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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Getting to Know Me: Part 2 - Whose Gonna Feed Pizza To Your Wild Horses?

On Wednesday, I began answering 13 questions, posted to Buzzfeed by Buzzfeed staff member Julia Pugachevsky, that promised to give me important insights into what kind of person I am.  At the conclusion of Part 1 of this test taking endeavor, it appeared that yours truly would probably be exposed as a rampant sociopath, seeing as though I took issue with the logic of leaning a large, wooden ladder on a magical, cat-sized cube of pizza (It simply wouldn't work!).  Today, I intend to finish the test and come to terms with the monster that is Matt Lawson.  Or perhaps I'll find out that I'm just a normal guy with a mild pizza obsession.  Either way, I'm taking you guys with me as I answer the remaining questions in real time and with all seriousness.  All right then.  Hit me with Question #6, Pugachevsky!

Great!  Now picture a horse next to the ladder-cube-thing.

Hold on!  When did the hovering pizza cube and wooden ladder laying in the dirt become a "thing?"  Like, have the pizza cube and ladder somehow melded together to form some kind of sentient abomination?  Is this "ladder-cube-thing" going to hurt me or, as I am its Creator, is it here to do my bidding or, dare I say, worship me as its god?  I'm going to assume Ms. Pugachevsky means "ladder-cube-situation" and move on.

7. Is the horse tied to anything?

My answer: no

Subconscious meaning: The horse being tied up signifies your need for control in a relationship.

Personal reflection: This one is pretty spot on, even in the fact that I often liken relationships, romantic or otherwise, to horses in private conversation.  It's just a weird thing I've always done, that kind of feels justified now that I'm taking this test.

8. Is the horse wearing a saddle?

My answer: I'm picturing a wild horse that kind of just roams the desert looking for fellow desert-wanderers to inspire and floating pizza cubes to munch on, so no

Subconscious meaning: If it is, it means you prefer to be the dominant partner in your relationship.

Personal reflection: Again, spot on.  This horse stuff is really making sense.

9.  What is the horse doing?

My answer: staring at me as if to say, "Mind if I take a nibble of this pizza cube?  It's just floating here."

Subconscious meaning: The wilder the horse, the more unpredictable and exciting you want your relationships to be.

Personal reflection:  I certainly do not want my relationships with people to be boring, but I have reached a point in my life where I want/need stability in realationships, which I have.  I think there is a sense of excitement and danger in my answer, I mean, the horse doesn't know if I'm going to let him take a bite out of the cube or not, but the horse is also just staring at me.  He isn't running around in the sand or doing backflips or reciting Shakespeare or anything.  He's just a hungry horse in the desert, which is exactly what I look for in a meaningful relationship.  
 Cool.  (Really?  Thanks, Buzzfeed!)  Now, imagine flowers somewhere in the scene.

10. How many are there?

My answer: I'm imagining a substantial clump of flowers in a professionally-constructed round garden surrounded by a low brick wall.  I'd say there are close to 50 or 60 flowers of varying kinds.

Subconscious meaning:  Flowers represent children.  The more flowers, the more children you want.

Personal reflection:  Wrong!  I want exactly one child, and I have exactly one child.  I simply enjoy flowers in a well-tended flower garden.  I'm not sure if I should continue taking this test as it has just been proven to be a sham.  I'll soldier on for the good of the bit, but I'm not happy about it.

11. Where are the flowers in relation to the cube?

My answer: the horse is on the right side of the cube with the ladder, and the flowers are on the left side of the cube

Subconscious meaning: The closer the flowers are to the cube, the more you're thinking about having children.

Personal reflection:  I've already determined the flowers portion of this test to be null and void, so let's just breeze past this one and enter the home stretch.  (Not sure there are enough cliches in that sentence.)
Imagine this, but with sand instead of the water.  And keep the boat.  Can you imagine finding a boat like that just sitting in the middle of the desert.  That's some Lost-style shit right there.

Lastly, there's a storm somewhere in the area.

12. Is it threatening you?

My answer: no, in fact, the rain is kind of cooling things down a little

Subconscious meaning: The storm represents stress. If it's threatening, that means you have some obstacles you're trying to work out.

Personal reflection: I, like most of you, do have a certain amount of stress in my life, but I tend not to focus on it or let it get me down.  I do this in a couple of different ways: 1) I squeeze all of the stress I experience into a molten-hot little ball and tuck it gently into my rib cage, guaranteeing that it will explode one day, killing me instantly.  2) I mostly ignore stress.  It's easy if you keep in mind that most of what we do on a day-to-day basis in this life doesn't matter.  That's not the most fun way to think about life, but I find it gives me great comfort when I'm feeling particularly down.  3) I try to stay positive, think happy thoughts.  I find it's better for your gutty works that way.

13. And is the storm far away or really close to the cube?

My answer: the storm is all around us, but the rain is light and the breeze is cool and consistent

Subconscious meaning: The farther away the storm, the more chill you are as a person.

Personal reflection:  I'm a pretty chill person, so, you lose again, Buzzfeed.

So, what did I learn about myself?  Well, nothing via these 13 questions, as they have been mostly a disappointment.  I guess I learned that I'm willing to see a bit through even when it starts to get boring at the halfway point.  That's something to be proud of, maybe?

Have you taken the test yet?  Has it opened your eyes in ways you never thought possible?  I mean, I can only imagine two ways one could open one's eyes--the traditional human way and the weird, side-to-side way associated with aliens posing as human being in movies.  I encourage you to answer the 13 questions.  It only takes a couple of minutes (unless you're writing a two-part blog post about it) and it's not entirely un-fun.  


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Friday, April 25, 2014

100 Songs I Love (152-154)

Here we are at the cusp of another weekend, so, why don't we revisit one of my favorite features and get you acquainted with some more of the music I think is worth listening to.  Let's start with my favorite song right now, a song I can't seem to go a day without listening to one or ten times.

152. "Oblivion" (Grimes)

Grimes (AKA Claire Boucher) has a hypnotizing voice, that when combined with this song's sludgy beat--it makes me imagine stomping thorough a digital mud pit while birds with tiny synthesizers for heads sing in the surrounding trees--releases something in my brain that transports me to a dream-like state that I want to get lost in.  That being said, Grimes apparently wrote "Oblivion" to work through her feelings following a sexual assault.  This makes the song both a beautiful dream and a powerful anthem of growth.  Also, it's just really fucking good.

A declaration: Grimes' album Vision, on which "Oblivion" appears, will be the next physical compact disc I purchase.  I could just buy it on iTunes, but the cover art is creepy, and I want both passersby and passengers of my car to see it on my front seat and, I don't know, freak out a little.

Additional listening/viewing:  Head over to YouTube and type in "Grimes Genesis."  If the results make you simultaneously pleased and displeased with me, than you did it right.

153. "DJ, Ease My Mind" (Niki & The Dove)

There is nothing better to heal one's shattered soul after something traumatic then the right song.  I'm not saying "DJ, Ease My Mind" is that song--I mean, it very well could be--but that's the message here, and I fully embrace it.

A confession:  I was more than a little disappointed to discover that this song wasn't about DJ from Roseanne being asked to soothe singer Malin Dahlström's mind.

Additional listening/viewing:  I came to know Niki & The Dove through their song "The Fox," which I encourage you to seek out as well on YouTube.  That video is pretty weird too.

154. "Fargo, North Dakota" (Carter Burwell)


My brother-in-law shared something very disturbing with me just before Easter dinner at my parents' house this year: he has never seen Fargo.  I'll give you a moment to clean off your computer screen, as I'm sure you just spit out whatever you just had in your mouth (coffee, chicken noodle soup, your dentures, a large amount of saliva due to an overactive salivary gland, etc) all over it.  I begged him to see it as soon as possible, tears welling up in my eyes, my hands clenched into tiny fists.

I love Fargo.  I saw it twice when it was in theaters.  The first time I saw it, I had to skip out of school early to get to the theater on time (For tips on how to accomplish this, write to my personal e-mail address and then hop a time machine to 1996, because there is no way you could get away with it today.)  The second time, I took a girl I kind of liked, but mostly because I couldn't think of anything else to do with her and I  just really wanted to see Fargo again.  She didn't like it--she was a girl from my church, and apparently she took all of that stuff seriously--and I probably thought she was dumb because I was, and am, a movie snob.  We never really dated.  I blame Fargo.  Thank you so much, Fargo!

In college, I spent many a night in my dorm room watching my VHS copy of Fargo.  I showed that same VHS copy to my wife when we first started dating.  I can't say for sure, but the night we watched Fargo and Jen told me she enjoyed it, might be the night I fell in love with her.

As most of you know, there is now a Fargo television series.  It's great.  Can't recommend it enough.  Watching it though, I was inspired to revisit Fargo, which is streaming on Netflix as of right now this very moment.  The above song is ostensibly the theme song, though it plays throughout.  Every time it pops up on the soundtrack, I get goose bumps.  Dammit, what a great piece of music this is!  They've even sort of weaved it into the soundtrack of the TV show.

Seriously, if you've never seen Fargo, join Netflix and watch it right now.  Or find someone with Netflix, get all chummy with him or her and suggest that the two of you watch Fargo.  If that person says "No" or "I don't like that movie, but I do like 27 Dresses," stop being that person's friend immediately.  If you are my brother-in-law, bro, you can come over anytime you want and we'll watch it.  I'm home right now!  Get over here!


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Thursday, April 24, 2014

STFU Taco Bell, McDonald's and all of you!

What am I supposed to do with this?:


Look, I know what Taco Bell is doing here.  I'm not going to play the willfully-ignorant fool and pretend I don't understand the premise.  Taco Bell found people whose names are identical to that of the mascot for another popular fast food chain, and filmed them eating and enjoying a Taco Bell A.M. Crunchwrap, which I guess is a crunchy tortilla filled with eggs, sausage and hashbrowns.  I get it.  But who cares?  Overweight white men all over the country enjoy crispy things stuffed with salted-meats and fried potatoes.  What a revelation!  

Look, you want a real subversive commercial, Taco Bell?  Here's what you do.  You dress a guy up like a clown, call him Donald McRonald or something and you show him chowing down on an A.M. Crunchwrap.  He's got a big painted smile on his face and he's moaning in ecstasy while he eats it.  Maybe he's jerking off too, I don't know.  I'm not an ad guy.  But having a bunch of guys named Ronald McDonald proves nothing.  Just because your name is Ronald McDonald doesn't mean you are expected to devote yourself wholly to exclusively dining at McDonald's restaurants for the length of your lifetime, which, no offense, ain't gonna be that long if you're exclusively eating at McDonald's restaurants.  None of the Ronald McDonalds in this commercial are associated with the McDonald's Corporation (I assume) or are the actual Ronald McDonald.  THIS COMMERCIAL MEANS NOTHING!!!

Of course, McDonald's felt compelled to respond because who gives a shit:
Is Ronald gonna kill that dog?  This is vaguely threatening, no?  I don't like the way these Fast Food Breakfast Wars are going.  It's getting too personal.

And can we talk about Fast Food Breakfast Wars?  This isn't a thing.  People who eat fast food--and I count myself as a member of this heavy-breathing club--patronize several different fast food restaurants when it comes to breakfast.  I have my favorites, but I haven't pledged my fidelity to any one place.  They are all equally greasy, disgusting and addictive, so, who cares.  The fast food corporations are pumping us full of salt and grease, and isn't that the America Way?  Let's stop these non-existent Fast Food Breakfast Wars and get back to what fast food is supposed to be about: long-term assisted suicide.


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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Getting to Know Me: Part 1 - Invasion of the Floating Pizza Cubes

I've felt a little lost lately.  There is a certain ennui that comes with growing older.  You wonder what you could've done different.  You start to recognize the name of every celebrity that dies.  Your farts come a little quicker in succession.  You ask yourself, "Who am I, really?"  Luckily, Buzzfeed, purveyors of fine time wasting quizzes and dumb lists since 2006, has made that journey of self-discovery all the easier with their latest offering: 13 questions that will tell you "everything you need to know about yourself" from now until forever.  Upon finding this collection of questions guaranteed to help me know me better, I decided it would be best to bring you, the loyal readers, along with me, and answer them in real time.  Full disclosure:  I did answer the first question and check out what my answer revealed yesterday, before deciding it would be best to save it for the blog.  I will, however, answer the first question with that same answer in the spirit of honesty and fun.  It should also be noted that while Giant Electric Penguin's posts are usually humorous in nature, I will be answering these questions as honestly and seriously as it is humanly possible to do when using Buzzfeed as tool for self-actualization.  Whether or not this makes the post funny and entertaining remains to be seen.  So, here we go!

This test asks you to imagine several images and then reveals the subconscious meaning behind every image.  Make sure you have a clear picture in your head before you click to reveal!

Imagine you're walking through a desert and you see a cube.

1.) How big is the cube?

My answer: roughly the size of an adult cat

The subconscious meaning: The size of the cube (in relation to the desert) represents the size of your ego.

Personal reflection:  I'm imagining a pretty vast desert, so a cat-sized cube in relation to a vast and seemingly unending desert probably means I have my ego in check.  Maybe we find this out later in the exercise, but why am I wandering around in a desert?  Personally, I would never do this, as I am averse to extreme heat conditions and locations primarily made up of sand (the beach part of the beach, for instance).  I don't want to get ahead of myself though, so let's keep going.

2. What material is the cube made out of?

My answer: pizza

The subconscious meaning: The transparency of the cube shows how open you are to other people.  If the cube is glowing, that means you're optimistic, but if it isn't, it means you're more reserved.

Personal reflection: I'm not imagining a transparent pizza--not sure how that would even work--but I certainly don't feel that I'm closed off to other people.  I wouldn't necessarily describe myself as a "people person" either, so maybe there's some truth here.  I also wasn't imagining a glowing cube of pizza, but I'm also not sure if "reserved" is the opposite of "optimistic" either.  What kind of pizza makes up my pizza cube, you ask?  A Pizza Hut Supreme Pizza.  Not my favorite pizza out there, but what I pictured.

3. Is the cube touching the ground?

My answer:  the pizza cube is hovering about 3-feet off the ground.

The subconscious meaning: The closer to the ground the cute is, the more grounded you are as a person.

Personal reflection:  This one seems about right.  I'm pretty grounded, but I allow my mind to take frequent flights of fancy.

Ok, so somewhere near the cube, imagine a ladder.

4. Is it leaning against the cube?

My answer: nope

The subconscious meaning: If the ladder is leaning, it means your friends can lean on you for support.

Personal reflection:  C'mon, Buzzfeed!  My friends know they can lean on me for support.  How can you penalize me--and that's how I feel when an online quiz makes me imagine a floating cat-sized pizza cube in the middle of a desert with a ladder next to it and then suggests that I'm shitty to my friends--when it simply doesn't make sense to have a large wooden ladder (what I imagined) leaning on a medium-sized Supreme Pizza cube which is magically hovering merely 3-feet off the ground?  I'm losing faith in this exercise.
What does choosing this particular desert picture for this post say about me?  I think the palm tree shows that I'm a party animal.

5. How far away is the ladder from the cube?

My answer: couple feet

Subconscious meaning: The distance between the ladder and the cube reveals how close you are to your friends.

Personal reflection: OK.

6. What is the ladder made out of?

My answer: wood; the ladder is also old and kinda weather-beaten

Subconscious meaning: The sturdier the material, the stronger your bond with people is.

Personal reflection:  For the record, the ladder I imagined was once very sturdy, but has since grown quite rickety.  Is this exercise going to reveal that I'm a sociopath?  I'm getting nervous.

Well, that's about all the self-discovery I can muster for now, but tune in to Part 2 later in the week to find out whether I deserve to continue living among polite society or if I need to be locked up Minority Report-style for crimes I may one day commit.

Next time: A storm is a-brewin'!  And something about a horse!



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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fight, Fight, Fight!: The Pineapple Pizza Problem

Like the old saying goes, fighting with someone on the internet is like the Special Olympics: everybody gets a participation ribbon. And because I love ribbons so much, participation or otherwise, I’ve decide to heap yet another regular feature onto the deep and moldering pile of regular features regularly featured on the pages of Giant Electric Penguin. This feature is called Fight, Fight, Fight!—you remember the ancient chorus of yore, when five to ten middle schoolers would form a circle around two other middle schoolers, and a pushing match would ensue—and concerns your intrepid Editor-In-Chief (i.e. me) picking a (mostly) petty fight with a faceless stranger on the internet. Most likely, this fellow blogger/clueless celebrity/out-of-touch company will never know that we’re fighting, and that’s OK. This isn’t about solving the world’s problems or reaching an understanding with a fellow human being. Fight, Fight, Fight! is strictly about getting pissed off about something that (mostly) doesn’t matter and writing funny swears about it. So, circle up, jerks! I’m ready to fight.

And for my first internet scuffle, I’ve chosen something I recently read on everybody’s favorite Web site for nostalgia lists and sit-com personality quizzes, Buzzfeed. If you somehow aren’t aware of it, Buzzfeed is Web site that allows your Facebook friends to discover the colors of their auras by answering a short list of questions about what qualities they look for in a mate, where they like to vacation and what kind of kitten pictures they prefer. It’s also a place chock full of super fun lists that make people who grew up in the 90’s want to kill themselves.
Buzzfeed, apparently, also enjoys giving individuals a platform to practice hate speech, like this guy who hates pineapple on his pizza. In fact, he so desperately hates Hawaiian-style pizza, he refers to it as an “insult to humanity.” Deliciousness is an insult to humanity now?!?
For the record, Hawaiian-style pizza (ham and pineapple) isn’t my first choice. I’m a pepperoni-onion-extra sauce kind of guy. I’m also a "I’ll-basically-eat-any-kind-of-pizza-you-throw-at-me" kind of guy. I’m a pizza guy, all right. I love pizza. Hawaiian pizza is, however, often the first choice of my wife, so, when you attack Hawaiian pizza, you attack my wife. And when you attack my wife, you attack me. And when you attack me, you get a strongly-worded, mostly-jokey blog post about it.

Before I get back to tearing this Hawaiian pizza-hating pile of human garbage a new pizza piehole, I’d like to sing the praises of a pineapple-jalapeno pizza. That is a taste sensation I encourage you to experience. Back to this jerk.

You’re wrong, buddy! Pineapple on pizza is, if anything, a celebration of humanity, a monument to human ingenuity. The truly offensive pizzas are the ones you’ve included in your list as weird pizzas people like. You won’t come down on people who bake corndogs into their pizza, but someone sprinkles a few fresh pineapple chunks on their pie, and you call for his death? Is that what you want, man? Do you want all of me and my Hawaiian pizza-eating brethren to die in a hastily-constructed, gulag-style prison camp without running water or fruit for our pizza? You don’t come right out and say it, but it’s implied.

Also, this is all you need to do to get on Buzzfeed? It’s not even clever. Or funny. I don’t get it.

Look, this is America. We don’t all have to agree on pizza toppings. Different countries regulate pizza in different ways, but because we live in the proverbial Land of the Free, we are allowed to toss all kinds of crazy shit onto our pizzas, from pine nuts to bean sprouts, from Peking duck to eel bacon. But let’s not be pizza bullies either. As a society, we are encouraged to go nuts with our pizza toppings, as this is often the only area in modern life that allows unbridled creativity, what with schools dropping art classes left and right (That’s still a thing, right?). When you tell a nation full of sweet, innocent children—won’t you think of the children?!?—that they are somehow less of a person because they enjoy the sweet taste of pineapple atop their pizza, you are nothing more than a common bully, a violent thug, pretty much a Nazi. And Nazis have no place on the pages of Buzzfeed, do they? If the answer is yes, I’m afraid I’ll have to take my curiosity as to which late-80’s cartoon character I am elsewhere.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cartoon A-Holes: Part 2 - The Biggest A-holes in Cartoon History Revealed

If you are the father of a two-year-old girl with a penchant for fancy dresses, magic wands and twirling, then you know that when she finds something she really likes, she wants as much of that thing as possible, no matter how sick of that thing her daddy might be.  It goes for books (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read about Elmo’s visit to the Sesame Street police station, not only because I haven’t kept count, but because the story itself has eaten away the part of my brain that involved in the act of counting and doing thought things and such.), music (I could sing the Frozen soundtrack to you from memory in the character’s voices if I wanted to, I just don’t want to right now), movies (I share my daughter’s love of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, but there are other movies in existence, you know), and TV (Luckily, her latest obsession, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, is pretty great, but I can see that Prince Tuesday pushing me over the proverbial edge eventually). 
My daughter, Q, isn’t allowed unlimited access to TV and movies, because 1) she’s two-years-old and there are better ways for her to spend her time and 2) me and her mother are probably, like, the best parents in the world or whatever.  We do have movie night a couple of times a month, and once in a while me and Q will indulge in a little cartoon mini-marathons.  It was during one of these cartoon marathons, I was reintroduced to some friends I lost touch with, and by friends, I obviously mean the two biggest assholes in the history of animation.  Yup, you guessed it, the cartoon world’s two most gigantic a-hole jerks are FIFER AND FIDDLER PIG!
My daughter is obsessed with the story of the Three Little Pigs, so much so, that she is always on the lookout for a Big Bad Wolf (or “Bad Bad Wolf” as she calls him) attack.  One night after we’d completed our nightly routine—which, quite frankly, grows crazier and longer each week—Q called my name before I could secure her door.
“What?”
“The Bad Bad Wolf is outside,” she said, matter-of-factly.
“He’s not.  I promise.  Good-night.”
“He is outside.  He huff and puff and blow our house down.”
“There’s no way he’ll get this house down.  In fact, I hope he tries.”  I really did.  I couldn’t wait to laugh in the face of an embarrassed, winded wolf.
Oddly, last night, during bath time, Q began scrubbing the bathtub with her wash cloth.  I didn't think much of it because kids do all kinds of weird stuff all the time.  But when she announced what it was she was doing, I was a bit perplexed.
“I’ve got to wash this chimley so the Bad Bad Wolf can come down,” she chirped as she scrubbed.
“Wait, you want the Big Bad Wolf to come down the chimney?” I asked.
“Yeah!”  Kids, right?
So, Q loves the Three Little Pigs, mainly for the wolf, but it’s a story she’s heard many different versions of, many different times.  You can probably imagine her excitement when I shared with her the first of what I call the Three Little Pigs Trilogy, even though there are technically four installments, three of which are available on Netflix.  I’m talking about Walt Disney’s Three Little Pigs cartoons, the first of which, simply titled Three Little Pigs, won an Academy Award in 1934.  And for good reason.  The animation is great, the song is infectious and the extreme pig-on-wolf violence is top-notch.  I was a big fan of the cartoon when I was a kid, and I’m glad my daughter enjoys it so much.  I also kind of understand why the Big Bad Wolf is her favorite character.  He’s the only character who isn’t a total anti-fun nag or a raging giggly asshole.
We get it, man.  You know everything!  Give it a rest already.

The nag of course would be Practical Pig, the swine brother who built his house out of brick, and according to one of the Three Little Pigs books Q has, slathered it with a hefty coat of anti-wolf paint.  While he is a nag, Practical is also, well, practical.  He understands that we live in a world in which we are under constant threat of wolf attack, and so he constructs his house accordingly.  You can’t blame him for extolling the virtues of hard work and mindfulness of danger.  Sure, he’s no fun at parties, but at least a wolf isn’t going to blow his house down and eat him raw.
Fifer and Fiddler, named thus because of the instruments they play while ignoring the fact that their crummy houses, made of hay and sticks respectively, offer no protection from the wily ways of the Big Bad Wolf, are total a-holes for a list of reasons, a list that grows longer as you move through the trilogy.
Original recipe Three Little Pigs hews pretty close to the version of the story in which the pigs who built their houses out of twigs and straw aren’t messily devoured by Big Bad after their houses are unceremoniously blown down.  We’re all familiar with the story of the Three Little Pigs, so I’m not going to insult you with a retelling.  What I’d like to point out though is that even in the popular bedtime story, Twigs and Straw—which is also, ironically, the throwback buddy cop movie I’m currently writing for Paramount—are kinda total assholes.  Disney’s version amps that asshole-ish behavior to a healthy eleven.  Fifer and Fiddler not only construct crappy domiciles in a matter of minutes, but they taunt their brother, Practical/Bricks, for being so, well, practical, and choosing a stronger substance for his home sweet home.  Not only that, but they taunt fate by performing the snotty earworm “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?,” a refrain which is repeated throughout the trilogy.  And, of course, when shit goes down, who do Fiddler and Fifer run to for protection? Practical, the brother they treated like a pile of hot dumb garbage when he suggested that their collective laziness would lead to wolfy hijinks.  And Practical, being the stand-up swine that he is, takes his brothers in and defeats the wolf entirely by himself, while Fiddler and Fifer quiver like a couple of sissies beneath his bed.

Just a couple of assholes

In The Big Bad Wolf, the second chapter in the trilogy, Fiddler and Fifer amp up there asshole behavior by putting a dewy-eyed innocent, Little Red Riding Hood, into danger by leading her through the deep dark woods and then abandoning her the moment the Big Bad Wolf shows his ugly mug.  Why Fids and Fifes even offer to trek through the forest with Little Red is beyond me.  I mean it boggles the mind!  Sure, they sing their usually song, which is nothing more than a boast of unearned bravery set to music, but that does nothing to shore up their courage. These two assholes don’t have an ounce of courage in their bacon-producing bodies.  Predictably, they end up back underneath Practical Pig’s bed—oh, it is suggested that they live with Practical now, as when we first see him, he is building an addition to his house o’ bricks—and Practical has to load up a sack with wolf fightin’ equipment—which includes popcorn for reasons I still can’t figure out after roughly 9,000 viewings—and dash off to Grandma’s house to rescue Hood and her grandmother from certain death.  But don’t worry, Fiddler and Fifer show up at Grandma’s just in time to watch BB-Dubs run screaming into the forest with piping hot popcorn shooting out of his britches.  They even lead a chorus of “Who’s Afraid” while Practical works the pump on Grandma’s organ so Hood can accompany them.  DID YOU READ THAT?!?  PRACTICAL SAVES THE LIVES OF COUNTLESS FORESTER DWELLERS BY ONCE AGAIN SINGLE-HANDEDLY DEFEATING THE BIG BAD WOLF, AND HE’S RELIGATED TO WORKING THE PUMP ON GRANDMA’S ORGAN WHILE EVERYONE ELSE DANCES AROUND AND SINGS ABOUT WHAT A PUSSY THE WOLF IS!!!  WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING???
Fiddler and Fifer reach a crescendo of assholery in the The Three Little Wolves however.  Holy shit!  As the cartoon opens, we see Practical working on a brand-new weapon to battle the Big Bad Wolf, a Rube Goldberg device known ominously as the Wolf Pacifier.  We also learn that Practical Pig has installed a Wolf Warning horn in a nearby tree.  So, of course, Fiddler and Fifer blow it like a couple of dickheads, and Practical leaps into action.  Angry and embarrassed after he learns it was merely a prank, Practical returns to his inventing, and Fids and Fifes wander off into the fields to play their instruments and, I don’t know, dream up new ways to treat Practical like stupid lump of dumb. Unbeknownst to our “heroes,” the Big Bad Wolf, who for some reason, and only in this scene, is a sinister Nazi scientist, is teaching his three sons the finer points of hog butchery.  It’s a weird, dark scene, but we’re here to talk about what assholes Fiddler and Fifer are, so let’s move forward.
Predictably, the Big Bad Wolf and his sons trick Fiddler and Fifer into coming back to the their place to be made into dinner and consumed readily.  Fiddler and Fifer blow the Wolf Warning horn, but to no avail.  Practical is finally finished with their shit, and, personally, I was glad.  There was a moment, a split second, during Three Little Wolves in which I thought, “This might be it.  This might be the last moments of Fiddler and Fifer Pig.  Sure, it’s a little more Hostel-y than I’d like my 2-year-old daughter to see, but, hey, it’s important she know where her sausage patties come from.” But, no, Fiddler and Fifer survive yet another round with the Big Bad Wolf, and Practical shows up with his fully functional Wolf Pacifier and disposes of the Wolf in a way both humiliating and needlessly violent.  Trust me, the comparison to Hostel is really apropos.   
Chilling.

So, there you have it.  Fiddler Pig and Fifer Pig are the biggest assholes in the history of animated film, not only because of their unearned cocksure attitude when it comes to dealing with wolves or their continuous shabby treatment of their brother, but because they never once get their comeuppance.  Sure, Big Bad's progeny are nearly successful in turning them into chopped pork barbecue plates, but in the end they fail like their old man, and Fiddler and Fifer live to be assholes for another day.  And thanks to home video and internet streaming technology, they can keep on being assholes until the end of time.


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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Movie Penguin Monday presents Movies That Made The Man: #1. Houseguest (1995)

I turned 35-years-old this year, and feel compelled to revisit the films of my youth.  You could call it a pre-midlife midlife crisis.  I'm not in the market for hair plugs or a flashy sports car yet, but I am prepared to figure out whether or not The Goonies is actually good.  I've been compiling an ever-growing list of titles for the past few months, and I think I'm finally ready to sit down with some "old friends"--by which I mean movies I liked when I was a younger man, and not the gang from Sherwood Retirement Village I play dominoes with the third Sunday night of every month--and find out why I liked what I liked, and decide if I still enjoy what I liked because what I liked is genuinely likable or if I simply like said liked things because I have fond memories of being a young man at the start of his cinema education.  So, every once in awhile, I'll interrupt our regularly scheduled Movie Penguin Monday program to revisit an old favorite, in a little segment I'm going to call Movies That Made The Man, the "man," of course, being myself, a man.

I'm starting with 1995's Houseguest because for years I've been singing it's comedic praises.  To hear me talk about Houseguest, you'd think it was right up there with the best of the Marx Brothers or the early films of Steve Martin.  You'd probably gawk at me with idiot shock as I explained the brilliance of baggy-panted comedy supernova Sinbad's performance or recounted set piece after hilarious set piece.  You may mistakenly believe that I was drunk on beers and/or high on marijuana when I first saw Houseguest, but you'd be wrong.  First of all, I was 16 in 1995, and, therefore, far below the legal drinking age.  Second, I've never smoked anything stronger than a tobacco cigarette, so, no, I was not high.  I was, however, a lover of both comedy and film, and for some reason, in 1995, Houseguest was the pinnacle of both for me.

It was a late night in November of last year during a review of premium movie channel schedules--we'd been afforded three free months of HBO and Cinemax for sticking with our horrible, horrible cable provider--that I discovered that Houseguest would be playing at 6 AM on something called Cinemax: Whatevs (There are, like, 52 Cinemax channels, most of which show softcore porn between the hours of 11:30 PM and 3:00 AM).  Obviously, I set the DVR to record it, as Houseguest, like the most beautiful of butterflies, is a difficult thing to pin down.  Then, after about 4 months or so, during a late night review of DVR recordings I was mostly unimpressed by, I saw it waiting there, like a golden goose pregnant with a whole mess of golden eggs.  "Oh, yeah.  Houseguest.  Nothing better to watch."  And with that, I pressed play, vigorously scratched my balls, and reclined on the couch for a viewing of what I remembered to be one of the funniest movies in the history of celluloid.  Imagine my surprise when about halfway through I realized I was watching a two hour commercial for McDonald's.  
And "Big Mac" as Himself

There isn't a dance party set in a McDonald's restaurant, a la Mac and Me, but there may as well be.  Sinbad is rarely without a greasy McDonald's sack clutched in his fist.  There is also a fairly lengthy scene set in a McDonald's in which Sinbad makes the most ridiculous order ever taken.  Supersize Me-era Morgan Spurlock would be appalled.

Houseguest is also extremely manic.  I guess that's what happens when your movie is fueled by McDonald's and Coca-Cola.  Sinbad is a fairly manic performer anyway, and the character he plays is a fast-talker.  But there are so many scenes that have been sped up to such a ridiculous pace, I found myself double-checking to make sure I hadn't rolled over or dropped one of the multiple Quarter Pounders with Cheese I was eating onto the TV remote.

Houseguest is also stupid.  Really, really stupid.
Here's a quick plot synopsis for the few of you who have never seen or heard of Houseguest, though there can't be many of you as Houseguest is super awesome (I know, I know, I already called it stupid, just bear with me): Kevin Franklin (Sinbad), a former poor child orphan, now a poor, grown, technically still orphaned man, who somehow has plenty of money to finance multiple get-rich-quick schemes and eat McDonald's all day long, gets in trouble with the Mafia (the funny, Hollywood-comedy kind), and decides to leave town until the pressure is off.  Franklin ends up posing as the all-growns-up childhood chum of Gary Young (Phil Hartman, who, as you would expect, is a joy to watch in every single scene he's in), at whose house he spends the weekend.  Wackiness ensues to the point of full wackiness saturation, Franklin solves exactly one problem each for every member of the family, and a small child steals a gun from a mobster at one point. 
Awww.  Pwecious.

Franklin is exposed as a fraud, but since the Youngs have already fallen in love with him, they assist him in avoiding being murdered by the mob.  Franklin writes a book about how to be a good houseguest or something, gets rich (because that's all that matters) and remains friends with the Youngs.  I love a batshit insane story with a crazy coo-coo nutcakes ending.  What the hell did I just watch???

What did I think was so funny about Houseguest when I was 16?  It must have been the one-two punch of Sinbad and Phil Hartman, two men I was quite fond of at the time.  But other than the film's co-leads giving me the warm fuzzies, what exactly was there to like about this overlong ode to McDonald's?  Rewatching Houseguest, I genuinely laughed exactly once, but since the laugh-worthy joke was delivered by convicted child pornography fan Jeffrey Jones, it doesn't count.  I guess it was just my fond memories of A Different World, Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer sketches and McDonald's cheeseburgers then.  That, unfortunately, is not enough.

But, alas, Houseguest, I can't quit you!  I still have affection for this movie 19 years later (Holy crap, I'm old!).  It isn't good.  If you haven't seen it, there is nothing here to recommend, aside from the fact that it's one of the few films Phil Hartman made before his tragic death three years later.  The film is so manic, it gave me several panic attacks throughout, and that's saying a lot as I am currently medicated for an anxiety disorder.

I don't know where I am with Houseguest.  Before this rewatch, I informed my wife that she was not to remove Houseguest from the family DVR unit until after my death, though I later amended this, instructing her to never remove Houseguest from the DVR forever and always, swearing that I would return as a ghost to haunt her, Q, and any future offspring Q might bring into being.  "That's the ghost of Pop Pop," my great-great grandchildren will say between Holo-Tennis matches on the Fun Deck of their undersea Home-Sphere.  "He told Gram-Gram not to erase Houseguest from the DVR--whatever that was--and she did it anyway.  Now he haunts us for all eternity.  How his ghost found our undersea domed dwelling, we'll never know, but he's here now and we're going to have to live with it."  But now I don't know.  If she decides to erase Houseguest once the mourning period ends, I think my ghost can rest easy.

I promise I won't be so flip-floppy on future films in this feature, but with Houseguest I'm afraid I'm not ready to rule it a worthless relic of my moviegoing past.  As far as Houseguest goes, as of right now, I am UNDECIDED.






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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How I Met Your Mother, Buried Her and Went Back to My Old Girlfriend


It appears that the series finale of How I Met Your Mother, henceforth to be known as HIMYM, has joined the ranks of such finales as Seinfeld and Lost, that is, series finales that I genuinely enjoyed that apparently pissed off a whole bunch of people.  I don't have the stats right here in front of me as to the number of viewers enraged by the conclusion of Ted Mosby's 9 year tale of how he met the mother of the two bored teenagers we've watched grow more bored over the years.  Now, for me, finding yourself angered enough by the final episode of a sitcom that you feel the need to endlessly bitch about it on Twitter or Facebook or your very own pop culture blog, is akin to complaining about the antics of teenage pop stars at a family gathering or ranting about comic book movie casting decisions in the comments section of your favorite internet site.  It's mostly a waste of time.  But, you know, people loved something for 9 years, watched it religiously, felt a certain connection to it, and, in the end, felt betrayed, so, I guess they should get it out somehow.  Doesn't mean they're right.  However, it doesn't mean they're wrong either, though most of them are mostly wrong.

To be fair, I haven't read any of the negative articles about last night's finale.  I watched it, as I've watched every episode of HIMYM since it began way back in 2005, and thought it was fine.  Was it ideal?  Of course not.  We all (i.e. fans of the show) probably had our own ideas on how the proceedings should end.  The only thing I ever truly wanted was a Bob Saget cameo.  I don't think that was too much to ask for.  "I think Bob Saget should play the officiant at Ted and Tracy's wedding," I said to my wife.  Did it happen?  No, but I'll get over it.  Some day.

Look, we can all agree there were a few problems with the last episode.  

1.) My wife didn't like that Barney and Robin got divorced, and while I agree that was a bummer, I don't feel like it was too far-fetched.  What I didn't like was Barney's slide back into his old life, though one could argue that this titanic-sized regression was necessary in order for the best moment in the episode, maybe in the series as a whole, to happen.  I'm, of course, talking about Barney's first interaction with his newborn daughter.  What an absolutely beautiful scene.  Maybe it's because I said something very similar to my own daughter the night she was born and whisked away to the intensive care unit because she was having trouble breathing.  Maybe it's how perfectly Neil Patrick Harris sold the moment.  As far as I'm concerned, HIMYM could've ended with Marshall being revealed as the Zodiac Killer after this moment, and I would've been fine.  That was good TV.

2.) Of course I hated that Tracy (i.e. the titular mother) was dead.  It seemed super obvious and totally surprising at the same time somehow.  

3.)  And, no, I'm not pleased that Ted decided to return to his pursuit of Robin in the closing moments of the series.  I have no doubt that he loved Tracy, in fact, I think she was probably the great love of Ted's life, but when he finally wraps up his story, we are informed that it has been six years since her death.  It's understandable that Ted is ready to move on.  But why to Robin?  Again it seems obvious and surprising at the same time.  I've always enjoyed HIMYM because it rarely went the obvious route, so to see it do just that so epically in it's final minutes was kind of a bummer.

That said, I thought the finale was fine.  I laughed.  I cried.  I kept choosing cameo roles for Bob Saget. HIMYM is a show my wife and I have watched together every Monday night at 8:00 PM since we've been together.  We never DVR'd it--which led to a few missed episodes, episodes that we've picked up later on DVD or reruns--we always watched it live, usually in bed.  Since the birth of our daughter, I've been watching it next to a sleeping wife, but she usually wakes up as it's ending and asks me what happened before falling instantly back to sleep.  Ah, memories!

Anyway, thanks for the laughs, HIMYM.  I probably won't watch How I Met Your Dad and there is nothing CBS can do to get me to watch that Friends With Better Lives abomination they kept pimping during your finale, but I enjoyed our time together immensely.



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