kinda sick, and it's time to get back to business of ripping pop culture a new one.

As I may have mentioned above, most of the Lawson family returned from the beach a little under the weather, so all three of us stayed home on Monday and tried to relax.  It was going fairly well until 3:00 PM.  The kid and I decided to sit down on the couch and watch a little Sesame Street, as we are wont to do.  Things were going pretty well.  There was a bit about Cookie Monster joining the Cookie Connoisseur's Club, headed by a gaunter-than-usual David Hyde Pearce, followed by a cartoon about Jewish trolls dancing or something.  Then, Murray introduced the Number of the Day and this happened:

Dammit, Train!  Put your dumb music in commercials and movie trailers and singing greeting cards, but leave Sesame Street alone.  Sesame Street was the one show I could let my daughter watch without any worry that she'd see something horrific and traumatizing.  Now I'm not so sure.

And didn't the guy who voiced Count Von Count die recently?  What a fitting a tribute to him, right?  "We'll miss you, Jerry Nelson, but at least we'll have this performance of "Five By" with Train to remember you by."  Look, I can see Elmo getting involved in this shit, he's a bit of a sell-out, but the Count?  No way!  The Count doesn't listen to pop radio.  He's probably more of a classic rock guy.  Or, like, maybe he'd surprise you and have nothing but old country-and-western albums in his collection.  Elmo is the kind of guy who likes whatever is on the radio.  

Also, isn't "Drive By" a song about a one night stand?  When I explained this to my wife - yes, friends, she is subjected to these types of rants on an almost a daily basis and she's remained married to me for five whole years! - she pointed out that the lead singer for Train (still not going to look his name up) is informing the stranger he's just banged that he intends to have a fulfilling relationship with her and not simply a one night stand.  "Still," I argued, "he's telling her that after one night together.  That's creepy!"  The point is, "Drive By" is a song about sex and is, therefore, inappropriate fodder for Sesame Street parody.  Or maybe it's fine and I just hate Train's music so much that I can't see beyond my own red-hot rage.  It's probably that.

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Matt vs Matt: Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches

There are occasionally "hot button" issues in the news that I can see both sides of.  In these cases, it's up to me and myself to establish a dialogue and hash things out.  I give you, Matt vs Matt.

From Yahoo:

In Viola, Arkansas, a debate is heating up, after a student had his peanut butter and jelly sandwich confiscated at lunchtime. The school has a no-peanut-products policy due to a few students with allergies, so the teacher helped the little boy get a new lunch and sent home a note explaining the situation to his mom.

That note didn't go over well, apparently. Soon after the incident, a 'School Nut Ban Discussion' group was launched on Facebook by parents conflicted over the policy.

Some parents believe allergy-free students shouldn't have to cater to a few kids' health sensitivities, particularly if it means cutting out healthy or low-cost snacks packed in their own child's lunchbox. 

The mom who packed the confiscated PB&J sandwich thinks kids with allergies should learn "how to manage the problem" rather than live inside a "bubble," according to a local news report.

Other parents of special needs kids feel like they're playing second fiddle to those with allergies. "There are some autistic children that will only eat a PB&J sandwich or nothing at all," one parent opposing the ban argued on Facebook.

According to the Viola District Superintendent John May, this is the first push-back on a policy in place in his school for some time. 

"The policy is in place to protect those with a severe, life threatening problem," May told Area Wide News, a Missouri-based news site. "Until we figure out something else, it would be foolish to drop the policy."

Matt: As the parent of a child who is currently allergic to a whole bunch of different foods, I kind of understand school peanut bans.  When I was a younger man, I remember being quite irritated with peanut-free policies.  I still remember the first time I got on a plane and was given pretzels instead of the honey-roasted peanuts I'd been given since childhood.  It was, pardon my French, complete bullshit.  I'm not allergic to peanuts, so give me some peanuts.  I promise I won't accidentally drop any in an allergic child's mouth.  Then I spent four hours in an emergency room with my daughter who was having an allergic reaction to something she'd eaten.  It wasn't peanuts -- we still don't know exactly what triggered it -- but it was scary.  We now carry an EpiPen with us wherever we go.  I don't want to see my daughter struggle to breath like that ever again.

Matt: Dude, I was there, and, yes, it was scary, but you did get a popsicle.  That was pretty cool, right? Listen, I don't want my daughter to be exposed to things that could give her hives or cause her throat to swell shut or anything like that either, but get real.  Banning peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from schools?  Tell me, Matt, what did your mom pack for you for lunch 95% of your time in school?  I'm talking elementary through high school.

Matt:  I don't really see how that...

Matt: Just answer the question.

Matt: Peanut butter and jelly.

Matt: Exactly!  Peanut butter and jelly is a staple of the American diet.  Not only that, but it's quick and easy to prepare.  And let's not forget our past, Matthew.  You weren't always a pop-culture blog bigwig with your own house and car and vacation home in Costa Rica...

Matt: I have a vacation home in Costa Rica?!

Matt: were once a poor schmuck living in a moldy apartment with a temp job and a rampant fast food habit. You didn't have much money after rent and McDonald's cheese burgers, did you?  You did, however, have enough money for a jar of peanut butter and a jar of grape jelly though.  And I don't know how often you look down from your golden tower, but times is tough right now, and peanut butter and jelly is sometimes the best option for many American families.

Matt: That's a fair point.  But food allergies are real and some of them are quite deadly.  There is still hope that Quinn will grow out of her food allergies, and I hope she does, because coconut milk ice cream tastes terrible...

Matt: You are not wrong there.

Matt: ...but as far as the parents of the special needs children mentioned in the Yahoo article, the picky autistic kids who will only eat one thing, I sympathize with their dilemma, but I would classify kids with severe food allergies as having special needs as well, special dietary needs anyway.  So, if schools are expected to make autistic kids comfortable -- and they should be -- kids with food allergies should get the same consideration.

Matt:  So, what do you propose, genius?

Matt:  You don't have to be such a jerk, Matt.

Matt: Well, what, do you think all children with peanut allergies should be segregated  from the rest of the student body at lunchtime?  That's a great idea.  Let's make a bunch of kids feel like horrible freaks just because they can't crack a bag of Planters in the cafeteria.

Matt: Segregating kids doesn't sound like a terrible idea to me, but I'm an adult, an adult who has done his time in school and realizes that none of that stuff matters in the real world.  But to a kid, yeah, that'd be tough, being told they can't sit with their friends and talk about, I don't know, last night's episode of ALF or something.  That's still a show kids watch, right?

Matt: Prolly.

Matt: However, being separate from the peanut-eaters will ensure that those with peanut allergies won't die at school, so, you know...

Matt: That's a little extreme.  Listen, my daughter's daycare has her EpiPen at the ready just in case something happens and I'm sure a lot of these kids have them too.  If Little Johnny accidentally inhales some peanut dust or trips and falls face first into a peanut butter sandwich, his teacher stabs him in the leg with the EpiPen and, bam, he's fine.  The entire lunch room doesn't have to suffer because one kid is allergic to nuts.

Matt: It isn't one kid though, Matt.  There are a whole bunch of kids with peanut allergies.  I don't know why--I never knew anyone with a peanut allergy when I was growing up--but there is.  Every child has the right to a comfortable, safe school environment, and if that means enjoy a handful of peanuts at home, so be it.

Matt: Well, I need a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to be comfortable, so there.

Matt: I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.

Matt: We're fun, aren't we?

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Coming Soon: Sinister

Film: Sinister

Release Date: October 5, 2012

Well, hello there, Sinister.  You might just be the horror movie that gets me back into the ol' movie theater this Halloween season.

Film Plot (Based on my viewing of the trailer): Actor/published author, Ethan Hawke, takes a break from the Hollywood grind and moves his family into a charming suburban ranch-style house in order to pen his latest novel.  Instead of writing, however, he spends his days watching weird film strips in the attic.  These mysterious home movies unleash an evil creature who hates children, and all manner of scary shit ensues, including Ethan Hawkes' son crawling creepily out of a cardboard box (Yeah!  That happened! Go back and watch it again, man!).

Favorite Trailer Moments:
0:26 - "I'm going to write the best book that anybody's ever read."  You're going to write The Monster at the End of This Book?
2:16 - All those creepy kids watching movies in the attic?  That's the stuff of nightmares.

How It All Ends (Prolly): I don't know.  I don't think I want to know.  No spoilers please!!!

Theater, Video or No Thank You:  I may try to see this one in theaters.  Maybe my dad and I can make it one of our October Father/Son Movie Night choices.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What the WTF, Hollister?!?

Look, I don't know what Hollister is, but from what I can tell from the models they use to advertise their products, Hollister makes stylish clothes for beautiful people.  Beautiful people who, you know, don't look like Robin William's mated with a sasquatch when they take their shirts off at the pool.

But beautiful people can be dicks.  Sometimes the biggest dicks.  Take the Hollister models who helped open a store in Yeouido, South Korea this week.  Not only did they pose shirtless with fans, some of them snapped additional photos of themselves metaphorically spitting in the faces of those aforementioned fans by giving themselves that classic racist bon mot, the "slanty eyes."  You remember the "slanty eyes," don't you?  Surely you remember that timeless, unfunny refrain:

Chinese/Japanese/dirty knees/look at these (point at boobies)

If you don't remember that schoolyard rhyme and it's accompanying hand motions/face manipulations, fine.  If you do, you know what "slanty eyes" are.  You probably also know how terribly offensive "slanty eyes" are now that you are some kind of an adult-aged person. "Slanty eyes" isn't cool.  It's dumb and racist and something only jerks in red swimsuits would think was funny.  And these Hollister hatemongers did 'em all over town.  Stupid, but not terribly shocking.  I mean, look at these Hollister models.  Doesn't seem to be a lot going on behind the eyes, if you know what I'm saying.

Anyway, this is terrible and these guys are idiots and the citizens of South Korea were appropriately pissed off.  But something else about this Yahoo article caught my mind and piqued my interest.  See if you can catch it:

It's not the first time that the brand's reality has fallen far short of its utopian, preppy-meets-Cali image. In 2010, several Manhattan Hollister stores reported a bed-bug infestation. And in 2011 there were reports of people getting lost in the dimly lit stores.

What?!?  From The Huffington Post:

If you've ever shopped at junior's clothing store Hollister, you know that part of the store's ambience is its house-like interior. After you enter the shop through its "front door," you wander from room to room as if you're walking from your kitchen to your den, checking out different types of clothing. Hollister staff also dim the lights way down to contribute to the "cozy" atmosphere. 

But now the trendy light-dimming has gone too far: a Hollister store in England is so poorly lit that people are actually getting lost inside it.

A store in Birmingham, England, apparently got carried away with the mood lighting, because customers are reporting bumping into each other and the store's tables, according to Telegraph.

"I can't see the sizes, I can't see the prices, I can't see the till - I can't see the point," said one cranky customer.

Hollister sounds like one of those haunted houses the Jaycees puts on every year, only instead of overly enthusiastic teenagers in zombie make-up jumping out from behind a bale of hay, you've got shirtless douchebags screaming racial epithets at you.  And you've got to buy an overpriced pair of skinny jeans before they let you leave.  Ugh.

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Coming Soon: The Bay

Film: The Bay

Release Date: November 2, 2012

For those of you who thought the "found footage" genre had been officially laid to rest after the failure of Project X, Hollywood presents The Bay (and at least three other movies I didn't choose to write about in this feature).  

Film Plot (Based on my viewing of the trailer): Parasitic bugs descend upon a sleepy Maryland town via the water supply, turning its citizens into zombies, because no one is sick of zombies.  Right?

Favorite Trailer Moments:
1:14 - I'm not gonna lie: when that bug crawls out of that fish's mouth and into that fisherman's shirt sleeve, I jumped.

How It All Ends (Prolly): Everyone dies.  Government covers it up.  Parasitic bugs show up in some other American town with a bay.  The direct-to-video sequel comes out this time next year.

Theater, Video or No Thank You: I've grown pretty weary of found footage horror and zombie stories, but this trailer gets better as it goes along.  I'll probably watch this on Netflix Instant some day.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Coming Soon: V/H/S

Film: V/H/S

Release Date: October 5, 2012

As played out as the whole "found footage" thing is, there is something undeniably creepy about anything shot on a VHS tape (see: Ringu).

Film Plot (Based on my viewing of the trailer): Some dudes are hired to break into a house and steal a VHS tape.  Why the dudes are videotaping themselves committing the aforementioned crime is a mystery the trailer - and I'm guessing the movie itself - never explains.  Upon breaking into the house, the dudes discover a whole bunch of videotapes.  Not certain which one it is they are supposed to be stealing, the dudes have their own little found footage film festival.  The tapes they watch are scary or whatever.

Favorite Trailer Moments:
1:36 - I like when all those bloody handprints are being pounded onto the wall by an unseen force.

How It All Ends (Prolly): The dudes, shaken by what they seen, eventually find the video tape they are looking for, but it is cursed, and as such, is responsible for the car crash that ends both their lives and the movie.  Poor dudes.

Theater, Video or No Thank You: V/H/S is already on Video on Demand and I'm planning on watching it for next month's 31 Days of Horror.  I'm cautiously optimistic about this one.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Coming Soon: Hold Your Breath

I love horror movies, but I haven't seen a good new one in a long time.  I don't mind revisiting my favorite horror flicks again and again (see: Child's Play 2), but something fresh and original wouldn't be so bad.

So, I've been watching a lot of horror trailers lately, hoping for something - ANYTHING - to get excited about.  How did my search go?  Find out all this week in a special feature I'm calling COMING SOON, because that is literally the best I could come up with after a half hour of brainstorming.  Sorry.

Film: Hold Your Breath

Release Date: October 5, 2012

Have you ever driven past a graveyard and had one of your passengers instruct you to hold your breath while doing so?  Afterward, did he/she share with you the urban legend that explains why you just did that dumb thing?  Don't worry if they didn't, because 30 Rock's Katrina Bowden awkwardly explains things in the first 30 seconds of the trailer for this extremely dumb looking movie.

Film Plot (Based on my viewing of the trailer): A group of sexy friends accidentally inhale some evil spirits on their way out of town for a camping trip after failing to hold their breaths while passing a spooky graveyard.  Said sexy friends, now totally possessed, start punching cops and murdering one another in increasingly grisly fashions.  A wise old creep explains everything just before he is disemboweled.

Favorite Trailer Moments:
0:15 - "Oh, check out that old graveyard over there."  That guy is so excited about that graveyard!
0:53 - "Did you hold your breath?"  Really?
1:14 - Katrina Bowden is hot even when she's killing a nerd with a drill.

How It All Ends (Prolly): All of the sexy friends die, except for Bowden, who makes her way back to the city, possessed with evil spirits and itching to drill more nerds in the face.

Theater, Video or No Thank You:  No thank you.

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Who Asked For This: 8 Arms to Hold You

Check out the creepiest jacket of the Fall season!  Designer Si Chan designed it to look and feel like a comforting hug, but I think it looks like you're being attack from behind by a human centipede.

Look for the creepy hug jacket in a sloppy pile at your local Marshall's in a couple of months prolly.

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Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Most Horrific Thing I Saw This Week, or The Most Horrific Thing Ever Imagined

Today's exploration of the wretched and horrifying was going to feature a story I read about a man falling 60 feet off of a stadium escalator -- because escalators make me think of shopping malls, and for as long as I can remember I've had a reoccurring nightmare about being lost in a dimly lit mall full of M.C. Escher-style passageways and comic book/Cronenbergian pornography stores -- but then I saw this:


Meet the Oogieloves: Goobie, Zoozie and Toofie.  What, you've never heard of the Oogieloves?  That's OK.  Nobody has.  And as their film is poised to be the single biggest flop in cinema history, it's likely that no one ever will.

Two quick things, if I may:  First, if you're going to do this sort of thing, i.e. a children's movie that encourages viewers and their adult handlers to dance, sing and drop their pants along with the film's characters, why not pick some well established characters that everybody already knows and trusts.  As the father of a 1-year-old, I've seen enough contemporary children's programming to know that this kind of interaction between viewer and TV characters is the biggest thing going.  Dora the Explorer, Super Why, Dora's excitable cousin Diego, the various monsters who call Sesame Street home: they all regularly converse with their viewers.  I'm sure any one of them could handle a feature length film and kids would LOVE it.  Hell, my wife and I fell into the habit of watching Go, Diego, Go on Friday nights when she was pregnant, and we loved talking back to Diego.  I loved it at least.  It's probably because I was mostly screaming curse words at the screen, but we had fun.  Seems pretty obvious to me, you slap an 80-minute Diego movie on the screen, kids and parents will show up.  Human-sized puppets with ill-fitting pants just aren't going to cut it.

Second: do we need a movie like this?  Just last month there was a live Super Why show in Raleigh.  If Quinn was a little older, we probably would've considered checking it out until we saw the ticket prices and decided to just go to the park.  Live performances are the perfect places for kids to let loose, dance in the aisles, and scream it up.  The movie theater, however, is not the place.  Movie theaters are for shutting up and being polite to the people around you who also spent ten damn dollars to sit through another crappy super hero reboot.  Theaters are for sitting quietly, watching explosions for a couple of hours, and eating Twizzlers.  This Oogieloves movie and its invitation to sing along and run around like an idiot is 1) confusing children who just last week were told "shut your mouth and be quiet or we're leaving Ice Age 4" and 2) creating a future generation of moviegoers who believe it is perfectly within their rights to interact with the movie they are watching.  I'm going to be even older than I act now then, and I'm going to be so pissed off at these kids.

Here are a couple other random thoughts I had while watching the Oogieloves (ew...that sounds so gross) trailer.

1.  Human-sized puppets have never been not creepy.  Why bring this trend back?

2. After Toni Braxton sings, why does the purple Oogielove shout, "Cool!" while thrusting his pelvis provocatively?  Is the audience supposed to do this too?

3. The Oogieloves movie is "the coolest thing since milkshakes?"  Really?  I can't think of a more square dessert than a milkshake.  Honestly.  What is a dorkier dessert?  Pudding, maybe?

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