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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Pod Nerd: Sylvester Stallone, the return of an old favorite and Chris Gethard again

1. (Fake) Sylvester Stallone Visits the Podcast-O-Verse:  Stallone impressions abounded this week, with (Fake) Sylvester Stallone visiting two of my favorite podcasts, The Flop House and Comedy Bang Bang.  (Fake) Sly Stallone was kind enough to bring his brother, (Faux) Frank Stallone, onto CBB, though mainly, it seems, to repeatedly beat the brains out of and eventually attempt to murder him.  And, hey, like I said last time, I only regularly listen to 21 or so podcasts, so maybe (Ersatz) Stallone showed up in a whole bunch more places.  There was obviously something Stallone-y in the air.

2. Extra Hot Great Returns: A few weeks ago, I bid a tearful good-bye to Yeah, It's That Bad, a favorite of mine and many others who enjoy listening to people riff about awful moments in cinema, many of which feature Nicolas Cage oddly enough.  Who knew?

But, as we all know, when God closes the door on a podcast, leaving it stranded and alone, standing in the pouring rain without an umbrella, its hat (more than likely a weathered fedora) clenched sadly in it's trembling fists, its lips turned downward and quivering and a shade of purple that is a bit concerning, He opens a window for another podcast to crawl in through, warm up by a crackling fire and enjoy a plate of freshly microwaved pizza rolls.  What I'm trying to say is that Extra Hot Great, the best all-purpose pop culture podcast I've ever listened to, is back!

Confession time: When Extra Hot Great disappeared the first time, I refused to listen to the last episode.  I felt like if I did listen, that was it, it was over and might as well have never existed.  I've employed the same strategy with Yeah, It's That Bad.  I don't know if I'll ever listen to the The Mummy Returns episode.  Like, maybe if I leave it on my iPhone like some kind of museum display or something, YITB will come back one day.  It worked with Extra Hot Great.

Anyway, if you have any interest in all manner of pop culture, Extra Hot Great is a must-listen.  The four hosts (that's right, they've added a fourth!) put my own pop culture knowledge to shame.  I'm happy to have The Canon back.  I'm happy to have I Am Not A Crackpot back.  I'm happy to have Game Time back, even though the first two games have been hard as fuck.  I'm happy to have Extra Hot Great back in my ears.

3. You Made It Weird: Chris Gethard: The pod gods heard my prayers and granted me a Chris Gethard appearance on Pete Holmes' You Made It Weird.  And while the Weird New Jersey talk doesn't come until an hour or so into the proceedings, it is still an incredibly entertaining and thought-provoking listen.  Plus, the fact that most of the interview is being conducted in the pitch blackness of Holmes' hotel room after Gethard accidentally turns off the lights makes every tale of rampant music festival drug use, faceless weirdos, and butt eating all the better.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

La-da-di-da-di, chattin' 'bout Miley

I’ve received literally thousands of personal e-mails, text messages and homemade sympathy cards this week, all asking the same thing: “What in the world is up with Miley Cyrus?” I think I’m being asked because of my well-documented enjoyment of Cyrus, her alter-ego, Miley Stewart, and Stewart’s alter-ego, Hannah Montana. Also, one time in the Bahamas, I had my wife take a picture of me standing next to a Miley Cyrus concert poster, smiling excitedly like a bearded schoolgirl. It was a joke, but only kind of. And, yes, as my sister pointed out on my personal Facebook page, I watched Hannah Montana: The Movie by myself. Give me a break, sis! Who was going to watch it with me? You?!? Not bloody likely. 

So, sure, I get why people would be interested in my opinion of Miley’s recent twerk assault on the Brooklyn last Sunday night on Mtv’s Video Music Awards, but there are a few things you’ve got to understand. First, I’ve moved on. I got what I needed out of Hannah Montana (don’t ask me what that was, because I do not have an answer, I’m afraid) and I’ve subsequently moseyed on down the pop culture road a spell. And guess what? I didn’t even watch the final season of Hannah Montana. Does that shock you? Does that give you a cause for pause? Or a cause for paws? Does that make you want to pet a cat? Sorry. Look, I watched Hannah Montana and then I didn’t. There you go. 

Second, I haven’t followed Miley’s post-Hannah career all that closely. I hear about the big stuff (the raunchy Twitter pics, the casually racist Asian-eyes picture, the interviews in which she expressed embarrassment of her Disney past, her engagement, her seething hatred for her father, etc.), but I didn’t know she released an album between the last Hannah Montana thing and the recent “We Can’t Stop” single until I did a little research for this piece. Miley apparently covered “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” on this mysterious album. For real. Essentially, I know about as much about what Miley is up to as everybody else. I’m no Miley Cyrus expert, I’m just a guy who once had “If We Were A Movie” on his iPod. 

I should add that I have nothing against Ms. Cyrus either. This disinterest did not come from a perceived personal slight or a rejection of her self-appointed role as America’s preeminent twerking weirdo, I just have better things to do. Like read to my daughter. Or cook dinner with my wife. Or watch terrible horror movies with my closest friend and talk about them into a microphone for an hour afterwards. Or watch a summer blockbuster and enjoy a follow-up dinner/religious discussion at Chipotle with my dad. Or take a satisfying dump while playing Castle Story: Valentine’s Day Edition on my iPhone in my toddler's bathroom. Stuff like that is much more important to me than paying attention to Miley Cyrus. That being said, I do have some thoughts. 

Regarding the VMAs: Look, we’re all adults here, and most of us have a working knowledge of what goes on at the Video Music Awards. Every year there is a performance or two that pisses off groups like the Parent’s Television Council. They complain about it for a couple of days and then we all forget about the PTC until the next VMAs when, I don’t know, Kanye West takes a shit on stage or Lady Gaga gives Bigfoot a blowjob. Whatever. Something crazy/disturbingly sexual/crass/weird/vaguely homoerotic/borderline Satanic/porny/filth-coated happens every year, and somehow the country survives. Miley’s twerk-a-thon is no different from, say, Madonna’s air sex in a wedding dress or Madonna’s tongue kiss with Britney Spears or that time Madonna broke the record for the world’s largest live anal gangbang while the VMA’s credits rolled (that never happened). I’m just saying, Miley stepped provided the this year's "offensive thing" and there you go. If you saw it start up and you thought, “Oh, I don’t like where this is going,” I hope you turned it off. If you didn’t, oh well. You chose to watch a former Disney star strip down to a peach-colored bikini and dry hump Alan Thicke’s son. That’s on you. Also, shut up, Parent’s Television Council. Nobody cares what you have to say ever. 

I don’t think what Miley did was wrong. She was on the Mtv VMAs not Good Morning America. She wasn’t making a special appearance at a church somewhere. Her performance wasn’t followed by a lengthy sermon and Communion. I should add that I haven’t watched her performance, but I’ve read enough to know how it all shook out (No pun intended—if a pun had been intended I would’ve written “twerked out," you know, like a take on "worked out."  Hilarious.) and I’m neither outraged nor impressed. 

Which brings me to my final point. Miley, don’t you think you’re laying it on a bit thick? I mean, I get it, you’re a big girl now, you’re no longer under the gloved thumb of Mickey Mouse and you want to let your twerk flag fly. We’ve all been there. Of course, we didn’t all result to the tacky, seemingly desperate ploys for attention you’ve been trying out lately. And that’s what is ultimately disappointing about this whole not-important-at-all story: the desperation. None of this seems genuine. The tongue wagging, the butt bouncing, the good-time drug use: it all seems so lame and fakey. Maybe this is the real you, Miley. Isn’t that what she said when she cut off all her hair?  Yeah, she said something, like, “I can finally be the real me.” So, the real Miley has cool hair, smokes weed, sex dances on TV, recklessly appropriates black culture, and vaguely threatens her father on Twitter? All right. That can be you. I guess I just don’t like you very much. Oh, well.

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pod Nerd: Go Bayside, Chris Gethard and the Pegg-Frost-Wright Pod Tour '13

1. Go Bayside: I regularly listen to roughly 500 podcasts, so what's one more?  When that one more involves way-too-in-depth discussions of Saved by the Bell episodes, how I could I possibly say no?  I was, and remain, a fan of NBC's premiere Saturday morning high school sitcom for elementary and middle school students.  You may recall I did my own month long tribute to Zack and the Bayside gang last year.  Apparently there is someone out there as obsessed with every minutia of Saved by the Bell as I am.  Her name is April Richardson and she's turned her love of SBTB into one of the most consistently funny and entertaining podcasts going.

The premise is simple: April and a guest, usually a comedian friend, watch an episode of Saved by the Bell and discuss it in more detail than anyone ever should.  Essentially, it is a podcast made exclusively with me in mind.  If you regularly read my blog or interact with me in real life, you'd know that I thrive when in deep conversation regarding very specific pop culture topics that truly do not matter.  Lately, my topics have been the Friday the 13th franchise--my wife has been kind enough to smile and nod when I launch into a monologue about how there is nothing supernatural about Jason Vorhees in the first four installments or that the series seems to take place in an alternate universe without bras or fully intact t-shirts--and the ages of various Sesame Street characters.  And it should go without saying, but I'm always ready to talk about the strange phenomenon of Samuel "Screech" Powers, arguably the smartest kid at Bayside, devolving from a wunderkind capable of building a robot that runs the gamut of human emotions in the first season to a bumbling idiot in the last.  I'm trying to say I admire April's focus.

There are currently 29 episodes available online.  I've listened to about half of them in the last week.  If you were a fan of Saved by the Bell, you are required to give Go Bayside a listen.  I'm serious.  Go do it.  Now.

(Note: I counted.  I regularly listen to 19 different podcasts and check in occasionally with another 9 or so.  That's still a lot though, right?  And with Pod Nerd I plan on branching out and sampling even more, so, it's going to get worse before it gets better, I'm afraid.)

2. The K Ohle with Kurt Braunohler: Pet-O-Philia with Chris Gethard: Another great K Ohle this week!  Chris Gethard's disturbing tales about being propositioned for sex by a Jerry Springer-loving backwoods weirdo and a man who burned down his own pet store (with said pets still inside, mind you) make this a podcast I wish was longer. Can I get a three-hour conversation about growing up in New Jersey between Kurt and Chris, please?  I don't care how you do it.  Maybe you guys could just tape it and send me the tape or something.  People still do that, right?  Talk into cassette recorders?  That's how I've been doing my podcast for years now.

3. Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright Pod Tour 2013: The World's End comes out this weekend (I have plans to see it next week.  Jealous?  What, you are?  You shouldn't be.  You could probably drive down to your local movie theater and buy a ticket for it.  I don't have exclusive access to it or anything.  I think you're just a jealous person, maybe.  You should really look into getting some therapy or something.  I've got some recommendations.  We'll talk later, OK?) and the three men behind it have been doing the podcast circuit, appearing on two of my favorite podcasts, Doug Loves Movies and Comedy Bang Bang, creating two of the funniest experiences you can have with your ears this week.  I don't have much more to say than that really.  If you are a fan of the Cornetto Trilogy, British accents or laughter, check 'em out!

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Pod Nerd: Eugene Mirman, Alex Guarnaschelli and the end of an era

There are a wide variety of nerds out there: comic book nerds, anime nerds, sports nerds, Breaking Bad nerds, nerdists, tech nerds, porn nerds, My Little Pony nerds, Dr. Who nerds, Law & Order: SVU nerds, sci-fi nerds, etc., etc.  I am a pod nerd, by which I mean I listen to a ton of podcasts.  Too many probably.  I spend 90% of each day listening to podcasts, and while that is most assuredly an exaggeration, it is not much of one.  I love podcasts.  And I listen to a wide variety.  So with Pod Nerd, I plan on sharing my love of podcasts with all of you.  Each Saturday I'll highlight three podcast-related things that excited me over the past week in the hopes that you too will come to love podcasts as much as I do.

1. The K Ohle with Kurt Braunohler: The Boat Show with Eugene Mirman: Comedian Kurt Braunohler's podcast is actually three rotating podcast concepts.  There's Pet-O-Philia, in which Kurt and a guest discuss the inherent stupidity of animals; Get Lost with... features Kurt blindfolding his guest, driving him/her somewhere they've never been, seeing if he/she can guess where he/she is, revealing where he/she is and then seeing if said guest knows how to get home; and my personal favorite, The Boat Show, in which Kurt chats about boats and boating with a guest who knows nothing about boating or boats.  This week on The Boat Show, guest Eugene Mirman talked about the dangers of practicing archery in one's Brooklyn apartment, his long-term relationship with our country's first female president, Franklin D Roosevelt, and his immortality.  There was something about boats too, I think.  It's a must listen, especially for you, Jonathan!

Also, Kurt tells a very personal story at the opening of this week's podcast (he does this quite often) that is extremely moving and centers around the song "Like A G6."

2. WTF with Marc Maron: Alex Guarnaschelli: Marc Maron was the first stand-up comedian of which I was ever truly a fan.  This was back in middle school when I was a burgeoning comedy nerd (FYI: I'm also one of those).  Comedy Central was a relatively new endeavor, and I was already completely obsessed with Monty Python's Flying Circus.  Maron hosted what amounted to a clip show called Short Attention Span Theater (he's talked about it a lot on WTF).  In truth, I would watch SASN hoping for Python clips, but there was something about Maron that appealed to me.  My next exposure to Maron was on Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist, another program I obsessively taped on the VCR in the living room (I had tapes full of Dr. Katz, Batman: The Animated Series, Monty Python, Ren and Stimpy and the original Real World).  Maron did a bit about the wonders of the internet (i.e. "Do you like dogs?") that cracked me up.  Then, he disappeared.  For me anyway.  Hey, I was a kid.

When the WTF podcast appeared in 2009, I sincerely thought it was because God had finally answered my prayers to bring Marc Maron back.  I think I was vaguely aware that he had been on Air America, but WTF brought me back in contact with Maron in a way I never thought would ever be possible again.  Now he's got a TV show that I love and I've seen him live and all is right in the world.

One of the many things I enjoy about Marc Maron is his love of the television program Chopped, a competition cooking show on the Food Network that I am similarly obsessed with.  Marc regularly mentions that there have been episodes that have make him cry, affecting him in an intense and visceral way.  I have experienced this same thing while watching Chopped, usually when it involves a chef talking about his daughter.  That's why this week's episode featuring chef and regular Chopped judge, Alex Guarnaschelli was so great.  Not only was there some great Chopped talk, including a third mention of Maron's almost appearance as a contestant on a celebrity edition of the show (Oh, please let that happen!), but Guarnaschelli, who I recently heard interviewed on the Alton Browncast, is endlessly entertaining.  I simply enjoy listening to her talk.  This is one of those episodes of WTF that I wish would go off into You Made It Weird-territory and just go on for three hours plus.

(I'll add that Thursday's WTF with Simon Pegg was also amazing [a little too light on the Edgar Wright talk, but maybe he'll pop up on a future episode], but I'm attempting to keep myself to three weekly highlights, so, you know, there.  All around great week on WTF though.)

3. Yeah, it's that over:  And, sadly, this week we said good-bye to Yeah It's That Bad, a bad movie podcast I've listened to faithfully for the last 2 years or so.  The concept was pretty simple: hosts Joel, Martin and Kevin would watch a movie that was considered "rotten" by Rotten Tomatoes standards in an attempt to determine whether or not said score was justified (Spoiler Alert: Usually it was).  

I don't know how many bad movie podcasts exist on the internet (I'm guessing plenty and I'm not counting The Greatest Movie Ever Podcast), but I listen to four: The Flop House, We Hate Movies, How Did This Get Made? and, until this week, Yeah It's That Bad.  Those are the only four I needed, and they're probably the only four I'll ever need.  

What makes a bad movie podcast succeed is the hosts, and like the other three I mentioned, Yeah It's That Bad had a fantastic trio of hosts.  Unlike the hosts of the other three podcasts I mentioned, Joel, Martin and Kevin were not involved in the world of comedy in any way (I don't think The Flop House's Stuart Wellington is either, but he's funny as fuck and should be, so...), yet their film "analysis" was consistently hilarious.  It was kind of like hanging out with your goofy high school buddies, with the layers of inside jokes and the copious amounts of high-spirited giggling, two things about the podcast that while I greatly enjoyed, some listeners didn't really appreciate.

Anyway, I'm sad to see Yeah It's That Bad go, but it was a good thing while it lasted.  I'm holding out hope that some form of Yeah It's That Bad will return in the future, but if it doesn't, I'll be fine.  I'm going to try not to cry, guys, but I am, sadly, a weak, weak man.  

Joel, Martin and Kevin: thank you for the five hundred million billion laughs.  Somewhere, Dennis Quaid is shedding a single tear.

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Movie Penguin Monday: #22. Yo-Yo Girl Cop

"Whatca doin?"
"Watchin' Yo-Yo Girl Cop."
"Is that a porn?"
-text conversation between me and my wife

I've had some piss poor luck with low-budget Japanese action movies lately.  After Cutie Honey, I wanted more cute girls using weird weapons to fight goofy bad guys.  I thought I'd found a worthy follow-up in Onechanbara: Samurai Bikini Squad, the plot of which, put simply, concerns a young girl, clad only in a bikini and a cowboy hat, slaughtering zombies with a samurai sword.  I don't care who you are, on paper, that's a winner.  I got through roughly five minutes before I shut it off.  I can tolerate a low budget, but this budget was lower than I'm willing to go.  Plus, the filmmakers opted to use CGI blood, and there is nothing worse than CGI blood (see the 2008 version of Rambo for confirmation). And, not for nothing, but one bikini-clad samurai girl does not a squad make.  A more accurate, though by no means better, title might be Samurai Bikini, Shotgun Motorcycle, Morbidly Obese Japanese Steve Harwell From Smash Mouth Impersonator Squad.  Rough stuff, man.  Rough stuff.

Next, I tried a film titled Lady Ninja Kasumi: Vol. 1.  It was soft-core pornography.  I watched the sex scenes then returned it to its Netflix envelope.

So, I went into Yo-Yo Girl Cop with some trepidation.  Would I encounter another low-budget snore digitally dripping with fakey pixel blood?  Would it be packed with campy fun, kick-ass karate fights and random acts of fan service, like Cutie Honey, or stomach-churning gore and fast-paced, over-the-top butt-kicking, like The Machine Girl?  Or would it be soft-core porn, the worst porn for something that turns out to be porn to be? 

Yo-Yo Girl Cop, mercifully, fell more into the Cutie Honey camp.  It wasn't as goofy, though Riki Takeuchi's hair is consistently ridiculous; or as fun, as there are long stretches in the middle where nothing much seems to happen, and when something approaching action appears to be on the immediate horizon, it is snuffed out immediately with a well-timed pipe to the noggin; but it had some good fights, a few involving the latest in yo-yo technology, and the plot contained a last minute twist that I particularly enjoyed.  And, hey, it wasn't porn.

Yo-Yo Girl Cop, or Delinquent Girl Detective: Code Name = Saki Asamiya as it's known in Japan, tells the story of Saki Asamiya (not her real name), a wild child, who is deported from the United States after her mother is arrested in New York City for possibly being a spy.  Saki is delivered Hannibal Lecter-style to Kazutoshi Kira, the head of Organization K, a secret organization that uses teenagers to infiltrate teenage places in order to solve teenage crimes in a teenage way.  Kira offers to get her mom out of prison if Saki agrees to go undercover at Shingen Academy to infiltrate a terrorist cell that operates the Web site, Enola Gay.  After a brief, largely unnecessary refusal, Saki agrees to cooperate with Kira.  She is provided with a school uniform and a state-of-the-art yo-yo, which she wears on a holster under her skirt and uses far less than she should in a movie called Yo-Yo Girl Cop.  To be fair, once she does whip the yo-yo out, it's pretty cool.  Not the first time though.  The first time Saki attempts to fight someone with her yo-yo, she destroys a mall display and knocks herself out cold.

Rogue Yo-Yo Girl Cop, Reika Akiyama.  Everything you do pisses her off

Like a lot of Japanese movies I've watched, Yo-Yo Girl Cop is super into teenage suicide.  In fact, the Enola Gay terrorist organization, run by the mysterious, sometimes-undercover-janitor Romeo, seems, on the surface anyway, to be all about convincing teenagers to strap homemade bombs to themselves and blow themselves up.  This ends up being a cover for an epic bank robbery (the twist I mentioned earlier, a twist that actually turned me around on this movie), but it is made pretty clear during his final battle with Saki that Romeo loves blowin' up teens.

And that's pretty much it really.  I mean, there isn't a whole helluva lot to Yo-Yo Girl Cop.  A weird terrorist and his gang of what appear to be bored dads looking to kill some time on the weekends, use the inherent insecurity and love of Web sites present in the teenage species to organize a mass suicide at an anti-bullying assembly that will keep the police busy while they rob a bank.  An angry girl with nothing to lose takes on said terrorist group using the martial arts skills she was, I guess, born with, and a yo-yo.  There you go.  If that sounds interesting to you, watch Yo-Yo Girl Cop.  If not, I don't know, don't watch it.

I'll say the same thing about Yo-Yo Girl Cop that I did to my father after seeing The Wolverine: "Man, it's a good thing everyone in Japan knows kung fu."  And, yes, I know kung fu is a Chinese martial art.  Put down the hate pens you use to write your hate letters, everybody.  

All I'm saying is that Saki is recruited by Organization K on her mother's reputation.  Saki's mother was an expert fighter and a whiz with a killer yo-yo.  There's no evidence to suggest that Saki possesses these same skills, skills, I believe, people train for years to develop, until she suddenly starts kicking everybody's ass in home room one day.  Not to mention her skills with a yo-yo.  I mean, sure, the first time she breaks out the yo-yo, she smashes herself in the skull, but after that, she's pitch perfect.  We never see her train, in fact, she is thrust undercover at Shingen Academy the day after she is returned to Japan by the American government.  No one explains how the yo-yo works, she just seems to know.

"Well, Matt, they can't show everything.  That would make the movie long and tedious, and people who rent movies called Yo-Yo Girl Cop are looking for action, nothing more."  Maybe, but there are enough slow, boring moments in the middle of this thing, that a few training montages would not hurt.

Also, I found it amusing that no one ever thought a yo-yo was a strange weapon for a cop to be using.  Like, no one was phased ever.  The bad guys seemed to think it was perfectly reasonable that they were being attacked by a girl with a yo-yo.  They had machine guns and hand cannons, and the 5'2" school girl they were firing bullets at had a yo-yo.  In his final fight with Saki, Romeo uses a samurai sword.  They are literally having a sword/yo-yo fight!  And, guess what?  He cuts the string, rendering the yo-yo useless.  Well, not entirely.  And Saki herself, when presented with the yo-yo, isn't all like, "Oh, no!  If I'm an undercover cop, you're gonna give a gun.  I'm looking for terrorists, and you're giving me a Duncan with which to defend myself?  Oh, hell no!"  She just shrugs.

So, next on my Netflix queue is something called Yo-Yo Sexy Girl Cop.  There's no way that's porn, right?  Right?

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Summer of Joe: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (1983 Mini-Series)

Title: "Duel in the Devil's Cauldron"

Three sentence synopsis: The Joes travel to a South American volcano to obtain the final element they need to make their own M.A.S.S. Device functional.  Scarlett gets kidnapped.  Destro, who clearly fancies himself superior to Cobra Commander, leaves behind millions of dollars worth of military tech, plus most of the meteorite the Joes need to complete their M.A.S.S. device, when he absconds with Scarlett.

G.I. Joe-ments: Just how many Timbers are there?  At the end of "The Worms of Death," most of the Joes have been rendered unconscious by a sleeping gas-spewing time bomb. As "Duel" opens, Timber, Snake Eyes' wolf buddy, helps Cover Girl, a Joe whose special ability is looking pretty, I guess, get rid of the bomb before it goes off and kills everybody.  Now that the scene is appropriately set (don't you feel like you're RIGHT THERE???), let's talk about the mistake.  Actually, it seems more like a lazy move (i.e. non-move?) on the animators' part than anything else.  While Cover Girl gathers up the bomb, Timber waits patiently outside of a jeep, only Timber is also already inside the jeep.  So there are either two Timbers, which seems highly unlikely (don't spoil it if I'm wrong, OK, nerds?), Timber has the ability to travel outside of his body astral projection-style or somebody done goofed.  The scene cuts to Cover Girl saying some such garbage and then back to a wide shot of the jeep, and there is now only one Timber.  So, what's the answer?  Timbergate has officially begun!

*Cobra Commander is seen seated before a bountiful feast, a chicken leg with a large bite taken out of it gripped in his fist.  This seems like the perfect moment to explain how Cobra Commander eats.  He must eat, right?  I mean, just before we join the banquet scene, he had to have taken a bite out of that drumstick.  Does he simply pop his mask off at meal time?  Probably not, unless he puts it back on after every single bite.  That would probably get extremely tiresome.  Is he using the M.A.S.S. Device to transport food into his mouth?  I doubt it.  Destro would never let him get away with that kind of wasteful shit.  I have a theory that his faceplate slides open vagina-style (note to male virgins and/or young men who have never seen porn: this will make sense to you on your wedding night), providing easy access to his mouth.  The mask slides open, Cobra Commander takes a bite or a drink, and the face plate slides back into place.  Just like a woman's vagina.

*Cobra Commander's upset voice = James Adomian as Huell Howser turing into a crow-bot.

*To stop Cobra Commander from destroying New York City with the M.A.S.S. Device, a slave girl dumps a pitcher of water on it.  That's how easy it is apparently.  The Joes have spent four episodes now traversing the globe collecting hard-to-find elements, when all they needed was a jug of water.  Ugh.

*Jet packs!!!

*Let's talk about Cobra's tech real quick.  They've got some fairly advanced shit.  I mean, they're basically flying around in a Star Wars-style spaceship in this episode.  It's also sort of like that thing S.H.I.E.L.D. flies around in The Avengers.  It's huge, covered in guns, and staffed by hundreds of soldiers willing to die for Cobra's cause.  My question is this: why do they even need the M.A.S.S. Device?  Couldn't they take over the world with this futuristic airship they've got?  G.I Joe has jet packs and fighter jets, but Cobra has a spaceship, man!

*Something else about this spaceship: Do they have more of them?  Destro, who comes across as the responsible one in the whole Destro-Cobra Commander dynamic, simply abandons this one with nary a second thought after the Joes hop on board.  He doesn't seem all that concerned.  Also, he leaves most of meteorite that contains the final element the Joes need to complete their competing transporter behind when he flees.  Does he not know the Joes are building their own M.A.S.S. Device?  Why does he think Cobra keeps running into G.I. Joe everywhere these elements hang out?  Stupid.

*Missed opportunity to give Timber his own jet pack.  Bummer.

*At the end of the episode, Scarlett and Destro are on a collision course with the Devil's Cauldron.  Are they going to crash?  Will Scarlett somehow free herself before Destro's escape plane is dashed upon the boiling volcano?  The tension, my God, the tension!  


Oh, wait. "Next time on G.I. Joe..." is here to snuff the tension out.  Phew!

Quotes without context:

"Timber, you're my kind of wolf!"

"This is hotter than a bronco with a cactus saddle!"

"Let's hear it for big feet!"

"When that crater wall breaks, we could have us one humongous blow-up!  It'll send that meteorite pushing out faster than a field mouse at a tomcat picnic."

Title: "A Stake in the Serpent's Heart"

Three sentence synopsis: In the exciting conclusion of the "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero" mini-series, the Joes are beamed halfway across the globe to duke it out with Cobra on Cobra Mountain.  Cobra debuts some more weird tech (see above sumo-snake-bot), but G.I. Joe proves they possess vehicles just as weird (tanks on robotic spider legs).  Shooting.

G.I. Joe-ments: Scarlett and Duke's slave girl main squeeze lead a slave rebellion (GIRL POWER!) that fails almost immediately (AW, SORRY, GALS!  GUESS YOU BETTER SIT TIGHT AND WAIT FOR THE MENFOLK.).

*The closest anyone comes to killing someone on this show: Two nameless Cobra operatives toss Scarlett down a steep set of stone stairs.  She's perfectly fine, don't worry.

*New favorite Joe: Unnamed dude in blue jeans and plain white t-shirt.

*As a final "up yours" to everyone on the planet who refused to bend to his will, Destro points the M.A.S.S. Device at the Earth's core, which Cobra Commander advises us will cause the planet to explode.  On his way out the door, Destro tells Cobra Commander, "Good-bye for now."  Good-bye for now?!?  You are escaping in a helicopter, Destro!  How far do you think you're going to get before the Earth explodes?  Also, how long do you plan on hovering around in the COLD, AIRLESS REACHES OF SPACE in a helicopter?  Knowing Cobra, it probably converts into a spaceship or something, but still.  

*Um, what happen to Major Bludd?  He seemed so important before, but he's been absent for three episodes now.  Maybe Cobra Commander gave him a well-deserved vacation, after all, he is seemingly the only member of Cobra who can actually succeed at anything, even if that thing is retreating.

Quotes without context:

"Don't open any champagne yet, scrap-iron breath!"

"Is the device at operating temperature?"

NEXT TIME: Cobra returns and a new mini-series begins!

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Friday, August 9, 2013

Radio Reprieve?

In the April 4th edition of our insanely popular 100 Songs I Hate feature, I singled out four songs responsible for my decision to abandon Top 40 radio.  I've never been one to deny my weird love of popular music or one to not endlessly remind people of said weird love, but I've never been shy about the music I hate, and way back in early 2013, I'd simply had enough.

Lately, I've been dabbling, here and there, in Top 40 radio again.  "Surely," I thought, "the stations in my area have ceased playing those four loathsome tracks that soured me on pop radio those many months ago," and that seems to be the case.  There was a period in this country when you couldn't turn on your car's radio without hearing Macklemore yammering about thrift stores or a Mafia of Swedish houses pleading for you to stop worrying.  I'm happy to report that I haven't heard either of these songs once since giving Top 40 a temporary stay of execution.  However, there seems to be a whole new crop of garbage readily available to offend the non-deaf masses.  And I'll get to them in a second, but I want to start things out on a positive note.  So, naturally, here's Justin Timberlake:

You can always sort of count on Justin Timberlake when it comes to an enjoyable enough pop hit, and "Mirrors" delivers on the Timberlake promise in a way "Suit And Tie" very much did not.  And while, yes, the chorus is a little whiny, I, personally, like Justin in whiny mode (see also "Cry Me A River").  I think YouTube commenter Hanane Zegaoula said it best: "[T]his sonng touch the heart ...... [heart emoticon]."  It certainly does, Hanane.  It certainly does.

Of course, much like the good Lord, Justin giveth as much as he taketh away:

Sub-Michael Jackson dreck.  When this one starts up, I change the channel.  It just bores me.  And it's weird that Justin Timberlake claims he's never heard of the anti-rape organization of the same name, isn't it?  I think it is.

Boring songs are one thing, but dumb songs are a little tricky.  Some dumb songs can provide great fun, songs like "Baby Got Back" or "Just A Friend" or "The Humpty Dance" or the aforementioned "Thrift Shop."  These songs are simply dumb fun.  Some songs, however, are so bone-headedly stupid, their value remains a complete mystery to me.  Like this one by Capital Cities:

Pardon my language, Mom, but what the fuck is this?  A hackneyed electronica beat.  Shockingly dumb lyrics.  Yet, "Safe And Sound" has become a colossal radio hit, which apparently justified making the above video, which is extremely well-made.  Again, I'm not against dumb things, but I am against dumb things, you know?  This song is just too stupid to waste anymore letters on.

And what the hell is this?

Boring.  And I'm just not a fan of throwback pop songs that insert a bunch of foul language into the proceedings.  It's why I was never blown away by Cee-Lo's "Fuck You" like everybody else.  What's the point?  To shock me.  "Oh my Lord, someone in this doo wop song just said the f-word!  What a scandal!"  Just shut up!  And barn chandeliers?  Really, Mariah?  Isn't it enough that you seem to have your own barn and probably several purebred horses, but now you got crystal chandeliers in there too?  Show off.

It appears my return to the radio was a huge mistake.  "Scream and Shout" and "Sweet Nothings" had faded into obscurity, but now there was "Safe And Sound" and roughly twenty more Macklemore tracks to take their place.  Was there a song out there that could justify the existence of Top 40 radio in my eyes?  Turns out, there was.  This one:

I love the song.  I love the video.  I love how the lyrics and music make me feel like a sensitive teenage boy sobbing into this pillow after his first break-up or a sensitive teenage girl realizing once and for all she truly does prefer Blaine to Ducky.  It's overly dramatic and cloyingly teenage, and I scan the radio dial in a vain quest to find it every single time I get in my car.

So, is Zedd's "Clarity" enough to make me stick it out with radio?  Of course it isn't.  Screw you, radio. I'll try again in the autumn.   

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Is This The Most Annoying Thing Ever?: Smart Car

With GEP's latest feature, Is This The Most Annoying Thing Ever?, I will present something I've encountered on television, at the movies, on the radio, on the internet or in my own personal day-to-day interactions with people, both stupid and dumb, that I feel might, in fact, be the most annoying thing ever, and ask you, the reading audience, "Is this the most annoying thing ever?"  We'll start with the inspiration for this feature, a little stand-up comedy bit about smart cars from Mr. Pablo Francisco:

Look, if you think this is funny, fine.  I don't care what people enjoy.  I'm not writing this to insult anybody, except may Pablo Francisco, but only a little.  This bit is the beginning and end of my Pablo Francisco knowledge.  I don't know anything about his background, the comedy circles he moves in or his journey from Open Mics to well-produced television specials.  Maybe he's got a great story, I simply do not know.  And maybe smart cars are super fun to laugh at.  I mean, they look weird, right?  And every time I see one it's always being driven by some gray-haired white dude.  Not an aging hippy, mind you, but, like, a square, elderly Caucasian man who seems marginally well off.  That's always tickled me kinda.

What makes Francisco's smart car bit endlessly annoying to me is his repetition of the phrase "smart car," specifically the tone and register in which he chooses to do it.  Even his audience seems to tire of it eventually.  It goes from being shockingly offputting ("Whoa, who knew that voice could come out of that guy?") to mildly creepy ("OK, this is getting gross.") to utter disgust ("Why does he keep saying that???  STOP IT!!!").

I should explain how I even heard this.  I've got a comedy nerd reputation to uphold, after all.  There is a radio station in the town in which I live called Funny 570 AM that plays stand-up comedy 24 hours a day.  They actually play people I like (Patton Oswalt, Doug Benson, Todd Barry, Eugene Mirman, Maria Bamford, Pete Holmes, Aziz Ansari, etc) more than you would think.  They also, predictably, play a lot of garbage (Dane Cook, Daniel Tosh, Larry the Cable Guy, etc.).  They also play a lot of Jeff Dunham, which is odd because isn't half the "fun" actually seeing the puppets spew those racist, horrible jokes?  Where Pablo Francisco falls in all of this, I don't know.  If a comic isn't offensively unfunny (different than simply offensive, mind you), but just not my thing, I usually don't care, but this smart car thing, oh man, is it grating.

Also, smart cars are gay Transformers?  That seems a little hackneyed and I'm fairly certain this is the first time I've ever heard anyone say it.

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Saturday, August 3, 2013

What Is It?: Twerking

It's time for What Is It?, the Giant Electric Penguin feature in which I catch up with something (phenomenon, musical artist, TV show, condom flavor, etc) that everybody else on the planet is pretty much sick of, but that I missed for some reason.

The first time I can remember hearing the word "twerk" was in the Justin Timberlake song "SexyBack," the popular tune in which the handsome singer announced to a world so desperate for the sexiness that had so long ago abandoned us and disappeared into the black hole of time, that he was bringing said sexiness back.  The word in question was spoken-sung by producer Timbaland.  The line, if I'm remembering it correctly, was something like, "Show me what you're twerkin' with," I believe.  At the time, I thought Timbaland had simply created a fun new way to say the word "work."  Rappers and hip hop producers do that all the time, create new words and phrases for white people to co-op and use ad nauseam until all beauty and hipness is lost.  On behalf of lame white people everywhere, I thank you, rappers and hip hop producers.

It wasn't until the recent release of Miley Cyrus's "We Can Stop" video, that "twerk" once again entered my life.  People were appalled/delighted/confused by Cyrus's video, in which she, apparently, "twerks it up" throughout.  I watched the video a couple of times and recognized that Miley had, in fact, put in the "twerk" to craft a super weird video for a fairly ho-hum track, but that couldn't have been what people were so enchanted/bothered/sexually- aroused-and-subsequently-sexually-frustrated by.  "Twerk" must have meant something else.  But what?  For the answer I turned, as I always do in these situations, to  Here are some of the definitions I found:

--Ghetto dancing
--a fancy word for "booty poppin"
--white girls in yoga pants having sex with the air OR black girls in 2 sizes too small shorts having sex with the wall
--The rhythmic gyrating of the lower fleshy extremities in a lascivious manner with the intent to elicit sexual arousal or laughter in ones intended audience

So, "twerk" has something to do with "ass."  As a confirmed (and licensed!) ass-man, I was intrigued.  I took my quest to uncover the mysteries of "twerking" to YouTube and discovered that EVERYBODY twerks:

Wal-mart shoppers!

Library patrons who also shop at Wal-mart!

Probably drunk IHOP customers!


And if watching all of these fine people (and that weird  dog) "twerk" have made you want to try "twerking" yourself, well, YouTube's got that covered too:

Guys, I followed the "twerking" instructions in this video and made my own pretty great "twerking" video.  You can check it out on my Faceunion page or do a quick search on Searchling for  "Bald, 34-year-old dad TWERKZ."  You can also find it on your Craig's Phone app.  And, heck, I'll post it on my old MySite page too (Who still uses MySite, right?  Sheesh!). 

So what do I think about "twerking?"  Well, I'm not really sure it counts as dancing, but I'm not against it.  "Twerking" appears to be something anyone of any race can practice and enjoy, and it is one of those rare cultural phenomenons that have not only been embraced by humans, but the dog community as well.  

Oh, hell, this is a place for honesty.  I like big butts and I cannot lie, OK?  "Twerking" is all right with me.  "Twerk" it up, America!

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