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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Walking Away: Why I Deleted The Walking Dead From My DVR

Upon returning from the beach last Sunday (I had a great time, by the way.  Thank you so much for asking!), I erased every last episode of AMC's The Walking Dead from the family DVR.  At the time, very little thought went into this brazen act of destruction.  I simply sat down on the couch, called up a list of recorded television programs, and, in the process of choosing something to watch, deleted the back half of Season 3 and the latest episodes of the current season.

The next day, I reflected on my actions, and felt satisfied with my "final solution."  There was no regret, no pangs of want.  There was a mild feeling of relief, like, "whew, there's one less thing in my life to worry about."  I had a boner, but I always have a boner in the morning, so I chalked that up more to tradition than to DVR clean-up-based sexual arousal.  As the day progressed, I found myself compiling a list of reasons I had for saying good-bye to The Walking Dead, a series that I once very much enjoyed.  Here's what I came up with:

1. Zombie fatigue:  Zombies, like vampires and the Tea Party, have gone from "trend" to "pretty much a thing," so they're not going anywhere. Once society has accepted something as "pretty much a thing," that "thing" tends to not give way to other "things," but rather gets repeated and repeated and repeated until we just kind of accept the "thing" and let it wash over us like a briny ocean wave (Man, I miss North Myrtle Beach!  There was a Lazy River at our resort, dudes!!!).  We don't question the wave's validity, it's reason for continued existence, we just watch it cover us in boring seaweed day after salty day. 

What I'm trying to say is that I'm tired of zombies.  I was actually never really that into zombies in the first place.  Of course I like Night of the Living Dead and Zombieland.  I thought Dead & Buried was kind of a fun spin on the zombie story.  Stephen King's Cell had it's moments.  My horror tastes run more towards 80's slashers, city-stomping monsters, ghost stories and foul-mouthed killer dolls.  Zombies aren't super exciting and for some reason they are everybody's favorite thing now.  I just got tired of them.  Not because I'm cool and above-it-all, but because I've fulfilled my life's zombie-quota and I'm ready to move forward.

2. Breaking Bad: I recently finished watching Breaking Bad in its entirety.  If you haven't seen it, I recommend that you do so as soon as humanly possible.  It's maybe the best television show I've ever watched, and I've watched a lot of television shows.  It's also so frighteningly good, that it kind makes all other one-hour dramas look like garbage.  After following the rise and fall of chemistry teacher turned wannabe drug kingpin, Walter White, and his drugged-up, emotionally-scarred partner-in-meth, Jesse Pinkman, caring about a show with zombies in it seems kind of silly.

3. Critical non-acclaim: A lot of critics I trust don't seem particularly excited about The Walking Dead anymore.  This is not usually a factor in my decision whether or not to stick with a show, but as we are currently living in a Golden Age of television, it seems irresponsible to waste time on a show for which I am no longer passionate.

4. Funny stuff:  I'd rather watch half hour comedies then full hours of repetitive brain stabbing, pained grimaces to the middle distance and groaning.  Shows like Parks and Recreation; It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia; New Girl; The League; NTSV:SD:SUV; Children's Hospital; Brooklyn 9-9; South Park; Bob's Burgers; American Dad; and, yes, even How I Met Your Mother, which mercifully ends this year.  And I've heard good things about this Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..  And I love Alice in Wonderland, so I sort of want to check out this Once Upon a Time in Wonderland shit.  Plus, a source I trust says Sleepy Hollow is dumb fun.  And I'm pretty excited about Almost Human.  See, there's a plenty of other stuff to watch, guys.

5. I just don't care anymore: I think that's pretty self explanatory, right?

My decision to abandon Rick and the gang has already been met with rage and disgust (not really), and I get it.  Fans of The Walking Dead are passionate about the show.  But it's really not a big deal.  First of all, it's the number one show on television.  Me not tuning in isn't going to result in the series' immediate cancellation.  Second of all, it's on Netflix, so if I ever change my mind or feel myself desiring a little "zombie action" again, I'll check it out there.  Sure, I'll miss some valuable zombie apocalypse survival tips by not watching the show anymore, but I'm sure my zombie-obsessed friends on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Friendster, FaceSpace, and Mybook will help me out with that (Ugh.).

So, farewell, zombie friends.  Perhaps we'll meet again one day.  And if we do, I'll be sure to shoot you in the face.  After all, it's the American way.

PS: I'd like to apologize in advance to my co-workers.  You will no longer be able to have me sign my name next to Has Seen Every Episode of The Walking Dead during the ice breaker portion of our next staff retreat.

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Monday, October 21, 2013

The Most Horrific Thing I've Read This Week

I know it's only Monday, but I don't think things are going to get any more horrific than this.

We all have a celebrity we admire, enjoy, look up to or even strive to be more like in some way.  Some people, for instance, have a favorite sports star.  To show an alliance with this chosen sports professional, one may purchase a jersey emblazoned with said professional's surname and number embroidered on the back of it or adorn one's man cave walls with framed poster art featuring one's hero in action, say, hitting a baseball with a baseball bat or throwing an impressive touchdown pass or flashing the ever-popular "devil horns" hand gesture while catching some wicked air on an energy drink-endorsed snowboard.  Individuals who don't like sports (i.e. nerds) might find their heroes in the world of music, film, literature, art or even commercial voice-over.  The point is, we all, no matter who we are, enjoy celebrities, and that's OK.

I, for example, am a huge fan of Steven Patrick Morrissey (AKA Moz, the Pope of Mope, the Dad of Sad, the Coxswain of Pain), former front man of the Smiths and current best solo artist on the whole damn planet and screw you if you don't agree.  I enjoy his music.  I enjoy his various stances on things even when they are the complete opposite of my own.  I am tickled by his casual racism and his hatred of mostly everyone.  I own his albums.  I own various books about him.  I've seen him in concert twice.  I always have either a Morrissey or Smiths t-shirt handy when the occasion calls for one.  I had a life-sized Morrissey poster hanging on my dorm room wall freshman year that scared the piss out of my redneck roommate whenever he got in late at night.  I am, how you say, a super fan.

I also find Morrissey quite handsome.  Not handsome enough to, say, save up one-hundred thousand dollars and pay a plastic surgeon to cut my face to look like his, but I'd say that is a pretty reasonable thing to not do.  I mean, who in their right mind would pay a doctor to make them look like someone else?  Who in the world could be that self-hating and delusional to think that was a good idea?

Oops!  33-year-old Toby Sheldon did, only not with someone cool and ruggedly good-looking like Steven Patrick.  No, Toby Sheldon is more of a Bieber fan.  Maybe the ultimate Bilieber.  I mean, look what he did:

Wait.  Wh--.  Why would...?  Huh?

The weirdest thing to me about this is that this guy is 33-years-old.  He is one year younger than me.  I thought this kind of shortsighted, overblown, reckless style of fandom died inside someone around age 25.  I'm not saying you can't be excited by stuff.  There's plenty of stuff I love, but I'm not spending thousands of dollars on face-pinching and lip-cherubing.  I haven't had my face altered to give me the unnatural appearance of a Peter Pan zombie with bangs.  I'm happy to like the things I like, and look like a stocky, balding dad while enjoying them.  I can't fathom why someone in my age range would ever consider this as an option.

Anyway, good for you, Toby Sheldon.  You kinda, sorta don't actually look like Justin Bieber and you're out $100,000.  Have a great life, buddy.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

GEP's Initial Listen Report Card: Bangerz

Deep down, in some secret place through which I seldom tread, I knew I was going to buy Bangerz one day.  I made jokes on my Facebook and Twitter pages about hiring a teenage girl to visit my local Best Buy and purchase a copy for me, but part of me knew it wasn't a joke, and I doubt I fooled any of the people who truly know me.  To them it was less a humorous aside than a cry for help.  "Don't let me do this," is what I was really saying, but not really.  It was more like, "I know I shouldn't do this, but I'm going to, so, screw you, guys."  And now I own Bangerz.

Look, I know Miley Cyrus is a causal drug user who doesn't care for Breaking Bad and makes little people feel bad about themselves, but I feel like an Initial Listen Report Card is warranted here.  I've always had an affinity for Ms. Cyrus and I've been more than a little intrigued by her recent output.  I've been hearing about Bangerz (Ugh, I hate having to type that over and over) for so long on social media,  I felt there was no reason not to get swept up in the excitement and give it a chance.

Well, I've given it a chance, and here's what I thought.

1. "Adore You" -- A

Bangerz features three near-perfect pop tunes, and "Adore You" is one of them.  It is a dreamy slow jam with one of the most earwormy choruses in recent memory.  Need proof?  This weekend, the wife and I, along with my parents and our two-year-old daughter, took to the out-of-doors for an epic front lawn clean up project.  I eventually lost count of how many times my wife looked up from bundling branches and asked me, "What?" to which I sheepishly answered, "Just singin'."  And what was a I "just singin'?"  "Adore You."  

It is strange song to open an album with, stripped down and casual as it is, but it works, easing you into the proceedings with romance and marriage talk, a theme that will mostly disappear when the twerking begins.

2. "We Can't Stop" -- A-

The second of those three nearly-perfect pop tunes I mentioned earlier.  Separated from its weirdo video, "We Can't Stop" ceases to be creepy, depressing or sad.  It's REAL low-key for a party anthem, but that just so happens to be the kinds of parties I prefer: quiet, laid back, plenty of Tostitos-brand Chunky Salsa jugs.  "We Can't Stop" is probably the only party song that could double as a baby lullaby.

Why the minus?  I don't care for this Mike Will Made It character's insistence on using a creepy, slowed-down ghoul voice to represent himself in a handful of Miley's songs.  He sounds like Jigsaw from the Saw movies.  I'm waiting for the track where he asks Miley if she wants to play a game and then attaches a reverse bear trap to her face.  

3. "SMS (Bangerz)" -- D-

Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears together at last!  And how do these twin titans of pop choose to celebrate their long awaited coupling?  They rap.  Poorly.  About vibrators.

Look, Miley Cyrus is not Hannah Montana.  I understand and accept that.  But whatever name she goes by, Miley sings/raps with a twang, a twang made famous through her involvement with the long-running and beloved Disney Channel sitcom, Hannah Montana.  So, I'm sorry, but I don't want to hear Hannah Montana rap about pleasuring herself with a vibe.  

Also, there's Mike Will Made It at it again with that voice.  What, did they record this album in that weird bathroom from the first Saw?  Was Cary Elwes chained to the wall, sawing his foot off in the corner?  Was there a dead guy spread out in the middle of the floor?

4. "4X4" -- C

It's official guys: Nelly will do anything.

I want to hate this song sooooo much, but I can't.  I don't necessarily like it either, but it's probably the best thing I've heard from Nelly since college when my friend Nick's roommate, Lewis, made me listen to "Ride wit Me" over and over again, every single stupid day.  I guess if someone is doing a country/rap mash-up, they are required to contact Nelly now.

Question: Have you ever been driving your car so fast that you've peed yourself?  Me neither.

5. "My Darlin'" -- C-

Worse than that horror-movie voice he insists on using, Mike Will Made It is one of those producers that makes the singers he works with say his name somewhere in the song.  

So, "My Darlin'."  Let's see.  Miley and a robot from the future, appropriately named Future, sing a song about making 3D movies (???).  Hold on.  Is this a cover of "Stand By Me."  What the hell is this?  I don't get this song.

6. "Wrecking Ball" - A+

One of my favorite songs of the year.  Like "We Can't Stop," separated from it's video (Which I wrote about on this very blog!  Remember?!?), "Wrecking Ball" is a powerful song about the dissolution of a dysfunctional relationship.  Good stuff!

7. "Love Money Party" -- D

Mike Will Made It's songs don't ever go anywhere!  In one sense, his decision to craft "Love Money Party" into a loop of boring bucks the current trend in EDM.  Dumb.


Again, I can't help but hear Hannah Montana when I listen to this song, which is offputting only because this is the requisite "sex song" on Bangerz.  I blame that twang.  That said, "#GETITRIGHT" is upbeat and I like this line: "Make my tongue just go do-dit-do."  That's cute, and it's nice to hear Miley's much maligned tongue get a shout-out on the album.

9. "Drive" --B+

This thing should build, go nuts, crash, build again, go even nuttier, explode, etc. as it is aping the current dub step trend, but, predictably, Mike Will Made It (Ugh!  Now I hate having to type that over and over!) doesn't do it.  It's still a fairly decent song though.

10. "FU" -- D

Meh.  I can barely listen to this song. 

11. "Do My Thang" -- B-

Another one I want to hate, but can't.  Could use roughly 100% less rapping, but the lyrics are funny ("laugh at" funny, not "laugh with").  Awww, Miley's pretending to be a bad-ass.  Didja hear?  She don't give a fuck.  Adorable!

12. "Maybe You're Right" -- C

It's fine, but I didn't feel any connection to it.  More of an "I left" song than a "I got left" song, so less appealing.  I prefer songs where people are whining and sobbing about being dumped, wallowing in their sadness.

13. "Someone Else" -- B

Definitely a "banger," but by this point I was pretty drained and ready to listen to something for grown ups.

In summation: Bangerz features very few actually "bangers" (as I understand the word), but "Adore You," "We Can't Stop," and especially "Wrecking Ball" are among the best pop songs I've heard this year.  Even the worst songs are saved by Miley's vocals.  Say what you will about the way she conducts herself in public, the young lady can sing.  I think I like Ke$ha's latest better though.

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

14 Movies I'm Too Scared To Watch

It's finally October, the month in which three of my very favorite things--candy, horror movies and sexy costumes--are celebrated.  As this is the case, Giant Electric Penguin will feature a whole (bloody) mess of SPOOOOOKY posts over the coming weeks, so BEWAAARE!  You might want to read these posts through threaded fingers, gentle souls, because they are going to be downright, shit-sprayingly horrifying!  YOU'VE BEEN WARNED...

I've made no secret of my love for horror movies.  What I have kept to myself is the fact that there are some fright films out there that I've never been able to bring myself to watch.  That's right: even I get scared sometimes.  I know I act like a real tough guy; a macho man who ain't afraid of nobody or nothing, living or dead or visiting this plane of existence from the very flames of eternal Hell; a hunky stud with big metaphorical balls and the big, not-at-all-metaphorical balls to match; a chiseled, statuesque hero of a man who eats fear for breakfast, and shits it out in time for a buffet lunch of fear; but I'm really just a regular guy with regular fears and an aversion to needlessly gross things.

The films on this list might be pretty tame, but I'll never know, because I'm too scared to put them in my VCR and press 'PLAY.'

1. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

I don't really like serial killer stories.  I prefer movies about vaguely-supernatural mass murders with a fondness for masks.  Your Michaels Myers, your Jasons Vorhees: dudes like that.  So, I don't feel particularly bad about avoiding Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer all these years.  I do, however, realize that it is considered a classic of the genre, and Michael Rooker is pretty great in just about everything he's ever done, so I should probably just put on my big boy underpants--or any underpants really as I usually watch horror films commando or on the toilet--and just watch it already.  

It's that box cover that has haunted me since I was little.  Like any child of the 80's and 90's, I rented a lot of videos from my local video store (In Troy, where I grew up, we got our movies from Kernel Video, which was a super fun play on the words 'kernel' and 'colonel.'  Yea.).  I didn't really begin my journey into horror until high school, and it didn't kick into high gear until sophomore year of college when I saw Evil Dead 2 for the first time, but I did like to stroll down the horror aisle at Kernel Video and take a gander at the boxes for the movies I wasn't allowed to watch but didn't want to see anyway.  What a trip down nightmare lane that was.  I was such a wussy kid, so I don't know why I would subject myself to Freddy Kruger's charred face and Michael Rooker's dead-eyed scowl or this, but I did.  Oh, you know what one really got me, besides the box art I linked to in the last sentence?  The cover of Monkey Shines.  Turns out, Monkey Shines is a pretty good movie and not really that scary, but the cover art (the leering, bugged-eyed monkey toy with the cymbals) utterly creeped me out as a kid.

Earlier this year, I watched a documentary on snuff films (Gigantic mistake!) which featured clips from Henry, and it was then that I decided I maybe still wasn't ready for the film.

Will I ever watch it?: There's a good chance I will, I just need to be in the right mood.  (Note: I am rarely in that mood anymore.)

2. The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

There is no way The Human Centipede is as "bad" as I've made it in my mind.  The concept, which I believe involves the sewing of one person's mouth to the butthole of another person's butt and so on, surprisingly, doesn't appeal to me in the slightest.  Gore I can take, can even enjoy at times, but poop-related things are massively unappealing to me.  Human Centipede has got to just be wall-to-wall scenes of poor, innocent people eating poop, right?  In my mind, it's two hours of that, and that's two hours I will never get back.

Will I ever watch it?: No.  Never.

3. Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom

Look, I get it, you're a filmmaker and you have something to say.  Maybe it's profound, but I'm never going to know if you pack your film with rape, torture and poop-eating.  You can read all about Salo on Wikipedia, but I wouldn't suggest enjoying a hoagie while doing so.  You probably shouldn't care too much about your eternal soul either, because it will be slightly tarnished if you read every word of the plot synopsis.  I suggest a quick skim to avoid any suicidal thoughts or notions of "hey, maybe I should check this out."

Will I ever watch it?: No.  However, apparently there is a documentary about the film that I'd be interesting in seeing.  I'd also like to read some critical interpretations of it because it sounds pretty sick and useless to me.

4. Cannibal Holocaust

I've had Cannibal Holocaust on my Netflix queue since the day I joined, and each time it has reached the top, I've immediately exiled it back to the middle or end.  Recently, I removed it altogether because I don't think I have the stomach for it anymore.  Plus, the fact that it features scenes of actual animals being actually murdered for little other reason than it is shocking to murder animals on film, is deeply unappealing.  If it bothered me in a classic film like Apocalypse Now, it's sure as shit going to bother me in a crappy exploitation film.

Will I ever watch it?: Probably not.  I have seen in various horror docs how some of the gore effects were achieved and that was pretty neat, but the whole "animal snuff film" angle of it kind of turns my stomach.

5. A Serbian Film

We've been having a lot of fun in this post, but I'd like to get serious for a second.  A Serbian Film, a 2010 horror film from, appropriately, Serbia, has no viable reason to exist.  I first heard about it on the Bloody Good Horror podcast, where it was mentioned in passing during a discussion of extreme horror films.  Curious, I visited Wikipedia, typed in 'A Serbian Film,' and scrolled down to the plot description.

It was around the phrase "newborn porn" that I decided A Serbian Film wasn't for me, in fact, I wondered who it was for at all.  I further decided that whoever A Serbian Film is for, I didn't want to associate with those persons.  It is my hope that any people who have purchased or rented A Serbian Film have been placed on some kind of list and are currently under observation by the FBI.  With my luck, they're probably putting people who mention A Serbian Film on their personal blogs on that list too, so I'm going to wrap this up.

Will I ever watch it?: ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY NOT.

6. United 93

Not a horror film in the traditional sense, United 93 tells the horrible true story of what happened on one of the airplanes hijacked on September 11, 2001.  I'm sure it is a very moving, important film, but I'm not ready to see it yet, not even 12 years later.

Will I ever watch it?: Yes.  I've been told it's quite good.

7-14. Any film based on a Nicholas Sparks book

I will literally cry at the drop of a hat.  I'm serious.  Remember that episode of Lidsville where Colonel Poom tripped over Madame Ring-a-Ding and fell on his face, shattering his monocle?  I wept for hours.

But it's more than falling hats that make me cry.  Commercials featuring non-talking babies; Chopped talking head segments in which a chef talks about his daughter; kitten calendars: these are all triggers for my tear ducts.  I've heard that Nicholas Sparks movies are pretty sad, and I'm afraid if I give one a chance, I may start crying and never stop.  I may completely dehydrate myself through sobbing, and I'm not willing to take that chance.  I may also be touched in some way, and I'll be damned if I let something starring Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel touch me.

Will I ever watch one?: Luckily, every Nicholas Sparks film adaptation sounds horrible, so I have yet to be tempted.

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