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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Yo, 2015, You're Cool!: a look back at my favorite entertainments of 2015

Wow!  What a shitty year for everything except entertainment!  While society crumbled around our feet, Big Entertainment kept us all gleefully distracted with pretty colors, fun characters and gruesome depictions of fictional gun violence!  2015 was such a great year for entertainment, I can't stop using exclamation points!!!

Seeing as this is the last day of the year, I thought you, gentle reader, might enjoy a peek into my favorite entertainments of 2015; one last look at the year before we plunge over the falls into 2016, the year things turn around for the better.  Or the worse.  Or nothing changes.  Who knows?!?  Psychics maybe.  Time travelers visiting from the future definitely.

Anyway, here are some of the things I enjoyed this year!

FILM
A podcast co-host--I don't remember who or even from what podcast--summed up my feelings perfectly earlier this year: "If I see a movie I like more than Mad Max: Fury Road [in 2015], I will consider this the greatest movie year of my life."  Well, that happened to me, so I'm here to officially declare 2015 the GREATEST MOVIE YEAR OF MY LIFE!  In truth, I have chosen to name Fury Road and Inside Out as co-winners of the top spot on my year end, "Best Of" movie list because I'm a weirdo who makes lists.  But, man, these two films are straight up masterpieces, pure cinematic gut punches to my soul that affected me on a profound level.

My official Favorite Films of 2015 list will appear, per usual, on Oscar Night, so stay tuned for that, but in the meantime, here are a few more films I saw and enjoyed in 2015: It Follows, Ant-Man, Creep, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.  I also wanted to mention The Peanuts Movie, which I found immensely charming.  In a perfect world, it would've come out next year and easily collected the Best Animated Feature Oscar based on it's endless charm alone.  This year though, it will certainly be crushed under the boot of Inside Out.  Oh, hey, I also enjoyed Jurassic World.  I'm not going to lie, I'm a sucker for dinosaurs.

Oh, and I haven't seen the new Star Wars, The Revenant or Hateful Eight yet, so this list is not complete.  I have seen the Ridiculous Six though.  Yup.

TV
A lot of you probably think I watch nothing but Guy's Grocery Games, Chopped reruns and FailArmy compilations on YouTube, and you're mostly correct, that is what I'm usually watching.  But I like other things too.  Promise!  In fact, there were 5 shows I absolutely loved this year, which I've listed in no particular order after this colon: Fargo (Season 2), Master of None, Nathan for You (Season 3), W/ Bob and David and Making a Murderer.  I also finally got around to watching the second season of Broadchurch, watched the first episode of Jessica Jones (which I liked and will get back to in 2016, you guys, geez!) and re-watched The Birthday Boys.  Goes without saying, I recommend all of these things, especially Making a Murderer, which is engrossing, maddening, depressing and insane in equal measure.  I've recommended it to my parents, but I know they won't watch it.  I don't even know why I try anymore.  Sigh.

PODCASTS
Look, guys, I still like all the podcasts I always have, so I'm not going to bore you with all of that this year.  Instead, I'd rather highlight the new podcasts I've started listening to in 2015:

*Doughboys: 2 funny dudes discussing/rating chain restaurants, both fast food and casual family dining.

*Black Tapes Podcast & Limetown: Kinda like Serial but scary and fake.  Limetown features better acting and a more coherent story, but both are super intriguing and creepy.  I'm still not entirely sure I won't die in a few months from hearing the Unsound.

*Again With This: Beverly Hills 90210: I didn't watch Beverly Hills 90210 when it came on, but Again With This is appointment listening as far as I'm concerned.  In fact, as soon as a new episode of this pod drops, I stop whatever I'm doing (listening to another podcast, eating, reading a bedtime story to my daughter, making love to my wife, etc) and listen.  From the Extra Hot Great gang, Again With This is endlessly entertaining and funny, and has even inspired me to watch 90210 on Hulu.  Yay?

Awwwwwww, I can't do it!  I can't NOT acknowledge my favorite podcasts at least a little.  I mean, I took the time to keep track of my favorite episodes throughout the year.  But first, I gotta name this year's Comedy Bang Bang MVP...Mike Hanford.  Congratulations, Mr. Hanford.  Your John Lennon makes me laugh, and laugh...so hard.

So, here are some podcast episodes of note.  Be warned: I wrote these episodes down on my phone, sometimes with a short description, but often just an episode number, over the course of a year, so, listen at your own risk.

"Lil Dab'll Do Ya'" (With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus) 
"4/17/2015" (The Best Show's Half Hour of Power) 
"Episode w/ Joe Wengert" (With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus)*
"#355" (Comedy Bang Bang)
"#342" (Comedy Bang Bang) 
"Kevin Corrigan Ep" (The Best Show)
"#151" (Harmontown)
"Paul Rudd Ep-6/16/2015" (The Best Show)
"President Obama" (WTF)
"#1621-Anthony Rapp" (Never Not Funny)
"North Pod w/ Santa and Ho-Ho:1 & 2" (With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus) 
"#361" (Comedy Bang Bang) 
"DCM 17 - Part 1" (Improv 4 Humans) 
"#372" (Comedy Bang Bang)**
"#373" (Comedy Bang Bang)
"#CHIOPS"; "Eucalyptus Story"; "Haunted Hayride" (Harmontown)***
"#388" (Comedy Bang Bang)****
"#399" (Comedy Bang Bang)

MUSIC
I just listened to a bunch of old stuff like I do every year.  I expressed a desire several times to various people to purchase the new Grimes album, which I plan to do in 2016.

THEATRE
If it hadn't been for last night's early birthday present from my wife, my only theater experience of 2015 would have been a middle school performance of Seussical Jr, a production that ran the gamut from "pretty bad" to "whoa, Mama, did that suck."  But the wife surprised me with tickets to The Book of Mormon, a show I've wanted to see for many years now and tried to get tickets for last year.  Anyway, we went, I've seen it and I LOVE IT!  Kind of pings all of my non-sexual erogenous zones. I can't wait to purchase the soundtrack and not listen to it with my 4-year-old.





* I believe Lapkus and Wengert did 2 together.  I'm recommending the one about window salesman.
** Features CBB MVP Mike Hanford as John Lennon.
*** 3 different episodes.  "#CHIOPS" is actually the name of one of the episodes and I think the other episodes are the two that come after it.
**** The return of CBB MVP Mike Hanford as John Lennon.  Drums!

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

25 Days of Christmassy Sh*t: Dear GEP: Holiday Edition - Part 2

Welcome back to Giant Electric Penguin's very special holiday edition of Dear GEP.  It's not too late to get your holiday conundrums solved by me, your editor-in-chief, a fully-licensed expert on holiday minutia with a BA in Advanced Christmas Studies.  Just send your questions to the above e-mail address.  Or don't.  I've got plenty of questions to answers, I just thought I'd give you a chance to get in on the fun.  You don't have to be a jerk about.

Dear GEP:

I'm pretty sure my Elf on the Shelf is trying to kill me.  He told me his name is Charles Lee Ray, and, last night, he murdered my babysitter, Empty Nest star Dinah Manoff, by pushing her out the window.  I'm super scared, and I'm pretty sure he's not reporting my good behavior to Santa Claus.  What should I do?  

Andy

Dear Andy:

You ever heard the phrase "don't shampoo a shampooer?"  I'm on to you and your phony letter, bub!  You've just described the plot--and not even particularly well, I might add--to 1988's Child's Play, probably my third favorite movie of all time after Child's Play 2 and Amelie.  You're Elf on the Shelf isn't possessed by the soul of Charles Lee Ray, the only serial strangler to ever work with a partner in the history of crime, both true and fictional.  And you expect me to believe Dinah Manoff took time out of her busy schedule to babysit you AND get murdered, and TMZ isn't even talking about it?!?  You must think I'm a real Rubik's cube, my man.

Look, you're Elf on the Shelf may very well be possessed.  It may have murdered somebody via defenestration, but don't tell me the plot of one of Hollywood's greatest films and pretend it's your life story.  That said, whether it's possessed by a serial killer or not, I'll tell you what I tell everybody about these Elf on the Shelf things: kill it with fire.

--Matt!


Dear GEP:

Let me start by saying, I'm no Scrooge.  I'm not out to ruin anybody's Christmas fun, but my neighbor has gone too far this year.  He has erected FIFTEEN Santa-themed inflatables on his lawn, and one of them has really, as the old saying goes, got my goat.  Honestly, FOURTEEN of them are fine--I'm not, as they say, over the moon about them, but they don't offend me.  He's got one where Santa is driving a train and one with him flying a helicopter.  There's one with Santa standing on an elf's shoulders straining to put a star on top of a Christmas tree while Rudolph giggles behind an igloo full of the hat-wearing penguins.  There's even one of Our Savior knelt before the baby Jesus.  These are fine!  But there's another one, smack-dab in the middle of this guy's lawn that, as a wise man once said to a lonely traveler on a mountain road, pisses me the hell off.


The offending inflatable depicts Santa sitting atop a toilet in an outhouse--an outhouse with its DOOR OPEN!!!--while a grinning elf holds his nose because, you know, presumably, Santa Claus has taken a huge, smelly shit.  As a devout Clausist, this offends me so deeply I can barely see straight--and I wear corrective lenses designed specifically for that purpose already!!!  It's not like I have a Nativity scene on my lawn depicting Mary changing Baby Jesus' diaper while Joseph stands in the corner, waving his hand back and forth in front of his nose.  I want to confront this neighbor, who I've never had problems with before, but I've heard he takes his Christmas decorating very seriously and owns several guns.  What do you think I should do?  An anonymous letter, maybe?


Ho-Santa In The Highest


Dear Ho-Santa In The Highest:

It's a shame what the American neighborhood has become.  When I was growing up, I remember walking into any one of my neighbors' homes, even when they weren't home, and helping myself to their snacks and Pay-Per-View porn.  It's just what you did.  Neighbors were like extensions of your family.  I remember going through one neighbor lady's underwear drawer every day after school, sniffing her unmentionables and even trying some on from time to time.  She knew what was going on, so did her husband, and they didn't mind because we were neighbors.  Now you've got neighbors who call the cops when you and your motorcycle buddies are a little loud after 2 AM or call you out for using the creek that runs through both your backyards as a toilet because you feel it's "more natural" while they think it's "sick" and "unsanitary" and "unnerving."

This guy has got to be taught a lesson.  I am also a follower of Santa Claus and His Gospel, and, frankly, I'm sick to death of all this "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" garbage.  Hey, Christians, your savior wasn't the only one born on December 25th!  And ours brings presents, so, there.

Don't waste your time with a letter--neighbors like this waste of flesh typically cannot read.  The only way this guy is going to understand the true meaning of Christmas is if you take a pair of scissors to the offending inflatable.  And then poop in his creek.  Let me know how it goes!

--Matt!

Dear GEP:

Back when I was a kid you were either a National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation family or a Santa With Muscles family.  We were Christmas Vacation fans.  Still are.  We watch it every year.  What Christmas movies do you like?


Movie Dude


Dear Movie Dude:

I come from a Christmas Vacation family as well!  Small world!

I like a lot of holiday films, but I'll list just a few:

Christmas Evil
Black Christmas
Gremlins
Bad Santa
Die Hard
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Ernest Saves Christmas
Christmas With the Kranks (mostly the part with Jamie Lee Curtis in a bathing suit)
It's a Wonderful Life
Elf
Mickey's Christmas Carol (which I'm not sure counts, but it's my list, so, it does)
Home Alone
and, of course, the aforementioned Christmas Vacation!

--Matt

Next time: Frosty the Snowman, what to get a dick for Christmas and another thing maybe.  Or not!





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Sunday, December 6, 2015

25 Days of Christmassy Sh*t: Dear GEP: Holiday Edition

Wow!  The moment I made the announcement that Giant Electric Penguin was back in business (at least for the holiday season), I couldn't believe how many celebratory e-mails I received.  Thank you to everyone who sent me words of encouragement.  It sincerely means a lot to know you are reading and enjoying.  All I've ever wanted as a writer is fame, notoriety, and millions of dollars, but I'll take nice e-mails from fellow frustrated creatives too. Seriously, I'm touched.

Not every e-mail has been "welcome back" and "I'm a dentist and I read your post about flossing, and while I thought it was very funny, you really should floss and here's why" though.  For some reason, I've received a number of holiday-related questions, the kinds of letters you'd see in an advice column like Dear Abby or Ask Amy or Questions 4 Quentin, that weird column director Quentin Tarantino writes for Indie Film Quarterly (too many f-bombs and n-words for my liking, but his advice isn't terrible).  I thought it might be fun to answer some of these Christmas quandaries throughout the month of December, in fact, many of you might be facing some of the same issues these poor saps are this Christmas, so maybe we can all help each other.  I'll pepper a few of these letters here and there over the next 25 days--think of them as "seasoning for the Season (Ugh!  I love/hate that I thought of that; hate that I typed it.)--and answer them to the best of my ability.  And, golly, if you've got any questions, holiday-related or otherwise, send 'em to the e-mail address up top.  


Dear GEP,

I love Starbucks (sue me!!!), but their decision to remove Christmas iconography from their cups this newborn Savior season has left me confused and scared.  My pastor says Starbucks' choice to serve its coffee in plain red cups is yet another sign that we are living in the End Times.  My favorite YouTube evangelist says all good Christians should boycott Starbucks until they return snowflakes and reindeer-drawn sleighs to their cups and/or make it a policy that all non-Christian Starbucks employees undergo mandatory and immediate baptism.  I know I shouldn't be--and believe me, I've already asked for forgiveness multiple times--but I'm torn.  I love the Lord my God, but I gotta have my coffee!!!  What do I do?

Caffeinated Christian

Dear Caffeinated,

Wow.  I wasn't aware this was an actual thing, in fact, a few weeks ago,  I mentioned this whole "red cup controversy" to my parents, two of the most devoted Christians I know, and they a) had no idea what I was talking about and b) thought it was possibly the stupidest thing they'd ever heard.  Now I mean no disrespect to your religion, your church, your pastor or your YouTube evangelist of choice, but I agree with my parents: this is stupid.  And it's a non-problem.  I don't speak for Jesus, but I'm pretty confident that he doesn't care where you purchase your coffee.  I'm pretty sure he's got no beef with Starbucks.

But, hey, maybe you're losing sleep over this, so, I've got some alternative methods to feed your need.  You could try another coffee joint.  I've always been partial to Caribou Coffee.  They do a great hot cider ("Grandma's hot apple pie in cup," as it was described to me by a very eccentric barista many years ago) and I'm pretty sure they've got a caribou, which is essentially a reindeer, on their cups year-round.  Or you could start frequenting a locally-owned coffee shop in your area, as they usually serve their drinks in mugs like the ones you have at home--though beware, most local coffee houses are staffed by college-aged liberals who most likely don't cotton to your Christiany ways and sport multiple arm tattoos they make absolutely no effort to cover up with long sleeves.  And speaking of home, why not make your own coffee at home, that way you can use any old mug with any old religious saying painting on it you please.  I get the impression from your letter you've got a lot of those.  Lastly, you could use this opportunity to consider cutting back on your java consumption altogether, as it will probably be revealed any day now that coffee rots your liver and promotes cancerous polyp growth in your butthole, because remember, everything we love, will eventually kill us.  

--Matt!
 Hi.

My cousin Garth says there is no Santa Claus.  I'm not so sure.  What's the truth?

Billy, age 4

Billy,

Usually, when I receive a question like yours, I write back with a simple "Check out Wikipedia" or "Google it, bitch," but this is a topic I know a little something about, and I thank you for the opportunity to share.  

Billy, there is a Santa Claus.  Better said, sweet Billy, there was a Santa Claus.  But he died.  Hundreds of years ago.  And now he's a ghost.  A present-delivering ghost.

Sweet, sweet Billy, haven't you ever wondered how Santa gets into your house each Christmas and leaves presents under you tree?  Sure, the "lame-stream media" wants you to believe that a corporeal fat man squeezes his way down your chimney, but we all know that is just more liberal lies.  How can a morbidly obese human male squeeze down a modern-day chimney?  He can't, and if you think he can, you're a dumb idiot with figgy pudding for brains.  Ghosts, however, can pass through walls, and that-sweet, dumb Billy--is how Santa Claus gets into your house each Christmas Eve.

But, Billy--oh, Billy--I hear you in your room seated at your PC or staring at your iPhone in the back of a taxi or reading this on your tablet device during your youngest daughter's soccer match when you should be watching her score the winning goal: "Sure, ghost Santa could pass through the wall and gain access to my house, but what about all those presents?  How are they coming through the wall with him?"  Dammit, Billy, you stupid slab of dumb, don't you get it yet?  All those toys and presents?  They're dead too!  Every toy you've ever received is a ghost!  What aren't you getting, Billy?!?  Why is this so hard for you to understand!?!

Christmas is chock full of ghosts and dead things.  What do you think Andy Williams is singing about in "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" when he mentions "scary ghost stories?"  He's talking about Santa and his burlap sack of dead toys and his eight tiny, dead ghost reindeer and the ghost sleigh and the zombie elves that toil in his toy factory, building toys and strangling them to death, and Ms. Claus's rotting head that Santa keeps like a trophy in his haunted workshop Jason Vorhees-style.  You probably think about the Baby Jesus from the Bible, but Christmas is more like a Stephen King novel.  

I hope this helps, Billy.  Merry Christmas!

--Matt!

Next Time: Elf on the Shelf, Frosty the Snowman, and what to get a dick for Christmas!


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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

25 Days of Christmassy Sh*t!

Dude, things totally suck right now.  The terrorist attacks in Paris.  The shootings at Planned Parenthood in Colorado.  Donald Trump's continued existence.  I mean, has there ever been a worse time to be alive and aware of your surroundings?  Sometimes I think it'd be preferable to simply enter into a comatose state and live the remainder of my life in a terror-, racism- and Trump-free dreamworld.  Yessir, a coma situation sounds mighty good to me right now.

But wait!  Hold on!  It's December, you say?  (Note: I am speaking to a calendar in the previous sentence, in case you were confused.  I haven't decided if it is a regular calendar made of paper and staples or one of those new robot calendars that can interact and experience human emotions and such.  I tried to get one of those on Black Friday, but it was a mob scene at my local Best Buy.  You wouldn't believe all the pushing and screaming.  And the tommy guns!  I should've been more clear.  It was a Dick Tracy-style mob scene.  This aside has really gotten away from me.)

It's December 1st: my wonderful wife's birthday and the beginning of the holiday season.  And I don't know about you, gentle reader, but I am an unapologetic lover of the holidays, both religious and secular.  There's nothing I like more than decorating a Christmas tree with my 4-year-old daughter, blasting carols at top volume on my car radio and staying up late on Christmas Eve in hopes of snapping that elusive picture of Santa and Baby Jesus sharing the plate of cookies we've left out for them.  (I'm going to get that picture this year, if it's the last thing I do!)

In an effort to take your mind off all the truly heinous garbage currently swirling around us, GEP is returning to the internet to distract you with holiday good times for the next 25 days.  I don't know what that means yet, but I do know we'll be here every day to help keep your mind on the Reason for the Season!  I hope you'll join us.  It's about to get real Christmassy up in here.

My daughter and I doing Christmas shit.


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