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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

35 (Give or Take) Life Lessons in 35 Years

Inspired by and, in places, completely copied from Dawn Gluskin's '37 Life Lessons in 37 Years.'

Yesterday was my 35th birthday.  It's been an interesting ride so far, though, referring to 'it,' by which I mean 'life,' as a 'ride' is kind of inaccurate because that makes it sound like I've been passive when it comes to living.  I mean, life is a 'ride," kinda, I guess, but I've been pedaling the 'ride.'  It's not like there's been some snaggle-toothed carnie operating my life like a Tilt-a-Whirl or anything.  I've largely been in charge of my life up to this point, only occasionally seeking the counsel of itinerant state fair employees.

From a quiet, Nintendo-playing little boy, to a school-hating, film-obsessed teenager who dreamed of being a beloved author and man-about-town, to a largely directionless twenty-something with an addiction to Taco Bell and cigarettes, the established stages of human development I've experienced have been as boring and textbook as you can possibly imagine.  Now, five years into my 30's, I kind of feel like I've gotten better at life.  I'm not an expert or anything, but I don't eat nearly as many fast food burritos as I used to.  And I haven't smoked in real long time, though if you are a smoker and you want to blow a little smoke into my face the next time you see me, you are more than welcome.

Look, man, I've learned some things, OK?  I mean, I've remained alive for 35 years!  If I hadn't learned anything, that'd be kind of effed up, don't you think?  It's true that I still feel like a rudderless 20-something sometimes, but I wouldn't trade the life I have now for anything else in the world.

So, here are 35 life lessons I've learned while bopping around on this planet, and maybe they'll inspire you or whatever.  Maybe they won't.  I'm not doing this to inspire anyone really, I just saw Dawn Gluskin's article on the Huffington Post Web site and thought it would be fun to do my own, only sillier.  I don't know.  Whatever.  Here's the thing.

Top 35 Life Lessons So Far...

1. Like what you like.  I know I rip on Twi-moms, the religious and people who for some odd reason prefer Olive Garden to actual Italian food, but who cares what I think.  You shouldn't.  Everyone should like whatever they want to like and be fine with it.  I'm proud to say that Child's Play 2 is one of my favorite movies (not horror movies, but movies, period); that I enjoy pop music recorded by females between the ages of 17 and 24 for females between the ages of 12 and 15; and that while Elfen Lied and Evangelion rank as my favorite anime series, I also adore A Little Snow Fairy Sugar, which is about a magical pixie who eats waffles.

2. Eat everything.  Don't bow out of a trip to your local Indian buffet because it's 'kinda scary.'  Don't say no to sushi because you think it's just a bunch of raw stuff wrapped in sea weed.  Don't limit yourself to chicken fingers, pizza rolls and french fries.  Try it all.  And then, if you don't like it, don't eat it again.  But chances are, you'll love it.

3. Mayo really does make sandwiches better.  For real.

4. Read books.  And if you choose to procreate, instill in your progeny a love of reading.  Video games and sexting are great, but books are so much better.

5. Kids are where it's at.  Look, if you don't want to have kids--whatever the reason--that's fine.  I don't judge you.  If you don't want to have kids, for Pete's sake, don't have them.  For me though--and I've dreamed of having kids since I was a kid--when my daughter was born, life just kind of made sense.

6. A relationship based on mutual respect is undeniably awesome.  For example, try to get as close as you can to what me and my wife have.  

7. Sex is great.  Don't let anybody tell you any different.  Sex is one of the top 5 things you can do, so do it as much as you can.

8. Never commit to listing 35 of anything.  It's hard.  And probably not worth your time.

9. If you are homophobic, racist or bigoted in any way, you are on the wrong side of history.  Enough said.

10. Football is fantastic.  I get it, you don't like sports, and that's OK.  I'm not a jock or anything, but I love football.  It's exciting, anything can happen, and I actually get it.  During the football season, we get together with my parents almost every Sunday for food and game watching, and it is amazingly fun.

11. Jonah Hill is great, guys.  C'mon.  Why are there so many Jonah Hill haters out there?  He's hilarious.  Shut up and get into it.

12. Do what you love.  Every hour of the day I am not at my actual job, I'm super happy.  I do what I love.  I wish I 'loved' what I do for a living (I'd even accept 'liking' it at this point), but I'm striving to make sure my daughter pursues her dreams no matter what, just as I still am, when I'm not completely drained at the end of the workday.

13. If you fancy yourself a writer, write every day.  Start a blog if you have to.  Works for me.

14. Listing the life lessons you've learned over the course of your life and expecting people to care is kind of pretentious.  I'm going to stop.

15. They only want you when you're 17; when you're 21, you're no fun.  That's not fair.  Those are song lyrics.

16. Herr's chips are better than Utz.  No need to look into it, chip nerds.  I've done the research.  All the research.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Smarties: Not Just For Your Mouth Hole Anymore

Remember when you did dumb stuff as a kid, but had the good sense to keep it to yourself or share it with only your most intimate of friends?  For instance, I had a friend in high school who told me one Saturday afternoon about the day he and a friend spent carrying out smoking experiments in his mom's kitchen.  Herbs, spices, Lipton tea: anything that could be dumped onto scrap paper, rolled into a flimsy cylinder and lit on fire, they tried smoking it.  None of it got them high or provided any kind of marginally transcendent moment, but they did it and he told me about it.  And that's it.  I laughed at my friend and we moved on.  We didn't watch a video he made of himself splitting open a tea bag and fashioning a crude joint for himself.  He didn't share with me a phoneful of selfies he snapped while inhaling oregano smoke.  It was a dumb story about two dumb kids doing dumb stuff.

Today's generation--hold on, let me adjust my adult diaper and plop my dentures into a juice glass full of foggy water--document every moment of their lives and share it on social media without a second thought.  It's weird and it'll probably trip some of them up later in life, but it does provide outsiders (i.e. those of us who have aged out and, therefore, cannot possibly fathom what's cool anymore) a window into the shockingly dumb world of the modern teenager.  I mean, we did some dumb stuff back in the late 90's/early 2000's, but nothing this dumb, right?:

Yep, that girl is smoking Smarties.  You remember Smarties, right?  The barely tolerable candy kid-hating humbugs used to hand out at Halloween.  "It's candy!  They'll eat it and they'll like it!"  Up yours, old man I just made up!  The only thing that sucks more than Smarties are the assholes who give them away on October 31st!

Snorting Smarties can't possibly get you high, can it?  If not, what can it get you, other than a super awesome video like the one above?

Last Thursday, parents of students at Portsmouth Middle School in Rhode Island were sent an email warning them about the dangers of snorting crushed up Smarties candy (you know, that chalky-sweet staple of elementary school Halloween parties?).

But here’s the bad part: while it won’t get you high, Smartie-snorting can cause lung infections, bloody noses, and allergic reactions. Oh yeah, it can also invite nasal maggots.

Holy shit!  Nasal maggots!?!  That sounds like some kind of Middle Earth Orc-insect or something!  What the WTF?!?

That last horrifying possibility happens when the crushed and rotting candy stays lodged in the nasal cavity long enough to attract flies into the nostril. The fly can hang around just long enough to lay eggs, which typically come in batches of 75-150 eggs for a common housefly and hatch within a day of having been laid. Believe it or not, the presence of nose-maggots even has a medical name: nasal myiasis. Parents have been warned to watch for kids obsessively scratching their noses as an indication that children may have maggots in their noses. Presumably, parents should also pay attention to whether kids are picking wriggling, white boogers.

If it were closer to April 1st and I hadn't just watched a shit ton of Smarties snorting videos on YouTube, I would think this whole thing was a joke, but apparently it isn't.  I've got to believe that once the notion of "nose maggots" spreads among the general teenage populace, the Smarties snorting craze is going to disappear faster than the Beanie Baby.

Plus, everyone knows you can't get high on Smarties unless you smoke 'em, dog!

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Monday, January 20, 2014

I went to the dentist. Here's how that went.

Have you been to the dentist lately?  Things are getting dark over there.  Or maybe it's just my dentist.

I had an appointment to get my teeth cleaned last week, and the day before I made a decision to take a stand.  Not a huge stand, but, like, a little stand.  Like the kind of stand you would use to keep your Shrinky Dinks up when they came out of the oven.  You see, the last, roughly, 800 times I've been to the dentist and the dental hygienist has asked me the old "How often do you floss?" question, I've made some kind of stammering declaration like, "I try to floss a couple of times a week...I forget to sometimes, but I know it's important...I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry."  Truth is, I rarely floss.  I have flossed.  I should floss more.  I understand that.  But I rarely think about it.  Flossing is like the Kardashian family to me: I don't think about it and when someone brings it up, I can barely care even a little bit.  (Just so we're clear, I completely understand how much more important flossing is than the Kardashians, but this is a pop culture blog, of sorts, so, you know, quotas or whatever.)

I can probably count the times I've flossed between this upcoming dentist visit and the last on one hand, possibly on two fingers, so, I figured it was time to drop the act and speak the truth.  When the dental hygienist asks me if I've been flossing regularly, I thought, I'm simply going to answer 'nope' and see what happens.  I presented this plan to a friend at work, proud of my decision to live strong (too soon?) and not be bullied by the dental hygienists of this world.  He responded with an ominous, "Good luck with that."

Can I say first, my dentist plays the worst music in his waiting room.  To me it sounds like 70's soft rock, but not the hits everybody knows.  It's more like 70's soft rock deep album cuts.  It's awful.  I don't get nervous before a dentist appointment, so it's not like I require a relaxing atmosphere with soft, friendly music and comforting magazines about Caribbean vacations and snow-covered Connecticut homes.  But 70's soft rock deep album cuts and year-old People magazines don't impress me much.

[I should add here that I wouldn't trade my dentist for the world.  He's a great guy and his staff is extremely nice and courteous.  I've never had a bad experience there, outside of the music, but I have had a weird experience, and I'm about to write about that right now.  Thanks.]

So, I'm called back.  I'm congratulated on finally getting three of my wisdom teeth removed.  My teeth are examined and scraped.  And, then, the once dreaded question, although not worded in a way that would make a simple 'nope' response logical.  So, I had to do a quick, on-the-fly alteration.  That's all right.  I'm a writer after all.

"How often do you floss?" the hygienist, who up to this point had been both friendly and normal, asked.

"Not very often," I said, pleased with myself.

What followed was an explanation as to why flossing 'not very often' was the worst possible thing one could ever do.  I don't remember the lecture verbatim, but I do know it was ten minutes long and it ended with something about the dissected brains of dead Alzheimer's patients.  It was horrifying.  And totally inappropriate.

"You didn't expect that, did you?" the genial hygienist chirped, obviously smiling behind her mask.

"Well, I didn't expect it would go on that long," I answered.

"We're just trying out some new ways to get people to understand how important it is to floss."

I nodded, half-listening, my mind transfixed on the millions of deadly, poisonous gum germs I was now convinced were planning wholesale terrorist attacks on every major organ in my body.  A genocide was being planned within my mouth and nothing inside me was safe.

That's not entirely true.  I didn't get that freaked out.  I was more weirded out about what had just transpired.  These new tactics to get non-flossers, like myself, to take flossing seriously needed some work.  Maybe tone it down a few notches, leave the whole 'dissected human corpse' angle out for now. The way things seem to be going however, I expect to see some diagrams and glossy pictures of chopped up brains and black mold-ridden mouth holes on my next visit.

So, the lesson has been learned.  Not to floss on a regular basis, but rather to lie about flossing whenever I'm asked again.  And isn't that the American way.  God bless us all and remember, take care of each other and each other's teeth.


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Saturday, January 11, 2014

7 More Fast Food Items We Lost in 2013

When everyone was posting their various year-end lists last December, Yahoo published a list of 7 fast food items that were discontinued in the year 2013.  "Seven?" I thought upon reading the hack writing Yahoo often mistakes for journalism.  "We lost more than seven fast food classics this year!  For shame, Yahoo!"  And, boy, did I shame Yahoo.  Oh, the shaming I did.

We lost a lot of good bad-for-you food last year, and Yahoo's 7 was just the tip of the onion ring tower.  So, here I go again picking up Yahoo's slack, and on my own no less.  I give you 7 More Fast Food Items We Lost in 2013.  (I tried to keep it to national chains, but there were a couple of local favorites I was forced to say good-bye too that I wanted to include.)

1) The Big Bur-Chicken (Hardee's):  Leave it to Hardee's to go big to the point of lunacy, the Big Bur-Chicken sandwich had it all: red meat, breaded chicken, deep-fried vegetables, a hauntingly familiar sauce, wilted lettuce shreds.  The Bur-Chicken was a full pound of ground beef stuffed with a boneless, fried chicken breast, topped with fried onion straws and fried pickles, doused liberally in a pink sauce that kinda of tasted like barbecue mixed with ranch dressing (FYI: That's exactly what it was) and sprinkled with shredded lettuce, because, mmmmm-mmm, shredded lettuce.  The finished sandwich was then sent through Hardee's patented Sandwich Sloppifier, and served to customers with a side of fries and a gallon of Dr. Pepper for $14.95.  Surprisingly, it wasn't the price that did in the Big Bur-Chicken, but rather the protesting of Christian groups who felt the mingling of burger meat and chicken was an affront to Nature and, therefore, to God.  Hardee's, who are as known for their willingness to cave in to special interests groups as they are for their sloppy sandwiches, stopped selling the Bur-Chicken, and a legend was snuffed out forever.

2) The Flamer (Chick-fil-A): Take one of Chick-fil-A's world-famous spicy chicken patties, top it with a liberal dose of Polynesian Sauce, and don't forget Chick-fil-A's signature duo of dill pickle slices, and you've got the Flamer.  The thing that set the Flamer apart from every other sandwich at Chick-fil-A occurred at check-out.  After your sandwich had been handcrafted by one of Chick-fil-A's talented sandwich artists in Jesus' name Amen, the cashier would study the orderer of said sandwich for a couple of seconds to determine whether or not said orderer was, in fact, a homosexual or not.  If it was determined that the orderer was a homosexual, the cashier would simply unwrap the sandwich, remove the top bun, spit, replace the top bun, re-wrap the sandwich, throw it on the floor at the orderer's feet, and wish the orderer a "blessed day."  When asked about the Flamer, Chick-fil-A CEO, Dan Cathy, said, "We chose to top the sandwich with our signature Polynesian Sauce because it's sweet, spicy and fun, just like gays.  We chose the spicy chicken filet to remind the homosexual of the Hell that awaits him upon his death."

The Flamer was discontinued because people don't like having their food spit on, oddly enough.

3) McSalad McBalls (McDonald's): Food in ball form is almost always better than unballed food.  Unless it's salad.  McDonald's learned this the hard way when they added McSalad McBalls to their new Healthy McChoices menu.  Maybe it was the wilted lettuce.  Perhaps it was the lack of tomatoes.  It could've been the fact that the balls were held together by a combination of mayonnaise and congealed bacon grease.  Who knows?  All I know is that McSalad McBalls are no more, and I've got a pretty fun story about the eight hours I spent in the emergency room after eating a 10-piece order of them.

4) Dave's Slop Stack (Wendy's):  No fast food restaurants have ever tried their hands at a Sloppy Joe, so who better to be the first then the inventors of the Super Bar.  Wendy's Slop Stack unfortunately suffered from the fact that it looked very much like it's name.  It was literally a sloppy stack of brown something between two buns.  And, for the love of all things holy, don't get one to go.  By the time you'd get home, the "slop,"-- which was mostly just Wendy's unsold chili from the night before mixed with leftover croutons for some reason-- would have overtaken the bun and congealed into some kind of foul-tasting meat pudding.  It was a huge mistake.

5) The Baconeer (Pizza Hut):  If I learned one thing from TV this holiday season, it was that people enjoy things, but mostly bowls, made out of bacon.  Pizza Hut, a restaurant that fostered in a Young Matt both a love of reading and overeating, could have put out another bacon-topped pizza this year, but they went a different route; a sexier route; a route fraught with three or five lawsuits, but a route less taken, and isn't that what Robert Frost was talking about in that poem?  That was a poem about pizza, right?

Anyway, the Baconeer wasn't just topped with bacon, it was MADE OF bacon.  That's right.  Where most pizzas have crust, the Baconeer had bacon.  Where most pizzas have pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, sausage, cheese and sauce, the Baconeer had bacon.  It was basically just bacon, served with a Ranch dipping sauce and complimentary Bacon Bread.  A lot of people ordered it.  Some of those people died.  Their families were given their own Pizza Hut franchises to run in low-income communities.  Several of these brand-new Pizza Hut franchisees were shot at and robbed.  Pizza Hut paid them off in Wing Street coupons.  That seemed to calm shit down.  The Baconeer was discontinued, the recipe burned unceremoniously in a pizza oven at Pizza Head headquarters.

6) Cigarette Coke (Stumpee's): If given my choice of Coca-Cola mix-ins, I typically chose vanilla, but local hot dog joint, Stumpee's, offered something a little different this year: Cigarette Coke.  I don't smoke any more, but I did on and off during college, so, sometimes, I miss the taste of a good cigarette.  Or a bad cigarette.  I miss cigarettes.  Knowing this to be a real thing among former smokers, Stumpee's found a way to mix the grossness of smoking with the sickening sweetness of Coke to create a beverage I tried exactly one time.  It was terrible and I vomited in Stumpee's already pretty gross dining room.  They removed Cigarette Coke from the menu after a handful of fellow idiots ordered it and puked all over the place. Stumpee's burned down last month and it's owner, Ray "Stumpy" Stumpee, disappeared.  I'll miss that place.  No I won't.

7) Ice Cream Hat (Uncle Schlumpy's Ice Cream Novelties & Wine Bar): Another local favorite, Uncle Schlumpy's started a pretty cool promotion in the summer of 2013: Come in with a hat and we'll fill it with ice cream.  It was great.  To my knowledge the only reason it was discontinued was the fact that Uncle Schlumpy's burned down in December under mysterious circumstances and owner, Jarvis "Schlumpy" Uncles, disappeared.  I live in a weird town.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What the WTF?!?: The Ad for Taco Bell's Grilled Stuft Nacho

There's something new over at the Taco Bell:

This is, unfortunately, not a review of how the Taco Bell Grilled Stuft Nacho tastes.  Like most people at the beginning of a new year, my wife and I have made a new commitment to healthy living and eating better in 2014.  We are compiling a month-by-month list of changes we'd like to make, and since January is the month of "No Fast Food," a genre of food greatly enjoyed by both of us, it looks like I won't be sampling the latest taste sensation from the Taco Bell test kitchens.  Without actually eating it though, I'd guess the Grill Stuffed Nacho kind of sucks, since the last Taco Bell innovation I tried that incorporated Fritos into the mix, was a rousing disaster.  The Fritos were soggy, man, and there ain't nothing worse than soggy Fritos, aside from, you know, believing that Taco Bell is still a viable source of nutrition after exiting your teenage years.

No, I want to talk about this commercial.  Analyze the balls out of it, if you will.  What is this?  What's going on here?  Why is this happening?  In essence, what the WTF?!?

1) At the top of the ad, the Narrator asks, "Why would you ever need nachos on the go?"  The answer is quite simple: You wouldn't.  Ever.  Nachos are meant to be enjoyed in a sports bar with friends or alone, pantless, in your kitchen after a late night pantry scavenge.  We actually provided a Make-Your-Own-Nachos situation for my daughter's birthday last year, and it was an amazing success.  So, yeah, nachos mean it's time to sit down and eat; be creative with your choice of toppings, but then find a place at the table or on the couch or in front of a sporting event (live or televised--it makes no difference) and eat.  If something comes up (the house spontaneously bursts into flames; a riot breaks out in the stands; sharknado), you run for it or take cover, leaving the nachos behind.  Nachos are easy to make, so, after the danger passes, you can probably make a new plate pretty damn quick.

2) But, OK, fine, the young man in this commercial found himself in a situation that forced him to "run for it," and he was lucky enough to have purchased a Grilled Stuft Nacho.  My question is this: Why does he have a Grilled Stuft Nacho in the first place?  Did he purchase it to show to his girlfriend?  Like, did he hear about the new Stuft Nacho at Taco Bell, perhaps via a dumb ad like this one, and immediately call his girlfriend.  "Hey, I'm thinking about picking up one of those new Grilled Stuft Nachos from Taco Bell.  Want me to bring it over and show you?  Wait.  Hold on.  Are your parents there?  They're going out?  Perfect!  I'll be over soon.  With the Grilled Stuft Nacho.  To show you.  Hanging up the phone now.  Bye."

When you were in high school, why did you go over to your girlfriend's house while her parents were out?  To present her with fast food novelties?  Of course not.  You went there to finger her.  I'm sorry.  Is that crass?  I can only speak my own truth, I guess, and that's what I was into when it came to visiting my high school girlfriend.  When her parents are out and the two of you are alone in the TV room, you put on a movie that you both know you aren't going to watch more than five minutes of, you make out for twenty minutes and then you finger.  That's my experience, man.  Maybe I didn't do it right.  Maybe I was supposed to bring bags of food over to her house.

3) How stupid are this young man and his unseen girlfriend?  Were her parents really out for the night?  I submit that they were about to leave, SUV still in the garage, Mom putting on her seat belt, when Dad suddenly remembers, "I left the tickets to the ballet on the counter.  Sorry, hon.  I'll be right back."  Then, BOOM, Dad goes inside, sees our young hero and his sweet, innocent daughter tucking into a Grilled Stuft Nacho and freaks out.  After all, he told her no boys in the house.  How else do you explain the fact that only one bite has been taken out of the Stuft Nacho in question?  They only got one bite in before the parents "came home early?"  Bullshit!  I can down three Taco Bell soft steak tacos and a Mexican pizza in a minute-and-a-half.  They can't dual eat half a Grilled Stuft Nacho before Daddy comes home?

4) And why is this dad so made?  Granted, as the father of a daughter, I am not looking forward to the "teenage dating" phase of her life (Luckily, she's two right now.  I have a long time to prepare.), but I can't imagine being so bent out of shape upon walking in on her and a boy sharing a taco.  I mean, he's chasing this poor bastard down the street.  "I strictly forbid my daughter from eating meat that isn't really meat!  Plus our religion forbids us from eating food stuffed into other foods!  How dare you bring this into her life!  I must kill you!"  C'mon, Dad!

5) And, seriously, why is this kid so happy?  There was clearing not enough time for a good old fashioned fingering.  Is it because he gets the whole Grilled Stuft Nacho to himself now?  I could buy that.

Look, if the Grilled Stuft Nacho makes it to February, I promise to give it a try and review it on the pages of Giant Electric Penguin.  For now though you'll have to be content with next week's Tribute to Tofu, a week-long series I dread more each passing day.

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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Movie Penguin Monday: #24. Starcrash (1979)

This week's installment of Movie Penguin Monday tells the story of a war fought among the stars, between an intergalactic empire and a group of rebels.  One side has a secret weapon of mass destruction that is thought to possess the ability to destroy entire planets; the other side employs various powers of a mysterious and mystical nature.  The film is full of bizarro aliens, interplanetary adventure sequences, sassy humanoid robots and a super cool laser sword, that as a fan of the sci-fi genre, I sincerely wish existed because, man oh man, would it be awesome to have one.  Ladies and gentleman, I give you Star Wars.  I mean, Starcrash.  Sorry.  I keep doing that.

Sure, Luigi Cozzi's Starcrash is a blatant Star Wars rip-off, but it's not like he plagiarized George Lucas wholesale.  I mean, there are plenty of differences.  For instance:

1. Instead of Han Solo and Chewbacca, we get Stella Star, the leather bikini-clad space smuggler, and Akton, her alien sidekick with increasingly convenient magical powers.

2.  Instead of C3PO and R2D2, we get Elle, a robot policeman with a Texas accent and an extremely fragile head.  He's sassy like C3PO, but he's not as distractingly charming or funny, making it easier to concentrate on the boring lead characters and their terrible story.

3.  In Starcrash, the Empire is good and the rebels are bad.  What a novel twist!

4.  Instead of the Death Star there is some vague device that we never really see or learn too much about.  We know it can destroy planets and that it's protected by two sets of guardians (weird red blobs the movies feels compelled to continuously refer to as 'monsters' and, no joke, cavemen), but that's it.

5.  Instead of Darth Vader we get Varth Dader.  C'mon, Starcrash!

That's not true, but would it surprise you if it was having read what you have so far?  The leader of the baddies is actually named Zarth Arn and he's a Count.  I don't know what he's a count of (I think they mentioned it, but my brain refused to retain this information), but there you go.

6. Instead of Ewoks we get scantily-clad Amazon women.  OK.  Starcrash isn't all bad, I guess. 

I don't know where to begin with Starcrash, so how about a short plot synopsis.  Notorious space rogue, Stella Star, and her mop-topped companion, Akton, are apprehended by two top space policeman, Elle, the robot Texan, and Thor, who I so wish was the Thor of Norse mythology, but isn't (Thor is just a bald guide with Spock ears and his face painted blue).  Stella and Akton are both sentenced to hundreds of years of hard labor in different prison colonies for, I don't know, crimes against humanity or something.  We've been told they are smugglers, but smugglers of what?  I mean, Akton gets, like, 200 years of hard labor, but Stella gets an eternity.  Eternity!?  What, are they space sex traffickers, kidnapping space kids and forcing them into space prostitution?

Thankfully, our heroes don't remain in prison very long--or maybe they do, as there is no sense of time or place whatsoever in this movie--and are soon rocketing through the cosmos with their former captors, Elle and Thor, on a mission from the Emperor of the Universe, played by Christopher Plummer.  Yes, that Christopher Plummer.

The mission: Find Varth Dader (That's going to be a thing for the rest of this.  Roll with it or piss off.  You've been warned.) and destroy his, um, let's just call it Death Star.  Oh, the Emperor would also like our ragtag group of heroes to find his son, Simon, who disappeared attempting the same mission earlier in the film.  Oops.  Yeah, I skipped that part.  As the film opens, one of the Empire's ships is attacked by the contents of a spilled lava lamp (red blob [non] monsters).  Apparently three escape ships were dispatched, but each one crashed on a different planet.  Stella and Company have to visit each one of these planets to a) determine if there are any survivors and b) find out if said planet is housing Varth Dader's Death Star.  

Which is better: Ewoks or Amazons?  You decide.

The first planet is inhabited by Amazon women who capture Stella and leave Elle for dead.  Elle, who is not dead because a) he is a robot, so was he ever truly alive in the first place? and b) he was not shot in the head, which is pretty much made out of terracotta, infiltrates the Amazon queen's fortress and saves Stella's life.  The Amazon queen attempts to foil their escape with the aid of giant, stop-motion Barbie doll covered in aluminum foil (I know stop-motion pioneer Ray Harryhausen was alive when Starcrash was released, but I bet when he saw this scene he dug himself a shallow grave to turn around in.  I would have.  It's bad.) and fails miserably.

The second planet is covered in snow.  Stella almost freezes to death.  Akton brings her back to life with previously unseen psychic warming powers.  He also admits to being able to see the future, an admission that utterly floors Stella.  Aren't these two smuggling partners from way back?  How does she not know this very important thing about him?  This never came up on one of your smuggling runs?  I guess the ship gets pretty loud with all of those space children crying and begging not be space sold into space sex slavery.  I'm space sorry.

Oh, Thor is revealed as an agent of Varth Dader and is killed off in a way I don't recall because, did I mention, it took me three days to watch Starcrash?

The third planet is inhabited by cavemen who murder Elle with a stick to his eggshell head.  It's sick.  Maybe the cavemen are more like the Ewoks now that I think about it.  Whatever.

On the Planet of Cavemen, Stella meets Prince Simon, played by America's sweetheart, David Hasselhoff.  This planet also happens to be the one concealing Count Dader's weapon of ultimate destruction which he has rigged with explosives in order to blow it up.  Wait a minute, WHAAAAA-AAAT?!?  So the Count's plan was to lure the Emperor (played, remember, by the Christopher Plummer) to his Death Star, which probably took years of labor and millions of space bucks to complete, lock said Emperor inside of it and then blow it up?  That's insane.  But I guess the Count wants to be the ruler of the Universe pretty bad, and you've gotta be crazy to want that job.  BOING!

But don't worry, Stella, Simon, Akton and Christopher Plummer aren't killed in a terrible explosion.  No, sir!  You know how they get out of this sticky situation?  Yeah, the Emperor stops time.  That's right, Christopher Plummer gives the order to "stop the flow of time," his Imperial ship shoots a space beam at the planet on which they've found themselves stranded for the moment, and time stops around them.  Bear in mind, our heroes don't stop.  They are immune to such time stoppage.  Why?  Because forward movement of the plot demands it!  Also, Akton has been killed.  I don't remember how.  Three days, people!

"Let's hold hands and watch people die in my name.  That OK with you two?"

When I started writing about the movie Starcrash over five hours ago (full disclosure: I just got back from a combination football/dinner/more football/toddler nighttime routine/even more football/dishwashing break--this synopsis was starting to break me), I think I said I was going to try to keep this synopsis short, but as it is when describing most asinine things, this has proven mostly impossible.  I haven't even gotten to the Floating City or Varth Dader's claw-shaped space base or the triumphant return of Elle or the toddler toy battle that is the final fight or even what a 'starcrash' is.  Look, now that you are aware that the preceding sentence was a list of things that appear or happen in this movie, can we just move on to my biggest problem with Starcrash?  We can?  Great!

During the final space battle, the Emperor fires torpedo-shaped transport devices into the control room of the Count's evil starship.  These transport tubes house exactly two laser gun-wielding members of the Empire's armed forces.  The torpedo tubes crash through the windows of the Count's fortress, the good guys pop out, guns blazing, and an old fashion space shoot-out commences.  Period.

Have you discovered the problem yet?  Allow me to provide a tiny nudge.  WHY ISN'T EVERYONE IMMEDIATELY SUCKED INTO THE VACCUM OF SPACE?!?  THE WINDOWS HAVE BEEN SHATTERED, THE SHIP HAS BEEN BREACHED!  HOW IS THERE A LASER BEAM SHOOT-OUT PARTY GOING ON?  HOW IS ANYONE BREATHING?  WHY ISN'T EVERYBODY, GOOD OR BAD, FLOATING THROUGH SPACE, ASPHYXIATED???  Seems to me, all the Emperor would have to do to defeat his enemy is shoot one, solitary, soldierless transport tube through Count Dader's front window and wait a couple of seconds for everybody to be sucked into the dark recesses of space.  If he wanted to add insult to injury and fire a couple of laser rounds into the floating dead corpses afterward, so be it.

Picture from 2013's critically-acclaimed Gravity, the movie I should've watched.  Ugh.

Starcrash is garbage.  It's fun garbage, but that doesn't make it worth watching.  To show you how much respect I had for this movie going in without any knowledge of what I was about to endure (for three days!!!), I should admit that I watched Starcrash on my iPhone.  That's right, I was so certain of Spacecrash's supreme crapiness, I could not muster enough strength to walk down the hall and watch it on a legitimate television.  I laid in bed, a repeat episode of Chopped muted on the bedroom television, and watched Starcrash through half-lidded eyes until I eventually fell asleep somewhere around Thor's betrayal.  The following two nights were mostly a Hasselhoff-shaped blur.

There were a few things I liked about it.  Christopher Plummer's commitment to his role was staggering and impressive.  Though it is quite clear that the material is way below him, Plummer still gives a hell of a performance as the Emperor of the Universe, delivering most of his lines directly to the viewing audience, which is simultaneously offputting and hilarious.  As irritating as Elle was, his presence is necessary to make the middle of the movie remotely watchable.  The acting in Starcrash runs the gamut from mediocre to atrocious, so it was kind of nice to have a goofy robotic Texan around to spout jokes and flail around like a weirdo.  And I thought the sets and spaceships, which were obviously hobby shop models and rejected G.I. Joe vehicles, were pretty fun in their pure cheesy cheapness.  But mostly, Starcrash sucks.


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